How’s Your Candle Doing? Red Letters #3

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Photo by zae zhu on Unsplash

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.

It is so easy to become selfish and self centered. I have to constantly watch myself. As I drifted into sleep the last night I had a dream, a vivid dream. In that dream I was at a Church I used to pastor many years ago. As I looked at the growth of the Church I found a sermon outline left on a table. I couldn’t read the full outline (I like to read sermons) but I could see the title of the sermon. It was called “Thee”. T.H.E.E. Like the King James “Thee” and “Thou”. I never have understood the difference between “thee” and “thou”, so I looked it up. “Thou” is used when the person addressed is the subject, such as “Thou art here”. “Thee” is used when the person addressed is the object, such as “He gave it to thee”. Clear as mud, eh?

I woke up when I saw the title of the sermon in my dream. The one thought I had in my mind was,
“Was the sermon about ME, US, or God?”

Every sermon should glorify God.
Everything we do should glorify God.

But we are so easily distracted from glorifying God. Having listened to many sermons for years now, a vast majority of those preached are focused on comforting the flock rather than magnifying God. There’s nothing wrong with comforting the flock. We all need comfort. But we also need to be reminded that we serve God, and God does not serve us.

We Do Not See Our Own Blindness

When our nation was founded by the Pilgrims, British Christians, it was founded as a place for religious freedom. Our Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) stated in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

So we as a nation separated from The British Empire and declared independence for all white people.

Black people were not considered in that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” statement. Patriot Patrick Henry made a speech to the Second Virginia Convention (March 23, 1775, at Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia) where he famously stated:

“Give me liberty, or give me death”

Did I mention he was standing in a Church building? Henry owned 67 slaves, and did not at that time see the hypocrisy of his remarks. The Church in America compromised on slavery just as it is doing on abortion today. Our first Presidents owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves, and George Washington 200 slaves. Twelve of our Presidents owned slaves at some time. Thank God for the changes that Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr brought into our America. He died supporting freedom for all. He died letting his light shine.

It costs us to let our light shine.
But we must let our light shine.

We come to a Wednesday night Prayer Meeting and Bible Study so that we can glorify God. Unity glorifies God. It costs us to come on Wednesday night. It doesn’t cost us much compared to other believers in other parts of the world, but it costs us. As we focus on God’s Word our flames are lit. When we leave this place we are to shine for Jesus where ever we go. We are to glorify God by being obedient to Christ’s command. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there were Christians who stood up against state laws that were discriminatory and anti-American. America is about freedom and fairness. Would to the Lord we would stand together against the horrors of abortion.

Abortion, just like state sponsored segregation and discrimination, are a terrible twisting of our Constitution.

All humans are created in God’s image – even those little babies still in their mother’s womb. These children are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, just as we are. The unborn have value. People of color have value. All people have value. Letting our light shine is standing up for what is right and Biblical. It is not to go along with the crowd, but to go along with Jesus. Jesus would not have supported discrimination nor abortion. If you doubt me, go to John chapter four and read how Jesus approached a Samaritan woman, a person despised by the Jews of His day. Jesus reached out for all. Jesus loved all.

Like A Candle Jesus Wants Our Light To Shine

Jesus is a Master Preacher. As God, He understands both the Word of God (the Bible which He wrote) and humans (which He also created). He knows His audience. So when Jesus told His people to shine, Jesus used a candle.

Why a candle?

At the time Jesus preached this sermon there was no LED bulbs, incandescent bulbs, florescent bulbs, nor even generators to run such bulbs. Now our Jesus is God become flesh:

John 1:1-2, 14 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. … 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

Jesus knew all about these alternate sources of light. But in His day as He ministered, He ministered where the people were. The only light sources available at this time in human history was sunlight or starlight, lamps or lamp stands, and candles or fireplaces. Now you all know about sunlight (though if you thought “moonlight” you were wrong. The moon has no light of its own, but reflects sunlight). In another place Jesus spoke of ten virgins waiting on a groom:

Matthew 25:1-4 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

The lamp is much like our camp lanterns, or the old oil burning lanterns. These lamps burned olive oil, whereas our old lamps burned coal oil or white kerosene. A lamp without oil cannot burn. The oil in the lamp symbolized the Holy Spirit of God Who indwells the believer (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16). But Jesus did not speak about a lamp in our text today. Why? Not all people owned lamps. The poorest people had no lamps to light their way.

Everyone had access to candles.
The poorest and the richest owned candles.
Jesus used candles to represent His people.
Jesus came for EVERY PERSON who would receive Him.

Anyone can be a candle. Think about candles. Candles are made. Candles do not just come into being. They are made. Someone had to gather the wax, the wick, and put it together to make a candle. God made everyone to be candles. The Bible says when God created humanity:

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 blessed the first couple, then told them to “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). God wanted light everywhere. He told His candles to obey Him, work with Him to make more candles, and cover the earth with light.

But Adam sinned.
(PREACHER blow out candle)

Adam listened to the word of the worldly snake rather than to the Word of God. On that day Adam spiritually died. His flame was blown out by sin. 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 candle was out. Sin grew in the world, and death by sin. Creation grew so bad and dark that God chose to destroy all by flood.

Genesis 6:5-8 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

There was yet one lit candle on earth, and that candle was Noah. Noah loved the Lord. Noah’s candle was lit.

Candles Cannot Light Themselves

Matthew 5:15 Neither do men light a candle

A candle cannot light itself.
By Grace God lights the candle.

The earth had become so dark that only Noah stood between it and total destruction. And Noah was not perfect. When he got off the Ark at the end of the flood the Bible says God made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:13-17), a covenant marked by the Rainbow. In that covenant God promised never to destroy all humanity by water again (Genesis 9:15). This was such good news that Noah went out and got drunk (Genesis 9:21). Noah wasn’t perfect. None of us are but Jesus!

Only God can light a candle. The fire on a candle comes from an outside source. No candle lights itself. Even those funny birthday candles that relight when you blow them out – they have to be lit the first time. The only way for a person to light a candle in Jesus’ day was to go to a source of fire and light the candle. It is God Who saves us. It is Gods Who, in the beginning, said:

Genesis 1:3 God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Light does not form by accident, but by intent. God put light in the sky, light in the universe, and then light on planet earth. What lights the Christian? The Psalmist said:

Psalms 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The day that we first heard the glorious Gospel of Christ this Word lit our flame. We came from a dead candle to a lit candle. God the Holy Spirit brought His flame into our hearts.

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

With salvation came light. I did not make my own light, and neither did you.

Titus 3:3-6 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior;

We heard the glorious Gospel of Jesus. We heard that He died for our sins. He opened our eyes. His Holy Spirit came to us. Whereas we were in darkness, God Himself came and lit upon us. Whereas others heard and rejected, we said “yes” to God. Because of this we are:

1 Peter 2:9 But 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:

We have Christ as our Savior, God as our Father, and the Holy Spirit as our Empowerment. We have been lit to shine for the Triune God.
We are to shine so that others can see.

Ephesians 5:8 (ESV) for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light..

God has made you to be light.

It Will Cost You To Be Light

Matthew 5:14-15 Ye are the light of the world. … 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.

It will cost you to be the light that God calls you to be. A light unlit is no good.

(PASTOR, hold up sealed box of candles)

I have here a sealed box of birthday candles. We know they are birthday candles because they are smaller, and they are marked as such. As long as these candles stay in this box they are only potential birthday candles. This is how many Christians live their lives. They hide in the dark.

We are not called to hide in the dark, but to be light.
Light is the enemy of darkness.

When a candle burns unlike a lantern it burns consuming itself. There are two candles on this table. Notice one is long, the other not. Both can burn. The one that is burned down lower has been doing what it was designed to do for about 2 hours. The other candle has not. The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

It is the calling of every Christian to burn brightly for Christ. Christians overseas are burning brightly for Christ. This morning I read of a pastor, a sweet Child of God, who was captured by Boko Haram (the Islamic state in Nigeria).

The Rev Lawan Andimi was brutally murdered by the terror group on 20 January (2020), with news of his death being received the following day by Nigerian journalist Ahmed Salkida … The 58-year-old pastor, the father of nine children, was shot … by the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram.”

Our Jesus told us:

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

The darkness will never love the light. Light shines the darkness away. Jesus told us as His people to shine in the house. Our house is the entire world. We are to shine where ever we are, knowing that there will be those who will despise us. Shine anyway. Light can only come when we who are light shine in the darkness for others to see. C.H. Spurgeon said:

There is no need to label light to prevent its being confounded with the darkness, and there is no need for it to sound a trumpet before itself, saying, “Here I am.” What fellowship has light with darkness? No sooner does the light come into a man’s heart than he is separate from those who are all around him, called by the grace of God by a vocation which at once sets a difference between the called ones and the rest of the sons of men. The darkness could not have created the light; for it does not even comprehend it, “the light shines in darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Those who are all around the Christian man cannot figure him out, for his life is hidden with Christ in God. At his conversion they perceive that a strange alteration had come over him; and, as Dr. Watts says, they “gaze and admire, and hate the change”

Be the light. Be the light that God has called you to be. Be the light even if you are the only one. Being darkness is easy. Being light costs you. It cost Jesus.

Are YOU Light Or Dark?

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.

Are YOU the light that God made you to be. The word “YOUR” is found three times in this text. When a candle is lit, the flame that it has did not originally belong there. But once the flame is lit, it becomes the stewardship of the candle. It becomes the candle’s own light. Sin will blow your light out. Stay close to Jesus, THE Light of the world. Confess sin promptly, and draw near to Him Who saved you. You are responsible for your light. Keep it burning by prayer and surrender to God’s Word.

I came across this song by Theodore Monod called “Oh, The Bitter Shame And Sorrow”:

Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow,

That a time could ever be,

When I let the Savior’s pity

Plead in vain, and proudly answered,

All of self, and none of Thee,

All of self and none of Thee.

Yet He found me; I beheld Him

Bleeding on the cursed tree;

Heard Him pray, Forgive them, Father,

And my wistful heart said faintly,

Some of self, and some of Thee,

Some of self, and some of Thee.

Day by day His tender mercy,

Healing, helping, full and free,

Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,

Brought me lower while I whispered,

Less of self, and more of Thee,

Less of self, and more of Thee.

Higher than the highest heavens,

Deeper than the deepest sea,

Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;

Grant me now my heart’s petition,

None of self, and all of Thee,

None of self, and all of Thee.

May God move our hearts to truly say, “none of self, and all of Thee”. May God the Holy Spirit and His Word light your hearts this very day. Amen.

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

Children Of Light (Part 1)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 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.

The “Day of the Lord” is a reference to the Day that God comes to judge the earth. Jesus told us, we who love Him:

Matthew 24:42-44 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

We do not know the time our Jesus will come and get us. So we are to watch, to look up, to know our time on this earth can end at any moment. We as humans love to put off the things we do not like.

To pay taxes.
To go to the doctor.
To fix that leaky roof.
To wash the dog.

To plan for our afterlife.

We put off thoughts of the day of our death. Yet the Bible does not hide this unpleasant truth. Though I look upward, and look forward to the Rapture of Christ’s Church, I also know that many have looked for this catching up for over 2000 years, and met the end of this life and the beginning of eternity without it. Of the Rapture Jesus said:

Mark 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

We do not know when our Lord will come and we will “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31).

This world is not my home, Christian, neither is it yours. “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20), not on this earth. It is true “we will not all sleep in death, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are Christ’s, who are still physically alive on this earth, will be CAUGHT UP TOGETHER with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air – and so we shall ever be with the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Praise the Lord for it. But Beloved, if the Rapture does not come before we expire, we shall all expire. It is appointed unto us all once to die – and after this, the JUDGMENT (Hebrews 9:27). Are you looking for that day? Are you prepared? Are you prepared if your death comes tonight? Are you prepared if the last day on this earth is today? Or do you, just as the rest of the world, ignore this inconvenient truth?

Every day that you live on this earth you should live it as if it were your last. You should live in this moment as if there will never be another. The person you see next to you, you may never see again on this side of eternity. Death should not cause fear for the believer. Christ has defeated death and the grave. Has Scripture not promised:

1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.

Jesus never promised that you, dear Christian, will not die physically. He has promised that you will not die spiritually. He has promised you life beyond this life, if you are indeed His Child by faith. You are

children of light, children of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:5),
so do not sleep as the lost world sleeps
.

Children Of The Day Have Requirements
We Must Meet

1 Thessalonians 5:7-10 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.

Are you saved? Here’s a test for you to see if you are saved or not. Are you asleep in the darkness like the world is? If you believe that God condones abortion on demand and that thing aborted is not a life, you are asleep. If you are living like the darkness, believing that God will not hold you accountable, you are asleep. If you think it is all right for a Christian,

to be drunken
to be a hater
to be racist
to be selfish
to be unloving
to be faithless

then, dear friends, you are living in darkness.

The Christian is called to be light.
The Christian is called to be light.
The Christian is called to be like Christ.
The Christian is called to be like Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 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.

We who are of the day are not to dress like the world dresses. The world puts on the old man, following the pathway of Adam. The Christ child is, on the other hand, sober.

Christians are not driven by drugs, drink,
or even human think.

We are driven by love for Christ Who loved us when we were unlovable. Our breastplate is faith and love. That is what drives our heart. Faith in Christ. Love to the Father above, love to those around us. Love! Not lip service, but love! Our helmet – that which protects our brain – is the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

We who are Christ’s have no appointment with wrath. Our works will be judged:

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 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.

Yes, Beloved, salvation is a stewardship, not just a possession. If you are saved, you are entrusted with a great gift. How did you use this gift to advance the Kingdom of Christ? How did you use your gift to bring others from damnation to light?

But praise Him, if we are His, we are not appointed to wrath. We are appointed to death (Hebrews 9:27) but not damnation. Praise Him! Praise Him!

1 Thessalonians 5:10 … 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.

Praise Jesus! We were saved from wrath by His Blood so that, whether we wake or sleep, day or night, we SHOULD LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM.

What Does Living In The Light Look Like?

God our Father made us to live together with Him. So what does living together with God our Savior look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Unruly” is the Greek ἄτακτος átaktos, (pronounced at’-ak-tos) which means “those who are insubordinate, or who reject the Word of God”. We are commanded of Scripture to:

Isaiah 2:5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

1 John 1:7 … walk in the light, as {God} is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

When a brother or sister walks in darkness we are to correct them. I am reminded of my military service, and the hardest thing I ever learned. That was to walk in step with my brothers in blue. When we marched, if one person got out of step then the whole unit suffered. If a brother or sister was out of step every airman in that unit worked with them, exhorting them and, if necessary, chastising them. Beloved, as the Church of Christ we are to walk in step with Him, and with each other. We are not to condone sin, nor to look the other way lest we “hurt someone’s feeings”. When we do not correct the out of step, we damage the whole unit, and do damage to the cause of Christ. The Apostle said:

2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded

 Sometimes the King James just doesn’t quite do it. Παραμυθέομαι ὀλιγόψυχος (paramytheomai oligopsychos) literally means come alongside and lift up the faint hearted or discouraged. We are not to add to the burdens of others, but as Christ like followers, once more,

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

How do we do this? More specifically:

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

We are Christ’s Kingdom of light.

1 Corinthians 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

We are not to be as Iscariot was, working in the background against the will of Christ. We are to be in Jesus lifting one another up – not in sin, mind you, but in the light of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

If evil is done to us as Christians, we are not to do evil in return. Among Christ’s Church we are to do good regardless as to what is done to us. God told His Israel:

Leviticus 19:17-18 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.

And Jesus to His Church:

Matthew 5:44-45 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 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.

Do good, not evil. Let God be the Judge, the Jury, the Executioner.

Romans 12:17-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Only good overcomes evil. Do good. Live for Jesus.

Remain In Prayer And In God’s Word

1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings.

The key to this section is the three words:

Pray without ceasing

Many Christians see this command of God (and it is a command, not a suggestion. This is Present Imperative in the Greek, which is DO IT NOW) and regard it like a gym membership. We know that “pray without ceasing” is a command that is good for us, but we dread it like most of us dread jogging. Scott Hubbard of Desiring God Ministries writes:

Pray without ceasing,” of course, does not require us to spend every hour on our knees. The same apostle, in the same letter, commands all sorts of other duties that forbid literally constant prayer. The Thessalonians must “work with [their] hands,” “build one another up,” and “admonish the idle,” for example (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 5:11, 14) — all activities that send us out of our prayer closets and into the world.”

If we are going to live in the light as Christ is in the Light then we need to be in a constant state of connectivity to God. This is what prayer is. It is communion with our Savior and Lord.

If I were to tell you “breathe without ceasing”, you would look at me as if I were crazy. You’d say, “Of course I’m going to breathe without ceasing. I need to breathe to live.” Even so, you need to pray to stay in the light of Christ.

If Adam had spent more time praying rather than talking to a snake, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today! We are to live in an attitude of prayer. Prayer is so very necessary for the life of the Christ Child.

If you practice an attitude of unceasing prayer,

You will “rejoice evermore”.

If you make yourself always available to commune with God,

You will give thanks in everything.

If you are looking to connect to the Savior moment by moment,

You will not “quench the Spirit” nor “despise God’s Word”.

To be spiritual you must live in a constant state of prayerfulness and mindfulness. We are to meditate of God’s Word, not on Yoga:

Psalm 1:1-2 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.

The practitioner of Yoga empties their mind of thought, whereas the Christian fills the mind with the Word of God. Christians, we are to make ourselves available to our Savior and His Word. Michael Reeves, in his book “Enjoy Your Prayer Life”, wrote:

When you default to thinking of prayer as an abstract activity, a “thing to do,” the tendency is to focus on the prayer as an activity — which makes it boring. Instead, focus on the one to whom you’re praying. Reminding yourself whom you are coming before is a great help against distraction, and changes the prayer.”

To be in a state of prayer we need to think as Adam thought before the fall. We were made to walk with God, to talk with God, to be with God. God is not my rabbit’s foot, but my very life. As I pray I am reminded WHO I AM:

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.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

I belong to God – that wonderful Triune God – because of Jesus. I do not belong to the devil, nor the darkness, but to the Kingdom of Light. I am not a lost person marking time until I die. I am a Child of the Most High, loved and indwelt by Him.

Prayer is my birthright.
Prayer is my oxygen.

How about you? Next we will discuss those things that draw us away from unceasing prayer. May God touch your hearts with His Word and his Spirit.

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Series “The Red Letters” #1: It Is Written

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Matthew 4:4 But {Jesus} answered and said, It is written…

The Great Commission our Lord Jesus gave His Church is:

Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:

As I read and preached those words last Sunday the Lord touched my heart. Today we’re starting a new series of sermons called The Red Letters. We are going to do as the Commission commands: To teach you to observe (to do) all things that our Lord and Savior has commanded us to do.

Our opening text today is in Matthew 4:1-11,
with it’s parallel text in Luke 4:1-13.

Jesus Was Tempted As We Are, Yet Without Sin

We are told in Hebrews 4:15 {that Jesus} was in all points tempted (like we are}, yet without sin. How do we know this? Because the Bible tells us so. Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17). Following His act of obedience to righteousness we read …

Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL.

Both Matthew and Luke tell us Jesus was led by the Spirit, though Mark tells us “the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness”. The Holy Spirit caused Jesus to go into an isolated place called “the wilderness”, not for rest and recreation, but for testing (πειράζω peirázō, pronounced pi-rad’-zo) or proving. The Bible tells us:

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted (tested/ proved – peirázō), I am tempted (tested/ proved – peirázō) of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.

Our God cannot do evil. The Word says, God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God cannot tempt to evil, for there is no evil in God. But it was in the eternal Will of God that we see how our Lord Jesus Christ responded to temptation.

Jesus is God Incarnate, God become flesh. Our Jesus is the viable Image of the Invisible God.

Colossians 1:16-17 For by {Jesus} 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 {are held together}.

God became flesh – perfect Man – so that we could be shown how to handle evil. In our world today we handle evil poorly. We handle evil often by responding in the flesh, using the same tactics that the evil have done. The Scripture is adamant, you cannot overcome evil by doing evil:

Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Oh, how we are all tempted to overcome evil with evil! Someone cuts us off in traffic, then lays into the horn, cursing us with that extended beeeeeeeeeeep! The old man in us says “given them the horn too! Give them something else, perhaps a gesture, or roll down the window and exercise your lungs.” Oh Beloved, this is a fool’s game.

Light does not overcome darkness by becoming darkness.
Light overcomes darkness by becoming MORE light, MORE Jesus.

So the Lord Jesus was “driven” into the wilderness. Why did God send Him Who is God the Son into the wilderness? To be tempted of the devil. So we’re going to see how the Son of God defeated the devil when He was tempted. We are going to see this so that we as sons of God by faith in Christ can also defeat the devil, just as our Lord Jesus did.

Matthew 4:2-3 And when {Jesus} had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 and when the tempter came to Him …

We see something now about the nature of the devil. Jesus fasted forty days and nights. Luke (4:2) tells us “And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.”

The devil watched Jesus fasting – going without food – for forty days and forty nights. Forty days and nights are significant in Scripture. During the days of Noah God caused it to rain forty days and forty nights, destroying all life on the earth (Genesis 7:4, 12, 17).

Sin was purged from humanity by 40/40.

When Moses received the Law on Sinai, he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28).

Righteous Law was given by 40/40.

When Elijah went to Mount Horeb God strengthened him to travel forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8).

Refreshing from God was given by 40/40.

Jesus was tried by the devil, but only after the Lord fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights. Jesus was at His weakest moment physically. Some of you can barely make it through a Church service – especially if it goes a little past 12 noon. Imagine going forty days and forty nights without food. Jesus drank water. But no food? At the end of this wonderful time of dedication and focus we are told:

Matthew 4:2 … He was afterward an hungered ..

Jesus was not hungry for the forty days and nights, for His focus was on the Lord. But following this period Jesus was hungry – and rightly so! At Christ’s lowest physical moment

Matthew 4:3 … the tempter came and said to {Jesus} ..

That’s when the devil comes – at our weakest moment.

The devil and his henchmen watch the sons of God. Evil cannot read our minds, but evil has eyes and can see. The devil sees Jesus is hungry. And so he strikes.

Matthew 4:3 … If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

How Did Jesus Defeat The Devil?

When the devil comes to Jesus to tempt our Lord, I want you to notice how reasonable that fallen angel is. Jesus hasn’t eaten for forty days and forty nights. Jesus is hungry. Hunger is not a sin, but a sign from your body that you need nourishment. If you do not eat – especially after being without food for forty days and forty nights – you could die. So the devil comes to Jesus.

“IF”You are the Son of God, command these stones to turn into bread!

The temptation Jesus faced was two fold. Satan is calling into question our Lord’s Position. Are you really the Messiah, the Christ? Well, if you are, show me. The devil loves this tactic. He uses this tactic often with God’s people. If you are really a Christian, then do this or that. The Pharisees and Sadducees did the same thing with Jesus. We are told in:

Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry to this point He had shown many signs.

Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11)
Jesus healed people (John 4:46-54; 5:1-15)
Jesus fed 5000 men with a child’s lunch (John 6:5-14)
Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-24) and calmed storms.

Jesus told the Pharisees A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). Jesus was not about to give these unbelievers a sign, for they asked in faithlessness. Under His ministry “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5). They had already seen signs. So had the devil.

The devil knew that Jesus was the Christ. He knew Christ as the One of Whom Scripture says:

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

The devil knew Jesus as the Son of God. I have seen the devil many times in my walk with Christ, and if you are Christ’s child by faith I know you have, too. The devil challenges us. “If you’re really saved, then dance to my tune”. No Beloved, that is a fool’s game. We are never to wrestle with the devil, but to put on the full armor of God – and to stand.

How do we stand against “the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11)? How did Jesus stand? Did He use reason? Did He attack back in His own power? No. Notice what Jesus did to stop the devil.

Matthew 4:4 {Jesus} 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.

Three words. It. Is. Written. This defeats Satan!

It is written! Written in what? Written in the Jerusalem Times? In the Reader’s Digest? On the bathroom wall? In your Journal of feelings and thoughts? It is written. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh who dwelt among us (John 1:14). What is Almighty God become Perfect Man quoting?

He is quoting the Bible, and specifically the Old Testament Scriptures. When Jesus was attacked by the devil the Church did not have a New Testament. The New Testament was written by Holy Men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The New Testament was not gathered and bound into the text we have today for several hundred years after this point in time. Jesus was quoting Old Testament Scripture, the Scripture that is still just as valid today as it ever was. Our Lord quoted from the Law,

Deuteronomy 8:3 And {God} humbled thee {dear Israel}, and {allowed} thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that {God} might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Jesus quoted the Old Testament. Listen Beloved, the entire Bible is God inspired, written by God and affirming Jesus as the Christ. The Bible is true in all that it affirms. The Bible is God’s Shield to us who love Him.

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

The Devil Knows The Bible, Too. He Can Twist The Book If You Do Not Know The Book.

Round 1 goes to Jesus. The devil tempted and tested, but Jesus countered and defeated him with “It is written”. So the devil quits. Right? Wrong! The devil now goes into attack number two:

Matthew 4:5-6 Then 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.

The devil not only knows that Jesus is the Christ, but the devil also knows the Scripture. Not too long ago a politician made a remark that Jesus would have been pro choice (or abortion minded) because babies are not really persons until they are born. That’s nonsense, but I’m not going to debate this – other than to read one Scripture:

Luke 1:41-44 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Enough said. If you can’t understand that, then you need to ask God to open your mind. Beloved, the devil knows Scripture. He knows it.

Through Biblical misquotes Satan deceives the world.

Influenced the “holy war” called the Crusades,
killing many innocent Arabs;

Influenced our founding fathers to fight for freedom
while supporting slavery and mass murder of native Americans.
Influenced the execution of the innocent in the Salem Witch trials;
Influenced Hitler to kill 6 million Jews;
Influenced the founding of the Ku Klux Klan
and the lynching of Americans.

And the devil is good at twisting the Scripture. He quotes:

Psalms 91:11-12 For {God} shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

But Jesus knows the Scripture – and why not? For He wrote it! Jesus parries the devil’s misuse by:

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

This is a direct quote from:

Deuteronomy 6:16 Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

The goal of God’s Word is to honor God, to save souls, to teach of Christ, and to build the Kingdom of God. None of these things are being done if Jesus were to cast Himself off of the pinnacle of the Temple. Jesus would not follow Satan, but molded His earth life based on “It is written”.

Three Strikes, Satan, and YOU Are OUT!

Defeated twice, now Satan throws everything at Jesus.

Matthew 4:8-9 Again, 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.

If you want power, worship Satan!

The devil has used this tactic many times in human history. Every celebrity of Hollywood, stage, or screen, has been offered the same deal. We see a little more detail in Luke’s account:

Luke 4:5-7 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

Who “delivered all these things” to Satan? It was Adam. Why did Adam eat the forbidden. Because the serpent promised power. When you eat of it, you will be like God!

When God made Adam and placed him in the Garden it was so he and Eve could have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:27-28). God gave Adam everything but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). When Adam sinned the Bible says:

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:

God in His grace gave earth to humanity. But we rejected the Word of God, and in so doing the devil took over. The world is the devil’s at this time. This is why sin reigns. This is why school children are taught godlessness, and are shot dead by assassins. This is why evil people creep into the assembly of the righteous, seeking to kill the children of God. This is why cartels manufacture and import drugs that ensnare our citizens, adding to the crime wave. This is why evil people destroy buildings in our major cities, flying aircraft into towers and the Pentagon.

Satan spoke truly. Though this is our Father’s world, and God created it, Satan won it in the Garden. So he rightly tells Jesus,

Fall down and worship me.
If You worship me, this will all be yours!

Oh, so many have heard this, and have given themselves over the Satan. Oh Beloved, let this not be you. Know God’s Word. Read God’s Word. Hear God’s Word. Do God’s Word. Jesus told Satan:

Matthew 4:10 … Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

“Get behind Me, Satan”! Jesus then quotes:

Deuteronomy 10:20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

His words remind is that if we want to be blessed, we will worship the Lord our God only. Him only shalt thou serve. Jesus put it another way:

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

C.S. Lewis said one time, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.” Too many people today are worshiping false gods and goddesses, chasing an empty promise of greater blessing. There is no greater blessing than to know the Word of God. There is no greater blessing than to come to Jesus believing, and believing receive Him to be your Lord and Savior. That is the only way of life worth living.

After this final challenge the Bible says:

Luke 4:13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from {Jesus} for a season.

The devil would come back, again and again, to try and derail Jesus in His ministry. But each time he came Jesus sent him packing. How? It. Is. Written. If Jesus required the Word of God to bless and keep Him, how much more do we who are but mere mortals need it. We need God’s Word. Daily. Moment by moment. Only by reading, hearing, and DOING His Word can we find the eternal blessings of God.

May God the Holy Spirit and His Word touch your lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Despise Not Small Things

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Zechariah 4:1-10 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, 2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. 4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. 7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. 10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

What’s In A Name?

Being given the birth name of “Buffaloe”, names have always interested me – particularly Biblical names. Take, for instance, the name Zerubbabel. Many Biblical names are filled with hope. The name:

Joseph means “The Increase”.
Moses means “One Taken Out”.
Joshua means “God our Savior”.
Jesus means “God our Deliverer”, for He came to save us from our sin.

Names are important. Names define us. When the Child of God is made by faith in Christ, their focus is no longer the world, but Christ. We belong to God. We serve God. God is in control!

What does the name Zerubbabel mean? Even if you don’t know Hebrew you can see that part of his name is Babel which is a reference to Babylon. Zerubbabel means “A stranger in Babylon”. Why would his parents name him such a thing? His very name signals depression!

From the time that God saved Israel God told Israel that their strength was in Him. “The JOY OF THE LORD Is Israel’s strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Yet Israel kept wandering from God. Israel chased after others gods and goddesses. The Israelites intermarried with unbelievers, bringing the curse of an unequal yoke into the nation (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”

When a believer enters into intimate relationship with an unbeliever, the believer will be drawn downward, toward the flesh. You can take pure fresh milk and mix it with turned rotten milk, and the whole will become rotten. When light blends with darkness it can only do so by becoming more like the darkness. We who are Christ’s have been delivered from the power of darkness, and is translated into the Kingdom of God’s own Son, the Light of the world (Colossians 1:13). Oh Beloved!

“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather, reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11)

“What communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Israel’s choices led the nation to fall under Babylonian captivity in 587 BC. The armies led by King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, wrecked the Temple, and took Zerubbabel’s parents into captivity. Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2, 8, 5:2; Nehemiah 12:1), of the Tribe of David. Through the Prophet Haggai ordered Zerubbabel along with Joshua the High Priest to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it (Haggai 1:13-14).

God worked with Zerubbabel and Joshua, and led the King of Persia to release some 40,000 captives
back into the land of Jerusalem.

When the remnant returned to Jerusalem (536 BC) with Zerubbabel and Joshua at it’s head the people immediately began rebuilding. In the second year of their return the foundation of the Temple was laid. The Samaritans (2 Kings 17:24-31) volunteered to help rebuild the Temple. When Zerubbabel rejected their offer (because they were unbelievers) the Samaritans wrote the Persian King, who in turn ordered the construction to cease.

Zerubbabel was discouraged.

What he and the exiles did was so little to restore the Temple. If you have never experienced clinical depression, I can tell you that one of it’s key symptoms is FATIGUE, exhaustion, and hopelessness. One person described it as “a desire to go to sleep and not wake up”. Could this be what Governor Zerubbabel was going through? Both High Priest Joshua and Governor Zerubbabel had high hopes when coming back to Jerusalem. In fact, as things initially progressed so rapidly, they thought that the work set before them would be finished in record time.

Beloved, God has His own timing. God knows what is best. It is our God Who controls the times and the seasons. It was God’s intent to save the world through His Son Jesus Christ, yet thousands of years passed between the coming of the Messiah through Manger and Cross. Why? Why did God take so long? The Bible says simply:

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.

God sent forth His Son when the fullness of time was come – when the time was right. God alone:

Daniel 2:21 … changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

God knows when the best time is for all things. God’s people need to heed God, to seek His face in prayer, to learn of Him, to follow His lead. We do not need to presume upon God. Doesn’t the Scripture say:

James 4:14-15 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

God knows best. He did not send Zerubbabel and Joshua back to the land for nothing. God will not abandon those who seek His face. Let us then be faithful, not discouraged.

The Vision Teaches Us About Success
And Following God

Rousing Zerubbabel out of what I believe was a depressed state, he is given a vision that tells us something great. What did Zerubbabel see?

Zechariah 4:2-3 … I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.

Zerubbabel saw a golden candlestick with seven lamps or lights shining from it’s top. Seven is the number of God. Light is what God brings into the world. This golden candlestick is a symbol of God’s Old Covenant people, Israel. In the Old Testament Israel was a light unto the world. In the New Testament we see not Moses nor Joshua, but Jesus Christ, and Him standing in the midst of seven golden Candlesticks that represent His Church:

Revelation 1:20 … the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

God has always had a people. In the Old Testament He had Israel, and in the New Testament He has His Church.

God’s Israel and God’s Church are to be light bearing, bringing forth spiritual light into this sin ridden world. The Lord shows Zerubbabel a candlestick (this is Israel) and on either side of that candlestick two olive trees. In the Bible the olive tree always symbolizes either Israel or an Israelite that God has raised up. Zerubbabel asks:

Zechariah 4:11-12 … What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?

The Angel of the Lord told Zerubbabel:

Zechariah 4:14 “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The two olive trees were Zerubbabel and Joshua. God wanted His chosen men to know that, though work was progressing slow, the work would be finished. If God is in it, nothing can stop it.

Dr. C.I. Scofield, the source of the well known Scofield Reference Bible, wrote:

“The two olive trees represent Joshua and Zerubbabel … It is only as Joshua, Zerubbabel, or any other human being represents Christ, the true Priest-King, that he fulfills this vision …”

When a child of God does the work of God that he or she is called to, that work will always be completed. It would not be completed because Joshua and Zerubbabel were great, but because God is great.

We have little strength, but God has infinite strength.
We have little resources, but God has infinite resources.

Do not allow discouragement or the size of the project to define you. Do all things to God’s glory and at His direction, and you will surely succeed!

In the Scripture the Apostle said:

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

and Jesus told us:

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

God’s Word to Zerubbabel and to you and I is that if we are working with God and for God’s glory, then we cannot be defeated. God can take our little and make it into much.

When the Apostle Paul came up against an obstacle greater than he could conquer, he sought the Lord that the Lord take it away. The Lord’s answer was:

My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It is when we – weak and unable – yield ourselves to God that God can do His greatest miracles. Once the Apostle Paul realized this he said:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 … 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.

Why did God have Zerubbabel and Joshua wait for 16 years before they finished the Temple?

Because the first part of rebuilding the Temple was accomplished in the power of man. But building the Temple is a God work. So the Lord had the work stopped until Zerubbabel humbled himself and, in brokenness, surrendered himself to God. What did the Apostle say?

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

When we surrender, doing God’s will, the Lord will then enable and do His good pleasure. The Angel of God told Zerubbabel:

Zechariah 4:6-7 … This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. 7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

Let me put this in a language for all to understand. Once Zerubbabel surrendered to God the Lord told him “This is MY work, not YOUR work. I will do it. I will do it. And the foundation you built will not go to waste. Zerubbabel, you will lay the headstone – not the cornerstone, but the headstone, the top. You will complete this Temple, for I am going to make it happen. The mountain of opposition and despair shall be leveled, for I the Lord Thy God shall level it for Zerubbabel.

When we stop trying to do God’s job and let God be God and we His faithful children and subjects, then and only then will light and life come back into our nation.

Zechariah 4:9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.

Do Not Despise The Day Of Small Things

Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? …

People have a tendency to despise small things. But when God intends to bring about a great thing, He always starts with small things.

  • From one man Abram God brought forth a nation Israel. (Genesis 12)
  • From a walking stick lifted by an old man God parted the waters of the Red Sea
  • From a little shepherd boy David God brought down Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)
  • From the jawbone of an ass Samson killed 1000 Philistines (Judges 15:14-16)
  • From a handful of meal and a little oil God fed three people through a famine (2 Kings 4)
  • From a child’s lunch Jesus fed 5000 men. (Matthew 14:13-21)

The greatest picture of what God does with small things is seen in the birth of Christ. God told a very young virgin she would have a son. She brought forth her son, and lay Him in a manger. The reason this small baby came was:

Matthew 1:21 … thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Eternal God became human child in order to save us from our sins. Such a small baby. Such a singular Man. Yet God chose to bring us salvation through this one Man.

God works through small things.
How does God save us?

By our small act of faith and obedience.

There are many who will leave this life one day and wake up in hell. Why? Because they did the BIG things they thought would impress God, but never did the one small thing He asked. Jesus said:

John 3:14-18 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

What is it that keeps a man, a woman, or a child from the Kingdom of God? It is but a small thing. God did not ask us to do some heroic, extremely difficult thing that only a few can accomplish. I have been at the gym before and seen men squat lift 500 pounds in weight. If I had to lift 500 pounds in weight to go to Heaven or to be adopted into the family of God, then I would be damned forever. I have seen men and women do pull ups, go through college courses and graduate with honors, play intricate instruments and melodies. Had God made a test for His adoptive Children one or strength or agility, many of us would die in our sins. But God did not do this.

The way into Heaven is through small things.

Romans 10:9-10 …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.

Why, WHO can do this? Why, EVERYONE who is not arrogant within themselves. A small repentance. A small confession. A small act of obedience. The Apostle preached:

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

“But”, you say, “This seems too little, and too easy. Surely there is more to entering the Family of God!” It may seem more, but it is not. Jesus said that the only way to enter into Heaven is to become small yourselves.

Matthew 18:1-3 1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Oh Beloved, it is the small things that matter with God. The deadliest animal in the world is neither lion, nor bear, nor tiger, nor snake. The deadliest of all creatures is the tiny mosquito, responsible for the deaths of millions every year. No one will go to hell because of the big sins – murder, rape, adultery, theft. No, the sin that will damn will be the small thing. The little disobedience. The times we spend judging others rather than asking ourselves:

Am I serving the Lord? Am I His, and is He mine?

It is the tiny cancer cell that kills the body. It is the failure to believe as God asks that damns the soul. Have YOU been saved by faith in Christ? The small things matter. Trust God. Believe on Him. He will take care of the rest.

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

Posted in Sermons Preached, Zechariah Sermons | Tagged , , , ,

Our Great Commission

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Photo by Maria Krisanova on Unsplash

The Great Commission that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to us, His Church, is:

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Our Lord in the “Great Commission” gives us:

A Promise
A Direction
An Action
and A Teaching

Let’s look at each of these things in detail, as what Jesus said is what we as His Church are to do and believe.

Let’s Examine The Promise

Matthew 28:18 … All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.

Jesus said “All power is GIVEN unto Me”. Who gave Jesus power, all power? Unless you believe the Doctrine of the Trinity of God what the Lord said makes no sense.

One of the most difficult doctrines of the Scripture is the Trinity of God. Some people believe that the Trinity is a human invention. Our Oneness Pentecostal brethren believe that there is no Trinity, but the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all manifestations of one God Who is Jesus Christ. But we know this is not true on several levels. For instance, when Jesus was baptized John the Baptist did not want to baptize the Master. But Jesus told him:

Matthew 3:15 {Allow} it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.

Baptism is a ceremonial washing that priests were to undergo before they served God (Leviticus 8:6). Baptism symbolizes a separation unto God. Jesus was already separated unto God. But if Jesus was going to be our Messiah and the Lamb of God Who would suffer and die for our sins, then Jesus had to do what God expected of Him. So Jesus was baptized. Immediately following Christ’s fulfillment of all righteousness the Scripture says:

Matthew 3:16-17 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

You see both the Holy Spirit descending like a dove to Jesus, and the Father speaking from Heaven. Jesus Christ is indeed God. The Book of Hebrews declares:

Hebrews 1:8-9 But unto the Son {God} saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

God equates Jesus to be God. Jesus is God. He is God the Son, the Word become flesh Who dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus is equally God with the Father (“I and my Father are One” – John 10:30). Jesus Christ is the God-Man. God Incarnate. God Who was:

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

It is this same Jesus Who tells us:

Matthew 28:18 … All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.

When Jesus Christ was born He lowered Himself to come to this earth for us. He took upon Himself the weaknesses of the human frame – but NOT its sin. Jesus Christ was always and will always be without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Jesus emptied Himself, laying aside albeit temporarily He eternal power as He did the Father’s will. Jesus told us that:

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father

All power has been given to Jesus. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When Daniel saw Christ he said:

Daniel 7:14 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.

When Jesus Christ gave His Great Commission He was not speaking as some Rabbi or Didaskalos (Master Teacher). Jesus was speaking as the Son of God, the King of all Kings. Of His kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33). God the Son said:

John 3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

Everything belongs to Jesus. All things – whether in Heaven or on earth – are under His direct control. Furthermore, Jesus said:

John 5:22-27 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 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.

As Jesus spoke His Commission, He did not speak as a mere person, but the Very Person of God. All power is given unto Me! Last week we sang and clapped to:

He’s got the whole world in His hands;
He’s got whole wide world in His hands;
He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands!

The Father had given all things into His hands” (John 13:3). Jesus prayed:

John 17:2 As Thou {O Father} hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him …

It is this Lord, this Eternal God made flesh Who directs us to go outward. It is He Who able Who says “Go”. Our Jesus is:

Ephesians 1:20-22 … Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come …

This Lord has bid that we go. This Jesus is with us. Unless the lost believe in Him, there is no hope. For there is

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given unto men whereby we might be saved.

It is He – the Great God Who controls all things – Who bids us “Go”. We need not fear what anyone else might bring against us, for our God is able! Jesus Christ is able! The One Who gave the Great Commission has promised to stand beside us and enable us to do as He has decreed.

Let’s Examine The Direction

Matthew 28:19 GO ye therefore, and teach all nations,

GO. This is an action verb. GO. Not STAY HERE, but GO. Go where? To only people like us? No, to every person.

GO to those of color.
GO to the sexually confused.
GO to the spiritually confused.
GO to the poor.
GO to the rich.
GO to the alcoholic and drug abusers.
GO to the haters.
GO to the racist.
GO to the sick.
GO to the elderly.
GO outside of your comfort zone.
GO and tell others of Jesus.

Our Lord Jesus was not a “respecter of persons”, nor is the Heavenly Father a “respecter of persons”. The Scripture says:

Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

Jesus came for all, and we should GO to all. The Bible says that when He first came “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Jesus Christ came to the Jew first because God had promised Abraham and his descendants the blessings of salvation. So the glorious Gospel was first preached to the Jews. But Jesus never intended to keep the Gospel just among the Jews. The Apostle said:

Romans 1:16 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.

God made all people in His image and in His likeness:

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make 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.

We all descended from Adam and Eve.
We are all
remnants of the Noahic Flood.

It is God’s intention to save all humans regardless of color if they would but turn to Jesus. The Bible says:

Psalms 22:27-28 ALL THE ENDS OF THE WORLD shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and ALL THE KINDREDS OF THE NATIONS SHALL WORSHIP BEFORE THEE. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.

Mark 16:15-16 … Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

We are to tell all who will listen that if they but repent and turn from their ways to follow Jesus, they too shall be saved (Luke 24:47-48). Respect of persons” is an evil that God does not condone.

Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Every soul is equally valuable to God. Jesus Christ died for all men, women, and children (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Our God shows no partiality – and neither should we (Acts 10:34; Colossians 3:11).

Let’s Examine The Action

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

The Great Commission of Jesus directs us to both TEACH as well as BAPTIZE.

  • Can you be SAVED and not be baptized? Absolutely. Jesus Christ told the thief who died next to Him on Calvary that day:

Luke 23:43 … Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Jesus could not baptize this man, nor could the man be baptized. The thief was nailed to the Cross next to Christ’s Cross. The Roman guards were not going to let him down to be baptized. So yes, you can be saved and not be baptized. If baptism were mandatory for salvation the Apostle Paul would have never said:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

But now I ask the other question.

  • Can you be LOST and not be baptized? ABSOLUTELY. You see, our Lord Jesus commanded water baptism. In fact, our Lord Jesus was Himself saved. Let’s go back to something we already covered that you may have slept through. When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John refused to do so initially because he felt unworthy. But Jesus told John:

Matthew 3:15 {Allow} it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. {Then John baptized Jesus}

Jesus told John it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus’ ministry did not start until He was baptized. He was baptized – sinless as He was – to fulfill all righteousness. Baptism is an act of obedience. We who are saved are baptized because Jesus said to do so. Just as God the Father wanted Jesus to be baptized, we who are saved by faith in Him are baptized in the same way. It is an act of obedience.

For a Christian to refuse to be baptized is the same as saying “No” to Jesus. This is what the Master commanded. So we who love Jesus are baptized. Not to be saved, but because we are saved. Baptism marks your commitment to Christ. It is your way of saying “Yes, Lord” to Him Who loved you, and gave His life to you. What saith the Scripture?

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

Repent (turn from your sin and toward Jesus) AND be baptized for the remission of sins AND THEN you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. God comes and binds Himself to the person who is obedient to His commandment. The proof of salvation is that you keep Christ’s commandments. Jesus said:

John 14:21 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.

The proof that you love Jesus is that you do what He says. Your actions are witnesses to what is in your heart. Jesus went on to say:

John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

You can say “I love Jesus” all day long, but to willingly refuse to do what He has commanded is proof that you really don’t love Him. You see, many love God for what God can give them, but they have no love for God. God knows if you love Him. And when you are obedient, God comes to you and makes His abode (dwelling place) with you (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Beloved, be obedient to Jesus. Be baptized. Follow Him. This is proof of your love.

Let’s Examine The Teaching

Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU:

What is it that we as God’s people are to teach. Our opinions? What we think is right? Our political affiliations? The words and ways of the world? No, no, no, no … absolutely not. We are to teach them to observe all things that Jesus commanded.

ἐντέλλομαι entéllomai, (pronounced en-tel’-lom-ahee)
to order done

God made us, and God knows what is best for us!

God told His Old Covenant people:

Deuteronomy 5:32 Ye shall observe TO DO therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe TO DO it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Our Lord Jesus commands us as His New Covenant people to not just hear what He says – but to DO it. The early Church was so serious about this that the Apostle said:

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

Those who rejected the Word of Christ and refused to follow His commandment were shunned from the fellowship of the Church. Beloved, we are called of God to serve our God. We are born again into God’s Kingdom to follow our King. The Apostle said:

1 Timothy 6:3-4 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing,

The Christian who disobeys his Lord is at danger of God’s punishment, not to mention he or she brings destruction on themselves. Beloved, let us remember the words of our Lord:

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: 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. 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: 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.

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

Posted in Matthew, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

On Spiritual Gifts

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Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Everybody loves receiving gifts. But not everybody gives good gifts. I remember many years ago my wife and I attended a Christmas party hosted by Sherry’s Aunt Stevelin. We called her Aunt Steve, and I really loved her. She was a lot like my own Aunt Dot, full of mischief and joy of the Lord. Anyway, Sherry and I took our friend Joe Czajkowski with us. Aunt Steve wanted us to give out gifts that night, but they really weren’t expecting Joe. Anyway, as we gave gifts out Aunt Steve gave my friend Joe a gift – something I have to believe was a re-gift. She gave Joe three pairs of “Santa Claus” underwear. Joe was embarrassed, but accepted with a grin. I can only expect he re-gifted this “present” somewhere else.

We all like to receive gifts – but if you’re like me, there are gifts you have received that you didn’t really like. You might have received something that you couldn’t use – like Santa Claus underwear. But if you’re a Christian, saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given you a gift beyond grace. He has not only given you Himself, but God gives us all spiritual gifts.

Every Christian should be interested in spiritual gifts, because every Christian has a spiritual gift.

Our God Gives Good Gifts

What is a “Spiritual Gift”? Dr. Charles Stanley wrote in The Believer’s Toolbox:

A spiritual gift is a special ability from God. William McRae, who wrote {the book} Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, defined it as “an ability to function effectively and significantly in a particular service as a member of Christ’s body, the church.” In {his book} The Holy Spirit, Billy Graham compares spiritual gifts to tools. Each member of the body of Christ has been given one of these tools to use in building the body.

Through the distribution and networking of spiritual gifts, God has created a system ensuring that: (1) every believer has a significant role in the body of Christ; and (2) believers work together to accomplish His overall purpose.”

Many Christians or professing Christians have never discover their spiritual gifts. Why? Because they do not try to fulfill the will of God in their spiritual lives. As we studied last Sunday in:

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

The Christian who refuses to put on his “armor of God” daily will never discover their spiritual gift. Remember this?

Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the WHOLE armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

If you do not put on the whole armor of God daily then you are not able to stand for God.

No one gives a car key to a four year old toddler and says, “Go ahead and drive”. Spiritual gifts are given
to obedient stewards of the Grace of God.

Are you living within the Grace of God?
Are you honoring God by rejecting sin and living for the Savior?
Are you in obedience to the Scripture which says:

Ephesians 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former {way of life} the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God, but the Spirit will not manifest a spiritual gift in a dirty and disarrayed temple. Twice Jesus cast sin out of the Temple of God in Israel (John 2:13–15; Matthew 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46). Like Jesus we must CONFESS SIN and CLEANSE ourselves – our temple – or the Spirit will not be manifest. Sin must be confessed (1 John 1:8-10). The believer must humble himself to where he or she can hear God.

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in die time: Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.

An Idolater Cannot Exercise A Spiritual Gift

In the Old Testament God’s Israel sometimes moved into idolatry. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, he was only gone 40 days before Israel decided to create a god. They took all of the jewelry that they were given by the Egyptians as they left that land, and had Aaron melt it down, telling him “make us gods which shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1). Why did they do this? Because they had not been following God, but they were following Moses. Aaron quickly agreed, and made a molten calf (Exodus 32:4), saying,

These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

The idolatry of Israel nearly caused God to destroy it. Beloved, any time a church or a people are destroyed, it is because of idolatry. When a person or a thing or a concept takes the place of Almighty God, He is not pleased. Let me give you my definition of an idol – and you are free to disagree. But to me,

An idol is anything that requires nothing of me but my own desire and pleasure. An idol is a reflection of a disobedient soul. Rather than maintain the standard that the true God establishes, an idol allows me to put words in the mouth of my god. An idol is truly a reflection of man’s rebellion against the True God.

Where did Israel learn idolatry? Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years, much of that time as slaves. The Gentiles developed idols. That’s why when the Apostles addresses this predominately Gentile Church he says:

1 Corinthians 12:2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

Gentiles love idols. I was listening to a song by Toby Mac the other day called Lose My Soul, when these lyrics caught my attention:

America has no more stars, now we call them idols,
You sit idle while we teach prosperity,
The first thing to prosper should be inside of me.

Gentiles have always been good at creating idols. We have idols out of sex (both heterosexual as well as homosexual), money, power, technology … and on and on. Notice how the Apostle says it. “Gentiles CARRIED AWAY unto these DUMB idols.” Why “CARRIED AWAY”? Because when you reject the counsel of God and listen to the counsel of sin it carries you far away from God. Albert Barnes in his commentary said:

Carried away – Led along; that is, deluded by your passions, deluded by your priests, deluded by your vain and splendid rites of worship. The whole system made an appeal to the senses … The word which is used ἀπαγόμενοι apagomenoi conveys properly the idea of being carried into bondage, or being led to punishment”

Idols are make believe gods – that’s why they are called “dumb idols”. The Bible describes idols this way:

Psalm 115:3-8 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. 8 They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

You can follow God and be empowered, or follow an idol and be carried away. You cannot be both.

God does not operate through an idolater. He will not empower spiritual gifts to those who are carried away by themselves. Spiritual gifts are not given to bless the receiver. No, absolutely not! A spiritual gift will not magnify the darkness, nor tolerate sin. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer to do what? Jesus said:

John 16:13-14 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. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

The Spirit cannot give a gift that does not glorify Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is why we are told in our context:

1 Corinthians 12:3 … no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Where a spiritual gift is in action, that which is glorified will always be Jesus. The spiritual gift that is indeed a spiritual gift does not puff us up, but magnifies God the Son. The spiritual gift promotes the Kingdom of Christ. If you are an idolater you will not be exercising a spiritual gift. If you have unconfessed sin in your life you will not be exercising a spiritual gift. Sin both quenches as well as grieves the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Sin is not negotiable.

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

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God

To be used of God the idols must be cast away. Sins must be confessed. We must humble ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit Who bestows the Spiritual gifts. Why?

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit {with all}.

The spiritual gifts bless the Body of Christ, the church. Who decides what gifts each believer has? We are told:

1 Corinthians 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

A Divided Church Cannot Enjoy Spiritual Gifts

It is not just idolatry that deprives us of spiritual gifts. Idolatry drives a wedge between us and God. Selfishness and self centeredness also damages a Church.

I was reading an article today about the Methodist Church. Entitled “United Methodist Leaders Propose Plan To Split Church Over LGBTQ Ordination, Marriage”, the article describes the troubles that are plaguing Methodists. The article stated:

Pressure to split one of the largest denominations in the United States has grown since last year’s special session of the United Methodist General Conference approved the so-called Traditional Plan strengthening the church’s bans on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists. … “All of us are servants of the church and realize that we are not the primary decision makers on these matters,” Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone said in a written statement on behalf of the group that wrote the proposal.”

Without getting into this debate I can tell you that Methodists in Africa and Asia are much more conservative and Bible believing than their American counterparts. Idolatry crept into the church when the Bible, God’s Word, was no longer regarded as truthful in all that it affirms. This idolatry has led to a division in that church. God will not bless an idolatrous church, nor will he bless a divided Church.

The Apostle emphasizes the importance of unity insofar as spiritual gifts are concerned by writing:

1 Corinthians 12:11-13 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.

It is God’s intention that the body be ONE. We are to be at ONE with God and His Word, and at ONE with one another. We dare not be as Israel was and be at one with idolatry – for God will not bless this. What did John say?

1 John 1:5-7 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

God will not walk in the darkness. He will not justify sexual sin, a defiance of His created order. God stays in the light, so we are to walk in the light with Jesus and with one another. As we do so the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.

The Holy Spirit applies the sacrifice of Christ to our lives, thereby saving us. The Holy Spirit indwells us so that He can guide us in God’s Truth. And it is the Holy Spirit that unites us into one body, the local church. The Apostle now illustrates this:

1 Corinthians 12:15-19 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

Two questions came into my mind as I read these texts. Let’s examine the first:

1 If you had to lose a body part (and I am not speaking of hair or nails), what part would you willingly get rid of? What would you cut off? Would you lose a little finger willingly? How about a little toe? The little toe has the hardest nail to cut on your whole body. Would you cut it off and limp away happy? What about the eyes or ears. You have two of each of those organs. Would you cut those off? Just one. Just one.

My friend, there is no body part that I want to do away with. No matter how small, or insignificant, that part is part of me. In the same way every part of the body of Christ is valuable. Some parts do one thing. Other parts do another thing. When all of the parts work together under the leadership of the head (and our Head is Jesus Christ) then things get done. In the article I read to you a little while ago one of the Methodist Bishops, Will Willimon (a professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School) said:

Schism is always sad for a church”

God does not want His church divided. His church is to follow His Word, not worldly opinion. His church is to imitate Christ in love and service. The Apostle said:

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

God is not in division or schism. God sets the members in the body as it pleases Him – and each member should work together to please the Head – our Lord Jesus Christ!

The second question that came to my mind was this:

2 If you were a body part, which part would you want to be? Now some might quickly say, “I want to be the head”. It’s like that old song, Everybody Wants To Rule The World. People love power. Ok. Let’s say you are the head. What can you do as the head? Absolutely nothing. A head without a body is just a bowling ball with hair. Some would say, “I’d like to be the eyes”. Ok, so you’re the eyes. What can you do other than sit there and look? If you were a hand or finger without an arm you are totally useless. If you are feet or legs without a torso to pump blood or a head to direct, you are absolutely nothing. What is the point of this? Beloved, the body is composed of many different parts, and all parts must work together if anything is to be done. When I get hungry I get in the car and find food. Once I find it, I eat it. How many parts had to work together for me to feed myself.

Every single one.

No parts are invaluable – unless those parts refuse to be part of the whole. That’s what cancer is. It is when part of the body goes rogue, and decides it wants to do its own thing. If cancer continues unabated it is not long before the body is dead, head and all.

Beloved, we need one another.
And Family, we desperately need God.
We need Jesus, and God’s written Word.
We need to follow Him.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

You are God’s Church. If you are saved by faith in Christ, you are indwelt with His Spirit. God wants you to use your spiritual gifts to build up the Body. He wants you to win other souls to join in our mission, to win the world for Christ. We cannot do this compromising with the world. We must follow God’s Word. We must be imitators of Christ. We must share the Gospel with the lost, encouraging them to repent and give themselves to Jesus. We must! May God touch you with His Word and His Spirit! Amen.

Posted in 1 Corinthians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Our Purpose And Goal

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Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash

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

Not too far from our Church on the Nashville Highway is a Church called “A Church With A Purpose”. I’ve seen churches pop up with many different names. We have a Church in town called “Connections”, one that meets in a High School called “The Bridge”. As I was headed to Nashville last week I noticed “The Bridge” has built a large, new facility off of highway 396. Good for them.

I thought about the name “Church With A Purpose”. Isn’t that what every Church should be? We should and do have a purpose. It is not to entertain, but to lead others to Christ. Once led to Christ, we teach one another how to live in the Kingdom of Christ, following His example in all that we do.

I listened to a rather harsh sermon preached by Evangelist Paul Washer the other day where he castigated American Christianity. He has preached in many different lands, and seen Christians all over the world come to Christ, then begin to live for Christ. In his sermon – which I could not disagree with – he remarked that American Christianity for the most part is no different than the lost world. The Church that is supposed to be “the light of the world” looks just the same as the darkness. Sadly, this is true.

Christianity is not just about going to Heaven. It is about bringing Heaven to earth. It is about living under the leadership of Christ. We are supposed to be living like Jesus, loving like Jesus, helping others to walk like Jesus. This is our calling. This is why God left us on the earth. Whether your Church is called “The Bridge”, “Connections”, “A Church With A Purpose” or “Riverview”, every member of the Church is supposed to be born again Children of God. We are to imitate our Savior and Lord. Our lives should clearly reflect Christ to all around us.

For To Me”: What Is True For MY Life?

Let’s take our verse today and as God leads, open it up. The verse reads:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Now let’s take out the word “Christ” and put a blank there. And let’s take out the word gainand put a blank there. Now our verse reads:

For to me to live is ________, and to die is ________.”

What would you put in these blanks for yourself? Every religion attempts to answer the questions “What is life?” and “What is death?”. The secular religion of HUMANISM, so prevalent in our world today, says:

For to me to live is for myself, and to die is loss.”

Modern evangelism has catered to this notion. We have filled Churches with people who think that life is all about themselves. Religion teaches that God is our Servant, that He exists to wait on us, to do for us, to bless us. In reality Humanism and Secularism just teach that “I am God” and that God must placate me if He wishes to live. That’s what sin is, Beloved.

Sin is the making of an idol called “Myself”, making myself the God of the universe.

The problem with making ourselves gods is that – eventually – we all die. If I make MYSELF the center of the universe, if I make MYSELF big and God small, then death is NOT gain but LOSS. Death is a TERRIBLE LOSS to those who worship themselves. An idol is when you give anything or anyone more glory and more respect and obedience than you give the God of Scripture. An idol cannot save me. I cannot say “for to me to live is ME and to die is GAIN” because that wouldn’t be true. Death is the bringing of less of me.

Let’s consider the Apostle Paul, the one who wrote these divinely inspired words. Paul did not start out as Paul – he started as Saul. Saul was a very religious man. He tells us in

Galatians 1:13-14 … ye have heard of my {way of life} in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Saul (Paul) was a very religious man. When he gives his biography he puts us all to shame on how religious he was. He said:

Philippians 3:4-6 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Saul lived his life perfectly as a Pharisee. He served on the Jewish Board of Elders called the Sanhedrin. As the Pharisees hated Christ, they also hated the Church. The Pharisees commissioned Saul to hunt down and bring Christians to destruction.

The first time we see Saul revealed was in the life of the Christian named Stephen. Stephen loved the Lord.

Stephen also believed that to live is Christ, to die is gain.

When his life was threatened he refused to denounce Jesus. The Bible says that the Pharisees …

Acts 7:58-59 {cast Stephen} out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, {as Stephen called} upon God, … saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

As Stephen bloodily died Saul was one of the witnesses and perpetrators of his death. At this point in his life for Saul to live is religion, not Christ. Saul left that place that day to bring great persecution against the Church. The Bible says that:

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and {dragging out} men and women committed them to prison.

For Saul, “Christ” was not in the blank. For Saul to live was the Sanhedrin. To live was religion. To live was for self. Saul sought to please not God, but a corrupt religious system that had denigrated into a works salvation. Saul thought he was living for God as he killed others. He was much like the confused of the Muslim faith today who, preaching Jihad, believe that they are doing God’s Work by murdering others. The Bible tells us that:

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

Saul went looking for those who were “in the Way”. Early Christians were not called “Christians” at the beginning. They were called “Followers of the Way”. This is because Jesus told His people:

John 14:6 I am the Way, the truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but BY ME!

Saul was hunting for those in the Way. He himself thought that He was in the Way. But he was not. Our Lord Jesus Christ knocked Saul down on the Damascus Road. The Bible says that Saul:

Acts 9:4-5 {Saul} fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest

On that day Saul changed. He moved from Saul to Paul. Jesus Christ changed him. Prior to meeting Jesus, Saul made an idol out of religion, out of Phariseeism, out of pleasing a misguided High Priest and a council of ruling elders. What is it that God hath said? What is the very first commandment? Jesus told us:

Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

When you make yourself big and make God small then you have violated the very first commandment. If you violate the first, you will violate all the others as well. If you make yourself bigger than God then others will be smaller than you as well. That is sin. To those for whom God is small and they are big, their final destination is not Heaven but Hell, a place of eternal torment.

I believe hell is a place of eternal torment because of it’s content. When you trap a bunch of selfish idolaters – people who lived to elevate themselves above God – in a single location,
you have hell!

Hell is where the selfish go. Hell is where those go who say “For to me, to live is ME, and to die is LOSS”. Because death for those without Christ is an absolute and total loss.

For Saul Death Is Loss,
But For Paul Death Is Gain

When Jesus knocked Saul down on the Damascus Road, He did something with Paul that He does with every Christian.

God gave Saul a new heart.

I have heard preachers say “Give your heart to Jesus”. That’s not a bad statement. But the truth is, if you belong to Jesus then God gave you a new heart. That is the very essence of the New Covenant that Christ offers to us. A new heart. God told His people in the Old Testament:

Ezekiel 11:19-20 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

God broke Saul on the Damascus Road, and gave Saul a new heart. God takes the person who is broken, who has tried to live life as if they were the center of all things, the selfish, the “me first” group. He takes these surrendered souls and, upon their unconditional surrender to Him through Jesus Christ, God puts in those children a new heart. God said:

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.

This is what God has done for us in Christ. When Saul was converted by God our Savior he became Paul. God put a new heart in him. God puts a new heart in all of His children.

When Paul got up from the Damascus Road, his life was changed. He began to follow Christ. He began to live not to please the Sanhedrin, or to please his neighbor, but to please Jesus. Whereas before his conversion Saul sought to destroy the Church, Paul sought to build it up. Before he was saved Saul sought to please himself. Now as Paul, he wants to please Jesus Christ his Lord.

Paul is now writing this letter in chains. He is headed toward a horrible death in Rome. Nero was the Emperor of Rome at this time. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote:

Besides being put to death, the Christians were made to serve as objects of amusement. They were clothed in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Others were crucified. Others were set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed.”

Paul was facing a horrible death. How did he approach it? He told the Philippian Church:

Philippians 1:12-14 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul did not consider his approaching death to be a waste. No! He said “God has allowed this for the furtherance of the Gospel”. As a prisoner brought before Nero, Paul would be in a perfect position to share the Gospel with that lost soul. Those who were in the inner palace who would never hear the Gospel otherwise would now hear it from the lips of a condemned man. Paul knew that others, seeing his courage in the face of impending death, would not only come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, but would also be emboldened to share their faith.

Paul lived his faith as if GOD WERE BIG and he were small. He cherished Jesus. Not only this, Paul looked forward to his death. He said:

Philippians 1:23-24 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Paul was not concerned about keeping his life for himself. He looked forward to leaving this earth, for he fully believed the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was willing to stay on this earth to bless and serve other believers, but Paul earnestly desired to be with Christ, which is far better. The Apostle encouraged us, his Church family, to be as he is. He said:

Philippians 1:27-30 Only let your {way of life} be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29 For UNTO YOU IT IS GIVEN IN THE BEHALF OF CHRIST, NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE ON HIM, BUT ALSO TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

The German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes the words of Christ when he said:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. (The Cost of Discipleship, 99)”

Saul died the day he met Jesus as Lord and Savior,
and Paul was born.

Saul lived for himself. Paul lived for Christ. The same is true for every Christian. If you are born again into God’s Kingdom by faith in Jesus, then to live is Christ, to die is gain.

What Is True For Me?

The first three words in our text today are:

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

This is where the rubber meets the road. What is true in your life? Do you see death as gain, or a terrible loss? Then you need to surrender to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are told in:

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

You have tried living life with yourselves as god. Now let’s try something new. Let us bring our broken lives to Jesus. Jesus healed the lepers, the crippled, the blind, the deaf. Jesus cast out the demons that afflicted the people. The Great Physician our Jesus is able to diagnose and cure you – but you must come to and submit to Him. If you go to your doctor for a problem, you listen to your doctor. You do what your doctor says. You submit to that doctor if you want to be healed.

Even so, you must submit to Jesus. To live is Christ. Here is the Source of life, and that Source is Jesus. Jesus came for we who are broken. He said:

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.

I say along with the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 2:2-5 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

There is a man powered faith that modern evangelism preaches, and there is a God powered faith that the Bible preaches. This is the faith you need to have – a God powered faith. A faith that submits to Christ. A faith that says, “For to me, to live is Christ.”

Once saved dear Christian, you are to follow the Lord Who saved you. You are to imitate Christ in everything.

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

In order to follow Christ, we must know Him from the Scripture. We must know Him, and the POWER of His RESURRECTION, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10-11). We must do as Jesus said:

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

This is why we come together as a Church – to learn more about Jesus from God’s Word. To learn of Him. To live like Him in all things. For to me, to live is Christ. We who are His give up all in order to follow Him:

Mark 10:29-30 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

I conclude with this quote from Matt Chandler:

To live is Christ” means that Christ is our focus, our goal, and our chief desire. Christ is the center point of our mind, heart, body and soul. Everything that we do, we do for Christ’s glory. As we run the “race marked out for us,” we lay aside the entangling sin and worldly distractions, “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He is our life.”

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

Posted in Philippians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year CVR

Psalm 146:5-6 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: 6 Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever.

Many people stayed up late last night to “Ring in the New Year”. Bro. Jim Linam told us at Church Sunday that he usually stays up pretty late on New Year’s Eve – sometimes as late as 8 or 8:30 pm! I agree with him. Some people stay up until the New Year begins, and then fire off fireworks, hug one another, hoot and holler. Many will sing during a “New Year’s Eve Party” an old Scottish poem penned by Robert Burns and set to music in 1788 called “Auld Lang Syne”. Loosely translated the title means “for the sake of old times”:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne!

Of course, then everyone will “lift a cup”, usually of some sort of alcoholic beverage, then toast the New Year. “Happy New Year!”. Do you want to have a “Happy New Year”?

Alcohol isn’t going to do it.
A party isn’t going to do it.
A new year isn’t going to do it.
Do you know what will give you happiness in this New Year?

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is in the LORD his God

What brings us great happiness? It is to be a Christian. Not a “Cultural Christian” nor a “Nominal Christian”, but a Christ who loves Jesus and is loved of Him. I saw something the other day that said – and I quote it:

It doesn’t matter if you have given your heart to Jesus.
What matters is that Jesus has given you a new heart.

If you enter the New Year with the same old godless hear, you will not have a Happy New Year. It’ll just be more of the same – over and over again – until you make “Jesus is Lord” a reality in your life. Christians should be among the happiest people on the face of this earth.

For your New Year I want to present to you seven reasons Christians will have a Happy New Year
(and none involve alcohol)

The Sacrificial Cross Of Jesus Christ
Sufficiently Paid For All Our Sins

The Christian – saved by faith in Christ – is the only person who stands in the glory of God’s righteousness and is not damned by it’s light. God’s pronouncement on the world is without a doubt that:

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

When God says “all” He means “all”. Every baby born. Every child reared. Every man. Every woman. Some have asked me “But Brother David, what about little babies who die without Christ?” My response is that I believe God is just, and God does not condemn those who have not reached the age of accountability. But from the age of accountability and upward – to die without Christ is to meet damnation (John 3:16-18). We all fall short.

When our Lord Jesus died on the Cross His last words were:

It is finished” (John 19:30)

He did not say “I am finished” but “It is finished”. Before Jesus was crucified He prayed to the Father, saying “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4). Our Jesus did everything the Father set before Him to do. He showed us the love of God. He showed us how much God loves each person. Then there was one work left. Jesus had to die for our sins.

It is finished” is the Greek Τετέλεσται, which means “paid in full”. Among the Romans certificates of debt were stamped with this word to signify that the debt was paid in full. Jesus Christ paid for ALL of our sins. The writer of Hebrews said:

Hebrews 10:4, 9-14 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 9 Then said {Jesus}, 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. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But {Jesus}, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; … 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Jesus’ offering for sin is a once and for all offering. Dr. Tim Keller writes:

When Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion. Imagine the neighbors of early Christians asking them about their faith. “Where’s your temple?” they’d ask. The Christians would reply that they didn’t have a temple. “But how could that be? Where do your priests labor?” The Christians would have replied that they didn’t have priests. “But . . . but,” the neighbors would have sputtered, “where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” The Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.”

We come together in this place to learn more of Jesus, to learn to be better disciples. But Jesus Christ is the all sufficient sacrifice for sin – praise God forever!

God Is Always Willing To Forgive Us
When We Confess Our Sins

Psalm 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

Every word of Scripture is carefully crafted by God to convey the message He wants us to hear. Notice that God is here called “The God of JACOB”. Now who was Jacob? Jacob was the man who would one day be called “Israel” or “the one who wrestled God”. His birth name was “Jacob” which means “the one who seizes the heel”. Jacob was a conniving man who robbed his brother of his birthright. The day that God changed his name to “Israel” Jacob wrestled God in Peniel, and demanded a blessing for God. You can read all about this in Genesis 32:22-32.

Israel was the “saved” or blessed name of Jacob – but when he allowed his flesh to show through he was called “Jacob”, the name he had before surrendering his life to God. Jacob often failed God. So do we. And yet God is still the “God of Jacob”. God is not just the God of Israel, the righteous living believer. He loves the child of His that wanders, and stirs the child to return to His embrace. The Bible says:

1 John 1:6-9 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Every believer I have ever met has had an Israel side and a Jacob side. Even me. Yes, it’s true! But God saves us as we are, imperfect as we can be, and promises to stay with us. When we sin, we are to confess that sin as quickly as possible, trusting in the sufficiency of Christ. I have heard confused people say, “But you must repent and promise never to do it again”. No Beloved, that is not in the Scripture. Our blessing is in the efficacy of Christ’s blood, that He cleanses us from all sin. And yes, we will grow, and cease to follow certain sin patterns. But the strength of our faith is in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit Who indwells us. Which brings me to:

God Promises To Stay With
His Children Forever

The love that God has for us, dear believer, is immeasurable. The Apostle Paul prayed that the Church would …

Ephesians 3:18-21 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 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.

Did you read that prayer of the Apostle rightly? He prayed that we might be able to comprehend the magnitude of God’s love – even as he said “which PASSETH KNOWLEDGE”. The love – the breadth of the love that God has for we who are his Children is INCOMPREHENSIBLE. God’s love is not cheap. His love required the death of His Son on a terrible Cross. Jesus did not die for His friends. He did not die for His family. Jesus died for His enemies. He died for slaves of sin. The Apostle writes:

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

Dying for our sins, the Lord has promised “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus did not say “I will never leave thee except for ____”. Some people view the love of God conditionally. It is unconditional. He has promised to stay with us to the the end of the world.

Matthew 28:20 … lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

My imperfections condemn me daily, but not so my Heavenly Father, my blessed Elder Brother, and my ever Present Holy Spirit. The Lord your God is with you no matter where you go (Joshua 1:9).

Psalm 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

God is my Help, my Love, my Heart, my Sustenance. As the great commentator Matthew Henry said:

Happy are those who have the Lord for their God, for they have a God that they cannot be robbed of. Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God.”

We who are Christ’s by faith have a wonderful, Almighty God Who has promised:

Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Our God is able!

The God Who Is Our Savior And Lord
Is Sovereign Over All

Psalm 146:5-6 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: 6 Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is …

Life has it’s ups and downs, it frightening moments and happinesses. The Christian should be the happiest person on earth because nothing happens by chance that happens to us. Our God is in control of all things. King David said:

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 … David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. 11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. 13 Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

It is the same God Who made all things that has saved us. God is in control. God is the power that moves our planet, controls our sun, makes our heart beat. There is nothing that escapes God’s intention. I myself do not know how many hairs are on my head – nor do I really care. To me, hair is inconsequential. But the God Who saved us said:

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

God did the most for you at the Cross of Calvary. Shall He now abandon His work that He purchased with His own Blood (Acts 20:28)? The Apostle Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He was also condemned by others who were preachers themselves. You would think that being condemned for doing good would discourage the Apostle, but he wrote:

Philippians 1:12-18 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

God left us on this earth to represent Him, and to share the glorious Gospel of Christ. We are not imprisoned because God is impotent. We are imprisoned so that God can give us an opportunity to preach to the prisoners. We are hospitalized so that God can use us to bring the light of the glorious Gospel into the hospitals and nursing homes. We are living lights, Christ’s “light of the world, a city that cannot be hid” (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14-16). We are to reflect Christ’s light where ever we go. Our God is in control. He is in control. Let us trust Him and glorify Him no matter what may come.

One Day We Who Are Christ’s
Shall Be In The Happiest Place Of All

Psalm 146:5-6 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: 6 Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever.

I have heard it said that “Disneyland is the Happiest Place on earth”. That may be true … but only if you have a lot of money. A one day ticket to Disneyland costs between $97 to $135, depending on the time of the year. That’s a one day ticket. For one person. Motels at Disney cost between $191 to $4705 per day.

I don’t think that’s a very happy place!

But there is a place that costs an infinite price, a place reserved for God’s Children. This place is called “Heaven”. Heaven is God’s Promise to us who love Him.

Though “Heaven” doesn’t have the rides that Disneyland has, it has something better. Much better. The Christian has a wonderful testimony, as King David praised God:

Psalm 21:4-6 He asked life of thee, and Thou {O Lord} gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. 5 His glory is great in Thy salvation: honor and majesty hast Thou laid upon him. 6 For Thou hast made him most blessed for ever: Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.

One day each Christian shall be received into glory. The redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11). We who love Jesus are not living beings headed toward death. We are eternally living beings headed toward eternal life. The great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards wrote of the believer in his sermon The Pure In Heart Blessed:

After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story; the relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever.”

We are headed toward the greatest happiness of all! Oh, what a joy it will be to see my Jesus face to face! Oh, what a joy to be eternal bliss, ever in His presence, my sin all gone! Oh what joy that will be. If you are in Christ then I bid you:

“”Happy New Year”

But if not, I beg you to come to Him Who gave Himself for you. This is all that will bring you a Happy New Year. May God touch your hearts with his Word!

Posted in Psalms, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Their Works Do Follow Them (Part 2)

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Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash

Revelation 14:12-13 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.

Our Works Follow Us – But Not Our Sins

In our first lesson we learned that you can work for God and still be lost (like a Pharisee). We also learned that those who love Jesus will work for Jesus. It is the nature of the Christian to shine for Christ.

The faith that never shines for Jesus is not a saving faith. The faith that does not produce someone who loves God and loves their neighbor is not a saving faith. Christian Singer Lauren Daigle (I love her music) was invited to and asked a direct question by Ellen Degeneres on “The Ellen Show”. The question was, “Do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?”.

I can’t honestly answer on that,” Daigle responded. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.

So when people ask questions like that…that’s what my go to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I’m learning too,” she continued.

You and I know what the Bible says, but to be honest, I like her answer. Read the Bible. Seek Christ. If God is in you – if you are saved and sanctified by the Lord – then sin will be swept out of your life. We are not to be judges – and Lauren was going to be tested on the “Ellen Show” because of the nature of the host. But we are not called to judge others. A sinner is a sinner because that sinner has not met Jesus. We need to show others Jesus. If Lauren had answered otherwise, she would have been booed and ridiculed off of the show. The darkness does not like the light. So the best answer she could give was “read your Bible. Seek Christ. Let God lead you. I am not your judge, but God is.” When God comes to you, you will be both saved as well as sanctified.

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM.

When we leave this earth “in the Lord” we then “rest from our labors”. The Christian works for Christ on this earth.

As Saints of God we live for Him. We need to know that “Our works do follow us”. I do not believe our sins follow us, for Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from ALL SIN.

If the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from ALL sin then I do not believe that sin will ever follow us to Heaven. I believe the Bible supports this truth.

Christian, your sins will never be an issue between you and God. The Prophet said:

Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. 19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou WILT CAST ALL THEIR SINS INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA.

Dwight L. Moody said:

God has cast our confessed sins into the depths of the sea, and He’s even put a “No Fishing” sign over the spot!”

When God forgives us for Christ’s sake He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. I believe that, upon salvation, my sins were cast into the Sea of Grace. Grace like a flood covered my imperfections and inconsistencies with God. Because of Jesus I am accepted of God the Father.

Our sin is under that precious Blood of Christ.

Psalm 103:11-13 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. 13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

God casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. If you were to travel north, you would get so far before you would be going south. North turns to south. But east to west is an infinite line that never meets. If you travel west, you will always head west – forever! Our sins are covered – forgiven by God. What has God said?

Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and WILL NOT REMEMBER THY SINS.

If God does not remember our sins, then how can He ever hold them against us? He cannot, lest God be a liar. And God, dear friend, is NEVER a liar! Why does God not remember our sins? Because when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior His sacrifice completely covers our sins. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

Hebrews 10:14-18 For by one offering HE HATH PERFECTED FOR EVER THEM THAT ARE SANCTIFIED. 15 [Whereof] the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This [is] the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin.

We are perfect – positionally perfect in God’s eyes – because of what Jesus did for us. We are PERFECTED FOREVER. Sin is not an issue for the Christ Child, but obedience is. We are freed from the enslavement of goodness in order to serve and glorify our Savior. Our God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because of what Jesus did we are sanctified – Sons of God who are now becoming the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). God has:

Isaiah 38:17 … cast all my sins behind thy back.

Our sins are no longer remembered.

Sins Will Not Follow Us, But Our Works Will –
And They Will Be Judged

The Apostle chastised the Church at Rome for judging one another’s works. We as Christians are unfit to judge others. We do not judge. God is the Judge. His Word is the Judge. Here’s what was happening in Rome.

Rome was the seat of much of the pagan and idolatrous worship in the ancient world. The Jews made animal sacrifices to the Biblical God, but the idol worshipers did the same thing with their gods and goddesses. A lot of sacrifices were made in Rome to Apollo, Zeus, Venus, to Caesar … the list goes on. When an animal was sacrificed to the false gods the dead animal, after that sacrifice, was sold as meat. Many of the Christians in the Church at Rome went to the markets and bought this “meat offered to idols” because, frankly, it was cheap! This started a fight in the Church – a fight that the Apostle addressed. The Apostle said:

Romans 14:4 … Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

The Apostle told the Roman Church to stop judging one another’s service to God. He wrote:

Romans 14:7-11 .. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 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. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for WE SHALL ALL STAND BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

God has already judged sin through His Bible and on the Cross of Christ. That which is “sin” is what God has said is “sin” in the Bible. And those of us who have received Christ as Savior are saved to serve Him. Our sins are covered. But our works will follow us. There is coming a day when every believer will give an account of His WORK to God. Hear me, Christian. God saved you at a great cost. He purchased your salvation with His Son’s Blood. He gave His best for you. He sent His Spirit to indwell you. We were saved from sin sop that we can SERVE the Living God. And we will indeed give an account of our works to the Lord.

The Apostle continues the teaching of the Judgment Seat of Christ in ..

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 Therefore 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 labour, 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.

In verse 9 the Apostle explains why we labor. He writes, we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be ACCEPTED of him. The word translated “accepted” is the Greek (εὐάρεστος euárestos, pronounced yoo-ar’-es-tos) which means “to be well pleasing to”. If we have been saved by Jesus, we want to be “well pleasing” to Jesus. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a time when we as believers “give an account” to Jesus. We will “receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad”. There are good works, and there are bad works. At the Judgment Seat of Christ our works – not our sins, but our works – will be judged.

The Christian labors for the Lord because we love the Lord. One day the works we do for Him will one day be judged by the One we love, Jesus Christ. Sin is not judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Sin is judged at the Great White Throne Judgment – a terrifying ordeal spoken of in Revelation 20:11-15. But sin for the Christian was judged on the Cross. Our sins are not in view at the Judgment Seat, but our works. I say again, our sins are not judged by Jesus, but our works, the works we do on this earth.

God saved us and left us on this earth so that we could live for Him.

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

The Christian who is constantly trying to do good works in order to be saved is, in fact, working for himself. If my every moment of every day is filled with dread lest I “lose my salvation”, then I am constantly
living for myself.
This is not salvation but slavery,
SELF slavery.

By receiving Christ as Lord and Savior and believing that His death and resurrection are sufficient to cover my sins, I am now freed so that I might serve – lovingly serve – my Jesus. I no longer yield myself to sin – but to my Savior. This is why the Apostle said:

Romans 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.

The person who receives Justification from God but never participates in Sanctification with God is “receiving the Grace of God in vain”.

2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.

To “receive the Grace of God in vain” is to be possessed of Christ, but never allowing Him to work through your life.

You were saved so that POSITIONALLY you could become a son of God.
You are saved also so that you PRACTICALLY can be a son of God.

There is joy found by all those who work for the Savior. God has chosen us to be world changers, light, and salt. We are to be …

1 Corinthians 15:58 … always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Christ will examine the works that we as Christians did, and we shall give an account unto Him (1 Peter 4:5). We who are saved are not to judge our brother or sister in the Lord, for Christ shall judge us all. The Pastor at Moody Bible Church, Erwin Lutzer writes:

We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves.”

At the Judgment Seat of Christ the believer is rewarded based on how faithfully we served Jesus. The works we do for Jesus are judged. We read:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 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 Christian is saved by faith in Christ. Upon this foundation of faith the believer does good works, glorifying God and imitating Christ. We love as God tells us to love. We live lifestyles compatible with that which the Scripture reveals as righteous. As we who are saved and sanctified live for the Lord Who saved and sanctified us, we do works which God takes note of. Every work that the believer does will be classified in one of six ways:

gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble

The Lord knows them that are His (2 Timothy 2:19). It is fitting that we who are the sons of God by adoption will have our works judged by Him Who is the Only Begotten Son of God. How closely did we imitate our Savior and Lord? How obedient were we to His directives? How much light did our lives impart to this dark old world? Our works – not our sins, but our works – will be judged.

When the lost stand before the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) fire shall bind them, and keep them separated from Heaven and God’s people forever. However for the Christian whose work is judged, fire is not a curse, nor a binder, but a blessing. The Apostle said:

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire

Again, sin is not that which is in view at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Works are. If our works endure the Fire of Christ’s love then the Scripture says we shall receive a reward.

God Will Reward The Faithful Son With Crowns

While we who are believers are on this earth, we are to work for our Jesus. When we get to Heaven our works will follow us – and be rewarded. The Bible speaks of “crowns” for the believer. Some of the Scriptures are:

2 Timothy 4:8 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.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

1 Peter 5:3-4 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

If we as Christians are “Kings and Priests unto God” (Revelation 1:5) then it is expected that we will have marks of our heritage. I pray that we all as Christians pursue righteous works for the glory of God. You cannot out give God. Dear believers, my heart’s desire is to lay whatever reward He may bestow upon me down at the feet of my Messiah – blessed be the Name of Jesus forever! Let us all live for Him!

Posted in Glory To God, Revelation, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Little Foxes That Spoil The Vines

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Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Song of Solomon 2:15 Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

John 15:5-8 {Jesus said to us} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

What does God our Father want of us? The Bible is very clear on this point. He wants every child of His, every Christian, to bear fruit. He says to His Child:

John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Jesus wants me and you – if you have been saved by loving faith in Him (blessed be the Name of the Lord!) – bear fruit that remains. We who are Christians have no ability of ourselves to bear fruit. Let me say again:

We who are Christians – Children of God –
have no ability of ourselves to bear fruit!

Our ability to bear fruit – which is what Our Father wants us to do – is tied to our being in Christ, abiding in Him.

We are to draw near to Jesus.
To trust Him.
To rest in His embrace.

As we do so, the power that is in Christ flows from the vine to the vines. Jesus’ power flows through our lives. As His power flows God imparts fruit through us. The Bible calls this fruit:

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

Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

Little Foxes Spoil The Fruit

What binds us to Christ? It is His Grace and love! But there are little foxes that come into the vineyard of the Christian to hinder our fruitfulness. One of my mentors in Christ, C.H. Spurgeon, said:

“The sea is made of drops; the rocks are made of grains: and the sea which divides thee from Christ may be filled with the drops of thy little sins; … If thou wouldst live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and see Christ, and have fellowship with Christ, take heed of the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.”

The foxes that spoil the vines – disrupting our relationship and joy in Christ – are very sneaky. Think about the fox for a moment:

  • Foxes are fast. They dart into the vineyard and eat the fruit, then run away. They are hard to catch.
  • Foxes are little. Their size makes us think that they are nothing. We tend to underestimate the small things. Not too long ago one of our members was bitten by a brown recluse spider – one of the tiniest of creatures. He had to go through several months of medical treatment to get over it. Oh Beloved, do not consider small to be insignificant. A nuclear weapon destroys millions by splitting the unseen atom. One tiny fox can lead many other tiny foxes to us, bring a BIG problem.
  • Foxes are cute. They are among the prettiest of animals. I have often thought how neat it would be to have a fox to raise (and I also like the look of a skunk). Truth be told, no one has ever tamed the wild out of a fox. They cannot be domesticated.
  • Foxes are cunning. They sometimes work in pairs, and as you watch one, another will sneak up and steal the fruit of your vineyard.

What are the “little foxes” than can rob us of our joy in Christ?

Beware The Little Foxes Of False Spirituality
& Spiritual Laziness

We have all, at times, been lazy. I tend to put off things that I don’t like to do. I don’t like crawling under the car to change the oil, or taking the time to tune up the engine by changing the plugs. Many times in my laziness (compounded with the fact that I am a little arthritic) I just opt to pay someone else to do that. As far as that goes, I supposed there’s nothing wrong with paying someone to do something that you hate to do in the secular world.

In the Spiritual world if you want to grow in power as a Child of God you must do the work. You can’t phone it in. You can’t put it off. And you can’t hire it done. It is YOUR walk with Christ.

The Bible tells us that we as believers must study the Word of God, this Bible. We read:

2 Timothy 2:15-17 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker …

You must put in the time. The Bible tells us to study to show thyself approved unto God. “Study” you ask? “Study what?” We are to study the Word of God, and shun the babbling words of the secular world. When we “study” (the Greek σπουδάζω spoudazō in the Imperative Mood – it is IMPERATIVE that you study God’s Word) the Word of God we are “approved unto God”. The word “approved” is the Greek δόκιμος dókimos, (pronounced dok’-ee-mos) which means “to be pleasing to God”.

The Spiritually Lazy Christian has no fence around his vineyard. The little foxes of the world easily run into the unguarded life, consuming our fruit, eating our joy!

God is not pleased with the spiritually lazy Christian. He loves you – yes, He does. But God has given you His Word just as a loving mother feeds her child. God provides, but WE must feed yourselves daily on His Word. Daily. When we do not, we drift from God. It does not amaze me that the Church in America has drifted from God’s Word. Years ago believers thought differently than they believe now.

If you have never been offended by a sermon, you have never heard the Word of God!

The Word of God offends the world. When we drift from God, we will be offended by the Word. But that’s good, not bad. God said …

Jeremiah 23:28-29 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. 29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

When we are offended by God’s Word, let us adjust course. God’s Word is true, and often what we think is not. I heard the story one time of a ship that saw another ship’s lights. The captain called across the airwaves, “Light on my north, I am a freighter. Veer off, or we will collide.” The light replied: “Light on my south, you veer off. I cannot. I am a lighthouse!”

God’s Word is always true – whether you agree with it or not! Jesus was emphatic when He decreed:

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.

You must READ and HEED Christ’s Word. Today.

“Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will open God’s Word.
Tomorrow I will attend Church and heed the Word spoken.
Tomorrow I will go to Discipleship Training.
Tomorrow I will attend Sunday School.”

The Christian way of life was not meant to be a comfy recliner or a snuggy in a warm bed. The Christian way of life is a Cross. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:24-25 … 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.

He meant what He said!

The Little Fox Called The Little Look

Every action, whether right or wrong, begins with a thought. When we become lazy in our study of God’s Word it is not long before Satan will tempt us with a little fox.

Jesus made a statement one time that puzzled me – and has puzzled many over the years. He said:

Matthew 5:27-32 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever LOOKETH on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

In our world today the sexual revolution of the 60s has become the sexual madness of the Century. How did the degradation of America and the American family begin? With a little look. Jesus told us that the little look – that little improper look at a woman – can turn into something ugly. Now people say, “But what does a little look matter? I’ve not done anything if I look and think about it. After all, sin is an activity, not a thought.” That is very true. Sin is an activity, not a thought. But sin always begins with a thought. Let me say this again:

Sin always begins with a thought.

I know of a Deacon who, good man that he is, donated one his kidneys to another Church member in need. Several years later this same generous and sweet man was caught in bed with the youth Pastor’s wife. How did this happen? It starts with a look.

Jesus tells us that Matthew 5:29-32 if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

“What?!” you cry out to Jesus. “Why should I pluck my eye out? Why should I cut my right hand – in most of us, the dominant hand – off?” Because that little fox called Folly has you look where you should not look. Do you not remember the Apostle’s warning:

1 Corinthians 5:6 … Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

A little folly, a little sin.
A little crack, the devil’s in.

Consider the life of King David, a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). What brought great misery to David? A little laziness and a little look. We read:

2 Samuel 11:1-2 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time WHEN KINGS GO FORTH TO BATTLE, THAT DAVID sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. BUT DAVID TARRIED STILL AT JERUSALEM. 2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof HE SAW A WOMAN WASHING HERSELF; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.

David as King was supposed to be at war with his people. The leader should always lead. But instead, David decided to delegate his responsibility to others. David decided to take a sabbatical, a rest, a little vacation from what God told him to do. The devil watches. He watches David. He watches David NOT doing what God told him to do.

A little look.
A little call.
A little touch.
A little kiss.
A little baby.
A little murder.
A little curse.

None of it is little to God. God is watching, and God told David:

2 Samuel 12:9-12 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house

The world calls this “Karma”. The Bible says it is “sin”. There is no little sin with God. I saw this horror played out before my eyes at a Church I once pastored. There was a faithful family of believers who came to Church regularly. One day I saw a little fox walk into the assembly. She wore short skirts, fish net stockings, provocatively placed tattoos. One day I was at the local Walmart when she came out of the store hand in hand with one of the male family members. Though they quickly made excuses to me to make their actions seem innocent, there is no reason for a married man to be walking hand in hand with another woman. Less than a year later the husband abandoned his wife and children. Most of the family left the Church, broken and in pieces. Oh Beloved, avoid the little sins. Confess sin before God, and draw near to Jesus!

The Little Fox Of Worry

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-27 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

One of the little Foxes that rob our us of joy is that little Fox called “Worry”. Worry is actually a form of faithlessness. This is what our Jesus said:

Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

The one ravaged by the Fox of Worry is a person of “little faith”. God is able. God is able. God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matthew 3:9). God gave His Son Jesus Christ to die for your sins. When you received Christ as Savior God was able to graft us into the Covenant Promises of Grace (Romans 11:23). As a Child of God our God is able to make you stand (Romans 14:4). And when we sin, our God is able to make all grace abound unto us (2 Corinthians 9:8).

My God is able.
It is God Who worketh in you both to Will
and to Do of His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

If God can save a sinner and fit that sinner for Heaven, there is nothing that God cannot do. Our Lord Jesus said …

Matthew 19:26 … with God all things are possible.

Mark 9:23 … If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Beloved, our God is able. When we worry about the things that we have no ability to change we rob ourselves of our today. This Jesus we follow is able to do anything. I remember once when the disciples were crossing the sea with Jesus a storm rose, and began to wash waves over the boat. The disciples saw Jesus in the rear of the boat sleeping. Rousing the Lord up, the disciples – with fear in their voices – cried out:

Master, carest thou not that we perish?

Jesus woke up, stood up, and said simply “Peace. Be still.” The wind and the waves immediately stopped. Jesus then turned to His disciples and said:

Mark 4:40 … Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Why indeed? Why do we allow the little Fox of Worry and its companions Fear and Doubt to run into our vines? God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He gave the most He could give to us at the Cross. Why would He now abandon us.

My God is able.
My God is able.

But perhaps, just perhaps, you have never met my God. Perhaps you have heard of Him from others, but have never called on Him for yourselves. Perhaps you are relying on your own self righteousness to get you to Heaven. Oh Beloved, self righteousness has damned so many to hell. We need Jesus.

The Little Fox Of Self Righteousness

There are many other “little foxes” that I could preach on today, but I want to end with one of the worst. It is the little fox of self righteousness. As I preached this sermon some sat in the audience thinking, “What’s wrong with these people? None of these things afflict me. Boy, the preacher really told them, didn’t he?” If you thought these thoughts or thought yourself superior to others while God spoke, then you are afflicted by the worst of the little foxes – that of self righteousness.

The greatest enemies of Christ while He walked this earth was not the secular world, but the self righteous religious world. The Pharisees aqnd Scribes often attacked the Master. I will end with this text:

Luke 18:9-14 {Jesus} spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

If you believe that you are above the little foxes that afflict us all, then you are the grips of the most wily of the foxes – self righteousness. Even after Jesus spoke this word to His disciples the disciples – before His words had even just left the air – began to self righteously run people away from Jesus. “The Master cannot be disturbed by these babies. Away with you!” Jesus rebuked them, then said:

Luke 18:17 … Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

If you want to be blessed of God you have to be like a little child. Humble yourselves. Kneel at His feet. If He bids it, sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Him (Luke 18:22). All to Jesus. All to Jesus.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Thee I freely give,
I will ever love and trust Him;
In His Presence daily live!
I surrender all. I surrender all.
All to Thee, my Blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Evangelist Billy Graham often had this song sung at the invitation he gave at the end of his crusade messages. Billy wrote:

“One of the evangelists who influenced my early preaching was also a hymnist who wrote “I Surrender All” — the Reverend J. W. Van de Venter. He was a regular visitor at the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity Bible College) in the late 1930’s. We students love this kind, deeply spiritual gentleman and often gathered in his winter home at Tampa, Florida, for an evening of fellowship and singing.”

If you sing this song in it’s entirety you would sing the word “surrender” thirty times. The way to power with God and in this life is “surrender” – living in the shadow and will of Christ. Will you surrender to Him this New Year? Perfect vision is 20/20. In 2020 let us have perfect vision – surrender to Christ!

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