A Sermon For Suicide Prevention Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

What IS And Is NOT Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Author Of Depression And Hopelessness Is The Devil

What did Jesus say?

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

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

Pastor Greg Laurie said:

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

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

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

to steal, and to kill, and to destroy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

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

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

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

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

What If I Have Suicidal Thoughts?

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

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

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

You can’t fix it by yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And know you are loved!

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

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

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Preach Don’t Overreach — Biblical Preaching

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

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Exhort One Another Daily: A Message For Business Meeting Night

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

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

“I wonder where so and so was?”

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

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

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

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

We Are Accountable – God Holds Us Accountable

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

We are in this thing together.

As we come into Hebrews 3 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Christ is GOD the Son!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 4:4-7 … But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

exhort one another daily, while it is called To day

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

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

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

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

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God Impresses Us

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

Live Your Faith Out Loud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop IN THE NAME OF the Law”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving Faith Is Proved By Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:44-45 … I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Stop Growing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His name I pray.

Amen!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

In Christ Alone

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Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Offensive Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sin and satan became the masters of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Apostle said in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 4:3-7 … we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

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

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

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

Romans 6:11-14 … reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

That Your Joy Be Full

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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

Introduction

The Bible tells us of itself that …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or in Peter’s writings:

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

or in Paul’s writings:

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

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

feelings
experiences
self satisfaction
self service
ego

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

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

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

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

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

The Joy Of The “We”

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

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

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

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

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

Who made up the WE”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 1:16-17 … by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

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

John 10:30 I and my Father are One.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Is No Myth Nor Fable

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

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

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

we have SEEN Him with our eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Wants Our Fellowship Too

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

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

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

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

Oh Beloved, Jesus said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed be the Name of the Lord forever!

 

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

I Am Accepted In The Beloved

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Photo by Nellia Kurme on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace be to you, and peace

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

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

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

Paul Understood Jesus Is The Beloved Of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

and God told the Prophet:

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

and to the Prophet Jeremiah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beloved Lowered Himself So We Could Be Beloved

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

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

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

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

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

The words the Apostle uses is:

saints
faithful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Us Then Live As Beloved Children Should Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in Ephesians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Lovest Thou Me?

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John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

The question that Jesus asks Peter is one of the most profound and important questions in the Bible. Jesus asks Peter:

lovest thou me?

What caused Jesus to ask this question? Last week we studied and celebrated the Lord’s Table here at Riverview. It was at the Lord’s Table that Jesus told the Apostles:

Luke 22:21 … behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table.

Jesus Knows Our Hearts

Jesus knows your heart.
Jesus knows the heart of His people.
Jesus knows if you love Him or not.

As Jesus looked about that table – a table to celebrate the Cross that our Master would suffer for us – He saw the heart of Judas. Judas loved money. The Bible tells us that Judas was a thief who kept the treasury of the Apostles, and stole from that treasury (John 12:6). Jesus knew this. He could see that Judas sold the Master for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3) but Jesus loved Judas anyway. Jesus knows. He knows our hearts. He looked around that Table on that fateful day – that crucifixion day – and saw Judas. But He also saw the others, and that all would betray Him that day. When Jesus spoke of betrayal He saw that all would fail Him.

All would fail Him.
Judas would fail Him,
But so would we all.

But Peter spoke up. He said:

Luke 22:33 … Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.

Note Peter’s words. I am ready.

Peter is so like us. I have no doubt that Peter sincerely believed that he was ready, that he would give everything for Jesus. But as Judas loved the money, Peter loved himself. Peter loved the lime light. Peter looked in the mirror every morning and though, “What a good boy am I!” So when Peter heard “one of you shall betray me” his first impulse was to look at his neighbor, to judge the person next to himself, for Peter obviously could make no such mistake. The truth is, we are all subject to failure. We all fall, and fail. Praise God for Jesus. Praise God for that Old Rugged Cross. Praise God for the Blood and Water that flowed from our Lord’s side.

Jesus knew. He told Peter:

Luke 22:34 … I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

I can see the look on Peter’s face – a look of disbelief. It is a look I often have had when I heard on a fellow pastor falling away, or a deacon or Church leader making a terrible misstep. “Not I, Lord! I shall never fail You!” Oh the Grace of God, the marvelous Grace of Christ our Savior. Peter thought he would never fail. We all think that. Then it happens. Peter failed. Just as Jesus said, Peter failed. They all failed.

  • They failed in the Garden. Jesus asked them to pray WITH Him, and they failed Him in the Garden. They went to sleep when they should have been praying.
  • They failed in Christ’s taking. When the guards came to take Jesus one Apostle pulled a sword and cut off a man’s ear. Though Jesus put it back on the man’s head, we need to learn from this. No one can be forced into our faith. We – unlike the Muslims, the Mormons, and other false faiths – do not convert at the point of the sword. Jesus never commanded that. We are to love, love even those who betray us.
  • Then Peter failed Jesus at His trial. Just as Jesus said Peter would do he denied knowing the Lord. Three times Peter denies Christ. Three times! This is so significant. When Peter denied Jesus the third time the Bible says:

Luke 22:61-62 … the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter was confronted with his failure. He wept bitterly because he felt that he should have done better. Three times he betrayed Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus but once, and that by a kiss. Peter didn’t even kiss the Master when he betrayed Him. Oh, but let us not be self righteous about this, for have not we all done the same thing? Do we not fail our Lord? Do we not put ourselves center stage in life, exalting in ourselves? Do we not fail to serve Him with all our hearts.

Though We Fail Him Jesus Loves Us

Someone asked a famous Bible teacher – I forget his name at this moment – but they asked him “What is the greatest truth you have ever learned from the Scripture”. The answer surprised the questioner. This famous fellow said:

The greatest truth I have ever learned from the Scripture is what I learned as a child in Sunday School. We used to sing it and understand it. Now we just sing it.” then he sang:

Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
We are weak, but He is strong!”

When we come to John chapter 21 the Bible tells us:

John 21:14 … This is now the THIRD time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

The first time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples was when the disciples hid in a locked room in Galilee, frightened and fearing the Pharisees (John 20:19). Jesus surprised them in that room, suddenly appearing. They thought He was a ghost. No, He was and is the Risen Savior,

Colossians 1:18 … the FIRSTBORN from the dead

The Bible tells us that Enoch and Elijah never died, but were taken to Heaven apart from death. The Bible tells us that Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead, and that Jesus raised several from the dead, most notably His friend Lazarus. Some have gone to Heaven apart from death, others raised to later die again. Our Lord Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God Who is the First One Born into a glorified and perfect Body. Jesus rose from the grave after three days and three night of death. He rose in a perfect and glorified Body. He is the FIRSTBORN from the dead, and as He is so He has promised we shall be. Jesus appeared to His disciples in that locked room. Eight days later Jesus appears again, this time so that the Apostle Thomas can see and speak to Him (John 20:26).

Here is the third time that Jesus appears.

Remember Peter and his failure? When Jesus appeared that first time I suspect that Peter was looking to be rebuked. Jesus said nothing to Peter, but spoke to the group in that empty room. The second time Jesus appeared once more I suspect Peter knew he would be rebuked. Yet Jesus spoke only directly to Thomas, saying:

John 20:27-29 … Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

So now twice our Lord has appeared, but has not chastised Peter for his horrid failure. So now we come to our Lord’s third visit with His disciples in His glorified Body. Peter speaks up:

Let’s go fishing!”

Six men go out fishing with Peter.

There’s the one we call “Doubting Thomas”.
Then Nathanael, of whom Jesus said “Is no guile”.
James and John, who were Peter’s best friends.
And two unnamed disciples.

Seven men went fishing at night. All night long they fish, and catch absolutely nothing. As morning came, Jesus stood on the shore – but they didn’t know it was Jesus. Our Lord calls out:

Children, have ye any meat? Have you caught anything?”
It’s no surprise that they have caught nothing. Hasn’t 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.

We can do nothing apart from Jesus. Jesus needs to be in our lives. He needs to be in us as we go to work, as we play, in everything that we do – even in fishing. Oh, if we would carry Jesus with us on our vacations how wonderful and full they would be.

Children, have you caught any fish?”

Notice how gruff the answer. The seven merely say “No!”. We thought things would be better when Jesus rose from the grave. We thought that life would be all mountaintop experiences. Yet here we are, fishing all night long, and catching absolutely nothing. How dare He call us “children”. Who does this Man on shore think He is? Is He some Master Fisherman? Then He yells out:

John 21:6 … Cast the net on the right side of the ship,  and ye shall find.

Try the other side”. I can imagine Peter nearly biting his tongue off. The other side? We’ve been on this side, that side, the front and the back. But Peter was too tired to argue. So he let the net down on the other side!

If You Love Jesus, You’ll Listen To Him!

Oh, when we love Jesus and do as He says, He blesses us. He blesses us when we forget to love Him. He blesses us when we foolishly try to do it on our own. Jesus loves us, and wants to bless us. We are told:

John 20:6, 11 … They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. … Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

I have often wondered why there were 153 fish in the net. Why did God care so much to write this number in His Book, this glorious Bible? Theologians have debated this for years, ever since this Book was finished of God. Why 153 fishes? I believe it is because this is the second time this has happened to the disciples. In Luke 5 the disciples are fishing not at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1) but at the lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:5). Just as it was when the disciples first met our Lord Jesus, they had toiled all night long, and caught not one fish (Luke 5:5). Then Jesus told them – just as He did on this occasion:

Let down your nets and you will catch fish!” (Luke 5:4)

Simon did as Jesus asked. He let down the nets – and caught so many fish that the nets broke. The Bible does not tell us the actual number of fish in this instance, but tells us that Simon called for other boats to help bring the fish in. The boats filled up with so many fish that they started to sink (Luke 5:7). The Bible says:

Luke 5:8 … When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Simon worshiped the Lord. Now at the Sea of Tiberius Jesus does it again. When Peter did as Christ asked, Peter was blessed beyond measure. This time Peter caught 153 fish – much more than a standard net could carry without bursting – and yet lost not one fish! Doesn’t the Bible say:

James 4:6 … {God} giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

This is the second that Jesus performed this miracle. There were more than 153 fish when Peter first met Christ … and now the Lord gives Peter a miraculous bounty, a much more bounty. Jesus told us “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15; 15:10). Do you love Jesus? How can you not love Jesus? How hard can your heart be to not love Him who first loved you – loved all of us (1 John 4:19). How can you not love Him Who:

gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us (Galatians 1:4)
gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20)
gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6)
gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us (Titus 2:14)

Peter on seeing the nets filled jumps in the water, and swims to the Master. Here now is the third time Jesus appeared to Peter after Peter – three times – denied the Lord. What does Jesus ask Peter?

Does Jesus ask Peter:

Do you see now the error of your ways?”, or
“Do you believe My teachings?, or
“Do you believe My promises”?

Does Jesus ask Peter:

Do you remember the time you denied Me?
Not just once, but THREE times?”

No. Jesus asks:

Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?

Jesus does not call him Peter, a name that Jesus gave him when he first gave his life to the Lord. No, he calls him by his old, unsaved name, the name he had as an unbeliever. Simon, do you love Me? Do you love Me more than THESE. Do you love Jesus more than your friends. Do you love Jesus more than your 153 fish? Do you love Jesus more than your boat? Do you love Jesus more than your nets? Jesus told the Pharisees:

John 8:42 … If God were your Father, ye would love Me! … I proceeded forth and came from God … He sent Me.

And John 14:23 … If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love Him, and we will come to Him, and make our abode with Him …

Peter, do you love Me? Do you love Jesus more than those things around you? Do you love Me more than even your own life? Didn’t Jesus say:

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Is Jesus first in your love? Is He? Do you love Jesus, or just love the fact that He healed you, as He healed the lepers. Or have you become cold in your love? Have you become like the Church of Laodicea that was neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm in their love. Didn’t Jesus say “I will spue you out of My mouth!” if you do not love Him? Did Jesus tell the Laodiceans:

Revelation 3:19-20 … As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

A failure to love Jesus is what locks Him out of the Church and out of the life of blessing that God wants to give us all. Do you love Him? Do you lovingly obey Him? Do you follow Him – not like you “follow” others on Facebook, but day by day and in every way? Oh, that God the Holy Spirit would cause us to love Him more.

If You Love Jesus, Serve Him

Do you love Him? Then hear what Jesus tells us to do. When Peter said “Yes Lord, I love You, our Master said:

Feed my lambs.

Who are the “lambs” that Jesus said were His? Are they not the helpless and the needy, those who love the Lord and have need. We are to be compassionate to those in need. I struggle with this, for often I am confronted with need because people have made bad decisions. Just this morning a lady came in and said:

You helped me several years ago with a motel room. Now my daughter’s boyfriend has left her, and she needs to pay her utilities.”

Though I helped this young lady several years ago, she took the help and never came to Church nor responded to Christ in any way. This is the way of the worldling. They wish the blessings of God, but want nothing to do with His Christ.

Is this young girl one of Christ’s Lambs? I do not think so, though my heart hurts to think of it. This is a child of Adam who has rejected Christ and His commandments, and as a result is in a bad place. Beloved, we are to feed the lambs of Christ, those who love the Lord and are in need. Jesus bids us feed My sheep. To do good in the Family of God, to love one another as Christ so loved the Church and gave Himself for it. Let us do good where we can. Let us love our Christ, and lift up His people in need. Let us minister Christ to those around us. Let us be His hands and His feet, for the glory of Christ our Savior.

May God lead you to be His light where you are.

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

Prayer Necessary Because Of The Battle (Part 2)

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Ephesians 6:10-13 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. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

I was saved – wonderfully saved by faith in Christ is a little church called the Church of God when I was 17 years old. I am now approaching 61 years old – though I feel like I’m 80! Over the last 44 years of following my Master and Savior Jesus Christ – 25 of those years being blessed to be in the ministry – I have heard numerous sermons about the “Armor of God”. I have been in classrooms and Bible schools where teachers talked about putting on this armor so we could “go out and fight the devil”. Some of our songs even speak of us – like the Crusaders – going out to do battle.

Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See, His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus,
Going on before.

Interestingly though, this passage in Ephesians does not speak of the Armor of God as an offensive weapon but a defensive weapon – which makes absolute sense!

Our Offensive Weapon Against The Devil Is
A Sure Salvation And A Daily Conversation

When you read the context carefully you see this truth. We are told to put on the WHOLE armor of God not so we can attack the devil, but so that we can STAND AGAINST the WILES of the DEVIL.

The Bible gives us a good illustration of this in the life of David. On the day that David fought Goliath the King of Israel – Saul – decided to help David out. The Bible says:

1 Samuel 17:38-39 … And Saul armed David with his armor, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword upon his armor …

Now the King’s armor is the very finest of armor. Designed of fine chain mail and the best bronze and steel, it was not only very secure but it was very beautiful. David put on the armor – but David was a lot smaller than Saul. The Bible tells us that Saul was a head taller than anyone else in Israel (see 1 Samuel 9:2) – probably over 6 feet tall. How big was David? The Bible doesn’t say (see 1 Samuel 16:12), so David was probably of average height. Armor was designed to fit the wearer. When David tried on the armor he refused it, saying:

1 Samuel 17:39 … I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them.

David had not proved or tested Saul’s armor – but he had proved or tested the armor of God. “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:37).

This is a great truth we need to understand. We battle a spiritual evil – the devil. Our battle is not with one another nor even with the lost of this world. It is with Satan – the enemy. You CANNOT battle a spiritual enemy with physical armor.

You need the Armor of God!

Our enemy is the DEVIL. The greatest thing the devil has done in the world today is to teach people that he does not exist, or else he is some harmless little red man with a pointy tail sitting on our shoulder. Some even believe that the devil is just an impersonal force – or a human characteristic. This is just not so.

The word for DEVIL is the Greek διάβολος diábolos, {pronounced dee-ab’-ol-os} which means “the slanderer or the accuser”. It is interesting that the completion of our salvation and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God does not occur until the devil – who is a real person – is vanquished from Heaven:

Revelation 12:9-11 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

This passage in Revelation tells us much about the devil, that old dragon called satan. The devil constantly accuses us before the Throne of God. The devil has access to Heaven at this time. Just as he did in the life of Job the devil slithers into the throne room of God to accuse those who are the Children of God. Those who belong to God overcame the devil by

the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, and by
the WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY

This was what the shepherd David trusted in. Not physical armor, nor even in his sling and rock. He trusted (1) in God, and in (2) what God had done for him in his life. These are our OFFENSIVE weapons.

These two things are our offensive weapons against the devil. That which overcomes the devil is the Blood of the Lamb – our trust in God that Christ alone made payment for our sins. The other weapon we have against the devil is our KNOW SO salvation, our certainty that the Blood of Christ is applied to our lives. When you are certain of your salvation then You do not LOVE YOUR LIFE unto the death.

David was not worrying about death.
The God Who saved him from the lion and the bear would save him from Goliath!

The Christian with the know so salvation – a certain knowledge that Christ has saved him and is with him forever – that Christian does not fear death. For the Christian who is the Christian indeed death is a promotion. Why? Because Jesus has not only PROMISED this:

John 11:26 whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this?

Well DO YOU? Do YOU believe His promise for yourself? Then this calm assurance that Christ’s Blood has saved you and guaranteed you life eternal is the greatest weapon you have against that devil. If you have received Christ as Lord and Savior then PRAYER is as natural to you as is breathing. Younger Christians – those very young in the faith – need to learn that their assurance of salvation and constant companionship of God in Christ is that which drives the devil away from us. This is the weapon that the devil cannot defeat.

Too many who profess themselves to be “Christian” have placed their faith not in the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the stuff that God has allowed them to have. The Book of Job was written to teach us that the greatest gift that God gives us is not our stuff nor our families nor even our lives. The greatest gift that God gives us is HIS PRESENCE. You only secure HIS PRESENCE by giving yourselves to Christ.

The Armor Of God Is Necessarily DEFENSIVE

Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The Bible tells us to take unto you the whole armour. God offers salvation in Christ as a gift of God – no purchase necessary. As a Child of God the Lord also offers you the defensive armor of God. The Lord says to take unto you. It is offered to you, and must be received. As the defensive armor is presented, the Apostle speaks of the most sensitive areas first. He starts out with:

Ephesians 6:14 … Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth

Why did the Lord start out with the loins or the crotch area. It is no secret that a man can quickly be brought to his knees – no matter how powerful he is – by a quick blow to the groin area. One of the wiles of the devil is to take a God given, natural sexual appetite, and draw us to worship that feeling and sensation. It is no surprise that the devil’s grip on America has grown every year along with the almost rampant promiscuity as well as immodesty. The average American woman dresses to entice and to show off parts of her body. The Bible tells us in:

1 Timothy 2:8-10 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

God calls us to pray every where. But our prayers are to be God honoring, prayers of faith. God calls on women to not only pray, but also to adorn themselves in modest apparel. The devil can take the immodest dress of anyone and turn it into an opportunity to entrap our minds and hurt our walk with God. Again, if you look at any of the Biblical lists of sin you will inevitably find that the first and foremost sins of the flesh involve the loins

Galatians 5: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…

Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

2 Peter 2:18 … For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

God calls us to Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth. Not the truth of the world, but the truth of what God our Father has said. The Lord Jesus Christ came to save us FROM our sins, to bring us into the family of God, and to teach us that lust is not love, and self gratification is not the way of peace.

Ephesians 6:14 …. having on the BREAST PLATE of righteousness;

An enemy blow to the groin is dangerous and must be guarded against, but your chest area also needs protection. One of the wiles of the devil – the methods by which he attacks us – is to strike at our hearts. He does this by warping our sense of right and wrong. The Bible warns us:

1 Timothy 6:10-12 … the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

The child of God by faith in Christ is to follow after righteousness, to set our hearts on being like the One Who saved us. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 5:1-2 … Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us …

An unrighteous Christian is a traitor to Christ!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Our protection against the devil is that we love God with all our hearts, and imitate Him in Christ Jesus!

Ephesians 6:15 And your FEET SHOD with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

We stand on our feet. We cannot stand against the devil if we are not standing in Christ’s Gospel. If we are standing in our own human goodness we will fail. When we fail, then the devil, that slanderer, will accuse us and discourage us. If we are standing in our ability to keep the Law of God then when we fail – and we will fail – then the devil will take this failure and cause us to lose all hope. But is our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The word translated preparation is the Greek ἑτοιμασία hetoimasía, {pronounced het-oy-mas-ee’-ah} which is found only here in the New Testament. The devil will do his best to trip you up. You are best prepared for his attacks when you are standing strong in the Gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:17 Above all, taking the shield of FAITH, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

The Bible tells us that:

Hebrews 11:6 without FAITH it is impossible to please {God}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

The shield of faith is what you keep in front of you as the enemy attacks. The stronger your faith in God, the greater this shield will be.

The Source Of The Armor Is The Word Of God

Ephesians 6:17-18 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit

Salvation covers your head like a helmet. But suddenly after listing all the defensive weapons he now speaks of a defensive weapon – the Sword. The Roman warrior carried more than one sword, just like a soldier today carries a rifle and a pistol. The μάχαιρα máchaira, (pronounced makh’-ahee-rah) was a very short sword or knife that was used only when the enemy got in too close to use the long sword. It was a defensive weapon – much like a concealed carry pistol is a defensive weapon.

Please note that the sword is not called our sword. No, it is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This sword is empowered not by us, but by God the Holy Spirit. It is the Word of God that gives us the various pieces of armor. It is the Spirit of God Who explains the Word of God – the Scripture – to us. We ourselves do not protect ourselves, but God does. We ourselves do not fight the enemy – God does. This is why prayer is so very necessary.

Without prayer we will not be armored, for without prayer we will not read, understand,
and apply the Word of God to our lives.

Prayer is how we as God’s soldiers hear our Commander. It is through prayer and study of God’s Word that we become effective warriors in the battle against evil and darkness. May God lead you into a deeper walk with Him, and touch your hearts with His Word!

Posted in Ephesians, prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , , ,

Precious: A Homegoing Message For My Sister In Christ Ruby Aslinger

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If I were to think of one word to describe Ruby Aslinger that word would be:

Precious”

Ruby was precious to me. When I first met Ruby it was clear to me that she was having trouble hearing. She got close to me and spoke loudly. As I spoke to her it was clear she couldn’t hear me, so I leaned forward and she hugged me. After that time when we talked I would get very close to her, put my face against her, and speak slowly. When I prayed for her, that’s how I did it. I leaned in, rested my head on hers, and prayed. She could hear, and understand.

Ruby used to teach a Sunday School class back in the little cubbyhole we use as a store room now. It was Ruby, and Naomi Bailey, two elderly ladies. When Naomi moved away Ruby stopped teaching. During the Sunday School hour she would walk around the sanctuary and pick up trash from the pews and book racks. If she wasn’t doing that, she would sit in the Nursery with the babies. She told people the crying babies didn’t bother her because she couldn’t hear them. Ruby never sat in a Sunday School class because she just couldn’t hear. Her inability to hear eventually led to her not coming to Church anymore. She told me that she felt so self conscious and nervous.

But Ruby never stopped loving and serving the Lord. She knew God could hear her, and she could hear Him. I think that’s why God put this text on my heart today. It is Psalm 116. If you were to ask Ruby why she loved the Lord, I believe this is what she would have said:

Psalm 116:1-5 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

Ruby was like all of us. We have good days, and bad days. And we all desperately need the Lord. There was a time when the Word of Christ reached Ruby. She heard the Promise our Lord made. He said:

John 3:14-15 … 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.

Jesus Christ came to this earth from the splendor of Heaven. In His coming He had but one goal – to save and bring whosoever would believe on Him into God’s Kingdom. The Bible tells us that we are all – each and every one of us – are sinners in desperate need of the Savior. The Scripture states over and over again that:

Romans 3:9 … all are under sin ..

Romans 3:10 … there is none righteous, no, not one

Romans 3:12 … all are gone out of the way … there is none that doeth good

That is what we would call the bad news.

But the good news is that Jesus Christ came to be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary. Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) God sent His Son into this broken world because He loves us all.

We are told in Romans 3:25 that the Father sent His Son into this world to pay for our sins, and to take the punishment that we deserved. If we believe on Jesus and receive Him as Lord and Savior – honoring Him – this faith brings us into union with God.

You may not understand this, but Jesus makes it very simple. He said:

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

Take The Cup Of Salvation

Ruby believed in and received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. Though she had many afflictions and suffered as we all do in our imperfections and brokenness her life was the Lord’s. With the Psalmist she said:

Psalm 116:12-14 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? 13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. 14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

We are all imperfect, and God is perfect. But God offers us a cup of salvation in Christ. We embrace what He did, admit our sinfulness, and surrender ourselves to Him. We then serve Him not to be saved but BECAUSE we are saved. He promises never to leave us nor to forsake us.

I said at the beginning that Ruby was precious to me. But you need to know that Ruby was precious to the Lord as well. He says:

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

God does not see all deaths as Precious. When the unbeliever dies – the person who heard of Christ but who has spent their entire life ignoring His work on the Cross of Calvary then God says to me:

Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have NO PLEASURE in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways

God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked.

He does not rejoice in the deaths of those who have rejected Christ. But for those who have believed on Christ and received Him as Savior God says:

Precious … that life is Precious.
That person is mine, a saint, my Child by faith.
My Son shed His blood for that person,
And now that precious soul enters into glory.”

When the Child of God by faith in Christ leaves this life their body sleeps, but their soul goes to be with the Lord. You do not cast what is precious out into the ground. You take that which is precious to yourself. You treasure it. When our sister in Christ’s body went to sleep her soul went to be with Him Who paid for it. The Apostle Paul, knowing that his death was imminent, said:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 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.

When Jesus said “Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). When our sister Ruby closed her eyes in the sleep of death her body rested. But her soul went to be with Him Who paid for her with His own blood. You ask:

Why Did Ruby Have To Die?
Why Do Any Of Us Have To Die?”

I cannot answer that, but the Lord can. He has told us:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 … while we are at home in THIS BODY, we are absent from the Lord:

{while on earth, we are not in Heaven}

we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ABSENT FROM THE BODY and to be PRESENT WITH THE LORD.

{when our souls leave this body, we go to Christ Jesus our Savior, if He is indeed our Savior}.

Death for the Christian is not a curse, but a blessing.

As we grow older and our brokenness becomes more pronounced, life gets harder. But our God never leaves us. On the day that Ruby passed from this life she was liberated from a broken body, and freed to be with her Lord in eternity.

A little girl was playing in the woods around her home when she happened upon a bird’s nest with four brightly colored eggs in it. She was amazed at this treasure, and afterward came back every day to see “her eggs”. One day she came to see her treasure, but found all of the eggs broken and empty, the shells scattered out on the ground. The little girl ran crying to her mother. “Mommy, I had some beautiful eggs in a nest, but now they are all broken. Nothing is left but broken shells.”. Her mamma told her as she took her baby in her arms, “Honey, those eggs are not destroyed. There were little birds in the eggs. Listen, hear them singing in the trees! They are alive still!”

We may not hear Ruby singing in the trees – but I pray God will give you spiritual eyes to see her singing in glory!

When our sister Ruby departed from this life the last thing she saw was your faces, and you her broken body. We are looking at death from this side.

From THIS SIDE, death looks like the end.

But from the other side, it is but the beginning.

Because Ruby received Christ as Lord and Savior she left this life to move into the arms of the Lord. Her mortality was swallowed up by eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:4). Death is not a cessation, but what the Apostle called “a departure”.

2 Timothy 4:6 For now I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

From THIS SIDE, death looks like a separation.

But from the other side, it is a reunion!

Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As Jesus said “Our God is NOT the God of the Dead, but the God of the LIVING!” (Mark 12:27)

Where Ruby is, you will one day be if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. We have that promise from God.

From THIS SIDE, death looks like a LOSS.

But from the other side it is a gain.

When the believer departs this life we weep and mourn their passing. But we do not grieve as unbelievers grieve. Why? Because we know that Ruby left us to step into glory.

Revelation 21:3-5 … God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

When the believer leaves this life they enter a land of “no more, but much”. For Ruby there is no more”

death
sorrow
crying
pain
defeat

But there is God, Eternal God, with her forever.

This is where God would have you all be. Oh, that you would love God. Oh, that you would believe in Him, and receive Him as Lord and Savior. Oh, that you could say with Ruby:

Psalm 116:16-19 O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. 19 In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.

The proof of eternal life is not that you live perfectly, but that you remember whose you are. You are bought with a price if you belong to Christ. You are bought with His Blood. You are precious, as Ruby is precious. And as one of His Children you shall see her again one glad day!

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

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