She Could Waterski, But She Couldn’t Swim

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

As I get older I have started reading the obituaries. I read “She could waterski, but she couldn’t swim”. I read this tribute, and was totally blessed by it. I hope it blesses you.

Carolyn Benefield, born January 29, 1938 in South Fulton, KY was perfectly described by that amazing characteristic. Who can do that? Who will ski when they can’t even swim? Only someone with the ability to totally place their faith in what they’ve been told and subsequently believed. Carolyn was told that if she kept her ski tips up, held on and let the boat do the work—she’d ski. She believed what she Carolyn-Benefield-1544794377was told and she skied. That she could do nothing to save herself if she fell was not a factor. She had faith and let the boat pull her. She skied and never swam. That ability to trust and believe defined her life. She believed in and trusted the people around her. But it was the faith she placed in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior that allowed the family and friends she leaves behind to rejoice when she joined her Lord on December 14, 2018. Carolyn knew there was nothing she could do in life to save herself other than believe; her faith in Christ assured her salvation. Carolyn was an active member of Riverview Baptist Church where she loved serving in multiple roles over the years.”

This tribute to Carolyn says so very much, and it’s a perfect description of that which we call “Faith”. The Scripture defines “faith” this way:

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith can only come to those who are humble and willing.

A person who believes they can do all things in their own strength does not have faith. They have pride. They have self assurance. They have perhaps arrogance. But this thing we call “Faith” is something that only comes to the humble. Carolyn did not know that she could ski, but humbled herself, and trusted in the love of those who were trying to teach her. That’s faith. That’s how you learn to ski before you learn how to swim.

Faith trusts in something outside yourself. Carolyn was a woman of faith. She worked beside her husband, trusting and loving Billy for over 60 years. Billy showed her how to work with cattle. She loved him, had faith in him, and worked cattle alongside of him. Billy told me that Carolyn drove a tractor, raked hay, and did everything but bale hay. She loved and trusted his her husband, and he loved her very much.

Faith trusts in Someone greater than yourself.

Like she trusted the ones who taught her how to ski, and like she trusted her husband enough to learn how to drive a tractor, she trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. When Carolyn heard the bad news that …

Romans 3:23 (KJV)  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God …

She realized that there is a God Who loves her and made her, but she, like we, all fall far short. But she heard that this wonderful Creator loved her so much that He came and gave His life for her. She heard and believed …

John 3:16-18 (KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  [17]  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  [18]  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Carolyn believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
She lived her life of faith believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The text that God laid on my heart today is about faith. In the Book of Hebrews chapter 11 the Lord speaks of a number of people who had faith in the Lord.

  • The text speaks of a man named Abel who trusted God, though his brother Cain killed him (vs 4).
  • The text speaks of Enoch who loved and walked with God so much that he never died, but walked right into Heaven (vs 5).
  • The text speaks of Noah who loved God so much he built an Ark before he ever saw a raindrop fall. (vs 7).
  • And the text speaks of Abraham who followed God looking for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.

The Bible talks of this and a mighty cloud of witnesses who went before. Their faith was not in what they had, but in the God Who promised them eternity.

They did not look backwards but looked UPWARD.

Hebrews 11:15-16 (KJV)  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  [16]  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Faith believes that God has prepared a city for His people.
We have not seen that city yet, but will see it one day.
God is faithful.

1 Corinthians 1:9 (KJV)  God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

We have not seen that city, but Carolyn walks in that city this very day. Absent from the body, she is face to face with her Lord (1 Corinthians 5:8). Our Lord Jesus promises us that if our earthly home dissolve to dust, we have a building of God, a house made not with hands, eternal in the Heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1). The child of God – safe in the arms of Christ – now suffers no more. We all who have confessed the Lord Jesus and believed in our hearts that God hath raised Him from the dead are saved, and have this promise from Him. (Romans 10:9-10). Carolyn is safe in the arms of Jesus.

After speaking of faith and giving us examples of faith lived out we are told in:

Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV)  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.

There are a great cloud of witnesses watching us.
Those who went before us watch.
The world around us watches us.
And the Lord watches us.

If we are Christ’s possession by faith, if we are children of God by faith, the Lord tells us to “run with patience the race that is set before us”. Carolyn ran her race. Her race was not easy, nor will yours be. In any race the beginning is easy. But Christ Jesus did not call us to sprint, but to run a race. Life is a race where some days you are on the mountaintop, and you coast. There are easy days. But then, there are hard days. There are the days you are in the valley, and trying to run up a mountain. This is why the Bible tells us to “run with patience”.

We are not to give up, but to look up.

We are to trust the Lord Who saved us. The Lord tells us to put aside every weight – and keep on running! Do not worry. Do not be depressed. Jesus tells us to “Have faith in God”. Trust that He has your wife, your mother, your grandmother, your aunt. Trust what the Lord tells us.

Romans 8:35, 37-39 (KJV)  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… [37]  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  [38]  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.

God loves Carolyn – and every person that receives His Son Jesus by faith – as His own Child. Carolyn ran the race set before her. When Parkinson’s struck I never heard Carolyn complain. Each time I visited I’d ask “How are you doing?” and her reply was “I’m all right” or “I’m fine”. As she ran her race she got more and more tired. The things that she used to do, she could no longer do. But she ran with patience that race, doing what the Scripture tells her.

She kept looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of her faith.

Beloved, I beg you to do as she did. Life is unexpected. We never know what tomorrow may bring. As we age the grass withers, the flower fades away, but the Word of the Lord abides forever. The promise that Christ makes to them that believe in Him is very simple.

John 11:25-26 (KJV) …. I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  [26]  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

To LIVE and BELIEVE is to have faith.

Believest thou this?”. Carolyn along with others believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God Who came into the world. He came to be believed. He came to seek and to save all of us. Because Carolyn received Him as He is, though her earthly race has ended, her eternity has just started. She is now in a place where:

Revelation 21:4 (my paraphrase) Her God has wiped away all tears from her eyes. She shall feel no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Her race has ended, and she is in her reward. (Revelation 21:7 paraphrased) She who overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be her God, and she shall be my child.

We will miss her, but we will see her tomorrow – if Christ is ours. We have that promise of the Father. I end with this special text from God:

Psalms 121:1-8 (KJV) … I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  [2]  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.  [3]  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  [4]  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  [5]  The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.  [6]  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  [7]  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  [8]  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Funeral, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

The Christmas Story Part 2: The Virgin

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Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

Luke 1:26-27 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,  [27]  To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

What would you do if God came to you and told you He was going to shape human history through you? Many people would become arrogant. They would think “God really needed me to do this!” and would probably bragg to everyone they knew about it.

Mary was not that kind of person.

Mary Was Not Perfect

Now Mary was not perfect. But in a sexually charged world as Rome was she was faithful to God and not swayed by man. She was “espoused to a man whose name was Joseph”. The word espoused (μνηστεύω mnēsteuō) means “to be promised in marriage to”. Ancient Rome was as sexually sinful as America is today, but Mary remained faithful to her intended and her God. She was a virgin.

Mary was not perfect, but she was perfectly forgiven. She loved the Lord, and the Lord loved her. She was saved by grace, just as all are saved. Mary was a sinner saved by Grace. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) the Scripture says. All means all in the Scripture. All need a Savior. The Angel Gabriel told Mary:

Luke 1:28 (KJV) … Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Gabriel told Mary two things. He said:

Mary, you are HIGHLY FAVORED

This is the Greek χαριτόω charitoō which means “have been given abundant grace blessings”. Grace is that which saves us, dear Christian. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)  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.

God also told Mary “The Lord IS with thee”. If you are saved by grace and living in fellowship with Him the Lord is with you.

Grace is both a GIFT as well as a STEWARDSHIP.
We are saved to live in Grace to the glory of God.
Mary lived with God for the Glory of God.

When we honor the Lord with our lives God may offer to use us for something greater. This is what He did with Mary. Mary was not perfect, but she loved the Lord and was perfectly forgiven.

Luke 1:30-32 (KJV) … Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  [31]  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  [32]  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

Mary “hast found FAVOR with God”. This is the Greek χάρις charis which means “Grace”. The Bible says that:

Genesis 6:8 (KJV)  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

And God used him to build an Ark to save whosoever would believe and receive. The entire world was destroyed by flood – whosoever rejected Noah’s message. Now God is using not a man and a wooden Ark to offer salvation to the world, but a faithful virgin woman. God told Mary:

THOU SHALT CONCEIVE in thy womb

No human man would be involved in this Ark. God promised the serpent (which I believe represents the fallen satan or lucifer. The devil is called “that old serpent” in Revelation 12:9,14,15; 20:2) in the Garden of Eden:

Genesis 3:15 (KJV) {the seed of the woman} … shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Who is this “Seed of the woman” promised? It is the Christ, our Lord Jesus!

And bring forth a Son, and shalt call his name JESUS

It was prophesied by Isaiah that God would enter humanity through a virgin.

Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name IMMANUEL.

Emmanuel or Immanuel means “God with us”.
“Jesus” means “God our Savior”
God would be with us to save us.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest

The Child that Mary would bear would be not the son of Joseph but the Son of God. God would enter humanity through a believer at the time He wanted to. The Scripture says:

Galatians 4:4-5 (KJV)  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.

The Son of God would come to earth so that we could be saved and made sons of God. He would be born the Lamb of God, sinless, blameless. He would come to be born for us to die for us who would believe on Him.

the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David

God in Christ will fulfill the promise He made to David in …

2 Samuel 7:16 (KJV)  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.

God was not only coming to humanity, but God the Son would be the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Christ’s Kingdom is forever. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Those who believe on Him believe that He came to give us life.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 (KJV)  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  [22]  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

What a wonderful Gift God gave Mary – and we who believe – the promise of Life. The bad news of Christmas is that we are all sinners. But the good news of Christmas is that God came for us through this miraculous virgin birth.

Matthew 1:21 (KJV) {Mary} shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

With God Nothing Is Impossible

When Mary hears the pronouncement of Gabriel she asks:

Luke 1:34 (KJV) … How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

She was not doubting the Lord’s announcement. But she was after all a virgin who had remained faithful to Joseph and to herself. So how would a virgin become with child? Gabriel told her:

Luke 1:35 (KJV) … The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Jesus Christ would become Perfect Man through the power of God. God the Holy Spirit would intervene and make this happen. The Bible says of Christ:

Colossians 1:15-17 (KJV) {Jesus Christ} is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:  [16]  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  [17]  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

How can the Infinite God be placed inside a finite Mary?
How can the Eternal Son of God be placed in a mere human body?
The answer is in God.
How can God the Holy Spirit inhabit a sin prone human?
How can I stand right and righteous before God?
The answer is in God.

The answer is not in me, but in God. God is able. God is always able. Gabriel told Mary:

Luke 1:36 (KJV) And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Mary, not only will you bring forth the Messiah, but your barren older cousin will bring for the Herald of the Messiah. The answer is in God. Mary did not disbelieve God, but hearing this good news replied:

Luke 1:38 (KJV) … Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to thy word.

The Angel Gabriel gave Mary two BEHOLDS. He said:

BEHOLD, thou shalt conceive in thy womb (31)
BEHOLD, thy cousin Elisabeth has conceived in her womb (36)

Now Mary returns a BEHOLD to the Angel. “BEHOLD, the handmaid of the Lord”. Lord, I will present myself to you. Lord, do with me as You will. Lord, I love You, and surrender my life to you. Mary entrusted all that she was and all that she hoped to be to the Lord. If she appeared to Joseph pregnant on their wedding night it would appear that she had been unfaithful to him. According to the Law of Moses the adulterer was to be stoned with stones until they were dead (Leviticus 20:10). Mary was willing to be used of God. She did not question what the Lord wanted to do, but trusted Him with all her heart. The Bible says:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6]  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Trust God.

Trust In God Is Rewarded With Joy

That same day Mary went to her cousin Elisabeth’s home. She didn’t go there out of unbelief, but went so she could share her joy with another believer. The Bible tells us that:

Matthew 18:20 (KJV)  For where TWO OR THREE are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The Christian faith is born of love. It takes at least two or three to love the way that God wants us to love. When Mary entered Elisabeth’s home

Luke 1:41 (KJV) … when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

According to the Law “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established” (Matthew 18:16):

Deuteronomy 19:15 (KJV)  One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

Elisabeth and John the baby in his mother’s womb were the two first witnesses to the miracle of the virgin birth. I love this text because it shows our fallen world that the baby in the womb is not just tissue, but LIFE.
John knew the Messiah even while inside of Elisabeth!

Elisabeth had not been told that Mary was with child of the Messiah. And yet because of John Elisabeth cried out:

Luke 1:42-43 … WITH A LOUD VOICE, and said, BLESSED art thou among women, and BLESSED is the fruit of thy womb.  [43]  And whence is this to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Again we see an affirmation that the Baby in the Womb is INDEED A LIFE. Elisabeth called Mary:

The MOTHER of MY LORD”

Mary had just been told that she would conceive a child – yet she is ALREADY the MOTHER OF MY LORD. That child inside her is not tissue, but life. Though her egg is just now fertilile, she has the LORD inside. Oh Beloved, I so wish that we as a nation would stop this terrible mockery of death that is called ABORTION. It should be spelled MURDER. That fertile egg is life. Elisabeth said:

Luke 1:44-45 (KJV)  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  [45]  And blessed is she that believed …

A piece of tissie cannot “leap for joy”. That child in the 6th month of pregnancy is a BABY. Period.

Note also that Elisabeth called Mary “Blessed” (the Greek εὐλογέω eulogeō) which means “to celebrate with praises, to joyfully praise God”. Mary was indeed blessed, as we are blessed by the Fruit of her womb. Mary knew this. So Mary began to praise the Lord:

Luke 1:46-55 (KJV) … My soul doth magnify the Lord,  [47]  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  [48]  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  [49]  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  [50]  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  [51]  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  [52]  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  [53]  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.  [54]  He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  [55]  As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Throughout her praying praise of the Lord Mary magnified God and diminished her role in the birth of Christ. She was the very picture of humility. Mary was not “Immaculate” as our Catholic cousins like to say. Mary recognized the power to have Christ came of God. She recognized that she needed God my Savior. She recognized herself as from a low estate, and praised the Lord for ministering to her. Mary said:

Luke 1:50-53 …. his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  [51]  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  [52]  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

Throughout her prayer of praise Mary emphasizes that it is only the surrendered and willing that God will bless. May I ask you, do you have joy in your life? Is the joy of God in you? If it is not, then you are not living as God wants you to live. Turn to Christ. Believe on Him. Enter into the Covenant of Grace, surrendering daily to the Lord. As you give of your life to Him, He gives of His life to you.

The power of life is in Christ.
May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Sermons, Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Protos

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Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

Mark 12:28-31 (KJV) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

A Scribe was someone who copied Scripture back in the days when there were no Xerox machines, no copiers, no computers, and in many cases no paper. Scribes worked within the Temple to take a copy of Scripture – usually in a large scroll – and make a copy of that Scripture as perfectly as possible. Scribes worked with primitive writing instruments and primitive inks, often making both ink and paper themselves. And Scribes were taught to be meticulous about copying Scripture. I have been told that Scribes often checked other Scribes work and, if any error was found, the entire scroll was destroyed. Scribes were methodical, careful, and through repetition had memorized large sections of Scripture.

A Scribe came to test our Jesus. He had listened to Jesus being questioned by the Sadducees and,

..perceiving that {Jesus} had answered (the Sadducees) well

decided to ask Jesus a question, to put the Lord to the test. So the Scribe asked Jesus:

Which is the first commandment of all?

The Scribe was not asking what the FIRST of the TEN Commandments were. He was asking what was the πρῶτος prōtosthe very first Law that God ever gave mankind. What was the Law that was binding on Adam and Eve, and that our foreparents broke bringing sin into the world (Genesis 2:17)? What was the Law that caused Noah to build an Ark, the Grace of God saving him and his family from the flood (Genesis 6:8)? What was the Law in the heart of Enoch who walked with God until he entered eternity (Genesis 5:21-24)? What was the Law that Abraham followed, leaving his family and friends? This Law is:

Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God …

This Law is the most ancient of Laws. This Law is also the Law from which all other Laws grow. Jesus called this Commandment GREAT because from it all other laws are formed. From out of this First Commandment comes the Second:

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Treat your neighbor the way that you wish to be treated. Why? Because you love the LORD your God. My God told me to do this. Am I to love only my friends or to love only those who do good to me? No. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:46-47 (KJV) For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

The hated Tax Collectors portrayed a false love, doing good for those who would benefit them. But if I love the Lord my God then I will recognize that God created each person with purpose, and made each person in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-28). Every person is my neighbor. Every person has worth because my God demands it so. How shall I love my neighbor? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:43-45 (KJV)43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

God shall one day judge the wrong done to His children. But if I love the Lord my God then I will do as He says, trusting that He will cause all things to work together for my good (Romans 8:28). I am to do love – God is to judge.

The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel;
The Lord our God is one Lord:

This love that I am to have is to be to the ONE Lord our God. I am not to compromise with the foolish darkness of this world. The world declares things like:

There are many ways to God”, or
“We are all children of God”

This is not true. When Jesus started His reply with Hear, O Israel He was quoting the Holy Bible, a text which reads:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (KJV) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

The God Whom we worship is not revealed in the Qumran, the Rig Veda, the Apocryphal writings. The God Whom we worship is revealed in the Holy Bible. This is the God Whom we love. We obey Him and His Word – this Scripture – because He says so. We are not …

children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, by cunning craftiness …(Ephesians 4:14)

One of the preeminent tests of our love is to ask ourselves “What has the Lord our God said by His Word?”. If it is clearly written in His Word then we are to do it – that is, if we love God.

What Is The Quality Of This Love?

We live in a day when the word “Love” is tossed about like candy at a parade. What is the quality of love that God demands of us?

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart

I may be passionate about many things for God has made me so. But my chief passion is to be for the Lord my God. I should not have to be forced to love God, but I should love Him passionately because He first loved me. As an unsaved man I loved many things and many people, but never did I love God. Yet one day God opened my eyes. He showed me how much He loved me on the Cross of Calvary. It was to that terrible Cross that …

John 3:16 (KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus was no mere man, but He was the very Son of God. Numerous times God spoke saying of His Son:

Matthew 3:17 (KJV) …. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The Father was well pleased with His Son, but not well pleased with the world. The world …

1 John 5:19 (KJV) … the whole world lieth in wickedness.

And yet the Scripture declares that the Father sent His Beloved Son to die for the sins of the world.

1 John 2:2 (KJV) And {Jesus} is the {payment} for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

The Bible says that (Romans 5:8) God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

And that (1 John 4:19) We love him, because he first loved us.

He died for me and died for you before we ever knew Him. Should we not love Him with all our heart? Should we not be passionate about our Lord? Yes, we should. But there are times when we neglect Him. We eat without thanking Him. We live our lives without remembering Him throughout the day. Oh, but when we remember Him we should also become more passionate. Though we forget Him at times has the Lord our God not said:

Hebrews 13:5-6 (KJV) … I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV) Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul

We should not only love God passionately, but our entire identity should be focused on loving Him. The Soul is that which gives us life. God made the human soul, and every soul belongs to God. The Bible says:

Ezekiel 18:4 (KJV) Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

You belong to God, and to God you will return one day. You do not belong to yourself. Jesus says of the Redeemed:

1 Corinthians 6:20 (KJV) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

You belong to God, dear Christian. It is amazing to me how some believers will acknowledge this, but knowingly and willingly reject the clearly written command of God in order to please others. You, dear believer, are to live your life as to please the Lord. I belong to God. You belong to God. The unbeliever as well as the believer belong to God.

Hebrews 9:27-28 (KJV) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

We all have an appointment with our Maker one day soon. Let us make certain that our hope is firmly placed in the sin bearing Jesus. Let us live for Him, for He died for us. I saw a sign the other day that said:

Jesus died for you. Shouldn’t you live for Him?

I like that. Especially because it is scriptural.

2 Corinthians 5:15 (KJV) {Jesus Christ} died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind

The Mind is what drives our bodies. We are to serve the Lord and love Him with all our understanding. As we seek Him in prayer and meditate on His Word we let Him influence what we do, where we go, and what we say. No believer should be ignorant of God. The Lord has given us of His Spirit and of His Scripture. Jesus said of the Spirit:

John 16:13 (KJV) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength

My efforts should be expended in loving the Lord my God. “Strength” speaks of DOING. Many people say that they love God, but are you doing for Him? If not, then you are missing the mark.

Our God is good. He preserves us, and loves us, and saves us. God expended effort – great effort – in coming to this earth. He left the glories of Heaven to become incarnate, a baby in a manger in Bethlehem long ago. God became man. The Son of God became the Son of Man so that we who believe on Him can become Sons of God. What a glorious Savior we have. I fail Him daily, but He loves me still. Thank You, dear Father, for loving a wretch like me.

Posted in Mark Sermons, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

The Christmas Story Part 1

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Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

 

Luke 1:18-20 (KJV)  And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.  [19]  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.  [20]  And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Christmas is a special time of the year for me. It is the time we as a people are reminded of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was uniquely and singularly
born into humanity.

He did not come into BEING when He was born, for the Bible tells us that Jesus is “God With Us”. As God Jesus existed with both Father and Spirit from eternity past (see John 1:1-3). “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

When Jesus was born His birth brought the immortal into mortality. God fulfilled His Promise to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:7-9). God fulfilled His promise to Abraham in Christ (Genesis 12:3). God would step down from Heaven to be with us (Matthew 1:21-23; Isaiah 7:14). When we could not touch the face of God, God will come down so He can touch our face and our lives!

Before God as Jesus enters humanity He will need a herald, someone who will go before Him. He will need a Special Messenger, a mortal Man who is uniquely anointed of God. This Messenger was prophesied and promised of God as “The Voice” and “The Messenger”:

Isaiah 40:3 (KJV) THE VOICE of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Malachi 3:1 (KJV)  Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

This Messenger was prophesied 700 years before the coming of Christ. During the 400 years that God was silent between the Old and New Testament God’s Israel looked for this Messenger daily. When would the Messenger come? In the fullness of time – about 6 months prior to Christ’s supernatural birth.

Christmas Reminds Us Jesus Came For The Broken

If God is going to come to the earth to minister to the broken, who do you think He entered humanity through? The broken.

When God told Abraham that he was going to have a child and ultimately the Messiah would come from that child, God was speaking to a broken man. Neither he nor Sarah had children, nor were they likely by human standards to have children. But God promised this broken man and his wife that He would heal them, and give them a child. God keeps his promises if we but believe in Him. God loves to bless the broken and the hopeless, changing the Abrams of this life into Abrahams. God has no use for the prideful:

Proverbs 3:34 (KJV)  Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.

James 4:6 (and 1 Peter 5:5) (KJV) … God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

God loves to lavish grace on those in need.
To the humble seeker the Lord gives His greatest treasures.

The Old Covenant started with a childless couple – Abraham and Sarah – whom God would bless with a child. The New Covenant begins in the same way with Zacharias and Elisabeth, two believers who were childless.

Luke 1:6 (KJV) {Zacharias and Elisabeth} were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

They were believers who loved the Lord our God. Look at how they were described.

Both RIGHTEOUS before God
WALKING in ALL the commandments
WALKING in ALL the ordinances of the Lord.

They placed their faith in God. Do YOU love the Lord? Do YOU put Him first even if life has not worked out the way you plan? If you are of Christ’s Household you are – as the Prophet Habakkuk said (2:4) … the just shall live by his faith.

Zacharias and Elizabeth were broken, but loved the Lord and His Word. Though challenged they did not give up. They put their faith in God and walked according to His Word one day at a time. They praised God with their forefather David:

2 Samuel 22:2-4 (KJV) … The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;  [3]  The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.  [4]  I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

God will use a broken person to do His will, but will not use a person unwilling to walk with Him.

Luke 1:7 (KJV)  And they had NO CHILD, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now WELL STRICKEN IN YEARS.

Though in apparent hopelessness they did not despair. Zacharias kept honoring the Lord by his life.

Luke 1:8-10 (KJV) And it came to pass, that while {Zacharias} executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,  [9]  According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.  [10]  And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Many people were watching Zacharias and how he dealt with his suffering. Had he let depression and despondency rule he would have quit the priesthood. He kept honoring God with his life – and the fruit of this was a multitude of God’s people praying while Zacharias lit the incense of the holy place.

Psalms 141:1-3 (KJV) …. LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.  [2]  Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.  [3]  Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

We need to learn from this dear Christians. What you do in your life effects those around you. Perhaps you are broken. Perhaps weak. Perhaps you struggle with sickness. Continue to do God’s will. What you do will effect others. What you do TODAY will effect others TOMORROW.

If You Are Broken Use Your Lips To Pray And Praise

Luke 1:11-13 (KJV) And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing ON THE RIGHT SIDE of the altar of incense.  [12]  And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.  [13]  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

The Altar of Incense symbolized to prayers of the faithful going up to God. Notice that the Angel of the Lord appears to Zacharias on the right side of that altar. The right hand in Scripture is symbolic of the place of favor with God. God heard Zacharias’ pleas.

Psalms 16:11 (KJV) {You, O Lord} wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 1:12-13 (KJV) … when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.  [13]  But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

God has heard your prayers Zacharias. The child you have long waited for is coming through Elisabeth. This should have caused Zacharias to jump for joy. God heard your prayers. Praise Him! Praise Him!

Oh that we would praise God in the dark, and praise God in the light. Praise Him in the valley, and praise Him on the mountaintop.

We are frail creatures subject to failure ands breaking, but we have a God Who loves us and will be faithful to us. As a priest Zacharias was familiar with the Law which promised:

Deuteronomy 7:9 (KJV)  Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, THE FAITHFUL GOD, WHICH KEEPETH COVENANT AND MERCY WITH THEM THAT LOVE HIM and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

God will not be unfaithful to His people. He watches what we do. He had watched Zacharias for years as both he and his wife aged. God watched their faithfulness in service, and came to offer a child to Zacharias at a time when only God could have made a difference. Why did God wait?

Isaiah 42:8 (KJV)  I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

Faith believes in a faithful God.
Faith trusts God and God alone.

It is not faith to move forward when you have a road map. It is not faith to do a thing when you have all the resources at hand. Faith is to trust God no matter what. Faith is to believe that God is able.

Romans 14:4 (KJV) … God is able to make him stand.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (KJV) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

God is able to enable John and Elisabeth to have a child. “Fear not John. You and Elisabeth shall have a child, and his name shall be John”.

John” means “God is Gracious”!

Zacharias, name the baby “John” to remind yourself daily that I the LORD am “gracious”, filled with mercy. I love to fix the broken. I love to reach out to those in need.

This baby would grow up to be special. When God is Gracious, He doesn’t just give a little grace, but a magnificent Grace.

Luke 1:14-16 (KJV)  And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.  [15]  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.  [16]  And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

The baby John would bring a blessing to those around him, and would grow up to be blessed and bless others. John would be the greatest Herald ever known.

John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb”. This shows us that the filling of the Spirit is not something we earn or deserve, but it is a gracious gift from God.

Luke 1:17 (KJV) {John} shall go before him {the Messiah} in the spirit and power of {Elijah}, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

John would be as great in ministry as was Elijah, one of the few people in the Scripture that never experienced death.

Confess With Your Mouth The Power Of God

Things were going quite well up to this point when Zacharias did something God cannot stand. He disbelieved God. He should have praised God for this wondrous answer to prayer, but instead said:

Luke 1:18 (KJV)  And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an OLD MAN, AND MY WIFE WELL STRICKEN IN YEARS.

Your mouth reflects what is in your heart. Though Zacharias had been praying for years for a child his heart hid doubt against God. He did as Abraham’s wife Sarah did. God will not bless doubt. Some might excuse Zacharias for he had been a valley a long, long time. Yet the Bible tells us as believers:

Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)  But WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

God calls on us to believe Him, believe that He is faithful, believe that He is a rewarder of those who DILIGENTLY seek Him. When Abraham was told that God would bless him with a child and a nation Abraham did not baulk at the promise, but BELIEVED. Zacharias did what so many other believers have done.

Zacharias looked at the size of the problem,
and not at the size of God.

  • When David stood before Goliath he saw a big man but a bigger God. With that in mind he killed Goliath.
  • When Daniel stood before a lion’s den he saw lots of hungry lions but a bigger God. He rested on the blanket of their fur.
  • When Israel stood before the Promised Land they saw a big people but a little god. They could not enter.
  • When Zacharias stood before his wife he saw big barrenness and made God to be little.

But God is faithful.
God will keep His Word.
The Herald must come so that the Messiah can come.

The path of faith is to believe that God is able.
To magnify Him.
To speak praise and honor of Him.

Luke 1:20 (KJV) … And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, BECAUSE THOU BELIEVEST NOT MY WORDS, WHICH SHALL BE FULFILLED IN THEIR SEASON.

The believer loses his voice when faithlessness reigns. The Church loses its audience when it will not speak life and light to a dying and dead world. Many Churches today do not have a Voice because they do not speak God’s Word but a twisted version of it. God will remove your Lampstand and your Light if you will not speak Christ.

God took Zacharias’ voice away so that he could not minister in the Temple until John was born. Yet God was gracious. Zacharias repented of his unbelief, and named his boy John just as God decreed. God could have taken Zacharias’ life but instead just took his voice.

2 Timothy 2:13 (KJV)  If we believe not, yet HE ABIDETH FAITHFUL: he cannot deny himself.

God is faithful! So how is your faith? Remember that God will not bless faithlessness. He that wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord! (James 1:6-7). Do not be double minded. Be single minded for God. Or as Joshua said:

Joshua 24:15 (KJV) … choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

I choose the Lord Jesus. I choose my Heavenly Father. I choose the blessed Spirit. I choose to believe God is able, regardless as to the state of my life.

What do YOU choose?
May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Sermons, Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Gift Of God

1 Peter 4:10 (KJV)  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Thanksgiving has passed, and we have all enjoyed the particular blessings of God and His mercy. Not everyone was as blessed as we were. There are homeless people, poverty stricken people who did not have a great Thanksgiving. But by and large throughout America we gathered around the table and ate a little too much. We celebrated. Hopefully you all thanked God for His great bounty, His blessings upon us.

Psalms 9:1-2 (KJV) .. I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.  [2]  I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Following Thanksgiving many went out on “Black Friday” looking for a bargain. All I have ever found on Black Friday was a crowd of people, dangerous traffic, and heartburn. But people are flocking to every store that Friday and throughout the weekend. Why? Because Christmas is upon us, and we MUST give people we love a Christmas present.

Why must we? Because it’s Christmas. Where was this tradition established? Not to be a Scrooge, but Christmas Present Giving is not particularly Scriptural. If you look up the origin of Christmas gift giving on the internet you’ll find a variety of guesses as to where this tradition started. One place I looked said that Christmas gift giving began with the celebration of the Winter Solstice in Rome. As Christianity became more widespread it began to be done in the name of Christ. Another site stated that Christmas gift giving began with the Wise Men who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). What is interesting about Christmas and gift giving is that the early Pilgrims (our founding fathers) celebrated Thanksgiving but would not give gifts on Christmas. In 1659 the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned Christmas and gift giving, a ban that stayed in effect for 20 years.

Is it wrong to give Christmas presents? I don’t think so. I think generosity is a Christian virtue. We shouldn’t let Christmas be just about gift giving, but should let our focus be on Christ. The Apostle Paul said:

Acts 20:35 (KJV)  I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring 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.

Christians should be generous and giving. Not just at Christmas, but at all times. But let’s not just give a temporal gift this year. Let’s share Jesus with others, and explain that HE is the reason for this blessed season.

Have You Received The Gift?

1 Peter 4:10 (KJV)  As every man hath received the gift …

Have you received “THE Gift”? I’m not talking about some electronic gadget, a game console, shoes and clothing, or jewelry. I’m not talking about something that will perish and fade away, a thing that will end up in the landfills of America in just a few short years.

Have you received “THE Gift”?

This Gift is eternal, and never fades away. This Gift is from God Himself. It is the only Gift that changes a life and makes your life worth living. Jesus spoke of this Gift to a Samaritan woman one day. He said to her:

John 4:10 (KJV) …. If thou knewest THE GIFT of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

The Gift of God is Jesus Christ.

When Christ is received to oneself then He brings with Him forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit of God. The early Apostles preached of The Gift:

Acts 2:38-39 (KJV) …. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive THE GIFT of the Holy Ghost.  [39]  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

To receive this Gift you must put down all other gifts. You must REPENT, turn from following the god of mammon and the gods of human prosperity. You must REPENT and come empty handed to the Master, laying your life down for Him.

This Gift cannot be purchased with money

During the Spanish-American War a number of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” fell sick from undernourishment. Teddy heard of a local lady by the name of Clara Barton who had opened her home to nursing wounded soldiers. He went to Clara and asked, “Will you sell me some supplies for my men. We are desperate need!”. Clara refused. Teddy then asked “Well how then can I get these things. I must have proper food for my sick men.” Clara said “Just ask for them, Colonel”. When he asked, he got all that he needed.

The Gift of salvation is not for sale at any price. Salvation is purchased by the Blood of our Lord Jesus. When you receive Him, believing He died for you and rose again, then you are born again. The Holy Spirit comes to you and you become one of God’s children. This is why the Scripture calls salvation:

the manifold Grace of God (vs 10)

Too many people think that the Grace of God can be purchased. It cannot be, because it has already been purchased. Some come to God with a pledge to turn over a new leaf, to live better, to give more. A confused man named Simon the Sorcerer sought to purchase that great Gift from the Apostles. Peter told this confused man:

Acts 8:20-23 (KJV) … Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  [21]  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  [22]  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  [23]  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

The Gift cannot be purchased with money, but it is freely given of God. Yet this Gift was not free to God Himself.

In order for God to offer us this Gift – this marvelous and unparalleled Gift – He had to give up His only Begotten Son. The Apostle summarizes what happened to secure this gift with the words “sent forth”:

Galatians 4:4-5 (KJV)  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.

The Son of God was “sent forth” from Heaven. He was not born in a palace, but in a manger. He was not born in the Temple, but in a small town called Bethlehem. There was no room at the inn, so Christ was sent forth to the lowest place possible. On the night of His birth into humanity the angels of God marveled. Here is the Gift of God! Who shall attend this great moment? Lowly shepherds.

Luke 2:9-14 (KJV)  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  [10]  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  [11]  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  [12]  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  [13]  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  [14]  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The Gift that God gave would change human history forever. Through this tiny Baby God would offering Himself to humanity. The Gift of God offers salvation to all who will believe.

The music group Casting Crowns does a beautiful song about the coming of the Gift of God. Called “While You Were Sleeping” part of the lyrics say:

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left his throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight
Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

God the Son lowered Himself to come to this earth for you and I. The first Adam was made of the dust of the ground, was kissed of God, and placed in a Paradise. Yet the first Adam sinned and brought sin and death into the world. Given the gift of life and peace the first Adam chose instead the temporal pleasures of life. Rather than love God’s gift the first Adam stole a gift – a forbidden fruit – and brought us all into misery. God could have wiped us out and started fesh, but He did not.

God promised a Great Gift.
That Gift was His Son Jesus.

The Apostle speaks of this free Gift:

Romans 5:15-21 (KJV)  But not as the offence, so also is THE FREE GIFT. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and THE GIFT BY GRACE, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  [16]  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is THE GIFT: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but THE FREE GIFT is of many offences unto justification.  [17]  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  [18]  Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one THE FREE GIFT CAME UPON ALL men unto justification of life.  [19]  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  [20]  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:  [21]  That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Gift that matters is the FREE Gift that God offers to us all. It is Jesus Christ His only Begotten Son. Christ was born of Mary, birthed in Bethlehem, ministered throughout Israel, and crucified for our sins. Jesus died for our sins to take us away from sin.

Ephesians 2:8 (KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is THE GIFT of God:

When you receive Christ as Lord and Savior you receive Heaven in place of hell, God’s kingdom in place of a temporal kingdom, and eternal life in place of temporal life. You receive all of the benefits of Heaven along with the companionship of God the Holy Spirit Who dwells within you. What a blessed Gift God has given us in Christ!

The Gift Given Is Meant To Be Re-Gifted

Have you received the Gift of God? If so, then the rest of the sentence applies to you. We read:

1 Peter 4:10 (KJV)  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I’m 60 years old this year, and over the years I have received many gifts that were not exactly what I wanted. I remember one Christmas the youth of the Church I was in gave me a Spongebob Squarepants tie. Preachers receive a lot of ties. I supposed I have about 150 pounds of ties handing in my closet. I’ve worn most of them – but I draw the line at a Spongebob Squarepants tie. Actually I did wear that tie one time while I was preaching, but so many people were focused on the tie it became a distraction to God’s message. I re-gifted that tie to a young lady years ago who loved Spongebob Squarepants.

Have you ever re-gifted anything?

I’ve heard stories of people receiving something they didn’t want who accidentally re-gifted that present back to the original giver. That would be embarrassing. Yet this is exactly what God tells us to do with the Gift that we have received from Him. He said:

1 Peter 4:10 (KJV)  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If you have received The Gift of God’s Grace you have not received it just for yourself, but you have received it to share with others. You are to share this Great Gift by how you behave towards others in the Family of God. We read:

1 Peter 4:8 (KJV) And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

The word translated “charity” is the Greek ἀγάπη agapē which means “to love as God loved”. We are to fervently (ektenēs) or without ceasing to have the same love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord as Christ had for us. We neither earned nor deserved what God offered us in Christ. Jesus went to the Cross of Calvary not for His sins, but for yours and mine. His Blood was spilled for the whole world:

2 Corinthians 5:15 (KJV)  And that {Christ} died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

John 3:16-17 (KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  [17]  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

His free Gift is offered to all, whether the “All” receive it or not.
You are to love OTHERS as He loves YOU.
Love the UNDESERVING for you did not deserve His love.
Neither did I.
Love your enemies, do good to them.
You were once an enemy of God.
His love ministered to you.

Jesus died for the blasphemer, the sinner, and yes, even for you and I. What does the Scripture say?

Romans 5:8 (KJV)  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

His love to us came to us without strings. We received His great Gift of Grace through His suffering. We are therefore to – without limits – love one another. Christ said:

John 13:35 (KJV)  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

You are to re-gift His gift.

Have you been sinned against by a professing brother or sister? Was not Christ sinned against? Have you not sinned against Christ this past week, this past month, this past year? Has He not forgiven you for His Blood’s sake? Then forgive others, and have unceasing love – loud and outrageous – toward one another.

1 Peter 4:9 (KJV)  Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

The phrase “use hospitality” is only found here in the New Testament. It is the Greek “φιλόξενος philoxenos” which means “to be generous to others – to make them feel at home”. We are to do this “without grudging”. Not because we are forced into it, but because the Spirit within us wishes it. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:46-48 (KJV) For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Love is the mark of perfection. As we have been loved, let us love. Jesus put it simply when He listed the great Two Commandments of God:

Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV) … 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.  [39]  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

To those who come to your home, Church, or Business make it your business to treat them with love. Give them your best, as if they were valuable – for they are. That which wins others to Christ is the love of God manifested through His people. You were given a great and gracious Gift in Christ, a Gift you did not deserve. Love others as God has loved you!

1 Peter 4:11 (KJV)  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

You – dear Beloved Believer – are God’s representative on the earth. Speak as if God were speaking through you. Guard your tongues:

1 Peter 3:9-10 (KJV)  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  [10]  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

Let God be in your speech. Let God be in your hands. You were given the great Gift of Christ so that you can be His hands and feet on this present earth. As the late Billy Graham once said:

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict,
God’s job to judge, and my job to love”
.

Do all things to the glory of God. Let your lives share the Gospel of salvation to all who will hear. This is the Gift that keeps on giving.

That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
To Whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.
Amen!

Posted in 1 Peter, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

How To Study The Bible Part 2

Purpose & Process of Study

Ephesians 2:19-22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; {20} And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: {22} In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Last week we spoke of the Scripture, and showed that the Bible properly taught – both Old and New Testaments – is the FOUNDATION of the Church. Last week I quoted from our above text:

{you} … are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone

The Apostles wrote the New Testament Scripture that we enjoy, and the Prophets wrote the Old Testament Scripture. The foundation of the Church is the Scripture properly interpreted. And all Scripture points to Christ. As we draw Scripture into our lives the will of God is that we become more like Christ. One of my favorite Scriptures is:

Romans 8:28-29 (KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

All things work together for good to them that love God”. Everything that comes our way has a divine and eternal purpose. What is that purpose? We are told in verse 29 “we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”. We are to be like Christ. We are to imitate Christ. Our thoughts are to be like Christ’s. Our actions are to be like Christ. In Ephesians 2 the Apostle uses two words to describe what we are not:

Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Because of Christ we are no more STRANGERS.

This is the Greek ξένος xénos (pronounced Z-nos) which means a person who is not under covenant with God. This word was used of Judas Iscariot who hung himself. The Jews who plotted with him took the thirty pieces of silver that he betrayed Christ with and bought a field:

Matthew 27:7-10 (KJV) And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers (xénos) in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

Judas was treated as if he were a Gentile, a person who had no covenant relation with God. Before Christ we who are Gentiles had no covenant relation with God. Now in Christ we do. Because of His Blood we are grafted into the Promises of Abraham (Romans 11:17, 24). We are no longer xénos but are “of the household of God”.

Because of Christ we are no longer FOREIGNERS.

The word “FOREIGNERS” is the Greek πάροικος pároikos, (pronounced par’-oy-kos) which means “an illegal alien, someone who lives in a land without right of citizenship”. Everyone knows the problem we have in America with unregistered illegal aliens. Before Christ the unsaved live off of the bounty of God’s goodness, enjoying His sunshine and rain in due season, but were not citizens of the Kingdom of God. Since God grafted us into the Covenant of Abraham by the Blood of Christ we are now citizens of the Kingdom of God. We follow Christ our King. We are “fellow citizens with the Saints”, that is, we have the same birth certificate that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Ruth, and all the other saints of Scripture.

The reason that God saved us is so that we can …

(vs 21) In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord

In Whom” – that is, “In Christ” work together to become a Holy Temple in the Lord. We are God’s Church. TOGETHER we are God’s Church. When the focus of every member in the Church is not Christ but themselves then we stall as a Church, becoming like the Church of Ephesus.

Did you notice our focal text is the letter of EPHESIANS to the Church at EPHESUS?

Jesus warned this Church in Revelation 2:4-5 (KJV) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

This Church – once so promising that God wrote a love letter to it in Ephesians – in Revelation Jesus chastised that Church for leaving its first love. How does a Church leave its first love? By each member neglecting and rejecting personal and corporate or collective Bible study. As you study the Scripture and do as it requires it makes you like Christ. Reject Scripture and study the world and become UNlike Christ and like the world. Our first love is Christ. We follow Him as we intake Scripture. As we absorb God’s Word into our souls we become a place that is becoming to God. That is why the Scripture says:

In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God
through the Spirit.

As each member grows spiritually the Word of God increases in the Church. As the Word of God increases the Church increases. We see this in the Book of Acts:

Acts 12:23-24 (KJV) … immediately the angel of the Lord smote {Herod}, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

Acts 19:18-20 (KJV)18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

As the Church grows spiritually, so does it impact the world around it. The light destroys the darkness! Now what we just did with our focal text is called Bible Study. It is deeper than reading the text, though careful reading is involved in it.

Bible Study Begins With Daily Solitude

A You must get away from the world and its noise if you are going to study God’s Word. You need to get to a place where you can talk alone with God. As we studied last week, meaningful Bible Study is not possible unless God is teaching you. God wrote the Book, and God has to explain the Book. You must get away from the world. Turn off the cell phone, the TV, the computer, and talk to God. Make time for God. I make an appointment with God every day, and guard that time as if it were a gold bar. Our Lord Jesus was the busiest Person ever on the face of the earth. People chased after Him. But look:

Luke 5:15-16 (KJV)15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. 16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

If the Lord Jesus needed a quiet place, we need a quiet place. Studying the Bible requires quiet – a quiet room, a quiet place, a park, your back yard, where ever you can go to get away for a while. Don’t take your cell phone, or if you do, turn it off. Tell people you have an appointment with an important Person. You do. He is the Lord!

b Before opening the Book, do some personal housekeeping. Confess your known sins to God. The Psalmist David said:

Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Sin becomes a barrier between the Believer and His Lord. If you will study God’s Word, you must purge your conscience before God. Acknowledge your sins to God.

Psalms 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Once sin is earnestly confessed – SELAH – REST! Do not fall in the trap of trying to do penance. Admit the sin to God, and believe that God is faithful and just. Claim His promise by faith …

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The old time Puritan Preacher Thomas Watson said: “The godly man is ingenuous in laying open his sins. The hypocrite doth veil and smother his sin; like a patient that hath some loathsome disease in his body, he will rather die than confess his disease; but a godly man’s sincerity is seen in this – he will confess and shame himself for sin. … Nay, a child of God will confess sin in particular; an unsound Christian will confess sin by wholesale; he will acknowledge he is a sinner in general, whereas David doth, as it were, point with his finger to the sore: “I have done this evil” (Psalm 51:4); he doth not say I have done evil, but this evil. He points at his blood guiltiness”.

God will never forgive an excuse, but He does forgive confessed sin and purify from all unrighteousness if we would but humble ourselves and confess those sins to Him.

c As you come to the Word acknowledge your total dependence on God. If God will not teach you you shall not be taught. God promises to give us wisdom.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Christians have received the Holy Spirit of Adoption by Whom we cry out Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15). This same Spirit is given to guide us in God’s Truth:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

We have received the Spirit of God that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. The Spirit is given to …

John 16:13-14 … guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. {14} He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.

As believers we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time (1 Peter 5:6). We humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift us up (James 4:10). Doesn’t Scripture teach us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble? (James 4:6).

The purpose of Bible study is To Be Like Christ

a As Citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom we are to DO the Scripture. True faith is always accompanied by FOLLOWING. Why did the first generation of Israel die outside of the Promised Land? Because they would not step out on faith. The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

The Land was already theirs, but they would not follow the example of Abraham who believed God:

Hebrews 11:8-9 (KJV) By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise

What is the purpose of Bible study? Do we study the Bible for mere knowledge, so that we – like Scribes and Pharisees – can have great knowledge so others will bow before us? No! We study the Word so that we can draw closer to God.

b We study the Word of God so that we can have a “know so” salvation. The Apostle said:

1 John 5:13 (KJV) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

God wants us all to have a know so salvation. He wants us to be secure in our place in His family. As you study scripture your salvation is affirmed. You become more confident as a believer, more usable for God.

Prayerfully Read And Study IN CONTEXT!

As we looked at our focal text today we studied the text IN CONTEXT. What does that mean? I tried not to read anything into the text, but took the text as it was and prayerfully considered it. I examined every word of the text, and looked at it as a precious thing placed in my hands.

  • I read all of the Scripture around our focal text, not taking anything out of context.
  • I looked up key words in the original language from which our Bible is translated. There are online resources like www.blueletterbible.org or www.biblegateway.org that allow you to look up the Greek or Hebrew words behind the English translation.
  • I looked up texts in reputable Bible Commentaries and Dictionaries.
  • The greatest resource I have is 43 years of daily reading and study of the Scripture. The more you read daily the better your growth in study.

One of the first translators of the Bible was John Wycliffe, and he advised his students:

“It shall Greatly Helpe Ye to Understand Scripture, If Thou Mark Not only What is Spoken or Written, But of Whom, And to Whom, With what Words, At what Time, Where, to what Intent, With what Circumstances, Considering what Goeth Before And what Followeth.”

The Scripture is to be “rightly divided”:

2 Timothy 2:15-16 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. {16} But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

Avoid human traditions. Jesus chastised the Pharisees who rejected …

Mark 7:9 … the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

They were not interested in becoming more like Christ, nor were the Pharisees and Scribes interested in being the light of the world. They were interested in justifying their lifestyle – so they pulled Scripture out of context. In doing so they perverted the Word of God.

c As you read the Scripture in context, ask God how to fit it in the context of your daily life. What does God want me to do? Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24-27 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: {25} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. {26} And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: {27} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Without personal application your Bible study is useless. Read the text carefully and prayerfully, circling your action verbs. Look at verb tense. Pay attention to the small words – a, an, the, is – because they carry big meaning. Approach the Scripture with no preconceived notions. Be a Biblical Literalist. Ask God to teach you to rest in what He has said, to trust what He has said, and to believe in what He has said – period!

Avoid these pitfalls

  • Do not try and make the Bible say what you want it to say.

  • Do not “spiritualize” the text. Take it literally – unless it makes no sense otherwise.

  • Do not approach Scripture with a settled mind. Ask God to tell you what it means.

  • Do not isolate texts from their contexts. Study your texts in context and be blessed of God.

  • Don’t dismiss a text as applicable today because you’re uncomfortable with it. What God has said stands forever.

  • Do not fail to apply the text to your own life.

May God bless you as you grow in the knowledge and application of His truths. Thank You, dear Lord, for your Unspeakable Gift!

Posted in Bible Study, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

How To Study Your Bible: Your Perception of Scripture Impacts Your Study of Scripture

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2 Timothy 3:15-17 (KJV)  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  [16]  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  [17]  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

I was in the bookstore the other day and noticed a large number of books listed for Dummies or “An Idiot’s Guide to..”. These are all self help books. These books taught how to play card games, how to raise chickens, how to do digital photography. Then I saw two books that blew my mind. They were:

Bible Study For Dummies and
The Complete Idiot’s Guide To The Bible

Lest you be tempted to buy one of these books I want to tell you they just don’t work. Why? Because …

What did the Apostle Paul tell his young student Timothy about the Scripture? He said in verse 16:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God

Let’s examine his words. He said “ALL Scripture”.

What is the Scripture?

Is it just the Old Testament writings, just the New Testament writings, or just the Pauline writings? I went to a Church several years ago that rejected any Scripture that was not written by Paul the Apostle. So what is “Scripture”? The “Scripture” is what the Church is founded upon. The Apostle told the Church at Ephesus:

Ephesians 2:19-20 (KJV)  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  [20]  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

What is the “foundation” of the Church? the Apostles and Prophets. The writings of the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles. This is what the “Scripture” is. So when Paul told Timothy “All Scripture” he was referring to the Old and New Testament writings. Look further:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God

“Inspiration of God” can be translated “God breathed”. God spoke the Scripture into being. Though God used humans to write the Scripture down it was God’s Word, not man’s word, that was recorded. The Bible says:

2 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV)  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  [21]  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

God – using His Prophets and His Apostles – spoke through them, moving them to write as He willed. What is written in the Bible is sure, for God is its Author and the writers His Pen. If I have a paper and pen, the pen doesn’t write on the paper. It sits on the paper until I move it. Once I move it I write on the paper what I will. Now there are different types of pens. There are bold pens, and fine tip pens, and felt tip pens, and pens of all different colors.

God chose the Prophets and Apostles like I or you might choose a pen, and He wrote moving them. Their character shines through in the writing, but what was written is what God wanted to be written.

If the Bible is flawed,
the Church is flawed!

If the Bible were a human written book it would be filled with errors and flaws. If the Bible were a human written book the 66 Books and 40+ writers would be filled with contradictions and errors. But the Bible is God Breathed.

When a truth or a prophecy is given in Scripture, it is absolute truth that must be adhered to or fulfilled. It’s Source is God, and God is never wrong. When Judas betrayed Jesus and the soldiers grabbed Him in Gethsemane the Bible tells us that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant Malchus. After the Lord healed Malchus and restored his ear He told everyone there:

Matthew 26:52-56 (KJV)  Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. [53]  Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  [54]  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?  [55]  In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.  [56]  But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Jesus testified that the Scripture must be fulfilled. We do not say this of a human written book – but the Bible is GOD’S BOOK.

The Bible is absolutely accurate. When a lie is spoken and recorded by Scripture that lie is recorded faithfully. Parts of the Scripture provide historical coverage of lies made and crimes committed that God in no way condoned, yet these actions are accurately recorded. When the serpent said to Eve:

Genesis 3:4-5 (KJV)  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  [5]  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.

A “serpent” did indeed speak to the woman. Though its words were lies, its lies were recorded faithfully. I do not debate whether a serpent spoke or not. I just accept what my God has told me. This is faith. Jesus said:

Matthew 4:4 (KJV) …. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

As the Scripture is “God Breathed” we can trust it implicitly.
Any error in this Book of Book is MINE!

Scripture was written to reveal Christ to us. Jesus said:

John 5:39 (KJV) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

The Scriptures tell us about Jesus. The Old Testament told us about the Jesus Christ Who was coming to be a part of our lives. The New Testament tells us about the Jesus Who has come to be a part of our lives. Someone once said both Old and New Testaments are fused together to create a single book with one coherent message, and that message is Jesus Christ. He is the glue that binds both Testaments together.

Scripture Was Written To Bless The Obedient

2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)  All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable

The word profitable (ὠφέλιμος ōphelimos) means “to be advantageous, helpful. To cause to add to or bless”. The Lord told His people:

Deuteronomy 29:29 (KJV)  The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

There are some things we will never understand, hidden things. But God has revealed many things to us in His Word, and these revealed things belong to us and our children forever. God wants us to understand His Word, and it is to our advantage to understand it.

Understanding God’s Word and feeding our souls on it NOW will help us when we go through the hidden things and dark valleys THEN. There are many things I don’t understand – and don’t mind admitting I don’t understand. I don’t understand why people do the evil things they do to one another. I don’t understand why people practice ethnic cleansing, such as the Bosnians, Serbians, Nigerians, Albanians and other people groups have done. I don’t understand why abortion of babies is not murder in the eyes of the law. I don’t understand genocide, nor do I understand people who say they are Christians who practice hate. The Word of God in our souls is profitable, giving us comfort when we see things that are hidden to our understanding. Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ. You would expect him to be bitter over the imprisonment. Yet he wrote in Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. The Word of God taught him that the Lord is always in control, and that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This Word was in his soul, and it sustained him through the bitterest of times.

Our bodies are not perfect, they are riddled with sin and corruption. Dr. David Jeremiah, the Pastor of the Shadow Mountain Community Church was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in the fall of 1994. He wrote: There is a strange idea going around in churches today. Some Christians have the odd impression that being a believer will exempt them from all problems. Somehow they feel, upon conversion, they’re issued the spiritual equivalent of ID cards that say, “This absolves the holder from any kind of pain or trouble while living on this planet.” It simply doesn’t work that way. We Christians have no immunity whatsoever to pain or suffering. It matters not whether you’re a new convert or a wise spiritual giant, you’re still an imperfect human creature living in a fallen world …. When we become part of God’s own family, what sets us apart is not any difference in the sin environment around us, but how we deal with it.”

The Christian must intrinsically change to the point where the trials of life do not destroy us. How do we do this? How do we overcome – even when family and friends betray us? Jesus told us that for Christians ….

Matthew 10:36 … a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

David Jeremiah survived his hidden time by relying on God’s Word. He wrote: “When we are at our lowest point, a place where even those closest to us cannot walk with us, it is God who walks at our side.”

Psalms 23:4 (KJV)  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Flight attendants on an aircraft always tell you where the emergency exits are before the aircraft takes off, not after it lands? Why is that? Because it’s hard to brief you on how to escape when the plane is going down. The worst time to try and learn is where the exits are is when the building is on fire, or the plane has hit the sea. Learn prior to the trial, absorb the “Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23) before you have to cross the Jordan and confront enemies.

Reading and understanding God’s Word will make us effective and usable as Christians. You cannot be light in darkness unless His Word is in your hearts. It is God’s intent that

2 Timothy 3:17 (KJV)  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

The Word of God equips you so that you can do good works. Good works are not what we think are good, but what GOD thinks is good. The Bible tells us:

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (KJV)  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  [18]  And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation ..

If we are in Christ – children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26) – then our old way of life and old way of thinking are past. The NEW Creature must be NEWLY programmed. The Scriptures does this. Many young Christians do not study the Word and therefore keep operating according to the old man, the old way of life. We are to opererate in the New.

Romans 12:2 (KJV)  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.

As we absorb the Word of God God changes how we think. A butterfly starts out as a caterpillar that cocoons itself. A Christian, changed into a son of God by faith in Christ, cocoons himself in the Word of God.

The more you know of God’s Word, the more you will think like Christ. The more you think like Christ, the more you will behave like Christ. The more you behave like Christ, the greater the impact you will have on the world around you.

The Word of God was written by God for the children of God to make us like the Son of God. In order to understand the Book you must be taught by God the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (KJV)  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  [13]  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. …[16]  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

The Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. He is the Promise of Christ:

John 14:16-17 (KJV)  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  [17]  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

The Holy Spirit of God – the Third Person of the Trinity – lives inside of every Christian. Jesus said that the job of the Holy Spirit is to

John 14:26 (KJV)  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

It is the Holy Spirit that guides us as we study the Word of God. It is His job to teach us the Word of God and remind us of the things that the Word of God wants us to do.

John 15:26 (KJV)  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to testify of the Son. He teaches us to be more like Jesus through application of the Holy Scriptures. It is the Holy Spirit Who initially opened your eyes to the Gospel, convicting you that you were a sinner, doomed to eternal damnation (John 16:7-15).

In order to understand God’s Word I must first be saved. If I am saved by faith in Christ, then I must be in fellowship with God. If there is active sin in my life I must repent and turn from it.

1 John 1:9 (KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Before beginning any Bible study we need to confess our sins to God, and then ask God to lead us in our study. We then need to trust God, reading with an accepting heart. When we do not understand something, we do not disbelieve it. Rather we continue to trust God, reading and studying His Word.

John 10:35 (KJV)   … the scripture cannot be broken;

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  [17]  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Scripture teaches us. It rebukes us, making the crooked straight. Scripture corrects us, bringing us in line with the mind of God. It trains us in righteousness, keeping us salt and light. We must trust Him as we study His Word. We must be shaped by His Word, not shaping it to us but us by it. Remember the admonition of Solomon:

Proverbs 30:5-6 (KJV)  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  [6]  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 (KJV)  For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: [19]  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

These are solemn words. Let us commit ourselves to heed His Word and be the blank canvases that we should be so that Christ can be formed in us. For His glory. Amen.

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A Borrowed Sermon

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Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. [2] Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. [14] For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Today we’re going to look at an ancient sermon. No, I don’t mean one of my old sermons (Grin). The Book of Ecclesiastes is a sermon written by an older believer named Solomon.

Ecclesiastes” actually means “address to the
Congregation or the Church”.

As Solomon begins his address he says:

The Words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem

Notice how Solomon prioritizes what is most important. Though He is the “son of David” and therefore the “king in Jerusalem”, what he considers most important is that he is “preaching”. People call me “preacher”, and I am. I am called to preach the Word of God, and I cherish this calling. But every Christian is a preacher by how they live their lives. Jesus said that. He told His followers:

John 13:35 (KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye HAVE LOVE one to another.

Everything you say that people can hear is a sermon.
Everything you do with your hands is a sermon.
Everywhere you go with your feet preaches a sermon.
You are preachers too. People watch you.
Your life lived preaches for God or satan.
What message are you preaching?

Solomon was a saved man. The Bible declares:

1 Kings 3:3 (KJV)… Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father …

God spoke to Solomon. If you are saved God communes with you. God asked Solomon “What do you want Me to give you?” Many would have asked for riches or power or extended life. Solomon showed his love for God and his people by what he told the Lord.

1 Kings 3:7-9 (KJV) And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. 8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

The Bible tells us to (1 Peter 5:6 )  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Solomon humbled himself, and God gave him what he asked. God told Solomon …

1 Kings 3:12 (KJV)12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

Solomon has wisdom, a wisdom granted of God. God gave him this wisdom when he was a young man. Now Solomon is an old man. His best days are behind him. As he preaches a sermon to us today, will it not be cheerful, blessed, happy? No, it will not be. Listen to his sermon:

Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

The word “vanity” means “to be empty or void of blessing”.
To KNOW but not to DO will never bring a blessing.

Solomon had been blessed of God with unparalleled wisdom. Yet at the end of his life Solomon is not preaching a happy message, but a miserable message. Vanity of vanities. Smoke and fog. ALL is vanity. What could bring a man who had everything to such a state?

Solomon looked for fulfillment is anything but God.
Solomon had wisdom, but failed to DO it.
God blessed him when he kept his eyes on God.
But his life was empty when he took his eyes off of God.

Jesus said in Luke 11:28 blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.You can know God’s Word but if you do not do it, you will not be blessed!

Solomon Sought Blessing In Worldly Knowledge

Solomon wanted to know. He spent much time pursuing wisdom, but little time pursuing a deeper knowledge of God. In his sermon he said:

Ecclesiastes 1:13 And I gave (נָתַן nathan) my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

Solomon said that he surrendered his heart to seek and search out wisdom. Solomon was wise in the ways of the world. He was an expert in

in zoology (study of animal life)
in botany (study of plant life)
in ornithology (study of bird life)
in entomology (study of insect life)
in ichthyology (the study of fish life)

If there was an -ology Solomon knew it. But he only sought out all things done UNDER HEAVEN.

His mind never drifted to THEOLOGY, the study of God. He knew the stuff that God made – and God made everything – but Solomon did not know the Lord Who made him! You can chase after knowledge. You can have your degrees, your doctorates, your PHd’s. But knowledge apart from God PUFFETH UP (1 Corinthians 8:1). It does nothing for the human soul. What good is life if you don’t really know the One Who made you?

Ecclesiastes 1:14-15 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. [15] That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

Some of the saddest people in the world are those who possess great wisdom and knowledge. They know lots of truths, but not the One Who brought Grace and Truth.

John 1:17 (KJV) … grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Knowledge apart from Christ does not resolve anything. Solomon preached:

Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

There is nothing wrong with wisdom – but seek it through God and His Word. Fossils studied apart from what God said about the Noahic Flood brings about a false conclusion. No, we are not glorified monkeys. We are designed of God to walk with God.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Solomon Sought Blessing In Worldly Pleasure

When Solomon failed to find joy in knowledge what did he do? Hear his sermon:

Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

More games. More vacations. More time off. This will make me happy. If everyday is Thanksgiving and I eat till I’m gorged I’ll be happy. Solomon thought this. America today thinks this. Video game sales bring in billions of dollars a year in profits. Households that are starving for food often have cable television and high speed internet access. People spend billions on drugs, alcohol, pornography. Every checkout aisle at the grocery store is filled with magazines that let us look into the debauched and sin laden lives of Hollywood stars.

Solomon chased after pleasure, but in finding pleasure he discovered something. Sin always brings diminishing returns. Laughter and entertainment divorced from a walk with Christ in time loses its charms. This also is vanity. Solomon knew what God said about marriage and sex, but ignored the truths of the Word given and instead sought out pleasure. The Bible tells us that Solomon:

1 Kings 11:3-6 (KJV) … had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.  [4]  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  [5]  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  [6]  And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.

To depart from God and His Word is a dangerous thing. Sin should be confessed quickly. Solomon did not start out with 700 wives and 300 concubines (prostitutes). He started out with a small departure from God, and from there is grew. Eventually his obsession with pleasure grew until it led him away from God to worship the gods and goddesses of the fallen world. It would have been better that Solomon had listened to his father David, who wrote:

Psalms 16:11 Thou {O God} wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Here is where pleasure is. It is not in the world wallowing in debauchery. Pleasure is at the right hand of God, dwelling in His presence. Blessed be the Name of the Lord! As Jerry Vines once said,

“The Christian faithfully serving Jesus can have more fun accidentally than the world has on purpose!”

When sexual pleasure did not bring him joy, Solomon turned to alcohol. He said:

Ecclesiastes 2:3 I sought in mine heart to give (מָשַׁךְ mashak) myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

The Hebrew word for “give” in our text literally means “to stretch oneself out”. Solomon drank to excess. He did so until he was “stretched out”. By doing so he opened himself up to addiction and dependency. He “laid hold on folly” and found that it was empty of pleasure.

Your bodies belong to the Lord.
Do not loan yourselves out to the devil’s library!

The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 (KJV)  Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.  [16]  What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  [17]  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  [18]  Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  [19]  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.

If you are a Christian, your body belongs to God. He indwells you. Let your bodies be vessels of honor. If you are not a Christian remember that your body will be what you place in it. Fill it with poison, and it will be poisoned. Turn, repent, and come to Christ. Surrender your lives unto Him. What did our Lord Christ say?

Mark 8:34-35 (KJV) … Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  [35]  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

Solomon Sought Blessing In Work

Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 (KJV)  I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:  [5]  I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:  [6]  I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

Solomon threw himself into his work. He tried knowledge & wisdom, but this did not satisfy. Solomon tried pleasures of the flesh, but again all was vanity. So he changed his methods and turned to work.

Solomon was rich beyond the wildest imagination. The head of Amazon company – Jeff Bezos – was recently named the richest man in the world. Valued at $112 billion he rose above Bill Gates, who is worth $90 billion. And yet Solomon’s annual income was in excess of 20 BILLION dollars. He was far richer than Bezos and Gates combined. He had all this money and sought to do good with it. He built stuff. He made cities. And then Solomon stood back and looked at what he had. What did he say?

Ecclesiastes 2:11 (KJV)  Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Solomon said there is no profit under the sun – it is all vanity (smoke) and vexation of spirit. For all his riches Solomon was miserable. Riches apart from God are a horrible Master. I am reminded of the parable that our Lord told of the rich farmer.

Luke 12:16-20 (KJV) … 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?  [18]  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  [19]  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  [20]  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

Oh it is so much better to be poor and looking upward to God, than to be rich and look downward to this earth! Christ came preaching the Gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18). And though a few rich and powerful people heard the Gospel Christ preached, these of power were the exception rather than the rule.

Beloved Of God – Serve The Lord While You Are Able

As Solomon came to the end of his days this wise man – the wisest man who ever lived – left behind this truth. Throughout Ecclesiastes he preaches that the things of this earth bring emptiness. He tells those who are young …

Ecclesiastes 12:1 (KJV)  Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

There is coming a day when your youth shall depart. While you are young learn of God. Learn of His Word. Drink of Him so that when you get older …

Ecclesiastes 12:3 (KJV)
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble
The “keepers of the house” are your hands!
and the strong men shall bow themselves
The “strong men” are your arms and legs!
and the grinders cease because they are few
The “grinders” are your teeth!
and those that look out of the windows be darkened
The “darkened windows” are your failing eyes!

Oh young people. Learn of God now. Serve Him now while you can. There will come a day when you, like Solomon, look back on wasted opportunities to serve the Lord. The last words I remember my father saying were:

Oh David, I wasted so much time!

Remember NOW your Creator in the days of your youth. Do not let Satan get you off course of serving the Lord. Because of sin in our bodies we all age, we all corrupt, we all decay. I heard a cute poem that said:

I can live with my arthritis,
My dentures are just fine;
My bifocals serve me well,
But I sure do miss my mind!

Young people, serve the Lord while you can. Run the race for the Lord!

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. [25] And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Serve the Lord because you will gain an incorruptible reward, a crown that fades not away. Serve Him because it is rewarding to serve the Lord.

Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. [8] Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, (skubalon Pronounced skoo’-bal-on) that I may win Christ,

Everything is useless, worthless, unless it is found in Christ and through Christ. Solomon ended Ecclesiastes by saying:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the CONCLUSION of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

What does it mean to “fear God”? Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 (KJV)  Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:  [13]  But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

To “fear God” is to respect Him, to place Him above all else. To cherish Him and His direction. To seek pleasure in our Lord.

Psalms 34:9 (KJV)  O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

Psalms 115:13 (KJV)  He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.

We are to DO what God has said. We are to LIVE for Him. Judgment day is coming – are you ready? Are you in Christ? Have you received Him as Lord and Savior?

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Living for the Lord brings joy now and eternal joy later. Let us live for Him, doing that which He has commanded. Let us learn of Him.

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America Belongs To God

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Psalms 33:12-14 (KJV) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. 13 The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

As we approach the time of the year where we celebrate Thanksgiving we’ll gather together as families and eat way too much food. Many will watch football on television, snack, gorge themselves, nap, then feed again. It’s “Thanksgiving”. At many of the tables where families gather there will be no thankfulness nor prayer. In many of the opulent homes there will be no recognition of the God Who made the prosperity and blessedness of America possible.

When I was growing up every year in school we heard of the first Thanksgiving in America. There were 102 Pilgrims – Christ followers – who came to Plymouth to establish a colony there. These 102 were seeking freedom and blessing in a new world called America. At the first Thanksgiving there were only 53 Pilgrims. Disease and starvation had taken the rest. A local tribe of native Americans – the Wampanoags – helped the 53 survive the harsh climate. About 90 of the native Americans shared that first Thanksgiving meal with the Pilgrims.

They were thanking God for helping them survive, for blessing them, for loving them.

We don’t hear much of the first Thanksgiving anymore nor the part that Christ played in it. The devil robbed Adam of Eden, and the devil is today robbing Christians of America. And we are allowing him to do it by our silence. The truth of the matter is that we are a nation that has been shaped by the Judeo-Christian ethic found throughout the Bible. We were founded a Biblical nation from our very roots. But..

Are we a Christian nation?

If by “Christian Nation” you mean that everyone is a Christian, then no, we are not a Christian nation. America was founded to be a FREE nation where each person could follow their own conscience as long as they did not hinder the life or conscience of another. Since America was founded by Christians following the freedoms that Christ promoted we enjoy unprecedented liberties. Our founding fathers were not all Christians, but they understood the impact that Christianity had on our nation. For instance, Patrick Henry said:

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Thomas Jefferson was certainly not a Christian. He was a Deist who envisioned God as a supreme being Who created the world but no longer intervened directly in daily life. Jefferson made his own Bible by cutting out what he did not agree with. Jefferson said:

“… can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep forever.”

Our twenty-eighth president Woodrow Wilson in his famous address, “The Bible and Progress,” stated: America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.”

Progressive Politics has replaced fact with feeling.

If a child is born with a male anatomy if he feels that he is female then Progressive thought demands that he be affirmed as such. Feeling greater than fact prevails throughout our nation. Feeling got us in trouble in the Garden of Eden. God said “Eat this, and you will die”. Eve in Genesis 3:6 ..

“saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise”

It looked good. It felt good. Let’s eat! And with this humanity fell into sin. We are following the same pathway in America today. To us God says:

Psalms 33:12 (KJV) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

Our Blessings Came Because God Is The LORD

When Italian explorer Christopher Columbus journaled in 1504 why he went out to discover new lands, he wrote:

“I was led of the Holy Spirit to carry the message of the Gospel to undiscovered lands.”

When the Pilgrims of the Mayflower landed in Plymouth they drafted the Mayflower Compact. In that agreement they stated that they were a colony dedicated to “the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” When our nation declared independence from the tyranny of Great Britain on July 4, 1776 that “Declaration of Independence” stated:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “

Before Progressivism took over our schools of higher learning nearly every college or university was founded by Christians and Christian Churches. Names I am sure you all know – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, William and Mary – all were founded by Christians. The man for whom Harvard University was names is John Harvard. He wrote:

“That every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main ends of his life and studies: to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the foundation of all knowledge and learning, and see that the Lord only giveth wisdom. To let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek Christ Jesus as Lord and Master.” Harvard University’s second official seal (still found on Harvard Diplomas today) stated in Latin these words,

“Truth for Christ and the Church”

Whereas their first seal stated “In Christi Gloriam” which means “For The Glory Of Christ”. In 1884 the Board of Overseers modified the logo to say only “Veritas” or “Truth”. Both Christ and the Church were erased from the University’s face.

American’s first schoolbook was the “New England Primer.” Christian truth was a part of American education even at the beginning. Children were taught their ABCs using Adam and the Bible. “In Adam’s fall, We sinned all” taught the letter A. “Thy life to mend, God’s BOOK attend” taught the letter B. Children were taught basic Bible truths.

A law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, declared that our national motto “In God We Trust” must appear on American currency. There is no doubt that America was founded on Christian principles and in a firm belief in God.

A prayer written by Pastor Bob Russell of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky caused a lot of disturbance back in 1996. This prayer was read in the Kansas State House by a guest Chaplain named Joe Wright. Representatives got up and walked out during that prayer. ABC Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey Aurandt heard of it, and read this prayer on his radio show. He read:

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it a choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will… Amen

God is watching us, Beloved.

Psalms 33:13-14 (KJV) The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

What Is America’s Hope?

Our future as a nation is that we all return back to Christ. Peter told the early Church:

1 Peter 4:17-18 (KJV)  For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?  [18]  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

God’s people must be God’s people. We must be vocal and loud, shining for our Jesus. We must not “weary in well doing”. We must not compromise. We must cast off apathy and laziness. We must openly and loudly trust in our God. God is watching us. He is watching this nation. Let the darkness be the darkness – we MUST be the light. We must rejoice in our God.

Psalms 33:1-3 (KJV)  Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.  [2]  Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.  [3]  Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.

Just showing up and doing Church is not what we who are His are to do. The Pilgrims did the hard thing. They stepped out of their comfort zone and took a trip to a new land for the glory of God. They praised God with their lives. We are called to praise God. To magnify Him. To lift Him up. We are to rejoice in the Lord. To find pleasure in Him.

Too many professing believers today are just going through the motions. We need to get our hearts right with God. We need to quit snoozing through the sermons, and give God our best. Some of you give God your least, but at work you give your best. Should you not give your best to God. Do not the firstfruits belong to Him:

Proverbs 3:9-10 (KJV)  Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:  [10]  So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

God does not want our leftovers, but our best. We are to love Him with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our being. Give God first place.

Matthew 6:33 (KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Along with PRAISE God also expects our OBEDIENCE to His Word:

Psalms 33:4 (KJV)  For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.

It is not the world that defines right and wrong, but the Word of God.

Proverbs 30:5 (KJV)  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

The lost follow the Word of God as long as it suits their agenda. They are much like the Pharisees of whom Jesus said “you make the Word of God of no effect through your tradition” (Mark 7:13). Progressivism is the false prophet of our day. We must turn from this and ask ourselves:

“What does God’s Word – the Scripture – say about it?”

I am told that the goddess of Progressivism has created 49 genders that humans can be. This is hogwash. There are only two genders – male and female. God made you one way or the other regardless as to how you feel. Jesus told the devil – and we must tell the Progressive:

Luke 4:4 (KJV) … man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Feelings are not facts. God’s Word – the Bible – is a fact.

Psalms 33:6-8 (KJV)  By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  [7]  He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.  [8]  Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

The Word of God has not lost its power. His Word is His truth and His promise. We must trust in Him, and point others to Him through His Scripture and to His Gospel. The Salvation of our nation will only come when we trust in Him.

Psalms 33:18-22 (KJV)  Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;  [19]  To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.  [20]  Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.  [21]  For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.  [22]  Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

We need to not only shine for Christ, trusting the Word of God. But as a people we must pray. We must trust Him and pray for our families, our Churches, our communities, and our nation. He tells us in His Word

2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

We must be the light that God has called us to be. May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Psalms, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Christ Brings Us To God

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

1 Peter 3:18 (KJV) 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:

1 Peter 4:1-3 (KJV) Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

Why did Christ die for us? Why did He suffer on Calvary being nailed to the tree? Why was He shamed as He was, mocked, and ridiculed?

Christ Died That He Might Bring Us To God

That’s what we are plainly told in our text today,

Christ also hath once suffered for sins,
the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God

Before Christ came all were far from God. We had religion, but we rarely had God. We are told in:

Ephesians 2:1-3 (KJV) And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course (way) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (the devil), the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation (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.

The natural born state of every person is that we are far from God. Our walk is far from God. That which we emulate is far from God. Prior to Christ we were far from God in our minds, and were therefore far from God in our behavior. This state is what the Bible calls “unjust” or “lost”. We were not right with God. God was far from us. We were spiritually dead.

Jesus Christ suffered for sins – He is just but we were unjust – so that He might bring us to God. What separated us from God? OUR SINS. Our sins stood as a wall between us and God. The Law told us that we were sinners, but in no way could make us right with God. The Law provided a temporary covering at best, but did nothing else.

Jesus paid for our sins – a record of which God maintained – by shedding His Blood in our place. We are told:

Colossians 2:13-14 (KJV) 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;

No longer does our account with God say “guilty” but “forgiven” is stamped in red on it. Jesus brings us to God by taking away the guilt of our sins. He bled and died to take away my sin, and your sin.

that he might bring us to God

How else did Jesus bring us to God? Be brought about an adoption into the family of God by His Spirit. When you receive Christ as Lord and Savior submitting to Him and believing on Him the Bible declares:

Ephesians 2:19-20 (KJV) Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Before we knew Christ we were strangers to God. Oh, we might introduce ourselves to God on special days such as Christmas or Easter. Or else we might sporadically – when forced into it by our circumstances – seek God in prayer. But to us before Christ came God was always God, but never Father. There was no familial relationship in our hearts. God was God and we were foreigners to His Kingdom, strangers to His righteousness. But after Christ what does the Scripture say? You are no more strangers and foreigners. You are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom with the Saints of Old, FELLOW citizens with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, Ruth, Joseph, Mary, the list is long! You are not second class citizens of Heaven but because of Christ you are Children of God. Calling upon Christ for Salvation He has sent His Spirit upon you:

Romans 8:15-16 (KJV) 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. 16 The Spirit {Himself} beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Jesus Christ came …

that he might bring us to God

Galatians 4:4-7 (KJV) But when the fullness 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. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

What a dramatic thing our Lord did. Whereas before we were lost in darkness, now we have been adopted into the Family of God. What does the Bible declare?

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

Christ Died That He Might NOW Bring Us To God

Receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior we receive of His Spirit. We are brought near to God by family ties, by the Blood that was shed, by His infinite love. So many undervalue what Christ did, and therefore do not live for Him as they should. The Bible does not say that Jesus came …

that he might bring us to God one day in Heaven

Certainly we have eternal life promised to us in Heaven because of what Christ did. Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:36 (KJV) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

There is coming a Judgment Day. Those who have not been brought to God by Christ will stand before a God filled with wrath. Their sins shall be judged. They are not just, not upright, for they have rejected the means by which they can be upright. Those without Christ are without God, without hope, and without Heaven. Only hell and a lake of fire awaits. Oh that everyone in this place would come to Christ so that they could receive the promise:

Titus 3:4-7 (KJV) … the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 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.

Certainly faith in Christ brings us to God to where we can be made fit for Heaven, but Jesus did much more than this for us. Our text also doesn’t say:

that he might bring us to God only in times of trial

Again, because of Christ we can lean on Jesus in our times of trial. Doesn’t God promise:

Psalms 18:2-3 (KJV) The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

As a child calls upon a parent when in distress, God expects us to call on Him. Yet God does not want us to ignore Him at all times but in the bad times. This is not what a Child of God does. Christ suffered for sins to bring us to God at all times.

that he might bring us to God only on special days

Christ brings us into union with God not just on Sundays, or on special days, but every single day. We walk with God, and talk with God, and are watched over by God. God loves us everyday, and everyday He is our Father. What does God require of us?

Micah 6:8 (KJV) … what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Christ Died That He Might Take Us Away From Sin

Jesus died for sin on the Cross of Calvary. He paid for sin because sin separates from God. Bringing us to God, Christ died to take us away from sin.

1 Peter 4:1-2 (KJV) Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

We are saved from sin so that we can live in the Will of God. What does the Scripture say?

Romans 6:9-14 (KJV) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

Christ died unto sin ONCE. He paid for sin. But now Christ LIVES UNTO GOD. We who are Christ’s are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We walk apart from sin because of Christ. When we see sin in our lives we do not embrace it, but we say:

Out, foul evil! I am dead to you because of Christ.
Christ covers you with His Blood, and I reject you as unfit
For a Child of God!”

The Christian does not let sin reign in his or her mortal body. Christ died for sin because it separates us from God. Sin is no longer my master. I will yield myself to God and His Will, not to sin nor what He condemns.

sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace

This is where many denominations of Christians have gone wrong, even among those who profess to be Baptist. They have listened to the siren call of the world, and compromised with sin. Do you not know that Christ has said:

Matthew 7:16-20 (KJV) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

If Christ has died for you then sin shall not reign over you. Jesus told the cripple:

Take up your bed, and walk”

Jesus told the leper:

Show yourself to the priest, and offer unto God”

Jesus told the blind man:

Go, wash the mud from your eyes in the pool of Siloam”

And Jesus tells those whom He has saved:

Follow God, not sin”

We are called as Christians to live according to the will of God, not according to the will of the world. There was a time when we lived according to the will of the world.

1 Peter 4:2-3 (KJV) That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

There was a time when we walked in the darkness along with the dead crowd. We no longer follow evil, nor the devil, but our Father to the glory of Christ. He has cleansed us from sin. He keeps on cleansing us from sin. Let us not wallow in the mud that He has died to save us from. Let us live for Him.

As we come to the Lord’s Table we are admonished by the Apostle:

1 Corinthians 11:27-31 (KJV) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Are you in the bondage of sin? Ask Christ to break those bonds, giving yourselves fully to Him. Receive Him as He is – your Lord and Savior. Repent of your sin, no matter how popular it may be in the world today. If you are Christ’s then you are a Child of God. You do not belong to sin, nor to this world. Love Him. Repent. Trust He has forgiven. Then partake of this Table of Life.

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

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