Crucified With Christ

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

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Photo from Wikipedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobby, why is your egg empty?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Christ Die For You?

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ…

Are You A BYSTANDER Or A BELIEVER?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible warns us to …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Cannot Be Compelled And Be Saved!

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

If You Choose To Die With Christ You Will Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Psalmist said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Galatians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

My Little Children

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Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Say That We Have No Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Sin’s Solution?

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

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

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

My little children. The Bible tells us that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give The Fruit Back To God

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

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

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

David, give the fruit back to Me.

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

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

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

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

This little child is thankful for our Father.

Are you?

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

But God …

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

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

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

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

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

We are better off.

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

The Christian Is Not As He Was

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:1 And you … who were dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UNSAVED Pharisee said:

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

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

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

The Christian Is In A New Place With God

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

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

But God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was sinking deep in sin,

Far from the peaceful shore,

Very deeply stained within,

Sinking to rise no more;

But the Master of the sea

Heard my despairing cry,

From the waters lifted me,

Now safe am I.

Love lifted me!

Love lifted me!

When nothing else could help,

Love lifted me.

Love lifted me!

Love lifted me!

When nothing else could help,

Love lifted me.

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

quickened … together with Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christian Is A Work In Progress

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

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

God is not China.

God does not make cheap stuff to quickly sell.

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

Beloved, you are not “made in China”.

You are not a trinket.

You are made of God to be used of God.

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

In yonder glory!

Souls in danger, look above,

Jesus completely saves;

He will lift you by His love

Out of the angry waves.

He’s the Master of the sea,

Billows His will obey;

He your Savior wants to be—

Be saved today.

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

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

A Sermon For Suicide Prevention Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

What IS And Is NOT Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Author Of Depression And Hopelessness Is The Devil

What did Jesus say?

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

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

Pastor Greg Laurie said:

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

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

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

to steal, and to kill, and to destroy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

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

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

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

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

What If I Have Suicidal Thoughts?

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

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

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

You can’t fix it by yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And know you are loved!

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

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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

Preach Don’t Overreach — Biblical Preaching

It is so easy to overreach when preaching. In fact, I wonder how many thousands of sermons are preached every week that are barely even Christian? We should point people, via the Word of God, toward God/Christ. We should clarify not only what the text is saying historically, but also what it means for us […]

via Preach Don’t Overreach — Biblical Preaching

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Exhort One Another Daily: A Message For Business Meeting Night

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Hebrews 3:13 … But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

I was listening to a broadcast from John Piper, the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. It was a Monday morning. Mondays are usually down days for pastors. We all look back at our Sunday and count the numbers that came. We ask ourselves “What should I have said”? We worry about those who missed the services. Some of us – I do this every week – send bulletins or call missing members. What particularly made me hurt on Mondays was going to my office and having people come in to visit me asking:

“I wonder where so and so was?”

Piper was talking about the missing from the flock when he brought this scripture verse up. It touched a nerve. But it also blessed me. Hebrews chapter 3 addresses the subject of Christian faithfulness. Christians are called to be faithful. To fail to be faithful to God is to invite disaster.

Now let me quickly say that I believe in the eternal security of the Saints. I hate the phrase “Once Saved, Always Saved”. I think this phrase is flippant. Instead I prefer to believe in the Sovereignty of God over the will of man. My God is sovereign. My God is …

Ephesians 3:20-21 … able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

I believe that what God has saved, God can keep. But hear what I say. This does not mean that we who are saved are on autopilot as we fly our way towards Heaven.

We Are Accountable – God Holds Us Accountable

God rewards those who are accountable and act accountable. God punishes those who fail to be accountable. You are accountable to God in how you live for Him. You are accountable to God for what you do with the salvation you have been given. You are. And you are accountable to encourage and, if necessary, to rebuke your fellow believers as you together follow the Lord.

We are in this thing together.

As we come into Hebrews 3 we read:

Hebrews 3:1-2 … Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

What does that verse say? First it addresses the audience by calling them holy brethren. If you are saved by faith in Christ you are holy brethren. You are holy, hagios, made separate from the world and adopted into the family of God by faith in Christ. You are brethren – brothers and sisters together – because of the Blood of Christ. As holy brethren we are to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. He is the One we set our clocks by. He is the pattern that we follow. Christ Jesus, the only Begotten Son of God (John 3:16) and the first born from the dead (Colossians 1:18). He is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. We do not have a pope. We have a Savior and a Lord. What did Christ Jesus do?

{Jesus} was faithful to Him {the Father} that appointed Him,
as also Moses was
faithful in all his house

Jesus was faithful. Jesus didn’t have to be pursued to do the things that God the Father called Him to do. At the age of twelve Jesus was “about His Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). What does it mean to be faithful? It means to DO what God says WHEN God says it. Jesus was faithful. Moses was faithful. Moses was faithful in leading Israel, and Christ is faithful in leading the Church. Our text goes on and says:

Hebrews 3:3-4 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

The word MAN is italicized in the King James to show us that this word is not actually in the original text. Jesus was a man – a perfect Man – both God and Man in human form. He was not “man” as you and I are “man” or “woman”. He was virgin born.

Jesus Christ is GOD the Son!

And yet, Jesus was faithful to do all that the Father and the Spirit set before Him to do. Moses was faithful, too, but Jesus was more faithful. Moses built the House of Israel. Jesus Christ built the House of God. Moses presided over a people governed by Law written on stones. Jesus presides over a people governed by law written in our hearts. God ordained both Moses and Jesus to built two houses – two kingdoms – two governments. Both are built of and protected by God. Both will endure because God wills it. The Church will endure, and Israel will endure. Both heads of these two great Houses were faithful, but Jesus was MORE faithful.

As Moses was faithful, as Jesus is faithful – we who believe are called to be faithful.

Hebrews 3:5-6 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

What is the difference between Jesus and Moses, and between Israel and the Church? They are two separate houses or governments overseen and ordained by God. Moses was a servant of God, but not a son of God. Why? Because Christ had not yet come to die for our sins. Moses would be saved after Christ went to the Cross. How do I know this? Because Jesus revealed Himself to the Old Testament faithful. He told the Pharisees:

John 8:56-58 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Abraham would enter into glory, and become a son of God after Christ rose from the grave. Until then he was a servant. But Abraham saw Jesus’ day – rejoiced in it – and I know that Moses would have known about the lord as well.  It is Jesus Who saves us, and tells us:

John 15:14-17 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

Jesus calls us “friends”. And what does the Father call us? The Apostle said:

Galatians 4:4-7 … 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.

Moses and all Israel were servants of God. The Law of God can only make servants. But we of the House of God, the Church of Christ are no more servants but sons; and if sons, then heirs of God through Christ.

God is our Father, Christ our High Priest and elder Brother, the Holy Spirit our Enabler, with
Heaven and glory our destiny.

Hebrews 3:7-12 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

God calls His people – Israel or the Church – to be faithful. The Bible says Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith. God applied a standard to Israel, and He will apply the same standard to His Church. God saved all of Israel. God saves all of His Church. God has a plan for His Israel. God has a plan for His Church. What happened with Israel? They Hardened their hearts toward God. They thought that because God saved them that He would bless them.

Beloved, salvation is entirely of Grace, but blessing is entirely of faithfulness.

I love you enough to tell you this. We are to – going back to our focal text:

Hebrews 3:13 … But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

We are to exhort one another daily. The word translated exhort is the Greek compound παρακαλέω parakaléō, (pronounced par-ak-al-eh’-o) which literally means “to call alongside or near to yourself so that you can encourage, pray for, or invite another”. Those of you who are faithful are called by God to parakaléō those who profess Christ that they be faithful. You are called to remind them that what God did to Israel, He can and will do to us. As Christ is faithful, we are to be faithful.

“But” you say, “if I’m faithful, what business is it of mine that my fellow Christian be faithful? As long as I’m serving God as a son of God what does it matter to me?” That’s a good question. Why don’t we ask MOSES why we need to encourage one another to faithfulness? Why don’t we ask Joshua and Caleb why we need to encourage one another to faithfulness? If you’ll remember your Bible stories, Moses, Joshua and Caleb was forced to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for forty years until that first generation of Israel died off. God the Father said:

I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest

I remember as a young boy wanting to go to the movies one Saturday and Mama saying “You can go if you and your brother clean up your room”. I cleaned up my side of the room while my brother did little to nothing. Inside myself I was grinning. I had done my part, and I would get to go to the movies by myself, without having to look after my little brother. What happened? I called mama and when she came in I said, I cleaned my side of the room. Can I go now?” Mama looked at me and my brother and said, “Neither one of you are going. You were both supposed to clean the room. You’re the elder brother. You should have encouraged him to do what I asked”. Though we went on and cleaned the room later there were no movies for either of us that Saturday. I didn’t understand it when I was younger. I thought it was terribly unfair. But as I’m older now I understand completely. As Evangelist Bob Pitman told us recently, “God is always RIGHT but He isn’t always FAIR.” Those of us who are older in the faith and supposedly more mature need to encourage the younger believers to be faithful. We are to:

exhort one another daily, while it is called To day

We should talk to our friends and family who are faithless. If we are wondering where a believer has gotten off to, then we should call them alongside of us and encourage them to faithfulness.

Believe it or not, we are all in this TOGETHER. Let’s work TOGETHER for the glory of God our Father. Let us do it because this is the only way we will ever inherit the blessings God wants us to have.

Let us not anger our Father. That never works out right.

May God grow His Church through this His message. For Christ’s glory. Amen!

Posted in Hebrews, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

God Impresses Us

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Photo by Stanislaw Zarychta on Unsplash

Ephesians 1:15-23 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Live Your Faith Out Loud

The world knows what the growing and active Church is doing. In the first part of this letter the Apostle remarks:

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith …

The Apostle said he had heard of the faith of the Church. The Apostle is in prison and unable to get to Ephesus. There are no telephones, telegraphs, nor mail service. And yet from Rome he has heard of the faith of the Church at Ephesus. It is having an impact on the world around it.

When a Church is doing as the Lord wants it to do,
then others will hear of it.

When a Church is doing as the devil wants it to do,
then others will hear of it.

When a Church is doing nothing then no one will hear of it.

Jesus Christ called for His Church to serve Him so as to make a difference in the world. The devil does not care about the obscure Church, and he rejoices in the sinning Church. But the devil is threatened by the active doing Church. Jesus calls us to be active and doing. He said:

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the housEphesians 1:20-23 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.e. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The Church which walks in the light of Christ will reflect His light on the community around it. People need to see our good works. They need to see good things done. Just as they saw Jesus, they need to see us in action. When a Church is doing as Christ commands people will see its light, and will talk about it. Paul said “I heard of your faith”. A faith unheard is a faith not lived. Our Lord Jesus said:

Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Wars have been fought over salt, even during the American Civil War. The salt mines in the small town of Saltville, Virginia were crucial to the Confederate war effort. In Roman times soldiers were paid with salt. Salt is most noticed when it is absent. It adds flavor to food. It preserves food. The Church is Christ’s salt andEphesians 1:20-23 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Christ’s light. We shine so others can see Jesus. We change the world around us by being like Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus …

Faith is obedience to God. The Apostle said that “I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus”. The Bible tells us that genuine salvation comes when a person unconditionally surrenders to Jesus. Too many people miss this distinctive of salvation. The Scripture says:

John 3:16-18 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.

The Christian is the person who has believed in the name of Jesus. The phrase in the name means to accept or surrender to the authority of. In America police used to say:

Stop IN THE NAME OF the Law”

One of the most horrible teachings that has ever hit the Church of Christ in America is the teaching that – once saved – we as Christians need not obey Christ. The Scripture never divorces salvation by Grace from obedience after Grace. Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

And asked: Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

The man who served as Billy Graham’s pastor, Don Wilton states:

Ephesians 1:20-23 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.“The issue of the lordship of Christ is never presented as an optional addendum to believing faith. It is an essential and functional necessity of it. Billy Graham believed in salvation by faith in Christ alone and walked in obedience to the lordship of Christ simply because Christ alone is Lord and King. Mr. Graham’s deep humility before man was the hallmark of his spiritual humility and obedience to God. As a result, he was endowed with an abundance of the grace of God (see James 4:6). … In short, if we believe in Him, then we obey Him. He alone is God.”

Jesus warned us that “without Me you can do NOTHING” (John 15:5). The faith that saves is the faith invested in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church at Ephesus loved Jesus so it served Jesus. It was salt and light – and the world saw it and spoke of it.

Saving Faith Is Proved By Love

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

The Church at Ephesus had a loud faith,
And also had a loud love!

As we have been loved, so we are to love. Jesus tells His Church:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

The love that Jesus showed to us was sacrificial, a love we never deserved nor earned. As He loved us, we are to love others. Jesus even said that our love should extend to our enemies:

Luke 6:27 … I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Matthew 5:44-45 … 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; 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.

The reason that the Ephesians were being talked about was that they loved everyone just as Jesus had loved them. This is a radical thing – something little understood in this fallen world. We are to love others whether we are loved back or not. We are to do good to all whether we feel like it or not. Feelings does not come into it. We love as He loved. This, Beloved, is His command. Love cannot be overemphasized in the Christian walk. The Apostle John said:

1 John 3:14-15 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

If you are born again then you have eternal life abiding in you. The Holy Spirit lives inside the Christian. God is love, not hate (1 John 4:8, 16). God is love demonstrating. God is love doing. God shows us love by giving us life. God shows us love by sending His Son to die for us (John 3:16). God shows us love by paying the penalty for our sins. God shows us love by predestinating us to be His own dear children. God shows us love by preparing a place for us in Heaven. God shows us love by forgiving our sins for Christ’s sake.

Love gives.
If Love indwells us,
Then we give.
Period!

Now we come to a difficult part of the letter – it’s difficult because it’s so easy to read. The Apostle has been commending the Church. Everything is positive. Everything is blessed. He has been – through the Spirit – been patting the Church on the back.

Have you ever noticed in every sermon the preacher never says “You did fine this week. Let’s just go home!” There is no sermon like that – ever! Nothing Billy Graham ever preached went that way – and I loved Billy’s preaching. Why? Why are there no sermons that say:

You’ve done fine. Let’s go home. End of sermon!

Because we are all human – we are all imperfect – and we are all to be like Jesus. So we study Jesus. That’s what the Apostle is saying now to Ephesus. Read it with me.

Ephesians 1:16-18 … {I} Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

I was listening to comedian Mark Lowry the other day (he really makes me laugh) when he said something very profound. He said:

“I look at everything as if it’s a journey. … I want to enjoy the moment. … We’re supposed to be salt and light and live and kick up our heels and enjoy the moment of everyday if we can, and the {days} that are horrible pay attention {to them} because God’s teaching us stuff. This is boot camp. This is where we get to learn to walk by faith.”

That really struck a chord with me. As a retired Airman I went through “boot camp”. Boot camp was where we as airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, guardsmen were trained. Sadly too many in America today have not enjoyed Boot camp, and so take our liberties and freedoms in America for granted. There are many so called politicians that are advocating socialism and communism who never saw the horrible effects that these pitiful systems bring into life. That’s another message.

This is boot camp for the Christian.
God saved you and left you on this earth to GROW.
Not to mold, to decay, or to become one with darkness.
To GROW.

This is why the Apostle the Apostle PRAYED for this wonderful congregation that God would give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him“. Everything that happens to the Christian happens on purpose to make us MORE LIKE JESUS. Thomas Constable put it this way:

Paul wanted his readers to get to know God more intimately as their own personal heavenly Father, to become closer friends with Him.”

The gold standard is to be like Jesus. The gold standard is to be a son of God like Jesus was the Son of God. The gold standard – the target we shoot for – is to be friends with God. Abraham – our forefather in the faith – understood this. The Apostle says:

James 2:21-23 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Abraham had no Bible – but he had God. He trusted God, and did as God told him to do. He even was willing to give up his most prized possession, his only child Isaac, if God so decreed it. This is the faith that God wants us to have. The faith that Abraham exhibited is the faith that Christ exhibited. Doing what God said, when God said it.

Never Stop Growing!

The Apostle prayed that God would open the eyes of the Ephesians – and our eyes – and help us to understand how blessed we truly are. We have a calling – a hope filled calling – and will one day be resurrected and glorified creatures. When we reach Heaven we ourselves will be God’s inheritance – His trophies of Grace. The Christian is not what he was before he was saved. The Christian is a child of God in transition to glory. We are saints of God – set apart for God’s use. We belong to the eternal.

Ephesians 1:19-20 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

The Apostle does not pray that the Ephesians receive something they DO NOT have. He prays that they will understand what they ALREADY have.
To be saved by faith in Christ takes
but a few seconds.
To live as God requires takes a lifetime.

II remember a story I heard about William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate. With the millions he made selling newspapers he invested in real estate and artwork. One day Hearst heard of a valuable piece of art, and decided that he just had to have it. He sent a man out to search for that artwork and purchase it at any cost. After months of research the man came back to Mr Hearst and told him he found the valuable item. It was already in one of Hearst’s vaults, purchased years before and forgotten. William Randolph Hearst was trying to buy something he already owned!

That may sound silly, but the truth is most Christians do not understand the glorious salvation that God the Father has invested in us. Paul wanted the Ephesians – as well as us – to understand what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. The Christian in America is like a 3 year old playing with a priceless diamond! What has God given us in Christ?

We are forgiven all sins.
We are predestined to be adopted as sons of God.
We are now in the Family of God.
We are born again, new creations.
God considers us His righteous possession.
We no longer belong to satan.
We are each priests before God,
With a moment by moment access to God.
We are promised a Heavenly home,
And are even now under the superior care of God.
Christ is our Partner in life,
And God oversees every work we do.
Our lives shall never end, but God indwells us,
Both now, and forever more!

We are born again creatures – dear believers – who are headed toward eternal life. We are the apex of God’s creation. Adam was the greatest creature God made, placed in dominion over this earth and all that is in it.

Ephesians 1:20-23 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

We are His Church. Jesus Christ is our Head. And we are headed toward glory. Let us continue to seek to be like Him – not to be saved, but because we are saved. Let us be like the Ephesians were – for the glory of Christ our King!

In His name I pray.

Amen!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

In Christ Alone

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Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

Ephesians 1:7-14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Imagine if you would imagine, for just a moment, that before I started this sermon someone came running in. Breathlessly that person says:

A money truck just turned over on the Santa Fe Pike right in front of the Church. The owner of the money has said that we can have all that we want – first come, first serve!”

How many people would be left to hear the sermon? Could it just possibly be that I myself would be at the head of the line? But let’s suppose that the same thing happened, and a person breathlessly bursts in here to tell us:

A money truck carrying monopoly money just turned over on the Santa Fe Pike right in front of the Church. The owner of the money has said rather than pick up all that play money that we can have all that we want – first come, first serve!”

In the first case we probably all would run to the door. But for play money? I suspect most of you would rather stay here, and let someone else clean up that mess. What’s the difference? Play money has no inherent value – it’s just paper. But U.S. currency has value because of what is behind it. It’s not just paper. It has authority, because an authority backs it. The United States government backs that currency.

There is a greater Government than that of the United States – the greatest Government that has ever been. It is the Government of God. The currency of that wonderful Government is not printed on linen paper, nor stamped on gold or silver. That which Heaven and God Himself finds valuable – valuable above all things – is the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no entry into Heaven without the Blood of Christ.
All other means are but monopoly money, play paper.
It is trendy and progressive to say that “there are many ways to God”.
Trendy and progressive, it is not truth.
You would more likely pay a utility bill with crayon and paper,
Than you would get to the Father without Christ!

This Offensive Message

Every great Preacher I know of has spoken on “The Offense Of The Cross”.

  • In 1958 Evangelist Billy Graham spoke on the Offense Of The Cross in San Francisco, California.
  • Pastor C.H. Spurgeon spoke about it in 1856.
  • Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said “As long as we are natural men and women, the Cross is an offense”.

It is popular in America to wear crosses as jewelry, tie pins, and earrings. The cross that is produced by the jewelry makers is pretty, gold or silver or some type of precious stone. Most people who wear crosses have no idea what the cross actually represents.

The Cross is the throne of torture that
the King of Glory willingly ascended!

The bloody Cross of Calvary and Golgotha is no pretty thing, but a tree on which Jesus hung. The One Who hung on that Cross is the Only One in all of human history that can redeem humanity and change the human heart. Our text starts with In whom. In Jesus Christ alone we have redemption.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood ..

The Cross reminds us that God is not pleased with the world as it is. And you aren’t pleased with it, either. Every time someone does something evil, whether it be …

a sniper killing people from a motel room while they are on vacation
a man getting upset at a traffic stop who kills many innocent people.

a serial killer or pedophile who creeps into schools or churches.
a high ranking Pharisee who is caught abusing women.
a group of religious madmen who destroy, bomb, and kill thousands on 911.
the senseless abortion of children justified by a hedonistic society.

We look around us, at the news casts, and it seems as if the world itself has gone mad. People hurt one another daily. Church people abuse other church people. People use one another, then throw them away like so much garbage. We see these things on the news casts. We hear politicians trying to get elected by supporting some “new” scheme or law. Everyone has a solution, but no solutions seem forthcoming. When 9-11 terrorist attacks occur or people take advantage of one another when they are suffering, the cry goes out.

Where is God?
Why doesn’t God do something about this?

God did do something about this. God sent His Beloved Son Jesus into this world to save it. Beloved, we all need to be saved!
We all need to be REDEEMED!

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood ..

To “redeem” something is to “purchase something from another owner. When God created this earth, He placed man and woman in it. To this first couple the Bible says:

Genesis 1:28 … God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over {it} …

The first couple were placed over the earth to have dominion over it. They were to rule the earth as they followed the Lord. But they made a bad decision to depart from God and follow themselves. And doing this, they plunged the world into sin.

Sin and satan became the masters of us.

Rather than follow God, sin bids us to follow and pleasure self. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 59:2 … your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your SIN have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Sin erected a barrier between mankind and God. Sin became a master that owned humanity. Our Lord Jesus said:

John 8:34-35 … Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever …

Sin binds us as a Master binds the slave. How did the alcoholic become an alcoholic? Was it not the first drink that set in motion that terrible state. How did the young woman become a murderer? Did she not allow that which is sin to enter her body, then, becoming with child, choose to remove that young life?

Sin not only BINDS us, it BLINDS us.
Those enslaved to sin redefine it.
It is “Family Planning”, not abortion or murder.
It is “Falling in love”, not fornication.
We say “He deserves to be happy”, not “He committed adultery”.

The Master called Sin does not want us to know that what we are doing is wrong and ultimately destructive. God does not want us following sin’s dread leadership. This is why God sent His Son to die for us. Jesus Christ came to redeem us from sin’s hold. Again our text tells us:

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His Blood….

We are not redeemed from enslavement to sin by our own efforts. We are redeemed by Jesus Christ. Jesus told us:

John 8:36 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

And the Apostle said in:

1 Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain {way of life} received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot …

For years and years people believed that they could effect their own salvation. They thought that they could do penance, or do a good work, or follow a ritual, or gain a title such as “Brother” or “Doctor”. Humanity thought that there was some self help method to fix our position with God and our broken, sin filled hearts. But Beloved, the truth is:

The slave does not have the currency necessary
to purchase his own freedom!

The slave says, “I’ll work it off”. No, you cannot. Every work that the slave does he owes to his master. The slave is expected to work for the master. Work is no currency. The person enslaved to sin has brought the condemnation of God on themselves. The sinner is a sinner because their master tells them to sin. But – praise God – the Lord chose to offer us redemption through Christ.

Romans 5:6-10 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

When Jesus Christ went to the Cross of Calvary He not only purchased us from sin’s mastery but He also saved us from God’s wrath.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

We stand forgiven before God the Father is we have received Jesus Christ as out Lord and Savior. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We sin, knowing that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin eventually destroys the life that serves it. But sin also brings the wrathful judgment of God on the sinner. But because of Christ we have forgiveness of sins. What did Jesus say?

John 3:16-18 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.

To believe in the name of Jesus is to come to Him surrendered, believing that He is both Lord and Savior. It is to let Christ purchase you with His Blood.

This is a message that the world finds offensive, but is nonetheless clearly presented in the Scripture. Jesus said:

John 6:29 This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.

To reject Jesus is to reject the One Whom the Father set forth as Lord and Savior. Jesus assured us all:

John 3:36 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.

We cannot make ourselves right with God – but Jesus can! When we come to Him as Lord and Savior we receive the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. God’s gift of salvation and freedom is given freely through Jesus Christ our Lord.

BEFORE a person meets and receives Christ he or she is a child of Adam, enslaved to the flesh and sin. AFTER a person meets and receives Christ our position changes. Read again with me:

Ephesians 1:10-11 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times {God} might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

What is the Apostle saying? He said in the dispensation of the fulness of times God gathers all things together in Christ. Do you see the phrase fulness of times? When the time was right God sent forth His Christ, His Beloved Son, to purchase whosoever would believe on Him from the world and the flesh. We see this phrase again in:

Galatians 4:3-7 … we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of 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.

After surrendering to Christ Jesus by letting Him be your Lord and Savior, His Blood is applied to the entire history of you. Because of what Jesus did for you you are no longer enslaved to the sins of this world. You, dear Christ follower, are changed from servant of sin to Son of the Savior. The Apostle exultantly said that we are redeemed specifically so that we might receive the adoption of sons. You do not belong to satan. You do not belong to this world. You do not even belong to yourselves. Your identity is changed to that of a son of God. You belong to God, to Heaven, to eternity.

What of that old master we call “sin”? Is it our master anymore? NO! A thousand times NO! The Scripture says:

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Romans 6:11-14 … 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.

Sin is not the Christian’s master. Christ is our Master. God is our Father. The Holy Spirit is our Enabler. When we sin, we upon recognizing it repent and reject of it, and hasten back to the Blood of Christ. Sin is not my ruler nor should it be your ruler, dear believer.

Ephesians 1:12-14 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

God indwells His people, sealing us to Himself. We do not belong to evil. We do not belong to sin. We do not belong even to ourselves. We belong to God, our Triune God, both now and forevermore.

Death for the Christian is therefore no defeat, but a victory. Those who have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ belong to God, and we will one day go to our God – where there is joy forevermore.

May God cause you to examine yourselves as to whether you know Christ or not. I pray that all who read this will one day be in Heaven with me. God bless you all!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

That Your Joy Be Full

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

1 John 1:1-4 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Introduction

The Bible tells us of itself that …

2 Timothy 3:16 … All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

that the Scripture of our Bible “came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

All scripture is the very breath of God, His spoken Word that has been written down as God’s blessing to us. God chose people through whom He spoke His Word. The phrase “Word of the Lord” is found 7054 times in our Bibles. The phrase “Word of God” is found 48 times in our Scripture. The phrase “thus saith the Lord” is found 7067 times in this Holy Text. This Bible is God’s supernatural Word given us us

to save us,
to instruct us,
to guide us.

God wrote this Word by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune Godhead. And it is this Holy Spirit Who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). We who are Christ’s brothers and sisters by faith are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. The Scripture so assures us of this that it states “if anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). As we come to God’s Word tonight let us seek His face. We now ask the Spirit of God to guide us into this great truth, to awaken us and guide us as we look at this most Holy Word from God.

Many of the books of the Scripture are introduced by the person whom God used to write them. For example, the Book of James begins:

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

or in Peter’s writings:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

or in Paul’s writings:

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

The Apostle John’s writings are distinctively different from the other texts of Scripture. The Apostle rarely mentions his name as God uses him to write. The Apostle John – like Moses in the Old Testament – was a very humble person. Many people find their joy in themselves. They find joy in:

feelings
experiences
self satisfaction
self service
ego

John found his fulfillment in life not in himself,
but in his relationship to Jesus Christ.

that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7, 20)

When all the other disciples ran away from Christ during His trial and execution, it was John and Jesus’ mother Mary who were found standing at the foot of the Cross. It was John to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His aging mother:

John 19:26-27 … When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home].

John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This was how he identified himself. This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t love others – we know He loves us all – but John found his fulfillment in living for and loving Jesus. Because of this John became the only disciple to die of old age, living to be about 94 years old. This wasn’t because the Roman Empire didn’t try to kill him. He was exiled to Patmos, a desert island, and left to die. But John loved the Lord, and the Lord kept John going a long, long time!

The Joy Of The “We”

As John writes this letter to us he tells us his purpose in writing it. He says in verse 4:

these things write WE unto you, that your joy may be full.

Who is the “WE” that John is referring to at the beginning of this letter? Did John have a secretary that he dictated the letter to, as the Apostle Paul did? Was there another Apostle who helped John draft this letter? In the last chapter of this letter the Apostle states:

1 John 5:13 … these things have I written unto you …

As John closes the letter he speaks of “I writing”, but as he opens the letter he speaks of “we” writing.

Who made up the WE”?

Some of the commentaries I read state this this first “we” is an editorial we which is a first person plural pronoun used by an editorialist in expressing the opinion or point of view of a publication’s management. I don’t think that’s what it was. I think the “we” that the Apostle speaks of is his personal unity with Jesus Christ.

Though John lived 60 years past the ascension of Christ into Heaven, John experienced the personal presence of Jesus Christ every single day of his long life. The WE was Jesus and John.

As John wrote he stated “we – Jesus and I – are writing this to you so that your JOY may be full”! John wanted us to experience the same joy that he experienced every day. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer. He was – according to the historians – at one time boiled in oil. The early Church pastor called Tertullian said that when he was boiled in oil – and suffered nothing because of it – that all watching that day in the Roman colosseum gave their lives to Christ. I do not know if that is true or not, but I do believe that John lived very much in the Presence of Christ at all times. As he wrote this letter – indwelt and moved by the Holy Spirit – he and the Lord wanted every Christian to know and have fullness of joy.

It Is The Conscious Presence Of Christ
That Gives Us Joy!

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Let’s examine this text. That which was from the beginning. What was from the beginning? What is this a reference to? It is a reference to the very first part of our Scriptures. The Bible says:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.

When God created the Heaven and earth, Who was there with Him? It was Jesus Christ, the Word of God. In another writing the Apostle tells us:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Christ was with God the Father in the beginning. As God made all things, all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. The Apostle Paul says of Christ:

Colossians 1:16-17 … 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.

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit existed together in eternity past, and have always existed. When the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2) Jesus was with Him. When the Father said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) Jesus was there with Him. Everything that both Father and Spirit did, they did in union with Christ. Why? Because as Jesus said:

John 10:30 I and my Father are One.

Jesus did not make this statement saying just that He and the Father were in agreement. No. The Pharisees understood what Jesus was saying. When He said I and my Father are one the Bible says they took up stones to kill Him (John 10:31). When Jesus asked them why they attempted to kill Him they said:

John 10:33 … because … thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Jesus did not make Himself God. He is God. He is God the Son. He is, as John said,

John 1:14 … the Word was MADE flesh, and dwelt among us,

The Word made flesh. This is Jesus. Jesus Christ became flesh, and dwelt among us. What does John tell us of Jesus? He said:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

John wants us to know that Jesus was not a figment of his imagination, nor a fable conceived. He said:

Christ Is No Myth Nor Fable

God promised in the Old Testament that one day Messiah would come and be manifest to us. God promised in Micah 5:2 that

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

The everlasting Christ would be manifest – and Jesus was manifested to John. John said “we HEARD Him”. John was there at the Sermon on the Mount. John was there at the Mount of Transfiguration. John heard Jesus teach daily for over three and a half years. John said:

we have SEEN Him with our eyes

We HEARD Him. We SAW Him. We HANDLED Him. We intently STUDIED Him daily.

1 John 1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

Jesus Christ came as a forerunner of what God wanted for all of us – everlasting life. As Peter testified:

2 Peter 1:16-18 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

Jesus Christ is the manifest Member of the Godhead. He came from God, and went back to God. He was seen, handled, studied, and absolutely verified.

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

God Wants Our Fellowship Too

John wrote this Book as God the Holy Spirit empowered him so that we, like John, could have the same fellowship with the Triune God as he had. This is what gives us fullness of Joy. Not the stuff that we have, but that we are in the company of the Creator of all things.

The devil teaches us that joy comes from the satisfaction of feelings or by the possession of “stuff”. The Lord teaches us that “in God’s presence is FULLNESS OF JOY. At His right hand is PLEASURES forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

We will never find joy in loving the things of this world. John warns us later:

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Oh Beloved, Jesus said:

Mark 8:36-37 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Things do not bring joy. Money does not bring joy. Feelings do not bring joy. Worry does not bring joy. Popularity does not bring joy. Being selfish will not bring joy. What brings us joy? The Presence of God in our lives. The devil and the world is a thief that comes to rob us of our joy. But Jesus did not come to rob us, but to bless us. He said:

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

Fellowship with God is the essence of eternal life. Eternal life does not begin the day that you die, but every day that you rise from the bed. You only have fullness of joy when you practice the presence of Christ as John did. Pastor R.A. Torrey put it this way:

{Jesus} is able to save not only from the uttermost but “to the uttermost” all that come unto the Father through Him. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Some receive Christ as a sin-bearer and thus find pardon, but do not get beyond that; and so their life is one of daily failure. Others receive Him as their risen Savior also, and thus enter into an experience of victory over sin. To begin right, we must take Him not only as our sin-bearer and thus find pardon; but we must also take Him as our risen Savior, our Deliverer from the power of sin, our Keeper, and this find daily victory over sin.

This is what the Father would have of us all – a daily Presence of God. We grow in that Presence when we do as Christ bids us do. We look to Him in prayer, Bible reading and study, and in Church attendance. We also do the things He commands, repenting when we fail, and praising Him daily for the victory He gives us.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord forever!

 

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

I Am Accepted In The Beloved

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Photo by Nellia Kurme on Unsplash

Ephesians 1:1-6 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

We all desperately need love. From the time we are born crying, our little arms reach out in the cold, seeking love. I am convinced that this is the reason why so many reach out and try to find love in all the wrong places. Am I loved? Am I appreciated?

Then the hard times come. We have good times, and we all have bad times. As we go through the hard times – times of suffering where we feel so very alone – we wonder. Am I loved? Is God there? Does He really care about me? The answer is a resounding YES. God does love us. He has proven that love for us in Christ.

As Paul – under the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit – wrote this letter to Christ’s beloved Church the Apostle was not writing from a beach front condominium. He was not sitting in a palace, nor writing from a comfortable bedroom or some wooded retreat. Paul was sitting in a Roman prison – a horrible place – waiting to literally lose his head for Christ. Author Brian Rapske wrote in his book “The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody”:

“… the sun and the suffocating heat caused {the prisoners} distress, there being no roof, while the nights that followed were, on the contrary, autumnal and cold … they were so cramped for space that they had to do everything in the same place. … The dead were heaped together, one upon another … the stench was intolerable …”

The prison that the Apostle was in was horrid. Yet he did not complain. He did not even ask “Pray for me, that God would save me and remove me from this terrible place”. No, but the Apostle saw even the suffering and darkness of the prison as an opportunity to serve the Lord Who saved him. Paul knew who he was:

Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God

His imprisonment did not change who he was. He was in this prison not because Rome imprisoned him, but because God had a purpose for his imprisonment. The Apostle wished the Church …

Grace be to you, and peace

because he himself was, even in this prison, experiencing the Grace of God and the peace of God:

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What kept the Apostle warm on the freezing prison nights, and cool throughout those blistering days? What kept his heart light as he was fed rotted food? What kept joy in his heart as his body suffered?

Paul Understood Jesus Is The Beloved Of God

Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Let us focus on this phrase He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. The Apostle said that He – a reference to God the Fatherhath made us accepted. We who are believers in God are made acceptable – not by our efforts, but by our relationship to the Beloved. We are accepted in the Beloved. Who is this Beloved? It is Jesus Christ.

The world sees Jesus as a curse word in a sentence, or as a great teacher, or as a fine human being. The religious world often sees Jesus in a diminished manner. Jesus one day asked the Pharisees – the religious conservative party of His day:

Matthew 22:42 … What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?

Israel looked for the coming of Christ, the Messiah, the Savior that God promised. The Pharisees knew that the Promised Messiah would come of the line of David. God promised King David:

2 Samuel 7:12-16 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

and God told the Prophet:

Isaiah 11:1-2 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

and to the Prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:5-6 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.

The Pharisees knew that Christ would come of the line of David. So they replied Of course Messiah is to be the son of David. Everyone knows that!” But then Jesus – quoting Psalm 110:1 asked:

Matthew 22:43-45 {Jesus} saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

The point is that Jesus Christ is MUCH MORE than a Great Teacher – though He was and is a Great Teacher. Jesus Christ is much more than a Man, though He is the only Perfect and sinless Man. Jesus Christ is the Beloved Son of God. He is unique. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist He was not just another believer in a crowd of believers. As He came up out of the baptismal waters the Father spoke from Heaven:

Matthew 3:17 … This is My BELOVED Son, in Whom I am well pleased!

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Messianic Prophesies, the very Son of God. He is the Father’s Beloved Son.

On a certain Sabbath Day a man with a withered came to Church that day. The Pharisees watched Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. Oh, what a hardened heart mere religion makes! It is religion that tells us to bow down and worship statues. It is religion that tells us to arm ourselves to kill the infidel. It is religion that watches the Messiah, lest He heal a poor man on a Sabbath Day. Oh, how Satan uses religion! It is religion that professes love, and yet betrays a brother or a sister in need. It is religion that will get a cow out of a ditch on a Sabbath Day, but will not help the poor and hurting man. Jesus healed that man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:13-14) while …

the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”

Oh, there goes religion! Plotting and planning murder. But Jesus – how did Jesus Christ, the Beloved of God respond? Religion went out plotting, but Jesus went out healing!

Matthew 12:15 … great multitudes followed {Jesus}, and he healed them all;

When Matthew wrote of this he quoted Isaiah 42:1, saying:

Matthew 12:18 … Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

Jesus Christ is the Beloved Son of God. It is He Whom the Father said:

Matthew 17:5 …  This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Jesus Christ is the Beloved Son of God. He is alone born of Mary, a virgin. Though descended from the line of David, Jesus did not come from David’s seed. That Holy Thing which was born of Mary shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ is ALL OF GOD in a fragile but Holy Human package. The Prophet said of Jesus:

Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Oh, how the Father loves His Son. And oh, how much Jesus loved and loves us. Pastor C.H. Spurgeon said:

Jesus was a mass of love. He was love performing, and love suffering. Love made Him live as He did, and love still pervades His nature. He that lives on high is still loving {us}. Since God is love then, and Christ is full of love, His character is suitable to God. You shall not find anything in Christ Jesus that doth not consort with the God-like and the divine.”

Jesus is the Beloved of God – and He should be our Beloved.

The Beloved Lowered Himself So We Could Be Beloved

Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Christ is the Beloved of God. But our text tells us also that God the Father hath made US accepted in the beloved.

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

Jesus had no need to lower Himself for His sake. He lowered Himself for our sakes. Jesus Christ is God-rich in Grace and Holiness. Yet He became a pauper on that Cross of Calvary so that we too could become the beloved of God. The Apostle uses two words to describe the Christian, both found in verse 1:

Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

The words the Apostle uses is:

saints
faithful

The word translated saints is the Greek ἅγιος hagios. The same word is translated HOLY in verse 4:

Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

To the Pharisee, the Sadducee, and the generally religious a person is holy because of what we do or what we wear. For the religious we are holy when we dress up in suit and tie. We are holy when we have titles and doctorates to our name. We are holy when we occupy a special position in the Church, such as Pastor, Priest, Deacon or Pontiff. The word holy means “to be set apart for God’s use”. God uses the word holy to describe Himself, and to establish a pattern for the believer. What has God said? In the Old Testament He told His Israel:

Leviticus 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

The Law said “holiness is something YOU do to yourself”. This is what the Law says. It said to Israel:

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Under the Law man struggled with holiness. The Law “put a burden and a yoke on us that our forefathers could not bear” (Acts 15:10). Then Jesus came. In Christ the Lord did not remove our need to be holy. But what He has told us is this:

1 Peter 1:13-16 … Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

The Christian is called to holiness not to BE saved, but BECAUSE we are saved. We are not what we were. Before we were sons of this earth, this Adam, this fallen creation. But NOW, praise God, we are sons of the Highest because of Christ.

God hath chosen us in {Christ}
before the foundation of the world

When God made man in the Garden of Eden He, in His infinite knowledge, knew that we would be tempted and fall. But God loved us so much that He planned not only our Creation, but our re-Creation. God planned to send His Son to this earth – a earth the Christ helped build – so that we could be more than sons of Adam. Beloved, God sent His Beloved Son Jesus to die for you so that you could be adopted as sons of God. And as sons of God:

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

You are called to be Holy for Christ gave Himself for you. You are called to be..

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

You are Children of the Most High (Psalms 82:6) because the Beloved gave Himself for you. You are saints, holy and separated unto God as His family. You have all this because of Jesus! Your identity is with Christ, and you are called to be faithful, loving, filled with all the power of God.

Let Us Then Live As Beloved Children Should Live

Ephesians 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

You, precious believer, are to be filled with faith – that’s what the word faithful means. God has given us everything we need in Christ. We who have received Him as Lord and Savior are predestined to one day be the ADOPTED CHILDREN of God Almighty. This truth never varies. Though we experience both highs and lows as we go through this life, the child of God – that is YOU, dear Christ believer – is ALWAYS a child of God. God has a purpose for your life, and for my life.

We are to love the Beloved Son.
We are to heed the Beloved Son.
We are to be like the Beloved Son.
Because we ourselves are Beloved Sons.

Oh that the Church in America would grasp this great truth. Oh that I myself would fully grasp this truth, and let it hold me while the winds and storms of life blow around me. If you have tasted the Grace of God, do not walk away with just a taste. Feast on God’s Love. Be like Jesus our Rock. The Apostle Peter put it this way:

1 Peter 2:3-6 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

As Jesus is the Living Stone of God, we are to be lively Stones, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God our Savior. Everything we do and will be is because the Beloved gave Himself for us. We believe on Him, and in love serve Him – because He saved us when we were unsavable, and loved us when we were unlovable. And again as the Apostle wrote to Colosse:

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Thank You, Jesus, for giving yourself to us all! May God draw you to His side through this His Word!

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

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