Walking Worthy As Elder Children

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Ephesians 4:1-7 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

This morning we studied a three parable message that Jesus gave us in Luke 15. We briefly discussed the elder son in the parable of the two sons. Tonight God wants us to learn what it means to walk worthy as elder sons and daughters of His Kingdom.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,

Paul starts by describing himself as the prisoner of the Lord. He has been imprisoned by Rome for preaching the Gospel of Christ. When I am tried or under stress I often find myself more biting or brittle. But the Apostle maintained his royal etiquette by constantly reminding himself that where he was, was where Christ wanted him to be. You see this attitude reflected throughout his writings. He is NOT a prisoner of Rome, NOR a prisoner of satan, but a prisoner of the Lord. Listen:

Philemon 1:1 … Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ

2 Timothy 1:8 … Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God ..

To Paul our God was always in control. If he was a prisoner he was not a prisoner of evil, but the prisoner of Christ. Christ had a reason for him being in this situation. This was not just an act. When Paul was imprisoned with Silas in Philippi the Bible tells us:

Acts 16:22-25 … And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

It was this mindset that allowed Paul and those early Christians to walk worthy of their calling. We who have received Christ as Savior are not saved by our works. We are saved by His glorious Grace. The Scripture says:

Titus 3:5-7 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

and… 2 Timothy 1:8b-9 … according to the power of God; [9] Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began …

Salvation is not a work that you do, but it is a work
that the Holy Spirit does TO you based upon the COMPLETED work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
and in the empty tomb.

Jesus defeated sin and death at Calvary. He destroyed destruction. He conquered satan and his forces. And conquering, He rose again, ever to live and reign – praise be unto God! You receive this great Gift of Grace by FAITH in Him:

Romans 1:17 .. The just shall live by faith.

Romans 3:28 … a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 5:1 .. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ..

2 Corinthians 1:24 … by faith ye stand.

Galatians 3:11 … The just shall live by faith.

Galatians 3:26 … ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Salvation is by faith. You become saved by faith in Christ, in what He has graciously provided for to you. But once you are saved by faith you are not as you were. You are not a lost person trying to be saved. You are a saved person, a son of God, a saint destined for Heaven.

And Heaven has its standard!

The Worthy Walk Is The HUMBLE Walk

God did not save you so you can be like the rest of the dark lost world. He saved you to be part of HIS kingdom. God paid a GREAT PRICE for you, dear Christian. He gave His Only Begotten Son for you! This should amaze you. It never ceases to amaze me. The Scripture says:

1 Peter 1:18-20 … ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you …

If there were an earthly price that could have been paid for your redemption, then God would have paid it. But your sins brought with it an infinite offense against an infinite and Almighty God. There was no earthly fee that could bring you into God’s good graces. But Christ died for you. He loved you enough to pay for you with His very life. He did not die an easy death, either. He died a horrid death, a terrible death, a miserable death, an undeserved death. Yet He did this because He loves YOU and loves you STILL. How does the Apostle define our worthy walk?

Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

The Apostle doesn’t just say “love one another”. That is not a measurable standard. The Bible is, if anything, very practical. So what does God our Father consider a “worthy walk”?

Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness

We were low – very low – so low in sin that God had to give up His Only Begotten Son for us. How dare we be prideful now, for we have nothing to be proud of! We dare not raise our heads above those of our brethren, for

we were one and all lost until Jesus found me. Like the song says:

I was lost, but Jesus found me,

found the sheep that went astray,

threw his loving arms around me,

back into the narrow way.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story

of the Christ who died for me,

sing it with his saints in glory,

gathered by the crystal sea.

Walking worthy means we must never forget our roots. We are to walk “with all lowliness(ταπεινοφροσύνη tapeinophrosynē) refers to “humility in the mind, having humble opinion of oneself”. We were nothing when Christ found us. What we are, we are because of Him. What we have, we have because our Lord has allowed us to have it. The greatest danger is to become arrogant or prideful in ourselves. It was arrogance that led to the fall of mankind from Eden. It was satan who told our foreparents:

Genesis 3:4-5 … Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

This is satan’s greatest ploy. He fell from Heaven because he said:

Isaiah 14:14 … I will be like the most High.

And this is what the devil replicates, over and over again, through the children of Adam. This is what caused the fall of mankind into sin. This is the basis for every evil that possesses our society today. “I will be like the Most High”. I will be like God.

Judas Iscariot believed this till he hung himself (Acts 1:18)
Simon Peter believed this till the Rooster crowed
(Luke 22:60)
Herod believed this until worms ate his flesh
(Acts 12:19)
The murderer believes this.

Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness

The word “lowliness” refers to the inner mind, but “meekness” (πραότης praotēs) refers to the outward display. The Bible is very clear that:

Proverbs 23:7 … For as he THINKETH in his heart, so is he:

What is on the INSIDE of you is what will show on the OUTSIDE of you. This is why Jesus spoke of false teachers thusly:

Matthew 7:17-20 … every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

A religious person or a teacher of false doctrine will eventually be exposed, for the type of heart that is godly produces a different fruit from the type of heart that is ungodly. I am currently reading Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer’s book “Hitler’s Cross”. I often wondered how in the world an entire nation could follow such a monster as was Hitler. I often wondered how it was that the Church in Germany did not stand firmly against Hitler and his SS murder machine. Then I read this quotation and it made my blood run cold:

I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars! Week after week, that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the churchyard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed, and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.” (pages 124-125)

We have a similar Holocaust going on in America today, and it’s called abortion. If every Christian who was indeed a Christian would vote against every politician who supports abortion in any way then we could end the murder on innocents in our country. Yet this is not happening. Why? Because some professing Christians and false teachers are promoting the concept that “it’s not murder if you kill the unborn – it’s just a free choice”. I find it amazing and amazingly hypocritical that the voices screaming loudest for the outright ban of all firearms is also the same voices screaming “keep abortion legal and free!”

What is in the heart is what will show on the outside. What is in your heart, dear professor? What is in your heart, dear believer?

The Worthy Walk Is The PATIENT Walk

Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering,

The word longsuffering (μακροθυμία makrothymia) means “to be slow in avenging wrongs”. Many times when we are offended the offense was unintentional – for we are all human. This is why Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:12-13 … And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Most people stop reading the text I just quoted at the “Amen”, but don’t neglect to read what Jesus said next:

Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Too many people go about quoting “an eye for an eye and a tooth tooth”. You need to be careful when going down this road, for if we all do this we will
all be blind and toothless!

We need to be patient with everyone around us, loving, and forgiving. The mar of the child of God is that we love our ENEMIES, not just our friends:

Luke 6:27-35 Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

God is not impressed with how religious we are. He is impressed with how loving we are. The Lord will one day avenge every evil, this we are to give place unto wrath, for “Vengeance is Mine, I shall repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Let God be God. Let the Father wield the paddle. He will balance all things out in the future. Trust Him, and do good to them which hate you. God will take care of all things in the end!

Ephesians 4:1-3 … walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The Worthy Walk Is The UNIFIED Walk

We are in particular to maintain Christian unity in the Church. In order for Christ’s order to be accomplished in this present world His Church must work together in unity and love. We are to keep on making every effort to

keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Spirit of God cannot work in a divided Church. The Church must be in one accord. After Jesus ascended into Heaven we are told that:

Acts 1:14 … These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication

When the Holy Spirit fell on the Church and empowered it to bring 3000 souls to Jesus in one day, what was the state of that Body?

Acts 2:1-2 they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

Had the early Church been divided as the American Church is today then there would be few if any Christians in the world. We are to strive to be unified, to remove any barriers that might keep us from unity. Unity is so very important for the Church. When we read the rest of this blessed text what WORD keeps popping up?

Ephesians 4:4-7 … Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is ONE body, and ONE Spirit, even as ye are called in ONE hope of your calling; ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Seven times the word ONE is repeated. When God called you into salvation, He did not call you by yourself – He called you into a great company of believers, the Family of God, the Church. You cannot do your job, your

stewardship, your calling apart from the Church that God has placed you. You cannot satisfy God nor yourselves apart from the Church that God has placed

you. In the Old Testament God had His Israel that was used to glorify Him. In the New Testament the Lord has His Church.

I am sickened of the nonsense and drivel that I hear from so many lost people pretending to be saved. The statement that nauseates is:

I love Christ,
But I despise Christianity.
I love Jesus,
But I can’t stand the church.

Dear friends, the Church is Christ’s method to reach the world. The Apostle reminded the Corinthian believers:

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ. (13) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (14) For the body is not one member, but many.

Jesus Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). The Church belongs to Jesus (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus is building His Church (Matthew 16:18) daily. And Jesus will one day come back for His Church. You are called together as one to serve God our Father. Some of you may be thinking, “What does it matter if I am not in one accord with this body?” Think about it this way – have you never met someone who had lost the use of a limb or a function of the human body. Did you ever hear that person bless the loss of that part? No, and you will not. To Christ every member of this Body has purpose, function, calling, a job to do – do it with all your hearts! Do not fool yourself into believing that God will not hold you accountable. You are accountable, and I am accountable.

Let us love one another the way that Christ has called us to do. Let us love our Creator with all that we have, and let us love one another the way that we want to be loved. May Christ grow His Church to be the Bride He wants us to be! In Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Repentance Before Restoration

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Luke 15:1-2 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

This is a sermon that I cannot preach by myself. I am going to ask you to help me preach it. To start, I need a male volunteer to read a Scripture. It is:

Luke 15:3-7 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Now I need a female volunteer to read a Scripture. It is:

Luke 15:8-10 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

In a few moments I’m going to read the third parable that Jesus preached, a parable commonly called “The Parable Of The Prodigal Son”. Now our Lord Jesus Christ was and is the best Preacher that has ever been. He is better than Billy Graham, better than W.A. Criswell, better than C.H. Spurgeon, better than Greg Laurie or T.D. Jakes, better than this foolish man standing before you today. His sermons were fantastic. I want you to know I have read His sermon from Luke 15, and since the age of 17 when I was saved and since the age of 37 when I started to preach – and have preached these texts – I have never really understood this sermon. Perhaps you have never understood it either. All three sermons have one great truth – one great theme – that ties them together.

Point #1 Of Jesus’ Sermon:
The Wise And Loving Shepherd

I have heard this first point of Jesus’ sermon – the One Lost Sheep – many, many times by many, many preachers. I have preached it – and preached it wrong, mind you. I can remember a Pastor that I loved – now with the Lord – talking about how Jesus loved the sheep. I remember him saying:

Jesus left the ninety and nine to go out and get that one lost sheep. If we’re going to be like Jesus we need to leave the ninety and nine and go get that one lost sheep.”

I spent three and a half years overseas in England, about 60 miles south of London. Where my wife and I stayed was sheep country. We often drove through the country side and had to stop and wait while a shepherd drove his sheep across the road. The sheep stayed close to the flock. Now listen to me. In all the time I was in England I NEVER saw a flock without a shepherd. Listen to me.

No self respecting shepherd would ever leave his flock unattended for a long period of time while he went out looking for a lost sheep. None!

Our Lord Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. How does Jesus describe a “Good Shepherd”? Jesus said:

John 10:3-4 {the Good Shepherd} calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

The “Good Shepherd” does not abandon His Sheep. He stays with them. He watches over them. Why? Because the sheep have no natural defenses other than the Shepherd. Jesus said:

John 10:11-13 .. I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

No Good Shepherd would ever abandon His sheep. He would NOT walk away from 99 sheep and leave them open to a wolf or wild dog attack in order to hunt down a disobedient and errant sheep. Let me ask you this question:

Have you EVER tried to count people when they are moving around? You can’t get an accurate count when people are moving around.
And sheep are in constant movement.

How would a Shepherd – a Good Shepherd – know that he had lost one of ninety-nine sheep? He would know by the cry of the sheep. The sheep that went astray would cry out after getting in a mess. And when that sheep cried out the Shepherd would follow it’s cry. The Good Shepherd would leave the ninety and nine long enough to go get that crying sheep. What did Jesus say?

Luke 15:5-6 … when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

The text says “He layeth it on His shoulders”. The lost sheep cried until the Good Shepherd came. And when the Shepherd came back with that sheep where was it? “He layeth it on his shoulders. That sheep did not fight the Shepherd. What else does the text say? “Rejoicing”. Did you see that? “Rejoicing”! Who is rejoicing? The Good Shepherd is rejoicing of course. But that sheep is rejoicing! The day I rested in my Jesus’ arms, the day I let Him put me over His shoulder and take me home …. oh, what a joy that was! The main point of this sermon? Read with me what our Lord said.

Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

The point is very simple. There must be REPENTANCE before there can be RESTORATION. There must be SURRENDER before there is VICTORY. There is no POWER without WEAKNESS. The lost sheep is not sought after nor brought back into the fold until that sheep R-E-P-E-N-T-S. When the sheep cries out, calling the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd comes. There must be REPENTANCE before there can be RESTORATION.

Point #2 Of Jesus’ Sermon:
The
Careless Woman

The second point of Jesus’ sermon deals with a woman who had ten pieces of silver. She lost one of those pieces. So what did she do? She turned her house upside down until she found that missing piece. When she found that missing piece Jesus said:

Luke 15:9 … she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Now how did the woman lose this piece of silver?
It was valuable before she lost it.
It was valuable while it was lost.
It was MORE valuable when she found it.
It’s value did not increase because it was lost.
It’s value increased because HER EYES WERE OPENED.

The woman lost this silver piece because she – in her heart – took it for granted. She forgot how valuable it was. It was not until it was lost that she realized how valuable it was. There was an old song I grew up hearing that had a line in it:

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!”

How many bad mistakes we have made because of carelessness? How many times do we wish we could rewind the clock and go back? Oh, the tears that I’ve cried because I took for granted that which was priceless. Woman, oh woman, how many women have given themselves away to useless men, seeking to satisfy a bottomless and selfish pit? Women, you all have something that you can do that no man can do, even with sex change operations men cannot do it. Women, you can give life. Women, you can nurture. That is priceless, priceless. Do not give away that wonderful gift God has given you. Do not cry, “My Body, My Choice”. This is a stupid phrase that selfish and sex crazed people – influenced of hell – financed by American tax dollars – mislabeled “Planned Parenthood” – have taught you. The world led by satanic forces says “So what if you – satisfying yourself – become with child. Destroy it! Your Body, your Choice, your Life!” Then you do so. And what happens. You grieve. Oh, there are some monsters who celebrate the destruction of that life, but Hitler wasn’t normal. The “Final Solution” wasn’t moral. Killing is never right. Regardless as to the monsters who video these procedures and post them to “Youtube” or “Instagram”, there will come a time when you will grieve. You will turn your house upside down to find what you have lost.

Some of the “sinners” that the Pharisees and scribes murmured at Jesus about were women. Some were harlots, prostitutes, what we could coarsely call “whores”. Others were women trapped by men, self righteous men, like these Pharisees and Scribes.

You can’t get back what you have given away, but you can be whole again. You can turn your house upside down. You can sweep and clean that home by running to the arms of Jesus. Jesus is there. Jesus is there. With repentance comes restoration. Your life is more valuable than momentary pleasure. Your life is of great worth. This is why Jesus said:

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Do not let the self righteous define you. Run to Jesus. He died on Calvary to pay for your sins. He rose again from the grave to embrace you, to receive you to the Father. Your carelessness does not need to define you. With REPENTANCE comes RESTORATION. With SURRENDER comes VICTORY. Run to Jesus! Rn to Jesus!

Point #3 Of Jesus’ Sermon:
T
wo Foolish Sons

We have yet to read the final point of Jesus’ message today. I warn you, this point is the longest. Many preachers – myself included – have called this the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But this is not what Jesus called it. Jesus said:

Luke 15:11 … A certain man had two sons

Now how do we preachers get off calling this “The Parable of the Prodigal (or wandering) Son” when Jesus called it a Parable of TWO sons. The bulk of the story is about the wandering son. But as Paul Harvey used to say … that’s not all of the story.

God had two sons. He had Israel His oldest son – represented by the Pharisees and Scribes that are now judging Jesus. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand Israel’s freedom the message was:

Exodus 4:22-23 … Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me …

God chose Israel through the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel is God’s firstborn son. But God never meant to have just two sons. God had a younger son that the firstborn thought nothing of.

The sinners that Jesus came to save were God’s younger son. God the Father loved this son just as much as the older son. This is why God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world. The …

the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. … Luke 15:1

It was not so much that Jesus received sinners like us, but it was that Jesus both received sinners AND ate with them. How dare He do such a thing?

I can hear the whispers in the Church as I write this:

Did you see that girl? Why didn’t she dress for Church?
And that boy! Look at his ear rings!
That mother! I heard she has no husband.
He smells like alcohol.
Isn’t there a Church for people of that color?
I don’t like to see interracial babies!

The Pharisees and Scribes loved judging, but there are Pharisees all around us. You may be a Pharisee, a hater, a judger. You may have been saved when you were just a child. You may have been born in Church. I don’t know – I don’t doubt your salvation. But there are many of us who are the younger sons of God. We came from alcohol or drug stained paths. We came from questionable lifestyles. We were not the older son, but the younger. Maybe you’re one of us.

Luke 15:12 … the younger {son} said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.

In the Jewish world the firstborn son received the double portion, not the younger. Once the father died the firstborn became the executor. He determined what the rest of the family received. The younger son demanded what he had no right to demand, and took what was not his. He was presumptuous.

And the Father in Grace gave it to him.

Your Heavenly Father has given you gracious gifts. He gave you life. He placed you in the most prosperous nation on earth. Your bellies are full. You are in pretty good health, or if not, in a country with great healthcare. You take all of the gifts that your Father has given you. What do you do? What do most Americans do?

Luke 15:13-14 … {the younger son} took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

The younger son abused the Grace that the Father gave him. You abuse your lungs, your livers, your hearts, your minds. You wander far away from home, far from the God Who in love made you and gave you so much. You live for the moment a sexual, sensual, selfish creature. Then one day you begin to be in want. The good times end. The health decreases. The liver and lungs you abused say ENOUGH! You get cancer, some sexually transmitted disease, or something worst happens.

Luke 15:15-16 … he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

You figure out a way to get out of that mess, but every way you try only makes things worst. The friends you thought were your “best buddies” abandon you. Your money ran out. Your beauty ran out. Your time ran out. And your fair weather friends ran out.

Luke 15:17-18 … when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father..

Every week I receive calls from people. “Will you pay my bills? Will you bail me out?” My question is “What Church is your family? Is God your Father, and Christ your Brother? Are you home and in need, or wandering the streets wanting a quick fix?”

Beloved, without REPENTANCE there can be no RESTORATION. I can bail you out today. But if you’re not home with Father, you’ll be in the same hell on earth tomorrow.

The younger son came to himself. He repented. He swallowed his pride. She turned from her sins.

Father, I’ll just be your servant. Please, take me back.
Please, fill me with what I need.
I’ll be your slave. Please Father, save me!”

So the son, the daughter, the sinner heads home. You have rehearsed in your head what you will say.

Luke 15:18-19 …. Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son …

but while you are coming your Father sees you. He runs to you, embraces you. Heaven has a party. The Angels rejoice!

Luke 15:23-24 … let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

This is why Jesus came. This is why Jesus died. This is why Jesus rose again. All of Heaven rejoices when a sinner comes home! Oh, what a glory it is.

But let’s not forget the older son. Does he rejoice? Is she pleased? No!

Luke 15:28-30 … he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

The younger son forgot the Father, but the older son did too. If you are born again by faith in Christ Jesus did not just come to save you, but to save others NOT LIKE you. The Father tells you:

Luke 15:31-32 Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

You could have a party, too. All the Father has is yours because of the Son. Every day should be a celebration of life. Every day should be filled with joy. Let us not be like the Scribes and Pharisees, but let us rejoice with the angels of Heaven that a younger son came home. Let us stop being miserable, but let us rejoice in the knowledge that all of Heaven is ours, and earth as well. We shall inherit all, if we are in the Father’s arms.

Run to His embrace.
Run to Jesus.
He awaits you.
There is no RESTORATION without REPENTANCE.
Run to Him now.
He loves you, as He loves me, so very much!

May the Spirit of God touch your hearts with this His Word.

Posted in Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

The Flesh Versus The Spirit

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Galatians 5:16-18 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

I read a lot. A whole lot. I love reading. I wish more people read. But I also watch videos. I was watching a town hall meeting where Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke was explaining why he wanted to overturn the Second Amendment. As I watched it another commentator – Colion Noir – began to respond to Mr. O’Rourke’s statements. Mr. Noir was on the other side of the debate. As Mr. Noir began to respond, his responses became more and more ugly, and he began to use foul language that was bleeped out of the video.

Now this is not a political message, nor have I ever preached politics from this pulpit. I preach the Word of God, and today is no different. I am a retired Airman, a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. I gave 20+ years of my life to the protection of this country, and promised to uphold the Constitution of these United States. I offered up my life daily to protect your freedoms. I have been in other countries that do not have the freedoms that we have. And I do not want our country to become like those countries. I support the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as it is written. That’s all I’ll say. I do not want any Americans to lose any of our hard fought freedoms in any way. Period. And I have a right to say this, because I was both Active and Inactive Reserve for 29 years of my life. I paid for the right to say this.

Having said all that, I now need to say this. From a spiritual standpoint both sides were in the wrong. Regardless as to who was more right and close to the Constitution, both sides were spiritually wrong. Both sides of the debate are working not from the light, but from the darkness. Why?

Because neither side of the debate was
walking in God’s Spirit!

I do not know whether Mr. O’Rourke’s or Mr. Noir are Christians. I do not know whether they are born again by faith in Christ or not. I do not know whether they are Children of God or Children of Adam. I have no right to make that judgment, as Christ alone is the Judge. The Apostle declared:

James 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

So I am not judging the final destination of either man. I am not qualified to do so. Jesus said in John 5:22

.. the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed
all judgment unto the Son ..

Jesus Christ is the Judge of the quick and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). Not I. I am not qualified. But I can tell you that both men are wrong spiritually because of what the Scripture we’re studying today tells us.

The right or proper way to live – or as the Scripture says “To walk” is not in the flesh, but IN THE SPIRIT. That is what we are told.

The Only Correct “Walk” Is In The Spirit

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

The enemy of Christ and of the Church is the devil, Satan, that old dragon called Lucifer. Lucifer – which means “the Bright and Shining One” (because God made him beautiful among the angels) – is constantly seeking to destroy the plan of God and His Church. The Apostle Peter told us:

1 Peter 1:8 … Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour …

The devil and his forces (where ever they may be) are constantly attacking the Plan of God, the Gospel of Christ. God told us over and over:

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The devil and his allies are what is wrestling against us. He possesses people, influences people, and guides people away from the Spirit of God. He influences governments, communities, families, and even Churches and Church leaders. There are many who claim the title of “Pastor” or “Deacon” or “Elder” or “Bible Teacher” who have been swayed to the devil’s way. The devil does his best to mangle the Gospel so others will not be saved. He does that by perverting the Way of Christ, by tricking us to walk in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit.

Jesus Christ gave His life for His Church. He purchased the Church with His own Blood (Acts 20:28). Jesus Christ DIED for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) but ROSE AGAIN for our justification:

Romans 4:25 {Jesus} was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could send the Holy Spirit to indwell His people. He said:

John 16:7-10 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

Jesus died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He departed, and sent the Holy Spirit to us to empower us as well as sanctify us, set us apart from the world. This is why the Christian MUST walk in the Spirit. We must live surrendered lives to Him. It is He Who guides us, and He Who should define us. Jesus sent His Spirit to us to guide us as lights in this darkened world.

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

How does one walk in the Spirit? This is a command, and something God wants us to do. So how do we walk in the Spirit? Some would answer, “to walk in the Spirit we just obey the Law of God”. We walk in the Spirit by keeping the same Law that Israel kept. But what does the Apostle say?

Galatians 5:1-4 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

If you are seeking to be in a right relationship with God by “keeping the Law” then the Bible says “you are fallen from Grace”. It was the Keepers of the Law that unlawfully crucified Christ. It was the Pharisees who plotted and planned against Jesus to have Him executed. Why? Because Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. You remember this story.

Mark 3:1-6 {Jesus} entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

Who was it that was angry enough with Jesus to plot against His life? Was it the Romans? No, for even Pilate the Roman Governor said “I find no fault in this Man” (Luke 23:4; John 19:4). Was it the crowd in the synagogue that day? No, not at all. It was the Pharisees with the Herodians who conspired together to have Jesus murdered. Both Pharisees and Herodians were adherents to the Law. It was Pharisees, Scribes, Herodians, and leaders of the Temple of Israel who took Jesus to an unlawful midnight trial. It was this “religious” crowd who had Jesus initially beaten, and then worked the crowd up into such a frenzy that it yelled out:

Release Barabbas (Matthew 27:21)
Let Christ be crucified (Matthew 27:22)
Let Him be crucified (Matthew 27:23)

When you walk in the flesh – even if you are following the Law – you are walking wrongly and apart from God. What does our Father say to us?

1 Samuel 15:22 … Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

God does not want us doing the rituals of the Law like automatons. He wants us to follow Him with our hearts. He wants us to:

Romans 12:1-2 … present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

You can be right and be wrong at the same time. You can be technically right, and yet spiritually wrong. God wants His Children to heed the Holy Spirit and not just the Law. He says:

Galatians 5:5-6 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

This is why the Church in America is staggering today. The average believer is not living in the Spirit, but by the letter of the Law. Need I remind you that the Apostle Paul was Saul the Pharisee before he was the Apostle Paul. A fully cognizant religious agent:

Acts 9:1-2 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Was God pleased with Saul? Saul was following the Law, and obeying the High Priest of Israel. Was Christ pleased?

Absolutely not!

Jesus knocked Saul down on the Damascus Road, saying ..

Acts 9:4 Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?

I wish Jesus would knock down all the Sauls today that hinder the work of the Gospel. I wish every preacher, deacon, elder, and leader that is following letters on a page rather than the Holy Spirit in the heart would be blinded and led back to the Lord!

When we walk in the flesh we – like the unconverted Saul – persecute Jesus (Acts 9:5).

We who are saved are not under a pen and ink law, but we are under the Law of Love, the Law of the Holy Spirit. We are freed from the Scribal Law so that we can follow the greater Law of the Spirit. We who are Christians are NOT LAWLESS. The Apostle says:

Galatians 5:13-15 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

We are given a much simpler Law to follow.
We are to “love our neighbor as ourselves”.
Love others the way you want to be loved.
Treat others with the same hand you want to be treated.
If we do not do this, then the snake eats itself.
We consume ourselves,
We become one with the darkness,
And absolutely of NO EFFECT!

We must choose to walk in the Spirit. We must choose to follow God our Savior. We must always remember:

Galatians 5:17-18 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Defining The Flesh That We Are To Avoid

Now the obvious question is “What should I avoid if I am to walk in the Spirit?” I’m glad you asked. The Bible has an answer. The flesh can be defined by it’s WORKS or by it’s outward MANIFESTATION. We read:

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now if you’ll notice these “works of the flesh” are indeed violations of the Law of God. The Christian is not lawless. In fact, the Christian following the Spirit is MORE LAWFUL than the religious person. There are written Laws in the Old Testament that forbid sexual immorality and impurity (in the KJV Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness. There are written Laws that forbid idolatry (seeking God where He is NOT, such as in witchcraft). Many of these works of the flesh are written down in the Law of God. But ALL of these works of the flesh have ONE THING in common:

They do not come from a Spirit led,
love directed heart!

When God looks at His Children He does not want to see us in sexual sin – either heterosexual or homosexual. He does not want us worshiping other gods and goddesses. He does not want us following spiritual practices created by the unChristian, such as Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc faiths. God does not want to see hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, divisiveness, envy, drunkenness, or anything else that is not Godly in us. We are not be haters nor hateful. And we are warned that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. That is a frightening assessment. What the Bible is implying here is

If you think you are saved,
but routinely are involved in these outward manifestations,
Then you may be mistaken!

What does the Lord want to see in His Children? He wants to see the fruit of the Spirit. What is this fruit of the Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

There is no written Law against these behaviors – NONE. These are the traits that God wants to see in His Children. These are manifestations of love. Let us seek His face, and be like Jesus – even to those we do not agree with. This alone honors God, and proves our salvation.

May God the Holy Spirit touch you with his Word!

Posted in Galatians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Unsearchable Riches of Christ

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Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

To many Christians the Grace of God is but one note. To many believers Grace is all about salvation from sin. Grace is indeed about salvation from sin. The Bible tells us that:

Romans 5:6-9 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The Bible is very clear that humanity is fallen from the glory of God. There are no naturally “good” people. Yes, there are moral people. There are nice people. There are even religious people. But there are none good. The Bible says:

Psalm 14:2-3 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Our Lord Jesus said in Mark 10:18 “there is none good but one, that is, God.” No one is naturally good. We are all crooked in the eyes of God. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ came. He came to:

John 1:29 … Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The Unsearchable Riches Of Christ Both
Covers And REcovers Our Sins

What was done at the Cross of Christ was that our sin was COVERED. Sin must be paid for. God is holy, just, and ever righteous. And an offense against God is not a light thing. When Jesus died on Calvary His Blood covered our guilt. But salvation does not stop there. Once saved, God moves into our lives. He not only COVERS our sin He RECOVERS us from sin. He changes us. He begins a change in us that will be a very real change in who we are. The Bible tells us that Heaven is a place where NO SIN CAN ENTER IN. We are told that in glory:

Revelation 21:27 … there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Nothing that worketh abomination shall enter into Heaven. We are introduced to the word abomination in the Old Testament. From one commentary called Wikipedia I found this definition:

“Abomination (from Latin abominare, “to deprecate as an ill omen”) is an English term used to translate the Biblical Hebrew terms shiqquts שיקוץ and sheqets שקץ,[1] which are derived from shâqats, or the terms תֹּועֵבָה, tōʻēḇā or to’e’va (noun) or ta’ev (verb). An abomination in English is that which is exceptionally loathsome, hateful, sinful, wicked, or vile.

When God uses the word abomination He speaks of something that is to Him that is exceptionally loathsome, hateful, wicked, or vile. God does not allow abominations into Heaven. The Bible states:

Proverbs 6:16-19 … These six [things] doth the LORD hate: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness [that] speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

These things are NOT ALLOWED IN HEAVEN, and yet, dear ones, have not we all engaged in many of these things on the earth? When we think of abomination we think of sexual sins that perhaps we don’t do. Of homosexuality:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

or of adultery or incest:

Ezekiel 22:11 And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father’s daughter.

or of cross dressing:

Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

or of child sacrifice or abortion:

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

When you read the Bible you will find – if you read it honestly and apply it to yourself as fairly as possible – that we have all been guilty of doing things that are what God classifies as abomination or unrighteousness. Praise God for His Grace!

His Grace not only covers our sins,
but His Grace changes our nature!

This is why we read in the Scripture …

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Nothing can enter God’s presence that defiles. No sin can enter into Heaven. This is why Christ came. Though we are all sinners His willing sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary paid for our sins. We are “justified” – a word that means “to straighten that which is crooked”. We are “washed” clean of sin because of His shed Blood. But THE RICHES OF GOD’S GRACE GOES FURTHER THAN MERELY COVERING! It changes us. The Apostle tells the Church at Corinth (and us as well):

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: BUT ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

No Christian should ever feel self righteous, for that is a dangerous way to be. But we should indeed feel blessed. God took us a broken things and covered our brokenness. But the riches of God’s Grace says “this is not enough! No, I will not only COVER their sin, but I will RECOVER them into what I want them to be!”

My daddy was an upholsterer. Sadly, you rarely meet or even hear of upholsterers any more. Furniture is made cheaply, of cardboard and plywood and cheap fabrics and man made fibers. Furniture is made to be used and thrown away. But in my daddy’s day furniture was well made from oak, maple, and stuffed with natural cotton. Furniture was made to not only last, but to pass down as a heritage from generation to generation. People would come to daddy with their furniture, torn, dirty, damaged from life, stinky, smelly. They would pick out a fabric from one of the thousands of samples daddy had. Then daddy would take that couch or chair or recliner, remove all the old and torn, and replace the broken with the new. When daddy was done with a piece of furniture it would be like a brand new item, straight off the show room floor.

That is what the unsearchable riches of Christ does to us. God redeems us by His precious Son’s Blood. He buys us as we are, broken and sin filled. The Bible says:

1 Peter 1:18-20 .. ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain {way of life} received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

It was at Calvary that Christ made a way for us to come face to face with God. The Cross made payment for our sins so that we can have access to God. But the Grace of God is not just to save us from sin so that we can one day go to Heaven. God’s Grace is much more than this. It is unsearchable riches. God covers our sins, then He begins to RECOVER us, to remake us.

God brings us into His Family.

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
Brings Us Into God’s Family

The Apostle Paul said:

Ephesians 3:14-15 … For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

We who have received Christ as Lord and Savior are brought into the Family of God! We are part of a family that is based not just on earth, but in Heaven. The Saints of old are part of that Family. King David – long departed from this earth – is part of that Family. He said:

1 Chronicles 29:10 … David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever.

The Great Prophet Isaiah – gone into glory 700 years before Christ came – is a part of that Family. He said:

Isaiah 63:16 … thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.

The ancient Jews did not understand God’s purpose was to make us part of His Family. This was a mystery to ancient Israel. That is what Paul is speaking of in our text when He says:

Ephesians 3:2-6 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

In the Old Testament the Jews knew that when Christ came that He would be “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32). But God never revealed to Israel His Grand Plan, that He was going to create a Family from the Blood of His dear Son. That in Christ God would bring together Jew and Gentile, Bond and Free. That He would redeem all and put all who would believe in Jesus into One Family, under One Head. Jesus told us:

Matthew 23:9 one is your Father, which is in heaven

The riches of Grace not only saves us, but it enters us into the Family of God. When you do the work of God by believing on Jesus Christ (John 6:29) then this rich Grace of God brings us into the Family of God. Jesus said:

Matthew 12:48-50 … Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

God has a family that He is building by faith in Christ. This family is both in Heaven and on the earth. Paul was praying for the Ephesians that they would be:

Ephesians 3:16-17 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith

The word translated dwell means “To be at home in” (Greek κατοικέω katoikéō, pronounced kat-oy-keh’-o). It is the Father’s intent not just to save you, but to make you a temple that Christ can “be at home in”.

If you are are believers then you are entered into the Family of God through the

operation of this same Spirit. God gave His Spirit to us to mark us as His Children. He also gave us His Spirit so that we can be like Christ. The Bible says:

Romans 8:14-17 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

We are adopted into the Family of God by the Spirit of God Who lives and works in each one of us. The world will never understand this relationship between God and man, between believer and Heavenly Father. The world

will never understand that Jesus Christ is not just a Prophet, but Jesus Christ is Eternal God Who made something impossible possible.

The unsearchable riches of Christ saves us.
The unsearchable riches of Christ COVERS our sins.
The unsearchable riches of Christ RECOVERS us from sin.
The unsearchable riches of Christ ADOPTS us into God’s Family.
The unsearchable riches of Christ will make us like Christ.
And The unsearchable riches of Christ gives us purpose.

The Unsearchable Riches Of Christ Gives Us Purpose

Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ

for you Gentiles …

No missionary ever suffered quite like the Apostle Paul suffered. When recounting what he went through he said:

2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

You would think that Paul would just give up. What suffering he went through! And yet he did not give up. In fact, the Apostle Paul went into Jerusalem to the Temple to preach the Gospel knowing that he would be imprisoned. Why did he keep going?

Because God the Holy Spirit told him:

Acts 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

The suffering he was going through was not for no purpose. It was so the glorious riches of God’s Grace could go out into the world. Where better than to preach Christ than before the Caesar in Rome?

The Apostle understood the riches of God’s Grace, and knew that God wanted to save whosoever will through it. Therefore his suffering was for a greater purpose.

The unsearchable riches of Christ did not just save us from our sins, but it saved us for a purpose. Trials come on all of us. But if you are in Christ, these trials do not come to destroy you, but to fulfill the purpose of God in Christ. The Apostle told the Church at Ephesus:

Ephesians 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The tribulations that came on Paul were not random events, nor cruelties sent his way by satan. No, every tribulation came to aid the Apostle in fulfilling his life purpose. Paul was a man with purpose. God used him to reveal to all that it was God’s intent to save whosoever will believe on Christ. Not just the Jews, but the Gentiles as well. Not just the well to do or best, but whosoever will. And the Apostle saw God at work, moving all things according to His will. He had purpose because of Christ.

Beloved, if you are saved it is not just so you can go to Heaven, but that God can use YOU to reach others for His Kingdom. View everything that happens to you through the riches of God’s Grace – the unsearchable riches of Christ. May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

More Blessed To Give

More Blessed.jpg

One of the most interesting texts in the Bible is one of the least understood and the least preached.

It is part of a sermon preached by the Apostle Paul to the leaders of the Church at Ephesus – a type of farewell address. God used the Apostle to establish the Church in Ephesus. The Church was planted during Paul’s second missionary journey, circa 52 AD (see Acts 18:19). When the Apostle returned to Ephesus during his third missionary journey (circa AD. 54) he spent three years there (see Acts 19:8-10; Acts 20:31). During this trip the Apostle the Lord used Paul to weed out false teachings that had threatened the Church. The Temple of Diana, the goddess of sexual fertility, was established in Ephesus. In fact, Ephesus was a hotbed of pagan practices. The Apostle spent three years weeding God’s Garden, the Ephesian Church.

About 57 AD. the Apostle – as he was traveling – decided to stop once more in Ephesus. The Apostle knew that this would be the last time he could see his beloved Ephesian Church. He told them:

Acts 20:22-25 … And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.

Paul didn’t know how bad it was going to be, but it knew he would be imprisoned. He knew this was the last time he would see this precious Church because God had warned him that bonds and afflictions abide me. But Paul wasn’t concerned about his death. He was ready to die. Paul wanted to finish well, and wanted the Church at Ephesus to prosper and grow.

As we run with patience the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2) let us keep in mind the goal. We are to finish well for Christ. Do we finish well? No one cheers the quitter, the one who stops mid race. The cheers of Heaven are not for the quitters or the lazy or the fearful or the foolish. The cheers of Heaven are for the faithful, for those who with endurance, looking unto Jesus, they ran their race with patience to the end. That is what brings the trophy.

As Paul ended his sermon to the Church – the last time he would see them face to face – he said these words. Let’s read these words responsively:

Acts 20:25 I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Apostle quotes the Lord Jesus Christ, and tells the young Church to remember the words of the Lord Jesus. He was quoting a word that Jesus said that many had heard. Yet here’s what’s interesting. If you look through the Gospels you will NOT find this word anywhere. Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John record these words from our Lord. This causes many of the commentaries and theological doctors a great deal of concern. Some people have even gone so far as to say that the Apostle Paul mis-spoke, that he quoted something that Jesus never said, and there is error in the Bible. I do not believe this. I believe the Apostle quoted Jesus as saying this because Jesus did indeed say it. The Gospel of John ends with these words:

John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

The Gospels do not tell us all that Jesus said and did. That great pastor Dr. W.A. Criswell – the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas
called this word from Paul
“The Lost Beatitude”.

When Jesus began His ministry the first major sermon He preached was called The Sermon On The Mount. This is a fantastic sermon that is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. What word is used over and over in the introduction of this sermon? See if you can find it.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Did you find it? Yes, the word is Blessed. The word Blessed is the Greek

μακάριος makários, (pronounced mak-ar’-ee-os) which means “to be fortunate or well off”. The word is found some fifty times in the New Testament. The word can also mean “to be happy”, and is translated as such in:

1 Peter 3:14 … But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye …

1 Peter 4:14 … If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you …

That word “blessed” means to find inner happiness, to find contentment, to be prospered in a way that brings spiritual joy.

It Is A Blessing To Receive

Now Jesus never said it is not a blessing to receive things. He said:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

There is greater happiness in giving than there is in receiving, but that isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to receive. Our Lord Jesus was blessed when He went to Simon the Leper’s home for supper – at Simon’s invitation, mind you. When Jesus came into that man’s home the Bible says:

Matthew 26:6-7 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.

As this unnamed woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, people who saw this sat judging. They sat judging this woman. They sat judging Jesus. “If Jesus knew who this woman was, He would not allow her to even touch Him!” (Luke 7:39). … “Why was this ointment wasted? It could have been sold for over 300 denarii (a year’s wages)!” As Jesus sat receiving this blessing He told them all “Let her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to Me. She has anointed My body for burial!” (Mark 14:6-9). He then rebuked Simon,

Luke 7:44-46 … And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped [them] with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus was blessed by what He received from this woman. It is wonderful to receive blessings.

 As a pastor I have received thank you cards for things that I have done for others. That is a blessing. As a father, I am always blessed when my children remember me on Father’s Day. On the wall of my home office is a card that my youngest son brought to me on my birthday one year. I hung it on the wall, and look at it any time I get to feeling blue. On that same birthday my oldest son forgot my birthday. That hurts! Do you know that feeling? Of course, there were times when the shoe was on the other foot, and I forgot my momma and daddy’s birthdays. I wish I had been more diligent now that they are gone to be with the Lord. I really do.

It is wonderful to receive encouragement when you are down. There is nothing wrong with receiving. When we pray, do we not ask God to give to us? Do we not pray as Jesus taught us:

Matthew 6:11-13 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

God told us not to worry about things, but to ask God as our Father for blessing. We should not worry about tomorrow, nor for our sustenance, but we should seek God in prayer. He wants to bless us, and waits to hear our cry. Jesus told us:

Matthew 7:7-11 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Our Heavenly Father loves to give good things to us, so receiving is not evil, and asking is not evil. Even God wants to receive from us. Not stuff, but the love and admiration and respect that He deserves.

The Father wants our full and devoted love! Our Lord Jesus said that the greatest commandment in the Law is:

Matthew 22:37-38 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.

What God wants of us is ALL of us. God wants to receive our love, our devotion, our obedience, and our allegiance. We bless God when He receives that from us. So no, it is not wrong to receive.

But It Is MORE BLESSED To Give

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

The great Pastor W.A. Criswell told this story:

Over there in Africa, there was a little colored boy – one of those little African natives who came to one of our mission Sunday schools – and he did not have any clothes on. … so the Sunday school teacher said to the little fellow, … “Son, you go home and tell your momma to put some clothes on you. You cannot come to Sunday school without any clothes on.” So the little boy went home and told his momma that he could not come to Sunday school unless he had some clothes on. So the little fellow returned pretty soon and he was so proud, he was so proud with the clothes that he was wearing. Do you know what he had on? He had on a pair of suspenders!”

It is a blessing to receive, but a GREATER blessing to give. I want you to think about another little boy now. This little boy heard that Jesus was coming to town. He was so excited. So the little boy asked his mother is he could go and see Jesus. His mother – like all good mothers – said it was all right for him to go see Jesus, but she wanted him to take lunch with him. Mother pulled out of the cupboard what she had ready – two small fish and five little barley biscuits. She put this meal in a little sack, and the little boy set out to see Jesus. It was a fantastic day. The little boy squirmed and wiggled till he got close to where Jesus was. Sick people were coming to Jesus, and Jesus was healing all that came. People were carrying crippled friends to Jesus. With a touch and a word the lame walked. The blind were given their sight. It was so magnificent! And the crowd kept getting bigger and bigger.

Then it looked like the excitement was going to end. The sun was setting, and the people were hungry. The little boy had forgotten to eat his lunch. His tummy rumbled and made him remember. Suddenly the disciples scattered through the crowd. The little boy heard the adults talking. They were looking for food to feed this crowd.

The little boy had a choice. He could feed his own belly. Or he could give the little bit he had to Jesus. He handed his sack to one of the disciples who took it back to Jesus. The disciples told Jesus:

Matthew 14:17-18 … We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. … {Jesus} said, Bring them hither to me.

The little boy watched Jesus take his lunch out of the bag. Jesus looked up to Heaven and blessed the food. He broke the loaves, and passed them to the disciples, who gave more than enough food to the crowd of over 5000 people. Now let me ask:

Who do you think received the greater blessing that day? The over 5000 people who filled their bellies? The disciples who passed out the food Jesus gave them. Or the little boy who saw his tiny meal transformed into a banquet for thousands?

Do riches bless us? Does receiving stuff make us happy? There was a rich young ruler who came to Jesus and said:

Luke 18:18 … Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

When Jesus told him:

Luke 18:22 … sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

The Bible tells us that this young man went away sorrowful – not blessed but sorrowful for he was very rich. Compare this young man to another rich man named Zacchaeus, who was very rich (Luke 19:2). Was Zacchaeus happy? Was he blessed? If he was, why did he climb up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:4). When Jesus went into his home what did Zacchaeus say?

Luke 19:8 … Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus said that salvation had come to Zacchaeus. Why was this? Because Zacchaeus gave himself to the Lord. He no longer worshiped his stuff, but worshiped the One Who came to die for us all.

Who was happier? The widow who put in all that she had (Mark 12:41-44) or the rich Pharisees who made a show of giving their money. Jesus said the widow with little was better blessed. “They gave out of their wealth, but she gave out of poverty, and put in all she had”. Some would say this is foolish, but God says that this is wisdom.

When We Give Of Ourselves We Are Most Like Jesus

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

There is nothing wrong with receiving – unless all you do is receive. When all you do is receive then you become like the foolish rich man of Luke 12.

Luke 12:15-17 And {Jesus} said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

To “covet” is to be greedy, to be always taking and never giving. When we always take and never give then we are never blessed. As Jesus said, a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Stuff comes and stuff goes. Bank accounts grow, go to zero, and grow again. There’s no sin in receiving – but to receive and never give leads to misery and sadness and a lost life. This rich man had plenty. He asked himself, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? The answer should have been simple. If God has prospered you, bless someone else. Do not be like the rich man of Luke 16 who clothed himself in fine linen, but never had the time to help poor Lazarus at his doorstep. As Lazarus fought the dogs for every crumb of food, the rich man stuffed his face with the finest food.

There is no happiness nor blessing in all receiving but never giving. As we have been blessed, we need to bless others. The one who is Ebenezer Scrooge is never happy. Let us not be like the rich young ruler, the rich farmer, nor like old Ebenezer. Let us be like Jesus.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

How did Jesus become poor? He left the splendor of Heaven. He stepped down from His Throne in glory, and lowered Himself to be born a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Jesus became like us – yet without sin – so that He could give His life for us on Calvary. We who are saved by Grace in Him are to be followers of Christ (Matthew 4:19) and followers of God (Ephesians 5:1). If you belong to Jesus you are to live for Jesus.

Some do not understand this truth. People visit this Church and begin to ask me, “What can YOU do for ME”? That is not the way of Christ. The way of Christ is to give as you have been given to. No, I’m not just talking about money, though money does come into it. But you are to give of yourself. How does the Bible speak to this.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Live your lives as Christ lived His. He was always giving – even unto His death. He gave Himself a ransom for our souls. Shall we take of Heaven’s Best and give nothing in return? God forbid. God forbid.

The Lord has been so good to me. Shall I with hold my life from Him? “Freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8). If you are not saved by faith in Christ then run to His waiting arms today. Receive the greatest gift you will ever receive: salvation by Grace and the adoption into His Family. Once you have received, give. He gave to you, so give to Him. Not just money – but of yourselves. Give to Jesus. You are His people, His Kingdom, His family forever. The heart closed to Jesus will manifest in a closed and stingy hand. But the heart opened to Jesus will give as it has been given. Blessed be the Name of Jesus!

Posted in Acts, giving, Sermons Preached | Tagged ,

Remember!

WarningSign

 

The last time we came together as God’s Church we talked about when we were “dead in trespasses and in sins” Ephesians 2:18-19 For through {Jesus} we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;(Ephesians 2:1). We learned that we were separated from God because of the sin nature that ruled us. But God reached out. He is rich in mercy and by His great love – though we were dead in sins He called us and quickened us (by Grace we are saved) (Ephesians 2:5). God raised us up, and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). We are saved entirely of grace. We are God’s workmanship. He is the Potter and we are the clay. We have no reason to boast, unless we boast on the love and faithfulness of our Almighty God.

Tonight the Apostle tells us – let’s read this responsively:

Ephesians 2:11-14a Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace …

Remember!

Our first two words are Wherefore remember, the Greek μνημονεύω mnēmoneúō, (pronounced mnay-mon-yoo’-o) which means “recall, bring to your mind”. The early Ephesian Christian – a saved Gentile – would have a memory of how he or she first heard of the God of the Jews. You and I have no such memory, but the Ephesian Christian would. When the Gentile entered Jerusalem they saw Herod’s Temple dominating all the other buildings in the city. A Gentile wanting to visit the Temple could enter its gates, and even pass through one of its outer porches. Jesus used to preach to all on Solomon’s Porch. He did this because:

1 Timothy 1:15 …. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

He came to save Israel – His people – but He also came to save whosoever will. Jesus is:

Luke 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

If you were a Gentile seeking God you were allowed into the outer gates of the Temple. But once you reached the outer court – called “The Court of the Gentiles” – you could go no further. If you were a Gentile you saw the Sacred Enclosure of the Temple – located three feet above the Court of the Gentiles. There were signs posted in both Greek and Latin that warned the Gentiles that the penalty of trespassing was death. The Roman Laws even permitted the Jewish authorities to kill those who were Gentiles who dared approach God, regardless as to their status with Rome. The Apostle Paul was nearly killed one of the times he entered the Temple proper.

Acts 21:27-29 … the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw {Paul} in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, tEphesians 2:18-19 For through {Jesus} we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;hat teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

If you were the Church at Ephesus then more than likely Trophimus an Ephesian was a member of your congregation. When he was with Paul and Paul was nearly killed for even being in proximity to Trophimus, well, I can imagine, word gets around. The Ephesian believers who were largely Gentile would remember how when they were yet unbelievers they were excluded from the worship of Yahweh. It is like when people come to our Church for the first time and many of us shun them. Imagine how that feels! This is what Paul wanted to bring to remembrance.

When Jesus Christ came He often taught on Solomon’s Porch so that all could have access to God. This was refreshing to the Gentiles, and offensive to the Orthodox Jews. Yet Christ came to reach all. He came to reach the lowest person. He came to reach any who needed God – and Beloved, we all need God.

Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world …

God chose Israel to be His messengers to a lost world. When God called Israel to be His own He told them:

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye [were] the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

God Wanted You When No One Else Did

Israel forgot this great truth. Rather than remember that they were nothing but slaves when God saved them, they began to think they were better than anyone else. God chose Israel to be His light bearer because He loved them and because He made a promise to the Fathers of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is love, and God is faithful. Israel was not chosen because they were the best. The nation was chosen because they were the worst, the most pitiful, the broken. But once God elevates them what happens. They begin to think that they are better than the Gentiles around them.

How foolish.

God wants the Church to avoid this same terrible path. He wants the Church to remember or call to mind when they were shunned. To remember:

without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel

The Jews taught that when Christ came, He would only come for those who were from the commonwealth of Israel, that is, only Jewish citizens circumcised according to the command given Abraham. God told Abraham:

Genesis 17:10-14 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

God never told Abraham or Israel that salvation came by circumcision. Yet the Jews developed this theology, teaching that the Gentiles – who were uncircumcised – were cut off from Christ. Israel believed that only the Jew could be saved and that Christ would only come for the Jew. The Orthodox Jew reasoned that since the Gentile was “cut off” from Israel that:

Ephesians 2:12 … strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world

they were strangers from the covenants of promise, that is, God never made a promise of salvation to the Gentiles. Since God made no covenants with the Gentiles they were in a hopeless and helpless situation. They were without God in the world.

But Now …

Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace …

This was what Israel believed at this time in history – but was not what God our Father believed – blessed be the Name of the Lord! We who are Gentiles were never cut off from salvation nor cast away from God. It is true that Christ came for the Jew FIRST. Why? Because He as God Almighty made promises to the Jew first. This is why the Scripture declares:

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Christ came to the Jew first. When He began His ministry of the earth He told His disciples:

Matthew 10:5-7 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: (6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (7) And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

But God always intended to reach out to the Gentiles. The Prophet said some 700 years before Christ came:

Isaiah 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

This was a text often quoted in the New Testament. The Apostle Matthew quoted it in his writing at 12:21, as did the Apostle Paul at Romans 15:12-13.

Jesus Christ came not just to Israel, but also came to the Gentile, to the Greek. How is a person saved? Is it by having certain access to the Temple? Is it having performed certain rituals such as circumcision? No. The Scripture declares The just – those who are justified or made right with God – they shall live by faith in God the Son. Salvation comes by faith in His Blood. What does the text tell us?

now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off
are made nigh by the blood of Christ

We who are Gentiles are made nigh by the blood of Christ. We who are Christ’s Church need to remember when we were excluded. We need to remember that God in love reached out to us when we were unlovable. We also need to remember that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ, brought near to God by the Blood of Jesus.

Christ Jesus Is Our Peace

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

We are called to remember – to bring to our memory – that Jesus is our peace. He broke down the middle wall of partition. The words between us are added by the translators, and are unneeded in this text. Jesus broke down the middle wall of partition. The Gentiles were not allowed to look into the Temple, but had to stay in the outer courtyard. They were not allowed access to God. The website gotquestions notes:

Solomon’s temple was 30 cubits high{45 feet tall} (1 Kings 6:2), but Herod had increased the height to 40 cubits, according to the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. There is uncertainty as to the exact measurement of a cubit, but it is safe to assume that this veil was somewhere near 60 feet high. An early Jewish tradition says that the veil was about four inches thick, but the Bible does not confirm that measurement. The book of Exodus teaches that this thick veil was fashioned from blue, purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen.”

That colorful veil was a reminder to any Gentile that they were not welcome in the presence of God. On the day that Jesus died on Calvary the Bible tells us:

Matthew 27:50-51 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom

When Jesus died His blood destroyed the barrier that kept the Gentile from God. Racism and elitism kept the Gentile from experiencing the joy of God’s presence. This veil also kept the everyday Jew from the Holy of Holies, the direct presence of God. Now the Holy of Holies – the direct presence of God – is available to all people, both Jew as well as Gentile. Sin was a barrier that kept us from God. But when Christ died that veil was torn.

Acts 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

God has never been contained to just the Temple. But sin kept us from God. Now because of the Blood of Christ:

Hebrews 10:10 … we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:16-19 … This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldnesEphesians 2:18-19 For through {Jesus} we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;s to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus

I have heard it said that some Christians tire of the preaching of the Cross. I say unto you, if you tire of the Cross, if you tire of the Blood, then you need to reexamine your own salvation.

Though I love all the doctrines of Christianity, there is none more dear to me than the Blood of Christ. And Beloved, nothing should be more dear to you than the Blood of Christ.

We praise God for Christ’s first coming, being born of a virgin,
but
it is His Blood that brings us near to God.

We love the examples that Jesus gave us as He walked this earth,
but it is His Blood that allows us to call God “Our Father”.

We praise and magnify God for the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, but it is His Blood that brings us into the Family of God.

We look forward to the Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds and the glorious Rapture of the Church,
but it is His Blood that demands He return for us who believe.

The love of God caused Jesus Christ to go to the Cross and die,
but it is His Blood shed on that Cross that brings us near to God.

We are near to God because the Blood of Christ sealed a covenant between us and God, and because that Blood proves that God’s Justice is satisfied. The Christian is pardoned, not through a rite of circumcision nor baptism nor communion, nor good works. The Christian is pardoned because of the Blood of Christ, Blessed Be the Name of God!

Galatians 3:26-29 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In the Church Age there should be no division nor racism amongst its members. Do you not know that it was the Blood of Christ – the Blood of a Jew – that saves whosoever will receive Him. We are told:

Ephesians 2:15-16 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Sin was a barrier between us and God. The Law of God showed us that we were sinners. When Jesus died on Calvary He satisfied the ceremonial and ritual as well as dietary laws that God gave Israel. The Christian is not lawless – no, dear friend. But we are under a higher law.

We Are Under The Glorious Law Of Christ

We who are brought near to God by the Blood of Christ are under the Law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 tells us Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

We are under the Law of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2-4 tells us “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

What is the Law of Christ? What is the Law of the Spirit? It is to love as Christ loved us. This is what fulfills the Law.

Romans 13:8-10 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:13-14 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Christ brought us near to God the Father by laying His life down and shedding His Blood for us. He did this for us when we were His enemies. Jesus has commanded us to love one another as He has loved you (John 13:34; 15:12). He gave Himself to draw us near to God. We who are His are to give ourselves to others, to help them to draw near to God.

The Christian Identity is now that we are sons of the Most High God. What a glorious statement God has made!

It’s all about LOVE!

Ephesians 2:18-19 For through {Jesus} we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

We who are Christ’s are drawn near to God. God is love. His law is love. His Christ showed love. As fellow citizens of Heaven, as members of His household, we are to love. To love as Christ loved. To realize we are a people no longer far off from God, but a people of God. Live as a people near to God should live. Live for His smile!

We do not build walls to keep people out.
We love others as Christ loved us.
We stand together firm on the truths of Scripture.
His Household “is built upon the foundation of the Apostles & Prophets”.
We follow His Word.
And we grow.
We are His Temple!
May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Crucified With Christ

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Hill Of Crosses Diego Delso.png

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

On a remote field in Lithuania there is a hill called Kryžių Kalnas (pronounced cry-zoo kale ness), which literally means The Hill of Crosses. For over two centuries Christians have brought literally thousands of metal or wooden crosses and placed them on this hill. It’s an impressive site. National Geographic© stated that “some think the crosses {were} left by mourning relatives of the victims of revolts against the Russian regime in 1831, and later in 1863.” After World War II the area – governed by the Soviet Union – was under constant state sponsored attacks. The Soviet Government repeatedly tried to destroy the crosses. They even tried leveling the hill itself – but the people kept bringing crosses.

In time the Soviets gave up, and Lithuania gained it’s independence. The Hill of Crosses lives on, and
believers continue to bring crosses to this hill.

The Cross is constantly under assault throughout the world. It has always been under assault.

The devil despises the Cross, for in it he sees his defeat.
The world hates the Cross for it condemns sin.
As jewelry it’s accepted.
But in truth it is rejected.
To the Roman the Cross represented shame and death.

Rome invented the Cross as a means of torturing criminals. God took that method of torture and turned it into something that was not hopeless, but filled with hope. It was no longer a symbol of defeat, but a symbol of victory.

I heard a beautiful story the other day I thought I’d share with you. It was Easter season, and the Sunday School teacher brought in a bunch of empty plastic eggs. She let the kids go outside to find things that God made – flowers, tiny leaves, sand or rocks. She asked the kids to find something God made and put it inside the hollow egg, and bring it back to the classroom. One by one the teacher opened the eggs and commended the children for what they found. She talked about how God created everything, and loves us all very much. Then she opened one egg – and it was empty. She asked the children “whose egg is this”? and one little fellow named Bobby raised his hand. The other kids started to make fun of Bobby, but the teacher stopped them. Then she asked:

Bobby, why is your egg empty?”

Little Bobby said “Teacher you told us that Jesus died on the Cross – but He came alive again. He’s not in the grave anymore – that’s why my egg is empty!” Doesn’t the Scripture tell us “A little Child shall lead us?” Praise God for all who understand this great truth.

The Cross is empty, and the Tomb is empty.
Jesus paid for our sins.
Jesus rose from the Grave.
If we receive Him, we live with Him!

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 … For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

That which was meant to bring condemnation instead brought salvation to all who believe. The Bible does not describe the shape of the Cross, and the nails that held Jesus to the Cross are not even mentioned until after His resurrection. The Apostle Thomas said:

John 20:25 … Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

Interestingly enough this is the only place in the Bible that mentions the nails that were driven into our Savior. When Jesus appears later He tells Thomas in John 20:27 …” Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Jesus alludes to the scars, but not the nails. Later when the Apostle writes about the effect of the Cross he says:

Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Even here the nails that held our Savior to that terrible Cross are not mentioned. Instead the Apostle speaks that the Law that we could not keep was nailed to that Cross. When Jesus died on Calvary He died taking our punishment on Himself. To violate God’s decree is to find death. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). Adam sinned, and we as Adam’s children sin. But praise be unto God:

Galatians 4:4-5 … But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Our redemption from sin and death were secured because our Jesus stood in our place. The Father looked at the Son and said “Guilty as charged for the sins of humanity”. The Law was nailed to that old rugged Cross that day. Jesus is the Leader of His people, a revolutionary standing against satan, sin, and sickness. Many revolutions have come to an end because their Founder was killed. The revolution that Christ brought did not die with Him, but changed death into life. He died on that Cross, but rose again on the third day. When we who are His look at the Cross we see it empty – for “He is risen, just as He said! Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead. He goes before you!” (Matthew 28:6-7).

Did Christ Die For You?

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ…

Are You A BYSTANDER Or A BELIEVER?

On the day that Jesus died there were many who saw the event. They were bystanders, people watching a show. The Christian is not a bystander at the Cross. The Christ is very much crucified with Christ. As one author put it:

Christ died for us – but we also died with Him”.

The old me – the law breaker, the people hater, the racist, the vandal, the drug abuser, the drinker, the skirt chaser – whatever your brand of sin was that brand died when the Cross branded you. You died – dear Christian – on that Cross with Jesus. That old pre-Jesus you is now gone. Jesus stood in your place on Calvary. He died for YOU.

Did Christ die for you? Not for your neighbor, your spouse, your mother or father, aunt or uncle. Did Christ die for YOU? The distinguishing mark of the Christian faith is that it is intensely personal. The word “I” is found five times in this text. The Apostle knew he was saved because he had a personal relationship with Christ in that Cross. Did Jesus die for YOU? Was the Law of God nailed to that Cross for YOU?

One of the most dangerous things – the most terrible of sins – is the sin of “Do It Yourself” Righteousness.

Jesus preached the Gospel over and over again in the presence of the Pharisees but reached very few. Why was this? Because the Pharisees kept looking at small errors and sins in others rather than examining their own lives in the light of God. This is why Jesus warned us against judging others. He said:

Matthew 7:1-3 Judge not, that ye be not judged. {2} For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. {3} And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Suggestion: Bring a 2×4 to Church with you.
Hold it up to your eye as you judge others in the crowd!

In a humorous way Jesus addressed the problem with judging. When we begin to judge others we often become blind to our own sins and insufficiencies. We spend time picking at those around us, finding fault as the Pharisees did, and we miss the Cross for ourselves. No one is baptized for you. No one can take the Lord’s Table for you. No one can be saved for you.

I remember one story I was told of an old lady who loved to judge others. She was looking out of her window one day as a neighbor hung up her laundry on the clothes line in her back yard. She told her husband, “Why in the world don’t she wash those sheets before she hangs them up? I don’t understand how her husband can stand sleeping on those nasty linens. Doesn’t she have any pride?” The woman’s husband listen to her for a minute, then left the room. While she looked out the window he came to the outside of the window she was standing at – and began to wash it. Magically the neighbor’s sheets suddenly became clean! You see, the old woman was looking at the dirt on her window – not on her neighbor’s linen!

The Bible warns us to …

Philippians 2:12 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

The devil loves it when we hear the Gospel and, instead of asking ourselves “what do I think of Christ” we begin judging others. This was Paul’s story when he was called “Saul”.

Philippians 3:5-6 … Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

When Paul – at that time in history Saul – was commissioned to go out and destroy Christianity he thought he was doing the work of God. He thought that with every Christian he brought to justice and judged that he was in a better place in Heaven. This is what the devil teaches all of his children. The devil teaches some that if they judge and kill the enemy, then they will receive 70 virgins on entering Heaven. The devil leads others to believe if they follow certain rituals that others are not following – if they count rosary beads or kneel at a statue or are baptized in a certain way – then they will be received into everlasting glory. There is confusion in every religion, even among those who call themselves “Christian”.

But then Christ knocked Saul down on the Damascus Road.
Christ blinded his physical eyes, but opened his spiritual eyes.
“Who art Thou, Lord?” Saul cried out.
“I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).

Saul died that day, but rose up from the Damascus Road Paul. Whereas Saul the persecutor judged and killed Christians, Paul the crucified went about lifting up others to the Cross of Calvary. When Jesus gets hold of you, dear friend, then you change.

Crucified with Christ, you die with Him.
Buried with Christ, the old man is dead.
Raised with Christ, you are as new creature!

You died with Jesus if you are a child of God.

I am reminded of the Gospel account where our Lord was beaten, flogged, bruised. A crown of thorns crushed down over His blessed head. The blood ran down into His eyes. The executioner and the crowd were unsympathetic. This was great sport. One Roman suggested that the Savior carry His own Cross. Putting that Cross on His back, the raw and splintered wood and pitch must have caused even more pain to those bloody shoulders. But Christ carried it. His death was unjust. He did nothing to warrant it. Even Pilate said:

Matthew 27:24 … I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Here is the Lamb of God, carrying His own altar. Blood drips from His brow. Blood soaks His robe. Midway to the Hill of death Jesus falls and cannot continue. His body – though perfect – is nonetheless human. The Romans look in the jeering crowd and see one Simon a Cyrenian:

Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

Why did this happen? I believe it happened according to the will of God. He wanted to show us something. You see, Jesus told us:

Luke 9:23-25 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

You Cannot Be Compelled And Be Saved!

Simon was COMPELLED to carry Christ’s Cross and to follow Him as He walked to Calvary. Yet God compels no one to salvation. No one is forced to be saved – to take up His Cross and follow Him. This is a choice that we are given. Simon was compelled – and outside of the mention of Simon being made to carry Christ’s Cross, there is no more mention of this man in Scripture. You cannot be forced to follow Christ, to be crucified with Him. God calls you to the Cross. He promises you forgiveness from sin by that Old Rugged Cross. But you must decide.

If You Choose To Die With Christ You Will Live

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;

Jesus Christ died on that Cross for you so that you can live. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;

The Bible says that God is the Source of Life and Light. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). All life is in God. But our sins separated us from God. When Christ died on that Cross He died for us. If I am crucified with Christ then this effects me physically as well as spiritually. The crucified person has his hands nailed to the tree. His feet are nailed to the tree. The one crucified suffers – but I am crucified with Christ. Not by myself, but I die with Him. The old me is dead. The me that comes away from that Cross is now changed.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

If I am saved then Christ liveth in me. I am not the same old me, but Jesus is in me, changing me slowly to be like Him. The Christian trusts in the death of Christ to save him. The Christian trusts in His life to live. Christ liveth in me. I am not as I was. Sin is not my master. Death is not my master. Satan is not my master. My Master is Jesus Christ – and He lives in me. The Christian is a different creature now. This is why the Scripture says:

Colossians 3:1-10 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

The Christian who is indeed a Christian died the day that he received Christ as Lord and Savior. That old man is gone. Now we seek to live and love in Christ. Christ is in us. We are His hands and feet.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,

The life which I now live I live by faith.
Not by feelings, but faith.
I live looking unto Jesus, not unto anything else.

The Psalmist said:

Psalms 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

What gives us an overcoming faith is that we who are saved keep our eyes on Jesus. We do not worry about tomorrow – but we follow Him day by day.

Some people are chronic worriers and complainers. I was reading something about complaining – what the Bible calls murmuring – the other day. It was written by Dr. Travis Bradberry (who wrote Emotional Intelligence 2.0) – and is a counselor to many of the Fortune 500 companies. He wrote:

Complaining is tempting because it feels good—like smoking or eating a pound of bacon—but complaining is not good for you. Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you and damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.”

The devil loves to get people’s eyes off of the Cross. He loves to remove the Cross from the public eye. He loves to make little of the Cross. But God wants us all to look to the Cross.
The Bible tells us to look to Jesus!

Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Jesus died on that Cross with joy in His heart because He knew that – through that Cross – you would receive His life.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me not so I could waste my life, but so I could finally live my life in Him. He is in every believer. We are His hands and feet. We are a loved people – let us live as a loved people. Let us let Him live through us. The Apostle said:

Philippians 4:11-13 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Joseph Bentz wrote that in the Cross “We become one with Christ. For Christians, the response to Christ’s death on the Cross is not only gratitude. It is also participation. We let who we used to be die so that Christ may fill up the new life that replaces it.”

When you have Jesus, you have all that you need. Dwell on that Cross. Dwell on His dying for you. Dwell on the reality that you died with Him. Dwell on the certainty that He is in you, working through you. Your life has purpose. Let Jesus live through you. May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Galatians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

My Little Children

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Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:1-4 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

In my morning devotional today I read a dialogue between an Atheist and Freddy Davis of MarketFaith Ministries. It was going as I expected. As he tried to share Christ with the Atheist that lost fellow couldn’t see it at all. Darkness cannot understand light. I knew that as the debate began, and expected nothing would come of it but wasted time.

The unbelievers – and especially the Atheists – do not believe in God. If you do not believe in God, then you do not believe that righteousness has a standard. This is not to say that Atheists and unbelievers are intrinsically immoral. There are many who follow a certain standard of morality. But they do not believe in sin.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Atheism and Evolutionary Theory does not believe in God, or in a Creator. If you do not believe in God, then you do not believe that God created things according to a standard. If you have little belief in God, or are a so called “Nominal” or carnal Christian, then you believe that sin is little or nothing at all. The secular mind does not believe in God, and therefore does not believe in what the Bible calls “sin”.

We Say That We Have No Sin

Secular thought and evolutionary theory tells us that man was not created, but evolved from lower life forms. According to secular thought man (and woman, of course) is no more than a higher evolved form of animal. If there is no Creator, then morality is whatever we as humans make it. There was a time when what the Bible defined as sexual sins – heterosexual or homosexual – were shunned in polite society. Today these concepts are no longer “sins”. Why? Because secular thought has rejected the concept of a Creator. We are not created, but evolved.

To the world there is no such thing as “sin”.
But even the world doesn’t believe this.

If evolutionary theory is true and “survival of the fittest” is true, then why was there a World War II? Why did we as a nation stand against Adolf Hitler? Why do we have laws that protect minors from sexual predators? If we are but animals – howbeit higher evolved animals – then why are there any laws whatsoever?

The truth is there is a Creator God, and there is such a thing called sin. The Apostle said:

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

To say that there is no such thing as “sin” then we deceive ourselves. I was watching a show on HULU the other day called “Designing Women”. In that show a young man asked the ladies to help arrange his funeral. As he was a young man they were all shocked. Why was he – just 21 or 22 years old – arranging his own funeral? Then came the bombshell. The young man had AIDS. He was a sexually active homosexual, and had contracted the disease. Throughout the rest of the show the cast berated drug manufacturers and researchers for not finding a cure for AIDS.

There is a cure for AIDS. The cure is in realizing that there is such a One as a Creator, and that this Creator has labeled certain acts or emotions as “sin”.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe God was punishing this fictitious young man for his acts in life. I don’t believe that AIDS or HIV or Syphilis or any one of the many terrible diseases that are in the world today are a punishment from God. And I do pray that medical science would find a cure for these terrible diseases. But as I say this (and I know there are many, many people who will vehemently disagree with me) let me direct you to what our Creator has said. He said:

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I tried explaining this scripture to a Christian a few weeks ago, but even he wouldn’t hear me. The Bible says that Every sin that a man doeth is without the body. When you commit murder then that sin is against someone else. It is without or outside of your body. When you lie then that sin is against someone else. It is without or outside of your body. When you dishonor your parents, or refuse to honor God, or steal or covet what another has these are sins against other person, both divine and human. But when you commit sexual sin this type of sin hurts your body directly. This is why the Creator tells us not to do it. He made our bodies, and He knows what our bodies can take. Again, he that committeth fornication literally is sexually immoral sinneth against his own body.

When we say there is no such thing as sin because we do not truly believe in the Creator we do not hurt the Creator.
We hurt ourselves.

The very first truth presented in Scripture is not that God is Love but that God is Light. God knows what is best for us. There are things that God considers bad for us, so He defines these things as “sin”. He does not define something as “sin” because He wants to ruin our fun. He defines sin as sin and establishes morality because God knows what is best for the creatures He designed. When God told Adam:

Genesis 2:16-17 … Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Notice what the Tree that was forbidden was named. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a tree who’s fruit could help the eater determine what was right and what was wrong. God did not want Adam – nor us – making decisions based on our feelings or on what we think. God alone – the Creator of all – knows what is and is not sin. He is the Maker. He knows what is best.

I took my car down to get the oil changed in it the other day. Now the oil cap on my car specifies that all oil is to be 5w20 oil. The technician put 10w30 in the engine, and I made him drain it and put the right oil in. Now you might say, “Well, what difference does it make?” The truth is the manufacturer had a reason for this. I didn’t understand this until I had to replace a solenoid on my wife’s car engine. Why did I have to replace that solenoid? Because oil flows through it, and the wrong weight oil will cause it to malfunction.

The manufacturer makes the rules because the manufacturer made the vehicle.

God made us. He knows what we can and cannot stand. That which will damage us spiritually and physically He has named as “sin”. If we don’t listen to Him then we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

What Is Sin’s Solution?

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

Sin’s solution is to quit trying to be God and become one of His children. Our text addresses My little children. A little child does not understand what the parent understands. When I was growing up I used to ask my parents “Why?” every time I was given a standard to follow. I thought that I set the standards.

I remember one time when we were on vacation at the beach, Morehead City North Carolina. Mom and Dad had told us that we were never to go off with strangers. Both I and my brother Mark knew this rule. But when the elder man came up to us at the Arcade and offered to buy us ice cream, both I and my brother accompanied him back to his motel room. Luckily daddy found us both before anything happened. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I do remember being grounded for some time. I remember thinking how unjust momma and daddy were for restricting who we could be friends with. Today as an adult I thank God that I had a momma and daddy who cared enough to punish us.

My little children. The Bible tells us that:

Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

God tells us that the solution for sin is first to come to Christ Jesus by faith. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. The word propitiation is the Greek ἱλασμός hilasmos which means “the covering for, atonement, or satisfactory payment for”. Jesus Christ made payment for our sins by His life and His death. The word is used again in:

1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 3:25-26 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Jesus Christ came to this earth and walked among us as perfect Man. When the time was right God sent forth His Son to bear our sins for us on that Cross of Calvary. The Bible tells us:

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

He gave Himself for us so that we could by faith enter into the Family of God. He died for us that He might bring us to God. He died for us so that we should live unto righteousness.

Christ did not die just to bring us to Heaven.
He died to bring Heaven to us.
He died and rose again so that we would act right.
That’s what righteousness is.
Acting right.
Thinking right.
Doing what God our Creator tells us to do.

Sin’s solution is Christ. If you belong to God by faith in Christ then God does not want you to sin. Sin is destructive. But always remember that:

1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous

God the Father has given us an advocate in Christ. When you receive Him as Lord and Savior the advocate Jesus represents you before the Father. You are part of the family of God because of Him.

Give The Fruit Back To God

1 John 2:3-4 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Very very often in this life things just don’t make sense. Things happen that I don’t understand. I don’t understand why a man like Adolph Hitler can control a whole nation, and nearly destroy the world. I don’t understand how an abortionist can not only kill but sell baby parts, and be fully supported by the Law of this land. I don’t understand why people hurt one another the way they do. I don’t understand why children are born with Downs Syndrome. I don’t understand why good people get bad diseases. I don’t understand.

But when I go to God and ask Him “Why?” He tells me:

David, give the fruit back to Me.

We were never supposed to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Only God knows best. Give the fruit back to God. Be a little Child. Let God set the standard.

As Christians we are told simply to receive Christ by faith. Then we are to imitate Christ, and obey God’s Commandments. The Bible doesn’t ask us to understand why. The Bible just tells us “do it”. Do what God said. Obey Jesus. Avoid sin. If you do sin – and you will eventually and inevitably – admit the sin and trust the Lord to forgive it.

1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

If you are saved you do as He says. Period. And if you sin confess that sin, for He is faithful and just to forgive us all sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I am thankful for that.

This little child is thankful for our Father.

Are you?

Posted in 1 John, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

But God …

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Ephesians 2:1-5 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

We are continuing our study through the Book of Ephesians. Last week we saw that the Lord wrote to those who were “saints”, and learned that every Christian is a “saint”. The word “saint” actually means “to be set apart for God’s use”. We saw how every saint is called to be faithful to God, and how every saint has a purpose of serving God on this earth. Every saint also has an ultimate destiny – that is – to be with God in Heaven.

How does one become a “saint”?
God must make you a saint.
God must make you one of His children.

God does this when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. We are … rescued or delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into Christ’s Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13 – myEphesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. paraphrase)

So now we come to an obvious question. IF we who are saved by faith in Christ are members of God’s Family, walking in light and love – are we better than the world around us? There are many in Christianity who believe they are better than the person bound in sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual), that they are better than the murderer or thief, that they are better than the homeless or the alcoholic or drug addict. Are we “better”? Let me put it this way.

We are better off.

We are not inherently better than anyone else on the face of this earth. But we are better off because God has begun a change in us. We are not as we were when we were lost. We are now in a different position in God’s eyes. And we – upon our demise from this earth – will go to a better place. Beloved, everything we have, we who are Christians, have this because of the Grace and Mercy of God. We are never to be lifted up with pride, or to be self righteous. All that we have, and all that we are and hope to be, we have because God has worked, will work, and will keep on working in us.

The Christian Is Not As He Was

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

The words “hath He quickened” is not in the original text of the Scripture. The King James translators wrote this addition in italics to show us that they added the text. These three words are not needed here. As the Lord begins chapter two His intent is to show both the Ephesians as well as the Church Universal that:

(1) Every believer was absolutely unable to save themselves.
(2) Every believer was at heart a sinner.
(3) Every believer once followed after the devil.

Where do we see this? Look at the very first line:

Ephesians 2:1 And you … who were dead

God says that everyone starts out at the same point in His eyes. What point is that? You were dead – nekros – dead in the eyes of God. Oh, we were animate. We moved about. We did things. But we were dead. We proved our deadness by what we did.

Ephesians 2:1 And you … , who were dead in trespasses and sins

We rejected the God that made us. King David – a man of whom God said “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22), David said:

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

I was visiting a Church family the other day with my wife Sherry – enjoying the company of a little baby and its mother. The mother said to the child, “Come over here and see Brother David – they have come to see you”. The baby said “no”. Oh, it was so cute. I started playing with that precious child, asking it different questions. Each time the baby replied “no”. We all laughed at that, but it proves a point. Children do not come forth into this world with a mind to follow authority. We all come into this world saying “no” to parents, “no” to uncles and aunts, “no” to God. When our first parent Adam fell the Bible tells us that his sin causes repercussions throughout human history.

Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

We are born into this world physically alive but spiritually dead. We are born separated from God in our hearts. What did Jesus say of the human heart?

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Mark 7:21-22 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

There was a nature within us that we were born with – an old sin nature – that followed after the evil one. We read:

Ephesians 2:2 … in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Every Christian at one time followed the ways of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air. Pastor John MacArthur put it this way:

Satan is the archon, the prince and ruler over this world system. Not all unsaved people are necessarily indwelt at all times by Satan or are demon–possessed. But knowingly or unknowingly they are subject to Satan’s influence. Because they share his nature of sinfulness and exist in the same sphere of rebellion against God, they respond naturally to his leading and to the influence of his demons. They are on the same spiritual wavelength.”

We were children of disobedience. To what God said “Yes” we said “No”. To what God said “No” we said “Yes”. The Lord tells us:

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our {way of life} in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

We were by nature not the Children of God, but the children of wrath. We were no different than the rest of the lost world. We were separated from God because of our nature, our sinful nature. If we had died in that state we would not be heading Heavenward. No, not at all. We – just as Israel did after God’s miraculous provision – followed after and manufactured our own golden calves. When we see the sinner on the street or on the television or in the movies exalting in that which God has forbidden we should not feel superiority.

The UNSAVED Pharisee said:

Luke 18:11-12 … God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

This fellow may not have been an extortioners, unjust, or even an adulterer or a publican. He may have tithed. But he was dead in trespasses and in sin, separated from the life of God for he knew not Christ. Beloved, we all were dead in trespasses and in sins in God’s eyes. We were in an unsaved state. Had we died in our sins we would stand before an Angry and Wrath filled God. We would have hidden ourselves from Him, saying …

Revelation 6:16-17 … to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The Christian Is In A New Place With God

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

We were by nature the children of wrath. We were dead in trespasses and in sins. But Beloved of Christ, we are not in that state now. Look at the first two words of this text:

But God

I love the “But God” passages of Scripture. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart faileth: But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

We were far from God. He is alive forevermore and we were spiritually dead.

Romans 5:8-10 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

But God raised us up. He did not raise us up because we were better than others. No Beloved, the Bible says of the Christian:

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Our God is rich in mercy, and His love is like the ocean. It cannot be measured. His love for all cannot be measured. Though we rejected Him He persisted in calling us. Though we cursed Him by our actions and words our God pursued us. He reached out time and time again, tugging at our hearts. We are told:

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

When we were unable, God came to our rescue. Jesus said:

John 5:24-25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

We who are Christians are Christians not because we are better than any other, but because we responded to Christ’s call to salvation. Hear that blessed song:

I was sinking deep in sin,

Far from the peaceful shore,

Very deeply stained within,

Sinking to rise no more;

But the Master of the sea

Heard my despairing cry,

From the waters lifted me,

Now safe am I.

Love lifted me!

Love lifted me!

When nothing else could help,

Love lifted me.

Love lifted me!

Love lifted me!

When nothing else could help,

Love lifted me.

It is by Grace – the free gift of Christ – that we are saved. We were sinking in the sea of sin with all of the world. But – praise His Name – we are

quickened … together with Christ

God gave us life through His Son. We are no longer dead and mastered by sin and satan. No Beloved, No! We believed in the Light that is Christ, and are now no more children of wrath but are CHILDREN OF LIGHT (John 12:36). Our walk is to be different. What does the Scripture say?

Ephesians 5:1-8 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whore monger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

God Who is rich in mercy has quickened us – making us alive to righteousness. We are no longer to follow the prince of the power of the air. We are no longer to follow the ways of this world. But Beloved, we are to follow Jesus in love and light. What did Jesus say?

John 8:12 I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

We who are quickened or made alive by Jesus are in a different position. What does the Scripture say?

Ephesians 2:6-7 {God} hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

God made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. As we learn of Christ and heed His Word God changes us. Finally,

The Christian Is A Work In Progress

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

You are not a Christian because of what you did. You are a Christian because of what God did for you. Your salvation is entirely a work of God. But Beloved, though you are not what you were, you are also not what you will someday be. You are a work in progress. God created you with a purpose.

God is not China.

God does not make cheap stuff to quickly sell.

You can hardly buy anything today that doesn’t say “Made in China”.

Beloved, you are not “made in China”.

You are not a trinket.

You are made of God to be used of God.

You are a precious and valuable vessel.
God will continue making you a masterpiece.
Until the day you see the Potter face to face,

In yonder glory!

Souls in danger, look above,

Jesus completely saves;

He will lift you by His love

Out of the angry waves.

He’s the Master of the sea,

Billows His will obey;

He your Savior wants to be—

Be saved today.

Dear Christian, you are not what you WERE. You are changed into what you are NOW. But one day because of God’s great love you will not be what you are right now. You will be like Jesus. You will be sinless. You will be in glory. You will forever be a testament to God’s magnificent love. Bless the name of the Lord forever! Amen!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

A Sermon For Suicide Prevention Sunday

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Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Recently Jarrid Wilson, the Associate Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California took his own life. He was 30 years old. Ironically he and his wife founded an outreach called Anthem of Hope to help people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. On the day of his death Jarrid officiated the funeral of a Christian woman who had committed suicide, and wrote:

Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort.”

I am seeing a rash of obituaries of younger people that are taking their own lives. Too often I see in the obituary the phrase “died unexpectedly at home”, which I suspect speaks to suicide. In my 25 years of ministry I have had to bury several who committed suicide. In the worst case I remember the mother during visitation screaming over and over again, “My child has gone to hell. Joe is in hell”. It’s true that she said this, but it’s absolutely not true that her child is in hell.

Contrary to unBiblical religious belief suicide does not earn a direct ride to hell. This is not to say that suicide is not a sin. God came to bring us life, not death. God does not want you to waste your life. Jesus came to give LIFE, abundant LIFE, eternal LIFE. God wants us to walk with Christ enjoying LIFE, not death.

What IS And Is NOT Suicide

Suicide is not just the laying down or taking of your own life. It is the laying down of your life for yourself.

Thoughts and regrets of bad decisions that you have made – with their consequences – can lead to suicide. The Bible tells us of Judas Iscariot who, upon realizing the depth of his betrayal of Christ, the Bible says:

Matthew 27:3-5 … Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Overwhelmed with guilt with what he had done Judas committed suicide. His act was an act of punishing himself for what seemed to be an overwhelming crime. What pushed him over the edge was the equally guilty religious leaders who plotted and planned Christ’s execution. When these religious figures refused to take back the 30 pieces of silver – shrugging their shoulders at the sin – Judas saw only one way out. In desperation he punished himself by hanging.

There are other similar instances found in the Scripture. The first King of Israel – King Saul – was mortally wounded in battle. The Bible says:

1 Samuel 31:3-5 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers. 4 Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.

King Saul killed himself to avoid capture and torture, and his armor bearer did the same. And then there is the case of Ahithophel who plotted against King David. The Bible says that when his plot was discovered that Ahithophel …

2 Samuel 17:23 …. {went} home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.

Ahithophel didn’t want to face the consequences of what he had done. To flee prosecution and perhaps imprisonment he hung himself. In the case of Abimelech we read:

Judges 9:53-54 And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull. 54 Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.

He chose to end his life rather than let it be known that a woman killed him. That’s what the Bible says – take it up with God if this offends you! (said with a smile). In every case of suicide mentioned the people who committed the act felt that they had no other choice. They wanted to avoid life and its consequences – and took what they thought was the best way out.

Though the Prophet Job did not commit suicide in his misery and suffering he cried out to God, saying:

Job 6:8-9 Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! 9 Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!

Trials and darkness can effect the best of us. Job was righteous but nevertheless prayed that God would take his life. The Prophet Jeremiah cried out in depression, saying:

Jeremiah 20:14-18 Cursed [be] the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. 15 Cursed [be] the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. 16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; 17 Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb [to be] always great [with me]. 18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?

Jeremiah was overwhelmed with feelings of despair and hopelessness. He thought that his life was a total waste – that it would have been better that he had never been born. His ministry was unsuccessful, he felt, and his life’s work was a failure. Even the Apostle Paul said:

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

Paul said “we despaired of life”. Life itself had become tedious, unsatisfying, heartbreaking. And who can forget that great man Moses who, on being overwhelmed by the selfishness of the Israelites, cried out to God:

Numbers 11:14-15 … I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. 15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

Depression and suicidal thoughts can come to the best of believers. No one is immune to it. No one is above it.

The Author Of Depression And Hopelessness Is The Devil

What did Jesus say?

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy ….

The thief comes to us all. The devil attacked Jesus Christ in the wilderness. The devil attacks us all. He comes in whispering things that are not true. He comes in and tells you you are worthless – you are unable – there is no help for you so you are better of dead. This is what the thief does.

Pastor Greg Laurie said:

The thief mentioned here speaks of the enemy of our soul, Satan. He comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But Christ has come that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. And there we have a choice. … Campus Crusade for Christ’s tract, The Four Spiritual Laws, opens with the statement, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And that is true. On the other hand, Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life. Now, he doesn’t really broadcast this, because he doesn’t want you to know. But what he ultimately wants to do is steal, kill, and destroy.”

I like that statement. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And that is true. On the other hand, Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.” The thief, that old devil, he comes whispering when bad times inevitably come. He tells us that God doesn’t love us. He tells us our lives do not matter to God. He tells us that we cannot make a difference, and tells us that it would have been better that we were never born. He is a liar. As Jesus said, “The devil is a liar and the father of the lie” (John 8:44).

God made you on purpose. Your life is not a waste. You matter, because God doesn’t make junk! The thief comes and tells you lies. What does he want to do?

to steal, and to kill, and to destroy

The devil wants to steal your joy. He wants to take your life. He wants to destroy the lives of those around you, to leave sobbing children and grieving spouses. The thief exaggerates hopelessness and minimizes hope.

The devil wants you to kill yourself, to lay your life down for yourself, and not lay it down for others. You see, to lay your life down for others is not a sin, but an act of great sacrifice.

Todd Beamer was onboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it was hijacked by terrorists September 11, 2001. Beamer recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with those on board, and then led the passengers to try and take the aircraft back. The last words recorded that he said were “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.” His actions led to his death, but the plane was heroically crashed into an empty field rather than the White House, it’s intended destination.

At the end of his life a repentant Samson asked God to give him strength to (Judges 16:23-31) destroy the Philistines.

Judges 16:28 … Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines …

Samson died defeating the enemies of God. He laid down his life for another. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for others. He said:

John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

There is a nobility in laying down your life for another. The thief wants you to lay down your life for yourself. But Jesus wants us to lay down our lives for others. This is what Jesus did for us. He said:

John 10:17-18 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

God wants us to love life, to love the lives we have. He gave His life on Calvary for us because He loves us. God does not want us laying down our lives for ourselves. Does His Word not say:

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

God wants us all to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). If you are a believer in Christ then …

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Lay your lives down in loving others.
Lay your lives down in loving God.
Lay your lives down in doing good.

When the thief comes remember that he is not God. He is a fallen angel and a bad leader. He wants to rob you – but God wants to bless you.

What If I Have Suicidal Thoughts?

If you have suicidal thoughts you need to share them with loved ones, with professional counselors, and with your Church leaders. Listen to me, dear Church. I have buried too many people of whom after they committed suicide someone came to me and said:

They threatened to do it – but I didn’t think they were serious.”

When the thoughts come it is a great thing to share them with the Lord. But you also need to share your hurt and depression with others. There are no easy answers to the suicide epidemic, but I guarantee you one thing:

You can’t fix it by yourself!

Often when suicidal thoughts come, we condemn ourselves. A good example of this was in the life of a great man of God named Elijah. Elijah was such a powerful Prophet that the orthodox Israelites today still set a place at the table for him during Yom Kippur or the Passover. God raised up Elijah and blessed him during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. At one point of his ministry Elijah stood alone against the false prophets that Jezebel sponsored, and, calling fire down from Heaven defeated them all (1 Kings 18). When Jezebel threatened his life Elijah ran away. But after he traveled a day into the wilderness depression struck him. The Bible says …

1 Kings 19:4 … {Elijah} requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

We are all human, and are all liable to failure. When the thief comes go to a friend. Call me. I’ll say it again, CALL ME! I like what Evangelist Billy Graham said:

Whenever someone writes to say they’re thinking about taking their own life, I wish I could sit down with them and do everything I possibly could to encourage them and persuade them not to take that final, drastic step. No matter how hard life has gotten, I know that with God there is hope.”

God does not expect you to be superhuman. God calls us to His side to be loved, and to love Him. Billy said:

Suicide is extremely serious and tragic in God’s eyes, and if someone who is reading this is contemplating suicide, I beg of you to reconsider and seek help for whatever your problem may be. God loves you—whether you believe it or not—and He does not want you to end your life. Satan does, however—and you must not listen to him.”

Let us not listen to the thief, but to Jesus Christ. He loves you so very much. He laid down His life for you so that you would not feel your life is worthless. Put your faith and hope in Jesus and in His love for you. Say NO to the thief, and yes to Him. Seek professional help. Contact a friend. If that friend does not take you seriously, contact another. Contact me. I will help. But do not take that tragic step of ending your life.

God loved you all so much that He gave His only Begotten Son for you. That doesn’t make your life worthless. Your life is precious. Remember that, regardless as to what you are feeling now, feelings and situations change (James 4:14). Go to the Lord with your feelings in prayer. Ask Him for peace. And remember – depression may be a result of a medical need. Reject the thief. Tell others.

And know you are loved!

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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