Battle For The Mind

ian-espinosa-rX12B5uX7QM-unsplash

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Philippians 4:6-9 Be careful1 for nothing2; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. {7} And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep3 your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, brethren, whatsoever10 things are true4, whatsoever10 things are honest5, whatsoever10 things are just6, whatsoever10 things are pure7, whatsoever10 things are lovely8, whatsoever10 things are of good report9; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. {9} Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Humans, though we live in the physical, are truly controlled by what we think. The Philippians Church was a loving assembly of believers, all doing what God wanted them to do. When you do what God tells you Satan rears his ugly head. Satan loves to confuse, to spread fear and uncertainty, and to divide. This is not the state that God wants the Christian in. We are to live in such a way that …

vs 7 the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep3 your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

the peace of God will guard (φρουρέω phrouréō, {pronounced froo-reh’-o}) our hearts and minds – our emotions and intellect – from evil. The word translated “keep” is the Greek phrouréō, {pronounced froo-reh’-o} which means “to mount a guard or a garrison over so as to protect”. God does NOT want His children – saved by faith in Christ – to become part of the chaos that is this fallen world.

The Normal Christian Life Is Supposed To Be Filled With Intellectual And Emotional PEACE

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7 (my paraphrase)

As you think in your heart, so you are!

What is in your heart and mind – your emotions and your intellect – will control whether you ACT or you REACT. An animal REACTS. A Christian is not an animal. We are God’s Children. We are not supposed to REACT, but to ACT. We are called to be at peace in our lives. How do we reach this peace? Again, focus on our text:

vs 7 the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep3 your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

There is no peace when you fill your souls with worldliness. When you think like worldlings, you will act like worldlings. When you think like the lost, you will act like the lost. We achieve the peace of God THROUGH Christ Jesus.

Notice how the name of Jesus is written. He is in this text Christ Jesus. Sometimes in Scripture Jesus is called “Jesus Christ”, and other times Jesus is called “Christ Jesus”. The name that comes first is an indicator as to how the Scripture should be applied. The name “Christ” coming before “Jesus” emphasizes that our Savior is the Messiah, the One Who died for us so that we might live. The word “Christ” emphasizes that, though Jesus died for our sins, He defeated death and rose from the grave on the third day. The Apostle Paul confidently stated:

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 … I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen …

Christ died for MY sins. He is my Messiah, my Savior. Jesus is the “only Begotten Son of God” (John 3:16) and the “Beloved Son, in Whom God the Father is well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The Father loved the Son with an infinite love, and yet sent Jesus to die for us, for ME. He died in agony and misery, bearing my evils, but rose again to lead me. God paid a great price for us in Christ Jesus. If He paid a great price for us, our Father will not abandon those He paid so dearly for. The Apostle says:

Romans 5:1-6 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

God paid an infinite price for my salvation and for your salvation. We who are Christians are at peace with God. God is our Father, and knows us by name. God numbers the very hairs of our head (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7). If this is all true then we are not to worry. Jesus told us:

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

In Christ we have peace. In the world we have tribulation. If my heart and mind is filled with worldliness then I will have tribulation. If my heart and mind are filled with Christ and His Words then I will have peace.

Worry does not come from God. Our God is the Lord of PEACE. Not of worry.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 … Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means.

Isaiah 26:3-4 3 Thou {O Lord} wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4 Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:

Are your minds centered on Christ Jesus, or are you filling your minds with the pandemonium of the world? Dr. David Jeremiah – a preacher I love to listen to – writes:

There are four powerful evidences of a centered life in Jesus Christ: You are gladly identified with Christ. You recognize Jesus as the authority in your life. You have a deep sense of spiritual and personal security. And you rest in Christ, knowing that He is the master of your destiny. In Christ you live a brand new life in a brand new way. When everything else is out of control, set your affections on the One who is in control. Everything you put your hope in other than Jesus will fail. Jesus Christ alone is faithful and changeless, and will never fail you!”

To Achieve Peace In The Midst Of Turmoil You Must SET YOUR MIND On Christ Jesus

Back to our text. Look at the first four words of what we read today:

Philippians 4:6 Be careful1 for nothing2

These words are the Greek verb merimnao1 {pronounced mer-im-nah’-o} combined with the adjective medeis2 {pronounced may-dice’}. A much better translation of these words is:

quit worrying about things

When you worry about the things that are going on around you, all you are doing is filling your soul with negative emotions. Someone told me that “we may see the worst of this coronavirus pandemic in the next two weeks – much worse!” My reply to that person was “so what? What is worrying about it going to do?” Will your worries about it somehow avert the problem? Will the dead come back to life because your worried about it? When the Apostle said “quit worrying about things” this is a COMMAND.

Worry sickens us.
Worry robs us of our joy.
Worry fills us with darkness.
Worry does no good whatsoever.

Jesus put it this way:

Matthew 6:25-34 Therefore I say unto you, {Do not worry} for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by {worrying} can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why {do you worry about clothing}? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore {stop worrying}, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do {unbelievers} seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 {Do not worry} for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The network news loves to broadcast the bad, never the good. These networks are not endorsed by Jesus Christ – not even FOX. You are told the bad news so that you will tune in, and they can sell more commercial time to businesses. Worrying does nothing for you. It subtracts from the quality of your life.

Rather than worry, the Apostle says:

Philippians 4:6  {Stop worrying about it} but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

The solution for the Christian is to draw closer to God, to communicate your concerns to Him – to draw closer to our source of power. In this mighty angelic conflict, where the forces of evil and the forces of God collide, the solution to the conditions of America and the world is undying allegiance to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

There’s an old Mel Gibson movie I love called “The Patriot”. In that movie at the last battle the American Militia is fighting the somewhat superior and elegantly dressed British Army. The battle begins to go against the Americans, and the Americans begin to turn and rapidly run away. Mel – [playing the Patriot] sees the American Militia withdrawing. He runs forward, grabs the American flag, and yelling loudly waves it over his head while running TOWARD the enemy. The American Militia sees this and responds, turning from their confused retreat, and runs back to the fight.

Britain lost the battle, and sued for peace.

Christians, we must not allow the enemy to run us scared. We must follow the colors, follow Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian you are citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom, and Jesus Christ is your King. We are not of this world …. Jesus was very clear on this. He stated:

(John 17:14-17 KJV) I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. {15} I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil {literally, the Evil One}. {16} They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. {17} Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

We are told in the Scripture that the battle going on around us is not physical, but it is spiritual. Who do I wrestle against? Who wants my demise, my failure, my loss? Who wants to see my children cursed, my wife harmed, my life set in disarray? No earthly foe desires this, but the Scripture says:

(Ephesians 6:12 KJV) For we wrestle NOT against flesh and blood, but AGAINST PRINCIPALITIES, AGAINST POWERS, AGAINST THE RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD, AGAINST SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS in high places.

NOT flesh and blood, BUT principalities. NOT flesh and blood, BUT powers. NOT flesh and blood, BUT rulers of the darkness. NOT flesh and blood, BUT spiritual wickedness in high places. Listen Beloved: the war we fight may outwardly look physical, but it is truly a matter of the thought life.

Draw near to God in prayer and in obedience, draw near to the Colors, to Jesus Christ, and He will post guard on your hearts and minds.

Philippians 4:6-9 {Stop worrying} but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

We draw near to God. The world in panic draws near to NOT God, but the Christian draws near to God. We use:

Prayer
Supplication
Thanksgiving

The more weird things grow, the more we should pray. Billy Graham wrote in his book Answers to Life’s Problems:

Is prayer a central part of your life? Pray for your own needs. Pray for the needs of others. Praise God in prayer, and pray for His guidance in your life. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Remember, Christ prayed repeatedly, and if He – the sinless Son of God – needed to pray, how much more should we learn to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).”

We need to pray for our national, state, and local leadership.
We need to pray for our churches.
We need to pray for our communities, our neighbors.

But as we pray we also need to be thankful. We need to thank God for the blessings that we have. He has given us so very much. We need to thank God for the opportunities and open doors that this time of trouble will bring to the Church. What better time to share the confidence we have in Jesus with others than right now!

Take Control Of Your Thought-Life

After telling us to stop worrying and start praying and thanking God, the Apostle now tells us to take control of what goes into our minds and hearts. We read:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever10 things are true4, whatsoever10 things are honest5, whatsoever10 things are just6, whatsoever10 things are pure7, whatsoever10 things are lovely8, whatsoever10 things are of good report9; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

When I was a little boy I used to try and get mamma to buy the breakfast cereal that had a little prize in it. You know, a decoder ring, or some other piece of plastic junk that today I wouldn’t even look at twice. I have never found anything at the bottom of a box of cereal that wasn’t cheap, easily breakable, and literally useless. If you want the peace of God you need to quit feeding your souls the drivel of tv.

You need to turn to the Word of God. You need to fill your minds with His Words.

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament says of this verse:

“Whatsoever (hosa). Thus he introduces six adjectives picturing Christian ideals, old-fashioned and familiar words … They are pertinent now when so much filth is flaunted before the world in books, magazines and moving pictures under the name of realism (the slime of the gutter and the cess-pool).”

What are Things that are TRUE”? When Jesus prayed for His Church before He was crucified, Jesus prayed:

John 17:12-17 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

God’s Word is truth. When Jesus stood before Pilate just before He was crucified, Jesus said:

John 18:37-38 … To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

The world, like Pilate, views “truth” as fluid, determined by whatever a person “feels”. The Christian views “truth” as certain as gravity. We believe God’s Word to be “truth”. Absolute truth. Timeless truth. So I often people tell me,

Brother David, that Bible is an old book. It was written back then, and times have changed. It’s obsolete.”

To which I say, HOGWASH! A pound was a pound 10 years ago, it was a pound 50 years ago, it was a pound a million years ago. Gravity doesn’t change. Neither does God’s Word. As Christians we are to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-4). The Bible was written by God through faithful men. The sum of God’s Word is TRUTH (Psalm 119:160). God’s Words are TRUTH (2 Samuel 7:28). The Apostle said:

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

We need to get back to the Bible. We need to feed our souls the Word of God daily. Not CNN, ABC, CBS, or even FOX. The Bible. What God has said. We must take control of our minds. Rest in Jesus, dear Christian. Read and rest in His Word. Use this wonderful opportunity before us – staying at home – to pick up and read God’s Word, and to pray.

And if you are not a Christian, may I invite you to turn your lives over to Him Who loves you? Do it today. The Scripture promises:

Romans 10:8-13 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen! Amen!

Posted in Philippians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

The 9-1-1 Psalm (Psalm 91)

matt-chesin-j6oWhh7l4Ig-unsplash

Photo by Matt Chesin on Unsplash

As Sherry and I were coming home today from the Church house we saw an ambulance and two police cruisers at a neighbor’s home. Though I don’t know the details I know that someone was hurt, and someone dialed 9-1-1. When we dial 9-1-1 those who we call “First Responders” come to us to help us. Sometimes we need the Police, and other times the Fire Department or an ambulance. Thank God for our 9-1-1 operators and those responders who come to help us in need.

Psalm 91 can be likened to a Heavenly 9-1-1 call. It is a beautiful Psalm. Many turn to this Psalm for comfort, and as we have been under the threat of this pandemic called Covid-19, we all need comfort. How about picking up your Bibles and dialing 9-1-1, Psalm 91:1 with me. Are you ready? Let’s read this beautiful Psalm together:

Psalm 91-1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

There Are Wonderful Promises From God In This Text

As we dial 9-1-1, Who is our First Responder? It is God Himself. We are told:

Psalm 91:3 Surely {God} shall DELIVER thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

  • If you are being deliberately hunted by an enemy, or under threat from deadly pestilence (which we could say is Covid-19) then God will deliver you. Trust in Him. The Bible says that “God is faithful”:

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

    1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

When God is called, God will come. We’re given a beautiful picture in these words:

Psalm 91:4 {God} shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:

  • Continuing with the theme of God delivering you from the “fowler” (bird hunter), our Lord is now poetically pictured as a Bird who guards His offspring by covering them with His own body.

    Years ago I saw a picture of a place in Yellowstone Park that was decimated by fire. One of the Park Rangers found the dead and burned body of a female bird. When he turned her over, underneath were several baby chicks, absolutely untouched by fire or heat. God puts Himself over top of His children, lovingly guarding us from many things that would harm us.

    But God is not the only First Responder who comes to us when we dial 9-1-1. We read next:

Psalm 91:11 For {God} shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

  • God assigns guardian angels to His Children to protect them from harm, as long as we stay in His will. The devil, tempting Jesus in the wilderness, told our Lord:

    Matthew 4:6-7 {Satan said unto Jesus} If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. {Our Lord} Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

God may assign guardian angels to us, but this does not mean that we should be foolish with our lives. We are to do all things “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24). While going through this pandemic do not behave foolishly but keep yourselves clean, your hands washed, and use common sense.

One show I used to watch diligently when it was on television was the Beverly Hillbillies. One day Granny Clampett said – and I love this – “If common sense was lard, some people wouldn’t have enough to grease a pie pan”. The angels watch over God’s children, but don’t text and drive. Don’t walk out into traffic without looking. Clean your hands. Watch your hygiene. Take precautions. Please, use the common sense God gave you!

To Whom Are These Wonderful Promises Made?

Any citizen of the United States can dial 9-1-1 and a First Responder will come and give aid. But what of God’s 9-1-1? Are the promises of Psalm 91 made to me? They could be, if you are a child of God by faith in Christ. We read:

Psalm 91:9-10 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

The word “because” gives us a condition to these great and wonderful promises. If you have made the LORD (Yahweh) the refuge you run to, even the MOST HIGH (Elyon) the place where you stay (your habitation), God will protect you. The promise is to the one who loves the Lord and lives with the Lord – He is not just your incidental place you visit every now and again, nor your vacation spot – but your HOME. We read:

Psalm 91:1 He that dwelleth (יָשַׁב yâshab, pronounced yaw-shab’ – take up permanent residence in) in the secret place of the most High (עֶלְיוֹן ʻelyôwn, pronounced el-yone’ – the Supreme) shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (שַׁדַּי Shadday, pronounced shad-dah’-ee – Almighty, God of all Provision).

Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord (Yahweh, the Great I AM), He is my refuge and my fortress: my God (אֱלֹהִים ʼĕlôhîym, pronounced el-o-heem’, the Triune Name of God); in him will I trust.

Jesus told us in John 14:21-23 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

This is very similar to what we read in our Psalm. God said:

Psalm 91:14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

When we “set our love on God”, doing as Jesus told us:

Matthew 22:37 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Which is a reflection of what God told His Old Covenant people in:

Deuteronomy 6:5 … And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

The promises of Psalm 91 are to those who love the Lord with ALL. Not with just a tiny bit of our hearts, but with ALL our hearts. He is worthy of this. God has a people. They are no one denomination, or as some brag, non-denominational. God has a people who love Him. Those who love God know that our God is faithful. He does not break His Word. God says:

Psalm 91:15-16 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

If we love God, when we call upon Him He hears our cries. He answers us. He is with us in trouble, and with us in sunshine. God promises to deliver the child of God, to give us long life, and to bless us with salvation.

The Christian – Born Of The Spirit – Need Not Fear

 About two hours ago this March 29th, 2020 the Nashville Channel 5 News reported 1720 cases of Covid-19 in Tennessee, with 7 deaths. Many are in panic over this virus. Fear grips our nation. But Beloved, if you are a Christian – born of the Spirit of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – you need not fear. If you love the Lord, you need not fear. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28-31 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

God has promised – as our Father – to look after we who are His children. If …

Psalm 91:4-6 … his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

God’s children need not fear nor live in panic. We are to live in the palm of our Lord’s nail scarred hand. We are to trust Him with all our hearts. When God says:

Psalm 91:7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Why do the thousand and the ten thousand fall? It is as Jesus said. “broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there: Because narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a part of the Family of God. You are an adopted child of God, indwelt by Christ’s Spirit. You need not fear, but should daily seek to walk in the shadow of your Savior and Lord.

Shine, Christian, Shine. Do not whine, but Shine! If you are not a Christian, run to Him Who loves you and gave His life for you. Trust in His Word. For He has said:

Romans 10:9-13 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord! Amen and Amen!

Posted in Psalms, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Social Distancing (Red Letters #17)

erik-mclean-tQ5QE587veU-unsplash

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Matthew 7:21-29 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Christianity Is Very Social

In the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic we are being encouraged to “practice social distancing”. Humans are social creatures, and Christians are even more so. I know few Christians who do not appreciate a warm handshake, a pat on the back, or a hug with “I love you” attached. The Christian faith is all about love, not distance.

In these Pandemic times we should practice “social distancing” with one another – but NOT WITH GOD.

No one should ever stray far from the Lord. How’s your relationship with Jesus? Does Jesus know you. Or is He “socially distant” from you because of your heart? Will Jesus say when He sees you, “Enter in My good and faithful servant”, or will He say “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity!”

The Old Covenant and the Law put a “social distance” between God and man. This was not because of God, but because of man. Moses, the arbitrator of the Law, loved the Lord. Yet God gave the Law through Moses.

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Moses was not saved by the Law that God gave him. Moses was saved by G-R-A-C-E. The Scripture says …

Exodus 33:17 … the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

Moses found G-R-A-C-E in God’s sight. He loved God, and God knew Moses by name. Moses and God were not socially distant. Why? Because Moses practiced repentance and FAITH in GOD. Not so the children of Israel. When Moses went up on the Mountain to receive the Law from God, God told Moses …

Exodus 19:12-13 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: 13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

Why did God do this? Well let me ask you,

Why are We being told to practice “Social Distancing”?
Because of a deadly virus called Covid-19.
But there is a deadlier thing among humanity,
a thing God did not want to get too close to. It is called SIN.

Moses, saved by Grace, was not socially distant from God. God called him, saying

Moses, My son Moses, My servant Moses – come!”

But the unrepentant Israelite, the murmurer, the complainer, the wallower in sin, the contaminated, to those God told Moses “Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.” (Exodus 19:21). Not all would perish. Just “many”. No one is allowed in the presence of the Almighty unless they know Him.

Sadly, the people did not seek Grace from God. Fearfully they told Moses,

Exodus 20:19-20 … Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

Israel is a picture of the Church goer, the religious person who knows the rituals, knows the rites, knows perhaps even the Bible, but does not know the Lord.

Israel is like so many who go to Church weekly, faithfully. They know OF the Lord, but need a priest or a Moses to stand in the gap, representing and praying for the people. The Law came by Moses because the people rejected the Grace of God and practiced by default social distancing from God. This is what fascinated people about Jesus when He came teaching. The Bible says:

Matthew 7:28-29 … the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

The “scribes” were the copiers of the Old Testament Scripture. From copying the Word of God down day after day and year after year, the Scribes had memorized vast amounts of the Scripture. They knew their Bible. They knew what the Bible said. But the Scribes did not know the Author of the Bible. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, spoke as one having authority (ἐξουσία exousía, [pronounced ex-oo-see’-ah]). Jesus spoke as if He were acquainted with the Author of the Book. In fact, Jesus spoke as if He were the Author of the Book. Each time Jesus said,

But I say unto you”

He was saying, “This is what you may have been taught – but here’s the TRUTH”. Moses knew God, and was a recipient of Grace. But Jesus Christ IS GOD, and is the Giver of Grace. God is now among us, and He is Jesus!

Are You “Saying” Jesus “Is” Lord,
Or “Receiving” Jesus “As” Lord?

The reason that God gave the Law was to show Israel that they were sinners in need of a Savior. The reason that God sent His Son Jesus to this earth was to show us that God WANTS US TO BE CLOSE TO HIM. We cannot, however, receive Jesus as just another rabbi or just another teacher. Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, God become Man.

And Jesus IS LORD. He is ESPECIALLY LORD of His people.

The Scripture declares that Jesus …

Philippians 2:8-11 8 … being found in fashion as a man, {Jesus} humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus IS Lord. The Apostles preached “Jesus is Lord”:

Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same JESUS, whom ye have crucified, BOTH LORD AND CHRIST.

Jesus Christ is both Lord and Christ (Messiah, Savior). He is the means by which we receive Grace. God gave the Law to Israel through Moses (a man saved by Grace) so that they could understand their need for Grace. The Law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:21-26).

We all need the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ. We need to know Him. Do you know Him? Jesus said:

John 6:40 … this is the will of {God the Father} that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus is BOTH LORD AND CHRIST (Messiah/ Savior)! Is this in your hearts, or just in your mouths? You are saved by faith in Christ the Lord, and Jesus willingly and lovingly will save any who come to Him. Jesus promised:

Luke 19:10 … {I} the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Do you know Him?

Christianity is a personal relationship with
the personal and ever present Biblical God.

Jesus Christ came so that we might have a day to day relationship with Almighty God. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 9:6 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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Jesus Christ is the virgin born God-Man Who left Heaven to be with us.

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US. (quoting Isaiah 7:14)

This is Who Jesus is. He is not just a Rabbi, or a well studied Prophet. Jesus Christ is God the Son. The Father says of the Son:

Hebrews 1:5-10 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. … 8 But UNTO THE SON {GOD THE FATHER} SAITH, THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOR EVER AND EVER: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

Jesus was with the Father in the beginning creating all things. John said:

John 1:1-4 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. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? Oh, I hope you do. Jesus has a name above every name. The Angels of God worship Him. He is, with Father and Spirit, blessed Elohiym, creator of all things. If you do not know Him, let today be the day you call upon Jesus. Call upon Him as Lord, Lord, seeking the salvation that only comes upon a person by Grace. This salvation is freely given to all who will receive Christ.

It Is Not WHAT We Do But WHO We Love

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Have you received Jesus Christ as BOTH Lord and Savior?
We receive Jesus as Savior because we are not able to save ourselves.
We receive Jesus as Lord because He rules His people.

Titus 3:3-7 For we ourselves also were {once} foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Receive Christ as Savior, Follow Christ as Lord

You cannot have one without the other. The faith of Christ is not a buffet where we pick and choose: “I like this salvation thing, for God promises me Heaven through Christ. But I hate this Lordship thing. I want to be Lord of my own life, so I’ll turn up my nose at that.” What does Jesus say?

Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

There are moral and good people that do good deeds on this earth. There are preachers and Bible teachers and deacons and Sunday School teachers who do good works. There are people who have visited hospitals and nursing homes. There are those who have cooked food for the bereaved and suffering, and many who have fed or clothed the homeless. “In Christ’s name they did many wonderful works”. They are memorialized in pictures on hospital walls. And yet Jesus says to them:

I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity

The good work done apart from a relationship with Christ is of no eternal value. These people – like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day – were doing good with hands that had no knowledge of Jesus. The word translated “knew” here is the Greek γινώσκω ginṓskō, {pronounced ghin-oce’-ko}, which means “to know by experience”.

If you KNOW Jesus and are not socially distant from Him, you will be imitators of God. Jesus chastised the religious of His day, saying:

Matthew 23:23 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

It was good that the Pharisees and scribes were tithing – Jesus said they ought to have done that. But Jesus said that these same Pharisees omitted the weightier matters of the Law:

Judgment
Mercy
Faith

The Law of God promised Judgment upon all for sin. But God in His mercy reached out in Christ, and offered Grace to all who would receive Him by faith. The Pharisees and scribes lived their lives pleasing themselves, not the Lord. Beloved, if you are a born again believer in Christ, you will serve the Lord Jesus in Christlike love. You will do the things He says to do. Christ is the Head of the Church and the Savior of the Body (Ephesians 5:23). We are not dominated by fear or by sin.

I have decided to follow Jesus. Have you?

The Saved Are Stable Because They Obey The Savior

Matthew 7:24-25 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

Tragedy and trial comes to all of us.

Beloved, unbelievers will die from Covid-19.
Believers may die from Covid-19.

The young and old will suffer from Covid-19.

The Scripture truthfully says:

Job 5:7 … man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

Regardless as to trials, Jesus promised to be with those whom He loves. You who love Him will live your lives cherishing His red lettered words. When the trials come you will be buffeted, but destroyed. Why? Because the life founded on the Rock that is God is a life that cannot be upended.

But to those who hear but do not receive Jesus as both Lord and Savior, what is the promise unto them? Jesus said:

Matthew 7:26-27 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

A father helped his children build a beautiful sandcastle on the beach. They got mostly done, but the children grew tired and the day long. Daddy helped the children back to the car, and they all headed back to the motel, promises of “We’ll come back tomorrow” ringing in the kids ears. The next day the family returned to the same beautiful beach. But to the children’s dismay the sandcastle they worked so hard on was gone. The tide came in and took it all away.

If you are building your lives on the words of Christ, then nothing will upend your life. Storms will come. Covid-19 will grab headlines. People will panic, and buy out the grocery stores. But you will remain. Why? Because Christ Jesus is our Rock. The tides of time and trials will not wipe out the life built on Christ. Let us commit to knowing Him by faith, and to be faithful followers of Him in love. May God bless your lives with His Word and His empowering Spirit. Amen! Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

Narrow Gate Of Salvation (Red Letters Series #16)

Matthew_7_13t20_Red_Letters_16_Narrow_Gate_Of_Salvation_Riverview_CVR_

Matthew 7:12-20 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. 13 Enter ye in at the strait1 gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait1 is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

After much prayer and meditation I believe the Lord is telling me that the key to understanding this text is what the King James translates as “strait”:

Enter ye in at the strait1 gate

The word translated as “strait” is the Greek στενός stenós, (pronounced sten-os’) which means a place that is narrow because of obstacles or distractions that are close by”. Jesus is telling tells His followers to enter in at the narrow gate.

The way to DESTRUCTION and DEATH is wide and unobstructed. The way to PRESERVATION and LIFE is narrow – not because God limits it, but because there are obstacles in its way that God had nothing to do with.

God Is Not The Obstacle To The Narrow Way

Some have said that God Himself is the obstacle to the narrow way. Some believers (and they are believers in Christ) feel that Christ only came for a select group called “The Elect”. Those who feel this reach that conclusion, I believe, honestly, though I cannot agree with them. I believe that Jesus Christ came and gave His life for ALL, not just a select group. The familiar Bible school Scripture I think we have all learned (I meet few who cannot say it) is:

John 3:16 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.

God so loved – not just the nice, the moral, the white, the black, the sincere, the whatever. He so LOVED the WORLD. What did God do? He sent his Beloved Son Jesus Christ to die for the world. The scripture says WHOSOEVER believes in Him shall not perish, but have life. The Apostle recorded these words of our Lord, and later wrote:

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.

Jesus Christ came and took the penalty of sin on Himself so that ANY MAN – any person regardless of race or gender – can have an ADVOCATE with the Father. When Christ is received by faith He stands between us and the Father, covering our sins by His own dear self. He does this for any who believe in Him. Christ is the “propitiation” (ἱλασμός hilasmós, hil-as-mos’; atonement or covering, appeasement to God) not just for MY sins, but for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD. When Jesus told His Church to go out and tell others of His wonderful Gospel Jesus did not limit us. He said:

Matthew 28:19 … Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

and before He ascended to the right hand of God our Savior commanded:

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

God has never hindered the Gospel message to any. The narrow way is wide open for whosoever will hear it. The Apostle said:

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

The free gift of salvation is to all – ALL – who will receive it. He did not come and die just for some, but again we read:

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Jesus Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), of whom I am chief. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for US (Romans 5:8). Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). Did Christ die for you? Are you a sinner? Then yes, He died for you. God is no obstacle to the narrow way of salvation. None whatsoever!

Humans Are The Obstacle To The Narrow Way

Driving through our beloved city of Columbia, going down Trotwood Drive, the road changes to West 7th Street which is now a terrible mess. What used to be an area easy to traverse, a lovely area across from Harris’ Grocery and our Columbia Post Office, is now a terrible mess with metal plates, orange cones, potholes, and confused looking men standing around looking at earth moving equipment. Piles of rubble have obstructed traffic. I am amazed there are not more accidents in that area, especially since it is the road directly in front of Oakes and Nicoles Funeral Home. Why is it such a mess? Because the city fathers decided we needed to do something with the pipes and infrastructure of that section of road. I’m sure they had a good reason to do it. I just wish the people doing the work would finish it soon. It is a mess.

It is a man made mess. God didn’t make that mess. Humans did.

The barriers around the narrow way of salvation are not there because God put them there. These “orange cones” and “piles of debris” are not in place because our Heavenly Father wants to limit those in His Kingdom. These barriers are in place because of US.

What was the very first message Jesus ever preached? It was:

Matthew 4:17 … REPENT: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The word translated “repent” is the Greek μετανοέω metanoéō, {pronounced met-an-o-eh’-o}, which means “change your mind for the the better, think differently, reconsider and begin to think correctly”. The beginning of salvation is not for GOD to change HIS MIND, but for US to change OUR MINDS. God is our Father in Heaven. He sent His Son to reach out to us in love. We must change our minds, and stop being god. Someone once said:

If you are your own master, then you are a poor one
for you have a FOOL for a servant!

God made us in His image and in His likeness (Genesis 1:26). We were made to follow God. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, summed it up this way:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 … Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

When Jesus came to this earth He preached a Gospel that required we ALL REPENT and FOLLOW HIM.

Mark 1:14-15 … Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT ye, and BELIEVE the gospel.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the only Potentate Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:16) left His Throne in Heaven to offer citizenship to all who would come to Him. And yet many today still decided to make war with the Lamb, Who shall overcome them: for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings (Revelation 17:14). Jesus came to this earth and opened the borders of Heaven. He hung out a sign not saying “Help Wanted”, but “Sinners Wanted”. Any who come to Him are promised the blessings of salvation not just in this life, but in the life to come.

And yet we put up road blocks, pot holes, and debris in front of the narrow way. What are some of these obstructions?

  • There is the “Politically Correct” obstruction. In our day it is fashionable to say “There are many roads to God”. For this reason many who are false prophets have stood in pulpits saying, “Whatever your God is, just believe in Him and you’ll be all right”. Jesus spoke about these false prophets in our text today.

Matthew 7:15-16 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

These men and women look like sheep, like the saved of Christ. They sound good. It sounds loving to say “God loves everyone. Just as long as you believe in the God of your choice, and you love, then all will be well”. This type of nonsense has been in the Church from the very beginning. The Apostle Paul addressed it at Galatia:

Galatians 1:6-12 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The devil has perverted the Word of God from the beginning. He did it as a serpent in the Garden of Eden, telling Eve “Hath God really said you shall not eat of every tree in the Garden? If so, God is just trying to deprive you! (See Genesis 3:1-5)”. Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, and brought death into the world. Snakelike preachers slither into pulpits and preach a gospel that never was in order to appease the world. The point of the Gospel is not to appease the world, but to appease the wrath of God. We are all sinners in need of Jesus.

Beloved, there are not many ways to salvation. This is a lie which comes from satan. Jesus was very clear when He said:

John 14:6 … I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

You will find no place in Scripture where Christ ever preached another as a means of salvation. Jesus Christ alone is the only way unto God.

Jesus told this to a Chief Pharisee named Nicodemus:

John 3:15, 18 … That whosoever believeth in {Jesus} should not perish, but have eternal 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.

Jesus Christ is the sole Messiah. He is the Only Way that a person may find peace with God. Jesus is the Door of the Sheep:

John 10:7, 9 … Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. … 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

There is no salvation, no rightness with God the Father and King of Heaven, unless you have received the Prince of Heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord. He came to give life, and promises eternal life to all who will receive Him.

  • There is the “I’ll Come To Jesus Another Day” obstacle. Despite the fact that the Scripture says “behold, NOW is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2” people harden their hearts and put off what they should do this very day. If nothing else, the CORONAVIRUS should have taught us that we are NOT GUARANTEED TOMORROW. “NOW is come salvation (Revelation 12:10)”.

Someone asked Jesus once:

Luke 13:23 … Lord, are there few that be saved?

Jesus told that person:

Luke 13:24-29 … Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

Humans love to procrastinate. We put things off until tomorrow. But Beloved, if you are not right with God, following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then COME TODAY. Do not wait.

  • There is the “Self Righteous” pothole. Throughout Jesus’ ministry on this earth, His greatest enemies were the Pharisees. The Pharisees were good at keeping the Law of Moses. In fact, they added to the Law of Moses to make it even tougher. They were so focused on their works, and so certain that their works made them righteous with God, that they ended up being the major players in the crucifixion of Christ. Self righteousness is so dangerous because it blinds a person to their own need of salvation. What does the Scripture say?

Romans 3:10-12 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

The Bible is not saying that there are no moral or “good” people. It is saying that when we are measured for righteousness according to God’s standard – which is Himself – we all fall short. It is commendable that a person be law abiding. I would rather be around law abiding, morally responsible people, much more than be around the lawless and inconsiderate. Yet no work that you do can bring you to the narrow way unto salvation. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:25-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

The Pharisees were just like each and every one of us are. God can see our hearts. He knows what is on the inside. The Pharisees were not following the Law out of love for God. They were following the Law to look good to one another, and to those around them. They loved the acclamation of the fellow man. They loved being seen as spiritual “Supermen”. Yet the inside was still rotten.

They needed Jesus. You and I need Jesus. Our works are not enough to earn us Heaven. Good works become an obstacle that keeps a person from entering that narrow way unto life and blessed peace.

The Narrow Way Brings An Inner Change

Matthew 7:18-20 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

When a person repents – changes their mind – and comes to Jesus Christ surrendered, something happens to that person. Before salvation we are all “corrupt trees”. What did Jesus say about the “corrupt tree”? He said:

a corrupt tree CANNOT bring forth good fruit

IEvery person is born into this life a “corrupt tree”. We cannot of ourselves do good in such a way that it pleases God. Why? Because sin taints us. It’s like going to a fine, top dollar restaurant, and ordering a $50 steak. When it comes out it’s cooked perfect. It’s seasoned wonderfully. There are beautiful, perfectly cooked mushrooms on the side, and a wonderfully loaded baked potato. Then you notice something. The chef didn’t put your meal on a nice, clean plate. He took the lid off of the garbage can and put all that beautiful food on that filthy lid.

That’s how our good works look like to God if we are without Christ. Everything we touch or do is tainted with the garbage of sin. But when when we come to Christ believing, receiving Him as both Lord and Savior, what happens? We are told in Scripture:

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

When you come to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, God Himself changes the heart of the tree. What was a corrupt tree is now a good tree. And what did Jesus say about the good tree? The good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit. Once you are saved by faith in Christ, God changes you. You cease being a child of Adam and become a child of God. And as a child of God your behavior changes. You do as Jesus says. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

You do not just do good to those who did good to you. You treat all people – even your enemies – in the same way you want to be treated. You obey God’s Law not to be saved, but because you are saved. Oh Beloved, are you saved? If not, this very day is the day to make your life right with God. Receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Receive Him without delay. Do not follow the crowd, but the Christ.

May God the Holy Spirit touch your hearts and minds through this message. For the glory of God. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , , ,

Faith Is (Names of God Series)

Faith_Is_CVR

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6 Now faith is the substance1 of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders2 obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. … 6 But without faith it is impossible to please {God}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

What is that which we call “Faith”? A lot of people define “faith” a lot of different ways. But how does GOD define “faith”? After all, this is what matters most. Let’s break down our focal text:

The word translated “substance” is the Greek ὑπόστασις hypóstasis, (pronounced hoop-os’-tas-is) which means “the firm foundation, the confidence, a substantial quality of a thing”. I hear people speak of “blind faith”, but “blind faith” is not the faith of the Christian. Our faith has substance.

Faith Is That Which Connects Us To The Real God

Even when things do not go our way, our faith is in the Faithful God Who loves us and has promised to personally stay with us, as in:

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for {God} hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

The Prophet Job, though he lost his riches, his family (all except his bitter wife), his business and his body, nevertheless said:

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

faith is the substance1 of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen

Faith focuses not on the things that are visible, but on the reality of the invisible God Who saved us. He is not a figment of our imagination, a pretend “Friend”, or a fairytale. Faith is that which every Christian has experienced. I use myself for an example.

As I look back over my life I can honestly say, though I have never actually seen the God of Scripture with my eyes, I have experienced His very real presence. He was with me on the day of my salvation. The Pastor, whom I only remember as “Brother Edwards”, issued a call to salvation. As he did, I felt the touch of God on my body three distinct and different times. When I went forward to pray the Church moved and, in love, went forward and prayed with me. When I rose from that altar that day I can truly say that I died, but God gave me new life. My old life was gone, a bitter memory. My new life in Christ began. I can see numerous times in my life where God has answered my prayers. These were not coincidences, or fate, but distinct actions of a Creator God.

Faith is more than just a feeling. Yes, faith brings good feelings, but faith is much more than that. Faith does business with the true Biblical God! God is! God is!

Hebrews 11:2 For by {faith} the elders2 obtained a good report3.

The word translated “elders” is the Greek πρεσβύτερος presbýteros, (pronounced pres-boo’-ter-os), which is a reference to the Old Testament Saints. The Old Testament Saints “by faith” “Obtained a good report”. The last four words of the above text is the Greek μαρτυρέω martyréō, (pronounced mar-too-reh’-o), from which we get our word “martyred”. A “martyr” is a person who dies contending for what they believe is true. Many Christians were martyred since Christ came, rose from the grave, and ascended into Heaven. The Child of God has always been a target for martyrdom.

The world despises the light that is Christ. The darkness has always hated believers in God. Jesus told the Pharisees and even His own step-brothers …

John 7:6-7 Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

The unsaved world hates Jesus. Why? Because He is the Light and sin is the darkness. The world wants to retain its sin, to wallow in its sin. Jesus tells His Church:

John 15:18-21 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

The world despises the Blood bought sinner turned follower of Christ. The world does not understand those who live to please God. The elders – the Old Testament Saint, experienced rejection, persecution, and even martyrdom. Yet though the saints of God have always been sought out for destruction, those who love Jesus continue to follow Him regardless as to what others may do. Our context gives us some examples of those who were saved by faith.

To illustrate this thing we call “faith”, the Bible starts off with two presbuteros or elders who were subjected to martyréō – they died for and in their faith.

Abel Died FOR His Faith In God

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Abel stands as the first martyr for faith in the Bible. “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice”. What is interesting about Abel is that there is not one word in Scripture recorded from Abel. His actions proved his faith. Abel was saved by faith in God, trusting and loving the Lord. Abel loved the Lord enough to DO what the Lord told him to do. Let’s go back and review this in the Old Testament.

When Adam and Eve fell from perfection in the Garden of Eden, before God sent them out of the Garden the Bible says:

Genesis 3:21-23 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God (YaHWeh ‘Elohiym) make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God (YaHWeh ‘Elohiym4) said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Though Adam and Eve disobeyed God – Yahweh (the Eternal I AM) Elohiym (the name of the Godhead) “made coats of skins, and clothed them. This was an act of Grace. Adam and Eve deserved death for what they did. God could have wiped them out at this very moment. But instead YaHWeH Elohiym sacrificed an animal, and took it’s skin to be a covering for our fallen foreparents.

This is a picture of the Cross of Christ. Jesus Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son, came from Heaven to die for our sins. He was, is, and will always be “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). He had to die to cover our sins. The animal that God used to cover Adam and Eve’s sin had to die to do so. With that action in the Garden of Eden God established that without blood there is no remission or corrective action over sin. Adam taught this truth to his children. How do I know? Because this is what led to Abel’s murder. The Bible tells us that:

Genesis 4:3-5 3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord (YaHWeH). 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord (YaHWeH) had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Cain was the elder brother to Abel. I am sure that Adam taught Cain to bring animal sacrifices to Yahweh, the Great “I Am”.

Cain, like so many today who profess to be Christian, decided he would do it “my way”.

Cain brought fruit of the ground to the eternal God. I am sure that this was very good fruit. Yet God rejected this. Why? Again, because of Christ. God wanted to show the Old Testament believers that “apart from shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin”. Jesus Christ must one day come. The world must understand that we ourselves cannot make ourselves righteous before God. Sin must have death. Sin must have the shed blood of the Redeemer.

Cain brought the wrong offering. Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. He sacrificed a lamb without spot or blemish. Yahweh loved this offering, but did not receive Cain’s offering.

This enraged Cain. God told Cain:

Genesis 4:6-7 … the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

God – the Eternal I AM – did not turn His back on Cain. He loved Cain enough to tell him the truth. “If you do well, Cain, I’ll accept your offering. Go and get me a animal without spot or blemish. Quit trying to do it your way. I’m God, you’re not!”

Oh how I love that our God is the God of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, and … you get the point. Our God did not slam Cain. He just told Cain “do what you have been taught. It dishonors Me when you do not listen. Get your eyes off of your pride, and do what I say. If you don’t, your sin will snowball into something far worse.”

Cain left God’s Presence to kill his brother Abel. When the Great I AM asked Cain “Where is your brother Abel”, Cain deflected God by saying “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God told Cain:

Genesis 4:10-11 {YaHWeH}said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

Though Abel never had a recorded word in Scripture, God said “his blood is crying out to Me”. Abel believed in God. He had faith in God, and focus on the Eternal I AM though it put him at odds with his older brother. Abel died for his faith. He was martyred for his faith.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which HE OBTAINED WITNESS (μαρτυρέω martyreō) that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Abel was the first martyr in human history. He lived for God despite what his brother said.

The proof of a persons salvation is the witness of their works. If a person says “I love God” but then refuses to do what God has decreed, that person has no witness of salvation. The Apostle speaks of people like this who infiltrate the Church,

Titus 1:15-16 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Beloved, your works do not save you, but once you are saved you will work for God.
You will outwardly show the love
you have for Him inwardly.

Abel’s witness was that he was willing to have his blood shed in order to do what the Lord Who loved him told him to do. The Bible says of Abel’s work:

Hebrews 11:4 … by {his martyrdom} he being dead yet speaketh.

Abel’s shed blood stands as an eternal Witness as to what genuine faith is. Genuine faith is willing to die for God. Fake faith is willing to look good, to dress up, to do many things. But only the saved are willing to be martyred for their faith. Our Lord Jesus called Abel,

Righteous Abel”

Why? Because his actions proved how much he loved and trusted God.

Enoch Died To The World But Lived To God

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Unlike Abel, Enoch had a family. The Bible says:

Genesis 5:18, 21-22 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: … 21 And Enoch5 lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 And Enoch walked with God (אֱלֹהִים

‘elohiym) after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

Jared had a child he named “Enoch”, which is the Hebrew חֲנוֹךְ Chănôwk, (pronounced khan-oke’), which means “dedicated”. Enoch was a dedicated person. The first 65 years of his life Enoch had children, both sons and daughters. But at the age of 65 the Bible says that he began walking with God. I don’t know if this means he was saved at the age of 65, or that he just finally grew to the point in his Christian walk to where God became the most important Person in his life.

Enoch walked with God (אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym)
after he begat Methuselah three hundred years

Methuselah was Enoch’s oldest child, and the last child he had before he dedicated his life to the Lord. Both Enoch as well as his father Jared were in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 3:37). What led Enoch to walk away from his family and focus entirely on God (Elohiym)?

One way that Enoch differs from Abel is that Enoch did have a prophecy recorded in Scripture. It is not recorded in Genesis, but toward the end of our Bibles in the Book of Jude. We read:

Jude 14-15 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Enoch foresaw the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His future judgment on the earth. Communing with Elohiym (the Triune God) Enoch dedicated his life to following the Lord Who loved him. Enoch walked with God. Someone told me of a little girl who, on hearing this Bible truth, went and told her friends:

Enoch walked with God for a long time. He walked and walked until he was so far from home the Lord told him, ‘Why don’t you just come on home with Me?’ And Enoch did.”

Enoch walked a long time with God, focused on pleasing the Lord. We are told:

Genesis 5:23-24 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

God took Enoch off of this earth to be with Him. Our focal text says:

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Enoch lived his life to please God. We know little about Enoch other than these few scriptures. His whole life is summed up in “Enoch pleased God”. He did not live for himself, nor for the pleasure of those around him, but for Elohiym, the Eternal God. Our final verse tells us:

Hebrews 11:5-6 (Enoch) pleased God 6 But without faith it is impossible to please {God}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

If you and I are going to please God like Enoch pleased God, then our faith needs to have two overriding characteristics.

We must believe that God IS.

Our God is YaHWeH, the Eternal “I Am”. He is always in the present tense. God is always with us. Always. But the second characteristic our faith must have is that:

God rewards those who “diligently seek” Him.

Enoch diligently sought after Elohiym, the Triune God, for three hundred years. He foresaw the Coming of our Lord Jesus. He was saved by grace, as we are all saved by grace. Enoch loved God more than he loved himself, or even his family. And God loved him back. Our God is like that.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen!

Posted in General, Names Of God Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,

Against Human Judgments

jon-tyson-IYtVtgXw72M-unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The “Red Letters” we are going to examine today are some of the most abused Scriptures in the Bible. You’ll understand why when you read it with me. Let’s read:

Matthew 7:1-6 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? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. 6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

I have heard believer and unbeliever alike use these verses when they are engaging in and
trying to justify sin.

This Scripture Does Not Mean That We Are
To Justify What God Says Is Sin

Those involved in sexual sin, be it …

  • fornication” (sexual intimacy outside of Biblical marriage),
  • adultery” (sexual intimacy that violates the union of a Biblical marriage),
  • or “homosexuality” (sexual union outside God’s design of marriage)

will draw these verses out and say “Jesus said you ought not to judge”. My response when challenged this way is to say,

This is not MY judgment, but God’s judgment. God forbids fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and any other type of sexual sin. When I tell you that these activities are sinful I am sharing with you the Word of God. God can save anyone from their sin, just as He saved and keeps on saving me from my sins. As a Christ follower I cannot say that sexual sin is normal, because the Bible considers sexual sin abnormal.”

This is certainly a hot button topic in our world today. There are some who say that “God forbade certain sexual practices under the Law, but if you are a Christian you are “not under the Law but under Grace”. That’s true. The Christian is not bound under the Mosaic Laws. We do not sacrifice animals for sin, nor keep the feasts. We do not have a “Day of Atonement”. The Bible says:

Galatians 3:22-26 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Yet the Bible must be read in context. The same Apostle who wrote Galatians under the guidance of God the Holy Spirit is also the same Apostle who wrote:

Romans 6:1-2, 14-18 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid! … For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

The Christ follower is freed from sin – what God has said is sin – to serve righteousness. The same Apostle who wrote that inspired Romans text also wrote against sexual sin in:

Romans 1:24-27 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

The Apostle – under God’s direction – condemned sexual sin as “vile affections” and “dishonoring their own bodies” and “against nature”. God did not design us for sexual sin. The same Apostle wrote in the same Bible:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Again, this is not my judgment but God’s judgment. It is clear in the reading of the New Testament scriptures that the moral codes found in the Law are not rescinded. Jesus Himself spoke against sexual sin, and recognized marriage as a union between one man and one woman (we studied this a few weeks ago in Matthew 19:4-9).

When Jesus came, He did not come to destroy or eradicate the Law, but to fulfill it. He said …

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

Jesus did not come to erase or redefine that which God called sinful. Jesus came to be the Perfect High Priest to His people. Jesus came to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Jesus did not come to stand against God and His Law, but to show us how to practically live for righteousness sake, as lights in the midst of this current darkness.

In our context Jesus commands that we DO make a judgement. He said:

Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

In this command we have to discern what is “holy” and who are “dogs” and “swine”. In Jesus’ day these phrases were applied to unbelievers who have heard and rejected the Word of Truth. Dr. Thomas Constable in his commentary states:

The pigs and dogs probably do not represent all Gentiles, but people of any race who react to the good news by rejecting and turning against those who bring it to them … {the Bible says}

Matthew 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

One example of this type of person is Herod Antipas, who heard John the Baptist gladly (Mark 6:20), but then beheaded him (see Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-28; Luke 9:7-9). Later when Christ stood before Herod, He said nothing to him (Luke 23:8-9). Such enemies should be left alone (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). However, Jesus answered Pilate when Pilate questioned him. This verse urges wisdom in dealing with people; we need to know how to deal with each individual in each situation.”

We make judgments every day. God expects us, however, to make our judgments according to the Holy Scripture, that Scripture that Jesus both quoted and fulfilled.

Just as a butcher weighs meat on a scale, we measure our judgment based on what the Scripture clearly states. As a sinner I have no right nor ability to judge another. Like a butcher, I take the overt actions of people – myself included – and weigh it by the Bible. Our guide is ALWAYS “What says the Scripture”?

What is the size of the cover on your hymnal? I need to know exactly what it is. What do you think? What is your opinion? Now let me measure this with my tape measure. I am not making a judgment. I am putting the standard of the tape measure against the height and width of this cover. The hymn book is EXACTLY ______. How do I know? I pitted it against the standard. Now consider the Bible to be like the tape measure, and a person’s activity to be the hymnal cover. How does that person’s activity measure up? Does it meet God’s criteria? Does MY life meet God’s standard? If not, I am to “pull the beam” out of my eye first.

The First Sin Was A Human Judging
Instead Of A Human
Obeying God

Sin entered this world because of bad judgment. When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, God ordered Adam to dress and keep the Garden. God then ordered 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.

Now I want you to notice what the name of the fruit of the forbidden tree was. The TREE of the KNOWLEDGE of GOOD AND EVIL. Adam could eat anything in the Garden. He could eat of the Tree of Life. But not the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. Why? Well, because God said so. But there’s another reason:

Though Adam was made in the image of God, Adam is not God. Neither are YOU and I!

We have God’s creativity. We have God’s community. We have the higher senses that God imparted to us. But we are not God. It is not up to US to determine what is good or bad, righteous or evil. God establishes the criteria for good and evil.

Let me illustrate. God made one Adam and one Eve, and …

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

All people came from one Adam and one Eve. In order for this to happen, Adam and Eve’s children had to marry. God did not – in the beginning – forbid marriage within the family, for there was only ONE family. Yet later on in the Law God forbade such practices (Leviticus 18:17, 24, 27-30). In the Garden of Eden “Eve was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). God is the judge of right and wrong – not us.

When we ourselves try to determine right and wrong apart from God and His Word we inevitably mess up. The Bible teaches us that:

Psalms 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

Psalm 9:8 And {God} shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.

Psalm 50:6 … the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.

Isaiah 33:22 … For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

God alone is fit to judge, for God does not judge from the outside. I am amazed at how – many times in my lifetime alone – when serial killers are found out, those that were closest to them are shocked! “But he was such a nice man! She was such a sweet girl”. We judge – when we judge – from the outside. We see the masks that others put on. We see what others let us see. But God is different. The Scripture says:

1 Samuel 16:7 … the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Our God is able to look into the very soul of every person. When we see someone praying prettily, God sees the heart, and if that prayer is really just a mask for pride. When we see someone dressed up and smiling, ready to worship on Sunday, God sees the heart of that person, and knows whether their worship is genuine or fake. God “gives to every man according to his ways, whose heart He knows” (1 Kings 8:39). Our God “searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Doesn’t the Scripture tell us that:

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. …

God knows. God knows. When God sent His Son to this earth our Jesus said:

the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22)

It is not my job nor your job to judge anyone. We are to be mirrors of God’s Word, spokesmen for our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to affirm that what God has said is sin is actually sin. Our God sets the standard. Not us.

The Danger In Human Judgment Is That It
Makes Us Feel Superior To Others

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?

The fallacy of judging is that it makes the one judging feel superior to the one being judged. The Bible is quite clear:

Romans 3:23-27 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 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; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

We all have sinned, do sin, and I’m pretty certain will sin in the future. Now I am not condoning sin. Sin is awful, and sin must be repented of. We are to judge ourselves daily for sin, lest sin bring premature death to us.

The danger of judging others is that – while I judge you – I ignore my own sin. Humans are so blind
to our own sins.

Judging becomes a trap that allows us to comfortably wallow in our sin while EXAGGERATING the SIN OF ANOTHER. When we judge, our sin is always a minor mistake, whereas their sin is a major damnation! Jesus warned:

with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again …

When you begin to judge others, then God will apply the same judgment to you. Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis states:

When a Christian lovingly and graciously presents the gospel to unbelievers, a judgment is made regarding their standing with God. The Bible clearly declares that all men are sinners, have fallen short of the glory of God, and are in need of redemption from their sins (Romans 3:23). This judgment is not made from the opinion of the Christian who is presenting the gospel but rather by what the Bible clearly declares. … The point Jesus emphasizes here is to judge yourself first before you make judgments about others. …

As Christians, we should be living godly lives so that we can first concentrate on our own repentance of sin. Sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed every day into the image of Christ. Without this, we have no place in helping another brother or sister. What Christ teaches His believers in Matthew 7 is that if we ourselves are not personally repenting of our sins, we are in no place to tell others how sinful they are acting. But the Bible does tell us to preach the gospel—and part of the gospel message is that people are sinners in need of salvation.”

I could not say that any better. As Christians we are not to follow our own opinion or judgment, but the judgment of God. We are to share the Gospel of salvation with others, understanding that it is Christ Who saves the sinner, not the sinner nor I. There are no BIG SINS and little sins. Sin is Sin.

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

God judges sin. Make sure that YOUR life is right, and your sins confessed and under the Blood of Christ, BEFORE you examine others. Even when you examine others do not measure their lives according to your opinion nor your feelings. Measure all things according to the Scripture.

But we do not ignore sin. Here’s an example from Scripture. In the Church at Corinth a problem cropped up. The Apostle addressed it:

1 Corinthians 5:1-7 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

The Apostle addressed sexual sin in Corinth. He expected the Church to deal with the young man in sin. Not to look the other way. Not to justify or normalize his sin. To condemn the activity, for it did not measure up to the Scripture. And that is very dangerous. The Apostle illustrated with “leaven” or “yeast”. If sin – overt sin – is tolerated in the Church contrary to the will of God, then that “leaven” will spread, and infect the entire congregation. This is what has happened in many Churches in America today. We have tolerated yeast in our midst, and the infection has grown. What must we do?

We preach the Gospel. We preach Jesus Christ as the solution for sin. We preach repentance from forbidden activity, and that people turn and follow Christ as both Lord and Savior. We love those around us enough to speak truth to them. We are always to be:

speaking the truth IN LOVE (Ephesians 4:15)

Let’s end with our Lord’s words:

Matthew 7:3-5 … why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

How is YOUR standing with God? Are you right with Him? Have you received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Are you following Him and not the crowd? Do not let your judgment of others rob you of Heaven’s glory. The Scripture says:

John 3:16-19 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. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

You will stand before Jesus one day. Will you stand before the Judge of the earth, or before the Savior of your soul? May God touch your hearts with His Spirit and His Word. Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

The Priority Of Prayer

PanicOrPrayer

Matthew 7:7-12 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? 12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

In Matthew chapter 6 the Lord gave us as His disciples a model of prayer. He said:

Matthew 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Jesus said after THIS MANNER. Our prayers should all mimic the pattern that Jesus gave us for prayer. We studied this model a few weeks ago, and learned the prayer is

to the Father (for His glory)
in the Name of the Son
in the power of God the Holy Spirit

Jesus gave us a PATTERN of prayer. Then He takes an intermission while He discusses how we are to avoid human judgments. We saw this last Sunday night.

I find it ironic that Jesus teaches against using human judgments … then we immediately begin to use human judgment in interpreting tonight’s Bible verses.

I have heard this text preached – and have preached it myself – as a simple message on each one of us getting what we want. I have heard it said:

God loves you! (and this is true, for He does love you). He wants you to ask Him for things. So “ask”, and “seek” and if the door seems closed, “knock”. Why? Because Jesus has promised that:

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

I have heard this verse abused by prosperity preachers. I myself have abused this verse. Why? Because I missed one little important word in this text. You probably missed it too.

It”

Do you see “it”?

What Is Your “It”?

We take that word “it” and put something that we want in it’s spot. I want this. I want that. I think we do a disservice to the text when we make it about meeting our needs.

We need to look at our context!

There’s another small word we need to look at. It is the word “seek”. Jesus said “SEEK”, and you shall find {it}. The word translated “SEEK” is the Greek ζητέω zētéō, (pronounced dzay-teh’-o) which means “to crave or desire a thing so much that you must have it, to be absorbed with desire for it so that you strive for it”. The same word was used of that old politician King Herod, who would kill all the babies in Bethlehem to destroy the Messiah. The Angel of the Lord told Joseph:

Matthew 2:13 … Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek {zētéō, (pronounced dzay-teh’-o)} the young child to destroy him.

Herod’s desire consumed him so much that he cared nothing for decency. He had to destroy Jesus! Later on in Christ’s ministry the chief priests, elders, and the Jewish Council {Sanhedrin} were so incensed by Jesus that the Bible says:

Matthew 26:59 … they sought {zētéō, (pronounced dzay-teh’-o)} false witness against Jesus, to put him to death

When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to finish the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial they found the Tomb empty. The Angel of the Lord appeared and told the ladies:

Matthew 28:5-6 … Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek {zētéō, (pronounced dzay-teh’-o)} Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said….

Zētéō is not a casual looking for something. It is a compulsion, a desire that must be filled.

What does Jesus want us to zētéō”? You find the same word in the previous chapter, where our Lord said:

Matthew 6:31-33 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek (zētéō) ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Our “seeking” should be driven toward the Kingdom of God. If you “seek {zētéō} first the Kingdom of God AND His righteousness THEN all these other things (what you need to eat, drink, and wear) will be added to you.

seek {zētéō, (pronounced dzay-teh’-o)} ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and
all these things shall be added unto you.

Jesus said the Gentiles or the lost unbelievers URGENTLY SEEK {ἐπιζητέω epizētéō, (pronounced ep-eed-zay-teh’-o)} or are consumed with their need to get “stuff”. God’s people are to be different. Our first and foremost concern must be the Kingdom of God AND His righteousness.

Believers, we are to magnify God. We are to be a people who make our God’s throne a reality in our lives, and in the lives of others. We need to be imitators of God. If we love God, then God promises …

All these things shall be added unto you”

Our God is to be first in our lives. As a Church, the glory of our God and His Gospel are to be our priority.

It Is Our Duty To Bring Glory To God

God will always seek His glory. When our Lord Jesus later prepared for the Cross, He prayed:

John 12:27-30 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

If Jesus were like us He would have prayed that He never had to go to the Cross. He would have been fixated on that. Yet Jesus is not like us. Jesus prayed that – regardless as to what occurred – that God would be glorified. The Father said – in essence – “This is a prayer I will always answer. I WILL glorify My Name!”

God will glorify His name. God will prevail. When we as believers put first things first, God will bless us and protect us as His Kingdom grows. God loves to answer the prayers that expand His Kingdom and righteousness. Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray:

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE,
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
!

Our prayers should not be first about ourselves, but about glory to God. Our prayers should ASK that His Kingdom come. We should SEEK God’s Kingdom in our lives and in the lives of others. When the door seems closed, we should KNOCK. God honors these prayers. God must be glorified!

One the wisest men who ever lived was Solomon. Solomon said at the end of his book of Ecclesiastes:

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

God calls His people to fear – that is, respect Him and keep His commandments. This is an Old Testament way of saying “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Live in such a way that you honor God. When you live to honor God, God gives you a blessed life.

How did Solomon get to be the wisest and richest man who ever lived? He put the Kingdom of God FIRST, and sought to honor God in all that he did. Read with me:

2 Chronicles 1:1 … Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly.

Now why did God magnify Solomon exceedingly?

Because Solomon lived for the God Who saved him. Solomon did not just stockpile riches. He used his riches to glorify God. The Bible says:

2 Chronicles 1:6 And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it.

This is a lot of wealth that Solomon disposed of. A burnt offering couldn’t be eaten. It was totally destroyed. And a THOUSAND burnt offerings would take a great deal of time to offer. Solomon invested both his riches and his time in honoring the Lord Who saved him.

When your heart is on God and His righteousness, God’s heart is on YOU! We read further …

2 Chronicles 1:7 … In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee.

God gave Solomon an open door. “Ask whatever you will, Solomon”. Solomon could have asked for food, drink, and stuff. He could have asked for all the gold in the world, and I’m sure God would have given it to him. But here’s the thing: God looks at our hearts. He saw Solomon’s heart before He offered to give Solomon anything he wanted. In response Solomon prayed the perfect prayer:

2 Chronicles 1:8-10 … And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. 9 Now, O LORD God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?

Solomon’s prayer was not to fill his vaults with gold. His prayer was not that his kingdom be extended. Solomon honored God by thanking Him for what he had been given. Solomon didn’t ask for stuff. Solomon didn’t ask for power. Solomon didn’t ask for glory. Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge so that he could effectively take care of the stewardship that God had given him. Solomon’s aim was to glorify the God Who saved him.

How did God answer Solomon’s prayer? Read it:

2 Chronicles 1:11-12 And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honor, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12 Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honor, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.

God said “You ASKED for that which honored Me, you SOUGHT My glory and Kingdom, you KNOCKED at the door not for yourself but for Me. Because you have done so, I will give you wisdom and knowledge – and along with this riches, wealth, and honor!” Beloved, when we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness like Solomon did, then we need not worry about the other things. They all come as a package!

The Priority Of Prayer Is Not “Stuff” But God

I have a number of people ask me about the nation’s current crisis, the Coronavirus. People are in a panic over this – what the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are calling a pandemic. The Governor of Kentucky called for churches in his state to cancel services this weekend. As I was checking out at the Dollar Store yesterday the lady in front of me refused to touch the card reader. She told the cashier – and everyone in the line – what her four digit pin number was, which is, I think, foolish. The cashier touched her purchases with her hands as she put them in a shopping bag.

Is no one thinking?

I am told that people are buying up all the toilet paper they can get. Why people are stockpiling toilet paper is beyond me. Disneyland has shut down. Schools are shutting down. Everyone is in a panic.

Christian, you should not be in a panic. What does Jesus require that we do? PRAY. I visited my Doctor this past Friday, and at the end of my appointment (a six month checkup) I asked my doctor if I could pray with him. He said yes, and I did. Before I left his office we embraced as brothers. God will take care of us!

Christian, are you PRAYING or are you PANICKING with the darkness. Let us pray. Let us seek God’s Kingdom. Remember His promise:

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

The priority of prayer is God. We look up to God. We trust God. God looks after His children. God is greater than the Coronavirus. God is greater than anything. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 33:6-11 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

It is never God’s intention to hurt His children. As this pandemic sweeps the nation the false security and bravado of the rejectors of Christ is being shredded. In the midst of this even the Church is being purged. God brings to nothing the counsel of the unbeliever. The Prophet said of God:

Job 42:2 I know that Thou {O Lord} canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

God’s purposes and His Kingdom will come. Beloved, we live in a fallen world. When Adam sinned he brought everything under the weight of sin. There is coming a day when creation shall be delivered. It is a time – the Millennial Reign of Christ – when the Bible says that:

Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

When Christ’s Kingdom encompasses the earth “the creatures shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-23). That shall be a glorious time. Why? Because the earth shall be FULL of the knowledge of the LORD. Christ will reign. God’s Kingdom will be a priority. That is not the case now. Many local Churches have compromised with the darkness. Many local Church follow the panic of the people rather than give glory and dominion to God our Savior.

When light becomes darkness, the darkness increases, and confusion reigns. Let us who are of the Day – born of the Spirit – adopted into the Family of God – be the Light that God has called us to be. ASK for His Kingdom. SEEK, desire his Kingdom. KNOCK on every door until His Kingdom comes.

Have you, dear friends, considered that this Coronavirus panic is a perfect opportunity for us who are of the Day to bring others into the Kingdom of God? Let us remember that our God is always good. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:9-11 … what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

God wishes to give us the best life NOW. He will do so when we trust Him and are faithful to live in Him. And we are to continue to remember that we must live under the family code of love. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Let us not be like the lost, grabbing, hoarding, acting foolishly. Let us live as Christ calls us to live. Let us glorify our God, and be the Light of Christ to all around us. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist writes:

{In} Luke 13:1–5 … Pilate had slaughtered worshipers in the temple. And the tower in Siloam had collapsed and killed eighteen bystanders. And the crowds want to know from Jesus, just like I’ve been asked, “Okay, make sense of this, Jesus. Tell us what you think about these natural disasters and this cruelty. These people were just standing there, and now they’re dead.”

Here’s Jesus’s answer in Luke 13:4–5: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent [he shifts from them to you], you will all likewise perish.”

Now, that’s the message of Jesus to the world at this moment in history, under the coronavirus — a message to every single human being. … every person who hears about this, is receiving a thunderclap message of God, saying, “Repent.” … Repent and seek God’s mercy to bring your lives — our lives — into alignment with his infinite worth.

Let us as Christ’s Church not fail the test before us. Our nation depends on the Light of every follower of Christ! May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen, and Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Names Of God: Yahweh Nissi

YahwehNissi Cover

Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Exodus 17:14-16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. [15] And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: [16] For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

The word “Jehovahnissi” in the King James is the Hebrew Yahweh Nissi which translated literally means “The Eternal God Is My Banner.

In ancient times as today, armies always went into battle following their banner or flag. You knew you were on the correct side of the battlefield when you followed your flag. When I was stationed 14 months overseas in South Korea – apart from my wife and precious children – every morning and night I stood at attention and watched our “banner”, the U.S. Flag, raised and lowered. As Airmen we were all reminded that the reason we suffered was not just for a piece of cloth. We suffered and were willing to die so that our nation could remain free. That “banner” wasn’t just a strip of tri-colored cloth to us. The banner represented something greater. The “banner” we honored represented the United States, in my opinion one of the most unique nations in all the world.

The Banner represents a larger thing. The American armies follow our flag into battle. Israel had no flag.
Israel was to follow Yahweh to victory!

The Greatest Enemy Of Israel Was Israel

At this time in history the nation of Israel has never had to fight a battle with an external enemy. God fought for Israel. Israel was a nation of slaves, held in captivity by Egypt. Israel had been in captivity for so long that it literally had no idea as to how to fight. They had no soldiers.

Israel was saved and freed from Egypt because God fought for them. Through a series of ten plagues, God forced Pharaoh to release His people. When Pharaoh led his armies to attack Israel after releasing them YAHWEH battled for His people. Israel was safe as long as she followed the Lord. But Israel kept on fighting among themselves.

They fought with Moses:

Exodus 14:11-12 … And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? 12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

This not only hurt Moses, but I’m sure it hurt YAHWEH. The Lord in Grace released His people. He was not going to let them die now. Moses told Israel:

Exodus 14:14 YAHWEH shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

When Israel came to Marah in the wilderness of Shur (Exodus 15:23-25) the people once more complained against Moses and God. They had no external enemies, but they were their own worst enemy. Israel wandered in to the wilderness of Sin – and in SIN they SINNED once more. Israel grumbled about the food so that God sent manna (bread from Heaven) and quail to feed His people.

In The Wilderness Of Sin, Israel Sinned

God will fight the battles of His people, but His people must honor Him. The greatest enemy we will ever fight will be ourselves. This is why the Apostle commanded:

1 Corinthians 1:9-10 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The Psalmist told us in Psalm 133:1, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”.

God’s people need to understand that
“if we love one another, God dwells in us” (1 John 4:12).

This is why we are to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).

I have known and pastored churches that – though they have heard the message of the Gospel and know what God requires of us – have nonetheless persisted in warring among themselves. Israel, like the Church, was meant to be a unified body of believers, each working together for the glory of God.

We are to follow Yahweh Nissi!

We Must Conquer Ourselves: Rephidim Part 1

Then Israel came to Rephidim. Once more the people …

protested instead of praying.
criticized instead of crying out to Yahweh.

griped instead of giving Yahweh glory.

lamented instead of looking up.

Israel was NOT learning. Moses cries out to God:

Exodus 17:4 … What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.

It’s not getting better. It’s getting worst. So God tells Moses:

Exodus 17:5-6 … Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

I am told that this is an Old Testament shadow of the Cross of Christ. Moses striking the Rock is a picture of Christ being nailed to the Cross at Calvary. You see, Yahweh is standing BEFORE Moses on the Rock. Jesus said:

John 6:35 … he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 7:37 … If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

Revelation 21:6 … I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

When Moses did as God told him water flowed from the rock. That Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Israel drank from the Rock of God at Rephidim.

When We Conquer Ourselves, God Can Lead Us
Rephidim Part 2

Israel doesn’t leave Rephidim. Suddenly we see

Exodus 17:8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel IN REPHIDIM.

Up to this point God has fought Israel’s battles, and put up with Israel’s internal battles. If you belong to Yahweh at some point God will try your faith. Has Israel learned from their many failures? We’ll see.

The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob. This made the Amalekites cousins of the Israelites. Moses told Israel in:

Deuteronomy 25:17-18 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; 18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.

The Amalekites had been attacking Israel’s rear, picking off the weak and the stragglers for some time. I wish people – particularly American Christians – would understand that our strength is in our unity. Every time members of the Church get slack in attending and worshiping together with their fellow Christians it isn’t long before they start falling back into worldliness and an old sin pattern. The devil loves to pick off stragglers. He watches, and waits.

Amalek has watched Israel battle internally, weakening herself through foolish and unneeded struggles. Amalek took out the stragglers. Now Amalek strikes!

Moses tells Joshua:

Exodus 17:9-10 … Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. 10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

Everyone has a duty to do. Moses was to hold up the “rod of God”. This was the same “rod” that Moses held over the Red Sea when it parted. This was the same “rod” that Moses struck the rock with a Rephidim. God has had Moses use this same “rod” over and over again. But now God is going to show Israel something very different.

Exodus 17:11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

Moses is but a man. Have you ever tried holding your hands above your head for any length of time? How about when one of those hands holds a “rod” that weighs 3-4 pounds? You can do it for a while – but after a while the arms have to come down. Aaron and Hur saw the problem. So how did they handle it? They got involved. They didn’t grumble, didn’t complain, didn’t find fault. They found a solution.

Exodus 17:12-13 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Joshua won the battle. No, not just Joshua. He was leading the men. Joshua and his men won the battle. But no, not just Joshua and his men. Joshua and his men, along with Aaron, Hur, and Moses. But was that all? No. God told Moses:

Exodus 17:14 … Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

When God’s people come together in obedience to Yahweh, then Yahweh will use His people to do great things.

The Church Must Follow Yahweh Nissi!

The Bible tells us in:

Philippians 2:14-16 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life

It is not Moses that will win the battle. It is not the Rod of God that will magically win the battle. It is not the people of God that will win the battle. It is the united people of God trusting and following Yahweh Nissi – God Our Banner – who will win the battle.

May God touch our hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Oh, that we would all be a people following Yahweh Nissi, God our Banner! In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen!

Posted in Exodus, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Red Letters #13: Against Anxiety

Matthew_6_Against_Anxiety_COVER

I walked into my bank on Friday and the topic among all the Tellers was the coronavirus. Also called COVID-19, network television and news sources are fueling the panic about this virus. There have been about 100,000 cases worldwide according to Johns Hopkins University. Twelve have died in the United States, and one man in Williamson County is quarantined at home with the virus. The U.S. Government has restricted travel immigration from China, and U.S. citizens returning home from mainland China are subject to health monitoring and quarantine. What the Centers for Disease Control recommends is just plain old common sense.

  • Avoid close contact to sick people
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze
  • Clean your hands

I like what Vice President Mike Pence did last week. He prayed with the coronavirus Task Force. When the photo of this dear man praying hit the news media, the press immediately started mocking him. The New Yorker ran a piece entitled “Trumps Screams At Pence For Not Praying Hard Enough…”. The Guardian stated “Mike Pence shouldn’t lead the coronavirus taskforce. He can’t be trusted ..”. John Stonestreet & David Carlson wrote at Breakpoint:

One secular research website headlined the photo with this take: “Symbolic of the moral and intellectual decay at the White House, a photo shows Vice President Mike Pence and his team trying to pray away the coronavirus.” Pence and his team were “wallowing in ignorant superstition and willful ignorance,” the site continued, suggesting that Pence prays because he’s a “religious extremist.”

Let me suggest something to the worriers among you. As the virus could be transmitted by money handled by unclean hands, I recommend that you let me come to your home and take all of your dirty money with me. I’ll make sure it’s properly disposed of by depositing it to our Building Fund. I’m willing to make that sacrifice for you. For those who are particularly nervous about it, I recommend you DO NOT go shopping at Walmart, Kroger, or any other store. Cash register receipts and boxes or canned goods on shelves were handled by people who might have been infected.

I don’t mean to make like of a tragedy, but the reality is – and I love you enough to tell you this – we live in a fallen world. Sickness comes. Sickness goes. Last week we had terrible tornadoes strike Tennessee, killing at least 24, with many still missing. Dear ones, tragedy can strike at any time. Nothing stops that person in the car next to you from drifting into your lane while they play on Facebook or text someone. You can be as careful as possible, do all the right things, and still get hurt. I bear a 1.5 foot scar and degenerative arthritis in my left leg, which, by the way, is now1 inch shorter than my right leg. I was going to the Air Force Base to work when a young boy ran into me, nearly killing me. He was sorry afterwards, but I’ve had to live with the scars and the pain.

Enough of this. Tonight our Lord Jesus is going to speak to us about anxiety. Let’s read our opening text responsively:

Responsive Reading Matthew 6:22-25 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life …

Take no thought” is the Greek μή μεριμνάω (mē merimnáō), which literally means “stop filling your mind with anxiety or worry. Stop troubling yourself”. The same phrase is found in:

Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing (mē merimnáō); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Jesus said “Do not worry about your life”. You cannot be the Light that God wants you to be if you are
consumed by worry and fears.

What Causes Us To Be Anxious?

What causes the believer in Christ to be anxious? Jesus tells us. He said:

Matthew 6:22-23 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Christ calls us to be “the light of the world”. He started this “Red Letters” series with:

Matthew 5:14, 16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. … 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We who are saved by faith in Christ are to be “the light of the world”. We have believed on Jesus, “THE Light of the world” (John 8:12). Yet we cannot be LIGHT if our bodies – and minds – are filled with darkness. Jesus said:

The light of the body is the eye …

What comes into your mind through the eyes and the ears influences your thought processes. If the devil cannot keep you from Christ and keep you in a lost state, then the devil will do his best to make you act like the lost. He wants you wandering and confused, worried and anxious, chasing every dandelion seed and useless thought. Peter told us that:

1 Peter 5:6-9 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

Remember the word merimnáō (anxiety, worry) that we studied at the beginning of this message? In the phrase:

Casting all your CARE upon Him (God)

Word Study the word “CARE” is a cousin to merimnáō (anxiety, worry), the Greek μέριμνα mérimna, (pronounced mer’-im-nah) which means “anxiety or worry about the things of this world”. Let’s put this all together.

When you were saved by faith in Christ this infuriated the devil. The devil wants the world to go to hell with him. The devil wants the damnation of all. The devil controls the world’s media, movers, and shakers. And the devil “like a roaring lion is constantly prowling, looking to see whom he can devour”. He wants to devour some with unbelief. He wants to devour others with fear and doubt. The devil never gives up. He is constantly pushing his agenda. The devil is behind the movers and shakers in our world. Peter tells us:

Whom resist STEADFAST IN THE FAITH

The believer is to resist the devil “in the faith”. Our focus – our eyes – must be on the Lord Who saved us. Our focus must be on the Word of God and prayer. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:22-23 … if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.

The word “single” is the Greek ἁπλοῦς haploûs, (pronounced hap-looce’) which means “whole, healthy”. If your focus is on the One Who saved you, the One Who made you whole and complete, the God-Man Jesus Who died for your sins and rose again from the grave to lead you, then your mind will be whole and healthy. But if your eye is focused on “EVIL” – πονηρός ponērós, (pronounced pon-ay-ros’) – “that which is hurtful, evil, or wicked” then your whole body shall be full of darkness. And Beloved, if you are “full of darkness” then how in the name of all that is holy can you be “the light of the world”. You cannot.

Your focus must be on Christ. Your focus must be on God your Father. Your focus must be on what GOD said is right, not what the world says is right. Your focus must be JESUS CHRIST. We are told in another place:

Colossians 2:8-10 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in {Jesus Christ}, which is the head of all principality and power …

The God that saved me is the God I must focus on.

Where my focus is, my faith will be.

Which Master Will I Serve?

If I am going to be the Light of the world, I cannot be double minded. I need to decide which Master I will serve. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

The easy believism preaching that America has been flooded with over the past forty years has created a generation of professing “Christians” who are no different from the fallen world. Jesus Christ was always clear that (1) Salvation is a gift from God, received by faith in Jesus Christ Himself. But Jesus also taught that (2) If you are saved by faith in Christ, God expects you to serve Him and not yourself or the world. We are saved to serve. Jesus said:

Ye cannot serve God and MAMMON.

Mammon” is the Greek μαμμωνᾶς mammōnâs, (pronounced mam-mo-nas’). Mammon was the ancient Syrian and Canaanite god of wealth. Some versions translate “Mammon” as “money”, but that is incorrect. It is best to translate it as “Mammon” for our Lord meant it to be not just for money, but for any riches or things. Theologian Peter Lombard (Bishop of Paris) said:

Riches are called by the name of a devil, namely Mammon, for Mammon is the name of a devil, by which name riches are called according to the Syrian tongue.”

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the New Testament said “Mammon was a Syriac word for an idol worshiped as the god of riches”.

Mammon” as Jesus describes it is a dark devil, a demon, a thing distinctly separate from God our Father. We who are saved are saved not to serve sin, nor Satan, but the Lord Who loved us and saved us. The Apostle told us that once saved, we are saved to serve Him Who saved us.

Romans 6:1-2, 4-6 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? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

We do not serve Mammon, dear Christian. We serve Jesus Christ. We serve God our Father. We are indwelt by God the Spirit. The Apostle goes on to say:

Romans 6:11-18 … Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

No Christian who is indeed a Christian should be serving Mammon. Remember Judas Iscariot? Though he followed Jesus and was reckoned as an Apostle with the other eleven Apostles, he never was saved. Jesus said of Judas:

John 6:70 … Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

Dear one, if you are serving Mammon you are serving not Christ but the devil. The Christian is called to serve Christ. We are called to focus on and live for the One Who gave His life for us.

God’s Illustrations Against Anxiety

Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought (mē merimnaō) for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Jesus now brings us to a therefore. We are not to focus on the devil’s ploys, or the world’s madness. We are to focus on what Jesus says.

Therefore I SAY unto you

Not what the devil says, nor CNN, nor ABC, nor even FOX. What does JESUS tell us? Jesus tells us:

  • Do not be anxious FOR YOUR LIFE. If you are indeed saved by faith in Christ, hasn’t Jesus promised us everlasting life? Now Beloved, you are NOT promised you will live on THIS earth forever. But you ARE promised everlasting life by the Lord Who never lies. There is going to be a day when we all will cease to be in this frame.

1 John 2:23-25 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

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.

God gave us the greatest gift He could give us in Christ. We belong to Him. We are Heaven’s children. We have eternal life. We will remain on this earth until the Lord wants us to come be with Him. Then we will head to Heaven. No amount of worry will change this reality.

  • As recipients of eternal life, DO NOT WORRY about what you shall eat or drink, or what you shall wear. If God gave you eternal life, then God will provide your earthly needs. Jesus now illustrates this by saying:

Matthew 6:26-27 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

We add nothing to our bodies by worry. As a matter of fact, we become more stooped over, nervous, and spiritually depleted by worry. The birds neither sow nor reap, nor do they store up anything for the hard times. Birds do not have savings or bank accounts. I don’t believe it’s wrong to save, but realize that the stuff you have is like a morning fog. As your day grows longer, that money will disappear. Trust God your Father. Trust Him! Our God is faithful.

Matthew 6:28-32 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

God sent His Son to die for your sins. Jesus Christ came to suffer Calvary for you and I. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. Will God abandon that which He paid so much for? You are priceless to God – He will not allow you to be neglected. God will take care of you.

Christians, if we are going to reach the world for Christ we must stop being like the lost Gentiles. We must keep our eyes upon Jesus. When we worry, we should go to God in prayer, and cast that worry on to His shoulders. God is able! God is able.

What are we to do? What should we be concerned about? Jesus said:

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But I do know that my calling and yours is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are to live for the One Who saved us. We are to please Him. May God enable us to do so while we can. In Christ’s name. Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Red Letters Series #12: Where Is Your Heart?

IMG_5347

Matthew 6:16-21 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

When I use the word “fast” in our modern America we often think of:

FAST Food places like McDonald’s or Arby’s
Action movies like the FAST and Furious

Some of you think of BreakFAST,
what we’re told is “The most important meal of the day”.

When Jesus is talking about fasting, He is referring to a spiritual practice that few Christians exercise today. In Jesus’ day to “fast” was to go without food for a certain amount of time while seeking God in prayer and study of His Word. As Jesus spoke these red letter words to us from the Mountaintop He said:

Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast

Not IF but WHEN. Jesus expected His disciples to fast. Now let me be clear.

Fasting Is NOT A Way Of Earning Your Salvation

No one has ever been personally been saved by fasting. Salvation is ALL of GRACE.

Salvation comes by surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, by turning from
being your own god,
and following God.

The Pharisees often fasted as a means of both impressing people and also in hopes of impressing God. They fasted wrongly, for they rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and instead relied on their own religious abilities to bring them into God’s favor. The Scripture tells us:

Titus 3:4-8 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to {God’s} mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which {God} shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God is our Savior. He is the One Who sent His Son to die for our sins. He is the One Who sent His Spirit to indwell us after salvation. Jesus Christ paid for my sins, and your sins as well, on that Cross of Calvary. He died for our sins, and rose again to lead us in the ways of the Children of God. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse in our place. It is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs upon the tree, the Cross” (Galatians 3:10-14). Because He was cursed, I can come to the Father claiming Christ’s work in my behalf. This is what salvation is. Not our works, but His work, blessed be the Name of Jesus!

Ephesians 2:8-9 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.

Salvation is by faith in Christ. Once we come to Christ we are commanded to do good works – works like fasting and giving – to be more like Christ our Savior. We are justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Romans 3:28) but once saved, we do the things that are pleasing to our Lord. We are saved not because of our works, but because of God’s purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-10). Listen to me, Beloved. You cannot fast yourself into God’s family. Salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone. But once saved every Christian wants to know more about our God. Like that old song says:

While traveling through … this world of sorrow
I’m on my way … to glory land
I’ll not turn back … for some tomorrow
My trials here … I’ll understand

I want to know more … about my Jesus
I want to know more … about my Lord
I want to know more … about that mansion
I’m gonna receive … as my reward
I want to know more … about that homeland
I mean to go there … someday, somehow
And after I reach … that heavenly city
I mean to know more … than I know now!

Fasting draws you closer to God. God has promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), and God keeps His Word. The reason that God often seems far away is not because God is far away, but because WE are FAR AWAY. We allow the things of this world to draw our hearts away from God. Like the Psalmist said, “in all his thoughts there is no room for God (Psalm 10:4)”. Fasting is to replace something you often do (in the Bible this was eating) so that you can focus on God and His Word in prayer.

Fasting Throughout The Bible

In the Mosaic Law God only commanded the Israelites to fast one day of the year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7). Yet fasting is found in many places throughout the Scripture.

  • When Queen Esther heard that Persian King Xerxes was going to kill all the Jews, she decided to go and see the King to persuade him against such a thing. Esther asked that the Jews fast for her (Esther 4:16) so that her mission would be successful.
  • When the cupbearer Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, we read:

Nehemiah 1:4-6 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, 5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: 6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant …

Nehemiah prayed that he would be released by the Persian King to lead a detail back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. His mission was God blessed because Nehemiah sought God first. Once the cleanup crew headed to Jerusalem they fasted, seeking God as they rebuilt:

Nehemiah 9:1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.

  • Daniel in Babylonian captivity prayed for the restoration of Israel. We read:

Daniel 9:3-7 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: 4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; 5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces…

  • What about the New Testament? When God told the Church to ordain the Apostle Paul and Baranabas for missionary work we read:

Acts 13:3 And when {the elders of the Church} had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on {Paul and Barnabas}, they sent them away.

As Paul and Barnabas established new Churches they in turn (Acts 14:23) “ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” The Apostle Paul often fasted (see 2 Corinthians 11:27; 6:5). Though there is no specific command for us Christians to fast it is important to note this truth:

Though Jesus Christ is the Son of God Incarnate (become flesh), He Himself fasted for 40 days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2) in preparation for His earthly ministry. If Jesus fasted, and we are to be “followers of Jesus” (see John 8:12),
then we should fast.

I can hear your objections now. I have heard them before. “Preacher, I can’t fast because I’m on medication that requires I eat something.” The purpose of a fast is not to harm yourself, but to give up something in order to draw closer to God in prayer. May I suggest some other options?

Fast from Social Media, the computer, the smart phone.
Fast from the television
.
Turn the electronic stuff off and open your Bibles.

You don’t have to fast for 40 days. How about one meal? Give up something that you do that pampers you, deprive yourself for a day or a few hours, and focus on your Lord and Savior. If you do, you will find yourselves drawing closer to God.

Fasting Is Not About Showing Off

Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Fasting is not about showing off. It is about drawing closer to God your Father. The Pharisees loved to come into the city on market day with their hair deliberately messed up. They would wear soiled or torn clothing, and rub ash on their foreheads, sometimes even whitening their faces to look as if they were fasting. God told Israel:

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

The purpose of a fast is to loosen the bands of wickedness. To draw our attention back to God our Father. We fast to undo heavy burdens, to draw close to Christ so that we can lay our burdens on Him.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

As we fast and deprive the flesh, our hearts focus upon God our Savior. God uses the time we spend in Him to break the yoke that binds us, to remove from us the darkness, and make us brighter lights for Him.

Matthew 6:17-18 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

The purpose of fasting is to deny the flesh and feed the spirit. When the Pharisee fasts and brags of fasting, or does things to draw attention to himself, that Pharisee is in reality feeding the flesh. Jesus said “they have their reward”. When you fast and do so to please God, the Father Who sees you will reward you openly. In our America today we desperately need to seek God’s face. We need to fast. Whether it be a fast of food, or a thing we enjoy doing, let us do so to glorify our Lord.

Where Is Your Heart?

Matthew 6:19-20 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven …

 I won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes this week! What an exciting thing this was! My super prize check came to me in a large First Class envelope that cost the company $1.60 to mail. Sherry and I are going to take a vacation on the large sum received.

We got a check for a whopping $10.00!

I guess I’ve been sending in these Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes entries for 40 years or more. It costs a stamp to mail it, which costs .55. When I started doing this in 1980 a First Class stamp was .15. I suspect if you add it up I have probably spent far more than $10.00 on stamps to send in to this sweepstake. I’ve often thought about the sweepstake. If I won the money, what would I do with it? I hope I would glorify the Lord with it. But I don’t know.

I’ve never played the Tennessee Lottery (or any other Lottery, for that matter). I am told, however, that Americans spend an average of $206.69 on Lottery tickets each year. The odds of winning the Lottery are small. And the odds of keeping what you win is even smaller. Economist Jay L. Zagorsky writing for U.S. News and World Report stated: “Studies found that instead of getting people out of financial trouble, winning the lottery got people into more trouble, since bankruptcy rates soared for lottery winners three to five years after winning.”

Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in West Virginia’s Lottery in 2002, told Time Magazine, “I wish that we had torn the ticket up.” Since winning, Whittaker’s daughter and granddaughter died due to drug overdoses. Just eight months after winning, he was robbed of $545,000. Whittaker said “I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become.”

Whereas fasting can open your heart to God, too much “stuff” can close your heart to God. Jesus told us what we all know: Treasures stored on the earth become moth eaten, rusty, and are stolen.

I had an Aunt that acquired quite a bit of money before she died. When she contracted Cancer the money she had and the properties she owned didn’t do a bit of good. Hospitals and nursing homes robbed most of her funds. What she had left my father received at her death. But before daddy and momma passed away, once more hospitals and nursing homes consumed their goods.

The stuff that we have, and that we hoard, can so easily be taken away from us. Even worst – this “stuff” can make our hearts immune to God’s Grace.

The Bible tells us of a man who came running to Jesus. Running! We read:

Mark 10:17 … there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

Jesus told the eager man:

Mark 10:19 … Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Those who enter eternity with God are saved by faith in Christ – but they are CERTAINLY NOT LAW BREAKERS. The Scripture says “Sin will not rule over you, for you are not under the Law but under Grace” (Romans 6:14). The Bible says that “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from ALL iniquity, and PURIFY unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Those who are saved by Grace live lives pleasing unto God because God has put His law into our minds and hearts (Hebrews 8:10). No Christian is a law breaker. The man told our Lord Jesus:

Mark 10:20 … Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then the Bible says:

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him…

Jesus looked into this person’s heart, just as he looks into yours and mine. Jesus loved him, but nonetheless spoke the truth. He saw that this young man’s heart was focused on not God, but on his “stuff”. His heart was filled with greed over the things he had. Jesus loved that man enough to tell him the truth.

You cannot go to Heaven nor walk with God if your stuff is your idol.
We must love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength.
Our love for God must surpass the love we have
for even our spouses and children.

Loving this man Jesus told him:

Mark 10:21 …. One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Put away your idols. Give to those in need. Take up the Cross and follow Jesus. The Cross is hard. The Cross is self denial. But the Cross is absolute love. God does not mind us having “stuff”, but He doesn’t want the “stuff” to take His place. God must be first in our hearts and minds. We must love Him. Jesus’ command to “take up the Cross and follow Me” is found several times in Scripture:

Mark 8:34 And when {Jesus} had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 {Jesus} said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Where is your treasure, dear one? Where is your heart?

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If your treasures are in Heaven – in the love you have for Jesus – then nothing this life throws at you will destroy your spirit. Put your trust in Jesus. Follow Him. If your hearts have gone cold, redirect them to the Master. One day you will receive a glorious inheritance in Heaven, that is, if you are Christ’s. But if you are not His by faith, today would be a great day to meet Him. He calls for you. Come! The Spirit and the Bride say “Come”. Let him that heareth say, “Come”. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). May God touch your hearts and souls with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , ,