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Turn with me in your Bibles to Leviticus chapter 1. 

Leviticus 1:1-4  And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,  2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.  3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.  4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

Leviticus 1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.

Leviticus 1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.

When Gentiles come across the Book of Leviticus in the Bible, many skip it over. What does Leviticus have to do with Christianity? I think is short sighted, and foolish.

The Bible says in:

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

When the Apostle Paul was writing the Book of Timothy, his Bible was the Hebrew Old Testament. Leviticus is part of that “all Scripture” that God has given us, and it is profitable. You cannot be a mature Christian unless you understand the truths in every Book of Scripture.

Leviticus is a book God wrote to the Priests of the faith. In the Old Testament, the Priests were of the Tribe of Levi. In the New Testament, every Christian is a priest before God. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 2:9  … ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light

And again in:

Revelation 1:4-6  John to the seven churches ….  5   from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,  6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

I could go on, but I don’t have the time. You as believers in Christ are priests unto God. You will never – as the sons of Levi did – offer an animal sacrifice to God. We are not cleansed from sin by the blood of an animal. It is the “the blood of Jesus Christ {God’s} Son {that} cleanseth us from all sin.” The Bible further tells us of the Old Testament Sacrifices that the Old Testament sacrifices were a SHADOW of things to come. Comparing the Old Testament Law to the New Testament Jesus, the Apostle said that the Levitical priests:

Hebrews 8:5 … serve{d} unto the example and shadow{σκιά skiá, [pronounced skee'-ah], something formed by interception of light}  of heavenly things …

Hebrews 10:1-4  For the law having a shadow {σκιά skiá, [pronounced skee'-ah], something formed by interception of light} of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.  3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.  4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 

When the Light of God shined in the Old Testament, Jesus stood in front of it and cast a shadow represented by the animal sacrifices. If animal sacrifices could make people right with God, then Jesus would never have had to go to the Cross. But animal sacrifices were done, repeatedly done, from when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden and until that Hill we call “Calvary”. 

      What Can Israel & The Church Learn From The Shadow Sacrifices?

1 First of all, we can learn of the holiness and majesty of God. When God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam:

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

Though God put man and woman on the earth to “dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15), God is still very much King over His creation. As King, God established a standard as to what man should do and not do. God gave Adam free will, and Adam was free to obey or disobey God – but if he disobeyed there were consequences. What were they? God said, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”. God did not make death optional. He said “surely die”. God is holy, righteous, and just. There is no sin in God. God establishes the standards. Not us, but God.

When the Prophet Isaiah was allowed to look into Heaven, he saw the holiness of God revealed. We read:

Isaiah 6:1-3   … I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up… 2 Above {His Throne} stood the {angelic} seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

God is King, and God is Holy. The holiness of God speaks to the truth that He is ABSOLUTELY MORALLY PURE in all that He says and thinks. God gave Adam a very reasonable command. He has access to eating 99% of every fruiting plant in the Garden. Adam knew the consequence – and yet, he still ate of the forbidden. By rights, Adam should have died. But what happened?

Genesis 3:21  Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
 
Adam led Eve into sin. He was now spiritually separate from God. Adam and Eve should have died. But they didn’t. Why? Because:

2 God loves His human creation. God would have been totally justified in destroying Adam and Eve. But God didn’t. The death that Adam and Eve deserved was put on an animal. This is the very first animal sacrifice in the Bible, and God is the One Who made the sacrifice. The animal that died covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness, their sinfulness. The Bible says:

Hebrews 9:22  … almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}.

Fast forward through the Bible to the saving of Israel from Egypt. God’s Israel had been held in bondage by a Pharaoh who though he was a “god”. God sent word to Pharaoh through Moses:

Exodus 4:22-23 … Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:  23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

Just as it was in the Garden of Eden with Adam, God gave Pharaoh a choice. You can either “let Israel My son go”, or God said “I will slay thy son”. Because God is LOVE (1 John 4:7-21), He did not IMMEDIATELY bring death on the firstborn in Egypt. God brought 9 plagues to Egypt, each attacking a different aspect of Egyptian life. One source notes:

“Just as the "Ten Commandments" become symbolic of the fullness of the moral law of God, the ten ancient plagues of Egypt represent the fullness of God's expression of justice and judgments, upon those who refuse to repent. Ten times God, through Moses, allows Pharaoh to change his mind, repent, and turn to the one true God, each time increasing the severity of the consequence of the plagues suffered for disobedience to His request. Ten times Pharaoh, because of pride, refuses to be taught by the Lord, and receives "judgments" through the plagues, pronounced upon his head from Moses, the deliverer. ”

Pharaoh ignored the nine plagues, then God told His people to take a lamb without spot or blemish, sacrifice it, and put its blood on the entry of your homes. God said:

Exodus 12:13 ... when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy [you], when I smite the land of Egypt. 

If the lamb died, and its blood was placed on the home, then the death that was coming would “Pass Over” that home. Israel did as God said, and on that day the firstborn of every home in Egypt not under the blood of the lamb experienced sure physical death. Israel walked out of Egypt because of the blood of the lamb.

God led His Old Testament people to the base of Mount Sinai, and here God gave the five books of the Law to Moses on that mountain. It was through the Law that God established the animal sacrifice to temporarily cover the sins of His people. When Moses was on the mountain with God, the children of Israel made a golden calf to worship – a bloodless, man made thing. When Moses came down the mountain and entered the camp, he cried out:

Exodus 32:26  … Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Because the “sons of Levi” or the “Levites” heard Moses and gathered together with Him, God set the Levites apart to be the Priests of Israel. 

The Book of “Leviticus” was given as a guidebook for the Levites, to tell them how sinful mankind can approach the Holy God of the universe. Animal sacrifices were temporary, shadows that would be fulfilled in Christ. What can we learn from these shadows?

        No One Approaches God Without The Blood Of The UNBLEMISHED

Leviticus 1:1-4  And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,  2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord…

The first thing we need to notice is the little word “If”. No one was made to come to God. This was a free choice that each person made. This is true under the Old Covenant or the New. No one was ever forced to worship God. God calls “whosoever will” to come to Him. Salvation has always been a choice to you must enter into willingly. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:25  WHOSOEVER will save his life shall lose it: and WHOSOEVER will lose his life for MY SAKE shall find it.

Romans 10:13  For WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (also Acts 2:21). 

Sin is so terrible in God's sight that it can only be covered with the shedding of Blood. In the Old Testament the animal had no free will to choose, but the person wanting an audience with God chose. Under the Old Covenant:

Leviticus 1:2-3   … ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.  3 IF his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish

The Israelite had a choice as to the type of animal that they brought before God. If “of the cattle”, then the creature chosen was YOUR BEST animal. It was a “male without blemish”. Why a male, and not a female? The Bible tells us that:

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

Sin came into the world “by one man”, by Adam. So when an animal sacrifice was to be made, the animal chosen had to be a “male without blemish”. It had to be a perfect specimen of the herd. This is a shadow that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible says:

Romans 5:17-19  … if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 

The creature was “WITHOUT BLEMISH” because the One Who would pay for our sins, the Christ, would be “WITHOUT BLEMISH” of sin. Though the creature sacrificed under the Law was the owner’s creature, when Jesus came, sinless Jesus came of His own free will. Our Lord taught His disciples "how He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew 16:21). The Lamb of God must die in our place. Jesus was without blemish. The Scripture says:

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

God told His Old Covenant people:

Leviticus 22:20  You must not present anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf.

If the creature had a blemish, it could not be accepted as a covering for sin. A sinner cannot pay the penalty for another sinner. The Christ would be completely without sin. Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). 

When Jesus died, it was the Blood of God’s Son (Acts 20:28) that paid for our sins. 

The blood of the unblemished male bullock temporarily covered the Israelis sin. But the Blood of Jesus Christ covers our sin once and for all (1 John 1:7).  The Scripture says:

Hebrews 10:4, 9-10, 12  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. … 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.  10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 12  … this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 

    There Is No Atonement If You Do Not Put Your Hand On The Head

Leviticus 1:4  And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The Blood of the perfect bullock, lamb, or bird could not make a permanent atonement for our sins because the bullock, lamb, or bird did not cause the sin that brought mankind into its fallen state. Man did this. We have seen before that “By ONE MAN sin entered the world”. But here’s something we can see from the shadow. The sinner must:

          PUT HIS HAND UPON THE HEAD OF THE BURNT OFFERING

The person for whom the Atonement would be made would personally touch the creature that was to be sacrificed. If you did not “put your hand upon the head”, there was no Atonement. By putting your hand on the head of the Atonement, you recognized that you are a sinner, and the penalty of your sins are being transferred to the creature for judgment.

This is what happened with Jesus. When Adam sinned, his action not only plunged the world under the fountain of sin's corruption, but his foolishness also cut off any hope of rescue. Because of Adam we are ALL fallen away from God’s holiness. But God rescued us. God must rescue us – if we will be rescued! We know that Jesus came forth from God. We know that in Christ:

1 Timothy 3:16 … God was MANIFEST in the flesh

Jesus Christ – God the Father’s Eternal Son – lowered Himself for us. The Father said of Jesus:

Hebrews 1:8  … Thy Throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of RIGHTEOUSNESS is the scepter of Thy Kingdom …

Jesus is pure. He is holy, He is God. And yet, 

Philippians 2:6-8 … being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 

Jesus Christ became our “BURNT OFFERING”. He died for our sins. Jesus, Who entered this world through a virgin, Who remained untainted by sin, died to redeem us from sin. The Bible says:

Revelation 5:9  … {Jesus was} . slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 

Hebrews 9:12-14 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. {13} For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: {14} How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 

The Old Testament Saint followed God through a temporary atonement. But Jesus brought a once and for all atonement. Jesus Christ paid for our sins so we can have access to God. Our works cannot save us. The animal sacrifices proved this over and over again. It is the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus that saves us. 

However, once saved, we are saved “to serve the living God”. We are told:

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

The Christian has been “BROUGHT TO GOD”. We no longer chase after the false gods of this world, but we serve a Risen Savior.

         Jesus Gave Himself So That ANYONE Could Come To God

Leviticus 1:3If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish...

Leviticus 1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.

Leviticus 1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.

Under the Old Covenant, a person could come to God with a creature “without blemish” that was a “male”. But you could bring a bullock, a sheep, a goat, or a bird. What does this speak to? Jesus Christ came to make payment for every person. He is not out of reach of anyone. Do you know the Lord Jesus? If not, today would be a great day to run to His arms. The great Pastor C.H. Spurgeon said:

“An awakened conscience will never be quieted with anything less than the blood of the Lamb: it rests at the sight of the great Sacrifice, but nowhere else.”

It is only by the Blood of the unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ, that we have peace with God. Once we enter into His Kingdom, we work for Him, for His glory. May God touch your hearts with his Word. Amen and Amen. 
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His Eye Is On The Sparrow

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Acts 9:36-42 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all forth, and knelt down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. 42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

How Much Is A Life Worth?

As this is Sanctity of Life Sunday the question I want to address today is, How Much Is A Life Worth? The the wake of the overturning of Roe vs Wade – and the devil screamed about that – the question of abortion went back to the states. Many were FURIOUS over the Supreme Court decision, and many states are now passing laws that even allow for partial birth abortion. What is a life worth? When our Lord Jesus was ministering on this earth, He said every life is valuable.

Matthew 10:29-31 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.

Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Word Study on Sparrows: When Jesus wanted to show the value of a human life, He turned to the sparrow (Greek στρουθίον strouthíon, [pronounced stroo-thee’-on]. The word sparrow is only found six times in the King James text. Jesus said in Matthew that two sparrows {were} sold for a farthing, and in Luke five sparrows {were} sold for two farthings. So if you bought 4, you got the fifth one free. Sparrows were very cheap. The word farthingis the Greek {ἀσσάριον assárion, [pronounced as-sar’-ee-on]}, which Dr Thomas Constable notes is 1/16th of a laborer’s daily wage. That would be about $3.63 in America for a minimum wage worker ($7.25 per hour) – very little.

Sparrows have little value to the world – but our Father
cares for even the sparrow.

King David said in Psalm 84:3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.

Every life is valuable to God. Whether in the womb, or a senior citizen – or anyone in between, God wants us to cherish life. Let’s look at a sparrow named Tabitha.

Tabitha’s Life, Like The Sparrow, Was Important To God

Acts 9:36-37 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died …

The Scripture declares that the saved by faith in Christ are predestined to be …

Romans 8:29 … CONFORMED to the image of {God’s} Son

Word Study: Every Christian is a “disciple(Luke 14:26-33), the Greek μαθητής mathētḗs, [pronounced math-ay-tes’] which means “a student, a learner, a pupil”.

The idea that a person can be saved by Grace through faith in Christ, and then can walk away from any relationship with God, and still be saved is foreign to the Scripture.

Saved people are “born again” (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23). Born again people work to glorify Jesus. They are changed from lost to found, from darkness to light, from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. Tabitha is a saved believer. She is called a μαθήτρια mathḗtria, [pronounced math-ay’-tree-ah], which is the word used for a FEMALE Disciple. This is the only place in The Greek New Testament where mathḗtria is used. Jesus lowered Himself to die for Tabitha. Now Tabitha is a child of God by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26), and Tabitha is living for her Lord. We are told that Tabitha’s name:

vs 36 which by interpretation is called Dorcas

Word Study: Tabitha has so lived for the Lord that we are given two names for her. Tabitha (Ταβιθά) itself is her Aramaic or Jewish Name, but Dorcas (Δορκάς) is her Greek or common name.

Though the Apostles themselves were majorly focused on winning Jews to Christ at this point (Paul will visit Cornelius, a Gentile soldier in Acts 10), Tabitha was shining for Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. This is why she is given two names!

There was the tinge of racism among the early Apostles, which is why God raised up Paul the Apostleto carry the Gospel to the Gentiles (see above, Acts 9:15). Yet Tabitha does not need to be told to share the love of Christ with all. Insignificant to the world, she did what she could for Jesus. Tabitha was:

vs 36 … full of good works and almsdeeds which she did

Tabitha did good to those around her. She also did almsdeeds” {eleēmosynē}, which means she was charitable and merciful toward the poor. The Pharisees did good toward the poor, but they did it to “be seen of men” (Matthew 6:1-4). Not so Tabitha. She did good toward those in need because it is the right thing to do. God says in His Word:

Proverbs 19:17 (ESV) Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and {the Lord} will repay him for his deed.

We are warned as Christians in …

Hebrews 13:16 (ESV) Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

God the Son gave us righteousness when we were bankrupt of Heaven’s good. He gives us life so that we can share our lives with others, with our Church, with our community. While we have life, let us live for the Lord Who saved us. Let us give to Him Who gave for us all. Let us let God work in us, making us like Jesus to a lost and dying world. We are not saved BY our good works, but once saved we are to live FOR good works. One of my favorite passages of Scripture describes this very clearly:

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

If you read Ephesians 2:8-9 you would think salvation is no more than a ticket to Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear you are NOT saved by your works, but by faith in the Grace of God by Christ Jesus. HOWEVER once you are saved, you are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. You ask, “What is a ‘good work’”? A good work is that which Jesus would do. God has left you on this earth, dear Christian to do good works and almsdeeds. Tabitha understood this. And then we read:

Acts 9:37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.

Tabitha is, like all of us, mortal. She died in the flesh. Her body went to sleep. As the Jews did, they washed Tabitha’s body. But then they did something strange. You see, when Jesus died they washed His body, then put 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe, along with linen clothes (John 19:39-40) on His body. Jesus was then put in an new tomb that was donated by Joseph of Arimathaea, and the tomb was sealed. When Tabitha died they laid her in an upper chamber of a home. The Bible tells us that when we are:

2 Corinthians 5:8 absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Other translations say “we are out of the body, and at home with the Lord”. Tabitha is no longer in her body. And yet, rather than put her in a tomb, they lay her in a upper chamber of the home. We read:

Acts 9:38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that {Peter} would not delay to come to them.

The disciples, Christians, heard that Peter was at Lydda, about ten miles south of Joppa. Two men went to get Peter with haste, because dead bodies decompose quite quickly. But what can Peter do? Peter can’t do anything! Peter can’t raise the dead.

But God can (Romans 8:11).

What Will They Say About You In Your Obituary?

Illustrate: How will you be remembered? I was serving at Riverside School this past week, talking with one of the teachers about examples we had growing up. She remembered her mamma – and I my grandmother – who were examples of Christ.

How will YOU be remembered? Will it be a tombstone that people RARELY VISIT – or will you leave a testimony of Christ behind?

Acts 9:39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

Peter had been in Lydda, working for the Lord. God had been working in a mighty way in Peter’s life. He found a man named:

Acts 9:33 … Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

Aeneas” was in paralytic shock. “palsy” is a word still recognized in the medical community. For instance, Bell’s Palsy is a disorder of the nerve that controls facial muscles, which causes the features to droop. We are all acquainted with Cerebral Palsy, which causes paralysis, problems with coordination, involuntary movements, and so on. Peter couldn’t do anything for “Aeneas”, but Jesus could. Peter had seen Jesus raise the paralyzed. Peter said:

Acts 9:34 … Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed.

Jesus did the exact same thing with a paralyzed man in Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:9-11; and Luke 5:24. Peter has no power, but Jesus does! There is nothing Jesus cannot do.

As Jesus comes into the home – perhaps Tabitha’s home (we do not know), “all the widows stood by Peter weeping”. These widows – people who have lost their husbands, and who were in economic poverty – began to show Peter “the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them”. Tabitha had lived her life well for the Lord. God had given her a talent for sewing. Once she was saved, she took that talent and used it for the poor. The Bible calls her “Dorcas” now and not “TABITHA” for a reason. As I said before, “TABITHA” is her Jewish name, but “Dorcas” is her more common name by which the general populace – including the Gentiles – knew her. The community was mourning, and were clinging to Peter. What will Peter do?

Acts 9:40 But Peter put them all forth, and knelt down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

Peter first of all got rid of all distractions. He can’t do anything for Tabitha – but Jesus can. So Peter:

put them all forth

What is Peter doing? He is imitating the Lord Jesus. In Mark chapter 5 a ruler of the Synagogue at Galilee called Jairus came to Jesus and, falling at His feet (Mark 5:22) begged the Lord to heal his daughter. “Jesus went with him, and many followed” (Mark 5:24). When Jesus got to Jairus’ home, He found a crowd of people all weeping. Jesus told them:

Mark 5:39 (ESV) … “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”

They all laughed at Jesus. What did Jesus do? Jesus …

Mark 5:40 … put them all out

In her life Tabitha imitated Jesus. Now Peter, confronted with an impossible situation, is imitating Jesus.
You never go wrong imitating Jesus!

Jesus spoke to the young girl,

Mark 5:41 … Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

That young girl got up. Peter, James and John, along with the parents of the child, were in the room when Jesus did what He did. Now Peter imitates the Lord. He puts the distractions out, kneels, and prays. We don’t know what prayer Peter made, but we know what happened next.

Acts 9:40-41 … turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.

Jesus said two words to the young girl, Talitha cumi, which means “Young girl, arise!”. Peter says two words Tabitha, arise”! Tabitha stands up, her soul is returned to her body! Peter then calls the saints and widows, the Church of God in Joppa, and shows the Church what Jesus can do.

Why Did Jesus Raise Up Tabitha? To Show Us Life Matters.

Tabitha glorified God in her life. She was loved of Christ, and saved so that she might reflect the love of God in a lost and darkened world. Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 when the Pharisees and Scribes chastised Him for allowing His followers to eat without washing their hands. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV) You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

The Pharisees and Scribes knew what God said, but never DID what God said. God is glorified when we do what He says. We are to be followers of Christ.

John 21:19 {Jesus said} Follow me

Matthew 16:24-27 …. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

God saved us and left us on this earth to glorify Him. We glorify Him not just by paying lip service, but by actually doing that which He has told us to do. Listen Beloved:

You are not saved by good works, but by knowing Jesus. But once you know Jesus He calls you to work for Him.

There are so many who do not KNOW the Lord Jesus by faith, but think their innate goodness will save them.

Matthew 7:21-23 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.

Billy Graham said it this way:

God is clear that our righteousness is like a filthy rag. There is nothing we can do to measure up to God’s standard. … Once we are saved, however, God expects us—in fact, He commands us—to not be hearers of the Word only, but doers as well. Works, when we are in Christ, are an extension of Christ’s ministry. In fact, works are not ends in themselves, but they demonstrate God’s love toward others so that they will know God loves them, and so that they will desire to learn about God’s provision for every need. … The Bible says a man in a ditch is not helped if we pass by him, wish him well, and tell him of God’s love. No, God’s love is demonstrated by attending to the man’s physical needs and helping him out of the ditch. This is how people learn that the Father has sent the Son. “Fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). … Works must never replace faith and the sharing of the Gospel, but they are a natural extension of faith.

Tabitha is a wonderful example of the Christian way of life. Being saved by faith, Tabitha turned her God given talents and gifts to bringing glory to the Lord Who saved her. Oh, that more in the Church today understood this great truth. If you are saved, you are part of the …

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

To those who have never met Jesus, I beg you, give your lives to Him today. Lay your life down at the foot of the Cross, believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins. And for those who have given their life to Jesus, I challenge you. Are you living your life LOUDLY and BRIGHT for Jesus? Jesus expects you to work for Him, to the glory of God, while you are on this earth. I’ll end with this quote from the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, AND the faith of Jesus.

The proof of your salvation is only found in your works for Christ. You are not saved by works – but if you will not work for Him Who saved you, you are probably not saved! Think on this, and repewnt if you are not where you need to be in Christ. For His sake I pray. Amen and Amen!

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O Lord, O Lord, Help Us!

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Turn with me in your Bibles to Jeremiah chapter 10. 

Jeremiah 10:23-24  O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.  24 O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

        When We Reject God And His Glory There Are Consequences

What is the background to Jeremiah 10? God’s Judah had rejected the God Who saved them. In fact, Israel began to walk away from God during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. After the 41 year old Rehoboam took the throne, the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel asked him to lower their tax burden. 

Rehoboam glorified himself, not God. 
His pride caused civil war in Israel.

The Ten Northern Tribes (also called Ephraim) established their own capital city (Samaria) and their own King (Jeroboam). 

Why did this happen? To understand it, you need to go back to Solomon’s reign. Solomon started out as a good King, but in 1 Kings 11:1-13 Solomon disobeyed God by intermarrying with women that did not know God. After Solomon married these women he began to build shrines to the Moabite and Ammonite gods. Solomon robbed God of His glory, and the Lord told him:

1 Kings 11:11-13  (NKJV) Because you have done this, {marrying many wives and worshiping false gods to please these wives} and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.

Because His people would not glorify God (see 1 Kings 12:16), God was the One Who ultimately tore the kingdom in two. This is the mystery of free will and the Sovereign will of God. Man PROPOSES, but God DISPOSES. God foretold Rehoboam’s failure, but Rehoboam is still responsible for what he did.

When we sin, and make ourselves god rather than God be God, we hurt not just ourselves, but others.

The Ten Tribes under King Jeroboam were led to worship golden calves (1 Kings 12:2-33). This is not a new sin within Israel. When Moses went up Sinai to receive the Law from God, Aaron built a golden calf (Exodus 32:5) for the people to worship. Israel learned golden calf worship from Egypt. The Northern Kingdom will begin to fall under an Assyrian attack beginning in 740 BC (see 1 Chronicles 5:26), and would be utterly exiled by 722 BC (see 2 Kings 17:5-6). 

Judah and Benjamin have not yet fallen to Babylon & King Nebuchadnezzar (586 BC, 2 Kings 25:9-12). God wants S Israel (Judah) to know that ...

        The WAY OF MAN Is Not In Himself

Jeremiah 10:23  O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself:

As God reveals the destruction of Judah to Jeremiah, the Prophet is comforted in knowing that God is always in control. You may not believe this. There are many who profess to be Christian who think that God is so small that man controls His ways. Several years ago J.B. Phillips wrote a book called “Your God is Too Small”. In that book, Phillips stated:

“Many men and women today are living, often with inner DISsatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. This is because they have not found with their adult minds a God Who is BIG ENOUGH …”

Some have traded God from the “Golden Calf” called “Evolution”. My Bible says that God created the world, and our entire universe, in six 24 hour days. The “Golden Calf” of Evolution Evolution was first developed and presented to the world through a failed Anglican Minister Charles Darwin. Darwin wrote:

“In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist … (but) an agnostic”

The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …” (Genesis 1:1). God created a MATURE universe. Adam and Eve were created as mature, sexually reproductive creatures. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is easily answered in the Book of Genesis. The CHICKEN came first, for 

Genesis 2:19 … out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

God made a MATURE creation that had the ability to reproduce. The Golden Calf of Evolution says all things are a happy accident.

God asks the skeptic and the scientist:

Job 38:4-5  (ESV) Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

There is no Gospel if there is no Genesis. 
If there is no Genesis 1, there is no John 1.
No Genesis 3, there is no Romans 3 thru 5.
If Adam and Eve are myths, so is Jesus!

The heart of the Gospel is:

Romans 5:12 … by ONE MAN sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned …

This is what Jeremiah is saying:

Jeremiah 10:23 … O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself

We are hopelessly and helplessly lost. We are broken, and cannot fix what ails us. We need Jesus!

Romans 5:6 … when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:8-15  God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners {because of AdaM’S SIN}, Christ died for us.  9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.  12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  … 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

You cannot cherry pick which parts of the Scripture you believe in.  The Apostle Paul  preached the Gospel to those who worshiped many gods at Mars Hill:

Acts 17:24, 26  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;  … 26 And hath made of one blood {has from one person, Adam} all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth 27  That they should seek the Lord…

        Jeremiah serve a BIG GOD Who made ALL THINGS.

Jeremiah 10:23  O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. 

Word Study: Jeremiah says “I know”, the Qal Perfect of the Hebrew yāḏaʿ means “I rest in this knowledge”. What is Jeremiah resting in? That “the way of man is not in himself”. Our God is an awesome God. He is no figment of the imagination. Man created Evolution out of a failed faith in God. This is where all idols come from. 

        The Golden Calves Of The Lost Cannot Save Us

Jeremiah 10:2-5  Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.  4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.  5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

Word Study: “The way of the heathen” is the Hebrew dereḵ gôy which means “the path of the unbeliever”. 

The unbeliever DESIGNS a god that has no power. The Christian follows the God Who DESIGNED all things.

Word Study: they go out of their way to create false gods. The Lord says, “the customs of the people are VAIN”. The word “VAIN” is the Hebrew heḇel, which means “like a vapour, a fog, or a breath, a thing that has no substance, that is empty and transitory but without power”. The gods of the lost are manufactured by humans. God says,

one cutteth a tree out of the forest

The unbeliever KILLS A TREE to make a fake god. The Christian follows the God Who designed the trees, and Who died on a tree for us. 

deck it with silver and with gold

The unbeliever rips rocks from the ground to make a god. The Christian follows the God Who is THE ROCK (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15). 

they fasten it with nails and with hammers, 
that it move not

The false gods of the unbeliever will tip over if not nailed to the floor. But we who believe in Jesus say, “There is none HOLY AS THE LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2). You can stand on Jesus! False gods are dead gods. They ...

cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good

The false gods of this world may look beautiful, but they are just made up. Different workmen and merchants work together to create these figments of imagination. 

Jeremiah 10:9-12   Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.  10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. 11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.  12 He hath made) the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

The God of the Scripture is “the TRUE God” as opposed to the false gods of the world. 

The True God is revealed through the witness of nature
& the Holy Bible!

John 17:14-17   {O Father} 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. 

The Word of God, the Holy Bible, is true in all it affirms. The idols of this world are false, but God’s Word is true. The God of Scripture is also “The LIVING God”. He is the Source of all life. Jesus said:

Mark 12:26-27  … as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  27  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living ...

God is the Source of all life. He is the “God of the living”. But notice that God is also “an EVERLASTING King”. God is in control of all things. God made the earth:

Jeremiah 10:12  He hath made (ʿāśâ, to make something out of nothing )
the earth by his power

Our God is not a manufactured God, but the God Who made all things from nothing. Our God ...

Jeremiah 10:12  established (Hiphil Participle kûn, has firmly fixed) the world by his wisdom

and stretched out the heavens at His discretion. The Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Maker of mankind through Adam, is the One Who promises life to those who come to Him. 

        I Can’t Even Walk Without Him Holding My Hand

If your god is a little “g” god, then the slightest of terrors can easily overthrow you. But if your God is the Big “G” God of Scripture, you need not fear what tomorrow might hold. As Jeremiah was told by God of the impending destruction to come by Nebuchadnezzar, he said:

Jeremiah 10:23   O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

When you give yourselves over to the God of the Scripture, knowing that you have no power in and of yourself, then you can walk without fear. It is HIS promise:

Isaiah 54:17   No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

Those who “serve the LORD” know that God will protect us and oversee any trial that comes our way. God gives us righteousness through His precious Son Jesus Christ. We are His Children:

Galatians 3:26  … ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
We do not walk in the WAY OF MAN, 

but as Christians we walk in the WAY of CHRIST. 

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

We who …

Galatians 5:24-25  they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We do not walk after the ways of this world. We walk with our Savior, our God. We have His promise:

1 Peter 3:13-15 … And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?  14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:

As judgment came to Judah, Jeremiah “sanctified the Lord God in his heart”. He focused upon the God of Scripture, and believed that God is greater than anything in His creation. If you have a little “g” god then you have much to fear. But if your God is the Creator of all things, and the everlasting King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you have His promise:

Romans 8:28-39  … we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.  34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

We cannot control our circumstances. We cannot control the people around us. We cannot control our own health. We cannot control whether we live or die. Sometimes we make bad decisions. But above all things if you have given yourself to God through His Son Jesus, then the God Who is and Who cannot cease to be, this God, Jesus’ God, is OUR Father. Hear the Lord’s Word:

Psalm 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. 

Psalm 112:6-7  …  the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.  7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

If you are following the golden calves of this world, I beg you – turn to Jesus this day. Your hope and your strength is in Him. Do not delay – today is the day of salvation. May God the Holy Spirit draw you to His side while there is time. Amen and amen!
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The Christian Target

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1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

This is not a text that God gives to the lost,
but to the saved Church That Belongs To Jesus

The lost care not a bit about glorifying God. The lost need to be saved before they can be taught to glorify God. This is a text for the Children of God. How do you become a Child of God? Do you work hard? Do you try to be better? Do you do religious things? No, you are saved by “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26; Romans 10:13). The Scripture says:

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

It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves you. It is believing that the Blood of Christ, God’s Only Son, was shed on Calvary for your sins and mine. When God convinced you that you were a sinner without hope before His glorious Throne, and you repented and believed on Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19) then the Holy Spirit of God changed you.

John 6:63 … It is the Spirit that quickeneth (makes alive)

The Holy Spirit made you spiritually alive. Once the Spirit makes you alive, the Spirit adopts you into the Family of God.

Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba! Father!

Oh, how wondrously salvation changes a life. Once we receive Christ by faith, God adopts us into His holy family (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:23; Luke 10:27). We are part of His Kingdom. He is our King and our Lord, our Father and our Shepherd.

We who are saved are no longer SLAVES unto God,
but are SONS & DAUGHTERS unto God.

Now Saved, Dear Christian, You Are To “Glorify” God.

Illustrate: Let me see if I can explain it this way. I and my dear wife helped out at Riverside Elementary last Thursday afternoon, my day off. The class I was with – a group of second graders – were learning to read by sounding out their words. Before you can read, you have to know your alphabet. The little boy I was with struggled as we went through three paragraphs of a book about an osprey. When he hit a hard word, I would say “Sound it out. What sound does the letter ___ make?” The sound of each letter is a basic think that each child must learn before they can read. The Christian way of life cannot be effectively lived unless we understand the basic truth, whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Our Example For Christian Life Is Jesus Christ

We have just come through the Christmas season, and I preached through the traditional Christmas verses. On the night that our Lord Jesus became flesh (incarnate), when God became Man, the Angel of God told the shepherds where they could find Him. The Scripture then says:

Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

At His incarnation, His lowering into humanity, Christ Jesus glorified God. He did this by lowering Himself down to our level. By “humbling Himself”. Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man … and became obedient to God unto the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:5-8

This humility to the will of God followed Jesus throughout His earthly life. When Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:42), He and his earthly parents went to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. Jesus would be crucified some 20 years later on that same festival as “The Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). When Mary and Joseph leave Jerusalem, Jesus – unknown to them – stayed behind in the Temple. After three days they found Him in the Temple (Luke 2:46) teaching the “Doctors of Theology” – the Rabbis. Mary asked Jesus why He stayed at the Temple when they had plans to go home. Our Lord said:

Luke 2:49 (ESV) “… Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I MUST BE IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ..”

This is what distinguishes the CHRISTIAN from the LOST. The CHRISTIAN wants to be near the Father, to be in His House. The LOST care little for God’s glory.

Our Lord Jesus knows the Ten Commandments, because our Lord Jesus is the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1-3). It was Jesus who dictated the Law unto Moses, Jesus Who gave the fifth commandment:

Exodus 20:12 (ESV) Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you ..

Jesus honored His earthly family – but He honored the Father God more. We who are His children are to put our God ABOVE even our earthly family. This glorifies God. Jesus told us:

Matthew 10:37 (NIV) Anyone who loves their father or mother MORE THAN ME IS NOT WORTHY OF ME; anyone who loves their son or daughter MORE THAN ME IS NOT WORTHY OF ME

Though we are to honor our parents, love our wives and husbands, and raise our children, our primary duty – as it was with Jesus – is to glorify God first and foremost. This is what Jesus called “The Great Commandment”:

Luke 10:27 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

God is to have your ALL. This is what glorifying God is. You see this through the entire life of Christ. Though the Son of God (John 10:15; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 1:35; Luke 4:41),

Jesus glorified God in all things. When Jesus got ready to start His earthly ministry, He went to John the Baptist to be baptized. John told Jesus, I need to be baptized by YOU, not YOU by me!” (Matthew 3:14). Our Lord Jesus told John:

Matthew 3:15 (ESV) … Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.

We as Christians “fulfill all righteousness” when we
glorify God, putting Him first in all things.

Why did Jesus stay in the Temple? To glorify God. Why did Jesus get baptized? To glorify God. When Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). After 40 days and 40 nights of testing, the devil came to Jesus, saying:

Matthew 4:3 (ESV) “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

As God, Jesus could command the stones to be bread. As a perfect but hungry Man, Jesus could be readily excused for following this suggestion from the evil one. But notice how Jesus responds:

Matthew 4:4 (ESV) “It is WRITTEN, man shall not live by bread alone, but BY EVERY WORD THAT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD”.

Jesus glorified God. With every temptation Jesus told that old devil, It is WRITTEN. Jesus never put His needs and wants above giving glory to God.

And Beloved, Jesus expects the SAME BEHAVIOR from you! He said:

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) “You {saved people} are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

When we put ourselves second, and let our light shine, we give glory to” God. How important is it to glorify God? Jesus Christ – the Son of God and God the Son – said:

John 8:50 … I seek not mine own glory

Jesus gave glory to God by lowering Himself to come to this earth. Jesus glorified God by upholding and cherishing the Scripture, the Word of God. Jesus glorified God by doing His will, no matter how hard it might. As Jesus prepared to go to the Cross of Calvary, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bible says that Jesus:

Matthew 26:39 … fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Three times our Lord Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:44) “If it be possible, Father, let this cup pass from Me. NEVERTHELESS not My will, but Thine be done. Jesus glorified the Father at all times. He upheld the Father’s Word, and lowered Himself. As the Scripture says, Jesus …

Philippians 2:7-10 … made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him (self) the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, He 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…

One day we all shall bow at the feet of Jesus, giving glory to God the Son. The Son glorified the Father, and died on Calvary to bring us to God. Since the Son glorified God in His life, and glorifies Him still – why do we not think that WE are to glorify God in our lives. The reason Jesus gave His life for us was to glorify God. Once we are saved by the glorious Cross of Christ, WE are to glorify God.

As Jesus Has Shown Us, We Christians Must Do

1 Corinthians 10:31 … whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Illustrate: When I was in the Air Force, every year I had to “qualify” on the rifle range, firing the M16 Rifle. I received several “Marksmanship” medals for my shooting – all but one year. When we “qualified”, we all had our own targets to shoot at. I remember one of the first times I went shooting, I put several of my rounds in my neighbor’s target. The range instructor pointed out what I had done (it was obvious, because my neighbor had too many holes in his target), and showed me (duh) what my target was. After that I hit my target every time. I was aiming at the right space.

Too many professing Christians never grow in their walk with God because they are aiming at the wrong target. There is no blessing if you’re shooting at the wrong mark!

Robertson’s Word Pictures In The New Testament notes that:

“{Glorifying God} is the ruling motive in the Christian’s life…””

God calls us into His Family by the Blood of Christ and by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. God calls us into a Church NOT JUST TO BE A CHURCH, but to glorify God. The Scripture reminds us:

Romans 15:5-7 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

We are called to glorify God with our mouths, and our behavior. The Apostle Paul often emphasized the glory of God. He wrote:

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

Philippians 4:20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The number one question we should ask before doing ANYTHING is:

Does What I Want To Do GLORIFY GOD?

The goal of the Christian walk is not to get to Heaven – Jesus has already accomplished that for us. The goal is to glorify God. I have spoken repeatedly the last few weeks on the future judgment of the Christian. Every Christian shall have their works judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 14:10-12).

Do you know what the basis of your future judgment will be?
It will be whether what you did in this life glorified God or not.

Look in our context today. Leading up to this verse, the Apostle gives the Church an example of what not to do in God’s Old Testament Israel.

1 Corinthians 10:1-5 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

The Apostle starts with Moreover, brethren. He is addressing the Church. Paul uses God’s Old Covenant people, Israel, to show us what to avoid. Our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. This is Israel. They came out of Egypt, led by God in pillar of fire and pillar of cloud” (Exodus 13:22). The Bible says, the LORD went before them in a pillar” (Exodus 13:21). Every day they would get up and follow God. God took them through the Red Sea, and destroyed the armies of Egypt. God looked after His people. We read And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. God treated every saved Israelite the same, loving them, and providing for them.

How did Israel repay the love that God gave them? They murmured. They complained. They kept looking with longing eyes back to Egypt.
They were addicted to spiritual “selfies”
.

Illustrate: You know what a “selfie” is, don’t you? Most senior citizens today have photo albums filled with pictures that tell stories. Back when we took pictures, film went in a roll, and every picture was carefully judged as valuable. What will senior citizens show their grandchildren years from now? Picture after picture of “selfies”. Pictures of food they ate. Nothing deep nor of value. No story behind the picture. Just selfishness on display.

This is what the world does with its life. The world lives for the world, for the “selfie”. The Christian is to live so as to glorify God. What if we as Christians glorified God in our marriages, our families, in how we raised our children, in our businesses?

1 Corinthians 10:6-10 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

You can live to glorify God, or you can murmur. Murmuring leads to evil things, to idolatry, to fornication or sexual sin, to tempting Christ or blasphemy against God, and of course to more murmuring. When overwhelmed by life we are to glorify God, believing He is in control. We are to glorify God, and DO the things He says do.

1 Corinthians 10:12-14 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 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. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

Verse 13 is often MISquoted with the statement, “God won’t put more on you than you can stand”. That isn’t what the verse says. You have to look at the verse before and the verse after where we see that word Wherefore. When I see a Wherefore, I always ask myself “what is it THERE FOR?”. The first Wherefore tells us …

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall

Christians, we do not stand in our own power. It is God that makes us stand. It is God Who is in control. When you STAND at the Red Sea, call upon to part the Sea. The worst thing you can do is to make a golden calf, as the second “wherefore” notes:

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry

Listen Beloved:

Christianity is NOT a “selfie”, but a “GOD HELP ME”!

When you run to God, make sure you are not running to a “golden calf”, but to the God of the Scripture. Rely on Him, and Him only.

We are not to be like the world.
We are to be like Jesus.

1 We glorify God when we, like Christ, put others first for the sake of the Gospel:

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

The Cross of Christ has removed many of the restrictions that Israel went under through the Law. We Christians are allowed to eat things the Israelites were forbidden to eat. When we sin, we do not need to carry an animal to an altar nor to a priest. Jesus Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus Christ’s Cross is our sacrifice for sin (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:8; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Timothy 2:5). Do not allow your freedom to hinder the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 10:28 … if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake …

I do not drink alcohol because alcohol is forbidden the Christian. I do not drink alcohol because I don’t want to offend those who cannot drink. If you are witnessing Christ to a Jew, do not eat pork. If you are telling a Mormon how to be saved, do not smoke or chew tobacco.

1 Corinthians 10:32-33 Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

What is Paul talking about? Is he telling us to ignore sin, and turn a blind eye to the evil of the world? No. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “Am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Jesus made it plain to us that – as Christians – the world will hate us. If the world hate you, know that it hated Me first” (John 15:18-25). We never compromise the truth for “PR”. We do, however, look for ways to lead others to Christ. Paul put himself in situations that were uncomfortable for himself as an ex-Pharisee and a Jew. Yet Paul did this to lead others to Christ.

2 We glorify God when we put our own desires last and God’s desire first. We ask ourselves in every thing we do, “Is what I want glorifying God? Is what I want leading others to Christ?” If not, we need to change our trajectory. The Bible says:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God wants us to reach out to others so that they might be saved. Our unity in outreaching others with the Gospel is how we glorify Jesus, and glorify our God. May we as His Church commit to His glory as we enter this New Year. Amen and Amen.

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The Abomination Of Poor Judgment

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Turn with me in your Bibles to:

Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight. 2 When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.

Opening: Since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, our government established the TSA. With the body searches and bag inspections you need to get to the airport about 3 hours before your flight. A woman was at the airport, and had gone through all the checkpoints. As she was early for check in she decided to get a little something to eat. Then she saw the Cookie Stand. Five freshly baked cookies for about $5.00. She couldn’t resist. Paying her $5.00, she put her brown bag of cookies in her carry on. At her gate she sat next to a nice looking, well dressed man.

Rummaging through her purse for her phone, she looked up and saw that the nice young man had her bag of cookies in his hand. Unfolding the top of the bag, he opened it, and fished out a cookie as she glared at him. He notice she was watching him, so he put the bag between them and said, “Help yourself”!

“How rude”, she thought. She pulled a cookie out of the bag, and he reached over and grabbed a cookie, too. As she ate her cookie she wondered who had raised this man. What utter gall he had. She reached in the bag, and got the next to the last cookie. The man finished eating a cookie, and reached in the bag. It was the last cookie, so he broke it in half, and gave her half.

She started to chew him out when the airline began boarding. As they got on the plane, she was relieved to see he sat several rows down from her. She certain didn’t want to sit next to that hateful fellow. As she found her seat, she went to slide her carry on bag under the seat when she smelled chocolate chip cookie. Her bad was in her carry on all the time! She felt herself shrink down to just a few inches tall as she realized the rude and ugly person was herself.

A false balance is abomination to the Lord

Every day we make judgments. You can’t live without making judgments. The world loves to quote the passage:

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

They usually quote this text when they want to do something that God has said is evil, be it

drunkenness and wild partying (Galatians 5:21)
sex outside of Biblical marriage (Hebrews 13:4)
sex outside of God’s design (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9)
drug use (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
racism and hatred (James 2:8)


and so forth. Anytime people want to walk in darkness they will say, “judge not, that you be not judged”. Yet the Bible does not forbid judging. Jesus said right after He said “Judge not that you be not judged”,

Matthew 7:2-6 … 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.

We are to judge ourselves FIRST, and make sure that we’re not guilty of what we are telling others not to do. Jesus went on to say “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine”. This is, in itself, a judgment. Jesus equated those who were unsaved, who did not believe in Him, as DOGS or SWINE.

We are not to be hypocritical judges, but we must be able to discern swine and dogs from those who are not so. One commentary notes:

In His sermon, Jesus uses dogs and pigs as representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it is presented to them. We are not to expose the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have no other purpose than to trample it and return to their own evil ways. Repeatedly sharing the gospel with someone who continually scoffs and ridicules Christ is like casting pearls before swine. We can identify such people through discernment, which is given in some measure to all Christians (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).”

As Christians, Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26) the Holy Spirit is given to us to “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13). We are furthermore given the Word of God, the Holy Bible, which is always true. Jesus prayed:

John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth {o Father}: Thy Word is truth.

The Psalmist (33:4) said “the WORD OF THE LORD is RIGHT; and all His works are done in truth”.

We who are Christian are to avoid “false balance”. We are not to have one standard for ourselves, and another standard for everyone else.

The Pharisees judged Jesus to be evil because He healed people on the Sabbath Day. The Pharisees openly condemned Jesus (see Mark 3:1–6, Luke 6:6–10; 13:10–17; 14:1–6; John 5:1–18), and said that “he had a devil” or operated “through the power of Satan” because He healed on the Sabbath. The problem was that the Pharisees did not condemn Jesus because He violated the Law of God (which He did not do). They condemned Jesus because He broke their traditions and additions to the Law of God. When they accused Jesus of violating Sabbath by healing people, Jesus told them:

Luke 13:15 (ESV) You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?

Jesus told these religious hypocrites:

John 7:22-24 (ESV) you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

We Avoid False Balances When The Bible Is Our Standard

Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is abomination to the Lord

Word Study: God calls a “false balance” or poor judgment an “abomination”, the Hebrew tôʿēḇâ (pronounced to-ay-baw) means “something disgusting, whether ethically or ritually”. God uses this word in the context of:

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

Deuteronomy 7:25 The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination (tôʿēḇâ) to the LORD thy God.

A false balance in a butcher’s shop will rob a client of meat that they rightfully paid for. A false balance in truth will rob a person from God’s best.

God had Israel cast Canaan out of the land because they participated in ABOMINATIONS (see 2 Chronicles 33:2). God wants us to judge righteous judgments. We are to measure all things by the Word of God.

Proverbs 11:1 … but a just weight is his delight.

Word Study: The word translated “just” is the Hebrew šālēm (pronounced shaw-lame’). This word means to be “complete, peaceful, perfect”. What is interesting about this particular word is that when Lot was taken captive by the enemy, Abraham in faith went out with 318 trained servants and defeated the foe. The Bible says:

Genesis 14:16 {Abraham} brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

Abraham was met by Someone special. We read:

Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Melchizedek is the King of “Salem” [šālēm (pronounced shaw-lame’)], the King of Peace. Melchizedek ministered to Abraham and his men. Melchizedek is both a King and a Priest. Some believe that Melchizedek is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. This is possible. We are told in

Hebrews 6:20 …. Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek is a King and a Priest, and

our Lord Jesus Christ is a King (Revelation 19:16)

and a Priest (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).


Jesus told the Pharisees,

John 8:56 (ESV) Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.

As Abraham met Melchizedek face to face, I believe that this was the event Jesus was referring to. Abraham met Melchizedek, an Old Testament manifestation of Christ, and gave tithes to Him. God delights in a just [šālēm (pronounced shaw-lame’)] judgment. If we practice judgment, let us do it as Jesus did. Let us judge based on what the Word of God has said. Let that be our standard.


Let us judge our lives by the Word of God.
Let us judge right and wrong by the Word of God.
Let us judge ourselves first, knowing:


1 Corinthians 4:2 … it is required in stewards that a {person} be found faithful.

Let us, like Jesus, live so as to please our God. Let us not have pride in our abilities, but in what God has said. Our lives are borrowed from God. Judge righteous judgments. Judge like Jesus judged, according to the Word of God. Judge as one who will “one day give an account of yourself unto God”.

Amen and Amen.

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Behold, He Prayeth

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Acts 9:8-12 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

Opening Illustration: I was reading in the Baptist and Reflector recently the article “Congress Remains Largely Christian Despite Societal Trends”. The article said:

At least 88 percent of Congress – 469 of the 534 members – identified as Christian in the poll of the current 118th legislative body that is predominantly Protestant, Pew said in its analysis of poll results gathered by Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call, with only one member identifying as religiously unaffiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel reassured. If 88% of Congress is “Christian”, then why did both houses affirm same sex marriage in spite of clear Biblical statements against this? If 88% of Congress is “Christian”, why do we see so much behavior that is clearly unChristian. I submit to you that there is a difference between religious person and Christian. A person is not right with God because they say they are Christian. A person is not right with God because they self identify as a Christian.

When John the Baptist saw the Pharisees and Sadducees flocking to his baptism, John didn’t commend them for being there. Instead John said (and we need more preaching like this today):

Matthew 3:7-8 {my paraphrase} … O generation of VIPERS, Who has warned you to flee from the wrath {of God} that is to come? BEAR FRUIT in keeping with repentance…”

What makes a snake a VIPER? It is the MOUTH. If you are a Christian, God will change your MOUTH.
The “born again” are MADE by & DRAWN to PRAYER.

A “Viper” cannot walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). A viper has no hands nor feet to do good. God saves us through our mouths, and grows us through our mouths.

How did YOU get saved? You PRAYED!
You called on Heaven.
You REPENTED, turning away from yourself.
You CRIED OUT to God.
Prayer is the key to Heaven’s Gate.

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV) if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You callED on the name of the Lord. This is prayer. Like Peter, you cried out, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). You prayed. Prayer is the heart cry of the saved. Prayer is the crying of the newly born again. Prayer is the breath of Heaven. You PRAYED to be saved. You PRAYED to Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ. Biblically there is no particular “Sinner’s Prayer” that is the key to salvation. The Spirit of God opened your eyes, and you prayed. You “called upon the Name of the Lord”, and because of that were saved.

Once saved, God changed your heart. Changing your heart, God leads you as Christians to:

Romans 12:9-12 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

I believe one of the key characteristics of the Christian – the mark of genuineness – is that they PRAY. Prayer is not a Sunday morning thing, but a daily thing for the Christian.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

And our Lord said in Luke 18:1 that we ought ALWAYS TO PRAY and not lose heart. C.H. Spurgeon on today’s focal text said:

For behold, he (Saul) prays is a surer witness of a man’s conversion that “Behold, he sings” or, “Behold, he reads the Scripture”, or “Behold, he preaches … when a man really prays we may know for sure he has passed from death to life.”

God Will Only Use Those Who Genuinely Pray

Let’s consider a “certain disciple named Ananias”. Ananias was a praying man.

Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said,

Behold, I am here, Lord.

Prayer is not just giving our demands to God. Yes, we may come to God for our needs. We should …

Hebrews 4:16 … come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing our needs to God. But the primary part of prayer is to please and glorify our Lord. How did Jesus teach us to pray? Was it …

Our Father, which art in Heaven …. give US this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts … deliver us from evil .. Amen

This is how most people pray. We pray without regard to the glory and majesty of God. Jesus taught us to pray thusly:

Matthew 6:9-10 …. Our Father which art in Heaven, {listen to this} HALLOWED BE THY NAME. THY KINGDOM COME, {not mine, but THINE} THY WILL BE DONE, in earth as it is in Heaven

We pray the GLORY of GOD before we pray for His GIFTS.

Ananias was praying. A big part of prayer is to listen for God’s Voice. And then Jesus called:

Ananias” (vs 10)

Ananias is not shocked that Jesus is talking to him. Jesus said,

John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me …

God makes His Voice known to His Children. Jesus speaks, and Ananias is listening. Without a hitch he responds:

Behold, I am here, LORD” (vs 10)

Behold: I love it. There’s that BEHOLD again. You need to pay attention to the BEHOLDS of Scripture. Behold, I am here Lord. I await your direction. What do YOU want ME to DO?

God will use those who pray, but He will never use the person who does not pray. Do you want to be used of God? Then pray. Seek His Presence. Seek His Voice. Seek His Word. Tell God, “I am here LORD. What do YOU want me to do?” God speaks to Ananias:

Acts 9:11 … Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas {not Iscariot. Judas Iscariot NEVER prayed} for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

Here’s another BEHOLD of Scripture. Ananias is praying, “BEHOLD, I am here, LORD”. Now God tells Ananias to go where Saul, of Tarsus is praying.

behold, he prayeth

Jesus knows the HOUSE Saul is praying in.
He is calling Heaven from the HOUSE OF JUDAS.
Jesus knows the STREET that Saul is praying on.
Saul is on STRAIGHT Street.
Saul hasn’t always been on STRAIGHT Street.

This is the SECOND TIME Saul has prayed. When Jesus knocked him down on the Damascus Road, Saul prayed, saying:

Acts 9:5-6 Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. {you make it hard on yourself when you kick against the ox goad} 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Proper Prayer Gets The Attention Of Heaven

For years Saul had been religious, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were known for their prayers. They prayed in the Synagogue. They prayed in the Temple. If the Pharisee was crossing the street and it was “Prayer Time”, he would stop and pray in the midst of traffic. Jesus spoke about the Pharisees when He said:

Matthew 6:5 … when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

The hypocrites or the Pharisees like Saul loved to pray being seen of men. They didn’t care if Heaven saw them, but they sure enjoyed the accolade they received. Those who knew Saul of Tarsus might say, “Yes, that Pharisee is a praying man”. But no, he wasn’t.

Saul had seen praying men. As Stephen was stoned to death, he heard that dear saint say …

Acts 7:56 … BEHOLD, I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of Man {Jesus} standing on the right hand of God …

As Stephen was beaten to death with rock after rock, his blood spattering like a red shower on their clothing, Stephen did not curse them. Saul heard Stephen pray:

Acts 7:60 Lord, lay not this sin to their charge

Saul’s prayers were Pharisee prayers. They were like the Pharisee who stood in the Temple praying:

Luke 18:11 … God I thank thee I am not as other men are

Heaven does not hear self righteous, pride filled prayers.
Prayer is a conversation between an adopted child and a Heavenly Father.

Prayer is the heart-cry of the clay to the Potter.
Prayer is the bleat of the sheep to the Shepherd.

The prayer that God hears comes from the living, not the spiritually dead. God is the God of the living, not of the dead” (Mark 12:27). God does not hear the prayers that are rote. What prayer does God hear? God hears the HUMBLE prayer. He hears the salvation cry of the Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner(Luke 18:13).

How will Ananias know Saul? How do Christians know one another? The answer is in:

Behold, he prayeth, (vs 11)

Saul’s prayers as a Pharisee were self righteous. Now as he prays he is God focused.

Acts 9:9 …. {Saul} was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

The center of Saul’s prayers are no longer Saul, nor the accolade of others. Saul’s prayers are now God focused, Christ centered.

1 God hears prayers that glorify Him:

John 14:13-14 whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Prayer is in the name of Jesus, for the glory of God, and in the power of the Spirit of God. Saul rejected the name of Jesus, and his prayers were never prayers in the eyes of God.

2 God hears prayers that are humble, not self righteous:

1 Peter 5:5-6 … be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

James 4:6 …. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Prayer is not where we tell God what to do. Prayer is where we cry out to God as children saved by Grace. In what other ways had Saul never prayed?

Acts 8:3 Saul made havock of the Church, entering into every house, and {binding} men and women, committed them to prison …

3 God hears prayers that come from love and lift up others, not hateful prayers:

Matthew 5:43-48 … Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Saul never prayed for his enemies, these Christians, but sought to capture and commit as many as he could. When Saul had captured as many Christians as he could in Jerusalem, he went back to the High Priest and sought warrants to destroy the Church in Damascus.

When Jesus taught us the “Lord’s Prayer”, He told us:

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

You Partner With God Through Prayer

Jesus tells Ananias:

Acts 9:11-12 … Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

Saul will not receive his sight until Ananias goes to him. God told Ananias, behold, he prayeth. He is not as he was, but has been changed by his encounter with Jesus. Ananias – though not disobedient – shares his fear with God.

Does anyone here get scared besides me? Has anyone here been frightened and lost as to what to do? So often I cry out, God help me. So often I plead the Blood over my broken life.

Ananias prays:

Acts 9:13-14 … Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

God listens to Ananias, and then comforts his fears. He says:

Acts 9:15-16 … Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.

Had Ananias not done as Jesus decreed, I am sure that the Lord would have chosen another. But what if no one would go to Saul? What if every Christian said, “He’s just TOO BAD to be saved”? There is no one too bad that Christ will not save them. If we would pray, and seek His face, He will save.

As I read this text it occurred to me that Jesus includes us in His glorious plan of salvation as we pray. Because Ananias was a praying man, Jesus used him to reach out to Saul. Saved by Grace, Saul became truly a praying man. Once Ananias came to Saul, we read that he put his hands on Saul and said:

Acts 9:17 … Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

God used prayer and obedience to reach Saul. The enemy of Christianity “preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (vs 20). God can use those who pray. I want to end with these words from C.H. Spurgeon:

Urge the people to more prayer. Have a prayer meeting, even if you have it all to yourself. And if you are asked how many were present, you can say, “Four.” “Four! how so?” “Why, there was myself, and God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and we have had a rich and real communion together.” We must have an outpouring of real devotion or else what is to become of many of our churches? Oh! may God awaken us all and stir us up to pray, for when we pray, we shall be victorious. I should like to take you, this morning, as Samson did the foxes, tie the firebrands of prayer to you, and send you in among the shocks of corn till you burn the whole up. I should like to make a conflagration by my words and set all the churches on fire till the whole has smoked like a sacrifice to God’s throne. If you pray, you have proof that you are a Christian. The less you pray, the less reason have you to believe your Christianity. And if you have neglected to pray altogether, then you have ceased to breathe and you may be afraid that you never did breathe at all.”

If the Church will continue in America, we must come away from cultural Christianity and return to prayer. Mere motion will no longer suffice. We need the power of God if we are going to lead souls to Christ. My prayer is that God will draw us as His Church into His plan fore His glory.

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God Will Bring Thee Into Judgment

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Please turn with me in your Bibles to Ecclesiastes chapter 12.

No matter how old you get to be before you pass from this life, this life always seems too short a time. The Apostle Paul said in:

Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, {outside of God’s Kingdom}redeeming the time.

Life is so very short. We think it to be long, but the older I get, the faster the years seem to go. The Apostle realized – as James said:

James 4:14 … what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read the words of the wisest man who ever lived outside of Jesus Christ, a man named Solomon.

Solomon asked God to give him “wisdom” so that he might rule Israel. God told Solomon (1 Kings 3:12):

I have given you a wise and understanding heart. There was never anyone like you before, nor shall there be anyone like you after you are gone”.

That’s a fantastic promise! We think people like the late Steve Jobs were genius’, or the current Bill Gates. They are nothing compared to Solomon. Solomon was given divine wisdom and divine knowledge. If we should listen to anybody, we should listen to Solomon. Solomon looked back over his life, and offers words of wisdom to those who will hear. But having wisdom doesn’t mean you will act wisely. As Solomon writes, he tells us something that he wished someone had told him when he was younger.

Every Soul Will Be Judged By Its Owner

I said we’d start in Ecclesiastes 12, but the chapter divisions in our Bibles is a man made thing. The original scripture has no chapters or verses. The first Bibles to include verse numbers were printed in 1555 AD. We’ll start our context at :

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Young people often wander off into foolishness. If you live to be an old person (like myself), you will look back over your life and wish there were certain things you had done, and certain things that you did not do. Life is a gift from God. The life you have – right now – is God’s gift.

In our world today people say, “It’s MY body, and I’ll do what I want to do”. It may be your body, but YOU belong to God. God said:

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

It is human arrogance that makes us think that we “own” ourselves. I have heard tell of people who “sold their souls to the devil”. That is but a figment of the imagination.

Illustrate: If I were to walk outside and put a “for sale” sign on your car, would YOU let me get away with it? No, you would not. I don’t own your car, and I can’t legally sell your car. Only YOU can as the owner. God is the Author of life. God is the OWNER of every soul.
1 God owns the CHRISTIAN’S Soul:

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

God bought your salvation with the Blood of His dear Son. You were REDEEMED from damnation and darkness to walk in the light of Christ. Peter said:

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

Christian, God paid for your salvation. He purchased you out of hell – a place you richly deserved and still deserve – by putting YOUR punishment on HIS Son. Because God has done this for you, and you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that YOU are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

You, dear Christian, are God’s Church. You are “members of Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). God saved us so that He could:

Titus 2:14 … redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The Christian is saved, not so that we can live for ourselves, but that we can live for Christ. Again,

2 Corinthians 5:15 {Jesus} died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Your life is a stewardship from God, dear Christian.

When our Lord Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, what did the God-Man, our Messiah, say? Did His soul return to the dust, to the grave? No, but Jesus said:

Luke 23:46 (ESV) … Father, into YOUR hands I commit MY Spirit …

And Stephen, that precious Martyr Stephen we spoke of this morning, as he died he cried out:

Acts 7:59 (ESV) … Lord Jesus, receive my spirit


2 God owns the UNBELIEVER’S Soul:

But what of the unbeliever? Our God is the One Who …

Isaiah 42:5 … created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein

God is the Giver of Life. When a Christian receives Christ as Lord and Savior, possession of their soul does not transfer from Satan to God. If that were true, there would be NO HELL – and the Bible makes it plain that THERE IS A HELL.

If Satan owns a soul, then God has NO RIGHT to throw that soul into hell. God would be stealing from Satan if He took what Satan owned. All souls – even the atheist – belong to God.

When an unbeliever or a believer dies, the soul returns to God Who gave it. Solomon says this in a very poetic way:

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

And the Prophet Zechariah says:

Zechariah 12:1 (ESV) … Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

The reason that God made unlawfully taking a human life a CAPITAL OFFENSE (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:30-34) is because all life belongs to God. No one has a right to destroy that which God has created BUT God. God will judge all souls. God will judge His Children, those saved by faith in Christ.

God Will Judge His Born Again CHILDREN

Solomon said – let’s read it again:

Ecclesiastes 11:10-12:1 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and PUT AWAY EVIL from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. 1 REMEMBER NOW THY CREATOR in the days of thy youth…

God will judge ALL souls. The Apostle said:

Romans 2:6-8 (ESV) … {God} will render to each one according to his works:

to those {Saved} who by patience in well-doing seek for glory

and honor and immortality, {God} will give eternal life;


BUT for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth,

but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.


Let’s talk of the SAVED first. God saved you and left you on this earth for a purpose. Work for God!

The saved will have their works examined at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Our souls are saved from hell, because we honored God by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. We shine for Jesus as lights in this present darkness. If you are saved, God has changed your heart. He has changed your WANT TO. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment where God examines how we have used our stewardship, our lives. Our lives belong to Him. Did we honor Him? The Apostle said:

1 Corinthians 3:8-15 every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

The “fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ will test the works we did for the Lord. When Paul explained this to the Corinthian Church, they refused to process it. So God caused him to write to them a second time saying:

2 Corinthians 5:9-11 Wherefore we labor., that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

You, dear Christian, belong to God. Your life is a stewardship from God. One day we shall stand in front of Him and have our stewardship judged. Did you act as the

Matthew 5:14 … light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Did you …

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

God will reward that. Solomon reminds us to serve God while we can.

I love the way that Solomon talks of advancing age.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

This is so amusing! As we get older, “evil days”, the Hebrew raʿ, “grievous” or “sad” days come. No one lives forever. Our bodies are designed to return to dust, and our souls to the Lord Who made us. Inside of me right now is a sixteen year old boy stuck in the body of a 600 year old man! We can’t do what we used to do. As we we get older, our EYES get weaker. The “the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars” become “darkened” to us. What else happens as we age.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-5 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,
{your ARMS get weak}
and the strong men shall bow themselves,
{your LEGS, the STRONG MEN get weak}
and the grinders cease because they are few,
{your teeth fall out}
and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
{your EYES go dim}
4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
{you can’t stand LOUD noises. A bird tweet wakes you up}
5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high,
{you don’t want to stand on a ladder}
and fears shall be in the way,
{and you get more and more worried and fearful}
and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden,
{you used to be able to lift much, but now a grasshopper is too much}
and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:


We who are saved should take care to serve the Lord while we can. There will come a day when our strength will wear out, and we will not be able to serve the Lord. Serve Him while you can, for your works will be judged.

But what of the LOST?

God Will ALSO Judge His Salvation Rejecting CREATION

My time is running out. Let’s look at the last two verses:

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.

To those who have rejected the Messiah, who will not honor God nor acknowledge His great gift of life, to these another judgment comes. This is a Great White Throne Judgment, a place where God will judge all Christ rejecting souls.

The person who has rejected Christ and lived without regard to their Creator, is a person who has robbed the Almighty. This Throne does not judge WORKS, but judges SOULS.

Revelation 20:11-15 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

There is no redemption, no hope for those who leave this life without Christ. You may rob God of His rightful possession while you walk this earth. You may march, and scream “My Body, My Life” as you shed the blood of the innocent. You may reject God’s design in creation. You may be hateful. You might even get away with murder, the taking of innocent life, while you are on this earth.

But Judgment Day is coming.

The soul will return to God. If you have not given yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have not received Him by faith, then you have no hope. Your next stop is judgment, and fire that will not destroy but trap. God is holy, and He will bring every work into judgment. What should you do to “work the works of God”? You should do as Jesus said:

John 6:29 … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

May God lead you to Christ’s side this very day. Amen and Amen!

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Keep Your Eyes On The Lord

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The Psalms (called the Hebrew Hymnbook) is the longest book in the Bible. There are 150 Psalms, or songs. The Psalms are divided into 5 books that focus on God and His glory. One source suggests that the divisions be regarded as:

Psalm 1-41 Book 1 – God Beside Us
Psalm 42-72 Book 2 – God
Before Us
Psalm 73-89 Book 3 –
God All Around Us
Psalm 90-106 Book 4 –
God Above Us
Psalm 107-150 Book 5 –
God Among Us

Tonight we’ll be in Psalm 73, the first Psalm in Book 3, God is All Around Us”. This Psalm was written by Asaph, one of the Choir Directors under King David:

1 Chronicles 25:1 Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals

The Psalm Begins With An Honest Testimony From Asaph

Psalm 73:1-2 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

Asaph begins by remembering how good God has been to His people. He says that God is good to Israel, but he do9esn’t limit the goodness of God to just Israel. God is good to those who have a clean heart. How do you get a clean heart”? It is by turning to God in faith. King David said:

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a CLEAN HEART, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Jesus told us that the evil that is done among humans comes from the unregenerate or unsaved heart. What is in the heart is shown by the hand. Jesus said:

Mark 7:21-23 … from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

When we come to God in faith He changes our hearts. Being led of the Holy Spirit to repent and rest in Him, God washes away our sin and gives us a new heart. God does as He promised in Ezekiel 11:19 and Ezekiel 36:25-27,

I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit will I put in you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and be careful to obey My rules.”

The Bible tells us that those who will go to Heaven one day are those whose hearts are being cleansed by God now on the earth!

Psalm 24:3-4 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? {Heaven} He who has CLEAN HANDS and a PURE HEART, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.

Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount:

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

It is God Who purifies the heart of a person. When we REPENT, and turn to HIM and HIM ALONE, God moves on our lives and cleanses our hearts. This heart cleansing does not stop after salvation, but continues throughout our lives. God does not do this just for Israel, but He does it for any who believe on Him. When the early Church began to see Gentiles come to Christ (for the Church started out primarily Jewish), the Bible tells us that the Pharisees infiltrated the Church and demanded that the Gentiles be circumcised and made to keep the ceremonial laws of Israel (Acts 15:5). The Apostle Peter stood against this, saying:

Acts 15:7-9 (ESV) … “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and {God} made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

It is God that cleanses the heart. It is God that saves by Grace when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. However clean our hearts might be, however, we must work with God to keep our hearts cleansed. Asaph brings this out. Though he speaks of the goodness of God to those “of a clean heart”, Asaph goes on to say:

Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

Asaph is doing what every believer should do. He is examining his faith in the light of the goodness of God. Asaph did not completely fall away from God, but he was starting to fall. He uses words likeALMOST” (mᵊʿaṭ, a little bit) andWELL NIGH” (‘în, just about)What caused this calamity?

Psalm 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph began to look at the lavish lifestyles of the lost, the foolish. The Scripture says, the FOOL hath said in their HEARTS, there is NO GOD” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). When the Bible uses the wordFOOL it is always in reference to a lost person, a person with a corrupted heart. As humans, we divide people up by RACE and NATIONALITY. We speak of “red and yellow, black, brown or white”. But God divides people by their hearts. There are those SAVED BY FAITH or those with hearts being made pure, and those who REJECT SALVATION or those who hold onto their wicked hearts.

God looks at the INSIDE. Asaph started looking at the OUTSIDE, at what things the lost had – and he began to envy them.

Psalm 73:4-6 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

Note first there are no bands in their death. The word “” is the Hebrew chartsubbâh, {pronounced khar-tsoob-baw’}, meaning “fetters, chains, something which binds”. The wealthy lost many times come to death with minimal pain, minimal suffering. I have known of members who left this life – good Christians – whose family had to pay extensive medical and funeral expenses, often to the loss of the entire estate. The wicked live every day without a thought of God. They go about drugged up on Valium, liquor, or some other narcotic. They are not chained in their deaths, nor do they suffer as others do in this life. What chains do the wealthy wicked have? Pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

Psalm 73:7-9 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

These people mock God’s people and mock God. In their wickedness they believe themselves to be gods. I heard a comedian the other day mock Christianity, saying that it is insane to believe that a virgin had a Child Who grew up to walk on water. As he said this, the audience laughed and hooted, having a great time. The wicked mock God and mock the Gospel. They mock the standards that God has set for morality, calling them outdated and unwarranted. Asaph wonders where God is while these people do these things. If God is true, then why does He allow this?

Psalm 73:10-12 Therefore His people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

On top of all that the wicked get away with, they also negatively impact God’s people. Though God’s people get a full cup, it is wrung out to them. The righteous receive little, but the unrighteous seem to prosper. The wicked asks, How doth God know?. The Jewish Study Bible notes:

“There was no atheism in ancient times, only the notion that God lacked knowledge and power” (cf. Ps. 10:4,11,13; 94:7; and similar phrases in Ps. 59:7; 64:5; Isa. 29:15; Ezek. 8:12).”

They believe that – IF there is a God – He is ignorant of what is going on, or asleep at the helm. As Asaph looks at the life of the wicked, he begins to think that he would be better off on “the other team”. He says:

Psalm 73:13-16 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. 15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. 16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me…

Comparing his life with the life of the wicked, outwardly Asaph begins to wonder if he has done right with his life. He begins to drift in his faith. Rather than be light, he becomes part of the darkness. Asaph begins to lose his divine perspective when he remembers,

The Strength Of The Believer Is Only Maintained By
Uniting With
God In His Sanctuaries

Psalm 73:17-18 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. 18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

The faith of the believer is only maintained by going into the sanctuary of God. The word translated sanctuary is the Hebrew miqdāš, which means “the holy places”. A sanctuary is both a place and a time when you get away from the things of this world to focus on God. Christians drift from a right relationship with God and into the darkness when they do not spend time in the Tabernacle, Temple, or Church. The professing Christian that spends great amounts of time in social media and worldliness and little time in prayer or God’s Word will soon find themselves acting like unbelievers.

As Asaph got back into a right relationship with God, he realized that these rich wicked people he admired were in slippery places. Though they may have much now, they have little to look forward to in eternity. The wicked rich are like those Jesus spoke of in Luke 16, the Rich Man and Lazarus. Though the Rich Man had fine clothing and the best housing and nourishment anyone could have, and though Lazarus had nothing but the crumbs the dogs didn’t eat, what happened after death? Jesus said:

Luke 16:22-23 (ESV) The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in {HELL}, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Though Lazarus lived a lonely life, in death he was heralded into Heaven by the angels. The rich man who had a full and wicked life in death died alone. In hell, he had no companionship, nor and compassion. Asaph says of these wicked ones:

Psalm 73:19-20 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

Their life, which seemed so wonderful, in a moment dissolved into terror. In this life they were made in the image of God, but would have nothing to do with God. In the next life God despise(s) their image, their pridefulness.

Dear ones, it is so necessary that we who belong to God by faith in Christ continue in doing that which feeds our souls. We can live without television. We can live without social media. We can live without worshiping the gods and goddesses of this world. But we cannot live without God.

The secret of happiness is not a large bank account or a large home or even great health. The secret of happiness is to know God, and to know that He is your Father, your Savior, your Help and guide.

When Asaph compared his life to the life of the lost world, he began to cherish what they had. Then he realized what they have is NOTHING. Asaph repented:

Psalm 73:21-22 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. 22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

Asaph states that I was as a beast before thee. Animals have no moral sense. Humans only are created in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26-27), and only humans have a moral sense or a conscience. The farther we wander from God, the more brutish and animal like we become. Our Lord Jesus told us:

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God wants us as focused on Him as He is on us. What you have been given, dear Christian, are things that you should be using to serve the Lord Who saved you, who laid down His life for you. Jesus laid His life down for us:

John 15:13-14 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (14) Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us on Calvary, and He expects us to lay down our lives for Him.

If you are saved – and I pray that you are – you are only saved because you surrendered all of your life to God.

There came a point in your earthly existence when you surrendered all idols, all treasures, all things and came to the Lord on bent knee. On that day you entered into a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. God laid His life down for you when He was nailed to that Cross. If you are His friend, if you find that God is your desire, then you must lay down your life for Him daily.

God Allows Hard Things In Our Lives To Grow Our Faith,
To Make Us More Like Jesus

Psalm 73:23-26 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

The power of the believer is that God is with us – not just now, but into eternity. Each and every one of us are mortal, frail, and subject to fail. The joy of salvation is not found in the stuff that we have, but in the constant Companionship of God. As Asaph thought upon this, his love for God began to be greater than his love for any one else. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. As humans, our bodies fail. Our flesh weakens, and our physical hearts suffer deprivation. These bodies will not exist forever. However, God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

The commentator Matthew Henry said: “…. Those who have God for their Inheritance and their Portion for ever, ought to look with holy contempt and indifference upon the possessions of this world. …”

What we have in God is greater than anything else. As the Apostle Paul began to look at his infirmities and failures, he like Asaph went to God in prayer. God spoke to Paul as he spoke to Asaph, saying:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 … My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

The weaker the Christian is, the closer to God we need to get. Our power is in God. Our strength is in surrender to Him. We end with:

Psalm 73:27-28 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

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Wise Men Look For The True King

Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com/photo/ornamental-iconostasis-in-orthodox-church-10618214/

Matthew 2:1-2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Now WHEN”

Our text starts with

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem

WHEN was Jesus born? When we celebrate the holiday we call “Christmas”, we are celebrating the unique birth of the Son of God. First off, we do not know exactly when Jesus Christ was born. The Christian History Institute notes:

“{Church Pastor} Hippolytus, writing around 200, set 25 December AD 8 as Christ’s birthday, but he mentioned no celebration. Early in the third century, {Pastors} Africanus and Evodius both gave 25 December {as His birthday}. Apparently the date {of December 25th} was already an old tradition … Around AD 350, {Roman Catholic} Pope Julius I declared December 25 the official date for Christmas.”

December 25th is a tradition the that most of the Church follows. I believe this is a good tradition. America needs more of Jesus, not less. When we celebrate Christmas as Christians, we are not celebrating the birth of Jesus as we might celebrate your birthday or my birthday.

What we are celebrating at Christ is called “The Incarnation”

The word “Incarnation” speaks to when the Holy Son of God became Perfect Human”. Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, is like no other Man who has ever lived. The Apostles believed that Jesus was – prior to His birth – co-equal and co-eternal with the Godhead. The Scripture says:

John 1:1, 14 (ESV) … In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. … 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Colossians 2:6, 9 (ESV) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, … 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily

That Baby in the Manger that we celebrate is JESUS, Who shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). This is no ordinary man. Jesus is God become Man. He is the One Whom the Holy Spirit brought to us through a virgin named Mary. He was Mary’s firstborn Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger” (Luke 2:7).

When the Wise Men came looking for Jesus, it was not on the same night that He was born. There are a few clues to this in our focal text.

Matthew 2:11 … when they {the Wise Men} were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother

When the shepherds came into the Manger, they saw a BABE {Greek βρέφος brephos} (see Luke 2:12), an infant. The Wise Men came into a HOUSE, not a manger. Jesus was laid in a manger the night He was incarnate. The Wise Men saw the young child” {Greek παιδίον paidion, little boy}. These words tell us that an indeterminate amount of time has passed between the shepherds visit and that of the Wise Men. How much time passed?

The Timeline: After Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Micah 5:2 & Jeremiah 23:5, Mary and Joseph did not immediately return home to Nazareth. They stayed in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in the first place because Caesar ordered all to go to their ancestral homes to be counted (Luke 2:1-4). Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem after the census. Why? Because of the Law of God. The Bible says:

Leviticus 12:2-4 … If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. 3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

The Temple is in Jerusalem, about 7 miles from Bethlehem, whereas Nazareth is about 91 miles away.

A healthy man could walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in about 3 hours, whereas a trip to Nazareth would take about 30 hours, ten times as long. As Mary and Joseph wanted to keep the Law of God, it made perfect sense that they stay in Bethlehem until the Law was fulfilled. Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-32). Mary and Joseph were following God’s leadership, so that …

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

Mary was – according to the Law – unclean for forty days following the birth of Christ. Jesus was to be circumcised on the eighth day following His birth, or He would have been – under the Law – “cut off” from Israel (Genesis 17:14). Then after Jesus was circumcised, Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem for another 33 days until she could return to the Temple …

Leviticus 12:6 … when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest

The fact that Jesus is God Incarnate does not erase the Law of God. Mary and Joseph still had to do this. We are told:

Luke 2:21-24 when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

We are told in Luke 2:39 that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus did not return to Nazareth until they fulfilled all things according to the Law of the Lord. The Wise Men visited Jesus sometime after the 40 days of Mary’s purification according to the Law of God.

Who Were These “Wise Men”?

Matthew 2:1-2 … there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?

The Bible tells us that these Wise Men are coming from the east to Jerusalem. Who exactly are these wise men? To answer that, we need to look at Israel’s history.

Israel’s history begins with a man named Abraham. God promised Abraham that – if Abraham would follow God as KING – that God would create a nation from his seed. God said:

Genesis 12:1-2 … Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation

Follow Me, Abraham. Put Me first. If you do, I will cause you who is now childless to have a child, and eventually become a nation”. God promised Abraham a nation. This is Israel, or what would be Israel. But God also told Abraham:

Genesis 12:3 … in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

From a sterile man and a barren woman God would not only create a nation (Israel), but would bless ALL the nations of this earth
(the coming of the Messiah).

Abraham followed God, and God gave him a son Isaac. God keeps His promises. Isaac has children, one of which is Jacob. God saves Jacob, and saving Jacob, changes his name to Israel. Now Israel has 12 children. Those 12 children create twelve tribes. These twelve tribes grow. Then God tells Israel that one of the Tribes, Judah, is where the King of Israel will come:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter {the Throne} shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

God the King of Israel declared that all rulers would come from Judah until the Messiah or Shiloh came. Shiloh or the Messiah would come from Judah. So let’s put it this way.

God told Abraham – and Israel – “I am your King. If you have a human King, he shall come from Judah. That human King shall rule until Messiah comes out of Judah. The Messiah is God.”

For the longest time Israel had none other than GOD as their King. And God as King chose different people to lead His nation. God chose …

Moses from the tribe of Levi (the Priests), then
Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim.
Soon God called
the Judges Othniel from the tribe of Judah,
Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin,
Gideon
from the tribe of Manasseh,
Samson from the tribe of Dan,
Tola from the tribe of Issachar,
and Ibzan from the tribe of Judah.

God was King, and He established rulers over Israel. But then one day Israel decided they wanted to be like every other nation. They demanded of the Prophet Samuel:

We want a king like all the other nations have. Give us a king to lead us!”
(1 Samuel 8:1-6, paraphrased summary)

So God let Israel choose a King. Did Israel do what God said? Did they choose a King from Judah? No. Israel chose Saul, who was from the Tribe of Benjamin. Saul would not listen to God. God in grace allowed him to reign 40 years, but GOD chose Saul’s successor. God sent Samuel to the home of Jesse, for He said:

Acts 13:22 … I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.

David was from the tribe of Judah. David was not perfect. In fact, David committed terrible sins against God and man. He took Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and then murdered Uriah her husband (2 Samuel 12:10). God punished David for his sins. But David did love the Lord. David wanted to build a Temple for God, but the Lord told him that this would be Solomon his son’s duty. God told David:

2 Samuel 7:12-13 … {David} I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

In this “Davidic Covenant” God promised that the Messiah would come from David’s lineage. The Messiah must come from the line of Judah. The Messiah must come from the line of David.

From the time God made His promise to David, Israel and her kings kept drifting away from God. When God is not your King you never know what a mess you will get into.

In 606 A.D. Babylon conquered Israel, and carried captive the Prophet Daniel and his friends to that pagan land. Daniel loves the Lord. When he is told to pray only to the king of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel refuses to do so. Daniel will not bow his knee to any but the King of Heaven. Daniel kept his eyes on God. He prayed daily at an open window that faced Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10-12) even though he was forbidden to do this. Daniel’s King was God! Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:16). The next morning Daniel told King Darius:

Daniel 6:22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

When you follow God as King, He protects His children. Daniel was not only saved from the lion’s appetites, but he was elevated through the reigns of Babylon and Persia (Daniel 6:28) to be Chief of the Wise Men.

As Chief of the Wise Men (Daniel 2:48), Daniel taught them of the coming of the Messiah. God gave him a vision which is recorded in:

Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

These Wise Men or Astrologers came looking for not just any King. Daniel planted a seed by telling his Wise Men about the Messiah. These men had been watching the sky for a sign from God since the days of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), well over 400 years. These men came to see the Messiah, the King of Heaven.

Wise Men (And Women) Look For The True King

Matthew 2:2 … we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

They came to Jerusalem because this is the capital city of Israel. If the Messiah – the true King of the Jews was anywhere, He would be in Jerusalem. Did they find the Messiah in Jerusalem? No, because He was in Bethlehem. Why was the Messiah in Bethlehem? We read:

Matthew 2:3-6 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Herod was the “Acting King” of Israel, but he was not even a Jew. Herod was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau, not Jacob. He was not supposed to be on the throne, but was appointed by Caesar to fill the position. And Herod wanted to keep his stolen throne. So he called his advisors, asking them where Christ should be born. He knew exactly what he was asking. When you say “Christ” you are saying “Messiah” or “God with us”. His advisors quoted

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Herod sends the Wise Men to Bethlehem, but encourages them to return when they find the Messiah …

Matthew 2:8 … that I may come and worship him also.

Herod did not want to worship Jesus the Messiah. Herod would do whatever it took to keep his unlawful throne – even to kill the Messiah. Men have been trying to kill God for years. The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in 1884 declared that “God remains dead. And we have killed him”. We have tried to re-invent God, to modify God, to make ourselves Gods, and when all else fails we have tried to kill God.

Just as Adam did, Herod made himself king on the throne of life. Adam sinned and hid himself from God. Herod sinned, and plotted to kill God. Neither succeeded in their fool’s errand.

The Wise Men left the false king’s palace, and went to where the Messiah was enthroned. We read:

Matthew 2:9-11 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him

These men found the Messiah. I often wonder why the Wise Men stopped in Jerusalem rather than just continue to follow the star in the first place. The star was leading them where they needed to go. I suspect it is because God wanted the Wise Men – and us – to see the difference between a false king and the True King.

The Wise Men did not WORSHIP the false king Herod.
He was on a glittering throne.
But like a whited tomb, there was nothing worthy of worship there.
The Wise Men brought no gifts to the false king Herod.
It would be a waste of their resources.
Instead these men followed the Light of God
To where Jesus was, and there they WORSHIPED!

Jesus is worthy of worship! We read:

Matthew 2:11 … when {the Wise Men} had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

To Herod the false king they gave nothing. But to Jesus Christ, the Messiah of God, they first gave their hearts. Then they gave three gifts worthy of the Messiah. They gave gold, and frankincense and myrrh. What are the significance of these gifts?

Gold: The word “GOLD” is found 419 times in the Bible. Gold has been treasured by man since the beginning of time. Eden was a place where not only Adam and Eve were, but it was a place of gold (see Genesis 2:11-12). Abraham was “very rich in gold” (Genesis 13:2). When Pharaoh honored Joseph, he put “a gold chain about his neck” (Genesis 41:42). When Israel was directed to make the Ark of the Covenant, it was “overlaid with Gold” (Exodus 25:10-17). The Wise Men gave gold to the Messiah because God is worth more than ANYTHING else we might seek. Jesus is worthy of worship. He is the True King of Heaven. When John the Revelator looked into Heaven, we read that Jesus Christ …

Revelation 5:5 … the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David …

Is designated the Judge and Ruler of all the earth. Our Jesus is THE Worthy King! He is worth more than Gold!

Frankincense: Frankincense would be a strange gift to give a normal human child, but Jesus is no normal human Child. Frankincense was burned by the priests as a smoke offering to God (see Exodus 30:34). It symbolized holiness and righteousness. Jesus Christ as the Messiah is not only the KING of Heaven and the KING of His people, but Jesus is our HIGH PRIEST. The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus represents His people before God our Father. He is the One Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; Acts 26:18).

Myrrh: But now we come to the strangest of gifts. When the Jews buried a body, they prepared it beforehand by using strips of cloth and a paste made with aloe and myrrh. Myrrh could also be mixed with wine as a drug given to convicts about to be crucified. The myrrh poisoned wine stupefied the crucified, making their crucifixion easier to endure. On the day that our Lord Jesus was crucified, He was offered “gall” which is the poisoned mixture of wine and myrrh. Jesus refused to take it (see Mark 15:23; Matthew 27:34). Jesus took the full weight of our sin on Himself when He went to the Cross of Calvary. It was on that horrid Cross that our Savior died. After His death, the Bible says:

John 19:39-41 there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Jesus is Heaven’s King, the Messiah sent to save us from our sins. Jesus was slain, and by His Blood redeems us to God, making us Children of God (Revelation 5:9-10). Herod rejected Christ, choosing to reign in his own power – and his reign brought death. But to those who have trusted in Christ – you are truly Wise. You are Wise Men and Women who believe in and follow Him. Walking in the light with Jesus, His Blood cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus. Have you received Him as Lord and Savior? If so, we will be together – forever. If not, I beg you, call on His Name and be saved. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Amen and Amen.

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Consider Your Ways

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-standing-by-chair-with-head-down-5303044/

I’m going to throw a curve at you this New Year’s Day of 2023. I never thought I’d hit 2023 – did you? I’m going to ask you to turn in your Bibles to Haggai chapter 1. Now, if you have to turn to the front of your Bibles and look at the Table of Contents, don’t feel bad. I had to do the same thing. Haggai comes directly after Zephaniah, and directly before Zechariah. That didn’t help, did it? Use your Table of Contents.

In Haggai our God is speaking to His people Israel. The nation has fallen prey to first the Philistines, then to the Babylonians, and finally to the Medo-Persians. God allowed Israel to go into a 70 year captivity because – as His people – they ignored God and His direction. God does not force anyone to follow Him. He is longsuffering and merciful. But God knows what is best, and calls us to follow Him. God speaks to His people. Let’s read:

Haggai 1:1-7 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. 3 Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled {sāp̄an, roofed} houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

Regardless Of Testament, God Wants To Be First In Our Lives

Most Christians are confused when they come to the Old Testament. They think that the Old Testament has only to do with Israel and the Jews, and the New Testament only deals with the Church. The reality is that both Old and New Testaments are very similar. When Jesus was asked the question:

Matthew 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

The one asking was referencing the Old Testament Law and wanted to know what the number one commandment was. Jesus did not hesitate, but replied:

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

The TOP commandment in the Law is that we who believe in God are to love Him with our ALL. We know this because Jesus said it. We know it because God gave it to Moses on Mount Sinai. The first three of the Ten Commandments are:

Exodus 20:3 You shall have NO OTHER GODS before Me. (that’s #1)

Exodus 20:4 You shall not make anything to bow down to or serve. Serve only God (that’s #2)

Exodus 20:7 You shall not take My name in vain (that’s #3)

This is Old Testament. God is to be number one in your life if you believe in Him. Does this only apply to the Jews? No!

John told the Church:

1 John 5:2-5 (ESV) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

We are commanded to LOVE GOD. Now we need to understand what God means by LOVE. When we speak of LOVE in the world, we are generally referring to EMOTION and PASSION. When we speak of LOVE, it starts with a warm, fuzzy feeling, and moves outward from there. This is not how the Bible defines love. John told us:

this is the love of God, that we
keep his commandments

To LOVE GOD is to DO what He says. We are commanded to love God with our all, whether in the Old or New Testaments. Loving God means DOING what He says. John goes on to say:

And his commandments are not burdensome

That’s absolutely true. You see, God is the Creator. When we do what God tells us to do, then we are doing what’s best FOR OURSELVES. When we OBEY God, His commands are not those of some Heavenly Tyrant. God knows the end from the beginning, and everything in between. When we OBEY God, we are actually – selfishly – doing what’s best for us.

Israel has disobeyed God. They have not loved God with their all, but have made God second, third, or even last place in their lives. They have put themselves FIRST. When God gave Israel the command to let the land rest every 7 years (the Sabbatical Year), God was doing this to bless His people. The land needs to rest. But Israel ignored the Word of God, and ignored His commands.

When we ignore God’s commands, we put ourselves at risk!

God Sent Israel Back To The Land For A Purpose

As Israel drifted from God, she suffered under the Philistines, then under Babylon, and at this writing under Persia. And yet, God in His Grace is merciful. God allows Israel to return to Jerusalem under the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia. God raised up Zerubbabel, a descendant of the line of King David, to the position of Governor of Israel. Again, this was unheard of. The Persians rarely allowed the conquered any freedom of government. Yet God in His Grace was still blessing His people, though they had wandered far away from Him. God will make a way.

When Israel returns to Jerusalem, they come to the Temple and rebuild the altar, while they begin to once more offer sacrifices. Two years pass and Israel lays the foundation to rebuild the Temple. But then trials happen.

Trials happen to all of us. When Jesus spoke of trials, He said:

Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

If you love Jesus, you do what Jesus says. If you love God, you do what God says. Jesus is God the Son. He said, “If you love Me and do as I say, when the storms of life come your house will not fall”. The wind and the rains come to every life, whether saved or unsaved.

Salvation is by faith in Christ, but blessing ALWAYS
comes by loving God, putting God first.

When you walk with God in love, He will bless you, even in the trying times. He promises those who love Him:

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

And again,

Deuteronomy 7:9 … the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments

Deuteronomy 30:16 … I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land

Israel works on the Temple for a while, but when trials come they get off course. They back away from obeying God. Their reason for being in the Promised Land is to rebuild the Temple. But 14 years pass and, as nothing happens, people get used to the nothing. So God raises up Haggai AND Zechariah the Prophets. This is recorded in

Ezra 5:1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

What does God tell His people?

Haggai 1:2 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.

Let’s break the Prophecy down. God loves His people. God loves you. I hope you know that. But notice how God addresses His people. He does not address them as Shepherd:

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my SHEPHERD, I shall not want

Nor does He address them as Father nor even as the Potter:

Isaiah 64:8 O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our Potter …

But God addresses Israel as Lord of hosts, the Commander of the Armies of Heaven. As Commander of the Armies, God can protect, or He can chastise. He speaks to the people,

This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built

The entire reason that Israel has returned to the land is to rebuild God’s Temple. But they have put the Lord’s work on the back burner. Charles Feinberg wrote in his book The Minor Prophets:

Give God the supreme place in your life”.

This applies to us as God’s people today. Jesus watched how unbelievers lived their lives, struggling and chasing after the pleasures and goods of this world. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

Matthew 6:31-34 … do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the {unbelieving} Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are to put God first even when – or should I say especially when things are not optimum in our lives. When we go through the harsh trials we do not give up and walk away, nor do we turn our backs on Him Who loves us so. What did Jesus say? Was it,

When you feel like it, come follow Me?, or
Lay back in your recliner, and follow Me?

No, but Jesus said:

Matthew 16:24 … If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Three things. We DENY OURSELVES, or put our lives on the back burner. We TAKE UP OUR CROSS. The Cross is full of suffering. But we are not alone. We FOLLOW HIM. We love our God, and cling to Him with all our might. Israel did not do this. God told them:

Haggai 1:3-5Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled {sāp̄an, roofed} houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

Now, God does not need a Temple to live in. When the Apostle stood at Mars Hill he said:

Acts 17:24-25 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Furthermore, God is not really interested in the sacrifices that Israel would bring to the Temple. God told His people through the Prophet:

Hosea 6:6 I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

God does not need our “stuff”. He does not need our Temples, our Churches, our offerings. What God wants is our HEARTS. When we put our stuff above what we give to God, then our STUFF becomes our GODS.

When God Is Second, We Always Lose Out

Haggai 1:5-7 Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

Word Study: Verses 5-7 can be looked at like an Oreo cookie. Verse 5 and 7 is the sweet cookie part, and verse 6 the white filling. God tells Israel – and us – to consider your ways. This is the Hebrew Qal Imperative śûm derek, which means

Lay hold of YOUR way of life. Pick it up, and examine it. Insure you are on the right path. Insure you are walking with God.

When we walk in love with God, God walks in love with us. Jesus told us:

John 14:15, 21, 23 If ye love me, keep my commandments. … 21 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. 23 … 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.

When God is put first, when you love Him with ALL your heart as Jesus commanded (see Matthew 22:36 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind), then God is a very real Presence in your life. Israel blossomed while they kept their eyes – and their hearts – on God. Yet at some point Israel began to forget their love for God their Savior. They forgot God’s warning:

Job 8:11-15 Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? 12 While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. 13 Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. 14 His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. 15 He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure.

A “house” without God cannot stand. A “Israel” without the Spirit of God
becomes weak and powerless.
A “church” or a “Christian” without Christ loses all blessing.
The power of God is in the Presence of God.

Haggai 1:6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages [to put it] into a bag with holes.

Illustrate: I had a young man come to me the other day because of problems he had in his life. As we talked about his problems, I shared how – in my life – I had come through similar situations. What worked in my life was when I stopped striving in my own power, and began to do the things God said do. That’s how you love God. You do the things God said do. The natural desire of the fallen human is to seek out our own solutions, to be “self made”, to suck it up and power on. God told His people “You’re working hard at fixing what ails you, but you’re getting no where. You know why? Because you’ve cut ME out of the process”.

Humanism does thing in human power. Christianity relies on Christ.

Illustrate: I was watching a recording that “CBS Sunday Morning” made this past Sunday. In December 1772 John Newton wrote the song “Amazing Grace”. This past Sunday the song turned 250 years old. As I watched the broadcast, I at first was amazed that CBS would pay tribute to John Newton, much less “Amazing Grace”. But as I watched the broadcast I realized something else.

At NO POINT did the 6 ½ minute broadcast mention “God” or “Jesus” or “Christ”. The writers at CBS sanitized God and Jesus completely out of the tribute. CBS made no mention as to how Jesus transformed the life of John Newton, and turned a slave trader into an abolitionist.

It is NOT “Amazing Grace” if you cut out the love of God.
It is NOT “Amazing Grace” if it is divorced from the Gospel.
It is NOT “Amazing Grace” if it is self help and humanist.

Our God – throughout the Old Testament – by Grace transformed people, blessing their lives when they followed Him.

Abraham went from sterile, to the Father of a Nation.
Moses went from murderer to greatest prophet.
David went from the sheep’s pasture to the throne.
Jacob went from thief to prince of God.
Joseph went from slave to vice-king of Egypt.
Elizabeth went from barren to mother of John the Baptist.
And Mary went from virgin to mother of the Messiah.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus came to the least and the less. God is willing to save any by Grace. But once saved by Grace, we are to follow Him.

Consider Your Ways. Are You Following Jesus?

Jesus told Israel:

Haggai 1:7-8 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (8) Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.

If you are saved by Grace, you are saved on purpose. You are not here for nothing, but are here for God. Love Him. Serve Him. Put Him first. At the end of his life King Solomon said:

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

If you want to have a better year this year than you did last year, put the Lord first. Follow Him with all your heart. God will bless you when you heed His Word. God will bless our nation when we – His people – live for Him. Let us make 2023 a great year in following the Lord. Amen and Amen.

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Behold Simeon (After Christmas Message)

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Luke 2:25-26 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. (26) And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Throughout the Scripture there are times when God gives us a STOP sign. He puts a behold” (the Greek ἰδού idoú, [pronounced id-oo’]) in the text. When Joseph discovered Mary was with Child, he slept, and

Matthew 1:20 … behold (idoú) the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Gabriel’s appearance demanded a behold, and so did what the Angel had to say to Joseph:

Matthew 1:23 … behold (idoú) 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.

As the Wise Men came to see Jesus as a young toddler in Bethlehem (I’ll preach on this Sunday) we see three beholds in Matthew 2:1, 9 &13. There are beholds all through the ministry of Jesus as Jesus was baptized, and taught, and healed, and revealed the truths of God. Now we see a man in the Temple. This man’s name is Simeon. We are not given his family tree, nor his race, nor even his age. We know that he is Jewish because the name Simeon is a Jewish name. His name has an interesting meaning.

Simeon means “He that hears and obeys”.

God throughout Scripture has told us that the way to blessing is to follow the Lord. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 1:1-4 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Life is about the choices we make. We can hear what God says and follow our own path, or we can hear what God says and follow God. God told Israel:

Deuteronomy 28:1-7 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. 3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. 6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 7 The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.

Israel was saved from Egypt by God Almighty. Israel walked through the Red Sea as if on dry land. God fed Israel manna from Heaven, and meat in the wilderness. As long as Israel followed the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of cloud by night, she was blessed. As long as Israel heard and obeyed God’s Voice, she was blessed. But when Israel got off course of following God, she was cursed.

Jesus told us:

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

This has nothing to do with salvation itself. Salvation is by faith in Christ. One of my favorite texts are:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by GRACE are ye saved through faith, AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.

Because Jesus “by the Grace of God tasted death for every man”, taking our sin upon Him, we are saved IF we believe on Him. Someone asked Jesus once,

John 6:28 … What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus told them,

John 6:29 … THIS is THE WORK OF GOD, that you BELIEVE ON HIM Whom God {the Father} HATH SENT

Salvation is by faith in Christ, But BLESSING is by obedience!

Simeon is in the Temple. Why is he in the Temple? Our text tells us:

Luke 2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Simeon is clearly a man saved by faith. How do we know this? Because the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, if you prefer) is revealing things to him. Jesus told us that when the Holy Spirit came, that He would:

John 16:8-11 … when {The Spirit} is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

The Spirit “REPROVES”, that is the Greek ἐλέγχω elénchō, [pronounced el-eng’-kho], which means “TO CONVICT, TO REBUKE, TO ADMONISH, TO TELL A FAULT”. The Spirit convicts and convinces people that they are sinners in need of the Savior. The Spirit tells people that there is a judgment day coming, and that we all need the righteousness that is only found in Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to, Jesus said:

when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth”
(John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit will glorify Christ (John 16:14), as Jesus is the only Way unto God. Once we believe on Christ, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come and abide with us forever (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit told Simeon, you will not leave this life until you see the LORD’S CHRIST {Christos, Messiah}. The Spirit did not tell Simeon WHERE the Christ would be, only that he would see the Christ. So Simeon asked himself the question:

As the Spirit cannot lie, and I will see the Christ before I die,
then where must I be if I expect to see the Christ?”

If you want to be blessed of God, put yourself in the right places to be blessed of God. God can bless you in front of the television, or in the pool hall, or out in the middle of the woods while you are hunting, or in a dance hall. God can do whatever God wants to do. BUT it is more likely that – if you are looking for God – you will find Him:

In the Temple or Church, or
When you are doing good to others and being the light, or
When you are praying and seeking Him, or
When you are reading and studying God’s Word.

Now God can bless you anywhere He wants to bless you. But God is most likely to be in places where light and not darkness are prominent. You do not look for flour in a tea bag

Luke 2:27 And {Simeon} came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law

Simeon is in the right place to see the Christ. He is in the Temple. But what if Mary and Joseph had disobeyed God? Though Mary was the mother of the Christ, she was still subject to the will and Word of God. The Bible says that when a pregnant woman has a male child

Leviticus 12:2-4 … If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. 3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

Mary was not exempt from the command of God because she bore the Messiah. Mary and Joseph followed the Word of God, and did as God said without question. Mary was considered unclean for 40 days, which is a very interesting number. Forty (40) is often used for testing and judgment.

When God sent the flood it rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4).
When Moses was on Sinai he was with God 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18).
Jonah preached
“40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
Ezekiel laid on his right side 40 days
to declare Judah’s sinfulness (Ezekiel 4:6).

Though Mary was having a Special Child, the Son of God, she did not exempt herself from doing what God said in His Word. When we obey God we bless ourselves, and we bless others. Mary was unclean 7 days, and on the eighth day we read:

Luke 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Mary then returned to Bethlehem for another 33 days, remaining unclean for a total of 40 days. When Simeon saw Mary she along with Joseph had returned to the Temple to do as the Law said:

Leviticus 12:6 … when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest

Luke 2:22-24 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s Word, and Simeon obeyed God’s Spirit. Because of this they meet in the Temple, and Simeon was blessed of God.

Love God With All Your Heart

God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does call us to be loyal to Him. Simeon was loyal to God. Simeon loved God. We read in …

Luke 2:25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout

Two words are used to describe Simeon. He is just, the Greek δίκαιος díkaios, [pronounced dik’-ah-yos], which means “to be upright in God’s eyes. To walk with God”. The Apostle said in:

Romans 1:17 … The JUST shall live by faith ..

Jesus Christ died for us so that we might be made JUST or RIGHTEOUS in the eyes of God (Romans 5:19). A person is justified by faith in God, by receiving God as our Savior. We are “justified” by receiving Christ as our Savior. But once justified by faith, we walk in the light with our Savior and Lord. The Bible says:

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, [díkaios] and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Jesus gave His life on Calvary to make payment for our sins (1 Peter 3:18) “that He might bring us to God”. Saved, we imitate Jesus.

1 John 2:29 … ye know that {Jesus} is righteous, [díkaios] ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of {God}.

Genuine saving faith changes the focus of the life. It is like the old song, Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found. WAS BLIND, but NOW I SEE.
Twas Grace that taught me heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that faith appear, the hour I first believed.

Simeon was JUST. But Simeon was also devout. The word “” is the Greek εὐλαβής eulabḗs, [pronounced yoo-lab-ace’], which means “to live carefully so as to bring glory and love to God, to reverence God”. I told this to the men in my Bible class last night:

God does not expect you to be PERFECT.
God expects you to LOVE HIM.
God expects you to GLORIFY Him with your life.

When we sin – and we do – the Bible says:

1 John 2:1-6 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

We are called to love God, and to live so that God and others can see that love. We keep his commandments not to BE saved, but BECAUSE we are saved. He is our Father Who loves us so. He is the Son, Who died a horrible death for our sins. He is the Spirit Who indwells us, and never leaves nor forsakes us. Simeon loved God, so he hated sin. He, like the Apostle, said in his heart:

Romans 6:2 … How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Simeon knew that:

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

Simeon was saved by faith in God. He believed in God, looked for Christ, and lived his life carefully for to please the Lord Who love him. We who are saved by faith in Christ do not live as the world. We live as children of God. The Apostle wrote:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (10) Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

There Is A Wonderful Benefit In Living For The Lord

Simeon first of all got the blessing of holding the Baby Jesus in his arms! What a great blessing that was! But the second great blessing Simeon had was all fear of death was gone. Notice what he says:

Luke 2:28-32 Then took he {Jesus} up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Simeon had absolutely no fear of death. He was ready to meet his Maker. The great Scottish Preacher Alexander Maclaren wrote:

Simeon not only recognizes, but welcomes the approach of death. ‘Thou lettest Thy servant depart in peace.’ Yes, there speaks a calm voice tranquilly accepting the permission. He feels no agitation, no fluster of any kind, but quietly slips away from his post. And the reason for that peaceful welcome of the end is ‘for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ That sight is the reason, first of all, for his being sure that the curfew had rung for him, and that the day’s work was done. But it is also the reason for the peacefulness of his departure. He went ‘in peace …”

Simeon saw the Messiah, and death had lost all it’s power over him. Since God sent His Son to this earth for us, Simeon knew that God would keep His promises. He had the CONFIDENCE that every Christian should have, the confidence the Apostle spoke of:

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 … we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (7) (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (8) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (9) Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

We who are Christ’s work for the Father until our work is done. Simeon’s work is done. He is ready to meet His Savior and Lord. Death is but a transition from this plane to a higher plane, a place where Jesus is. The Apostle Paul said:

Philippians 1:21 (ESV) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Death is not an end for the believer in Christ, but a new beginning. The Apostle said, My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). I so look forward to seeing the Savior. I so look forward to exploring the boundless glory of Heaven. To die is no demotion, but a promotion for the believer sold out for Christ. Are you ready? If you are not, today is a great day to decide to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. May He move your hearts to “walk in the Light as He is in the Light”. Amen and amen.

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You Have Free Will (A Christmas Message)

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Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

I guess the most frequent question I’m asked as a Pastor is “If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?” I think it’s a fair question asked by sincere people. The heart of our suffering comes down to two words:

Free Will

When God made us, He created us “in His own image and after His likeness” (Genesis 1:27). Animals have a free will, but are not in the likeness of God. It is not immoral to enslave an animal, or to kill it and eat its flesh. It is immoral to enslave a person. It is immoral to eat a person’s flesh. Humans are not animals, and animals are not humans. We see this in the order of creation.

When God created the animals, He brought each creature to Adam to see what he would name them (Genesis 2:19). The animal did not name itself. Animals can be owned, bridled, ridden, farmed, sold, caged, forced into slaughterhouses – and there are no repercussions or penalties from God for doing so. Animals have free will, but are lower creations. They are not in God’s image.

Adam and Eve have both free will and the image of God. God told Adam that he was free to choose to eat of any tree in the Garden BUT the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Someone asked me once, “Why did Adam have ONE tree that he could not eat of? Why did God even put that tree there?” Again, this is a fair question.

Free will assumes a person has a choice.

If I went to the market to buy bread, but say, only one type of bread – white Wonder Bread – was the only bread available. If that’s all you can get, there is no free will. Free will means a choice. If you had a Garden where absolutely everything is edible, you have no opportunity to exercise your free will. Free will would just be a blank concept, but would never be practically expressed. God gave man free will, then gave humanity a choice. Choose to do your job, and never suffer. Choose to disobey God and do the forbidden, then choose death over life (Genesis 2:17).

You know the story. Adam chose to disobey God. When you disobey God you lose His blessing. God has free will too. Humanity could enjoy the Garden while they obeyed the Owner of the Garden. But once they chose to reject God’s directive, they lost God’s blessing. God said to Adam:

Genesis 2:17-19 … cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground…

Man was creation’s caregiver. Because Adam fell into sin, creation fell into sin. The ground previously brought forth only fruit bearing plants. Now the ground is cursedthorns and thistles along with other weeds come up. Man never had to use his sweat glands. But now he does, for “in the sweat of your face you will eat bread”. God said to Eve:

Genesis 2:16 …. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…

This is what sin brings. It brings suffering. Free will that rejects God’s directive brings pain. The child that touches the flame when warned by the parent gets burned. It is not the parent’s fault. It is not God’s fault. Adam chose the pain. The Bible says:

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

The Bible tells us “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It is your choice. You choose life by choosing to follow God. You choose death and suffering by choosing to follow yourself. Just as it was with Adam, your sin effects others.

Adam sinned, and he became the doorway by which both spiritual as well as physicaldeath entered the world.

The sin of one effects another. When free will turns away from God, it brings bad things with it.

God Has Free Will – And Wants Better For Us All

As we have gone through the Christmas story, last week we saw that Gabriel came to a young virgin named Mary. God wanted to use Mary as the vessel by which He would bring Salvation to the world. God proposed – and Mary agreed. She was given a choice. She said:

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

So she has surrendered herself to the Lord. Over eight months pass, and we read

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days

Look at the phrase it came to pass. This phrase occurs 452 times in Scripture, and often precedes suffering in the Bible. When Cain was jealous of his brother Abel we read:

Genesis 4:8 “it came to pass” that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him …

it came to pass later shows up in Genesis 6 when God decides to destroy the world by flood. The phrase it came to passillustrates humanities bad choices in free will. Sin always brings suffering. But God is loving. We have free will, but God has free will. The Bible tells us that God in love persists in reaching out to us. The Apostle said:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Why is this pregnant woman traveling to Bethlehem on a donkey? Because God is love. God of His own free will promised to save the world from sin. God promised that He would be our Redeemer.

God promised “redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever”
(Psalm 111:9)
.
God promised to “sweep away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).
God promised “put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7)
.

God promised to send Redemption through a virgin. God promised He would come down from Heaven miraculously:

Isaiah 7:14 the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel …

God would come to this earth through a virgin birth. The Son of God would be born of a woman (Luke 1:35). The Son of God would also be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6). The Son of God would be God the Son. How would God send His Son to this earth? Will He come through a royal family, as is His due? Will He be born in a Palace? No, the Bible says:

Luke 2:4-5 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

God the Son would not be born in an easy way. Joseph would have to take Mary his wife on a week’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Why does Jesus have to be born in Bethlehem? Because God said so. Mary is great with child. Joseph is suffering, because he must carry the woman he loves on a horrible trip in the last days of her pregnancy. Mary is suffering because she is great with child. They are having to go to Bethlehem because the Roman Ruler Caesar Augustus has ordered it. Why did Caesar do this? The Prince of Preachers C.H. Spurgeon notes:

A little tyrant, Herod, by some show of independent spirit, offends the greater tyrant, Augustus. Augustus informs him that he shall no longer treat him as a friend, but as a vassal; and albeit Herod makes the most abject submission, and his friends at the Roman court intercede for him, yet Augustus, to show his displeasure, orders a census to be taken of all the Jewish people, in readiness for a contemplated taxation, which, however, was not carried out till some ten years after.”

The puppet king Herod in free will offended Caesar. Caesar in free will ordered that people return to their home towns. There was no exception to the rule. It didn’t matter that Mary was pregnant. Suffering, she had to go. Yet on the other side of that suffering God was still in control. God lowered Himself down into our suffering. God did not take the easy path, but the path of self sacrifice.

There is only one God, and He is not you or I. There is only one God, and He is in control of all things! His hand is on the donkey that Mary rides on, and His hand is on the heart of those who suppose themselves to be gods. Caesar may order the census, but it is the Almighty God Who controls all things. He is in control now, He has never not been in control. What God has said, that He will do. We may make a god of ourselves, of our wills, of our abilities, of our powers, of our might. Yet it is God Who oversees all things, and controls all things according to the good pleasure of His Will.

The Free Will Of God And The Free Will Of Woman
Brought Redemption To Us All

Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

No mere man can bring redemption for sin. Sin is a terrible affront to the Unchanging and Eternal God. We can no more seek redemption from God by our works than can an ant please a human by its works. The Bible says:

Isaiah 64:6 …. we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Solomon said “the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). We cannot make ourselves right before God. God must make a way. God made the way of righteousness through faith in Christ. Note that the text tells us first:

Luke 2:7 {Mary} brought forth her firstborn son

Mary did not bring for THEIR firstborn Son. Joseph had nothing to do with this Child, other than acting as a surrogate Father or a Stepfather, if you will. God told Mary that:

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

This is not Joseph’s son, but God’s Son. Jesus is Mary’s Firstborn, but He is The Only Begotten of the Father. The Apostle said that …

John 1:14 … the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

And you know 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.

Jesus Christ – the Eternal Word of God – was with God from eternity. Jesus became the only begotten of God. He became God – Man, God in our midst. Like Man Jesus had all the failures we have:

A temporal body
A flesh that was weak
A carbon based life form
Jesus hungered, rested, slept

But Jesus had one thing that we do not naturally possess. Jesus was born into this world without sin. He had no old sin nature. The Bible says:

1 Peter 2:22 (ESV) {Jesus} committed NO SIN, neither was deceit found in His mouth.

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) {Jesus was} in every respect tempted as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN.

1 John 3:5 (ESV) {Jesus} appeared to take away sins, and IN HIM THERE IS NO SIN.

Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). He looked like any other Jewish baby Who had ever come into this world. But Jesus’ birth bypassed Joseph, and therefore bypassed the sin inherent in each and every one of us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; John 1:29; 1:36).

There have been “good men” who followed the Lord in the Scripture. But they were all flawed by sin.

Noah built the Ark by faith (Genesis 6:9),
but leaving the Ark got drunken and cursed his family.
Abraham, the Friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23)
,
laid with Hagar then cast her away with her child.
Moses led Israel faithfully till he came to Meribah (Numbers 20:24),
and there he denied God before the Rock that was Christ.
David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22),
took another man’s wife then murdered that man.

We are all flawed – all but this Baby, this Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. This Child is Mary’s Firstborn, and the Father’s Only Begotten. This Child is Eternal God in a small but sinless package.

Luke 2:7 {Mary} wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

This is God the Son, Who

Philippians 2:7-8 … took upon Him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Mary In Free Will Bore Christ. God In Free Will Sent Christ. Christ In Free Will Lowered Himself. What Will YOU Do?

God has done His part. The Lamb of God is in the Manger. God has lowered Himself, and become Man. So what will YOU do? It is no coincidence what comes next:

Luke 2:8-9 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Imagine yourself a shepherd abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. All of a sudden to your darkness accustomed eyes the Angel of the Lord appears in all his brilliance. It had to be blinding as well as frightening. I find it interesting the God comes to the shepherds first with His Messiah. Jesus is the LAMB OF GOD, so who better to see Him first but shepherds.

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times.

We see in the Scripture that Abel, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, Moses, King David, and Amos were all shepherds. But we also know that God is the Shepherd of His people (Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 79:13). The Lamb of God is in the Manger. Who better to see the Lamb of God than the Shepherds. Gabriel tells the Shepherds:

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Fear not”. Put away your fear. This is the first preaching of the Gospel. Bible teacher Ray Stedman writes:

It is striking that the human emotion that was first encountered by the angelic messenger was that of fear. Men were afraid in that day. They were afraid of many things, as they are today. There was Herod the Great on the throne. Herod was cruel, and was able to accomplish his wrath upon whoever was the object of his disfavor. He had personally put to death many, even in his own family, because of their antagonism to his plans. Also there were the Romans, too, with their proud legions, marching up and down across the face of the earth, holding everything in a severe and iron bondage. Many wars broke out and the economy was uncertain. The people were afraid.”

I think we’re afraid today. People are awash in fear. We had the fear of the Pandemic. We had the fear of tyrannical Government. We have the fear of Antifa, of armed militia and militant groups, of cancel culture, of far left or far right extremes. I remarked to my dear wife the other day that it seems as if there are fewer Christmas lights this year, fewer “Merry Christmas” declarations, or even “Happy Holidays”. We have, as a nation, depended on politicians to fix the sin problem. Even in Jesus’ day politicians are not fixing anything. The reason a pregnant virgin is on a donkey to Bethlehem is because of a politician.

Fear not.

Why Angel? Why should we not fear? There are fearsome things all about. The second witch of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Acts 4, Scene 1) says:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes!”

Or as the comic strip Pogo said,

We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Human solutions will not fix the human problem. We need the Lamb of God. We need to come out of the dark night that surrounds us, and go to that Manger where Jesus is. The Angel said:

Luke 2:10 I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people

Jesus did not come for just the Republican or just the Democrat. Jesus did not come for the elite, or the common. Jesus did not come for the drug abuser reusing needles in the street, or the rich alcoholic getting drunk on 12 year old Scotch whiskey. Jesus did not come for just the heterosexual sinner, but for the homosexual as well. Jesus came for ALL. If you are PEOPLE, Jesus came for you. He lowered Himself to a Manger. What does this little Lamb offer us?

Luke 2:11 … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Jesus Christ came to be the Savior of whosoever will. Someone once asked Jesus:

John 6:28 … What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

How can we have peace with God? How can we please God, Who is holy and without sin? Jesus replied:

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

How can we find our way out of the cesspool we have made of humanity? We can – in free will – turn to Jesus Christ as Savior. The Angel said:

Luke 2:12-17 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

The shepherds heard the Gospel, and leaving all they had, went to where Jesus was. They believed, and went to tell others what they had seen. What will you do? God has given you free will. It is your choice. Realize, dear one, that you will have to live in the choice you make. May God lead you to make the right choice, to choose Jesus. Amen and amen!

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Mary said …

Photo by Samuel Hájnik: https://www.pexels.com/photo/art-landmark-building-painting-12796028/

Luke 1:31-34 … {Mary} thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

The President recently signed into law the “Respect for Marriage Act”, which many praised as a giant step forward for progressive humanism. One statement that a certain Senator made was, “{Americans} should be able to marry whom they love. All Americans deserve full civil rights under the Law regardless of where they live.”

Some churches praised the Presidential signing, saying that there are provisions that protect the religious freedom as well as the tax exempt status of Churches opposed to same sex marriage. Frankly I don’t see this as a “win” for any Christ focused Church. Jesus told us that – as His people – we would suffer persecution in this world. Jesus said:

John 15:18-21 (ESV) If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

The Apostles certainly suffered persecution. The Apostle Paul told his young student Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:18 (ESV) The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 2:3 (ESV) Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

We as Christians are in a battle for the soul of America. The world will not understand our hearts. Now, I’m not here to talk about this particular Act, another in a long line of advances that anti-Christs have made. The Apostle John told us

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

The forces against God, the antichrists, will always rise up to battle against the Gospel of salvation. What does God expect of us in these days? Let’s tie this into the life of Mary in a section of Scripture we often call “The Christmas Story”.

God’s Word Is Always True, For God Is Always God

We have always lived in a world that has two views of God. The first view is the Subjective View of God. This is the most popular concept of God. In the Subjective View we believe that God exists for our benefit. This view creeps into the pulpits of many different Churches, even Baptist Churches. I have heard preachers say,

God created Adam because God was lonely and needed a companion. After creating Adam, God saw that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18), so he made Adam a helper called Eve.”

What is foolish about this statement is that God has never been alone. In Genesis 1:26 God – the Hebrew Elohim – said Let US make humanity in OUR image, after OUR likeness”. God has never been alone. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is complete in Himself. God created angels. He did not create out of a need for us. God created us for another reason, a reason the antichrists hate. God did not create us because He somehow had to do so or else He would suffer.

The Second View of God is the Objective View. In the Subjective View we say that God created us because He somehow needed us. In short, God exists because we exist. But the Objective View of God is that God created us because we need Him. We are incomplete without God. God made us in His image and in His likeness so that we could worship Him as God, and glorify Him for Who He is.

When we walk away from God we rip a hole in our very lives. We are made in the likeness, the image of God. We are not gods, but we were made to imitate and glorify Him.

Humans were created by Grace and Love flowing from God – but God does not need us to complete Himself. God lacks nothing. Our creation is an extension of God’s goodness.

Romans 11:36 For of {God}, and through {God}, and to {God}, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

We as humans exist not to be gods, but to bring GLORY to God.

We are told in 1 Chronicles 16:29, Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

The wise King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of {humanity}.”

The Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 and 1 Peter 4:11, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Illustrate: God does not need us. We need God. We were created to need God. Let’s play a little game I like to call “What if?”. The Angel comes to Mary and tells her that she is going to bear the Messiah. Mary replies with:

How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

What if Mary had said, “No! It’s not happening Gabe. It’s my body, my life. You don’t have permission to do this!” What if this had happened? Would God have stopped the Plan of Salvation? Would the Messiah have never been born? No, I believe that Messiah would have come through another vessel, another person.

God sent Moses to Israel to save His people from enslavement to Egypt. It was God’s will that Israel enter the Promised Land of Canaan. God had Moses tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may worship Me in the wilderness” (Exodus 7:16). It was God’s desire that Moses lead Israel into the Promised Land. When the first generation of Israel rejected God’s command, the Lord had them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all the dissidents passed away. Moses was to lead that second generation into Canaan. But Moses failed to glorify God in Kadesh (Numbers 20:10). God told Moses and Aaron, “because you would not believe Me nor glorify Me neither you Moses nor Aaron your brother will lead Israel into Canaan” (Numbers 20:12). God chose Joshua to take Moses’ place. If Mary had rejected God, God’s Word would still have been fulfilled. God keeps His Word.

As Gabriel unveiled God’s Plan to Mary he said:

Luke 1:35-37 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

God is God, and we are not. When God calls us into a relationship with Him, or calls us to do a task for Him, it is not because He is somehow unable or impotent, needing us to “save the day”. God caused Elisabeth, Mary’s elderly cousin to have a child – a magnificent Prophet John the Baptist – though she was completely infertile. If God can turn the infertile to the fertile, He can move on Mary’s body to produce the Messiah. The Angel told Mary:

For with God nothing shall be impossible

This is a common theme throughout the Scripture. When Abraham wondered how his dear infertile wife Sarah could have a child, the preincarnate Jesus told him:

Genesis 18:14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Illustrate: Sarah did not believe as Mary did, though she did not object. But God chose to use Sarah anyway. With God nothing shall be impossible. Just this past Tuesday the news noted that “U.S. Scientists Produce Fusion Power That Replicates The Sun’s Energy”. Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California) bombarded a tiny pellet of hydrogen plasma with lasers to produce this mini-sun. What took humanity thousands of years to replicate, God spoke into existence when He said “Let there be …”

As our Lord Jesus said in

Mark 10:27 … With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.

Mary told Gabriel:

Luke 1:38 … Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

When God Calls Us, He Calls Us To To Fill Our Needs, Not His

Mary puts absolutely NO CONDITIONS on her partnership with God. She said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. The word handmaid is the Greek δούλη doúlē, {pronounced doo’-lay}, which means “a female slave”. Mary gives over all her rights to God, putting herself under His complete control.

This is the wisest thing a human can do when approached by God.

When Moses, for instance, was approached by God to lead Israel from Egypt, Moses began to enumerate his various inabilities. He let fear take control, rather than know that “with God, all things are possible”. Moses told God,

Exodus 4:10 … O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

He kept resisting God until the Lord assigned his brother Aaron to be the spokesman for Moses (Exodus 4:14). Moses would have done better trusting in God. Aaron would become a yoke around Moses neck, dragging that good man down instead of lifting him up. Mary did not second guess God. She surrendered herself to God. “Lord, I am your slave – do with me as You will”.

When Gabriel leaves, Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth’s home to help her through her pregnancy. When Mary stepped out in faith, trusting in the God Who is limitless, then blessings come. Elisabeth speaks:

Luke 1:43-45 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Elisabeth says something that is key, something we all need to grab hold of. She says,

blessed is she that believed

Mary was not blessed because God chose her.
Mary was not blessed because the angel Gabriel came to her.
Mary was not blessed because she was somehow special.
Mary was blessed because she believed what God said.

Belief does not stand still. Belief trusts in God, and moves when God says move. When the Apostle Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ from the grave, Jesus appeared before him eight days later in a locked room. He told Thomas,

John 20:27 (ESV) {Thomas} “Put your finger here, and see My hands; put out your hand and place it in My side. DO NOT DISBELIEVE, BUT BELIEVE”. Thomas answered {Jesus}, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Mary had not seen that she was with the Messiah, but believed God – and acted on that belief. God blessed her because of her belief. Mary’s belief in God shows in the words she speaks:

Luke 1:46-48 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

It is not Mary’s goodness or worthiness that leads God to use her for the incarnation of Christ. God called Mary to be the mother of Christ’s humanity because our God is the God of all Grace. It is the God of all Grace that calls us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus (1 Peter 5:10). It is God Who is able to make ALL GRACE abound towards us (2 Corinthians 9:8). God was reaching out by Grace to Mary, causing Mary to worship the Lord. Hear her words of worship:

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior

Mary does not claim herself to be worthy of this great honor. God is in fact her Savior. Mary was not “immaculate” or sinless. No one has ever had that title outside of our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5). Mary goes on to say:

vs 48 … {God} hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden

Word Study: The words low estate is the Greek ταπείνωσις, tapeinōsis which is translated as “VILE” in:

Philippians 3:20-21 … we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our VILE body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body …

Mary said in effect, “God regarded the vileness of my life, and yet still in Grace used me”. Mary was a good woman who loved the Lord, but this was not why God used her. God used her because Mary understood that God worked through her weakness.

If God could use a broken vessel like Mary to bring the Incarnate Christ, He can use the least to do the most if they surrender to Him.

When God reaches down, it is to lift up. God reached down to Mary to use her to bring forth the Messiah. God reached down through the Messiah to bring salvation from Calvary. God in love reaches down to us all, for none of us are worthy. The Apostle quotes Psalm 14:1-3 & Psalm 53:1-3, writing:

Romans 3:10-12 None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

What we see so evident in our world today is a broken creation, trying to fix its brokenness with its own broken ideas and its own broken tools. God calls to us, as He called out to Mary. He calls out to us in Christ. Will we follow the ways of darkness, or will we surrender as Mary, and allow God to work in us?

Progressive humanism will not fix what ails us. We all need God. We all need Christ. Jesus told us of a Pharisee and a Publican who went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, relying on his worth and the worth that religion gave him:

Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

The Pharisee is much like the leper who attempts to fix his ailment. Religion wraps him in fine white linen. At first, he looks fine – clean and white. But in time the linen soaks through with the terrible disease, and that which is at the core comes into the light. Religion and time are enemies of one another. But to those who, like Mary, say to the Lord “I am your servant – use me as You will”, to them the Lord will come. Say unto Him Who calls:

You are God, and I am not.
You are Whole, but I am broken.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
Create in me a clean heart, O Lord,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Turn us unto Thee, O Lord,
And we shall be turned!

Salvation and blessing comes when we “be converted, and become as little children” (Matthew 18:3-4). God uses the little. God uses the broken. God uses the least, and the less than. Mary’s greatness came from her willingness to let God be God. We read:

Luke 1:49 For He that is MIGHTY hath done to me great things; and HOLY IS HIS NAME

Let Us Share The Gospel Of God With Others

Life is a gift from God. Eternal life is a gift from God. This Christmas let us share the message of God’s Gospel. Our God is MIGHTY – there is nothing that He cannot do. Further, our God is HOLY and UNBROKEN. He came to save sinners, to save them that will “fear the Lord”. Mary said:

Luke 1:50-52 … And {God’s} mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

If a person has no fear of God, that person will never
swim in the sea of God’s mercy.

God is God – and we are not. You recently should have received something from this Church by mail that examined the “Fear of the Lord”. God’s mercy is only on those who fear the Lord. Our infinite God has been saving people from brokenness for thousands of years. He has said, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). The Scripture assures us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). When all else fails, the mercy of God never fails (Lamentations 3:22-25).

Luke 1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.

What does our God require? Come hungry. Come thirsty. He is able to fill your every need. Oh that you would come to Him today, and receive life more abundantly (John 10:10). May God through His Spirit touch your hearts with His Word. Amen and Amen.

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

Fearing God Is The Beginning Of Knowledge

Photo by Rene Asmussen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-woman-peeking-on-planks-25757/

A subject that I have heard come up repeatedly in our Church lately is “Fear of the Lord”. What is “Fear of the Lord”? What is NOT “Fear of the Lord?”

Illustrate: Over a decade ago, in the Baptist Association that I was a part of, one of our associate local Churches began to baptize and receive into membership those who were living together in same sex marriages. Though every Baptist Church enjoys autonomy in how they conduct their services and operations, every Baptist Association is also autonomous. To join a Baptist Association you agree to its doctrinal view. As an Association we affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message (2000). By baptizing and receiving practicing LGBTQ persons into Church membership, this particular local Church rejected not only the Bible teachings, but also the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, portions of which read:

XV. The Christian and Social Order

In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. ..”

XVIII. The Family

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”

Our Association asked the Pastor of this Church to come and speak to the matter. Though every Church is autonomous, every Association is autonomous in which churches they will bind together with. When that Pastor came to speak, though I do not remember the man’s name, I remember his opening “monologue”. He opened with …

A middle aged woman named Susan had a heart attack. Being rushed to the hospital, she is revived – but not before she has a near death experience. During that experience she meets God, and asks ‘is it time for me to leave this earth?’. God tells her, ‘No. You’ve got another 30 years coming to you. Go back!’ After her recovery Susan decides that – since she has 30 more years – she would get her body “fixed”. She had a face lift, liposuction, laser surgery on her eyes, breast augmentation … if it could be done, she had it done. Leaving the hospital after her final “surgical fix” she steps out into the path of a speeding ambulance, and dies instantly. Arriving before God she complains. ‘God, You told me I had 30 more years.’ God replies, ‘Why Susan, I didn’t recognize you’.

I see a few strained grins, but frankly I didn’t find it to be funny. It does, however, show an absolute disrespect for God, and Who God is. The joke is not funny because:

  • No one goes to Heaven without a saving knowledge of God through faith in Christ Jesus (John 14:6; 1 Peter 2:4; John 3:13; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26).
  • No one can meet God face to face and live (John 1:18; Exodus 33:20)
  • The Bible tells us that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus speaks for the Father.
  • Nothing can be hidden from God (Hebrews 4:13; Luke 8:17)

I could go on and on. But it was evident to me that this Pastor of that particular local Church had absolutely no fear of God.

What Exactly Is “The Fear Of The Lord”? Solomon Speaks.

When people hear “Fear of the Lord” they assume it means the kind of fear that causes one to run and hide. The fear of the Lord can be that way. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and heard God coming, the Bible says:

Genesis 3:8 … Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

When questioned by God as to why they hid themselves, Adam said:

Genesis 3:10 … I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Adam hid from our Holy God because he disobeyed the Lord – and rightfully was afraid. This is a right fear of God. Or else, we can see the fear of God revealed at the final judgment:

Revelation 20::11 … I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

These are instances of “fearing God” that are valid. But this is not what God is commanding us to do in the Scripture when we are told to “fear the Lord”.

Fear of the Lord is NOT a phobia, but is a state of always putting God in first place, and all else second.

Fear of the Lord means to be more concerned about what God has said than your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter followers believe. King Solomon became the greatest King this world has ever seem by “fearing the Lord”. When Solomon prayed to God, the Lord came to him in 1 Kings 3:5-28 and said:

Solomon, you can have anything you want. Ask and I will give it.”

Solomon did not ask God for riches, or power, or fame. Solomon asked God to make him the best king he could possibly be. He said, “God, give me the wisdom to rule and judge your people well”. This is “fear of the Lord”. It is a desire to put God first in all that you do. Because Solomon “feared the Lord”, God gave him the promise,

You will have riches and honor all your life.
There will be no other king in the world as great as you!”

When Solomon wrote the Book of Proverbs, he highlighted the importance of fearing God as a believer.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The “Fear of the Lord” is the starting place for KNOWLEDGE. Adrian Rogers said, “Knowledge is learned, but wisdom is given”. Knowledge deals with facts, truths, reality. Knowledge can be gained by study. Wisdom comes from God. Wisdom shows us how to apply the knowledge we have to our lives. The Bible says:

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

Fear of the Lord means that we understand that proper living can only come by submission to Him. Solomon said fools despise wisdom and instruction. The word fool is used in scripture for those who despise God and His Word, for those who reject the Bible for human philosophies. Twice we are told in the Psalms, The FOOL hath said in his heart, THERE IS NO GOD” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). President Ronald Reagan said many years ago,

I do not understand Atheism. Sometimes when I’m faced with an atheist, I am tempted to invite him to the greatest gourmet dinner that one could ever serve, and when we have finished eating that magnificent dinner, to ask him if he believes there is a cook.”

Solomon speaks sixteen times on what the “fear of the Lord” is, more than any other Book in the Scripture.

We previously saw that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of KNOWLEDGE”. Even in Solomon’s day people turned away from “fear of the Lord” in favor of humanism and vain philosophies. Since God is the Giver of Wisdom, to turn from Him is to cut off the Source of wisdom, to become more and more foolish. They bring upon themselves destruction:

Proverbs 1:27-30 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

Putting human systems of faith above faith in the Creator leads us down a wormhole to destruction. Because Israel turned from “fear of the Lord”, they were conquered from without. Because America turns from “fear of the Lord” we are headed toward the same abyss!

It is “fear of the Lord” that encourages a people
to avoid what God has called “sin” (Exodus 20:20)

Proverbs 2:3-5 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

God is willing to share the truth with anyone who seeks it out. People do not have a “fear of the Lord” today because the average person has no respect for God’s Word, the Bible. People would rather watch a re-run on television than read the Word of God. People would rather go to a park or a ball game on Sunday than pick up the Holy Book.

We actually cherish what we do, and do what we cherish. As a Christian studies and pursues the truths that God has given in His Scripture, that Christian will begin to “fear the Lord”, to respect God as He is. God is not like us. We have limits. God is limitless. Jesus said:

Luke 1:37 … with God nothing shall be impossible

When we “fear the Lord” and put God first, we have the promise that God will lengthen and bless our lives.

Proverb 3:1-8 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: 2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear {יָרֵא yârêʼ, [yaw-ray]} the Lord, and depart from evil. 8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

Fear of the Lord is to fully trust in God with all your heart.
Fear of the Lord is to distrust your own abilities.
Fear of the Lord is to be open to His direction.
Fear of the Lord is to seek wisdom from God only.
Fear of the Lord is to reject evil in any form.

When we put God first “fearing” Him above all others, God physically and spiritually blesses our lives.

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Word Study: Those who choose to “tolerate” sin rather than to reject it have no fear of God. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. What is evil? It is pride, to elevate what you “feel” above what God has declared. After PRIDE there is ARROGANCY, the Hebrew gâʼôwn, [pronounced gaw-ohn’] which means “to be majestic, puffed up, visibly pompous”. This is accompanied with a froward” (tahpuḵôṯ) or “perverse mouth”.

Rather than carrying the Cross for Christ amid the jeers and japes of the world, those with no fear of God carry the rainbow flag to the delight and adulation of the lost crowd.

Many today are afraid to stand up for their faith in Christ. When we fear to stand up with God and lovingly speak the truth, we become part of the darkness rather than children of light. Solomon encouraged his Israel, saying:

Proverbs 14:25-27 A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies. 26 In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

To stand up with God in Christ while rejecting the false philosophies of this world will deliver souls from death and damnation. In putting God first, the Gospel leads people away from darkness and death and into the light of God.

Proverbs 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.

It is God Who made us, and God Who knows what is best for us.

Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.

The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When we reject the way of Christ and the way of God’s Word for our own path, we make ourselves miserable. Those who fear the Lord have the promise of life. Jesus said:

John 10:10 … I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

If we would choose life, we must choose to fear the Lord. To fail to fear the Lord is to put yourself, your family, your community, and your nation at risk.

God Can Protect Us If We Put Him First

I have heard it said that God does not expect our fear, but our love. I cannot agree with that. Fear of the Lord is bound to the Fatherhood of God. God told His people Israel when they went into the Promised Land:

Deuteronomy 6:1-3 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: 2 That thou mightest fear {yârêʼ, [yaw-ray’]} the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.

God sent Israel into a land filled with not only milk and honey, but also filled with enemies. God told His people that He had given them commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them. Israel was to focus on pleasing God by doing what God said. Israel was to fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments. As long as their focus was on putting God first, Israel would be protected from the superior forces around them. As a nation Israel would increase mightily because they did that which God told them to do.

Our Lord Jesus applied the same standard to what He told us to do. He said:

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

To not only HEAR but to DO what Jesus said is to have fear for the Lord. It is to fear the consequences of rejecting His directives. America has no fear of God today, thus we make laws that are the total opposite of what the Bible clearly teaches. We normalize sinful activity, and say that such behavior is beneath the scrutiny of God. Yet this is absolutely not true. We are to fear the Lord – to be in awe of Him:

Psalm 33:6-13 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 {yârêʼ, [yaw-ray]} 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 nought: 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. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. 13 The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.

We fear God because of His utter immensity. He merely spoke, and with a few words uttered all things into existence. We fear the Lord, that is, stand in awe of Him. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. God is not the “Big Man upstairs”, as some have depicted Him. God is not the “Sky Daddy” as others have mocked Him. God is immense in power. People plot and plan against God and His Word. Congress passes laws that mock God and creation. And yet, The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. In the end God dismantles the evil, for the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. God cannot be thwarted or turned against. His ways will stand forever. Solomon not only wrote Proverbs, but Ecclesiastes, a series of ancient sermons. In

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

Those who reject the Gospel and the salvation only found by faith in Christ may prosper for a timer on this earth. But in time their feet shall slip, for they are not embraced of God.

If you reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, you should fear God because judgment in an eternal lake of firer is coming. If you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, you should fear God because He punishes the child who disobeys Him (see Hebrews 12:5-11). David Hocking wrote in his essay, The Fear of God:

So, what is the fear of the Lord? It is the knowledge of God Himself. When you fear God, you have decided that knowing who God is is more important than anything else in life. Are you following? … You say, what is the fear of God? It is the key to knowledge and understanding and wisdom. It is also the knowledge of God Himself, and it is respect for the power of God’s Word. You stand in awe. You fear, why?-because He spoke and it was done. … When you fear God, you hate what He hates. You hate sin. You say, “What is the fear of God?” It is the hatred of sin. And what do we see in our culture? We see a giant toleration of sin. We see also a redefinition of sin-things that God says are wrong, people are saying that it is okay. Listen, if you fear God, what that fear of God is, is a hatred of sin.”

Is Fear Of The Lord A New Testament Standard?

Yes, it is. Our Lord Jesus commanded us in:

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather Fear {phobéō, [pronounced fob-eh’-o]} Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Luke 12:4-5 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear {phobéō, [pronounced fob-eh’-o]} Him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Our God is loving, merciful, and forgiving. But our God is also holy, just, and righteous. We realize that our God is bigger than anything – even us – and that there is nothing our Lord cannot do. We also need to understand that God despises sin. The Chief Apostle wrote:

1 Peter 2:17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear {phobeō} God. Honor the king.

As the Apostle Paul went out sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles, his motivating force was fear of God:

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror {phobos, fear} of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

When Christians comes together, they are to cooperate with one another under the leadership of Christ because we fear God:

Ephesians 5:18-21 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear {phobos} of God.

And it is the fear of God that encourages us to be more like Jesus every day. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear {phobos} of God.

Fear of God is not an antiquated notion. It is the bedrock upon which the Christian faith is built. Let us put God in first place in our Church, our homes, our communities, and our country. Only then will we experience the the blessings of God Almighty. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). May God the Holy Spirit guide you in understanding this great truth. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Fearing God, Sermons Preached, topical | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Where Will You Fill Your Cup?

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In Romans chapter 1, the Apostle encouraged the Church to continue placing all its trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel has the power to save whosoever will. The Gospel gives the one who believes in it purpose of being.

The Gospel effects the heart of the recipient,
which in turn guides the hand of the recipient.

If the Gospel believed does not change the outward works of the one who receives it, then the Gospel was never received in the first place. We saw how following an idol or empty god leads to idle or vain behavior. The Apostle said of those who reject the Gospel that …

Romans 1:28 … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Word Study: The words not convenientis the Greek mē kathēkō, meaning “things not becoming or fit, actions that are improper”. The same word was used by the Pharisees for the Apostle Paul in Acts 22:22. Paul told them that Jesus called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. At hearing this word the Pharisees cried out:

Acts 22:22 (ASV) Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

They were going to kill Paul (though they didn’t get away with it). To them, what Paul said was mē kathēkō, not fit nor right. When people reject the Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ then their outward works become mē kathēkō, not fit nor right. The point is this:

You Can Open Your Life To Jesus, And He Will Fill Your Cup, or
You Can Refuse The Gospel, And The World Will Fill Your Cup

What do people fill their lives with if they reject Jesus? We come to a section of Scripture most people skip over, but what is very important for us to understand. We will look at these godless traits found in the world today in detail. The Apostle says that the rejector of the Gospel is Being filled. Every day that the Gospel and the Word of God is rejected, the devil and the world actively fill the souls of the lost with darkness. The devil never takes a day off.

Illustrate: I read a devotional this morning where the author (I forget his name) said that foolish people consider the Church of Christ to be a cruise ship. On the cruise ship, every day is a party, and the ship exists to satisfy the desires and wants of the passengers. The author noted that the Church is NOT a cruise ship, but a battleship. We are at war with a powerful foe who is serious about defeating our Commander in Chief Jesus Christ. We are not passengers. We are members of the crew, with important duties we must do.

Without the Gospel people are Being filled with the works of darkness. We read:

Romans 1:29 … Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

Word Study: unrighteousness” (Greek adikia) means “that which God has said is not right or according to His standard”. Starting this list with unrighteousness, the Apostle now gets very specific. He addresses

Word Study: fornication” (Greek porneia) is where we get our word “pornography”. It is a blanket term for sin outside of the Biblical wedding bed. The word wickedness (Greek ponēria) is “depravity, iniquity, malicious acts, purposes or desires”. When the Pharisees plotted to trap Jesus with His own words (Matthew 22:15) Jesus “perceived their ponēria/ wickedness”. It is evil plotting that seeks to ensnare, characteristic of Satan and his forces (see Ephesians 6:12). covetousness(Greek pleonexia) is a “greedy desire for more than God has given”. Jesus warned us:

Luke 12:15 … Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth

If you value your life based only upon the things that you possess, then you will be apt to commit suicide if you lose your stuff. To elevate STUFF above the SOUL is foolish. When Job lost all his stuff he said, the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

It is not what you POSSESS, but
WHO POSSESSES YOU that matters!

Word Study: maliciousness(Greek kakia) is “evil or wicked actions that the doer perceives without shame”. When the Sorcerer Simon sought to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from the Apostles, Peter told him

Acts 8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee

There is no evidence Simon ever repented – though he asked the Apostles to pray for him.

Word Study: “full of envy” (Greek mestos phthonos) means “to desire what another has”. The Pharisees delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgment because they envied His following (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10). It is interesting that phthonos or envy of another precedes MURDER (Galatians 5:21), FIGHTING (1 Timothy 6:4), HATE CRIMES (Titus 3:3) and BACK BITING or SLANDER (1 Peter 2:1). We are not called to envy or desire what another person has. We as Christians are called to love and uplift others to the love of Christ.

Word Study: “murder” (Greek phónos) is the taking of innocent life. “debate” (Greek éris) is to “quarrel, to verbally strive over, to bring contention or division by word into the relationship”. Christians are not to be argumentative, but to be …

Ephesians 4:15 speaking the truth IN LOVE ….

Illustrate: I heard motivational speaker Neal Foard tell a story of a young man who invited a girlfriend home to meet his parents at Thanksgiving. It was his intention to ask this young lady to marry him. During the meal, the man’s mother and his girlfriend got in an argument about gluten. It got very heated, and the young lady got up from the table. The man’s father got the young girl to the side and counseled her, saying – and I love this:

Conversation is not a battle to win. It’s an investment
that grows in value over time.”

God gave us tongues not to rip one another apart with. He gave us tongues so we can pray, worship Him, and lovingly share His Word with others. Sun Tzu, a very successful Chinese Military General (544-496 BC) wrote, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle”. Those are good words!

Word Study: deceit” (Greek dolos) means “to sneak about, to be tricky or sly like a weasel or a fox”. The Pharisees plotted together to take Jesus by subtlety (dolos)” (Matthew 26:4). God despises hypocrisy, people who say one thing then – sneaking about – do the exact opposite. When Jesus met Nathaniel our Lord said,Behold a TRUE Israelite in whom there is no GUILE (dolos). Jesus never had dolos. He always spoke plainly (see 1 Peter 2:22). God promises long life to those who avoid verbal hypocrisy (1 Peter 3:10).

Word Study: malignity” (Greek kakoētheia) is “malicious craftiness”. whisperers(Greek psithyristēs) is “behind the back slandering. Again, a form of hypocrisy.

Romans 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Word Study: Backbiters” (Greek katalalos) means “one who speaks evil of another”. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:22 … whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Word Study: The word Raca” (Greek rhaka) means “you have an empty head, you are senseless or brainless, you don’t have the sense God gave gave a billy goat!”. To say to a brother in the faith that he is senseless could be cause for that speaker to be brought before the Council or the Jewish Sanhedrin for judgment. The Sanhedrin did not examine minor infractions – these were judged by the priests. But to call someone empty headed was a serious charge of slander. However to call someone a fool” (Greek mōros) is to say that they are “godless”. The mōros person is one who has turned against the clearly presented Word of God. Jesus said that …

Matthew 7:26 every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish (mōros) man, which built his house upon the sand:

Jesus often chastised the Pharisees – the religious right of His day – of being mōros (Matthew 23:17-19) because they heard God’s Word but did not follow it.

Word Study: haters of God is self explanatory. Our world is filled with haters of God, the God of the Scripture. despiteful” (Greek hybristēs) means “those who are insolent, insulters, those who wrongly speak so as to wound another’s life”. The categories proud” (Greek hyperēphanos), “boasters” (Greek alazōn), and inventors of evil things is again self explanatory. Those who are proudare following the same self destructive path that Lucifer, the fallen Archangel, is taking. The Bible says:

James 4:6 … God resisteth the proud (hyperēphanos), but giveth grace unto the humble.

And again in 1 Peter 5:5 … God resisteth the proud (hyperēphanos), and giveth grace to the humble.

It is interesting that both Peter and James uses the exact same statement on pride. God cannot work with the prideful, but only with the humble.

Evil Is Always Very Creative

Word Study: inventors of evil things”. When righteousness is forsaken, and the Gospel is rejected, then sin evolves into ever greater darkness. Adrian Rogers said:

We’re told, “God is a God of love, so He can’t be a God of wrath.” He is a God of infinite, measureless, fathomless love. But that’s only part of the truth. If you take part-truth and say it’s all of the truth, that part-truth becomes an untruth. God is also righteous and holy, a God of judgment and wrath. (see Romans 1:18)”

The Church is called to stand up and stand against sin, while directing the lost to Jesus. If a sinner is said to be normal, and sin is seen as excused, then why would anyone want to go to Jesus? George Washington wrote in his farewell address:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness”.

In 2019 the President of the Southern Baptist Convention J.D. Greear said:

The Bible appears more to whisper on sexual sin compared to its
shouts about materialism and religious pride.”

That’s not true.

– It was sexual sin that led to the Worldwide Noahic Flood (Genesis 6:2).

– It was sexual sin that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20; 19:4-5; Ezekiel 16:49-50).

– It was sexual sin that stained King David’s ministry (2 Samuel 11:2)

– It was sexual sin the early Church specifically avoided (Acts 15:19)

– It is sexual sin that God rebukes in the last days Church (Revelation 2:20)

– It is sexual sin that the Apostle Paul particularly pointed out as unfitting for the Christian. We read:

1 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV) Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

Like a car running downhill without engine or brakes, if sin is not addressed and the brakes of repentance applied, then sin will bring self destruction. We are not to justify sin!

Word Study: Now we read disobedient to parents. Children learn respect for authority – both civil and Divine – from their parents. Children will disobey. This is part of the sin nature in all of us. But when parents not only allow disobedience without addressing it, the child will grow up believing the world owes it a living. Children are commanded in Scripture:

Colossians 3:20 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land”.

The Apostle Paul quoted the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) that the Lord gave to Israel as being applicable to the Church. The Bible says:

Proverbs 13:24 (ESV) Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Children must be taught right from wrong, and that child is given in stewardship to the parent, NOT to the state. God expects the parents (father and mother) to lovingly correct the children. God told His people:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Illustrate: Several years ago Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book called “It Takes A Village”, taken from the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. This is socialism dressed up in apparent concern. One thing I did agree with in her book, was when she said:

Home is the child’s first and most important classroom” (HRC)

God wants His people to teach their children about Him, and to exhibit a sold out love for God not just in the Church, but in the privacy of the home. If parents do not train their children in the way of Christ, the world will school your children in the way of Lucifer! When Jesus rode into Jerusalem just before He was crucified the children came out and praise God in His Name. When the Pharisees complained about this, Jesus told them:

Matthew 21:16 (ESV) … have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”

quoting Psalm 8:2. The fact that these children praised God for Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey shows us that their parents took their responsibilities as parents seriously. The reason we have so many godless people in the world today is because parents (and usually just a single parent) allowed their children to find their own way to God. They inadvertently created unbelievers.

Those Who Justify Rather Than Repent Of Sin
Make Horrible Citizens

Romans 1:31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Word Study: Those raised without an understanding of God are Without understanding” (asynetos, senseless), “covenant breakers” (asynthetos, faithless), “without natural affection” (astorgos, without family love, loveless), “implacable” (áspondos, truceless), andunmerciful” (aneleēmōn, merciless). These people are “right” in their minds, and will not admit to being wrong. Yet the Scripture says:

Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

They know that they are at odds with God, for all people have a conscience. Yet their first deny, then harden their conscience so that they can continue down their own self appointed path. What do the fallen do? This brings us to chapter 2. In the original text there were no chapter and verse divisions. These were added to the 1560 Geneva Bible, and imported into the Bibles that followed. So when we come to:

Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Whenever you see a Therefore then ask yourself, “What is it there for?”. Those who fall away from God’s Grace and into sin begin to make judgments so as to cover their sins. God alone is the Judge. What does His Word say?

I was reading an article by Kelly Williams, a contributor for the Christian Post. In her article she noted she was asked by a woman, “What do you think of my lesbianism?” She told her “I didn’t create you, I didn’t die for you, and I won’t be your judge”. The lady then asked her, “What does God think of my lesbianism?”. Kelly replied, “Let me get you a Bible and you can read it for yourself”. She shared Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 with her – which led to the young lady repenting and giving her life to Jesus.

God does not call us to be judges, but sharers of His Word. There are scriptures which forbid homosexuality, transgenderism and all sexual expression outside of the Biblical wedding bed (see Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 1 Timothy 1:10). Transgenderism is rebuked in …

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

Let the Scripture define the sin – and then present the Gospel as God’s solution to what ails us. As we address others, we first need to make sure that we are where we should be with God. The Apostle says:

Romans 2:2-6 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds …

God judges our deeds, what we do each day. The New Covenant believer loves God with all their heart, and treats others with the love that they expect to be treated with. Belief in the Gospel brings about a change in the inner man, which is evidenced by the behavior of the outer man. We need to daily remind ourselves that we alone shall stand before God and be judged for how we lived OUR lives in Him. If we do not live for Jesus, but reject His Gospel and His Presence – then we need not expect to be with Jesus in the next life. May God the Holy Spirit keep us mindful that New Covenant believers follow Jesus, act like Jesus, and are being shaped by God the Holy Spirit to ultimately be like Jesus. May God open your eyes to this great truth! Amen and Amen!

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A Virgin Named Mary

Photo by Ivan Samkov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-standing-beside-a-man-8957839/

Luke 1:26-29And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

Our God does the impossible by doing the improbable
through
those who are incapable but willing to serve Him.

God works miracles in human history through the birth of Children. Jesus loves the little children. The Father of our faith, Abraham, was unable to have children. God promised Abraham that – if he would follow the Lord – Abraham would not only have a child, but a nation that would bless the whole world. Abraham followed, and at the young age of 100 (Genesis 21:5) had Isaac. Through Isaac, God would found the nation Israel. Now the time has come for God to complete His promise to Abraham. We read:

Luke 1:26-27 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin …

Focus first on IN THE SIXTH MONTH. Why is that important? The Angel tells Mary:

Luke 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

God uses the broken but willing to bring blessing into this world. He gave Barren Hanna a child, the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1-2). God gave Barren Sarah a child so that Abraham’s line could continue. And God gave Barren Elisabeth a child six months before Gabriel came to Mary. Elisabeth will give birth to John the Baptist. But God has other plans for Mary. God sends Gabriel to Mary six months from the time Elisabeth began to carry John. Mary is a virgin.

Luke 1:27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Word Study: Mary was espoused to a man whose name was Joseph. The word “espoused” is the Greek “μνηστεύω mnēsteúō”, which means “to be promised in marriage”.

In ancient times marriages were prearranged between families, with the fathers making the decisions. Mary and Joseph had been promised to one another by their parents. Though they had not officially married, they were engaged to be married. Mary was a virgin. She was saving herself for her marriage.

Why does God choose Mary to participate in the Incarnation of Christ? Because Mary and Joseph are people of faith. The Angel says to Mary:

Luke 1:28, 30 (KJV) …. Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. … 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.

Word Study: The Angel calls Mary highly favored(Greek charitóō, khar-ee-to’-o), which means “to be given special honor”. Gabriel also said that Mary found favor with God. This is the Greek “heyriskō charis”, which means “you have been found by GRACE”.

There are two horrible things that people have said about Mary and the Incarnation of Christ.

God Uses The Willing But Imperfect To Do His Will

One of the horrible things is that Mary was somehow sinless herself, a special creation of God that never sinned nor knew sin. This is what our brethren the Catholics believe. They offer up prayers to Mary as

The Mother of God”
“Blessed Mother”
“Queen of Heaven”
“Cause of our Joy”
“Mother of Mercy”

The Catholics see Mary as a Mediator between God and Man. The see Mary as “Immaculate”, that is, sinless. So therefore they pray for Mary, asking her to intercede for them. But the Scripture (which is our standard) tells us:

1 Timothy 2:5 … there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus …

The only Mediator we have is Jesus. Further, when Jesus our Mediator told us to pray, He said:

Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven …

Mary is not sinless. Like us all Mary has her flaws. But Mary will be given blessing from God because Mary “heyriskō charis”, that is “has been found by GRACE”.

When the broken are open to and available to God, God will pour Grace out on them. Mary is a recipient of Grace. God’s grand plan of salvation is Grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV) For by grace (χάρις charis) 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.

2 Timothy 1:9 (KJV) {God} hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace (χάρις charis), which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Eve helped Adam in the downfall of all creation. Mary will help God in the redemption of this fallen world. She will bring forth blessed Jesus.

Mary Was NOT Forced To Bring Forth The Messiah

A second horrible thing the devil has floated through media is that Mary was forced to bear Christ. Some come right out and say that God RAPED Mary. Is this true? Not according to the Scripture. When the Angel came and told Mary that …

Luke 1:31 behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

The pregnancy had not yet occurred. This is future tense, thou shalt conceive. At this point Mary is still a virgin, and still without child. When the Angel tells Mary that she shall have a Child Who would be the Messiah, Mary simply asks:

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

How can she, a virgin, bear a Child such as this? The Angel tells her:

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Again, the Angel is speaking in future tense. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee” and “the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. God has not made a move to cause Mary to be with Child yet. God is waiting. He is waiting on Mary. Now God knows the end from the beginning. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 139:4 (ESV) Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

The God Who made us “counts the number of the stars, and gives names to each one” (Psalm 147:4). Our God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21). He “declares the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done” (Isaiah 46:9-10). Yet God is in no hurry. He has a plan that He wishes to use Mary in, but God will not force this plan. God initiates the Virgin Birth … but does not carry through until she agrees. What was Mary’s response?

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Word Study: Mary made herself available to God. What did God do to Mary after her acceptance? The Archangel told Mary says the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. The word overshadow is the Greek episkiázō, {pronounced ep-ee-skee-ad’-zo}, which means “to envelope, to cover”.

Illustrate: In the Old Testament when God rescued Israel from Egypt, He led them out with a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night. Israel was saved in the shadow of God. The world has been ensnared in another Egypt, the lostness of humanity. Mankind has fallen deep into sin and desperation. Now God – just as He overshadowed Israel – He overshadows Mary. God will bring the Messiah into humanity through this willing virgin.

Illustrate Another Overshadowing: Many years later, after Christ becomes Incarnate, God becomes Man, Jesus will take Peter, James, and John with Him to a mountain. While on that Mountain Elijah – the Greatest Prophet, and Moses – the Giver of the Law would stand and speak to Jesus. Come to be known as “The Mount of transfiguration” God would give Peter, James, John, and His Church a clear picture of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Moses). Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament (Elijah). Peter spoke not to either Elijah or to Moses, but to Jesus. He said to Jesus:

Matthew 17:4 … Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Some believe that Mary was immaculate and without sin, this being the reason that God used her. No, that is not the case. Mary would later praise God for His wonderful Gift, saying:

What happened next? The Bible says:

Matthew 17:5 While {Peter} yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Just as Mary will be “overshadowed” (episkiázō, {pronounced ep-ee-skee-ad’-zo}) with God, Peter James & John were “overshadowed” by God. God causes the three Apostles to understand on the
Mount of Transfiguration. He causes Mary to be with Christ.

Grace Is God Doing The Work Through Us

We do not know at what point Mary became with Child. Mary is not forced to bear Jesus. God tells Mary (and us) what He wants to do with her. God will use Mary – but only with her permission. God told Mary:

1(vs 31) “Behold, Thou Shalt Conceive In Thy Womb, And Bring Forth A Son”. Jesus will come into the world through Mary as a boy, a man. Mary would conceive Jesus totally apart from any man’s intervention. This will be a fulfillment of the first prophecy of the Messiah. God told Satan in the Garden of Eden:

Genesis 3:15 (NASB) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

A woman does not produce SEED, but the EGG that the man fertilizes. Yet God said that the Avenger that would one day come and destroy Satan – that Old Serpent (Revelation 12:9) will be the “Seed of the Woman”. Later on in Scripture the Prophet would tell us in:

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

Mary is this promised virgin. “Immanuel” or “God with us” will come from Mary. Mary is not a perpetual virgin as some think. She would go on to have children by Joseph’s seed (see Matthew 12:46; Luke 8:19; Mark 3:31). Jesus had four stepbrothers named James, Joseph, Simon & Judas (Matthew 13:55), as well as stepsisters (Matthew 13:56), though their names are not mentioned.

God chose Mary to bring His Son into this world because of the promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) and King David (Isaiah 11:1). Jesus was a Male Jew, just as God foretold. The Scripture says:

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

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

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

Adrian Rogers said:

No virgin birth, no deity. No deity, no sinless life. No sinless life, no sacrificial death. No sacrificial death, no salvation. No salvation, you’re going to hell. Jesus came to earth that we might go to Heaven: born of a virgin that we might be born again. Thank God for the virgin birth!”

Sin entered the world through man’s failure. Christ came as a Son into the world to pay the penalty for our sins. Mary is also told that …

2(vs 31) … and shalt call his name Jesus. In the ancient world the father of the child named the child. Though Joseph is a good man, rightfully betrothed to Mary, he is NOT the father of Jesus. God tells Mary “you shall call Him JESUS”. The Archangel also goes to Joseph, telling that good man:

Matthew 1:20-21 … the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Word Study: The name “Jesus” (Greek Ἰησοῦς Iēsous) means “Jehovah is salvation”. The same name in Hebrew is Yeshua, the English Joshua which means “Jehovah is salvation”. The Heavenly Father named Jesus as He did because

He shall save His people from their sins”

In the Old Testament a believer named Joshua (the Hebrew equivalent of “Jesus”) led Israel into the Promised Land, defeating every foe that stood against them. Jesus leads His people today into the Kingdom of God, and promises that one day we shall be in THE Promised Land of Heaven.

If you have given yourself to Christ, if He is your Lord and Savior and you are HIS PEOPLE, then you SHALL BE SAVED FROM YOUR SINS. Not IN your sins, but FROM your sins.

3(vs 32) “He Shall Be Great, and Shall Be Called The Son Of The Highest”. Jesus has ALWAYS been great, because Jesus is more than a mere Man. Jesus is God in the flesh. The Scripture says:

John 1:1-3 (KJV) 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.

and the Apostle Paul declares:

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

He shall be great because He is God in the flesh. He shall be great because He is the …

Revelation 1:8 (KJV) … Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

He is the Word become flesh to dwell among us. He is the Light of the world. He is the Only Savior that God has sent. And He shall be called the Son of the Highest, the Son of God. People today do not see Jesus as He is, but those Who saw Him when He walked this earth knew He was more than just a man.

Illustrate His Worship: When the Wise Men came to see the Baby Jesus the Bible says:

Matthew 2:11 (ESV) … going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

God said in Hebrews 1:6, “Let all the angels of God worship Him”. Jesus Christ is to be worshiped.
Jesus walked on water and was worshiped (Matthew 14:33)
Thomas touched the Risen Savior and worshiped Him (John 20:28)
Following His Resurrection from the Grave Jesus was worshiped (Matthew 28:17)
And we will worship Him now and in Heaven (Revelation 22:3)

The fact that Jesus is worshiped makes the shedding of His Blood so much more valuable than the shedding of the blood of another man. Jesus’ Blood covers the sins of those who call on His Name and receive Him as He is.

1 Peter 1:18-20 (KJV) Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

He shall be Great, for He laid His life down for you and for me.

4(vs 32) “The Lord God Shall Give Unto Him The Throne Of His Father David”. Though Christ would be born of Mary, the Genealogies of Christ found in Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:23-38) show that both His Stepfather Joseph as well as Mary His Mother can be traced back to King David. In fact, Joseph is called “son of David” in Matthew 1:20-21. This Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to King David in:

2 Samuel 7:12-13New American Standard Bible (NASB) …. I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

This Child would be the fulfillment of the Covenant that God the Father made with King David. Jesus alone is the One to Whom “God gave Him the Throne of His Father David”.

5(vs 33) “He Shall Reign Over The House Of Jacob Forever”. God did not say that this Child would rule over the House of ISRAEL, but of JACOB. So what’s the difference.

Jacob is the name of an Unsaved Man.
Israel is the name given Jacob when He was saved.

The world that this Child entered into was a world not of Israel, but of Jacob. Israel had rejected God and ignored His Word, so Israel was occupied by Rome, a foreign superpower. Israel was ruled by Herod, an Idumean or descendant of Edom not a Judean nor a Son of David. The High Priest of Israel was not a believer in God, and the rulers of Israel had turned from God’s Word. In short, Israel had become Jacob, a nation as lost as the Romans around them. Certainly God had a remnant. God has always had a remnant. But the remnant was small at this time.

Israel was fallen.
Unbelief reigned.
America has fallen.
Unbelief reigns.
Yet Christ shall rule over Jacob!

God is not done with Israel, and I do not believe His is done with America. He shall rule over Jacob. Christ shall triumph in the end. He is …

Revelation 1:5-7 (NASB) … Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

Jesus Christ rules and reigns. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

Romans 14:11 (NASB) … “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.”

Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB) … at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

6(vs 33) “And Of His Kingdom There Shall Be No End”. Jesus shall in the end rule and reign over this earth. His Kingdom will never cease. This is an eternal Kingdom with Jesus at the helm. So you must make a choice. Will you follow self, or follow Him? The Kingdoms of mankind come and go, but Christ’s Kingdom is eternal.

What Will YOU Do?

When Mary heard all the things that God promised her – and willingly agreed to it – the Archangel left. His job was done. What does Mary do?

Luke 1:39-40 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

Mary did not stay where she was, but she got up, and went to help her cousin Elisabeth deliver her baby. Mary moved. What will you do? Knowing Who Jesus is, will you stay as you are? Or will you move, and be Jesus to someone in need? God reached into the world to move in the life of Mary. He did this to bring blessing to us all through the birth of Jesus. Saved by Grace, what will you do? May God the Holy Spirit move you to yield yourselves to Him this very day. Amen and Amen.

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Tommy Hanvy’s Memorial Service (Homecoming)

On behalf of the family of Tommy Hanvy I thank you all for being here today. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to testify for Tommy and for Jesus. I apologize in advance if my voice is a little off – I’m battling a head cold. It’s not Covid – I checked. I’m a little broken. But so are we all.

The obituary for Tommy (Fate Thomas Hanvy) noted that he was a retired forklift operator for Samsonite. I read also, “Born July 21, 1944 in Maury County, he was the son of the late Herman L. Hanvy, Sr. and the late Ophelia Dial Hanvy. Mr. Hanvy never met a stranger, loved spending time with his grandchildren, woodworking, traveling to the Gulf Coast, and eating. He was a member of Riverview Baptist Church”.

Tommy has gone on to a place that Jesus promised to those who love Him.

I know that Tommy’s family & Friends will miss Tommy –
I know we at Riverview will miss Him.

Tommy received Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and as a believer he is with the Lord in another place. It is a place that the Bible says:

“{Heaven is where} God dwells with His people. God Himself will be with them as their God. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”
(my paraphrase of Revelation 21:3-4)

Personal Testimony: I first met Tommy over 11 years ago in a hospital room. My wife Sherry and I had come to Riverview at the request of the Pulpit Committee, and were yet to be called as Pastor. I heard that Tommy was in the hospital so Sherry and I went to visit him and pray for him. From that moment on we became friends.

Tommy loved coming to our Tuesday night Bible studies, and was an active participant in the class. Tommy loved his Sunday School class. It was Jimmy Aslinger – a dear friend also with the Lord – that got Tommy into the Men’s Class. When Jimmy went to be with the Lord, Tommy continued to come and be a part of that class. He enjoyed Tim Laws and Tony Scott’s teaching. Tommy was good natured, and loved to laugh along with the men as they told “fish tales”.

Tommy loved to eat! He loved coming to the “Eating Meetings” at Riverview, or going to the Legion meals with his friend and brother in Christ David Patterson. Tommy loved our Monday morning coffee meetings at the Church. He loved to sit and swap tales with the men. We will miss Tommy at these meetings – but we will see him again one day.

Our Lord Jesus promised to those who loved Him:

John 10:7-9, 11, 14, 27-28 Verily, Verily I say unto you, I am the Door of the sheep. I am the Door. By Me if any person enter in, He shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. I, Jesus, am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.

27-30 My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are ONE.

None of us are perfect. None of us are unbroken. But this is why Jesus came to this earth. He came to rescue us from our brokenness.

Jesus said, “There are none good, but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18). Compared to God there are none of us “good”. We fall far short of the glory of God. Even “our righteousness is as filthy rags” in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). No, we all fall short. When asked why Jesus loved meeting with the broken, He said in …

Mark 2:17 …. They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Bible says that 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 sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 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.” (John 3:16-18)

Knowing that Tommy believed on the Lord Jesus Christ is what comforts my heart today. This should also comfort your hearts if you love Jesus as well.

________________________________________________

The Bible has what I consider one of the oddest verses in it in:

Romans 8:28 And we know that ALL THINGS work together FOR GOOD to them that LOVE GOD, to them who are the CALLED according to HIS PURPOSE.

The Bible does not say that all things are GOOD, but that ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD.

We would not dare say that CANCER is good. I do not believe that any disease among humans if good. There are a lot of bad things in this life. HEART DISEASE, ALZHEIMER’S, DEMENTIA, there are so many diseases that afflict us as humans. Not just bad people get sicknesses and diseases. “Good people” suffer along with the bad. Sometime the most evil live, while it seems as if the young die.

But the Bible says ALL THINGS work TOGETHER for GOOD to … THEM THAT LOVE GOD. There are bad things. But even the bad things are good things when we love Jesus. The Bible is very clear that this life is but a tip of the iceberg of each of our stories. Once we leave this life, this chapter may end, but another – and greater chapter – begins. The Bible says:

Romans 8:31-32 What shall we say to these things? If God be FOR us, WHO can be AGAINST us? God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up FOR US ALL, how shall He not with Him also FREELY GIVE US ALL THINGS?

When I was a young boy, people understood that the very nature of God is holiness. It is certain that God is love (1 John 4:8). That is a key part of God’s character. But just like us, God’s character is not just one note. The Bible says that God is holy. God told His people in the Old Testament:

Leviticus 19:2 … You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.

From the first of the Bible to the last, we see that God is both LOVE as well as HOLY, unbroken. We all fall far short of God’s standard. But this is why Jesus Christ came.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Mediator between God and Man. Jesus was born long ago in a manger. He was not just a “good teacher”, but when Jesus’ birth was announced to Joseph, Mary’s husband to be the Angel Gabriel said:

Matthew 1:20-23 Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus Christ is “God with us”. He is the Eternal Son of God. He is the only Mediator between God and Mankind.

Jesus Christ came into this world to “save His people from their sins”.

We are all “sinners” in need of a Savior. Being sinners, the Bible says, we cannot save ourselves. But God does not expect us to save ourselves. God sent His Son to this earth to make a way for us to go to Heaven. God calls on us all to repent – to turn from being our own God – and to turn to and follow Jesus. When Jesus was born into this world – born of a virgin – the Archangel Gabriel told the virgin Mary:

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

Jesus Christ – Eternal God the Son – became man so that He could receive our punishment for sin on Himself. This is the “Gospel” or “Good News” that God sends to us. This is the reason for the Christmas Season – a time to remember that when we could not save ourselves, Jesus came to save us. As the Only Begotten Son Jesus laid down His life for us on a Hill called Calvary.

Will salvation make you perfect? Not in this life. But salvation will bring you into a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible promises:

Romans 10:9-12 If you shall confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. With your heart you believe unto righteousness; and with your mouth confession is made unto salvation. The Scripture says, whosoever believes on Jesus shall not be ashamed. There is no difference … the same Lord is rich to all that call on His Name.

What makes a person right with God? It is NOT our works. The Bible says:

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.

When we hear the Gospel that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, that Jesus Christ lived out His life on this earth reaching out to sinners, and that Jesus Christ died on a Cross, and rose again the third day to save us …

Oh, how we love Jesus! God “justifies” or makes us right in His eyes when we lovingly embrace Jesus by faith.

Romans 8:33-34 … it is God that justifies or makes us right. Who can condemn us? It is Christ that died, and that has risen from the Grave, Who now sits on the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for us.

The Christian is not perfect – but Jesus is. The Christian receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, and begins to trust in Him and follow Him one day at a time. Tommy followed Jesus the best he could.

Beloved, we all will eventually meet Jesus!

As cancer returned to Tommy and he began to go down physically, I asked Tommy “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” He told me that yes, he was. This is the greatest question each and every one of us needs confront and answer before we reach death’s door. Tommy’s journey is over now. This chapter of his life is over. But Tommy’s life is not over.

One day Jesus sent His disciples out with the power to heal the sick. They came back elated, saying:

Luke 10:17 (ESV) “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

Jesus told His disciples – those who lovingly followed Him:

Luke 10:19-20 (ESV) I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

How can your name be written in God’s Book? It is only through Jesus Christ that you can be saved. You must receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, believing He died for you, and rose again to forever be with you. I’ll end with this Scripture:

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV) I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May God the Holy Spirit draw you to Christ’s side this very day. Amen and Amen!

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A Biblical Examination Of The Hymns Of Christmas

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-suit-standing-in-front-of-kids-singing-7567334/

I love Christmas and the Christmas Carols. So it’s not my intent to be a “Scrooge” tonight. This past Sunday Jerry mentioned “We Three Kings” as being one of the most theologically incorrect songs in our hymnal. That kind of peaked my interest, so I thought tonight we’d examine a few of the Christmas songs we sing and see if they are Scripturally accurate.

Away In A Manger

Away In A Manger is a beautiful song that focuses on the birthplace of our Lord Jesus. The song is supposed to reflect the Scriptures in:

Luke 2:4-7 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The first four stanzas are:

Away in a manger, No crib for a bed.
The little Lord Jesus, Laid down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky, Look down where He lay.
The little Lord Jesus, Asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, The Baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes.

I love You, Lord Jesus, Look down from the sky.
And stay by my cradle, Till morning is nigh.

The song has been wrongly attributed to the German Reformer Martin Luther, saying that he wrote it for his child. This is not true. This false association can be traced back to a book written by James R. Murray (1841-1905) called “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses” (1887). Discipleship Ministries notes

“… the hymn first appeared with two stanzas in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, a Sunday school collection published in 1885 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. Stanza three first appeared unattributed in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs (1892), compiled by gospel composer Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932).”

The song is not a terribly bad song – until the third stanza. It reads:

The cattle are lowing, The Baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes.

A baby that does not cry is a baby in trouble. Babies cry for a variety of reasons. They can be hungry, have a dirty diaper, or have a need to burp. Babies need attention, and crying helps them bond with their parents. The Bible says of Jesus that:

Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus Christ – though Eternal God prior to His incarnation, when He became incarnate He became like his brothers in every respect – and yet, WITHOUT SIN(see Hebrews 4:15). Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. When He went to the Cross, Jesus went without complaint. We are told in

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Though Jesus was born of a virgin, supernaturally induced by God the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:35), He was just as human as we are. He had to be, in order to make payment for our sins.

In the early Church there was a cult that sprang up called
Docetism, that taught that Jesus only had a body
that seemed like a human body.

The Apostle John wrote against this in:

1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Jesus Christ CAME or WAS INCARNATE IN THE FLESH so He could pay for our sins. Throughout His life Jesus behaved like a regular human being:

Jesus wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7-9
Jesus was weary (John 4:5-6)
Jesus slept (Matthew 8:18-22)
Jesus was hungry (Mark 11:12;
Luke 4:2)
Jesus got angry (John 2:17; Mark 3:5;
John 11:38)

So though we don’t know whether there were “cattle lowing” around Jesus, we do know that, like a normal baby, Jesus cried and made sounds. He came into this world (incarnate) a perfectly sinless baby.

We Three Kings Of Orient Are

We Three Kings” was composed by an American preacher John Henry Hopkins, Jr, and appeared in his Carols, Hymns, and Songs collection (1872). The song was referencing:

Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

As Jerry brought out on Sunday, there were not “Three Kings” who went to see Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. These were wise men from the east, called “Magi” or “Astrologers”. There is evidence that these men – number undetermined – came from Babylon to Jerusalem. The Prophet Daniel was assigned to the High Office of

Daniel 5:11 … (ESV) chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers ..

by King Nebuchadnezzar. A group called “Stand To Reason” notes:

How did Babylonians know about Jewish prophecy at all, and what led them to believe that this particular star was the one that would lead them to a great, newborn king? …

This is where the prophet Daniel comes in. Not only was Daniel chief of the Magi, but his prophecies became known throughout the ancient Near East. Even the Romans were aware of his prophecies of a coming king of Israel.

The Magi of the first century would have most certainly studied the writing of Daniel and possibly other Jewish writings Daniel likely referenced, such as the book of Isaiah. This connection between Daniel and the Magi may help to explain why almost six hundred years later, the Magi in question expected a Jewish king to arrive in Judea near the end of the first century B.C. It is likely that the Magi followed the star based on their study of the prophet Daniel’s writings.”

Craig Chester a past President of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy”wrote:

Magi often wandered from court to court, and it was not unusual for them to cover great distances in order to attend the birth or crowning of a king, paying their respects and offering gifts. It is not surprising, therefore, that Matthew would mention them as validation of Jesus’ kingship, or that Herod would regard their arrival as a very serious matter”.

The account in Matthew does not tell us how many Magi there were, but it tells us that they brought three gifts to Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These Magi were considered “King Makers” because their predictions of future kings are unquestioned. This is the reason King Herod was troubled (Matthew 2:3) at the appearance of the Magi. And his disturbance led to the murder of all the children in Bethlehem two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16), a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing & Other Great Songs

In a recent Breakpoint article, John Stonestreet and Kasey Leander wrote on “How The Hymns of Christmas Teach Right Doctrine”. They noted that “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” (1739) written by Charles Wesley was written to specifically answer the false doctrine called Arianism.

Whereas Docetism taught that Jesus only “looked human”, Arianism taught that Jesus was merely a created being and NOT God among us.

The Bible teaches us that the Angel of the Lord told Joseph:

Matthew 1:20-23 … Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 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.

When Jesus was born (as was prophesied) He came to save his people from their sins. Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

“… the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”

Matthew quotes this verse, adding the definition of Emmanuel: 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.

According to the most recent study that Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research have made, 43% of Evangelical Christians believe “Jesus was a great teacher, but not God”. Hark The Herald Angels Sing teaches us that:

(Stanza 2) Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King”

Hark the Herald” celebrates the great truth that God came from Heaven to earth, so that He could take man from earth to Heaven. Because of Jesus “God and sinners (are) reconciled”.

Another song “O Holy Night” brings in the reconciliation we have to God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices.
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born!

Or another favorite, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” tells us that “Christ was born on Christmas Day. We don’t know that Jesus was born on December 25th, but that is when we celebrate His incarnation. And it is Scripturally true that Jesus was born:

To save us all from Satan’s pow’r, When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

When we look at the Christmas Carols, there are more that are Biblically accurate than those that are not. So this Christmas let’s sing praises to Jesus. He is worthy. He is the Only Way unto God. Let’s not lose Jesus in the midst of Santa Claus and Black Friday, Christmas Trees and lawn decorations. Praise God for Jesus. Or I will close with the second verse of “Angels From The Realms of Glory”:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains.

I love Christmas and the Christmas Carols. So it’s not my intent to be a “Scrooge” tonight. This past Sunday Jerry mentioned “We Three Kings” as being one of the most theologically incorrect songs in our hymnal. That kind of peaked my interest, so I thought tonight we’d examine a few of the Christmas songs we sing and see if they are Scripturally accurate.

Away In A Manger

Away In A Manger is a beautiful song that focuses on the birthplace of our Lord Jesus. The song is supposed to reflect the Scriptures in:

Luke 2:4-7 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The first four stanzas are:

Away in a manger, No crib for a bed.
The little Lord Jesus, Laid down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky, Look down where He lay.
The little Lord Jesus, Asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, The Baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes.

I love You, Lord Jesus, Look down from the sky.
And stay by my cradle, Till morning is nigh.

The song has been wrongly attributed to the German Reformer Martin Luther, saying that he wrote it for his child. This is not true. This false association can be traced back to a book written by James R. Murray (1841-1905) called “Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses” (1887). Discipleship Ministries notes

“… the hymn first appeared with two stanzas in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, a Sunday school collection published in 1885 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. Stanza three first appeared unattributed in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs (1892), compiled by gospel composer Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932).”

The song is not a terribly bad song – until the third stanza. It reads:

The cattle are lowing, The Baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes.

A baby that does not cry is a baby in trouble. Babies cry for a variety of reasons. They can be hungry, have a dirty diaper, or have a need to burp. Babies need attention, and crying helps them bond with their parents. The Bible says of Jesus that:

Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus Christ – though Eternal God prior to His incarnation, when He became incarnate He became like his brothers in every respect – and yet, WITHOUT SIN(see Hebrews 4:15). Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. When He went to the Cross, Jesus went without complaint. We are told in

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Though Jesus was born of a virgin, supernaturally induced by God the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:35), He was just as human as we are. He had to be, in order to make payment for our sins.

In the early Church there was a cult that sprang up called
Docetism, that taught that Jesus only had a body
that seemed like a human body.

The Apostle John wrote against this in:

1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Jesus Christ CAME or WAS INCARNATE IN THE FLESH so He could pay for our sins. Throughout His life Jesus behaved like a regular human being:

Jesus wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7-9
Jesus was weary (John 4:5-6)
Jesus slept (Matthew 8:18-22)
Jesus was hungry (Mark 11:12;
Luke 4:2)
Jesus got angry (John 2:17; Mark 3:5;
John 11:38)

So though we don’t know whether there were “cattle lowing” around Jesus, we do know that, like a normal baby, Jesus cried and made sounds. He came into this world (incarnate) a perfectly sinless baby.

We Three Kings Of Orient Are

We Three Kings” was composed by an American preacher John Henry Hopkins, Jr, and appeared in his Carols, Hymns, and Songs collection (1872). The song was referencing:

Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

As Jerry brought out on Sunday, there were not “Three Kings” who went to see Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. These were wise men from the east, called “Magi” or “Astrologers”. There is evidence that these men – number undetermined – came from Babylon to Jerusalem. The Prophet Daniel was assigned to the High Office of

Daniel 5:11 … (ESV) chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers ..

by King Nebuchadnezzar. A group called “Stand To Reason” notes:

How did Babylonians know about Jewish prophecy at all, and what led them to believe that this particular star was the one that would lead them to a great, newborn king? …

This is where the prophet Daniel comes in. Not only was Daniel chief of the Magi, but his prophecies became known throughout the ancient Near East. Even the Romans were aware of his prophecies of a coming king of Israel.

The Magi of the first century would have most certainly studied the writing of Daniel and possibly other Jewish writings Daniel likely referenced, such as the book of Isaiah. This connection between Daniel and the Magi may help to explain why almost six hundred years later, the Magi in question expected a Jewish king to arrive in Judea near the end of the first century B.C. It is likely that the Magi followed the star based on their study of the prophet Daniel’s writings.”

Craig Chester a past President of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy”wrote:

Magi often wandered from court to court, and it was not unusual for them to cover great distances in order to attend the birth or crowning of a king, paying their respects and offering gifts. It is not surprising, therefore, that Matthew would mention them as validation of Jesus’ kingship, or that Herod would regard their arrival as a very serious matter”.

The account in Matthew does not tell us how many Magi there were, but it tells us that they brought three gifts to Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These Magi were considered “King Makers” because their predictions of future kings are unquestioned. This is the reason King Herod was troubled (Matthew 2:3) at the appearance of the Magi. And his disturbance led to the murder of all the children in Bethlehem two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16), a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing & Other Great Songs

In a recent Breakpoint article, John Stonestreet and Kasey Leander wrote on “How The Hymns of Christmas Teach Right Doctrine”. They noted that “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” (1739) written by Charles Wesley was written to specifically answer the false doctrine called Arianism.

Whereas Docetism taught that Jesus only “looked human”, Arianism taught that Jesus was merely a created being and NOT God among us.

The Bible teaches us that the Angel of the Lord told Joseph:

Matthew 1:20-23 … Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 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.

When Jesus was born (as was prophesied) He came to save his people from their sins. Jesus’ birth was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

“… the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”

Matthew quotes this verse, adding the definition of Emmanuel: 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.

According to the most recent study that Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research have made, 43% of Evangelical Christians believe “Jesus was a great teacher, but not God”. Hark The Herald Angels Sing teaches us that:

(Stanza 2) Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King”

Hark the Herald” celebrates the great truth that God came from Heaven to earth, so that He could take man from earth to Heaven. Because of Jesus “God and sinners (are) reconciled”.

Another song “O Holy Night” brings in the reconciliation we have to God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices.
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born!

Or another favorite, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” tells us that “Christ was born on Christmas Day. We don’t know that Jesus was born on December 25th, but that is when we celebrate His incarnation. And it is Scripturally true that Jesus was born:

To save us all from Satan’s pow’r, When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

When we look at the Christmas Carols, there are more that are Biblically accurate than those that are not. So this Christmas let’s sing praises to Jesus. He is worthy. He is the Only Way unto God. Let’s not lose Jesus in the midst of Santa Claus and Black Friday, Christmas Trees and lawn decorations. Praise God for Jesus. Or I will close with the second verse of “Angels From The Realms of Glory”:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains.
Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King.
Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King.

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Do You Love Jesus?

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Hebrews 7:22-25 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

John 8:42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

Do You Love Jesus? This Is Faith’s Thermometer

Opening: I was reading an article on The 3 Misconceptions That Many Muslims Have About Christianity the other day. I love to read, and learn much by it. One of the largest problems in witnessing Christ to Muslims is that they believe the West is “Christian”. Muslims regard their faith – Islam – as both a religion and a state. If I had never been exposed to Christianity and was told “America is a Christian nation”, I’d have some serious problems with that. If you brand America as “Christian”, then you must believe that sexual immorality, shedding of blood, and celebration of drug and alcohol use are endorsed by Christ. That’s not true. Neither America nor the West are Christian. The bloody “Christian” Crusades endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church are not “Christian”.

Do you know what “Christian” is? It is to love Jesus. It is to obey His Commands, regardless as to what anyone thinks. That’s “Christian”. Anything else is fake.

Being “Religious” does not make you “Christian”. You can know all the songs in the Baptist hymnal by heart and be lost. Jesus’ greatest critics were the Pharisees, who were extremely religious. God turned the tables on the Pharisees when He knocked down the one called Saul of Tarsus (Acts 23:6 & Philippians 3:5) on the Damascus Road, converting him to Christianity. After Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle he often spoke against those who …

had a form of godliness, but denied the power of God”
(2 Timothy 3:5).

Illustrate: Have you ever seen a Rubik’s Cube? I owned one years ago. The Rubik’s Cube has 43 quintillion (a quintillion has 18 zeros), 252 quadrillion, 3 trillion, 274 billion, 489 million, 856 thousand likely patterns that you have to overcome to unscramble it. I figured out how to unscramble a Rubik’s Cube in about 10 minutes. I peeled off the little paper colored squares, and re-pasted them where they were supposed to be.

In short, I cheated!

It is possible to solve the Rubik’s Cube without cheating. There are people smart enough who have figured out its patterns, and have written books on solving that Cube. The Rubik’s Cube was made by a man. I want you to imagine a Rubik’s Cube created not by man, but by God. That’s what the Law of God is. It is a Rubik’s Cube made by God. It cannot be resolved by human prowess or human intellect. The Rubik’s Cube of the Law was designed specifically to show us that we – that is ALL OF US – do not measure up to God’s standard. That Pharisee Saul who God remade into the Apostle Paul wrote:

Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law {that’s all of us}, so that every mouth may be stopped, {shut yo’ mouth!} and the whole world may be held accountable to God. {You’re not excluded} 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since

through the law comes knowledge of sin.

God gave the Law to a saved but hard headed Israel as they camped at the foot of Sinai. God gave the Law to make Israel understand that no one deserves God’s salvation. We must be saved by faith in God.

When God gave the Law to Moses on Israel, Israel had already been saved from Egypt. The Law was given to show God’s Israel that they must be saved by faith in Him. Many people today do what the Pharisees do. They watered down or twist the Law of God. You say, “But I’ve never done that”. Sure you have. Consider the Sixth Commandment, which simply states:

Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder.

How many murderers do we have in here? I don’t expect to see any hands raised – I hope. BUT have you ever treasured anger in your heart toward another human? Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Murder begins in the heart. The Pharisees held hatred in the hearts for Jesus. They

Matthew 12:14 …. held a council against {Jesus}, how they might destroy him.

Have you ever held a grudge against someone else? Do you cherish anger against another? In your secret place, have you imagined evil against an enemy? We all have. This is murder. Now consider the seventh commandment:

Exodus 20:14 (ESV) You shall not commit adultery.

Again, if I were to ask a show of hands as to who has committed the sexual sin of adultery, I don’t expect I would see any hands raised. The Pharisees prided themselves on not committing adultery. But have you ever held lust for a woman or man not your own in your heart? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:28 (ESV) I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Sexual sin begins in the heart, and is culminated in the flesh. Trans-sexuality, homosexuality, all heterosexual expression outside of Biblical marriage begins in the heart before manifested in the flesh.

But here’s the key. The Law is given by a Just and Holy God. If you break but ONE of its provisions, you have broken ALL because you have offended God. The Bible says:

James 2:10-11 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. {11} For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

The Law was a yoke that the fathers could not bear” (Acts 15:10). That was the intent of the Law. The Law is an impossible Rubik’s Cube that I cannot solve …

but Jesus can!

Galatians 3:19-22 (ESV) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the Offspring {this is Jesus} should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary {This is Moses}. … 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything {and everyone} under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Illustrate: I cannot solve a Rubik’s Cube without cheating … unless I buy and read a book by one of the genius’ who have unlocked it. I cannot solve God’s Rubik’s Cube unless I buy the Book that the Son of God wrote, and lovingly believe in Him. Oh, how I love Jesus! Jesus is the Prophesied Savior, the One promised in the Garden of Eden:

Genesis 3:15 (NKJV) And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.

In Genesis, Jesus is the Seed of the Woman
In Exodus, Jesus is the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, Jesus is our High Priest
In Numbers, Jesus is the Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire leading, and the Rock feeding
In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the Prophet like unto Moses

Jesus is in every book of this Scripture. He is the Good Shepherd of the Psalms. Jesus is the Bridegroom of the Church in Song of Solomon. Jesus is the Glorious Lord of Ezekiel, and the Giver of the Holy Spirit in Joel. Oh, how I wish I could preach! Jesus is the Burden Bearer of Amos, and the Ruler from Bethlehem in Micah. Jesus is the One Mighty to Save in Zephaniah, and the Son of Righteousness in Malachi.

As we enter the Christmas Season we will see that Jesus was MADE and not CREATED. He is no mere mortal, but God become Perfect Man for us!

We Love Jesus Because HE WAS MADE For Us

I didn’t forget Hebrews. Go back to …

Hebrews 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Word Study: Three words are KEY to understanding this verse. The words made”, “surety”, and “testament. The word made is the Greek γίνομαι gínomai, {pronounced ghin’-om-ahee} which means to come from one state to another. The Devil used this word in the wilderness when he tempted Jesus, saying,

(Matthew 4:3) If You are the Son of God, command these stones be MADE bread

Satan wanted Jesus to command the stones to be turned from stone to bread. I cannot make stone into bread. I can ground stone. I can bake stone. I can put stone on your plate. But I can’t bring stone from a non-food item to a food item unless I am God. God can do anything! The Devil wanted Jesus to gínomai stone to bread. We see in Hebrews, Jesus was ginomai(-ed). He came from one state to another.

Jesus WAS God, but GINOMAI, was MADE Perfect Man!
His birth is unique.

God prophesied of the day that He would come to us. He said in …

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

This is unprecedented. What “virgin shall conceive and bear a Son”? Only God can turn stone to bread. Only God can take eternal, and bring it into human flesh. The Child born shall be called “Immanuel” or “God with us”. This happened in Jesus. The Angel came to Joseph the husband of the little virgin named Mary and said:

Matthew 1:20-23 (ESV) Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us)

Jesus Christ is God become flesh. Jesus is MADE.

Hebrews 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety

Word Study: Jesus was made a surety. Oh, I love the King James, but sometimes that Old English confuses me. This is the Greek ἔγγυος éngyos, {pronounced eng’-goo-os}, which means “the SPONSOR, the REPRESENTATIVE of the Covenant”. We have had wonderful sponsors among men.

– Consider Abraham, the Father of Faith. What a wonderful representative he is. He followed God without question. God made a covenant with Abraham. But is Abraham perfect? No! Abraham lied twice, saying his wife was his sister in order to protect himself.

– Consider Moses, by whom God gave the Law. What a wonderful representative he is as he stands with the “rod of God”, parting the Red Sea. But look! Now in the wilderness he disobeys God, striking the rock rather than doing as God says, taking credit to himself.

– Consider David, the shepherd become King. He defeated Goliath! He loves the Lord with all his heart. But then he steals another man’s wife, and murders him.

No matter where you look throughout our Bible you will find flawed men and women who loved God and were saved by faith. Look at the Priests, and the High Priest Aaron. It was Aaron who – when Moses went up into Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God – barely 40 days passed before Israel stood before him demanding another god. “Make us a god to lead us back to Egypt”, the people demanded. Did Aaron tell them “Get lost! I obey only God!” No he didn’t. He told them:

Exodus 32:2, 4 (NKJV) “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” … 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Every representative or sponsor among mankind – born of Adam – has one terrible flaw. We are all subject to sin. The éngyos or sponsor of the Abrahamic Covenant was a sinner. The éngyos or sponsor of the Davidic Covenant was a sinner. The éngyos or sponsors of the Law, Moses and Aaron, were sinners. Not so Christ. Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the New Covenant. We read:

Hebrews 7:26-27 For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; {27} Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up Himself.

The Levitical High Priest always had to atone for their sins before they could atone for others. The blood of an animal had to be shed. The blood of a specific – unmarked or unblemished animal – had to be killed, and its blood sprinkled on the altar and on the people. But this was only temporary.

No so Jesus. He was MADE – God become Man – so that He might represent us. Jesus Christ is described as:

holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,
and made higher than the heavens

God demands His people be HOLY. He has said:

1 Peter 1:16 … You shall be HOLY, for I AM HOLY

And yet, God alone is holy (Revelation 15:4). Where do we find perfect holiness? By hiding ourselves by faith in Jesus. We who are saved believe in, and surrender to Him. He is the Author and Finisher of a better Covenant, a New Covenant.

Hebrews 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Word Study: The third word is testament. Jesus came from one state to another (ginomai). Jesus was made Man from God to be our Perfect Sponsor (engyos). Why did God through all this trouble. To bring us into a better “testament or diathēkē (Covenant). Jesus is the Author and Finisher of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was represented by very temporary Priests.We read:

Hebrews 7:23-24And they {the Old Covenant priests} truly were MANY priests, because they were not {allowed} to continue by reason of death: 24 But THIS Man, because He continueth {for}ever, hath an unchangeable Priesthood

The Old Covenant priests offered sacrifices for their sins, then for the sins of people. But Jesus Christ – God become Man – became Man from God to lay down His life for us. Dying on the Cross of Calvary, He gave His life for your sins and mine. Jesus is not only

John 1:29 The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world (also John 1:36)

but He is the High Priest Who offered that Lamb. Jesus said:

John 10:18 No man taketh {My life} from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have POWER to lay it down, and I have POWER to take it again. …

Jesus died for our sins – but death could not conquer Him. The Scripture says “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He hath an unchangeable priesthood. Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cannot die as other High Priests, His intercession for His people cannot be interrupted. We are told:

Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore {Jesus} is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

We Love Jesus Because He Saves To The Uttermost

There are times I betray my God – but there is never a time when my Jesus betrays me. Jesus Christ saves to the uttermost. If you are saved, the Bible says that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God interceding for you. The Apostle said:

Romans 8:34 (ESV) Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Why is this important? Because Jesus has a Name above every Name. The Bible says:

1 Peter 3:22 (ESV) {Jesus} has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.

Who is it that intercedes for the believer? It is GOD! Jesus is

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) … the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Oh, how I love Jesus! Without Jesus in our lives …

Isaiah 64:6 … we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

But Jesus saves us. You may slip when following Jesus. Who has not slipped. But you will NOT rejoice in sin if you are a child of God by faith in Christ. Jesus Christ came to save us TO THE UTTERMOST. He not only saves us by COVERING our sins, but He saves us by FREEING us from our sins. Jesus told the Pharisees

John 8:34-36 (NKJV) Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

The saved are not enslaved to their sins. They are bound to God by a New Covenant. God said of the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:33 … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The saved do not rejoice in what God has said is sin. We love Jesus. We love our Heavenly Father. When we sin – and we do slip – we like children run back to the arms of Jesus, back to the arms of His Holy Spirit. We live, because he lives. We shine, because He shines. Do not be deceived. God did not save us in Christ so that we can do the works of the devil. Jesus did not save us to enable us to sin guiltlessly. Jesus Christ saves us to bring us into the Family of God. Jesus Christ saves us to “bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).

Do you know Him? Do you know our Jesus? If not, believe that He loves you so. Believe that He came to save you. And believe that He – God became Man – that He might bring us to God, not to Satan. May God the Holy Spirit draw us deeply into His Word, for Christ’s glory. Amen and Amen.

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A Word For America Today

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Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We live in strange days in America.

Our First Amendment rights are slowly being removed – and it seems that no one cares. It happens in subtle ways. During the Covid-19 Pandemic (and its still there) some made the remark that this was the Wuhan or Chinese Virus, only to be shouted down as being politically incorrect. The reason we call it the Wuhan Virus is because Wuhan is the place that recorded the first major COVID-19 outbreak. The virus was traced to that area. When people speak of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever it is not racism that gives it that title. It is called the “Rocky Mountain” Spotted Fever because it was first identified in the Rocky Mountains. Likewise the sickness called MERS or the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is so named because it was first identified in the Middle East.

The 1996 “Defense of Marriage” Act was passed by the 104th U.S. Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton. This Act banned federal recognition of same sex marriage by limiting the definition of marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Just recently the U.S. Senate passed the 2022 “Respect for Marriage” Act. One of the sponsors of the Act Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “The Respect for Marriage Act would ensure that all married couples—including same-sex and interracial couples—are entitled to the rights and responsibilities of marriage, regardless of the state in which they live.” Though it must pass in the U.S. House, all indications are the it will be signed into law soon.

At last count I heard there are from 147 to 68 genders in America. God is not the Author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), but Satan and the world are.

A lady recently sued Kraft for 5 Million Dollars because the “time it takes to make its microwaveable cup of Velveeta macaroni and cheese is longer than what the claims on the label indicate”. The label says “ready in 3 ½ minutes”, but doesn’t include the amount of time it takes to open the packaging and add the water and stir it. No, I’m not making this up.

America has lost its mind, but the Church that Jesus loved
and died for must NOT lose it’s mind.

How do we deal with the madness going on all around us? We keep our eyes on God’s Word, and speak His truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) regardless as to what others may do. As the Apostle Paul addressed the Church in Rome – a Church surrounded by the same madness that we see in America today – he wants Christ’s Church to not lose hope.

To ALL That Be In Rome, Beloved Of God

God speaks to ALL of His Church in Rome. Though madness has gripped the land, God is STILL in control. How can we say this? Well, look at the first two verses of our text:

Romans 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

Let’s consider first the Messenger

When we read the Scripture, we are reading text written by – as Peter said – by

2 Peter 1:21 … Men who spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit

So Paul must have walked with Jesus while our Lord walked this earth. Did he? Absolutely not! God has a great sense of humor. He could have chosen anyone to go and spread His Gospel to the Gentiles. But who did God choose? Jesus chose someone who described himself as:

Acts 23:6 (ESV) … a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees …

Paul was at one time Saul, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). As all Pharisees did, when Paul was Saul he hated the Gentiles. Paul was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law of Moses, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). Saul hated Gentiles, but the thing he hated most was the Church of God.

Starting at the execution of the Deacon and Evangelist Stephen, Saul breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked for warrants for Damascus, so if he found any following Jesus, he could bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). It was on the Damascus Road that this racist and hateful man found Jesus – or rather, Jesus found him. And – miracle of miracles – Jesus chose Saul to be Paul the Apostle. His calling was absolutely undeserved. Paul would later write the Churches and say:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (ESV) I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.

And in another place:

Galatians 1:11-16 I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles

It was only after Saul met Jesus on the Damascus Road that he realized Christ is indeed the Gospel. As a Pharisee Saul went forward to promote Judaism, thinking that he was doing the work of God. But then God knocked him down on Damascus, and by Grace called him to preach the Gospel. Paul described his call by saying:

Galatians 1:15 he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace

When Saul traveled through the streets of Judea, capturing and killing Christians, he followed the pathway of darkness. God allowed him to do so for a little time. But then God called the messenger. He not only called, but he converted, then equipped Saul to be Paul. And though Paul often looked back on his time as a Pharisee, he nonetheless praised God daily. Paul said:

1 Corinthians 15:10 His grace toward me was not in vain

No matter how dark the days may seem, God is still in control. As America goes through the degradation of sin and the darkness, God can still change whatever God can change.

If God can change a Saul into a Paul, God can change any lost person into a son or daughter of God. Our God is able.

Saved by Grace, the Messenger Paul was 100% committed to sharing the Gospel outside of his comfort zone. Though Paul loved to go to the Temple and Synagogues, speaking the the lost Jews, he nonetheless kept his eyes on what Jesus called him to do. Paul wrote:

Romans 1:14-15 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

One of the biggest barriers to salvation is the hardened heart – yet Christ was able to break through the heart of this “Pharisee of Pharisees”. Paul was saved on purpose for a purpose.

Word Study: Paul said that he was a debtor not to the Jews (though he shared the Gospel with the Jews) but to the Greeks and Barbarians. The word debtor is the Greek opheiletēs (pronounced of-i-let’-ace), which means “to be indebted to, to owe another, to be under obligation to or bound by duty to”. Paul knew that God entrusted the Gospel to him not to hide it, but to share it with the Gentiles. Notice that Paul breaks the Gentiles down into two different categories:

Greeks and
Barbarians

Why does he do this? Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago wrote in his book “Sex And The Constitution”:

From the sixth to the fourth century B.C. … The Greeks of this era generally {deliberately avoided using} the legal enforcement of moral or religious notions of “right sexual conduct.” Classical Greek morality and law focused not on sexual sin, but on whether an individual’s conduct was harmful to others.

The Greek gods indulged freely in sexual pleasure. In Greek mythology, Zeus variously became a bull, a swan and even rain with the goal of seducing mortals. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and of sexual rapture. Sex was “ta aphrodísiæ” — “the things of Aphrodite.” It is said that during the festival of Aphrodite her priestesses had sexual intercourse with strangers as a form of worship.

A distinctive feature of classical Greek sexual life was the practice of pæderasty. Adult men, both married and single, often had sexual relationships with adolescent boys. (These relationships did not involve children, but post-pubescent adolescents, usually between the ages of 15 and 19. Sex with prepubescent boys was punished, sometimes quite harshly.)

Greek boys were not taught to see themselves as either heterosexual or homosexual, a distinction that did not exist for another 2,000 years. Instead, Greek culture acknowledged that same-sex and opposite-sex sexual desires could naturally coexist in varying degrees in the same individual, just as we today might think of the different desires individuals might have to engage in some sexual acts more than others. To the Greeks, same-sex sex was simply a sexual act. It did not define a type of person.”

I believe the reason Paul spoke of being under obligation to both Greeks and
Barbarians was to distinguish between the sexually confused Gentiles of his day, and the other Gentiles who were not so afflicted. Rather than run away from sexual sinners, the Apostle shared the Gospel with them. The sexual immorality we see in America today is – as King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun”

Because it is strange or seemingly insurmountable to us, do not believe that God cannot fix it through Christ. Paul was not discouraged. He said:

I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also

Paul did not rely on his own power,
nor the power of politics,
nor the power of peer pressure,
but only on the power of God by sharing the Gospel.

Let’s next consider the Message

Romans 1:1 Paul … separated unto the gospel of God,

What is the gospel of God? First of all, the GOSPEL is the ONLY WAY anyone can be saved. The Gospel is God’s Grand plan of Salvation.

Romans 1:2 (Which {Gospel} He had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

The GOSPEL is not a last minute, “Hail Mary” pass from God to help defeat the devil. The Gospel was promised by God BY HIS PROPHETS in the Holy Scriptures. Paul is speaking of the Old Testament. As he writes these words, the New Testament has not yet been written. The Church will be

Ephesians 2:20 … BUILT on the foundation of the APOSTLES (Jesus’ hand picked representatives following His incarnation to humanity) and PROPHETS (Jesus’ hand picked representatives under the Old Covenant or Old Testament), with Christ Jesus Himself as the Chief Cornerstone

God foretold the Gospel all throughout the Old Testament. Starting in Genesis 3:15 God foretold the “Seed of the Woman” would crush Satan’s head. Our Jesus took upon Himself flesh and blood,

Hebrews 2:14 … (ESV) that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

Jesus did not come to make peace with sin nor the devil, but He came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). In Abraham God promised

Genesis 12:3 … in you {Abraham} shall all the families of the earth be blessed

The Apostle Paul tied into this promise in …

Galatians 3:8 (ESV) And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.

The Gospel is God’s Grand Design, foretold from the beginning of creation. When Abraham paid tithes to an ancient Priest named Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), he was paying tithes to a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:20). When Melchizedek brought out bread and wine (Genesis 14:18) this was a foreshadowing of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-29), where Jesus took bread and said, “Take, eat, this is My body, broken for you. Take, drink, this is My blood of the New Covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins”.

It was in Isaac, the son of Abraham that God said:

Genesis 17:19 (ESV) … Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Jesus Christ – God become Man – is the everlasting offspring of Isaac. When Jacob slept and saw a staircase to Heaven (Genesis 28:12), Jesus was that staircase. He said,I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Our Lord Jesus is the Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), the Eternal Life from God (John 17:3).

Our Lord Jesus is the Lamb without spot or blemish (Exodus 12:5), sacrificed for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 9:13-14 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

It is His Blood that saves once and for all. It is His precious Blood, like that of a Lamb without spot or blemish that makes us right before God (1 Peter 1:19). The power is in the Gospel of Christ!

When Moses stood before the Rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:6), and struck that Rock, Moses was showing the Gospel. We read:

1 Corinthians 10:4 (ESV) {Israel} drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Jesus is the Gospel. Jesus is all throughout the Old Testament. Oh, how I wish I could preach! When the sacrifice was killed outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27), this is a picture of Jesus Christ coming to Golgotha (Matthew 27:33), the Place of the Skull. Though we rightfully call it “Calvary”, the original term is that ugly word “Golgotha”. A place of horror, a place of suffering. It was outside the city of Jerusalem, a place where only lepers and trash was gathered. There Jesus died that lonely death – nailed to a tree between two thieves – for you and for me. We who believe in Jesus cry out with Job:

Job 19:25-27 … (ESV) I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

This Message – this Gospel – has been preached by Jehovah through His Prophets and Apostles from the beginning of time. This is why Saul become Paul preaches:

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

The Gospel has the power to save anyone – even the sexual sinner. Therefore:

We Must Not Turn Away From The Message Of The Gospel

Many churches today have compromised with the darkness. They have either become abusive toward the sexual sinner, or untruthful toward the sexual sinner. Beloved, God’s standard and God’s design is not subject to debate or vote. What God has said stands true forever.

After discussing the Gospel, the Apostle turns to this:

Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

God will judge all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Those who reject Christ hold the truth in unrighteousness. The word translated hold is the Greek katéchō, {pronounced kat-ekh’-o}, which means “to hold back, detain, or restrain”. Those who HOLD BACK the truth are supporting unrighteousness and darkness, not light. God has left Himself a witness that is outside of the Bible, and this is the Creation all about us. As we are told in verse 20, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen. People know that this current creation did not just spontaneously evolve into what it is. All creation shows an order. All creation shows the hand of a Creator. And all people know this.

When people turn against God, they invoke His wrath. God does not wink at sin. He does not look the other way. God punishes sin. And yet, though God has left us the witness of Creation and the witness of our Consciences, some choose to turn away.

They move into idolatry.

Romans 1:21-23 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

If a person rejects the Creator God, then they will turn to empty idols to worship. We were designed by God to worship. An empty faith in a false god will make you worship yourself, the creation of your own gods.

This is where sexual deviancy comes from.

Romans 1:24-28 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 worshiped 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. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Sexual sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual, sexual confusion that leads to 147 genders, these things are where the idolatrous Greeks went once upon a time. This is where America is today. And yet, God is able … if we cling to and continue to present the Gospel.

But we must not compromise.

We cannot show acts of hatred toward the sexual sinner, nor should we justify their sins. We must stand firm on sharing the Gospel to them as lost ones whom God wants to save. We must not compromise. We must remember that – though we are in Rome …

Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are beloved of God, called to be saints. Jesus can fix anyone. He fixed Saul, and turned him to Paul. We are not able, but Jesus is able. Let us stand firm on His Gospel, for His glory. In Christ name I pray. Amen and Amen.

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Come Join Our Team

Photo by Belle Co: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-photography-of-group-of-people-jumping-during-golden-time-1000445/

Psalm 103:1-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Do you KNOW where you are going?

Opening: Two friends were traveling through Louisiana when they saw a sign that said, (and I’m going to spell this):

N_a_t_c_h_i_t_o_c_h_e_s
5 Miles

How do you think you’d say that word? Unless you were born there, you probably wouldn’t know it’s pronounced Nack-a-tish. It’s a French word. Well, they began to argue about how the name of the town was pronounced. When they got to town, they pulled into a fast food restaurant and went inside. After ordering their meal, one asked the cashier, “Can you settle an argument for us? Very slowly, tell us where we are.” The cashier leaned over the register and very slowly said:

Burrrgerrr Kinnnng”

America has lost its way. People don’t know where they are. Our current President said are 54 states in the union. A past President said there were 57 states. One reporter asked people on the streets of New York city simple questions like “Where is Mount Rushmore”. Several thought it was in Korea.

As a nation we’re having trouble getting people to work. Many young people today have said – I’ve heard it – “Just print more money and give it out. Let everybody have 75,000.00 dollars a year!” Millennials (those born from1981 to 1996, and who reached adulthood after 2000) and Generation Z (born from 1997 to 2012) have been taught that everyone deserves a paycheck whether they work or not. The Apostle said:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 If any would not work, neither should he eat ..

The mentality that pushes Socialism over Capitalism
has horribly afflicted our country.

Many businesses are putting out signs now – flags fluttering – proclaiming to the world the need for workers. I passed by a gas station the other day that had these huge self standing banners out front, 5 or six of them. The ones that caught my eye said:

Join our Team!
Great Benefits!
High Starting Pay!
Wonderful Retirement Plan!

I nearly pulled over myself and went in to get an application!

I began to think along these lines. Why don’t we have signs like this outside of every Church in America? We serve a great God! I think the reason is what Clay Hallmark, the President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention preached during our recent Annual Meeting. The Baptist & Reflector notes:

“In a sermon titled, “We are the mission field,” Hallmark declared, “The largest mission field in Tennessee right now is sitting in … Tennessee Baptist churches” because “Tennessee Baptist churches are filled with cultural Christians who are not committed to Jesus Christ.” … While crime, suicide, pornography and other social issues continue to rise across the state, the greater tragedy is that churches are powerless because they have “substituted the power of God for programs, processes, and personalities” Hallmark said.”

We need to return from where we have fallen. We need to get back to Jesus!

The World Desperately Needs Jesus

Illustrate: Not too long ago a shooter went into a LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado and killed 5 people, injuring 19 others. Christians were blamed for the attack. It was later revealed that the shooter was not Christian, but a self identified non-binary named Anderson Lee Aldrich. Major news networks were “left speechless” at the revelation because they couldn’t blame the Christian. Don’t be surprised. The early Church was blamed for burning Rome, though the evil Emperor Nero was the culprit. The darkness will always try to suppress the light. Jesus told us this. He said:

John 16:33, “in the world you will have tribulation. But take courage, I HAVE OVERCOME the world”.

We cannot find our solace in politics, social networks, or tribes. When Adam fell, he brought thorns and thistles into the world. We tried from Adam – through Noah – through the Law given at Sinai – up until the time of Christ’s coming to find peace.

We all need Jesus! Not just a little Jesus, but Jesus every day. Billy Graham said: “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement”. He still needed Jesus. Knowing Jesus does not take away all pain – but gives us confidence even in trials. The Psalmist sang:

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul…

As creatures made in the image of God (James 3:9), we have bodies and souls. Those who are in the family of God have a place to turn when in suffering. Notice the Psalmist doesn’t say, Bless the Lord, O MY BODY. There are times when the sin riddled world Adam gave to us brings forth “thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:18). I mentioned this earlier. Why thorns AND thistles. Thorns is the bad stuff you can see, but thistles are the bad things you can’t see.

Thorns are the bad terrors you see coming.
Thistles are the hidden terrors.
The cancers. The lupus. The diseases.

There are times when we say in our bodies, “O me! O my!” Nonetheless we are encouraged by God’s Spirit to say Bless the Lord, O my soul. He is the Lord. Whatever comes my way as His Child is His responsibility.

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and
all that is within me,

We do not curse God when we who are saved suffer. We run to Jesus. We know that our completion is in Him. We don’t just bless the Lord for what we consider good. We bless God for what we consider bad. It all serves a purpose for the Christian. If we believe the Scripture of

Romans 8:28, ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER for good to those who love the Lord,

Trials purify Christian faith, but putrefy the Charlatan!

Have you ever prayed, “Lord, make me more like Jesus” ? If so, know that God makes Children through the trials of life. It is through the carving of pain that we become the workmanship of God. Once you understand this, you begin to praise God for your pain and suffering. The Apostle suffered terribly for the faith once delivered, but nonetheless said:

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) … we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We REJOICE in our sufferings”. Everything that comes to the believer in Christ comes for a purpose. It comes to make you more like Jesus. What else? One of the first martyrs of the faith James wrote:

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:12 (ESV) Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

I mentioned that grand old Saint Job this past Sunday. Consider his example in suffering. Losing all that he had he “fell on the ground and worshiped” God, saying:

Job 1:21 The LORD gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED be the Name of the LORD

When later his wife encouraged him to Curse God and die, Job rightly told her,

Job 2:10 You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive {the bad}?

The Greatest Blessing You Can Receive From God Is Christ

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

What is the highest good that God can give to you?

Money? The devil can give money.
Fame? The world can grant fame.
Good health? Medical science can aid us with our health.

There is something God can give you that neither the devil, nor the world, nor science and technology can give you. Do you know what that is?

Only God can offer forgiveness of sin.
Only God can make us acceptable to Him.
Only God can impute to us Holiness.
God is HOLY!

Listen Beloved, “Bless His HOLY Name”. God is HOLY. He is RIGHTEOUS. His ways are PURE. His JUDGMENTS RIGHT.

When Isaiah was graciously shown into the gates of glory, he cried out in shock: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). When we are compared to the holiness of God of God we fall so far short that we should be horrified. Consider all His commandments. Consider what Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-38 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment”

Do we love God above all else? Does God hold first place in our hearts? I think we can all say that we fall short of this standard. But until we love God and put Him first, we will not love our neighbor who is created in the image of God. Jesus said:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)

God calls us to His side. Until we see Jesus as the greatest gift, and others through the eyes of Christ, America will flounder.

God calls us to repent and believe on the name of Jesus. When we come to God through Christ, bending our knee to Him, He forgives us our sins and shortcomings. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 103:2-3 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities …

God is holy. But we are fallen creatures. We must have Jesus!

We are imperfect, prone to sin. We are, as the Psalmist said in another place, wicked from the womb” (Psalm 58:3). We think we are good, but the Law of God convicts us of sin. What did our Lord Jesus teach? He plainly said:

…there is none good, but ONE, that is, God” (Mark 10:18)

Illustrate: In our humanity we believe that we are fine. It’s like the young student who burst into his college professor’s office. He said, “Professor, I don’t believe I deserve this ‘F’ that you gave me!” The professor said, “I agree. You don’t deserve the ‘F’. Unfortunately, an ‘F” is the lowest grade I can give you.”

The God of the Scripture is Holy, Righteous, and Just. The Bible says that

Habakkuk 1:13 God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look on iniquity.

God is Holy – and we are not. God would be entirely justified in destroying this world and all that is in it. And yet, God does not.

Psalm 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

God cannot call sin “good”. God must judge sin.
He must punish sin. But God delays. He offers us all an alternative.

Jesus is the alternative. Jesus said:

John 14:6 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me

When Jesus said these words, His disciples had no concept as to how horrible and yet wonderful this statement would be. God cannot just look the other way on sin. He cannot. Throughout the Old Testament He taught His Israel:

Hebrews 9:22 … without shedding of blood, there is NO FORGIVENESS

The Jew brought the sacrifice to the Temple over and over again. No animal could pay for our sins. But God sent His Beloved Son to this earth to give Himself for our brokenness. Blood had to be shed. Jesus was born of a virgin, born into humanity perfect and holy. He was born to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Do you see Him? Beaten by soldiers, abandoned by friends. See Him carrying His Cross down that dusty road. See Him dragging that tree, impressed into His blood soaked shoulders. Up the hill called Calvary. There He is, stripped naked, shown in shame to the world. Nailed to that terrible Tree, He is raised up as a bloody flag.

Mocked.
Shunned.
Bleeding.
Dying.
Struggling.

Was it an accident? Was it a mistake? No. It was the plan of God. Pastor A.W. Pink wrote:

The Lord Jesus died as none other ever did. His life was not taken from Him; He laid it down of Himself. This was His claim: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).”

It is only Jesus Who gives us peace with God. God’s anger at sin cannot be appeased by anything we do. His anger at sin is appeased through His own death on the Cross.

Psalm 103:9-12 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

To those who come to Christ, repenting of their sins, He covers their sins with His perfect work of Calvary. A.W. Pink went on to say:

No one else ever did this or died in this way. His birth was unique. His life was unique. His death also was unique. In “laying down” His life, His death was differentiated from all other deaths. He died by an act of His own volition! Who but a divine person could have done this? In a mere man it would have been suicide: but in Him it was a proof of His perfection and uniqueness. He died like the Prince of Life!”

Truly Saved People FEAR The Lord

Psalm 103:13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

Salvation is a free gift from God. But once the Free Gift
is received, your life belongs to God.

A Christian “fears God”. Salvation is indeed a free gift from God. But you may not know this, but the words “free gift” are only found in THREE VERSES IN ALL OF THE SCRIPTURE. This is in Romans 5:15-18. In that context the Apostle Paul emphasizes that when Adam sinned he brought spiritual death into the world – and that all are equally dead and divorced from God. Our works cannot make us right before God, because “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Beloved, none of is have the ability to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:1). We are all – outside of Christ – dead in trespasses and sins.

Salvation is of necessity a “free gift”.
But do not think because it is a “free gift” that
it is a “cheap gift”.

Once saved, you become a member of the Family of God. Once saved, you become a son of God. Once saved, you become the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). Once saved, you are accountable to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Psalm 103:15-19 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Once saved, you are members of the Family of God. As such, you are expected to DO what God tells you to do. You are to obey His commands, rain or shine, mountaintop or valley, good days or bad days.

Are you His? Do you know Christ as your Lord and Savior? If so, bless the Lord, O my soul! If not, today give yourselves to Jesus! There is only one place that you will discover peace with yourself, and peace with God. That is in the arms of Christ. Run to Him. Give your lives to Him not just once, but daily and forever. For in Christ is power and glory.

May God the Holy Spirit draw you to His side. Amen and Amen.

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Rightly Dividing God’s Word Part 3

Photo by Mat Brown: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-wind-vane-552600/

Turn with me in your Bibles to:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved {δόκιμος dokimos} unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing {ὀρθοτομέω orthotomeō} the word of truth.

The Apostle tells us that we are to prove the genuineness of our salvation through study of God’s Word. But we are not to just take scriptures singularly or out of context. We are to “rightly divide” the Scripture, a word that means “to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly”. When the Scripture is not “rightly divided”, when Bible verses are read out of Scriptural or historic context, problems occur. For instance, some people quote:

2 Peter 3:8 beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

and use this to support Evolutionary Theory. They say, “This proves the earth is millions of years old just as Evolutionary Scientists teach”. Hogwash! When we study the Bible, we will see that God created all things within a six day, 24 hour day. If you disbelieve this, you disbelieve the Bible.

Rightly dividing” the Scripture reads the Bible verse in context. What is around the text of 2 Peter 3:8? Peter is addressing those unbelievers who say:

2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

These unbelievers, “scoffers”, say “We’ve heard that God is coming again. If He is, then why does He linger?” Peter tells us that God does all things according to His timetable, not according to ours. God is eternal. What God promised – like the Noahic Flood – God will accomplish in His time.

Context Teaches Us What Applies To Our Lives

Illustrate: It seems as if you can hardly turn on the television without seeing someone push one of the following:

Transgenderism or Gender Dysphoria
Same Sex Marriage (LGBTQ2S+)
Heterosexuality outside of traditional marriage
Polygamy or Polyamorous Relationships

I am told that there are 57 different genders that a person could be – though that number is debated (for anything not of God can be confusing – 1 Corinthians 14:33). Most of the confusion could be cleared up if people would believe God and read His Bible! Turn with me to Genesis chapter 1. The first five books of the Bible are written by Moses as he was inspired by God (Jesus spoke of this in Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:3; 12:19; Luke 16:29; Et al.). The Law of God to Israel was written by Moses – again, as God directed. In three parts, the Mosaic Law had moral codes that were to all people, social codes that were to Israel alone, and ceremonial codes that were temporary shadows or teachings of the coming Christ.

Though not all of the Mosaic Law applies to anyone but Israel, Moses also wrote the Creation Account which precedes the creation of Israel, and applies to ALL PEOPLE.

How do we KNOW that God created all things in six – 24 hour days? We know from the Creation Account of Genesis. Read with me:

Genesis 1:5 And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1:8 And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Genesis 1:13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
Genesis 1:19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Genesis 1:23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

The phrases evening and eveningare normal language for a 24 hour day. God created everything but the land creatures on the first five days. On the sixth day God spoke into creation the land creature out of the soil of the earth:

Genesis 1:24 Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

All creatures were spoken into being by ‘ĕlōhîm – except mankind. Mankind was MADE or MANUFACTURED by God.

Genesis 1:26-27 And God {‘ĕlōhîm} said, Let us make {ʻâsâh, aw-saw’, to manufacture} man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them

Word Study: Chapter one tells us that humanity was deliberately made or manufactured by ‘ĕlōhîm – this being the Triune Name of God. God is an OUR and a US in our creation. God is Triune or a Trinity, and all of God was involved in our creation. God says to Himself:

Let us make {ʻâsâh, aw-saw’, to manufacture} man
in
our image, after our likeness

God is One God in three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – a Compound Unity. “Manis in God’s image, and is a compound unity like God is. Genesis Chapter 2 is a periscope that gives us more information on the creation of humanity:

Genesis 2:7 And the Lord {Yᵊhōvâ} God {‘ĕlōhîm} formed man {‘āḏām} of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Yᵊhōvâ ‘ĕlōhîm created man by breathing into Adam life. He did not do this with animals. After the breath of God entered Adam, he became a living soul. Only man has a living soul. God created man distinctly different than the other creatures because man was to rule creation:

Genesis 1:28-30 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

Though creatures have life, they do not have the image of God. Humanity was told to Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion. Mankind, not animal-kind, was given orders to follow.

Genesis 2:15-19 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 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. 18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Adam was created BEFORE Eve. God gave Adam very specific instructions – commands – and told him what would occur in he, Adam, disobeyed. It was only after Adam was given these instructions that we read that woman was created.

Genesis 2:21-24 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Why wasn’t Eve formed of the dust of the ground as was Adam? Because Man and Woman are in “The Image of God”. Within the Godhead, the Father leads the Trinity, whereas the Son and the Spirit follow.

Father, Son, and Spirit are co equal in worth and in Godhood
– but the Father leads the
Compound Unity called the Trinity.

Woman is equal in value to man, and BOTH woman and man were commissioned to Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion.

Just as the Father leads the Trinity, Man leads in the Marriage.

The Pattern of Creation Precedes The Mosaic Law

Though we know that the Mosaic Law largely applies to Israel alone, the Design of God in creation precedes the creation of the nation of Israel. What God designed in the Garden of Eden is a pattern that applies to ALL people today. Rightly dividing the Word of Truth helps us to understand this. When someone asks the question:

Why don’tyou believe inordaining women Pastors?”

my answer is simply, “Because of God’s design in creation”. Man and woman are of equal value in the eyes of God. Yet in a Compound Unity, one must lead. God created man to lead in the marital union. Some have suggested that this policy only applied while in the Garden of Eden. Yet the Apostle Paul applied the creation account to the Church itself.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I {do not allow} a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

In our modern age you might be tempted to call Paul misogynistic (a woman hater). You would be wrong. In Romans we read:

R omans 16:1-5 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. …

Paul was not a woman hater, but commended women who worked with him in ministry. Yet Paul is careful to affirm the Divine Design of Genesis 1-2 of the marital union. Within the marital relationship, the man is to instruct and guide his wife in the Word and Will of God. The statements that we see above relate to Adam and Eve, or the bonds of marriage.

God demands that man be the leader in the marriage.

The Divine Design of the Garden translates to the leadership of the Church itself. Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop {ἐπισκοπή episkopē, the office of the Overseer}, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The episkopē or the Office of the Overseer or Pastor is limited to men who are mature in the faith, and the husband of but one wife. Furthermore, the episkopē or Overseer must “rule well his own house”or his family. The question is asked:

For if a man know not how to rule his own house,
how shall he take care of the church of God?

I have known young men who wanted to move into the office of Pastor who were disqualified because they did not lead their families. A man who will not lovingly lead in marriage is not needed in the Pastorate. It is the call of men to lead. Paul told the Pastors at Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Deacons likewise are expected to lovingly lead and serve their families:

1 Timothy 3:8-13 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Deacons are to be the husbands of one wife, and leaders in their family. This is based on the design of God in creation. Again, both man and woman is of equal worth. However, in the marital relationship, the man is to lovingly lead and the wife to lovingly follow his leadership.

The Effect Of Poor Leadership In Marriage
Led To The Fall Of Humanity

The Covenant that God made with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is called “The Edenic Covenant”. As long as man led his family to love God, then the family would enjoy the blessings of Paradise. Both man and woman are called to together oversee God’s creation, and man was to lead in this oversight. What caused the fall of man from Paradise? Man failed to protect creation and to lead and protect his family. The Serpent (Satan, that Old Serpent – see Revelation 12:9; 20:2) came into the Garden. He came to Eve, not Adam and asked:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

The Devil came into the marriage, and tested Adam and Eve. Did Adam lead in the marriage when challenged by Satan? No. We read:

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Adam was with Eve while Satan was tempting her. The Bible says that the husband is to

E phesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Husbands must lead in the family. The reason that children grow up to be adults who are confused sexually is because they grew up in a household that did not follow Divine Design. The way to blessing is to do as God directs, to be as God has made you. Do not fall for the trap that Satan has set before America.

May God the Holy Spirit guide you to the truths of God’s Word. Amen and Amen!

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Let Us Be Light

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Isaiah 49:6b … I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

This was the focus of the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. We stopped frequently throughout the Convention to pray that God’s Holy Spirit would move on us, on our churches, and on our nation. The theme of our convention was:

Across the Streets
Across the States
Across the Seas

The Convention Scripture is the one we started our message with today, a portion of Isaiah 49:6. So I thought I’d preach on that tonight, and on the faithfulness of our God.

We Must Not Be Discouraged, For God Is Faithful

Isaiah lived in a particularly bad time in Israel’s history, some 700 years before Christ would be born of the Virgin Mary. Israel has divided into Northern and Southern Israel. The Ten Northern Tribes of Israel has established their own worship system apart from the Temple of God in Jerusalem. As Israel drifted away from the Word of God, she began to worship false gods and goddesses, contrary to the command of God their Savior.

Isaiah was raised up of God to do His will, to preach repentance to a people that would not repent. Yet God wanted Israel to know that He was not done with His people. But before He could assure Israel, God had to assure Isaiah. Isaiah’s ministry was very discouraging. The words we see above are not addressed to Israel, but to Isaiah. Though the TBC {Tennessee Baptist Convention} only quoted part of the text, let’s read the WHOLE text:

Isaiah 49:6 And {God} said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

Word Study: Isaiah had begun to wonder if there was any hope for Israel, any hope for his ministry. But God told Isaiah It is a light thing that God raised up Isaiah. This is the Hebrew qâlal, {kaw-lal’}, which means “something very small and insignificant, a trifle, a feather’s touch”. The Lord told Isaiah, “What I did when calling you was so simple. If your calling was so simple, then I certainly can use you to reach the remnant of Israel”. What did God do in calling Isaiah? Isaiah said:

Isaiah 49:1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

God needed Isaiah to be His Prophet to Israel, and not just to Israel, but to the Gentiles. It was God’s plan to reach the Gentiles through Israel. This is what God promised Abraham, the Father of faith. He told him:

Genesis 12:2-3 … I will make of thee {Abraham} a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God would, from Abraham, make a great nation or Israel. This was God’s promise. God is not a man, that He should lie”(Numbers 23:19). Not ONE of ALL the Lord’s good PROMISES to Israel failed; every one WAS FULFILLED” (Joshua 21:45). The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago” (Lamentations 2:17). God’s Word will always come to pass regardless as to the conditions of mankind. Isaiah was becoming depressed, discouraged. But God tells Isaiah, and tells us:

Galatians 6:9 … let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

It was not Isaiah’s mama and daddy that made him a prophet to Israel. It was God. God called Isaiah to be a prophet to Israel before the sperm met the egg. He called Isaiah to be a prophet to Israel before his mama and daddy’s parents were even born. Isaiah is in the mind of God from eternity, and God’s will will be done.

Isaiah 49:2 And {God} hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid me;

When God called Moses to go to Pharaoh with the message, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness”, Moses told God:

Exodus 4:10 O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

God told Moses,

Exodus 4:11-12 … Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

It is God Who raises up the Prophet and the People. It is God Who will give Isaiah the Word to speak. God did not want Isaiah to fear man, but to trust Him. In the shadow of His hand hath He hid me.

Isaiah is to be AVAILABLE to God, resting in God’s hand.

Isaiah is but an ARROW, something to be pulled from God’s quiver, and notched on God’s bow. Isaiah could not control the direction he was to be shot, nor the target that he would hit. Isaiah’s responsibility was to allow God to speak, allow God to use him, allow God to place him. Isaiah struggled with his worth. We see the struggle in:

Isaiah 49:3-4 And {God} said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.

Every servant of God struggles with self worth. The Apostle Paul, blessed man of God, wrote:

Romans 7:22-25 I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Struggle is part of the Christian way of life. God needed Isaiah to trust Him, and to do as He asked, to speak the Word that was given him. God told Isaiah that his calling was not in vain. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 49:5 And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.

Isaiah said that he would trust not what his eyes saw, but what His God said. What does the Scripture say that FAITH is?

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now FAITH is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

FAITH must believe that GOD is, and that GOD is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith follows God, trusting His will. We will not always see the harvest of what our faith planted.

Abraham never saw Israel, though he was promised Israel.
Moses never saw Israel take the Promised Land, though God promised they would.
Daniel saw the mouths of lions stopped, but never saw the Promised Messiah.
Isaiah will not see the restoration of Israel, but will be put in a hollow tree,
and sawn asunder under the orders of evil King Manasseh.


Isaiah’s name in Hebrew, yᵊšaʿyâ (pronounced yesh-ah-yaw’) means “Jehovah has Saved”. His promises are sure!

I had a dear pastor friend who years ago preached revival at a Church I shepherded. One thing he said stuck in my mind. He said, “When you do not understand what the hand of God allows, trust in the heart of God”. God loves His people. God loved His Israel in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, and loves His Church today under the New Covenant. God tells Isaiah:

Isaiah 49:8-10 Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.

God had a long range plan in place. God was going to keep Israel from total destruction so that the Messiah could come to the world. The devil would do – and will do – all that he can to stop the plan of salvation. But God’s will will be done. The Apostle Paul would quote a portion of this passage in Isaiah to the Church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 6:2 (For {God} saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

God preserves His people so that we can share the glorious Gospel of Salvation through Christ Jesus. We are not preserved for our sake. We are preserved for the sake of the Gospel. God wanted Isaiah to know that – though it looked bleak – the Messiah was going to come. God was going to fulfill His plan of salvation.

God Will Not Abandon His People:
We Are Graven On His Hands

God will bring all of His Children home. His Children are not those who are just Jewish by blood, but His Children are those who look for and believe in the Messiah. Jesus told the Pharisees:

John 8:42-44 If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. … Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do…

Those who belong to God’s True Israel love Jesus. They, like Abraham before them, saw Jesus as Messiah and rejoiced
(John 8:56)

True Israel believes on and follows God. The true Church believes on and follows the Lord. God tells us that they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). Being born a Jew will not save you. Being born again by faith in God WILL save you! God will call His Israel back to the land. He will bring Messiah through His Israel. He tells Isaiah:

Isaiah 49:12-15 Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. 13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. 15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

In our day many women murder their children through abortion, which is a sad truth in our “me too” America. I look for America to codify abortion into law, a truly abominable thing! Yet God will never forget His people. Though His people wandered away from Him, He loves them still. God will regather Israel. God will triumph in His Church!

God prophesies of the Messiah.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Word Study: God told Isaiah, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. The word “” is the Hebrew châqaq, (pronounced khaw-kak’), which means “to cut in, to scribe, to cause a scar, to inscribe”. Verse 16 begins with Behold, a word of astonishment.

All of Heaven and Earth would not be astonished to see the name of God engraved on the palms of His hands, for His Name is Holy (Psalm 103:1). God is righteous, and God is right.

We would not be astonished to see the names of Michael the Arch Angel, or Gabriel the Arch Trumpeter of Heaven written on the palms of God’s hands. These angels, unlike Lucifer, have been faithful and true.

Yet the Lord has not written His own Name in His palms, nor the holy angels, but behold, He has written the names of those who have believed in Him in that wondrous place. Can you imagine that? When we compare ourselves with God we must say along with Bildad:

Job 25:4-6 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? {5} Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. {6} How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?

We are nothing, yet our little faith causes Infinite God to do the unimaginable. Behold, I have graven thee. Note that we did not do this great thing, but God – in His infinite mercy – did this. It was not our goodness, our rituals, our prayers, or our tears that put us on God’s hands. It is merely that we did as He said. We REPENTED, and gave our broken lives to Him. We BELIEVED what God told us about Jesus.

Dear Christian, we live in some of the darkest days of America. And yet, do not give up. Trust in Him. Believe in Him! God loves to see the soul saved. Doesn’t the Scripture say:

Luke 15:7, 10 Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repententh. There is joy in Heaven in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repententh.

In the history of eternity there has never been a time when God has forgiven an unpunished violation of His Law. Never! Never! Look in the palms of His hands and what do you see? Nail scars! Nail scars!

Galatians 3:13-14 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: {14} That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

These terrible wounds, these graven marks cry out to you and to all the angels and saints of Heaven “It is finished”. You are graven in the palms of His hands. The holes there remind you that He paid your debt. He paid all of your debt. All that is you is in the palms of His hands. Your person, your works, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your everything is graven in His hands. There are those who believe that a Christian may be saved one day, lost the next – what utter foolishness! It was God Who engraved you on the palms of His hands. It was Infinite and All Knowing God Who engraved you – knowing all about you – on the palms of His hands. It was infinite and never changing God Who engraved mortal you on His immortal hands. The Scripture tells us:

Hebrews 1:10-12 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: {11} They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; {12} And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Illustrate: The works of God’s hands shall perish when He Himself remains. And you, dear believer, are graven in the palms of His hands. Make a fist with me. What is protected? It is the palm of your hands. We are graven on God’s palms. One day Jesus shall return to rule and reign on this earth. He will smite the enemy with His fists, and we shall be with Him. Yet as He smites, we are protected. God’s Children by faith are always protected.

The three Hebrew Children were protected, though cast in a fiery furnace.
The Shepherd David was protected, though he charged a giant with a rock and a sling.
Gideon threshed wheat in hiding, yet God used him and 300 men to defeat the enemy.

When the Church came together and preached the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost, it was not the strength of the Apostles nor the power of the 120 in the upper room that led many to salvation. It was that God’s people went into that upper room and prayed until the power of God came upon them. I’ll close with this text:

Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Let us not be discouraged, but trust in God and His power. Amen and Amen!

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Joy Not In Things, But In God

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People today find their joy in all the wrong places. In Psalm 100, one of my favorite, we see the Scripture telling us over and over to rejoice, to praise, to be happy, to be glad. The entire Psalm, meant to be sung in the Temple of God by a Cantor or Worship Leader, is one long praise. The song begins by telling us to give a cry of victory over the trials of life, then commands us to rejoice as we serve our God. Yes, the entire Psalm is about being happy, rejoicing, being satisfied beyond belief. Read with me:

Psalm 100 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Only The Saved Know Where Joy Comes From

C.H. Spurgeon wrote in his sermon “The Claims of God”:

BRETHREN, it is a trick of Satan to distract us from the most important and vital matters by the suggestion of trivial considerations. {That old Devil} will fill our eyes with dust to prevent our looking to the bronze serpent for healing; from the preaching of Jesus he endeavored to distract human attention by debates upon the tithing of mint, and anise, and cumin; the making broad of the borders of one’s garments; the wearing of phylacteries … {Satan} followed this method at Jacob’s well. When our Lord spoke to the {Samaritan} woman about living water, and the salvation of her soul, the evil spirit prompted her to {say,}“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and You say that in Jerusalem men ought to worship.” With this same art Satan still works!

The devil tried to do the same thing with our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness. The devil offered Jesus food, prestige, and power as avenues to joy. Jesus’ simple reply was, “It is written”.

Oh that we would learn from Jesus. Satan is destroying our nation through trivial and godless things, distractions from the most important truths. I am told that one political party made great gains in this last election because they capitalized on the anger generated by the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs Wade. Thank God it was overturned! People are upset because the Supreme Court has sent the question of legalized abortion back to the states, where it should have always been. One party has said that they will codify abortion into U.S. Law. Even if they do, people will not find joy in this. There is no joy in evil and selfishness. There is no genuine joy to be found in things.

Illustrate: I guarantee if you’re driving a Cadillac and I’m driving a beaten up Pontiac, if your Cadillac breaks down on the highway my working Pontiac will look better to you when I pass you stranded on the side of the road. Amen? A thing may bring joy, but if a thing – what the Bible calls an idol brings joy, that joy will only be temporary.

Joy is not in sin,
Joy is not in things.
Joy is not in technology.

Someone once jokingly said “money may not buy happiness, but it makes a good down payment on it”. No, my friend, money doesn’t even make a down payment on happiness. Money is the thing that drives the drug cartels, and money has caused more misery and death than you could imagine. Where is suicide most often found? Among the poor and struggling? No, but among the rich, the well to do. When struggling to survive you have purpose, and no person with a fixed purpose ever commits suicide. Purpose is life.

Psalm 100 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

The place where joy is found is in Yᵊhōvâ, our God. The Psalmist calls onall ye lands to sing praises to our Lord. In fact, this is a common command in the scripture. We read:

Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Psalm 66:1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;

Psalm 117:1-2 Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

Psalm 66:8 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah

The whole earth should praise God, and should look to Him for joy. Why? Because “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16). Jesus is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the SIN OF THE WORLD” (John 1:29). Jesus died for the sins of every person, male or female, and for every color and culture. There is no prejudice or “respect of persons” with Jesus. If you are broken, He died for you. If you are weak, He rose from the dead to lift you up.

Though the world does not today Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, there will be a day when this is true. God has promised to bring forth “new Heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:12). As Christians, we believe the promise of God. As the Chief Apostle said:

2 Peter 3:13 …. we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Until Jesus comes, righteousness will not cover our earth. We wait for the fulfillment of John’s vision,

Revelation 21:2 the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

When Jesus rules and reigns righteousness will
not be an intruder, but a welcome guest.

We who are saved will be face to face with Jesus. I am looking forward to that day when:

Revelation 21:4 God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Christian, Serve The Lord Where You Are WITH GLADNESS

Psalm 100:2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.

Today as believers under the New Covenant we should Serve the Lord with gladness. Notice that the Psalmist puts no conditions on serving God and gladness. He does not say,

Serve the Lord with gladness if you’re rich”, or
“Serve the Lord with gladness if you’re in good health”, or
“Serve the Lord with gladness if you’re famous, or
“Serve the Lord with gladness if you’ve got a great job”

We want to put limitations on our service to God. But King David said:

Psalm 84:9-12 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. 10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

King David was willing to serve God as a lowly guard at the door of God’s house. John Newton, a man who was an English Slave Trader, but on conversion was led by God into the ministry of Christ, once wrote:

If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will, and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham’s bosom, or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home.”

John Newton would later write the words of that wonderful hymn, Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a WRETCH like me;
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.

The Christian understands that we are to “serve the Lord with gladness”, no matter where we find Him.

God tells us that His Children are to be
HE serving, not ME serving.

The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 All things work TOGETHER for good to them who LOVE THE LORD, to them who are CALL ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.

God created all things “good”. Then our God made man on the sixth day, and said “this is VERY GOOD”. Man was very good because, of all the creatures, only man was made “in the image of God”.

Genesis 1:27 … God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

God put Adam and Eve in the midst of a beautiful Garden, a place in which there was nothing that could harm or hurt. It was man who – disobeying God – brought sin into the world. Man looked at a thing that God forbade, and thought, “If I could but have that thing, I would be happy”. The thing that Adam did brought no joy to either him or Eve. The thing cherished above God destroyed paradise for Adam, and for us all. By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin (Romans 5:12).

When Man was created on the 6th day “Very Good”, everything was “Very Good” until he second guessed God. It wasn’t long after this that Cain murdered his brother Abel. A search for happiness outside of what was granted on the 6th day led to MURDER, a violation of the 6th commandment.

Had Adam spent his days Serving the Lord with gladness we would still be in Paradise today. We should learn a lesson from this. When we are selfish, and step outside of service – which is the call of the son of God – we bring misery on ourselves. So often we come before God with a frown on our faces, miserable because of the bad choices we have made. But the Scripture tells us to

But even though Adam failed – and even though we still fail today – God never fails. We can ….

Psalm 100:2 come before His presence with singing.

Illustrate: In the ancient times, those who came to stand before a King were cautioned not to have a sad face. If you came into an earthly King’s court ion such a way, he would – as my mama used to say – “Give you something to be sad about”. Beloved, God will not MAKE us come into His presence with singing – but you should want to be so. The sin of man cannot overwhelm the goodness of God. All that happens to us, happens in accordance with His will. And even though we have low moments, our God’s goodness to us LASTS. The Scripture says:

Psalm 52:1 … the goodness of God endureth continually.

God Knows Best – And Puts Us In The Best Pasture

Psalm 100:3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Word Study: The first phrase in verse 3 notes Know ye that the Lord he is God. The word Lord is the Hebrew Yᵊhōvâ, and the word translatedGod is the Hebrew ĕlōhîm. Our God is the same ĕlōhîm mentioned in Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God (“ĕlōhîm”) created the heaven and the earth.

The God Who made all things is the One Who made us. He made us physically. We are not accidents of birth, nor evolutionary byproducts. We are made by God. God also made us spiritually. I am not a son of God because I am worthy, but because of His Grace. The Scripture says:

John 1:12-13 But as many as received {Jesus as Lord and Savior}, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. We belong to God as His Children and as His Citizens. The Scripture says:

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

We are purchased, not with silver or gold, but “with the precious Blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19). God paid the highest price He could pay for us at the Cross. We are not just Sheep. We are:

the sheep of his pasture

God will meet our needs. So we look to Him, and trust in Him. We do not let worry or anxiety – the devil’s tools – detract our vision from our Blessed Lord. We trust Him, the “Good Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep” (John 10:11).

Psalm 100:4-5 … Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good…

God owns the pasture, and controls the pasture for the greater good of those who love Him. While your eyes are on Jesus no thing has power over you:

Psalms 37:23-25 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. {24} Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. {25} I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

Every step you take for God in Christ is ordered, controlled, by the King you love. “But Brother David, I just don’t have many things!” Praise God, and trust Him. He supplies the things for your own blessing. The Scripture says:

Psalms 84:11 (KJV) “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no GOOD THING will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

Psalm 100:5 … His mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

It is time for all of us to learn these four great truths:

  1. First, happiness doesn’t come from things, but from God.
  2. Second, even if “good”, things may distract from the best. They may come between you and your family, or you and your Creator.
  3. Third, things may make you believe you don’t need God. Remember what Jesus said in …

Matthew 19:24 It is easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than a rich man to get into Heaven.

  1. Finally, things can lead eternal damnation. The rich young ruler walked away from God in Christ because his possessions were too great to give up.The Apostle writes:

Philippians 4:11-13 … I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. {12} I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. {13} I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Things are but temporary, but the relationship you have with God in Christ will last throughout eternity. Give yourselves to Him Who gave Himself to you! Do not live one more minute without the Best Friend and Companion you’ll ever have. May God lead you all to repent, and turn to Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. Amen and Amen.

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Rightly Dividing God’s Word Part 2: God, Stewardships, & The Age of Innocence

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To recap, last Wednesday we examined the Scripture:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

We discussed that, as we study, the Word of God is to be rightly divided. It is God’s Word, this Word of Truth, and we are given the Gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to study it. The Christian is saved by faith in Christ, but sanctified – made more like Jesus – through the study and application of God’s Word to our lives. As we study the Scripture we are:

  • Taught to be more like Jesus
  • Our faith is proved and tested
  • We are restored to an upright or Godly state
  • We walk pleasing to God

Salvation is not by our works, but by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, and rose again to lead us as believers, His Church. As we study the Scripture, we are always aware that:

All Scripture Is Written TO The Believer, But
Not All Scripture Is Written FOR The Believer

The Social and Ceremonial portions of the Mosaic Law found in the Old Testament are written not FOR the Gentiles nor the Church, but FOR Israel. We did establish this: Whether OLD or NEW Covenant, no one has EVER been saved by their works, but by faith in God. Once saved, however, the believer is to follow the commandments of God.

The Bible Addresses Different Times Or Ages,
Though God Never Changes, Nor Does Salvation Change

Turn with me in your Bibles to:

Ephesians 3:1-5For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

As Paul begins to address the Gentile Church at Ephesus, he wants to clarify a few truths that God gave to him as an Apostle. Paul – a student of Gamaliel and an ex-member of the ruling counsel of the Jews called the Sanhedrin – explains why he reaching out to Gentiles. It was God’s intent from the beginning of humanity to save ALL PEOPLE by Grace. Paul calls this the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you.

Word Study: The word dispensation is the Greek oikonomía, which literally means “a stewardship”.

A stewardship is something that is in your possession, something that does not belong to you but it has been entrusted to you by a higher authority.

God owns everything. From the beginning of creation to today, God made all things and then gave them to us as a oikonomía or a stewardship. Grace is a stewardship from God. God saves by Grace. He entrusted the stewardship of Grace to Israel in the Old Testament, and to the Church in the New Testament.

Under the Old Covenant, the Jew – saved by Grace – kept the Moral, Social, and Ceremonial Laws, something the Bible calls the “Mosaic Law” or “The Law of Moses”. In the Old Testament Israel began to believe that only Israel was to be saved. In other words, when Christ came and began to offer the Gospel to those who were not Jews, this made the Pharisees angry. They thought that Jesus was betraying the faith. This was the reason that before Paul was saved, as:

(Acts 9:1) Saul breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord

God’s Israel through idolatry had largely drifted away from their original calling. Abraham himself was not a Jew properly, but from Ur of the Chaldees or ancient Babylon.

  • Abraham was to be the Father of Faith to all nations (Genesis 17:5), and through him all nations were to be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
  • When King Solomon dedicated the Temple it was so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else”. (1 Kings 8:60)
  • When God made the Temple, it had places of worship for all people, not just the Jews. God told Israel through Isaiah, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7).
  • When God prophesied the Messiah coming from Israel, He told His people I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). He also told them I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

As Israel drifted from God, she forgot that Grace was her stewardship. Only God can save, and God reaches the nations through His people. As Israel became blind to her stewardship God sent His Son into this world to correct Israel’s error, and to usher in the New Covenant through His shed Blood on Calvary. When Saul went out destroying Christians, Jesus knocked him down on the Damascus Road. He speaks of this, saying:

Ephesians 3:3 … by revelation {GOD} made known unto me the mystery…

Word Study: The word mystery is the Greek mystḗrion, which means “a truth once revealed to a select group which became hidden, a fraternal secret”. At one time Israel knew that she was to share the Grace of God with the world. But Israel became secular, and her stewardship became mystḗrion, hidden, forgotten. This is one of the reasons why Samaritans – hated Gentiles – are often mentioned in their encounters with Jesus (see Luke 10:33; 17:16; John 4:4, 9; 4:39-40). When Christ struck Saul down on the Damascus Road, He made him aware that what he was doing (destroying the Church) was counter productive to the stewardship of the Gospel.

God saved Israel so that Israel could tell others about the Saving God we serve. God saved the Church so that the Church could tell others about the Saving God we serve.

Ephesians 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The formation of the Church, the Kingdom of God on this earth, was a mystery that was not fully revealed until the formation of the New Testament. God revealed the Church’s mission – the stewardship of the Gospel unto the world – through Christ’s holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. Paul goes on to say:

Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Our God has a great sense of humor. As Israel would not reach out to the Gentiles with the stewardship of Grace, Jesus caused Saul – a Rabbi of Israel – to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul went out preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. It was God’s plan to save whosoever will through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ.

Israel, Saved By Grace, Was Under The Mosaic Law
The Church, Saved By Grace, Is Under The Royal Law

The “Royal Law” is so named by James, the stepbrother of Jesus. He wrote:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

The Royal Law was not a new thing, but was contained within the Mosaic Law. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself is found in:

Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Priests of Israel, in studying the Social and Ceremonial portions of the Law, forgot that the heart of the Mosaic Law was love. Our Lord Jesus brought this back from the dustbins of legalism. A young Lawyer asked Jesus one day what the “Great Commandment” was. Jesus answered with the Royal Law. He said:

Matthew 22:37-39 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This “Royal Law” transcends every Age, from Creation until today. The “Royal Law” is the heartbeat of the Mosaic Law, and the Law the Christian follows today. Why did God call Israel to be His people in the Old Testament? Was it because they were superior? No! God told Israel:

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

Deuteronomy 9:6 Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.

Israel was not worthy to receive Grace, nor was she worthy to be the stewards of Grace. But this is the same for the Church today. Is the Church worthy? God tells us through Paul:

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

God chose Israel because of the promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and because Israel was weak, ignoble, foolish, and unable – in short, BROKEN. Grace is given by God to the broken who repent.

Why did God choose the Church and the Gentiles, that’s you and I? Because we are weak, ignoble, foolish, and unable – in short, BROKEN. Grace is given by God to the broken who repent.

The Royal Law is extended to the Broken. We are to be keepers of the Royal Law. The Apostle said:

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

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

Love worketh no ill to his neighbor”. The Bible tells us that:

Love does no harm, but does only good to God and to others.

Love is God’s Law from the beginning of human history, and into eternity. Mass failure in The Royal Law of love causes disaster in each Age of Humanity.

The First Age Or Period Of Man Is Called The Age Of Innocence

Human history begins with the Book of Genesis. Turn with me in your Bibles to:

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

This is one of the most profound statements found in Scripture. It answers the question, “How did we all get here?” Scientists at NASA state that:

The big bang is how astronomers explain the way the universe began. It is the idea that the universe began as just a single point, then expanded and stretched to grow as large as it is right now—and it is still stretching!”

This was a theory that was postulated by Astronomer Georges Lemaître in 1927. According to certain scientists, the universe, our Solar System, and our planet with all life was just an accident of nature. Even if all that we see were just an “accident”, the question scientists cannot explain is “what was the first cause of all things?” Science has no answer for that. The Bible does. The Bible tells us In the beginning God.

Word Study: There are several Hebrew or Arabic words found in the Bible that are translated God”: elōhê, ʾEl, ʾEl šaday, ‘Elah, and ʾĕlōhīm. In Genesis 1:1 God is the Hebrewʾĕlōhīm, which is the compound name of the Triune God. God the Father has created all things, and God the Father created all things through God the Son. We are told in:

1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) … for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

God the Father created everything (Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10; James 1:17), but His power flowed through Christ. The Bible says:

Colossians 1:12-19 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;

When the Bible says “In the beginning God {ʾĕlōhīm} created”, this is God the Father creating all things through God the Son. Furthermore, God the Holy Spirit was at work in creation.

Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

You see the Triune God at work in creation. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Love does no ill to its neighbor. Love does good where good is needed. Remember we noted earlier that God came to Israel because she was the least and the broken. God saves the Church because it is the least and the broken. NOW we see God moving on a broken, dark planet. Love demands that good be done. Love demands that light be given.

Genesis 1:3 And God (ʾĕlōhīm) said, Let there be light: and there was light.

When God spoke, it was not to create chaos, but to bring order from chaos. When God spoke, He spoke light. Light was formed before there was ever a light source, before there was ever a star named “The Sun” and a reflector called “The Moon”. God’s Word brings light, not darkness. God’s Word brings LIFE, not DEATH. God’s light was good. God established Light and Darkness as a principle. It is up to God to determine if something is LIGHT or DARK. That is the point of the Creation account.

Genesis 1:3-5 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Why is God showing us every step in the Creation of humanity? It is to show us that love does good. Love brings light. Love is not destructive, nor non-productive. As God is, so must we learn to be.

I’ll return to this subject next Wednesday. May God open your eyes to His Word through His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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False Prophets and False Teachers Bring Fast Destruction

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My final target is the text of 2 Peter 2:9, but I want to read the verses that lead up to it. These are dark verses, but very applicable to the Church today. Let’s read:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

The Wise Pay Attention To The BUTS Of Scripture

Let’s stop right there. The Apostle begins with But. Anytime you see the word But, you know that it is giving you and EXCEPTION to something else. Peter tells us that there WERE false prophets also among the People. He’s talking about the Old Testament People, God’s Israel. False prophets came in among Israel.

Why would false prophets come in to God’s people? Because the devil is real, and will do all he can to destroy God’s people.

God has given a sure word of prophecy to His people. He has given us the Bible. Peter spoke of the Bible on the left side of this BUT. The POWER of God to save and to sanctify is found only through God’s Word. It is God’s Word that speaks life to the dead, and light to the darkness. God gave His Word through faithful prophets and apostles. We read:

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

Prophecy is the Word of God. Prophecy is what we have in the Bible. True Prophecy does not come by the will of man, but it is Holy Spirit driven. This is plain. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. False prophets plagued Israel. God warned Israel to be careful of the false prophets. He told them in:

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 .. How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

But Israel was not discerning. False prophets rose up, and drew the people away from God. Elijah stood alone on Mount Carmel, facing 450 prophets of Baal and 400 Asheroth (Prophets of the Grove) [1 Kings 18:19]. All of Israel had been consumed by the false prophets endorsed by King Ahab and Jezebel, so much so that Elijah was by himself. Elijah asked the people:

1 Kings 18:21 (ESV) How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.

Though Elijah stood with God and won the day, the false prophets did not go away. One of the reasons the false prophets were so successful in Israel is because they ignored God’s first command when going into the Promised Land. God told His people of the Canaanites:

Deuteronomy 7:2-4 (ESV) …. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.

Israel ignored God’s command. They made covenants with the lost, and entered into marriages with them. This caused Israel to drift away from God. When God called His true prophets out, men like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, Daniel and Hosea, these prophets fought an uphill battle against the evil spread by the false. God speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 23:13-14 (ESV) In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

The false prophets do not teach Biblical and Godly Repentance, but rather “strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil”

Without repentance, there is no remission of sin. Israel became consumed by the sin of the lost, and lost her blessing before God. Peter tells us – again:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Just as there WERE “False Prophets” against God’s Israel,
There SHALL BE “False Teachers” against Christ’s Church

The Wages of Sin is DEATH” (Romans 6:23). This is an absolute as sure as gravity. These false teachers bring in damnable heresies, that is, they teach doctrines that lead souls to be damned from Heaven. We assume that, as Southern Baptists, we are safe from this. Not true. Some of the books that Lifeway sells are departures from the Word of God.

Illustrate: Consider a popular fictional book called The Shack (author William P. Young). In this book God says this:

I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not My purpose to punish it. It’s my joy to cure it.”

Is that what the Bible says? No, it’s not.

Psalm 145:20 The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

You say, “well, this is the Old Testament”. All right, let’s see what Jesus said. Our Lord Jesus came to bring in the New Covenant, a Covenant where God writes His Law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:16). Our Lord Jesus said those who are loveless and hateful to those around them (Matthew 25:41-46):

I was hungry and you gave Me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink,
I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me,
I was naked, and you did not clothe Me.
I was in prison, and you did not visit Me.

Jesus said, “As you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. AND THESE WILL GO AWAY INTO ETERNAL PUNISHMENT, but THE RIGHTEOUS INTO ETERNAL LIFE(Matthew 25:46).

God will save from sin, but there MUST BE REPENTANCE. What did Jesus preach?

Matthew 4:17 … REPENT: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Matthew 9:13 … I am not come to call the righteous, but SINNERS TO REPENTANCE

God MUST punish sin, for God IS HOLY. If God doesn’t “punish people for sin”, then WHY the Cross?

See Him, the Christ, nailed to that Tree. See Him naked, bleeding, a crown of thorns pushed down on the head that once held the Crown of Heaven. See Him in the Garden WEEPING, tears like blood pouring from His eyes. “Father, if it be Thy will, let THIS CUP – THIS CROSS – pass from Me. NEVERTHELESS NOT MY WILL BUT THINE BE DONE (Luke 22:42).

God will punish sin. As Jesus cried out “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”, this in itself shows us God’s attitude toward sin. Sin is an affront to His Holy Name.

Illustrate: The book written by false teacher Rob Bell called “Love Wins” undermines the Doctrine of Hell. He asks,

Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow this, and still claim to be a loving God? Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?”

Bell’s questions remind me of the questions that Old Serpent gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “Hath God really said that you shall not eat of every tree?”. Does God punish sin? If so, how long does God punish sin? Read in our context:

2 Peter 2:4-5 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

God did not spare the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell. God did not bind all the fallen angels, but left some – along with Lucifer – free for a certain amount of time. Yet Satan Himself can go no farther than God allows (for proof, read Job 1-3). In the end of time – when God’s plan is completed – the Scripture says:

Revelation 20:10 … the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Here’s a philosophic question for you. “Would a loving God drown children and babies”? Well, what does the Scripture say? God saw that the wickedness of our world had grown so great that – the Bible says –

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV) The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

We see another “But” of Scripture, and we praise God for this. “But Noah found FAVOR – literally – grace – in the eyes of the Lord”.

God is holy, and must punish sin. BUT if one REPENT as Noah did, and turn UNTO GOD as Noah did, then Grace is to be found. If you reject the loving invitation of God to repent and follow Him, then the judgment of God is what is left. The Scripture declares that God flooded an entire world because of sin. A God Who offered love, but was shunned, did that. Man, woman, child, infant, all who were NOT on the ARK OF SALVATION drowned under that terrible flood.

The false teacher believes God grins at sin. God does not grin at sin. God is not faintly amused by it. God brought a “flood upon the world of the ungodly”.

Illustrate: Author Matthew Vines notes in his book, “God And The Gay Christian”,

Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.” He says that once this “truth” be affirmed, that, “The fiercest objections to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] equality — those based on religious beliefs — can begin to fall away. The tremendous pain endured by LGBT youth in many Christian homes can become a relic of the past. Christianity’s reputation in much of the Western world can begin to rebound. Together we can reclaim our light.”

There are six passages in Scripture that specifically decree that same sex intimacy is against the design of and forbidden by God (see Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10). How does God feel about same sex relationships? Peter addresses this. Read with me:

2 Peter 2:6-8 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an {EXAMPLE} unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? It was to give everyone a graphic {EXAMPLE} unto those that after should live ungodly. God considers a same sex intimacy to be “ungodly”. God did not destroy ALL of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. He sent His Angels to lead just or righteous Lot. Lot was saved by faith in God. Though horribly imperfect, when Lot was warned that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot followed GOD out of those wicked places. Repentance is to follow God’s lead, not the world’s lead. His family followed Lot so far, all but HIS WIFE.

Genesis 19:26 But {Lot’s} wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Was {Lot’s} wife saved from destruction? She could have been, but she looked backward, and turned her heart toward evil. Once more we see a But of Scripture. What a sadness this would be! Jesus said,

Luke 9:62 … No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Illustrate: When I joined the Air Force many, many years ago, I took an oath:

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States; Against all enemies, foreign and domestic; That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States; and the orders of the officers appointed over me; According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice; so help me, God.”

I pledged to support and defend the “Constitution of the United States” as an Airman. As Christians, we pledge our allegiance to our Jesus and to the Word of God, the Bible. He is our Commander in Chief, the King of kings and Lord of lords. His people do not look backward – else we will fall under the judgment of sin! Look to the example of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Though Lot was imperfect just as all Christians are imperfect, Lot never compromised his love for God and His directives. Though Lot was in the midst of Sodom and in the midst of evil, his righteous soul {was vexed} from day to day with their unlawful deeds. He did not seek to justify what God has said is wicked.

Why did Jesus come to this earth if God was willing to ignore sin? The father of John the Baptist, Zecharias filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of Jesus’ coming.

Luke 1:78-79 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high (this is Jesus!) hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to minimize or make light of sin. He came to save us, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. The Christian does not follow after sin, but follows after Jesus. When the Apostle writes of the lost, he says:

Romans 3:10-12, 17-18 … 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. 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Those who are saved, are saved by REPENTING and coming, broken as we are, to Christ. We do not justify sin, but reject it. We come to Him Who died for us to save us. What was it the Scripture says?

Matthew 1:21 And {Mary} shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins …

Jesus did not die to justify our sins, but to justify US.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake {God the Father} made {God the Son} to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:24 (ESV) {Jesus Christ} Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might DIE TO SIN AND LIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS. By His wounds you have been healed.

Does God punish sin? Yes! Does God love us? Yes! How does God prove His love? He provides a way by which our sins can be covered, and our lives restored to a right walk with God. Where salvation comes, the life changes. What does the Apostle say?

Titus 2:11-13 (ESV) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Where the Grace of God is, it not only brings about salvation. But Grace train{s} us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. The Christian is not perfect. No Christian is perfect. But the Christian follows a perfect God. The Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. The Christian, saved by faith in Christ, has written on his or her heart love toward God and love toward their neighbor. God is to be loved ABOVE ALL ELSE. And your neighbor, to be loved as God has loved you.

God Knows Them That Are His

This was the target I was aiming at. Read with me:

2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished

God’s children are godly. A Christian is a walking miracle. A Christian is born again of the Spirit of God” (John 3:3; 3:7). A Christian is born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23). A Christian is not saved by their works, but by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving him as Savior.

Titus 3:5-6 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;

A Christian will, like Father Abraham, “work the works of God”. A Christian “believes on the One Whom God hath sent” (John 6:29). A Christian has called upon the name of the Lord, repenting of their sins. Once saved, the Christian becomes a son of God by faith (Galatians 3:26). Those whom God saves, He knows how to deliver. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.

Do you know Jesus? Do you? If you have obeyed the Gospel call, the same message that has never changed:

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:19 … the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

If you are saved, you belong to God, not to yourself. You are his Child, His Workmanship, His Treasure, His Love. The Child He receives by faith is a miracle, a citizen of Heaven. His children are called to “walk in the light as Christ is in the light” (1 John 1:7). But if you reject Christ, if you refuse to repent and cast yourself upon the loving mercy of God, do not believe that you shall escape the wrath of God.

Illustrate: In the Book “Purpose Driven Life” Rick Warren wrote:

Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity. ‘Jesus, I believe in You and I receive You’. Go ahead. If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!”

With all due respect to Rick, what is missing from this statement? REPENT. Those who come to Christ without repentance are not saved, but continue to live in godlessness. Jesus will one day say to them,

Matthew 7:23 … I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY

Salvation is an unconditional surrender of the sinner to the Lord Savior. We acknowledge that we are NOT God, but Jesus is God, and that we have no hope of salvation apart from Him. Love or wrath. That is YOUR choice. Which will you choose? May God the Holy Spirit draw you to Christ this very moment, for the glory of God, and the increase of His Kingdom. Amen and Amen.

Posted in 2 Peter, God's Children, gospel, grace, Great Commission, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rightly Dividing God’s Word: Part 1, Introduction To The Ages

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-reading-indoor-2325729/

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his ministry. He told Timothy – a young man he was training:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Paul knew that shortly he would be standing before the Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (rule 54-68AD), and that he would be – in all likelihood – beheaded for his preaching of Christ. One Source notes,

Based on historical events of the day, it is likely that Paul was beheaded, possibly around the same time that Peter was crucified.”

Before Paul was saved on the Damascus Road, he trained under the noted Bible Scholar, Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Paul was “taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers”, the Scripture. As Paul prepared to die he wanted to leave Timothy with the best advice on how to live and promote the Gospel of Christ.

Saved By Grace, We Are Sanctified By Study Of The Scripture

He encouraged Timothy to study the Scripture. He told Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved…

Word Study: Let’s break this down. Study is the Greek spoudazō, which means “to labor over, be diligent to look into, to hasten to examine, to study”. Timothy was to study the Word of truth. What is the Word of truth? Jesus told us what the Word of truth is in His prayer for the Church. He prayed to the Father:

John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word {O Father God} is truth.

The Bible contains the truth of God. We are to spoudazō, to Study the Bible, the Word of God. The Christian is given the Holy Spirit of God to aid us in studying and applying God’s Word. One of the nicknames that Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit is “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) because it is His function to “Guide us unto all truth”. Jesus said:

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

Question: Why was the Holy Spirit given to the Christian? __________________________

The phrase that describes the Scripture, Word of truth, is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Psalmist spoke saying that salvation comes only through the Word of God:

Psalm 119:41-45 Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word. 42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. 44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. 45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Salvation comes by the Word of truth. The Apostle Paul speaks of proving himself as a minister of God by holding fast to the Word of truth (see 2 Corinthians 6:7). It is the Word of truth that saves us. Paul told the Church at Ephesus:

Ephesians 1:12-13 … we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

The Bible is the Word of truth. Paul tells Timothy to study that Bible:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God…

Word Study: The word approved is the Greek dókimos, which means “accepted, pleasing”.

Notice the text doesn’t tell you to study or examine the Scripture to be saved. It tells us to study or examine the Scripture to prove the genuineness of our salvation.

The Scripture is given to the Christian to help shape our minds to be like Christ’s mind. Paul told Timothy in another place:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect {mature, like Jesus}, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The Scripture – Old and New Testament – is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture is profitable. The Scripture contains four elements related to our growth:

Doctrine (didaskalia) = Teaching us how to be like Jesus
Reproof (élenchos) = That by which our faith is proved or tested
Correction (epanorthōsis) = That which restores one to an upright state
Instruction In Righteousness = How to be pleasing to God

Going back to our focal text:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

When we study the Scripture, we are to always be rightly dividing the text. The Bible tells us that – though God used people to write it – that God Himself is the ultimate Author of the Scripture. The Chief Apostle writes:

2 Peter 1:20-21 no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Since the Holy Text was written by holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, then the Scripture MUST interpret the Scripture. Only God’s Word can properly interpret God’s Word.

Does All Of Scripture Apply TO Me?

God gave the entire Bible to the believer in Christ, both Old and New Testaments. As Christians, when we read the Scripture, we need to read

in Context, and
in the Spirit.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Word Study: rightly dividing is the Greek orthotomeō, meaning “to make straight and smooth, to handle correctly, to teach the truth in a Godly manner”. The Scripture is not to be twisted or turned to suit our opinions. One of the things I have learned over the years is that:

All Scripture is written TO the believer, but
not all Scripture is written FOR the believer.

The Scripture has divisions and applications that are addressed to:

  1. ALL people at all times, and
  2. CERTAIN people at certain times

This is the reason our Bibles are divided into OLD Testament (or Covenant) and NEW Testament (or Covenant).

Under the Old Covenant God had a people
He saved by Grace called “Israel”.

The nation Israel itself was created because of a promise that God made to a man called Abram or Abraham. Abraham was not saved by his own goodness, but by faith in God. Abraham’s name is mentioned 230 times in the King James text. The Apostle Paul said of Abraham:

R omans 4:2-3 … if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Salvation from sin came to Abraham just as it comes to us. We believe God, and God counts or imputes righteousness to us because we believe. Paul goes on to quote The Psalmist David who, in Psalm 32:1-2 said:

R omans 4:6-8 … as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Salvation has ALWAYS been by faith in God. It has never been a thing that you can work toward. ONCE GOD SAVED ISRAEL OUT OF EGYPT (see Exodus 14:13, “Fear not, STAND STILL and SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD, which He will show to you today”) it was THEN that God gave His people rules for living.

Those whom God saves, He saves by Grace. Once He saves His people, God, as King, gives His people rules to live by.

This has never varied. Whether Old Covenant (Testament) or New Covenant (Testament), God gives His people rules to live by. Our Lord Jesus said to His Church:

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

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

But our Lord told His Old Covenant Israel:

Leviticus 22:31 Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 26:2-5 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. 3 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; 4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

A believer is saved by Grace and the mercy of God. A believer is saved by faith in the Savior. But once saved, as believers (Old or New Covenant) we are to follow the commands that God our Savior gives to us. This is where RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE TRUTH comes into play.

As I said before, all Scripture is FOR us, but not all Scripture is TO us.

God gave His Law to Israel from Mount Sinai. In that Law were:

The MORAL Law
The Judgments or SOCIAL Law
The Ordinances or CEREMONIAL Law

The Moral Law (such as the Ten Commandments, the injunctions against sexual sin and perversion) is consistent between both Old and New Testaments. For instance,

  1. Murder is prohibited in both the Old Testament (Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:30-31) as well as the New Testament (Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:15).
  2. Sexual sin is prohibited in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:21; Exodus 20:14) as well as the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 15:19). Some have said that homosexuality has been forbidden only in the Old Testament (Covenant – see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) but not in the New Testament (Covenant). This is NOT true. The Apostle Paul condemned homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 & 1 Corinthians 6:9. Jesus condemned same sex marriage when He said, Have you NOT READ that He Who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6, NKJV).
  3. Of the TEN Commandments, only ONE, the Commandment to “Keep the Sabbath” is NOT repeated in the New Testament.

The Social Law covered laws that specifically related to Israel (see Exodus 21:1-23:13). The Social Laws specifically governed Israel in her diet, secular, political and economic life. A good example of the Social Law is found in:

Numbers 19:16-19 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: 18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.

If an Israelite touched any portion of a dead body, they had to go through a CEREMONIAL cleansing after a seven day quarantine. This commandment was for Israel alone, not for the Church under the New Covenant, as it is not repeated in the New Testament. Which brings us to:

The Ceremonial Law. This is the religious portion of Israel’s Law that guided the nation in worship and fellowship with God. Under the ceremonial law you find the rules governing the priesthood, the tabernacle or Temple, and the sacrifices. The Ceremonial Law pointed to the coming ministry of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of His people. The Book of Hebrews tells us that:

H ebrews 10:1-10 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5 Wherefore when He {a reference to Jesus} cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Ceremonial Law of Israel was NEVER given to make those who came to God perfect or right before God. Every animal sacrificed showed Israel (and us) that:

  1. Sin is no joke, but a serious thing with God
  2. Sin separates us from God, and we cannot fix that separation with our good works
  3. The blood of an innocent must be spilled to atone for or cover sin
  4. No one has EVER been saved by works, for animal sacrifices were repeated on a regular basis
  5. Animal sacrifices could never satisfy God, thus Jesus had to come for our sins.
  6. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all

Jesus satisfied the requirements of the Law. Because of Jesus we who are New Covenant believers are “not under the Law, but under grace”. The Old Covenant believer was dominated by sin because the ceremonial Law kept him bound to the Temple or the Tabernacle, to the Levitical Priesthood and the High Priest. The New Testament believer, however, is not under the shadow of the Law. The Bible says:

R omans 6:12-18 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.

Freed from the Ceremonial & Social Law of Israel, we do not become amoral, but we become servants of righteousness. We strive to live our lives – not according to Social or Ceremonial Mosaic Law – but to imitate Christ. But Scripture – whether Old or New Testament – is FOR all Christians, though it may not be TO us.

The Bible Addresses Different Times Or Ages,
Though God Never Changes, Nor Does Salvation Change

In the Old Testament God used Israel and the Jews to introduce us to Himself. As we study the Scriptures, there are seven major divisions or ages that we are introduced to in both Old and New Testaments. Theologians (those who study the Bible professionally) call these time periods “Dispensations” or “Ages”. Grace and the goodness of God are a continuing theme through these “Ages”. Under the Old Covenant, the Jew – saved by Grace – kept the Moral, Social, and Ceremonial Laws, something the Bible calls the “Mosaic Law” or “The Law of Moses”. In the Old Testament Israel began to believe that only Israel was to be saved. This is what the Apostle Paul believed before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. After meeting Jesus, Saul (now called Paul) came to understand that God wanted to save whosoever will. He spoke of this in:

E phesians 3:1-11 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The Jews had come to believe that God only loved the Jews. Yet this is not the truth. God loves every person, and calls whosoever will to His side through faith in Christ Jesus. Once a believer is saved by Grace, that believer falls under the Royal Law of God:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

The royal law according to the scripture is that the believer, saved by Grace through faith in Christ, shall as Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-39 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This “Royal Law” transcends every Age, from Creation until today. The “Royal Law” is the heartbeat of the Mosaic Law, and the Law the Christian follows today.

This Sunday night we will begin to start talking about the Seven Ages found in the Scripture, and the Covenants that God gave during each of those Ages. May God tough your hearts to grow in your knowledge of Him. Amen and Amen.

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Just Making Sure

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2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

Opening: When I was a boy one of the greatest Rock Bands of that day was called “The Beatles”. The Beatles were an English Rock Band from Liverpool, England. Highly influential, the Beatles popularized long hair, free love, music videos, and use of mind altering drugs. The group was anything but Christian. John Lennon, the group’s leader, said:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that: I’m right, and I will be proved right. We are more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, Rock and Roll or Jesus. Jesus was all right, but His disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

People have been promising the destruction of Christianity since Jesus rose from the grave – and yet, our faith continues on. The Beatles broke up April 10, 1970 – only about 10 years after the band was formed. John Lennon was killed by a madman December 8, 1980, a little over ten years after the band broke up. …

And yet Christ and His followers continue on. Why is this? Because our Founder, the Lord Jesus Christ, is greater than anyone who has ever been. Jesus is not just a Carpenter’s son, born in a small town named Nazareth. Jesus is more than this. We who follow Jesus know that the world will always be against our Savior. Yet we are not discouraged. We …

Hebrews 12:1-2 … lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Our Savior was not dominated by death. Though executed unjustly, He laid His life down for us, to make payment for our sins. Jesus said,

John 10:18 (ESV) No one takes {my life} from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

The Christian’s Savior and Lord is no mere mortal Man. He is Perfect Man. He is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus is Co-Creator with God the Father. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, God among us. The Scripture says:

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) {Jesus} is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by {Jesus} all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Because Jesus – the Son of God and the Son of Man – gave Himself for our sins, we who are saved and called “Christian” are brothers together, family together, and God is our Father. The Apostle tells us to:

2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure

First the Scripture calls the Christian BRETHREN. We are Family together. God is our Father because of Jesus. When Jesus rose from the Grave that Sunday morning so long ago, He told Mary Magdalene:

Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; instead, GO TO MY BROTHERS and say to them, ‘I AM ASCENDING TO MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER, TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD” (John 20:17)

Jesus Christ is God’s only Begotten Son, but because of Jesus we who believe are adopted of God, born again of the Blood of Christ. As Peter speaks to the Church, he makes no judgments. But he tells each confessor of Christ to “give DILIGENCE” (spoudazō, hasten to do QUICKLY, use SPEED, do not PROCRASTINATE). We are not to put this off, but to examine ourselves and make sure that we have been called and chosen. We do not want to stumble on this point. In school, I hated Algebra. I couldn’t see a use for it. I can understand:

1 + 3 = 4 or 1 x 3 = 3

I had no problem with simple mathematics. As a woodworker, I use fractions and wholes. I can do a certain amount of math in my head. But I never could understand Pythagoras Theory, which states:

In any right triangle, the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares whose sides are the two legs.”

Huh? I’m sure somebody needs this, but it goes over my head. There are many things I do not understand. For instance, I don’t know how our government can just print money that is back by nothing, and can’t fix the deficit. If the government can print money at will, why not just print 40 trillion dollars and pay off our debts? But I digress.

There are many things we don’t understand. But God wants you to KNOW that you are saved. This is the MOST important thing you will ever need to know.

The Saved Are CALLED By God And CHOSEN To Do Good

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ:

No one just stumbles upon Jesus. Jesus calls us to salvation. Jesus said in

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

What Jesus mean by this? The word translated draws is the Greek helkō which means “to draw or drag”. God must be involved in the salvation process. Though the works of God are clearly seen all around us (Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork”), the darkness of sin blinds our hearts to the love of God in Christ. God must open our eyes to His glory. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

God must open the eyes of the sinner. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8), opening the eyes of the lost. But once their eyes are opened, they are free to choose – or not!

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and
an apostle of Jesus Christ

This is what happened in the salvation of Simon Peter. His Brother Andrew found Jesus, then went to Peter and said “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41-42). When Jesus met Simon, He told him ““You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)”. Simon was a fisherman, serving himself and his family. But now Jesus called him and Andrew:

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18)

Simon was Simon the fisherman. But called of Christ, He is now Simon Peter, a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ. This is his identity. Simon belongs to Jesus. Simon, like us who are saved, is called to Jesus’ side. We are:

1 Corinthians 6:20 … BOUGHT with a PRICE. Therefore GLORIFY GOD in your BODY and in your SPIRIT, WHICH ARE GOD’S.

The Christian does not belong to himself. The Christian belongs to Jesus. Though Simon Peter continued to fish, his priority was to serve Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

You are called to serving the Lord Christ. You are also called into the Church to serve one another. Peter is not just a servant of Jesus Christ, but he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that God puts every believer into the Body of Christ, the Church, to work together to serve the Lord. Peter’s call was to be an Apostle. The Apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:11-14 … the … Spirit, dividing {spiritual gifts} to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

The saved are CALLED to be children of God and servants of Christ. The saved are CHOSEN to do good, to possess and use spiritual gifts within the Body for the glory of Christ. We are not saved by our works, but once saved, we work for Jesus and for one another. The Spirit gives us spiritual gifts as He decides best. We are to work TOGETHER in Christ’s Body to glorify God, and to lift one another up as the family of God. Even though Simon Peter was an Apostle (a chief leader in the early Church), he was no more saved than the other members of the Body.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ:

We are all saved by like precious faith. The words translated like precious is the Greek isotimos (pronounced ee-sot’-ee-mos), which means “of equal value or honor”. This faith is – according to the text – “OBTAINED”. We receive it as a gift from God through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Every Christian has a common experience with God. God calls to us in our hearts, and we come to Him by faith. It is a word of Faith that we have all responded to.

Jesus called, and we responded. I am not a higher category of Christian than you are just because I am a Pastor. It is by Grace I am a Pastor. I have neither earned it, nor deserved it. I am saved the same as you are, the same as Peter was, through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Because we all received Christ Jesus as the One and Only Messiah, because we surrendered our lives to Him, we are saved. The Scripture says:

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

The “Word of Faith” is a simple message. The Scripture says:

Romans 10:8-11 (KJV) … 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.

The Saved Are Equipped To Grow

2 Peter 1:2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

It is Grace that saves us and brings us peace with God. We “grow in Grace” (2 Peter 3:18) as we learn more about our God and our Savior. God has given us all that we need to grow spiritually. We are told His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. We have all we need to grow in Grace.

We are given the Holy Spirit, by which we learn Biblical Truth (John 14:17; 15:26)
We are given the Holy Bible, the Words of Life
(John 6:68; Acts 5:20; Revelation 22:19)
We are given access to God through Christ our High Priest (Ephesians 2:18)
We are given unified purpose through His Church. (1 John 3:2)

Before Jesus went to the Cross to die for our sins, He took Peter, James, and John to a private place on a mountain near Jerusalem. Jesus went up the mountain with His three chosen ones, and at that place Elijah and Moses appeared on either side of Christ. This is so interesting to me! When Moses met God on the mountaintop of Sinai, God gave Moses the Law for Israel. And when Elijah met God on the mountaintop of Carmel, God gave him power to overthrow the false gods that His Israel had begun to follow under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. One one side of Jesus stood Elijah, that Great Prophet. Jesus completed the prophecies, showing Himself to be the one and only Messiah. On the other side of Jesus stood Moses, that Great Giver of the Law. The Law could not save mankind, neither could the prophets. In the midst of this splendor Peter spoke up:

Luke 9:33 … Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said

Almost before Peter finished speaking, God the Father spoke from Heaven, saying:

Luke 9:34-35 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

The Prophets spoke of the Coming Christ. The Law was a shadow of the Coming Christ. But now Jesus is here: we are to HEAR HIM. He is God’s Beloved, God’s Messiah, God’s Savior for those who will believe. Peter does not speak of this moment until this letter, when he writes:

2 Peter 1:16-21 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy {Spirit}.

God spoke and continues to speak through His Holy Scriptures. We have a sure word of prophecy from God.

We Have EXCEEDING GREAT & PRECIOUS Promises

2 Peter 1:4-7 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

God has given to the Christian exceeding great and precious promises. God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), so every promise He has made us in Christ shall come true. What are the things that God has promised us?

Romans 16:20 (ESV) The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet …

Philippians 1:6 (ESV) .. He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ …

Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you

John 10:28 (ESV) I give unto them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand

John 6:37 (ESV) All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out ..

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) …. I will never leave you, nor forsake you …

Once saved, every Christian becomes the workmanship of God. It is God’s intent that we might be partakers of the divine nature. We are to be like Jesus. We are not saved, then left by the road of life. God the Spirit comes into our lives, and begins to work in us to make us more like Christ Jesus. The Christian is called to imitate Christ, to develop the attributes of a son of God, not the ways of the sons of Adam. We add to our walk with God. “Add to” is the Greek (epichorēgeō Pronounced ep- ee-khor-ayg-eh’-o). A living faith is a growing faith. It progresses. If we are saved we will add to our faith. What adds to our faith?

1 Add to your faith VIRTUE or GOODNESS . Jesus did good things, and His Children by faith should do good things. The Psalmist said:

Psalms 34:13-14 (KJV) Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Do good with your lips. How often did you see Jesus running about badmouthing other people? Did Jesus murmur, or curse, or blaspheme God? Was He a gossip? No, none of it. Jesus Christ was an encourager, an uplifter, a builder, not a wrecking ball.

2 Add to your faith KNOWLEDGE. Read the Word of God. So many people tell me that they don’t read the Word because they don’t understand it. So what? When I was in the military I often read manuals that I didn’t understand. Read the Word and ask God the Holy Spirit to guide you.

3 Add to your faith TEMPERANCE. This is the Greek enkráteia, {pronounced eng-krat’-i-ah}, which means “self control. One who master’s his passions and desires”. We are to control our heart, not to follow our heart.

4 Add to your faith PATIENCE, GODLINESS, BROTHERLY KINDNESS, and LOVE. I wish I had time to cover each of these things in detail, but I don’t. We must be patient with one another, for we who are Christians are called to grow together to be like Jesus. Just as every plant in the field doesn’t grow at the same rate, Christians don’t grow at the same rate. We as believers are called to work together for the glory of God. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Illustrate: I love to read the Peanuts cartoons. In one cartoon Lucy tell Charlie, “Our family has solidarity! And our family has loyalty and”… At that moment Linus walks over to Charlie and Lucy hoping to get in on the conversation. Lucy stops talking to Charlie to yell at Linus, “Why don’t you stop dragging that stupid blanket around, you blockhead!” She turns back to Charlie, saying “and this family has love for one another.”

Our Lord Jesus said:

John 13:35 (ESV) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Our faith will never reach others if we do not add to it the things that God says we should add to it.

2 Peter 1:9 … But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

Let us live for the glory of God! Through Christ Jesus, for His glory, we ask these things. Amen and Amen.

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The Best Foundation Is Jesus

Photo by Seva Kruhlov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/low-angle-shot-george-washington-bridge-11153818/

Luke 6:46-49 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

There was a song Andy Williams sang years ago that just came into my mind:

Love is a many splendored thing
It’s the April rose that only grows in the early Spring
Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living
The golden crown that makes a man a king
Once on a high and windy hill, In the morning mist

Two lovers kissed and the world stood still
Then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing!

I’m not really sure why that popped in my head. The song accompanied a movie of the same name based on a book written by Dr. Han Suyin. The movie starred Jennifer Jones and William Holden. In the movie Jones plays the Eurasian Doctor Suyin who falls in love with an American married man named Mark Elliot (Holden). Doctor Suyin is ostracized by the Chinese community for dating the American, and loses her position at the hospital. Yes, it’s a tear jerker.

This was one of Hollywood’s earliest attempts to romanticize
what the Bible defines as “adultery”.

Any relationship built on that which God has forbidden will not stand the test of time. The devil and this fallen world is continually enticing people to build on poor foundations. America was originally built on a great foundation, but over time Progressive Liberalism has crept in and replaced the foundation with foolishness and feelings. Jesus loves His Church, His people, and wants our foundation to be solid.

Jesus Asked Interesting Questions.
His TENTH Question In This Chapter Asks …

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

Jesus loved to ask questions when He taught. By asking questions, He made His hearers THINK about their response before they answered. Jesus asked, according to the website Red Letter Challenge, 305 questions throughout the Gospels.

In this chapter alone Jesus asked 10 questions when being challenged and when teaching. This is His 10th Question.

People came to Jesus, crying out “Lord, Lord”. They wanted Jesus to do something for them. Jesus healed the lepers, the blind, the sick. But Jesus had something greater to give to those in need.

Jesus offered Himself as King of our lives.

Jesus IS Lord. When John the Baptist preached, his message was Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). When Jesus preached, His message was The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). The Gospel includes the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom. He came to save HIS PEOPLE from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Jesus IS Lord. He cannot be anything less. Scripture is clear that without holiness, no one shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Pastor Stephen J. Cole notes:

Genuine saving faith always results in a life of progressive godliness. If a person claims to be saved, but has no hunger for God’s Word, no growing hatred of sin, and no growth in godly living, he needs to examine whether he is truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

The proof of salvation is that you want to please your Lord. John 3:16 – perhaps the most quoted text of Scripture in the Bible – says –

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.

It is true that salvation is a free gift of God. But once saved, you are brought into the Kingdom of God, and Christ is your King. Pastor John MacArthur wrote in his book The Gospel According to Jesus:

The gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority”.

In our focal text Jesus shows us what genuine salvation is.

Luke 6:47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

Salvation can only be achieved by first coming to Jesus. There is no other way a person can be saved. Jesus Himself said:

John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus was chosen by God to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). To be saved you must come to Jesus, willingly trusting your life to His.

Self Righteousness Always Gets God Wrong

The Pharisees would not come to Jesus because they felt that the Law would save them. In fact, they often attacked Jesus for not keeping the Law as they thought it should be kept. Look at the beginning of this chapter:

Luke 6:1-5 And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that {Jesus} went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. 2 And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? 3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; 4 How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? 5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

The Pharisees chastised Jesus and His disciples for threshing corn on the Sabbath Day. The text tells us that this is the second sabbath after the first, or literally en sabbato deuteroproto or “on the second-first Sabbath”. The Jews had a weekly Sabbath, but during special holidays (like the Passover) the first Sabbath was the first day of the feast and the second Sabbath was at the end of the feast. So this was at the end of a special Sabbath festival that the Pharisees attacked Jesus.

The Pharisees should have known better. Our Lord Jesus is the fulfiller of the Law. He said, Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The Law was given by God to lead us to Christ. Only in Jesus do we come to understand the Law. The intent of the Law was not to save us, but to show us that we needed to be saved. Keeping the Law cannot save a person – but only show us the Savior.

Challenged for allowing His disciples to “thresh corn” on the Sabbath, Jesus quotes Scripture to them.

Jesus quotes 1 Samuel 21:3-6, when David, on the run from Saul’s attempts to kill him, came to the Temple looking for something to eat.

The only bread the Priests had was the shewbread. When God gave the Law to Israel, He said:

Exodus 25:30 Thou shalt set upon the Table shewbread before Me always

The shewbread was to be kept fresh. These twelve loaves of bread (Leviticus 24:5-6) stood for the twelve tribes of Israel in the presence of God. The bread was left on the table, and changed out every Sabbath with fresh loaves. Only the priests were to eat the loaves. When David came to the Temple on the Sabbath, the only bread there was the twelve loaves of shewbread that were going to be exchanged for fresh bread. The Priests allowed David and his ragged band to eat of the shewbread. Their actions saved David’s life.

The Law established standards – but those standards could only be properly understood through Jesus. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Luke 6:5 the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath

“Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for Himself while He walked this earth in His first coming. Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath! The Law of God was not given to strange humans, but to drive us to Jesus where we can properly fulfill the Law. Right after this Sabbath, we read of Jesus doing good on another Sabbath:

Luke 6:6-10 And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that {Jesus} entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. 9 Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? 10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Jesus knows the hearts of the Pharisees. They are not in Synagogue to worship God, but to judge Jesus. Jesus just rubbed them the wrong way! Jesus asked His second question of this chapter:

Luke 6:9 Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil?
to save life, or to destroy it?

The answer should be simple. It is NEVER lawful to do evil or harmful things on the Sabbath. If this man with the withered hand is not healed, it will be the same as doing evil to him. Our God is love (1 John 4:8). God never gave the Law, and within the Law the Sabbath, to Israel in order to do evil. The Law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24) that we might be saved by faith in Him. The Law cannot save, but can only diagnose. We see this in how the Pharisees responded to Jesus’ healing of this man:

Luke 6:11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

The Love Of God Is The Foundation Our Lives Are To Built On

Luke 6:46-47 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them

The way to the blessed life that God wants us to have is threefold. We must first come to Jesus. We come surrendered to Him as Lord of our lives. Second, we are to hear His sayings. The word “hear” is the Greek ἀκούω akoúō, {pronounced ak-oo’-o}, which means “to give an audience to. To hear carefully so as to perceive”. That which Jesus tells us, He tells us because HE IS GOOD. Jesus is the GOOD SHEPHERD WHO GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP. He died for our sins, and rose from the grave so as to call us to His side. Jesus said,

John 10:8, 16, 27-28 All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear (akoúō) them. … 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear (akoúō) My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd. … 27 My sheep hear (akoúō) My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

What does Jesus tell His sheep? HIS SHEEP FOLLOW HIM. We do not follow a sanitized Law, but we follow the Royal Law of Christ. The Royal Law demands that we love as we have been loved. Just as …

Luke 6:19 … the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

The day we were saved VIRTUE WENT OUT OF JESUS AND INTO US. We are not as we were. We are His Children. We are His sheep. What does Christ require of us?

Luke 6:27-36 I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. 30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? {this is the third question Jesus asks} for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? {this is the fourth question Jesus asks} for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? {this is the fifth question Jesus asks} for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

As God is merciful to us, we are merciful to others. As God shows love to we who do not deserve it, we show love to those who do not deserve it. The Pharisees saw the Law of God and, embracing that Law, despised any who would not keep the Law as purely as they did. But keeping they Law, they missed the whole point of the Law.

Love is the fulfillment of the Law. To love God, to love others. We who are saved are to be doers of the Law of Love. The Apostle Paul said:

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

We are not commanded in the Royal Law to keep feasts or to do or not do certain things. We are not commanded to love ourselves. We are commanded to sacrificially love God and to sacrificially love others, just as God the Son sacrificially loved us. When you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He writes His Law – His Royal Law of love – in our hearts.

We are to leave all vengeance and judging into God’s hands.

If God has said it is wrong, it is wrong. If God has said it is right, then it is right. It is God Who – through His Word – sets the standards of good and evil, God Who determines gravity in the Kingdom of God.

Examine Ourselves To See If We Are Where We Need To Be

The Pharisees loved examining and judging others. When we examine and judge others without first judging ourselves we confuse ourselves. So often we allow peer pressure to influence us to do that which we think is right. Jesus said:

Luke 6:39-40 Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect {καταρτίζω katartízō, [pronounced kat-ar-tid’-z] sound or complete} shall be as his master.

If we are going to master the Christian way of life, we need to follow our Master. We need to imitate Jesus. Are we where we need to be? Jesus said:

Luke 6:42-45 how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. 43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

If you are a “good tree” then the output of your life will be to the glory of God. You will have an output that blesses those around you. You need to keep yourself close to Jesus, close to the Great Shepherd.

There is a passage in Mark chapter 4 that talks about Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee. The text states:

Mark 4:35-37 … when the even was come, {Jesus} saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. 36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

We all know the story. Jesus was sleeping in the bow of the ship when the storm arose. The disciples, frightened by the storm, woke Jesus up. “Master, don’t You care that we are perishing (Mark 4:38). Jesus rose up and said, “Why are you so fearful? Don’t you have faith?” (vs 40). Jesus rebuked the wind, and it ceased to blow.

The disciples had NOTHING to fear, for Jesus was on the boat with them. The closer you are to Jesus, the better off you are when you are tried by the trials of life. Something in this text catches my eyes. It is verse 36, “And there were also with him other little ships. Those who followed Jesus in other little ships are believers following Jesus from a distance.

Are you on the ship with Jesus, or is the Lord in the distance and you are following from that distance?

Your lives will withstand the tests of faith only if you are on the boat with Jesus. If we as believers have drifted from Jesus, let us do as the Psalmist did:

Psalm 32:5-7 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. 6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. 7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

SELAH. Rest. We have rest in Christ. Jesus told us plainly:

Luke 6:47-49 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

You can HEAR the Word of God, and DO IT NOT, and you will NOT be blessed. The blessings of life only come when we live reliant upon our Lord. Let us live for Him, doing that which He has called us to do.

May God be glorified by His Word. Amen and Amen.

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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Photo by PENGWHAN: https://www.pexels.com/photo/boy-and-girl-sitting-on-bench-toy-1767434/

1 John 4:17-19 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (18) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (19) We love him, because he first loved us.

A Christian is a work in progress. Salvation is entirely a work of God in us. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For BY GRACE are you saved THROUGH FAITH, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES. It (this salvation) IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.

Salvation is the broken Creature throwing themselves on the Creator and Savior. Salvation is an empty hand, reaching out to God Who is able, seeking fulfillment. Salvation comes to us when God Himself opens our eyes to the Son, and calls us to His side. Salvation comes when we run into the arms of Him Who is not broken, our Savior and Lord Jesus. Once we are saved the Scripture says:

Ephesians 2:10 We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus {to do} good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by works, but by faith. But once saved, we are called to do good works. When we become self absorbed and “me” focused, we walk away from our calling and get into trouble. A believer can fall in the worst trap when we make “I” the center of the universe.

  • The Father of Faith, Abraham, allowed fear to dominate him instead of doing good works. Abraham lied about Sarah, claiming that she was no more than his sister (Genesis 12:13). His lie endangered Sarah, and also caused misery to fall on Pharaoh.
  • The Savior of the early Creation Noah put together an Ark and populated it as God directed. When Noah left the Ark he grew a vineyard, made wine, and got drunk (Genesis 9:20-21). His actions brought a curse on Canaan.
  • Though he was called “Righteous Lot” (2 Peter 2:7), his selfishness caused him to lose everything when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He also got drunk, and had incestuous relationships with his daughters (Genesis 19:33).
  • Just as Abraham allowed fear to control him, the Prophet Elijah became frightened when Jezebel threatened his life. Running away from Mount Carmel, Elijah became depressed and suicidal, praying “ It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).
  • The Chief Apostle Peter, being lifted up with pride, promised he would never deny Jesus. A rooster proved him wrong (Matthew 26:75).
  • If King David had continued doing the good God called him to do, he would have never spent time with Bathsheba, nor have murdered Uriah (2 Samuel 12:9).

The Bible is filled with examples of saved believers who – allowing self to lift them up – lost their blessings in Christ. I often think of Moses, that Great Prophet who, in a moment of weakness, allowed self to dominate. Rather than do the good work that God commanded, Moses struck out at Israel, saying:

Numbers 20:10 … Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

God told Moses, “You did not believe Me. You did not glorify Me in front of the children of Israel. Because of this, you will not lead My people into the Promised Land” (Numbers 20:12). Had Moses done the good works that God ordered him to do, he – and not Joshua – would have led Israel into the Promised Land. Moses was buried by God on a mountain overlooking the goal.

All because he chose to do selfishly, rather than do godly.

The World Runs On Fake Love

“Love” is the subject of nearly every song you hear today. Whether Country Music, Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop, Rock, Pop, Soul, Reggae, Funk, Folk, Jazz, Disco, New Age, Gospel …. the best selling songs are focused on “love”. Most of the music you hear on the air waves is a twisted shadow of what love was designed to be.

We have one word for LOVE – and that word is far from what God’s standard for love is. The Greeks had four words for love, which is important because our New Testament was written in the Koine (Common) Greek and Aramaic.

Word Study: EROS or Sexual Love. When today’s America talks about LOVE, it is generally referring to EROS or sexual love. Americans place a premium on sexual love. When two people come together sexually, we say they are “making love” or “sleeping together”. Unless those two people are husband and wife, and by this I mean MALE and FEMALE, they are not “making love” or “sleeping together”. They are committing “fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18). The Bible tells us that the body is NOT for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Flee fornication. Every sin that you commit is outside the body. But the sin of fornication hurts the body” (author’s paraphrase). The sexually transmitted diseases we have in America are largely the product of fornication or adultery (sin that violates the bond of marriage”. The Bible says:

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Word Study: STORGE or Family Love. This is the love that is found in a God designed marriage, a love between husband and wife, between siblings, and the loving respect shown parents. The Apostle Paul uses a compound word philóstorgos, {pronounced fil-os’-tor-gos} in …

Romans 12:10 … Be kindly affectioned {philóstorgos} one to another with brotherly love …

as the Church is to be like family in its relationship one toward another.

Word Study: The third Greek word for “Love” is PHILEOS, which is the love that two friends have toward one another. As believers in Christ, we are commanded to be “friends” with Jesus, in

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love {phileō} not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

Jesus called us to follow Him as “friends” in:

John 15:13-15 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Abraham, the father of faith, believed in God’s promises and was saved. Jesus saves us so that we will bind to Him in friendship as Abraham bound to him. We are told in:

James 2:23 … Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Word Study: The highest type of love is AGAPE, which is SACRIFICIAL LOVE. This is type of love that God wants us to pursue.

1 John 4:17 Herein is our love {ἀγάπη agapē} made perfect {τελειόω teleioō}, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

The love that God calls us to is not an emotional love,
but a DOING love.

We are called to be like Jesus. That’s what the Scripture says. as He {Jesus} is, so are we in this world. The love that Jesus came expressing is not a fake emotional love, but a love that DOES and CONTRIBUTES to those in need. Agape is NOT self serving, but others serving. In the early Church a group of heretics rose up and began to teach that Jesus only came to this earth in the spirit. The Apostle John called this false prophesy or fake preaching. He tells us:

1 John 4:1-3 Beloved {AGAPETOS, you who have enjoyed the AGAPE or Divine Love of God}, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

When God said “I love you”, He didn’t say this from Heaven and stop at that. What did God do? God CAME IN THE FLESH. God got off of His Throne in glory, and lowered Himself.

God came in the flesh – being born of a virgin.
God came in the flesh – being born in a manger.
God came in the flesh – being born to a common carpenter’s family.
God came in the flesh – being raised in a small town.
God came in the flesh – being raised middle class.
God came in the flesh – healing those who were sick.
God came in the flesh – calling sinners to His side.
God came in the flesh – carrying His Cross to Calvary.
God came in the flesh – being nailed to the Tree for us.
God came in the flesh – dying for your sins and mine.
God came in the flesh – rising from the borrowed tomb.
God came in the flesh – being the Lamb of God.
God came in the flesh – interceding for us who believe to God the Father.

God did not “phone in” our salvation, but lowered Himself to save us, and to keep on saving us. The Apostle wrote:

Philippians 2:7-10 … {Jesus Christ} made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he 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;

Though He was worthy of worship, Jesus came to this earth not to be worshiped, but to be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Jesus Christ “did good” (Acts 14:17), just as God daily does good toward us. When questioned as to WHY JESUS SPENT SO MUCH TIME WITH UNDESIRABLES, our Lord said:

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

In the Gospels Jesus always calls Himself The Son of Man, but after His death and resurrection Jesus is called “The Son of God”. Whenever you see Jesus lowering Himself for us, He is “The Son of Man”. Commentator Hugh Ross notes:

The New Testament makes the same type of demarcation for the human followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ followers before the first day of Pentecost are always called ‘sons of men’ or ‘children of men’ and never as ‘sons of God’. Jesus’ followers after the first day of Pentecost are always called ‘sons of God’ and never as sons of men”.

It was not until Jesus lowered Himself – showing AGAPE Love – and died on the Cross could our sins be fully atoned. With full atonement comes the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us SO THAT WE CAN DO GOOD AS JESUS DID GOOD.

1 John 4:17 …. as {Jesus} is, so are we in this world

Let me be a little clearer.

A LOST person can be BAPTIZED.
A LOST person can give a TITHE.
A LOST person can PRAY.
A LOST person can be faithful to ATTEND CHURCH.
A LOST person can serve on a COMMITTEE.
A LOST person can even PREACH.

Lost people can imitate anything that we do as Christians. The one thing a lost person cannot do is BE LIKE JESUS in how they love. As Jesus is, so are we in this world. As genuine believers in Christ we have a destiny:

Ephesians 1:5-7 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

You, dear believer in Christ, have a DESTINY. To are ADOPTED into glory. Why? Because God has made us accepted in the beloved. Because Jesus Christ laid His life down for us, we have eternal life. Now WE ARE TO LAY OUR LIVES DOWN FOR HIM. We are not to be like the world, selfish and grasping. We are called of God to be like Jesus.

1 John 4:4-6 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (5) They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. (6) We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

The spirit of error gives credence to the world and its ways. The Spirit of truth lives by and heeds the Word of God. The spirit of error says “Me first, and others second”. The Spirit of truth says, “We are Christ’s Body. We work together to glorify Him”.

The Kingdom Of God Runs On AGAPE, Divine Love

God does not want us to have a “hope so” salvation, but a “know so” salvation. This is why we are told:

1 John 4:17-19 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (18) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (19) We love him, because he first loved us.

If you are a Christian, will you stand before God BOLDLY in the Day of Judgment, or with FEAR? The point John is making is this:

Though you are not saved by works,
a Christian will strive to be like Christ in their works.

A Christian will not be ashamed of Christ.

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Like Jesus, we will stand up for our Father, content to be against the grain of the world. We will not be driven about by peer pressure and society’s expectations. Our lives are but a vapor, that appears for a little time, then passes away” (James 4:14). If we love God, we will strive to be like Jesus because this is the right way to be. Jesus loved us before we ever knew His name. We are called to love all – especially our fellow believers in Christ.

1 John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (21) And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

I remember years ago at another Church – a sweet assembly like this one – when I was invited to preach revival at a Church in a neighboring county. The Pastor of that Church had – at one time – Pastored the Church that I was now at. When I went to preach at this other Church I had several members at “our Church” upset because of some bitterness they held against this other dear Pastor.

Some of those members left “our Church” because I dared preach at this “other Church”.

This, dear friends, is the spirit, not of God, but of Antichrist. We are called to love as Jesus loved. We are called to love even our enemies. We are called to look to the Cross. Look to Him handing on that terrible Tree. As He hung – struggling to breath, bleeding from numerous wounds – our Lord Jesus prayed:

Luke 23:34 … Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do …

Did Jesus’ words melt the hearts of those who heard Him? No. They “parted his raiment, and cast lots”. They ignored His suffering, and continued in their selfish way of life. This is the way of the lost. The lost are concerned only for themselves. The saved, born again, Spirit filled believer wants to live out their lives for the Lord Jesus.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, your vessel needs to be filled with the love of Christ. If you are saved by faith in Christ, your lips are to speak love, not hate. Your hands are to lift up, not tear down. Your feet are to run toward good and away from evil. This is what God expects of us. We are to be,

Matthew 5:14 … the Light of the world. A city that is set
on a hill cannot be hid.

This is what will change not only America, but our Community and our Church. Let’s be what the Lord has called us to be. Let us be like Jesus in works, not just on Sunday, but every day. For the glory of God. Amen and Amen.

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A Walking Devil

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1 Peter 5:8-11 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. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

God’s Not Dead, And The Devil Is Real

The Devil is a real Being, with Real power. The Devil is not a friend, and cannot be befriended by humans. Satanists and Wicca think that the Devil can be tamed by incantations, by beads, by crystals, or by ornate crosses. The Devil cannot be tamed by man. He cannot be befriended. Satan despises the creation of God. He is an adversary, the Greek antídikos, {pronounced an-tid’-ee-kos}, your OPPONENT. If you are walking with him, he will give you little trouble. I heard Adrian Rogers say one time,

If the Devil has never bothered you, it’s because you are
both walking in the same direction and on the same path”.

Someone wrote Billy Graham:

I know you believe the devil exists, but how do you know? I think people just dreamed up the idea of the devil to try to explain all the bad things that go on in the world. Or maybe it doesn’t make any difference what we believe about him.”

Billy replied:

It does matter what we believe about the devil — because if we don’t think he exists, or that he’s just a harmless cartoon character running around in a red suit with a pitchfork, then we won’t take him seriously.

And that’s exactly what he hopes we’ll do, because then he can sneak up on us and deceive us with his lies and temptations, without us even being aware of it. Sometimes the devil is open and direct but often he is subtle and deceptive, and we can fall for his schemes without even being aware of it. We’ll only make his work easier if we deny his existence or think he can’t catch us in his snares.”

I believe in God, but I haven’t always believed in God. But Beloved, I’ve ALWAYS believed in the devil.

It is hard to look at the news, on Social Media, or just walking around and watching people in public and NOT believe that there’s a devil. I see his evil every day. Our Lord Jesus believed in the devil. He believed that the devil often hid himself among the religious. Jesus told the Pharisees:

John 8:39-44 (ESV) Jesus said to {the Pharisees}, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus saw the “Devil” as the father of false religion, that is, any religion that LIES and plans MURDER. Jesus’ favorite word for Satan is “Devil”, the Greek diábolos, {pronounced dee-ab’-ol-os}, which means “a trickster, one who loves to verbally attack another, someone who is slanderous or falsely accusing”. This is where the devil excels. When lying to Eve in the Garden of Eden, he slandered God’s goodness and veracity:

Genesis 3:5 (NLT) “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat {the forbidden fruit}, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

We already were like God, for we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). The devil implied that God was holding back good from His creation – a patent lie!

The Bible gives many names to the Devil. He was originally called Lucifer – meaning “the Morning Star” or “the Bringer of Light” (Isaiah 14:12). Lucifer decided that – on looking at his beauty – that he was as good and powerful as God. He forgot Whose he was. Raising a revolt in Heaven, the Bible tells us in Revelation 12:9,

This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth
with all his angels.” (NLT)

In the above text you see the other names by which the Devil or Lucifer is known.

  1. He is called Satan 49 times in the Bible. This name is transliterated directly from the Hebrew śāṭān {pronounced saw-tawn’} and the Greek Satanâs {pronounced sat-an-as’}. The name “Satan” means “our adversary; the adversary [of the Kingdom of God]”.
  2. The Devil is called “The Serpent” who deceived Eve, leading to the fall of humanity (Genesis 3:1-4, 13; Revelation 20:2).
  3. He is called Belial 17 times, as in (2 Corinthians 6:15) “what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”. “Belial” is a transliteration of Belíal, {pronounced bel-ee’-al}, which means “worthlessness, emptiness”.
  4. Another of his names is “Beelzebub”, the Greek Beelzeboúl, {pronounced beh-el-zeb-ool’}, means “lord of the flies, lord of dung or filth”.
  5. The Devil is also called “The Dragon” (Revelation 12:9), which is a beautiful and dangerous fire breathing beast. Out of a dragon’s mouth comes fire, and the Devil’s words are destructive as well as deceiving. The Bible tells us that the Devil led “the third part of the stars of heaven”(Revelation 12:4) to follow him in his rebellion.
  6. Though there are many other names the Devil goes by, he is referred to as “the god of this world”,

2 Corinthians 4:4 … The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Satan is immensely powerful. I am so amused as many of the movies I’ve seen where “priests” have tried to “cast out” the Devil or his demons.

The Devil Is Never Lazy, But Is Focused On His Mission

1 Peter 5:8 … your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

When the Devil is described in the Scripture, he is never described as lazy or as a procrastinator. The devil is described as doing four things on a regular basis:

Roaring
Walking About
Seeking
Devouring

The Devil ROARS: He uses FEAR and PEER PRESSURE to attempt to control us. A lion does not roar when it is stalking its prey, but ROARS once it’s spotted the prey and wants to spring on it. The ROAR of the lion causes fear and uncertainty, a lapse in judgment that allows the lion to get close enough to feed. The Bible tells us:

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

FEAR does not come from the Spirit filled Christian life. When the Devil began to whisper into Abram’s ear that perhaps he would NOT have a child, for Abram was 99 years old, God told him:

Genesis 15:1 …. Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Fear is incompatible with the Christian way of life. When John the Revelator looked into Heaven, he was told:

Revelation 21:7-8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

We all get afraid at times, and at times we all worry. But those who are FILLED WITH FEAR will always follow the Devil’s lead. I love the story and testimony of Gideon in the Bible. Gideon was hiding from the Midianites when God called him.

Judges 6:12-16 (ESV) … the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

Gideon was afraid, but kept his eyes on the Lord. This is what God calls us to do. We are not to be fear controlled, nor hate controlled, nor evil controlled. Peter tells us:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober….

Word Study: “Be sober” is the Greek νήφω nḗphō, [pronounced nay’-fo], which means “To be calm, collected, NOT in a state of panic or fear. To be temperate, GOD controlled, knowing WHOSE you are”. In this context, nḗphō does not mean the opposite of intoxication with alcohol, but to be prepared as a Spirit Filled Child of God for battle. We are actually told how to “Be sober” in:

1 Thessalonians 5:4-10 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

To “be sober” (nḗphō) is to first of all to know that you are not to be like the world. The world is in darkness. The world is satanically controlled. You might think that I am out of bounds or intolerant, but this is what the Bible says. Satan is “the god of this world” who has hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). How has he blinded the world? By confusing people over human sexuality. By confusing people over human rights. I saw a photo of a young man protesting his student loans, holding up a sign that read:

Education is a RIGHT, student DEBT is CRIMINAL”

The darkness heeds the roar of the Devil. The darkness basks in his evil, and teaches irresponsibility as well as godlessness. God teaches His Children to be responsible, and to be loving, NOT selfish. We are told in:

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

What else does the Devil do?

THE DEVIL WALKS ABOUT, SEEKING: The Devil never takes a day off. When the Angels came into the Throne-room of God, the Devil walked right in with the rest. We read:

Job 1:7 (NLT) “Where have you come from?” the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.

Now the Scripture teaches us that God knows all things. “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). The reason God asked Satan, Where have you come from? is so that we can know what the Devil was doing. The Devil patrol(s) the earth, watching everything that’s going on. The Devil watches the Kingdom of God, watching for weaknesses. The Devil was watching David one day,

1 Chronicles 21:1-4 (ESV) Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” 3 But Joab said, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” 4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem.

David was lifted up with pride, and wanted to have a count of how many trained soldiers he had. David, like Lucifer, began to think that his successes were because he was so good, instead of understanding all good comes from God. Joab tried to talk him out of it, but David as King prevailed. Joab got a count, and brought it back to David. God punished Israel for David’s foolishness.

Had David been out doing the work God called him to do, he wouldn’t be thinking up census taking and adulterous acts with another man’s wife (Bathsheba). The devil is constantly plotting – and we need to keep on doing what God has told us to do.

1 Peter 5:8 … {The Devil always} walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour:

How Do We Overcome The Devil? Jesus Shows Us How

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant

Word Study: As God’s people we are to be vigilant”. This is the Greek grēgoreúō, {pronounced gray-gor-yoo’-o}, which means “to keep awake, to be watchful”. Jesus told us to be watchful for His return:

Matthew 24:42 Watch grēgoreúō therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

But also to be watchful for the enemy. The Apostle told us:

1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye grēgoreúō, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

Our focus should be on what Jesus told us to do, and we should be doing His will with all our might. The Devil loves a lazy Christian and a lazy Church. We are in a battle for the souls of mankind, and Satan is not backing down, no, not one little bit. But we are also to realize this:

1 Peter 5:9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

We are to resist Satan in the faith. Our focus must be on what our God has taught us in the Scripture. Some Christians have become the Devil’s playthings, because they are lazy in study of the Holy Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote his emissary Timothy:

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

We resist the Devil not by our power, but through the power of God’s Word and His Spirit.

The Christian reliant upon God’s Word
and His Spirit cannot be defeated.

1 John 4:4 … greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). Jesus Christ Him self DID NOT defeat Satan in His own power. How did He defeat Satan? When led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested of the Devil (Matthew 4:1) our Savior DID NOT ONCE use the pronoun “I”. Not once. NOT ONCE. Listen to how Jesus defeated Satan:

Matthew 4:3-4 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The Devil tempted Jesus with His need for food. Satan often tempts us with our natural, even normal, needs. It is normal for Jesus – God become Man – to be hungry after 40 days without food. Satan’s request seems quite reasonable. “You, Jesus, are the Son of God. Make these stones into bread”. Jesus didn’t reason with the Devil, but quoted Scripture:

Deuteronomy 8:3 {God} humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

But the Devil doesn’t stop here. We read:

Matthew 4:5-7 the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, 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. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Again, this seems quite reasonable. I know a few years ago when LGBTQS2 proponents demanded same sex marriage become the Law of the land, that which was being pushed was “We want our freedom – but it won’t effect anybody BUT us”. Many bought into that lie. Now the LGBTQS2 movement has invaded our schools, our colleges, our televisions and movies, our sports, our businesses, and is even targeting our Churches. As the old saying goes,

Give the devil an inch, and he’ll be the Ruler!

Jesus knew better. He quoted out of Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah”. But the Devil was not finished. We read:

Matthew 4:8-10 the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

This time Jesus quoted

Deuteronomy 6:13-14 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you

Three strikes and the Devil was OUT! Jesus did not use human reasoning nor His own abilities to chase Satan away. Jesus used the Word of God. The Word of God that defeated the Devil in the wilderness will defeat the Devil in the city. Learn the Word of God. Apply the Word of God. Live your lives by the Word of God. This is where the power of the Christian is – in the Scripture and in the Spirit of God. May God be glorified by this message, and may others be led to Christ through this His Word. Amen and Amen!

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Is Your Salvation FORGED By God Or a FORGERY Of Religion?

Photo by Ron Lach : https://www.pexels.com/photo/lamp-on-deck-behind-bars-10473678/

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Acts chapter eight. The message God put on my heart for you is:

Is Your Salvation FORGED By God, Or A FORGERY?

Opening: That may seem like a strange question, but I think its a very important question you MUST ask yourself before you leave this room. God doesn’t want you guessing about your salvation. We are told in 1 John 5:13, “These things (the Scripture) I have written to you, that you may KNOW you have eternal life”. God wants you to KNOW that you are saved. Not just religious, but saved.

“What’s the difference?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked!

Illustrate: The other day I went to Ollies – a local discount store – because they sent me a 15% off coupon for a complete purchase. You know me – I love free or discounted. I had bought a non-stick copper pan that was supposed to last forever from Ollies. “Forever” is about 3 years. Having received this discount I headed toward Ollies. Finding the newest “you can never scratch it, even if you throw it in a volcano” frying pan, I headed toward the checkout with my coupon and pan. I got in the shorter line.

Thank goodness, because “Religion” was in the longer line.

Religion is the devil’s tool. Religion has little to no love for God, and certainly loves only its follower. Religion attacked Jesus when He walked this earth. Religion persecuted the early Church. Religion crucified, stoned, and beheaded the Apostles. Religion boiled the Apostle John in oil. I can always spot religion.

Religion loves rituals, not relationships.

Religion is two people arguing in Ollies – not about salvation through Jesus – but on whether you should worship God on Saturday or Sunday. One believed you worship God only on Saturday. The other, on Sunday. Me, I think EVERYDAY!

As these two argued, I never – NEVER – heard them mention the name of Jesus, the Cross, or the empty Tomb. Let me talk for just a minute about the “Sabbath”, the seventh day of the week. Beloved, the שַׁבָּת Shabbâth, {pronounced. Shab-bawth} was NEVER given to the Gentiles, but to the Old Covenant Jew. Israel under the Old Covenant was commanded to have a WEEKLY Shabbâth (Exodus 20:8-9), a SPECIAL Shabbâth during the ceremonial feasts (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28:18, 25-26; Numbers 29), and a YEARLY Shabbâth every seventh year (Leviticus 25:2; Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:4). If you’ll study your Bibles you’ll find that …

Only NINE of the Ten Commandments are given to all Christians in the New Testament. The command to keep Shabbâth, {Shab-bawth} is NOT given to the Church. We worship JESUS CHRIST on SUNDAY for He ROSE FROM THE GRAVE on day.
(Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9)

Did the Apostles worship on the Shabbâth in the Jewish Synagogue? Yes, they did. Why? So they could share Jesus Christ with the Jews. The Apostles also preached the Gospel on the First Day of the week (Acts 20:7), taking up offerings on that day (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Our Lord Jesus did not strictly keep Shabbâth when He walked this earth, for He went about doing good on that day. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Matthew 12:8 … the Son of Man (that’s Jesus) is Lord of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 … The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

God gave the Jews Shabbâth so they would rest one day in seven. Shabbâth was never given to the Church. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Colossians 2:16-17 Let no {one} therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

As Christians we are free to worship God EVERYDAY. We gather on Sunday because our Lord rose from the grave that day. If you want to gather on Saturday, then do it! There’s nothing wrong with that! But Christians should always remember that – in spite of our differences – we are to go {into the world} and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you(Matthew 28:19-20). If you want to have a LOUD discussion in Ollies, make sure you are talking about SALVATION IN JESUS. It doesn’t matter if you’re doctrinally correct. It doesn’t matter what day you gather with other Christians. What matters is that you are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, that God is your Father, and the Holy Spirit your constant Companion.

How Can I Distinguish RELIGIOUS FORGERY from
GOD’S FORGED Faith?

Please write this down: Religion always violates the basic Royal Law of love. Always.

Acts 8:1-3 And Saul was consenting unto {the Deacon Stephen’s} death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the Apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling {literally dragging} men and women {Saul} committed them to prison.

Saul is a Pharisee, a member of the Ruling Council of the Jews in Jerusalem. Saul is RELIGIOUS. What does Saul do? Saul is instrumental in killing Stephen. Saul is RELIGIOUS, Stephen is a CHRISTIAN.

Religion kills. Religion “persecutes the Church”.
Religion “scatters” and “makes havoc”.
Religion “imprisons”.

Religion is NOT honest. Religion bribes false witnesses (Acts 6:11, 13) to tell lies. Religion was in the Garden of Eden in the mouth of a Serpent, hissing lies, saying, You will not die if you disobey God. When you eat of this tree, God knows you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil(Genesis 3:4-5). Religion looks good on the outside, but inside is full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Religion does not love either God nor man. Religion twists the commandments of God.

After help execute “Blasphemous Stephen”(Acts 7:59-60), Religious Saul volunteers to head the cleanup committee of the Council. Saul is of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5). Saul trained at the feet of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, and was taught according to the perfect manner of the Law (Acts 22:3). If you asked Saul if he was going to go to Heaven, he would have said “Absolutely”. If you were to ask him why he thought he was going to Heaven, Saul would have said “I am a Pharisee of the Pharisees. I keep all the rituals, all the feasts. I never miss Synagogue (Church).

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling {sýrō, [pronounced soo’-ro], DRAGGING} men and women committed them to prison.

Saul brutalized the Church. Saul was certain that he was Heaven bound. After all, he kept the Law. He was doing what the High Priest of Israel was telling him to do. He was sincere in his methods. That’s what religion looks like. It is brutal. Religion means well, but missed the mark of God.

FAITH FORGED BY GOD endures the attacks of religion.

Acts 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Religion drove the early Christians away from Jerusalem, the religious capital of Israel. But the early Christians – saved by the Grace of God – baptized in obedience to Christ their Savior – went our sharing the Gospel. 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.

Persecution and trial never destroys saving faith, but grows it, forges it into something greater and stronger to glory of God. Genuine faith NEVER gives up, because Jesus won’t let us give up.

1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome {the spirit of Antichrist}: BECAUSE greater is HE that is in you, than he that is in the world …

Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria {where the Gentiles are}, and preached Christ unto them.

Samaria is a religious stronghold. Philip, empowered by God the Holy Spirit, goes to a thoroughly pagan area and preaches. What are the results?

Acts 8:6-8 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.

There was great joy in that city. Where people hear the Gospel and turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior, God brings JOY into their hearts. People are looking for JOY today through their religion. Some are religious WOKE. Others are religious SENSUOUS. Yet others are religious EPICUREAN. Oh, there are thousands upon thousands of religions. These religions do not bring joy. Do you know what brings joy? A life surrendered to Jesus Christ. When you are saved by faith in Christ, God sends His Holy Spirit into your life. Once the Spirit comes, He blesses your life with:

Galatians 5:22-23 … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance

When you meet and receive Jesus Christ in love, Jesus uses His Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life. The religious are filled with JOY over what they know. The Christ follower is filled with JOY over WHO they know. The testimony of the Christian is:

Romans 5:11 … we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

There is GREAT JOY in that city, for people found the Lord Jesus and believed on Him.

Acts 8:9-11 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

Do you see that BUT? Anytime God’s people are reaching out, anytime the Gospel has any success at all, the devil will rear up his head against it. The Chief Apostle is called Simon Peter, because Jesus gave him the name Peter or Cephas. I suspect Jesus renamed Simon Peter because the Lord knew that one day His people would meet another kind of Simon. This Simon is a sorcerer. God forbade His people Israel from having anything to do with sorcerers (see Deuteronomy 18:10-12). These people – men and women – are the devil’s preachers. They are in league with Satan. Satan often gives these people the ability to do “power, and signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). These people are spoken of in the New Testament, saying:

Revelation 16:14 … they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Simon was a RELIGIOUS man, but he was not a RIGHTEOUS man. He had power, but his power was not from Jesus Christ, but from a fallen angel named Lucifer. The Bible says that Simon bewitched the people with sorceries” (Acts 8:11). Simon had quite a following, and he loved the attention he was getting.

Then Phillip came along, preaching the Gospel of salvation. We read:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

The crowds believed in what Philip preached. What did he preach? He preached Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). He preached Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to God the Father but by HIM” (John 14:6). Philip “was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Philip preached the simple Gospel Peter preached:

Acts 2:38 … Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What a glorious Gospel Message we have been given. God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Simon Believed … Or Did He?

The Bible now tells us:

Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

It seemed to be a miracle! Here was a man involved in sorceries, but now He himself believed also. Now you might say, “well, Simon must be saved. He believed what Philip said, and Simon was publicly baptized, acknowledging Jesus as his Savior”. Was he saved?

The Apostles Peter and John come from Jerusalem to pray for these new converts. In the beginning of the Church while the Apostles walked the earth, the Spirit was often given by the laying on of hands. I could preach a whole sermon on what’s happening here, but I’m afraid I don’t have the time. Suffice it to say that Jesus wanted His Apostles explaining the indwelling Holy Spirit to the early Church Christian. This is what we see in:

Acts 8:15-17 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy {Spirit}: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy {Spirit}.

What did Simon do when he saw this laying on of hands? We read:

Acts 8:18-19 … when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy {Spirit} was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy {spirit}.

We read earlier that Simon believed. But did he really? He believed, after a sort. But his faith was NOT saving faith, for it did not change or impact his life. The stepbrother of Jesus wrote:

James 2:19-20 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Saving faith is always – ALWAYS – accompanied by a change of heart toward self and sin.Simon is ME centered.When Zacchaeus, a Tax Collector was saved by believing on Jesus Christ, he said:

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

Zacchaeus faith was genuine, because he received Jesus Christ as LORD, and stopped worshiping money (Luke 19:9-10). Salvation does not make a person perfect, but salvation puts love of God in a person’s heart. Zacchaeus’ faith was real, but Simon’s was fake. The Bible tells us about fake faith in:

John 2:23-25 Now when {Jesus} was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

Word Study: The Bible tells us many believed in {Jesus} name. They believed that Jesus could do miracles. They believed that Jesus could heal the sick. But they DID NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord of Heaven. The King James tells us that Jesus did not commit himself unto them. The word rendered commit is the Greek pisteúō, {pronounced pist-yoo’-o}, which was translated in the earlier verse as believed. The text says:

they BELIEVED in Jesus name when they saw the miracles He did, but
JESUS DID NOT BELIEVE IN THEM”

The saved person – truly saved – is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). When you get saved, God comes into your life. He begins to work in you. This is why the Bible says:

Philippians 2:12-13 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

God begins working in the life of the saved. “Let him that stole steal no more” (Ephesians 4:28). A person is changed, and daily more changed, to be less like the darkness and more like the light. The Apostle told the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Faith That Is A Forgery Will Not Save

Peter told Simon:

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

When Simon heard these words, he was not angry at Peter. He simply told the Apostle:

Acts 8:24 … Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

Simon did not even attempt to pray for himself. Why? Because he had NO relationship with God. God was not Simon’s Savior and Lord – money was, and power was. God was not Simon’s Father. Jesus did not die on Calvary for Simon, because he did not believe on Him.

I believe that there are many who profess Christ, but when they leave this life they will never meet Him. Jesus calls to whosoever will, saying:

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

May God move on your life in such a way that you have assurance of your salvation. Do not leave this place today with a forgery of faith. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to Him Who alone can save, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen and Amen!

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About Paradise

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-coconut-trees-457876/

Luke 23:36-43 the soldiers also mocked {Jesus}, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews. 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

As Jesus hung on the Cross dying for our sins, He did not suffer just from the nails – but from the mocking crowd around Him. To be right, and know you’re right, and yet to be accused of wrong, is one of the worse sensations in the world. Jesus knew He was right. He knew He was the Messiah. And yet, as Jesus hung from the Cross, He said nothing in His defense. This was prophesied by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

The soldiers mocked Jesus. “If You are really the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”. Jesus said nothing. They offered Jesus “vinegar” – actually “vinegar mingled with gall” (Matthew 27:34). This was actually a small kindness, this offering of vinegar. The “gall” or myrrh (see Mark 15:23) was a substance that – mingled with weak alcohol or vinegar – dulled the pain of crucifixion. Jesus refused the vinegar the first time it was offered. Why? Because the Bible says:

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

Jesus paid the full penalty for our sins. It was not until later – after Jesus bore our penalty – that He allowed Himself to drink some of this drugged vinegar (John 19:28). This, too was prophesied of the Messiah:

Psalm 69:21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

The soldiers mocked Jesus. The Cross He hung on mocked Jesus.

Luke 23:38 a superscription also was written over {Jesus} in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews

This was Pilate’s way of taking a dig at the Jewish Leaders (whom he hated), and lightly mocking Jesus. When criminals were executed by the Romans, a sign was usually placed above their head to tell all what their crime was. Jesus’ crime was This Is The King Of The Jews. Some passing by would read this sign and suppose that Jesus tried to lead an insurrection against Roman Authority. Pilate mocked Jesus.

Jesus was mocked by one of the two criminals that hung on Crosses next to Him. If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. The thief or murderer – we don’t know exactly what his crime was – was mocking Jesus. Then the other “malefactor” {Greek κακοῦργος kakoûrgos, [pronounced kak-oor’-gos], meaning}evil doer spoke up. This man speaks a number of words, to which Jesus replies:

Luke 23:43 … Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Now that’s what I want to talk about tonight. Jesus said NOTHING when He was nailed to the Cross, and NOTHING when He was mocked. But when one of the malefactors asked Jesus remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom, Jesus replies with TODAY shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.

What Was “Paradise”? What Is “Paradise”?

The word “Paradise” is found three times in the New Testament. It is found in Jesus’ words to the thief (“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”). It is found in:

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Paradise” is also called “the third Heaven”. The FIRST Heaven is the atmosphere around our earth (see 2 Samuel 21:10; Daniel 4:33), our skies. The SECOND Heaven is outer space, where the stars are (see Genesis 15:5; 22:17; Exodus 32:13). The THIRD Heaven is – at the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12, the abode of God Himself.

In the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, people became saved by faith in God. The Scripture says,

Genesis 15:6 And {Abram} believed the Lord, and {the Lord} counted it to Him as righteousness.

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness

Abraham, David, Moses, Isaac, Jacob – all of the Old Testament believers did NOT go to the Third Heaven upon dying. Under the Old Covenant, God gave Israel a system of animal sacrifice and blood offering to temporarily cover their sins. God told His Old Covenant believers:

Leviticus 17:11 the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the animal sacrifices were but temporary, shadows of the coming Messiah. We are told:

Hebrews 10:1-4 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

It was NOT POSSIBLE for the blood of an animal to take away our sins. Why? Because WE ARE NOT ANIMALS. We are humans, created in the image of God. Believers under the Old Covenant temporarily covered their sins with animal sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus came from Heaven to take away the first animal sacrifices by becoming the once and for all Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (Hebrews 10:9-10, 12). The Old Testament Saint was saved by believing on God’s promise of the future Messiah. But as animal blood was but a temporary offering for sin, when the Old Testament Saint died they did not go to “Heaven” but to “Abraham’s Bosom”.

Animal Sacrifice Was Not A Key
That Brought Anyone Into Heaven

If animal sacrifice were suitable for salvation, then it was a waste of time, and a terrible cruelty, to send Jesus Christ to this earth to die on the Cross. But the Bible makes it clear that the Blood of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ ALONE makes payment for sin. Christ was incarnated as Jesus, that is, Eternal God became perfect Man:

Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

It is the Blood of Jesus that covers our sins. It is the Blood of Jesus that sends the Holy Spirit to indwell and adopt us. The Lord Jesus declared:

John 14:6 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father BUT BY ME.

Our Lord Jesus came from Heaven to this earth to live a sinless life (see Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5), so that He could die for our sins (see Romans 5:8; John 1:29). Jesus did this in submission to the Father’s will (see Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42; Acts 2:23). It is His Blood and His Blood alone that gives us entrance into Heaven:

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

No one can come to the Father, but by Jesus” (John 14:6). The Old Testament Saint, at death, did not ascend into Heaven. Our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:13 … no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

No one ascended into Heaven after death until Jesus returned to Heaven, having paid for our sins on the Cross.

The Old Testament Saint did not go to Heaven, but to Abraham’s Bosom. This is why when Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, He said:

Luke 16:22-23 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Abraham’s Bosom” was a place of comfort and waiting that the Old Covenant Believer went to before Messiah went to Calvary. Once Jesus made total atonement for our sins, He “descended first into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:8-10) to “lead captivity captive”.

I believe that the Old Covenant Saints were in Abraham’s Bosom when Jesus appeared. Presenting Himself as Messiah, He led the Old Testament Saints into the third Heaven or Paradise. Before Jesus went to the Cross, Hades or Hell had two compartments. Billy Graham notes in his sermon “Is There A Hell?”:

And this story {of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16}, the word hell is used, translated hell in our authorized version, though it’s actually Hades, because Hades was in two compartments apparently: one was called Paradise, and one was called the place of torment. And they could apparently see across the gulf between each other.”

Evangelist Andrew Wommack notes:

Even though these Old Testament saints were blessed, they were not able to enter into the presence of the Lord because the atonement of Christ had not been completed. So, in that sense, they were captives. When Jesus died, He descended into ‘Sheol’ and took the captives captive. He took them to heaven, into the very presence of God and vacated that part of ‘Sheol.’ Now, all that’s left in ‘Sheol’ is hell. In the New Testament, the Greek word that is used to refer to this area is ‘Hades’ and it is only applied to the place of torment.”

No one entered into Heaven proper until Jesus Christ
made payment for our sins.

When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you leave this life to go not to Abraham’s Bosom, but Paradise or the Third Heaven.

Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

How Does One Get To Paradise?

We are clearly shown how to get to Heaven in our focal text.

Luke 23:40-41 … the other {malefactor} answering {his friend} rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

First, you must REPENT to be saved.

The Gospel message is, Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The word Repentis the Greek compound metanoeō, which means “to change the mind”. One malefactor mocked Jesus, but the other malefactor changed his mind about his life and his culpability. He said “we are suffering JUSTLY”. He did not see his crucifixion as a mistake, a miscarriage of justice, but rather something he and his companion richly deserved. Notice that this believer was clearly supportive of Jesus. Jesus said:

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Luke 23:42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord

Second, You must receive Jesus as LORD and Savior.

The Bible tells us in,

Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV) Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have heard preachers say that you can receive Jesus Christ as Savior alone and you’ll be saved. I do not believe the Scripture supports this. The Lordship of Christ is central to the redemptive work of the Cross. The Bible says:

Romans 14:8-9 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

Jesus Christ both LORD and SAVIOR of His people. Dr. R.G. Lee said in his sermon “The Name Above Every Name”:

When the Caesars and Charlemagne, the Napoleons and Wellingtons and their so-called splendid victories are forgotten, the multitudinous trophies of His saving power, in enjoyment of His endless fruits of His blood-bought victories, will sing the praises of His peerless name. There never was a name like the name of Jesus — so representative of sacrificial love at its best. And someday, ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord — to the glory of God the Father.”

Third, You must cast your life wholly upon Jesus.

Luke 23:42 … he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

This new believer does not ask Jesus to get him off of the Cross as his companion did. He just asks that Jesus remember him when the Lord gets to His Kingdom. When Joseph, imprisoned in Egypt for a crime he didn’t do, interpreted a dream for the Chief Cupbearer, he asked him:

Genesis 40:14 … think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this {prison}

Sadly, the Chief Butler/ Cupbearer forgot all about Joseph once freed from prison, and did not remember him until much later (see Genesis 40:23). The Chief Butler was, I’m sure, a good man. But unlike the Chief Butler and his forgetfulness, Jesus told the believer:

Luke 23:43 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

Paradise is the place where Jesus is. Jesus said,

John 12:26 (ESV) If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Bible tells us that, at the end of time, there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. John the Revelator wrote,

Revelation 21:1-4 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Before Jesus went to the Cross, Paradise was in Abraham’s Bosom. After Jesus went to the Cross, Paradise in in the Third Heaven with our Lord. But at the end of time, Paradise will not just be in Heaven, but it will be on earth. The New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven, and from this place Jesus will rule and reign. I am so ready for Jesus to return. How about you?

May God touch your hearts with this, His Word. If Jesus is not to you Lord and Savior, I pray that today will be the day you give yourself to Him. In the power of the Holy Spirit, and for the glory of our God. Amen and Amen.

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The New Covenant Of The Heart

Photo by Ehioma Osih: https://www.pexels.com/photo/coffee-cup-seen-through-heart-out-of-book-pages-9880585/

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah was known as the “Weeping Prophet”. He wept because – though he spoke the Word of the Lord – neither Israel nor Judah would not hear him. There is nothing more trying than to be a spokesman for God, and yet none hear you. I often think of that old saint Noah who, preaching for 120 years, had no one willing to ride on his Ark but 7 family members and a bunch of animals. Jeremiah had worst to deal with. Israel and Judah had so hardened their hearts that God could not reach them, though Jeremiah tried his best. The problem was not Jeremiah, nor Noah.

The problem was and has always been the human heart.

When God saves, He saves by and because of Grace

Look in verse 31. God is speaking to “the house of Israel, and … the house of Judah”. God saved these two “houses”, the Hebrew בַּיִת bayith, {pronounced bah’-yith}. This word is used to describe a “family”, as in “The Bayith of Buffaloe” (my family name). Israel is divided into two families at this writing. Now, this was not the way it was supposed to be. God said that He was going to make a NEW Covenant with the two houses of Jews – Israel and Judah – a covenant distinctly different from

Jeremiah 31:32 … the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;

First of all, who was Judah and Israel when God first met those families, those peoples? They were a people in Egypt. The Bible says that one King of Egypt died. Judah and Israel were not TWO in Egypt, but they were one House, one bayith. The Bible tells us:

Exodus 1:8, 11, 13 (ESV) Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. … 11 .. Therefore {the Egyptians} set taskmasters over {the Jews/ Israel} to afflict them with heavy burdens. .. 13 {the Egyptians} ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Judah and Israel were only ONE Household in Egypt. They were a household of SLAVES. I think there is nothing worst than being a slave. To be taken against your will, to be made to do any labor, any debauched or evil thing, made to obey the voice of the Master. To be beaten, and tormented, and killed as no more than a beast of burden. To be sexually abused, at the whim of the Taskmasters. What a horror slavery is!

God brought Israel and his family of twelve sons to Egypt to bless them, and to care for them. They came to an Egypt co-ruled by their brother Joseph (remember, him who had the coat of many colors?). God loved Israel, the Father of that nation. God loved Israel the nation, and called them to love Him. God told Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers …

God loved Israel because of the promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God loved Israel because Abraham loved God, and in love God promised Abraham an Israel, a Messiah, and a blessing to all the families of the earth. God did not call Israel because they were worthy. Oh, no, God does not call the worthy. God told Israel before leading them into the Promised Land:

Deuteronomy 9:6 (ESV) … the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

God approached Israel in love. In love, God sent Israel and his twelve sons to Egypt. And Israel, placed in a wonderful land and in a great place to grow, grew into millions and into a nation.

And Israel forgot to love God. They grew cold in their love for God.

Wandering away from the love of God, Israel found herself enslaved, horribly enslaved. God spoke to Israel, saying:

Jeremiah 2:14, 17, 19-20 (ESV) Is Israel a slave? Is he a home-born servant? Why then has he become a prey? 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way? Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. 20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

Israel drifted away from the love of God, and in drifting away from the love of God, they drifted away from loving one another. Israel began to worship the gods and goddesses of Egypt, ignoring the God Who saved them.

When they drifted away, God stayed right where He always is. Beloved, when you drift away from God’s love, when you forget that it is He Who saves, and He saved you though you are unworthy, God does not leave. But when we begin to absorb the gods of the land:

sexual immorality with its consequences (abortion, disease, abandoned children)
sensual immorality (drunkenness, drug addiction, early death & disease)
social immorality (perversion of Biblical marriage & family)
soulish immorality (wokeness, gender dysphoria, racism)
surgical immorality (intentional defilement of the human body)

we harden our hearts to the love of God. As Israel became acclimated to Egypt, normalizing the false worship, God was there but He stopped blessing Israel. Let us learn a lesson from this. Compromise with the darkness, with that which God considers evil, will always boomerang and end up hurting the compromiser. Israel became brutally enslaved. The Bible says:

Exodus 2:23-24 (ESV) … the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning …

Don’t you love the love of God? Though Israel messed up their lives and caused themselves to be enslaved, when they cried out to God, “God heard their groaning”. Oh, our God is SO GOOD. “Truly God is good to Israel” (Psalm 73:1). God told Israel and Judah:

Jeremiah 31:32 … I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…

Though Israel had turned from God, when they turned back to God and cried out for rescue, God said “I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”.

God did not send an angel to save Israel. God Himself came to save Israel. God Himself saves His people.

God took them by the hand. They were in a deep place – a pit – that they could not climb out of. But God stooped down and “took them by the hand”. God did not leave them in Egypt, enslaved and mistreated. God took them out. He took them away from there, and led them toward the Promised Land. The Bible says:

Exodus 13:21 (ESV) … the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

God Himself became the GPS for Israel. Israel left Egypt with but one lawlove and follow God. This is what the Grace of the Bible is all about. God is to be our focus. What did our Lord Jesus called “The Great Commandment”?

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) … You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

You are to love God FIRST, above all else. Why? Why should God be our FIRST love? Because like Israel, we are unworthy. We are weak. Yet God love us still. If we love God because of Who He is, then we will love our neighbor as we love ourselves, for we are all made in the image of God. Every life has value. Every life is precious. From the conceived in the womb, to the oldest person in a nursing facility, that life is precious. God loves, and loves them still.

God led Israel by pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. It was God, not an angel. It was God, not a phenomena or a miracle. The Apostle Paul talked about this “cloud” in:

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV) For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud,{the Pillar of Cloud} and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud {the Pillar of Cloud} and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Messiah – God the Son – was in the Cloud, in the Fire, and in the Rock that gave Israel water in the wilderness.

How did Israel repay God’s love? Did they love Him back? Did they rejoice that the Christ, the Messiah, the Great Shepherd watched over them? No, they didn’t.

Jeremiah 31:32 … my covenant they brake, although I was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord:

Word Study: God was a Husband to Israel, to every person in that nation. God saved them all equally. They followed God to salvation. What is interesting about the Hebrew for Husband here isבָּעַל bâʻal, {pronounced baw-al’}, which means “to be married to another, to love and cherish and look over, as a man should properly do for his wife”. Yet Israel broke the Covenant of love. Though God was bâʻal {pronounced baw-al’} to Israel, each time the going got tough Israel did not look to their Husband, but to false gods, to serve Baal (Hebrew בַּעַל Baʻal, {pronounced bah’-al}, the false gods of Egypt and Canaan. If you’ll notice, both Hebrew words are very close to being the same – and yet, they are not. Israel turned from following God to following the made up gods of Egypt and Canaan.

So God took Israel to Mount Sinai,
& gave them The Law through Moses.

Israel would not follow God by love, so God gave Israel the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law given on Sinai had Moral Laws (which are hard wired into the human conscience), as well as Civil Laws and Ceremonial Laws that were given only to Israel.

This is why our Bibles are divided into “Old Testament” or “Old Covenant” and “New Testament” or “New Covenant”. The FIRST Covenant of God is a Covenant of Love, a Covenant that says “Follow God and put Him first, not because you have to, but because He loves you, infinitely loves you”. The great American preacher Gardner Taylor said:

If you are in Jesus Christ, you are on the right road. Don’t let anybody turn you around. I am as certain as I stand here that there is no other way to life, life radiant, life glorious, life triumphant, except in Jesus Christ …. if you’re in Christ, you’re on the right road”.

Israel followed Christ out of Egypt (for He is the Pillar of Cloud and Fire), and were safe, protected, and provided for. But then Israel began to lose their focus. They PUT THEMSELVES FIRST instead of the Lord. So the Lord gave them the Law on Sinai. The Apostle Paul tells us why God gave us the Law:

Galatians 3:19 (ESV) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…

The Law was given because Israel refused to follow Christ in love. The Law reflected the perfect holiness of God. The Law demanded animal sacrifices, and the sprinkling of blood shed. The Law regulated the diet and life of Israel, and specified when and where worship must be given.

The Law was a Taskmaster, and Enslaver of God’s people. The Apostle said:

Galatians 3:21-23 (ESV) … if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Oh, this is so good! God gave Israel the Mosaic Law. The Law could not give life. The Law could not save. But the Law acted as a TASKMASTER that would whip Israel until, like they did when the Egyptian Taskmasters whipped them, they would call out to God. It was God’s plan to ALWAYS SAVE BY FAITH. We are saved by love, by putting God first – not because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to.

Illustrate: I have a little game I play with Sherry, my beloved wife. She sometimes will ask me for something, and I’ll reply, “Sure. I’ll be glad to do this. Just fill out a form (I’ll make up a number here) in triplicate, all signed, and I’ll get right on it.” Instead of getting a “form” (which is but a joke), I usually get a poke in the ribs for my silliness. Wives do not have to fill out a form to get their husbands to do something. I serve my wife – not because I HAVE TO – but because I LOVE HER AND WANT TO.

So it is with God.

God does not want us serving Him because we HAVE to. He wants us walking with Him because we LOVE HIM, because we WANT TO. Some of you are in Church today because you feel you HAVE TO BE. Well, that’s fine. The Bible does say NOT FORSAKING the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the day {of judgment} approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). It’s good to assemble together as God’s Church. But if you’re here because you HAVE to be, not because you WANT to be, then how much good will you get out of it? If your hearts aren’t in it, what good is it?

What did the Law do for Israel? It exposed the hardness of their hearts to God. Go back to our text:

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;

Israel started out as ONE house, ONE nation. But when God addressed them He spoke of a new covenant He was going to make with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. They were ONE house when they followed God in love, but are now TWO houses – Israel and Judah. What happened?

Though Israel was given the Law, the Law had no power to change their hearts. It was a measuring stick, a ruler to show them how how Holy God is. But the Law did nothing to change the heart. When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam reigned in Solomon’s stead (1 Kings 11:43). Now God told His people, ALL of His people,

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

This is the GREAT COMMANDMENT. God also told His people in the Law:

Leviticus 19:18 … thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.

This is the heartbeat of the Law. Love God with your ALL. Love your neighbor the way you want to be loved. That’s it! When Rehoboam became King the ten northern tribes of Israel came to him, and asked the King to lower their taxes (1 Kings 12:4). The Ten Northern tribes were suffering, and asked their brother to alleviate their suffering. Do you know what Rehoboam did? He told the Ten Tribes:

1 Kings 12:11 (ESV) … my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.

Anytime I see trouble in a nation or in a Church, it’s when we have “I problems”. Rehoboam was lifted up by pride because he was king. Rather than love his people, and treat others with the respect that he wanted to be treated with, he made himself NUMBER ONE.

When you make yourself NUMBER ONE, you automatically
make God and Others NUMBER TWO.

That day the Ten nations walked away from Judah, the ruling tribe of Israel. What was “Israel” became “Israel and Judah”. The Ten Northern tribes went to Samaria, and set up headquarters there. The Ten Northern tribes also stopped worshiping God, but began to worship the false gods and goddesses of Canaan.

God was not pleased.

Israel was TWO, though she was to become ONE. How would she become ONE? God said:

Jeremiah 31:33-34 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

God said “I’m going to make the TWO (Israel and Judah) into the ONE (Israel)”. How was He going to do this? By making a NEW COVENANT with Israel, a NEW COVENANT with His people. Some 600 years before Jesus came to this earth, Jeremiah prophesied of His coming.

God stooped to lead Israel out of Egypt by His hand.
God stooped again in Jesus Christ.

Born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23) in a manger in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1), Christ became Jesus, and this God/Man came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV) … if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

When we believe that He is the Messiah – the Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire – the One Promised Who would write the Law on our hearts – then He does this. God sends His Holy Spirit into the life of those who receive Jesus (John 14:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Romans 8:9). God writes His Law – the Law of Love – on our hearts.

Our Lord Jesus is God bringing the New Covenant
to us who believe.

How do I know this? Because of the Lord’s Table. The Bible tells us that, at the first Lord’s Table,

Luke 22:19-20 … {Jesus} took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Though the King James renders this “New Testament” (διαθήκη diathḗkē, {pronounced dee-ath-ay’-kay]), it means the same thing. A “testament” or “covenant” is a legal document that binds two parties to one conscience and direction. When you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God sends his Spirit to your heart. God prophesied of the New Covenant in …

Ezekiel 36:26-27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh 27 And I will put My Spirit in you, and move you to follow My decrees ….

God writes His love in the hearts of those who come to Christ. God writes in our hearts not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not on tables of stone {like the Law was}, but in fleshly tablets of the heart. Do you know the proof of salvation? It is that you love God. Not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. Do you know the proof of salvation? It is because you LOVE OTHERS. Not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. The Lord’s Table reminds us that we are under the New Covenant. The Lord’s Table reminds us that we are of the House of Christ (Hebrews 3:6), and that we are to be in one accord in loving God and loving one another.

Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? I pray that God the Holy Spirit will draw you to His side, to His nail scarred hands, this very day. Praise Him. Love Him. In Christ’s name, Amen and Amen.

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Jesus Teaches Us To Pray

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-with-eyes-closed-while-praying-8817520/

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11.

I am never surprised when people don’t listen to me, their Pastor. Sadly, we are all at times hard of hearing. When our Lord Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, He taught us the pattern of godly prayer. Jesus started out by telling us to not be like the Pharisees who loved to be seen praying by men – not by God (Matthew 6:5). The Pharisees were always seeking the spotlight, whether in giving or in praying or in following the Law of God. Jesus told us that we should not use vain repetitions in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8). Prayer is conversation with God – not nagging God. God gave us a pattern for prayer that I’m sure you’re all familiar with:

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.

I love praying this prayer every day, and then personalizing it for my day. It is important to understand that this “Lord’s Prayer” is a pattern. Anyway, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray that day on the Mount of Olives.

But they did not listen. Or if they listened, they did not process it. It was only after they watched the Lord pray – seriously and frequently pray – that they came to Jesus thirsty to learn about prayer. Jesus said “Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST for righteousness, for THEY WILL BE FILLED” (Matthew 5:6). God will not attempt to fill a full vessel.

You must come thirsty to God to be taught of God

The reason we have few regular worshipers in the Church – particularly during “Prayer Meeting and Bible Study” on Wednesday night – is because people have slaked their thirst with other temporal things. Eventually, though, life will send a misery your way. Thank God for the miseries, for they lead us to hunger for God’s presence. The disciples had been watching Jesus – the Son of God – very God of Very God – and saw that He had a habit of prayer. This made the disciples hunger and thirst for righteousness. We read:

Luke 11:1-4 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when {Jesus} ceased {praying}, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And {Jesus} said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Perpetual Prayer along with a Regular Reading & Research
of God’s Word empower the Christian!

Our prayer is to be according to the pattern that Jesus Christ twice gave us. Whenever there is something tragic that happens – a shooting at a school or in an inner city, death from hurricane or tornado, the death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a disease that cannot be cured, people in the south and on the news will often say:

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Most everybody in the world prays. Buddhists pray. Hindus pray. The Dalai Lama prays. Non-Christians of every type pray. Pagans pray. Satanists pray. Polytheists pray. Mormons pray. Jehovah Witnesses pray. Muslims pray. Are the prayers of the other world religions the same as the prayer of a Child of God? Absolutely not. What makes Christian prayer unique (other than the truth that our God is the ONLY true God) is …

Christian Prayer Is Distinctly Trinitarian

Graham Cole wrote in his article, “You Asked: Can I Pray To Jesus?”:

Christian praying is Trinitarian praying. This is deeply important, for much Christian praying in my experience is Unitarian: “Dear God. . . . Amen.” Unitarian praying makes it hard to see why there’s any real difference in praying to the God of the Bible as opposed to praying to the God of, say, the Qur’an. … Christian praying exhibits the very structure of the gospel. Jesus stands at the center as the Mediator, the Father as the Addressee, and the Spirit as the Enabler.”

As Christians we are under a direct command from Jesus to go and teach all nations … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. So what has Jesus commanded us about prayer? Jesus said,

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Jesus Expects Us To Pray Like He Expects Us To Breathe

Word Study: Jesus starts with whenyou pray. This is the Greek Particle ὅταν hótan, {pronounced hot’-an}, which means “whenever, at the time”. As a Particle hótan assumes that YOU WILL PRAY. Jesus used this same particle to describe things that are going to occur, or things that you MUST do. For instance:

Blessed are ye, when {hótan} men shall revile you” (Matthew 5:11)
When {hótan} you give alms” (Matthew 6:2)
When {hótan} you fast” (Matthew 6:16)
When {hótan} they persecute you” (Matthew 10:23)

Jesus expected His followers to be hated, persecuted. He expects us to be generous to the poor, and to fast. Jesus also expects us to pray. Prayer for a Christian is not optional – it is commanded. Prayer is how we communicate to our God. Prayer draws God close to us.

If we would pray more, we would fear less.
If we would pray more, we would worry less.

Illustrate: Too often – like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) – we wander away from the Father’s House to dwell in the land of the lost. While in that horrid land we find ourselves eating the swill of the hogs. We snack on rotted pieces of worry, on moldy chunks of fear, on the drippings of self pity and anxiety. Oh that we would COME TO OUR SENSES like the Prodigal did (Luke 15:17) and head back to the Father’s House!

Troubles and trials to come to us all. The Apostle Paul was abandoned by his good friend Demas (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10). Paul was attacked by Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14-15), doing his best to slander and destroy his ministry. At the lowest point of his ministry Paul said “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:16). And yet Paul never gave up. He never let worry and fear drag him down, but focused upon God Who loves him, and gave Himself for him.

Prayer Speaks Light Into The Darkness

We must pray. When we pray, our prayers should be clear, coherent, and vocal. We read:

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Word Study: It is assumed that we will pray, for we are commanded to pray. Further, our prayers are to be SAID. This is the Greek λέγω légō, {pronounced leg’-o}, which means “to speak with meaning”. Our prayers are to be intelligent words spoken to the Intelligent God. You say, “But why must I speak out loud, if I am by myself?” Because it is what God tells us to do. We are to carry on a conversation with God as if He is in the room with us. But guess what? He is! God is always with us. Jesus is always with us. So we carry on a conversation with our God.

Our prayers are not to be mantras or guttural sounds like many followers of Eastern religions will practice. Our prayers are a conversation with the God Whom we love. Who is this God we address? Jesus said:

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Jesus modeled praying to God as Father repeatedly as some
165 times in the four Gospels” (Mark Driscoll)

Jesus had us use a familiar an intimate term for the Head of the Trinity. We call Him Father. The word “Father” denotes God as the Source of Life as well as the Head of the Kingdom of God. Very rarely in the Old Testament do we see God referred to as “Father”. Two cases I can think of are in:

Isaiah 63:16 (ESV) For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father,

and Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

When God was referred to as “Father” in the Old Testament, it was generally expressive of God’s relationship to the nation Israel, or to Judah once Northern Israel departed from the confederation. The Gospel Coalition article “God As Father” notes:

God is addressed as Father, not because he is Israel’s Creator, but because He is its Redeemer, which reveals the nature of the special relationship that God has with his chosen people.”

God as Father to an individual is rare in the Old Testament.

Under the Old Covenant, people could not be “born again” of the Spirit because Christ had not yet come. So God generally called ISRAEL the nation to be His “son”. We see this in Exodus 4:22-23 where God calls the nation Israel “My firstborn son”. There are several other Scriptures where God treats Israel as His son. See Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:5; 14:1; 32:6; Jeremiah 3:4, 14, 19, 22; 31:9, 20; Hosea 11:1-4; Malachi 1:6; 2:10; 3:17. It is only under the New Covenant that Jesus brought that we as individuals can – through faith in Christ – be individually recognized as “sons of God”. This was prophesied in the Davidic Covenant where God promised David a special offspring:

I will be his Father and He will be my son”
(2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13)

The promise referred to the Messiah Who would one day come to occupy David’s Throne forever. Solomon – David’s son and successor only reigned 40 years. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (see Hebrews 1:1-12).

Because Of Jesus, God Is “Our Father”

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

When Jesus came, He introduced God as not just the Father of Israel, but the Father of each and every believer IN HIM. He said we are to address God as “OUR Father”. Jesus is part of that “Our”. When Mary Magdalene met the resurrected Jesus at the empty Tomb, she tried to cling to Him. Jesus told her:

John 20:17 (ESV) … “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

When we pray, we are to pray to “Our Father”, meaning “My Father and Jesus’ Father”. Jesus said,

No one has seen the Father except He Who is FROM God ; He has seen the Father (John 6:46) … whoever has seen ME has seen the Father … (John 14:9)

Only Jesus has seen the Father, as He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father (see Colossians 2:9; John 10:30; Isaiah 8:13-14 c/w 1 Peter 2:7-8; John 8:58). When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we become children of adoption:

Ephesians 1:5 (ESV) {God} predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will …

Romans 8:15 (ESV) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!

Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV) … when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The followers of the other religions found in this world don’t suggest that their adherents be anything other than a follower or supplicant. But for the Christian, we are adopted as sons of God because we have received THE Son of God as our Lord and Savior.

The First Purpose Of Prayer Is To Bring Glory To The Father

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

What is the first purpose of prayer? It is to bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. I have heard people pray,

Jesus, our Father, thank You for giving us life. Thank You for saving our souls.”

But this is not what Jesus told us to do when we pray. Are there times when we should speak directly to Jesus in prayer? I think so. There are times when we – realizing the great price Jesus paid for us on the Cross – that we want to thank Jesus for that great salvation. I do not believe this is in error. Jesus said in:

John 5:20-24 (ESV) … For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

We should honor Jesus as we honor the Father, for it is the Blood of Jesus Christ that covers our sins. It is the teachings of Christ that we carry out into the world. Jesus Christ has given us access to the Father, and has, through His Blood, made it possible for the Holy Spirit to cause us to be “born again” and adopted into the Family of God. But we need to be careful not to make Jesus out to be the Father. Jesus did as the Father directed, and Jesus and the Father are “one” in purpose (John 10:30; 17:22). When Jesus prayed, and taught us to pray, our prayers are to be primarily addressed to:

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Our Father is in Heaven.
The Son is our High Priest and Sacrifice for sin.
The Spirit is with us, empowering us.

  • Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? I don’t think so. There are times when we should properly pray to Jesus. When Stephen was being martyred for our faith, he prayed Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). When Saul was knocked down on Damascus Road, he prayed to Jesus, asking Lord, what will You have me do?” (Acts 9:6). John the Revelator on seeing Heaven unveiled prayed for Jesus’ return, saying “Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). There’s nothing wrong with praying to Jesus at times. However, most prayers should be addressed to the the Father.
  • Is it wrong to pray to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit of God is with the people of God, on this earth. He indwells us. We are told in Romans 8:9 (ESV), “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. The Father is in Heaven. The Holy Spirit occupies the body of the believer. As the Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 6:16 … ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19 … your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God…

I do not believe that it is wrong to pray to the Holy Spirit. After all, He is the One who empowers our prayers. When I am studying Scripture I often ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to His truths. When I don’t know what to pray, I ask the Spirit to guide my prayers. Yet we always remember that prayer is to be primarily toward God the Father. The Apostle Paul said,

Ephesians 3:14 …For this reason I bow my knees BEFORE THE FATHER

I like to think of it this way. My prayers are:

Primarily TO the Father,
THROUGH my High Priest, the Lord Jesus,
EMPOWERED by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

We pray that God will expand His Heavenly Kingdom into an earthly Kingdom. It is the will of God that Heaven would come to us. Jesus said:

Mark 3:35 (ESV) … whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

What is the Will of God? It is that people would come to Jesus by faith, and rely upon Him for their salvation. It is the Will of God that Christ’s words be taught this present world. It is the will of God that we love one another as we would be loved. It is the will of God that we love God above all else and all other.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality …

It is God’s will that we neither endorse nor participate in the sexual immorality that grips our nation and the world. We are not to approve love making outside of that which God has determined is proper marriage.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 … give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is God’s will that we be thankful for all that He allows to enter our lives. We are to realize that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to HIS purpose” (Romans 8:28). If we pray,

Luke 2:2 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,
as in heaven, so in earth

If you are sick, trust God in the sickness. If you are well, trust God in the wellness. Pray that God’s will will be done through you and your life. God has promised us:

1 John 2:17 (ESV) … the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

We may not understand what we are going through, but we don’t have to. Let us understand that God’s will will be done – and God loves us unconditionally. Let us live for the Lord. Don’t focus on the trial or the suffering, but focus on doing the good that God expects of you:

1 Peter 2:15 (ESV) For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

The Second Purpose Of Prayer Is To Meet Our Needs

Luke 11:3-4 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

After asking God that His will be done here on earth as it is done in Heaven, we begin to pray for our needs. We pray for our daily bread, that God would feed us and house us. When we pray that God meet our physical needs, we lessen our anxiety and worry while “casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us”(1 Peter 5:7). Jesus warned His children to NOT be like the lost of this world. He said:

Matthew 6:8 (ESV) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

God the Father did not spare His own Son, but gave Jesus up for us all. Will He not now supply our temporal needs? (Romans 8:32). Yes, He will. Be thankful, and ask God to provide for your physical needs. We also pray:

Luke 11:4 forgive us our sins, for we also forgive
every one that is indebted to us.

We cannot grudge carry and be effective Christians. We must forgive others who have offended us, knowing that our God freely forgives us when we go astray. Finally,

Luke 11:4 lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil

We acknowledge our weaknesses before God. It is not we who save ourselves, but God Who saves us and keeps on saving us. We ask God to deliver us from the evil and darkness of this present age. We as believers do not give up. We pray. We seek God’s presence. We seek God’s Kingdom. We seek God’s power.

Oh, that God would lead His people to be a people of prayer. This is the only hope we have against the darkness. May God draw you into a deeper, more intimate prayer life with Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Luke, prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Choosing Your Master

Photo by Cameron Yartz: https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-religious-man-against-shiny-cross-at-night-7459359/

Life is all about choices, about the decisions you make. In America we have unprecedented freedom – but in reality we all serve someone or something. If you choose to serve the wrong something, this can bring terrible and eternal consequences. Jesus said:

Luke 16:13-22 No servant 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. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, hear