Three Pillars Of Christianity

Faith_Love_Hope

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The Christian faith is built on three pillars, pillars we call “Faith, Hope, and Love”. These three are like a Trinity. They always go together. But the greatest of the three is Love. Let’s examine these three pillars.

Let’s Start By Defining “Faith”

We could look up the word “faith” in the Webster’s dictionary and find a good, worldly definition. But instead I’d rather define “faith” by the Book of Books, God’s Holy Bible. We are told in Hebrews that faith is a certain trust in the character of God. We read:

Hebrews 10:38-39 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

The just shall live by faith”. Those who are “justified”, that is, are in a right or upright condition before God live by faith. This particular phrase is found several times in both Old and New Testaments. God spoke to the Prophet Habakkuk, promising that He was going to bring judgment on Israel. But even as God punished unbelieving Israel He wanted His people, the remnant of believers, to not be discouraged but to trust in Him. God told Habakkuk:

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

What did God tell Israel about faith? He said “his soul (the professor of salvation) which is lifted up (who lifts himself up or has faith in himself) is NOT UPRIGHT in Him (not in a right relationship with God)”. The person whose faith is in themselves and in their own abilities are nor in an upright place with God. Why? Because we ALL are sinners. We ALL are frail. We ALL fail the entrance exam into Heaven. Then the Lord says …

“… But” …

Oh how I love the “buts” of Scripture! How pleasant it is to hear the bad news, then God gives us a “BUT” followed by good news, great news! Did He not say,

The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 a)

Oh, what bad news! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! (Romans 3:23). We all deserve death. That’s the bad news. Then God throws in a “BUT”:

BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

God tells Habakkuk “Here’s the bad news – destruction is coming. Israel My nation will be destroyed. But look up, Habakkuk! BUT the just (those who are saved and are upright before Me) shall live BY FAITH. Not faith in oneself, but FAITH IN GOD. You see, everyone has faith.

Every candidate running for office has faith.
The rich man has faith.
The poor man has faith.
The prideful man has faith.
The Pharisee has faith.
Even the atheist has faith.

These people – everyone – has a Merriam-Webster dictionary faith. But the faith that matters is the faith placed in the right Person. What does Our Jesus say?

Mark 11:22 … Have faith in God.

Not in yourselves. Not in your abilities. But in God’s abilities. In God’s faithfulness. What does the Bible say about God?

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

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

God is faithful. This is a lesson that we all must learn. The Apostle Peter was called by Jesus to be an Apostle. The Apostle Peter followed Jesus faithfully. The Apostle Peter was part of the inner circle (Peter, James and John) that Jesus was grooming to lead His early Church. But Peter had a problem.

Peter thought he was bullet proof!

Jesus told the disciples in

Luke 22:28 “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

No sooner than Jesus finished saying this He looked into Peter’s heart and found worldly faith there. Peter was puffed up. As Jesus made His promise to the Apostles I can hear Peter thinking, just as I have often thought of myself in times past:

I’ll get a throne from Jesus! Great. Well, of course, I deserve it!”

While Peter is thinking this Jesus interrupts his thoughts, saying:

Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

The devil can see our pridefulness, our misplaced faith, and often uses that pride of self sufficiency to shake up our lives. Even as we are shaken, if we be Christ’s, He prays for us, and watches over us. Jesus prayed for Peter “that thy faith fail not”. His faith would be tested by “a crowing rooster” (verses 33-34) and a little girl. The proud Peter says:

Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death

But not long from now Peter will deny the Lord three times, and fall into a pit of despair. But Jesus prayed for Peter. Jesus prays for us. He prays that our faith will be properly placed, not in ourselves, but in HIS power.

Too often we, like the Apostle Thomas, have our doubts. After Jesus resurrected He appeared to the disciples, but the Apostle Thomas skipped church that day. When the disciples told Thomas about Jesus’ visit he said:

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

Jesus heard that. He watches over His people. Eight days later Jesus reappears to ALL of the Apostles, then tells Thomas:

John 20:27 … Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

John, I heard what you said! So here, do what you said. Touch the wounds. It’s Me!”

Thomas cries our “my Lord and my God”. Thomas’ faith was in HIMSELF, not in Jesus, but now is in Jesus. Thomas was faithless before, but now has faith. Jesus says this:

John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

This is the Biblical definition of faith. It is to believe in the character and promises of God though you have not seen Him. The Book of Hebrews states:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith believes in what God has said because God said it. Faith is tied closely to hope. Hope is assurance in what has not yet happened because of Who said it.

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Faith believes in God, not in myself. Faith trusts that God can do what He said He will do. Faith believes in the Work of Christ on the Cross, and believes that this work sufficiently fulfilled the Law of God. What did the Apostle tell the Galatians?

Galatians 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

No animal sacrifice, no holy day, no human work that I can do will bring me into a right standing with the Holy and Just God of the universe. None! My salvation is utterly dependent upon that which Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary. I am a child of God because the Father is please with His Son. I am a child of God because I believe in and have surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship. He is my Elder Brother, my Savior, my Master, my All.

Jesus Christ died loving me so that I can live loving Him.

Because of Calvary I am in a right relationship with the Eternal Triune God. I am indwelt by God the Spirit. I am in the Family of God the Father. I am a priest following Jesus Christ my High Priest. This is what faith is.

How Is Hope Different From Faith?

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

We defined “faith” as a surrendered trust in the character and promise of God. So what is “hope”? Hope is the cousin of faith. If you have a present faith in the Biblical God then you are not frightened by the future. The God Who saved and continues saving me today will save me days, months, years from now.

Because of hope I do not worry about tomorrow.

The Psalmist said:

Psalm 16:7-9 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because [he is] at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Hope” is faith in the future, faith because our God transcends all time. If I am in a right state with God because of Christ then:

Proverbs 14:32 … but the righteous hath hope in his death.

The world has no true hope, just as it has no true faith. But for the Christian we believe God is in control of our tomorrows. When we lose a loved one who loved Jesus then hope lifts our hearts up. The Apostle said:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

Jesus Christ did not go to Calvary for nothing. He not only conquered Satan and Sin, but Jesus conquered the grave! He lives! And if He lives,
I will live with Him one glad day!

Faith in Christ Jesus is what saves me now. Hope is believing that the Lord Who saved me will not let me down – ever!

Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick unto death, and His friends Mary and Martha sent word to the Lord. “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick!” (John 11:3). When Jesus hear this, He stayed where He was for two more days (John 11:6). When Jesus got ready to go He told His disciples:

John 11:14-15 “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sake that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

Jesus purposely delayed until Lazarus died. Why did He do this. So that His Disciples would believe in Him. God often delays answers to prayer to strengthen our faith. These men who are following Him would be severely tried once Christ ascended to Heaven. They need to have a rock solid faith in Jesus. So Jesus heads out to Bethany. Martha meets Jesus, heartbroken, for Lazarus her beloved brother is death.

John 11:21-22 “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

Martha’s faith was tested, but not gone. She HOPED in Christ. Jesus told Martha:

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

Hope is faith working, even when our current senses tell us that the worst has happened. Hope is believing that Jesus promised never to leave nor forsake us. Hope is believing that our Savior can save us, not just today, but tomorrow, the next day, and long into eternity. Hope is to roll the stone away though Lazarus stinketh, knowing that Christ has him still in His hands. The Apostle said:

Romans 8:24-25 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, [then] do we with patience wait for [it].

Faith is that which saves us, but genuine faith is always accompanied by a certain hope. For instance, Jesus has promised us a mansion. I have never seen that mansion, but Jesus said:

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Jesus promised us all a mansion. Have you ever seen it? Neither have I. But I know it is true. Why? Because I believe in Jesus. He has proved Himself to me time and time again. He has never let me down, though I have failed Him many times. If Jesus has done the MOST for me at Calvary, will He not accomplish all that He promised? This is hope. Hope tills the ground and plants the seed, believing that God is faithful. Our God is the God of hope.

Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Spirit Who indwells the believer puts hope in our hearts. Hope keeps us going, knowing that our God is faithful. A hopeless farmer would never till a field or plant a seed.

1 Corinthians 9:10 … he that ploweth should plow in hope …

It is hope that kept Abram going for a hundred years, trusting that God would eventually give him an Isaac. Abram against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which the Father told him, so shall thy seed be (Romans 14:18).

Our hope is not in us, nor the politician, nor the doctor.

Psalms 39:7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.

Psalms 38:15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

Psalms 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

Psalms 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

My hope is not in my health, my stuff, my bank account. No Beloved, my hope is in Christ Jesus. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24). Our God is able!

The Greatest Of These Is Love

I have made a feeble attempt to explain faith and hope to you today, but I cannot leave without looking at the final pillar of Christianity. It is “love”.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Faith and hope will abide forever, even into eternity. But that which is greatest is “love”. Why? Because “love” is the strength, the power behind faith and hope. I have faith in God because God loves me unconditionally. God said

Jeremiah 31:3 “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.”

God did not have to save any one of us. The angels fell, and God never offered them a redeemer. We fell, and God offered His own dear Son to us for our sins.

1 John 3:1-2 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when {Jesus} appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

God loves me when I’m unlovable. God loves me when I fail. God loves me when I don’t listen. God loves me though I sometimes sin. God loves me anyway. One day I shall be in glory with my Savior and Lord forever. One day I shall be given Heaven to explore, and a new body to explore it in. Why? Because God loves me. Not because I’m worthy, but because God is love.

1 John 4:17-19 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.

Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? Have you placed your faith in Him? Do you hope for the future because of Him? I pray you do, dear One, for He loves you so. Run into His arms this very day, by God’s Spirit and His Word I pray. Amen.

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

Where Are You Looking For Blessing? Red Letters Series #4

Red Letters 4

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

Matthew 5:1-3 And seeing the multitudes, {Jesus} went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed ….

Our Jesus taught in the Sunday Schools. He preached “the Gospel of the Kingdom”, that Messiah had come, that He is the Messiah. Jesus proved this by healing the sick and casting out demons. As Jesus traveled He preached:

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

The word “repent” is the Greek μετανοέω metanoeō which means “change your mind” or specifically, “change your spiritual direction”. Jesus came as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calling whosoever would listen to His Kingdom. Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The Messiah came and commanded that all people everywhere repent and come to Him. Jesus Christ is the only Door to Heaven. He is the “door of the sheep”, the Children of God. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 95:1-7 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. 5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. 7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Jesus said in John 10:7-9 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Jesus came preaching in a time
when idolatry ruled the earth.

The Romans were an idolatrous people, and even God’s Israel had turned away from the God Who saved them to follow idolatrous practices. The Pharisees took the Word of God and, adding to or taking away from the Word of God, turned Judaism into a mishmash of idolatry. God had told His people “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18). As Messiah Jesus came correcting all. He said those who came before Me were thieves and robbers. Jesus Christ is the one and only Messiah sent from the Father. Repent! Turn from idolatry. Turn toward Jesus Christ.

The Dangers Of Idolatry

The Bible commands that we each examine ourselves, to see whether we are in THE faith (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10-11). The Bible commands us to …

Jude 3-4 … earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Idolatry crept into Israel while Moses was on the Mount, speaking with God. People gathered their riches together and pooled them to make a golden calf to worship, saying, “these be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4). An idol has no power to bless. An idol has no power to heal, nor to hear prayers. This is why Jesus equated those which came before, the idols, as thieves and robbers. An idol steals glory from God, the true God, the Great Shepherd. An idol steals the joy of God’s people, giving false comfort and false hope.

Not too long ago Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research polled the evangelical Church and found out that, across all denominational lines, 46% of self professed evangelicals believed that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam”. Yet what does the Scripture say? What did Jesus say? Jesus said:

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER, BUT BY ME.

The message that Jesus preached was that:

Jesus is THE Door. (John 10:7)
Jesus is THE Bread of Life. (John 6:35)
Jesus is THE Bread of Heaven. (John 6:41, 51)
Jesus is THE Light of the world. (John 8:12; 9:5)
Jesus is THE Good Shepherd. (John 10:11, 14)
Jesus is THE Resurrection and the Life. (John 11:25)
Jesus is THE True Vine. (John 15:1)
Jesus is THE Creator God. (Revelation 1:17)
Jesus is THE Promised Messiah. (Revelation 22:16)

Throughout His ministry Jesus Christ consistently presented Himself as the one and only Messiah sent from Heaven to bring us to God.

True God On The Mountain

Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, {Jesus} went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Jesus went up into a mountain. This is very significant. Moses went up into a mountain to receive the Word of God, the Law, and to take it back down the mountain. No one else was allowed on the mountain. But now Jesus goes up a mountain not to receive the Word of God, but because He IS the Living Word of God.

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

Jesus Christ is the Only Word of God become flesh. All others who have come before and who have come after are but imitations of the Real Thing.

Several years ago they came out with something called “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter”. I bought it. I tasted it. Guess what? It should be named “I CAN Believe It’s Not Butter”. If you’ve ever tasted real butter, this imitation stuff just isn’t the same.

Jesus walked through a world filled with idols, with pretend gods and goddesses, with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not God” packaged for the masses. When people experienced Jesus they experienced the Real Thing. If you have ever experienced Christ, if you have ever done as the Psalmist said:

Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Moses brought a Law down from Mount Sinai that foretold of the Coming Messiah. Man took that Law and made it into an idol. Now Jesus comes, not as another Moses, but as God become Man, the True Messiah, the Way of God. He is exclusively the One.

Matthew 5:1 … when {Jesus} was set, his disciples came unto him:

His DISCIPLES came unto Him”.

Who were these “disciples”? The Dr. Thomas Constable states:

We usually think of disciples of Jesus as people who have believed in Jesus and who are going on in their walk with Him. The Gospel evangelists used “disciple” to refer to people who were learning from Jesus, before they came to faith in Him, as well as after they did.”

Jesus presented Himself as the only Way unto God, Jesus came for all who would heed Him. “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus is God on the Mountain, The Only Way To God.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

These “disciples” that our text speaks of were people from all walks of life who were seeking a real engagement with God. They had tried “I Can’t Believe It’s Not God” and it just didn’t taste right. Then the Real Deal came. So these people, these “Disciples” were willing to walk up a mountain to hear this Messiah speak.

If you believe that there are multiple ways to God outside of Christ then you are at odds with Jesus.

I have heard this question asked by sincere, well meaning idolaters. “Won’t God accept a person who is sincerely trying to do good, even if that person rejects Jesus Christ as Messiah – or never even hears of Jesus?”.

Beloved, there is only One God on the mountain. Pastor Nicholas Davis of Core Christianity wrote:

This question misunderstands a very basic understanding of the world: no one is good, no not one (Romans 3:10, 12). The hardest truth is admitting that all of us fall in this camp. It’s not that God is unjust and he refuses to accept all godly, good people when they die. It’s that God is just, and there are no godly, good people who die. Everyone is ungodly and guilty before God. No person has ever lived a life in which he or she has always done what is good for others—except Jesus. The reason Jesus is the only way to salvation is not because God is unjust, but rather because he is just. The only way that God can justify a guilty sinner is through Jesus the justifier (Romans 3:26). … God won’t punish anyone for not hearing about his Christ. That’s not the reason why God will condemn anyone. The reason he can justly punish someone is because a person is rejecting the God who has “been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). What this means is that no one is simply innocent—everyone is guilty before God by refusing to worship him as Creator.”

There is but One God, the Triune God, and but One Messiah, Jesus Christ. Multitudes went up this mountain to hear Jesus. Though many had not yet believed on Him they gave Him an audience. Jesus Christ is real. All other ways are, at best, but faint copies.

The Way To Blessing Is At Christ’s Feet

Matthew 5:2-3 And {Jesus} opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When we read the Bible we often overlook very important things. For instance:

Jesus OPENED His MOUTH, and
TAUGHT them
?

Reading the text this sounds redundant and foolish. If you’re going to teach someone you’re going to open your mouth. You can’t hum a lesson. I believe the reason the text reads as it does because it is emphasizing Jesus is the Sole Source of these truths. Jesus is not quoting some other religious leader or Rabbi. As Jesus states:

Matthew 5:3 … Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus uses the word “blessed” nine times in the beginning of this Sermon. The word “blessed” means “to be fulfilled, joyous, happy. In fact the word is translated as “happy” in John 13:17; Acts 26:2; Romans 14:22; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:14.

Jesus tells these seeking disciples:

If you are spiritually poor – in need of a touch from God – this is a good place to be.” Why? Because it is the spiritually seeking who are at Jesus’ feet. If a person is satisfied with the idols around them that person will never see God. But if you are hungry to meet the Creator then you are in the right place, seated at the feet of Jesus!

Jesus said: Mark 2:17 … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (also Luke 5:32)

The person who is satisfied with idols, even religious idols, will not hear Jesus’ voice. No Pharisees are sitting at Jesus’ feet. No Scribes. No Sadducees. Just those who are sinners, who KNOW that they are sinners.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted
.

Jesus is not telling anybody how to get better. He is not giving any prescriptions as a doctor would do.

Are you sad? In a depressed state? Jesus does not tell the disciple to DO anything, but to BE.
BE at Christ’s feet.

BE open to His Word. BE closed to the demons, and the idols. Hear Him! God the Father said:

THIS is My Beloved Son: HEAR HIM! (Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35)

Hear Him, for Christ is the Only Way to Eternal Life. The disciples came up the mountain to hear Jesus. The Pharisees stayed in the valley, satisfied with their gods. Jesus told them “You will not come to Me, that you might have life” (John 5:40; 10:10). God wrote His Scripture so that:

John 20:21 … ye might believe that Jesus is THE Christ, THE Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through HIS name.

Not through my works, but at Christ’s feet. Not by my opinion, but at Christ’s feet.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for
they shall inherit the earth.

Do you feel “less than”? Are you always picked last, the least of the crowd. The world says “just get better”. Jesus says, “Come unto Me”:

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 19:14 {Allow} little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

You were last in every thing, ignored and cast aside by the beautiful people. But Jesus came for you. Jesus Christ does not offer a self help program. He says, “Come unto Me. Rest at My feet. Hear My Word. Beliedve on Me, and I will give you the world!”

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

How can a person be right with God? There is but one way. Cease following the gods of the valley, and come and listen to Jesus Christ. The multitudes want a quick fix. The masses want this life made whole. Yet this is not what Jesus offered. Jesus doesn’t offer cosmetic fixes. When He comes into the

life, He changes us from the inside out. Listen Beloved, you can stay in the valley with the multitudes and be just like every body else. Sit at Jesus’ feet. Hear Him. He has the Words of Life.

Matthew 5:7-9 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Jesus says to those with open hearts that He will bless them. Jesus is merciful. Jesus is pure in heart, Jesus came to give us peace with God. He calls you to His side this very day.

Jesus Will Save “Whosoever Will Believe On Him”

If you belong to Jesus, if you sit at His feet, the darkness in the valley will persecute you. Jesus wanted those who followed Him to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28). You may have to leave loved ones if you follow Jesus. You may have to leave friends. As a matter of fact, you may have to leave your Church to follow Jesus.

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The world believes that “all good people go to Heaven”. Jesus never taught this. He told us to:

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The sinful world does not want to sit at Jesus’ feet. It does not want to obey the Lord. The self righteous do not want to humble themselves to follow Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, if you are His Disciple, you will be persecuted. Jesus said “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). If you are Light following Christ in the Light you will be persecuted. It will come.

Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

You, Beloved Disciple of Christ, will be persecuted. You will be called a hater, a liar, a redneck, a deciever. The self righteous called Jesus demon possessed. You will receive the same. But Beloved, it is worth it all. It is worth it all. The best place to be is at Jesus’ feet – even if you are the only one there.

As I was in my devotional this morning I was reading from Elmer Towns book Praying The Lord’s Prayer For Spiritual Breakthrough. Elmer wrote of a time he and his wife were on the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

I felt a tug on my right pocket. I looked down to see a little guy tugging on my yellow windbreaker pocket. He was not looking at me … His eyes were fastened on the … cotton candy in the vendor’s stall. Pointing to the cotton candy, he asked, “Can I have some …?”. … He was someone else’s child, though. “Please…” the words trailed off. “O.K.” I finally answered. Hearing me speak, the boy suddenly pulled his hand away. He did not recognize my voice.”

The child had come to Elmer, wearing a yellow windbreaker, mistaking him for his father who wore the same type of windbreaker. What can we learn from this? Elmer went on to write:

First, everyone who tugs on the pocket of the Heavenly Father is not His child. Second, God wants to do things for everyone, but can’t, because all are not His children. Third, when you become a child of God, you can receive cotton candy (or blessings) from Him.”

Beloved, you need Jesus. You need to sit at His feet. You need to hear His Word. You need to reject all other messiahs and gods and goddesses, and come to Him Who alone can save. Give yourselves to Jesus. May God open your hearts to His Word!

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

A.B.I.D.E.

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Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Galatians 2:16-21 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The Bible teaches us very clearly that by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified. That is in the very first verse of today’s text:

Galatians 2:16-21 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

The Problem With Much Of American Christianity

Much of American Christianity has so blended with the world that it is impossible to recognize it from the world. What has caused this problem is a confused preacher in the pulpit. Many preachers – in an effort (in many cases, sincere effort) to reach a lost world have eradicated “repentance” from the Gospel message. Quoting “by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” and famous texts like:

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

These preachers of confusion reason thus:

Since Christ paid for our sins on the Cross of Calvary, then believing on Him transforms what
God considers sinFUL to sinLESS.

For instance, the professor of Christ is now free to engage in activities which were – under the Old Covenant sinFUL – are now perfectly clean. Professors of this theology point to the vision that Peter had in Acts 10:10-16 – do you remember the vision?

{Peter saw} “a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four footed beasts … and there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.’ But Peter said ‘Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean’. And the voice spake unto him the second time, ‘What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common’.”

Proponents of what I call hypergrace say that, with this vision, God eradicated the moral code presented in the Law. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows that this concept is flawed. What was a violation of the Law in the Old Covenant (Exodus 20:1-17) is a violation of the Law in the New Covenant. Jesus told the rich young ruler:

Matthew 19:17-19 … if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Jesus never taught any violation of the Old Covenant commandments, but expected His disciples to obey the Father (Leviticus 18:5). “You shall keep My statutes, and live”. As Jesus said “thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and mother” He was quoting the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth commandments of Exodus 20. As Jesus said “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” He was quoting Old Covenant Law found in Leviticus 19:18, a quotation that is repeated throughout the New Covenant in Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. The Apostle Paul who is often quoted to erroneously state that what was sin is no longer sin often quoted the Ten Commandments:

Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Listen Beloved: those who are saved by Grace are no longer under the ceremonial or sacrificial codes of the Old Covenant such as the Levitical Priesthood and the animal sacrifices. We are no longer under dietary restrictions. These were restrictions to God’s Israel, not the Church. But what was morally reprehensible in the Old Covenant is still morally reprehensible under the New Covenant.

We are freed from “the works of the Law”,
but not it’s moral code.

Let’s Biblically Define The Term “Works Of The Law”

If no person can be saved by “the works of the Law” then we need to define what “the works of the Law” are.

Israel tried to justify herself by the “works of the Law”. So what is “the works of the Law”? It is quite simply the Levitical Priesthood and feasts, and the sacrifice of animals for atonement of sin. When God gave the Law of Sacrifice and Temple to unbelieving Israel the whole purpose of the bloody system was to show us that we needed a Savior.

God saved people long before He ever gave the Levitical Laws to Moses on Mount Sinai.

God saved Noah:

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Was Noah saved by keeping the Levitical Laws? No, for it was not given until Moses ascended Sinai in Exodus 20. Yet Noah found grace in the eyes of God, and Noah obeyed God and built the Ark because he loved God. Had Noah not believed in God we would all be dead now. Noah found Grace – then as a Child of God obeyed the Creator.

God saved Enoch before He ever saved Noah. Enoch is one of the least known people in Scripture. The Bible says:

Genesis 5:24 … Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Hebrews 11:5-6 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Enoch please God apart from the Law, for the Levitical Law had not been given. How did Enoch please God. By faith he came to God. By faith Enoch believed in God. By faith Enoch sought out God’s presence. Enoch abided in God!

The Levitical Law was not given to save anyone.
It was given as a mirror to show us the need of the Savior.

The Levitical Law was a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified (or declared righteous) by faith in Him (Galatians 3:24). Furthermore the Apostle wrote:

Romans 3:20-26 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that pays for our sins, not the blood of an animal. To sacrifice an animal without spot or blemish before the altar in the Temple Jerusalem was commanded as a “work of the Law”. Yet this work never saved. In fact, before Moses brought the Law, Abraham was saved by faith in Christ long before the Law was ever given.

Galatians 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

James 2:23 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.

Genesis 15:6 {Abraham} believed in the LORD; and {God} counted it to him for righteousness.

After Abraham was justified by faith in Christ (see John 8:56-58 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad”) Abraham went on to obey and follow the commands of God, even the painful ones. Case in point, Abraham was circumcised (Genesis 17:10), he and all his household.

Beloved, If You Are A Child Of God,
You Are To Abide In – To Be Like – Christ!

Jesus Christ demanded that those who are His ABIDE in Him. He very clearly stated:

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Galatians 2:17-19 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I Through The Law Am Dead To The Law, That I Might Live Unto God.

If you are justified by Christ you were justified by Christ so that you might live unto God. We are not saved to live according to what we think is right – but according to God.

The bloody Levitical sacrifices that were accomplished yearly taught all who would see that these animal sacrifices did nothing to save anyone. The sacrifices (the works of the Law) just reminded us that we are sinners. When Christ came He came as the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36). Jesus Christ died for me on Calvary. He died for you on Calvary.

What does this mean practically to the Christian? The Apostle stated the truth in a very interesting way. He said:

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

I am crucified with Christ

This is a very vivid picture. When Christ was crucified His hands and feet were nailed to the Cross. He could not move from that place until He died. As a Christian “I am crucified with Christ”. My hands and feet are nailed to the Cross with Jesus.

I Die With Jesus.
I Am Pinned To Jesus.
Jesus is nailed with me.
The Old Me dies daily.
And now I live in Jesus.

I cannot leave that Cross until I die. The Cross kills me. It kills the old David. I am like that thief on Christ’s right hand, saying…

Luke 23:42 … Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

Jesus dies FOR my sins,
And daily I die TO my sins.

I die with Him on that Cross. Oh Beloved Savior, You gave everything for me. Just remember me, dear Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom! But Jesus gives more. Jesus says, “That is not enough, dear One:

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

Jesus did not die just to take me to Heaven, but to bring Heaven to me. Jesus did not die just to take us to some sweet by and by, but to bring Heaven to earth through our changed Christlike lives. It is a present Paradise to be with Jesus, and a future Paradise promised if you are with Jesus. You were not saved to sin freely. You, dear believer, were saved to abide in Christ, to walk in the Light of God!

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

If you are saved by Grace in Christ, Christ lives in you. You, dear one, cannot sin freely without discomfort and conviction. Jesus is not a Visitor to your abode. Jesus lives IN YOU. You, in turn, live by abiding in Christ.

What Does It Look Like To A.B.I.D.E. ?

To ABIDE in Christ is to:

Always seek to do what Jesus has told us to do:

John 14:15-21 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth … 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 15:10-14 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall ABIDE in my love …

The Christian is commanded by Jesus to learn His words and to view them as commandments. Not options, but commandments. Abide in Christ!

Believe In The Faithfulness Of God To Usward

You say “but Brother David, I am not Christ. How can I be like Christ?”. You cannot be like Jesus in your own power, but if God be in you as you grow God has the power to change you. The Scripture says:

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

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

God works in the believer who follows Christ. Let us follow Christ. Let us …

Immerse Ourselves Daily In His Presence

Where you invest your time is what you will eventually be. We are to daily seek a time of refreshing in Christ, seeking His Word for us in God’s Bible. We are to meditate on Him. Where is YOUR treasure, Christian? Jesus said:

Matthew 6:19-23 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

What comes into your soul through the eye-gate and the ear-gate makes a difference. Turn off the television and open the Book. Turn off the I-Phone and enter the prayer closet. Dedicate your time to that which matters – your soul. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:103-105 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

and the Apostle said in 1 Peter 2:1-3 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Dwell In The Light As Light Daily

Are you DOING what Jesus has told you to do? What GOOD did you do today? Jesus said:

John 8:31-37 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, 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: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, praise God for it. But Beloved, you were saved for a purpose. Live according to God’s Word. Do good. Be the Light that Christ wants you to be. Be His hands and feet. What did you ACTUALLY and PRACTICALLY do today for Jesus? Did you contribute to the darkness, or to the light? Jesus said:

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

Examine Yourselves Daily Whether You Be In The Faith

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

2 Peter 1:10-11 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you are saved, you will act saved. You will not be like the lost world. No Christian abides in sin. No Christian enjoys the darkness. We are children of the light. A.B.I.D.E. in Him. May God the Holy Spirit bind you to Christ’s Word, for God’s glory, forever. Amen.

Posted in Galatians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Children Of The Day (Part 2)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

Last week we talked about the purpose of the Christian. We are created by the Spirit of God to be light, to shine and reflect the glory of our Savior into a darkened world. This is our calling. Jesus said of Himself:

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

and of His Church:

Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Bringing Himself and we who are His together Jesus said:

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

The purpose of the Christian is to walk in Christ’s light, to live in His glory, to shine for Jesus where we are. Without your light the world is in darkness.

The Christian Is Empowered To Shine
By The Spirit And Prayer

I have no power to shine of myself, and neither do you. To be children of the Day and the Light of the world we must “pray without ceasing”. When we pray, we contact God through Jesus Christ our High Priest. When we pray, the Holy Spirit is enabled in our lives. When we pray we become conduits through which God can speak to the lost and dying.

Jesus emphasized continual prayer. In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable that explained why “we ought always – ALWAYS pray – and NOT “FAINT” (Greek ἐκκακέω ekkakéō, {pronounced ek-kak-eh’-o}) or literally “be spiritless or exhausted”. Do you become weary or hopeless at the state of our nation? Do you feel like throwing up your hands as you see the fallen nature of our political system? Do you ever just want to merge into the background like all others, and be part of the crowd? Then you have lost purpose. The darkness has won.

The parable Jesus told in Luke 18 emphasized how the light overcomes the darkness. Jesus’ parable went this way:

Luke 18:2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

This is a picture of a person who is in total darkness. This judge does not fear God, has no respect for God’s glory. He does not see people as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). There is nothing worse than a judge, a person of great authority over others, who has no concept of God nor of the inherent value of God’s creation. Jesus continues:

Luke 18:3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

Here now is a widow in that city. If the judge is a picture of power unshackled, this widow is a picture of absolute powerlessness. She is nameless. She is faceless. She is not beautiful, just a common person. She has no funds, no way to bribe the judge who is in utter darkness. She has been hurt, and has no family to stand up for her. She has but one request: Avenge me of mine adversary“. What does the widow do? She does the one thing she can do.

She goes to the dark judge with a simple request.

How did the judge react? Jesus said (verse 4) “And he would not for a while:”. At the end of that statement is a colon (:). Do you see it? That colon (:) represents who knows how many visits by the persistent widow. I can see this judge every day coming to his chambers. He asks the clerk: “Do I have any business today?”. The clerk says, “Yes, lord. You have a full docket today. But first in line is that little old lady you saw yesterday. She’s back again!” The judge says, “Tell her I don’t have time to see her again. After all, I don’t chew my cabbage twice! Send her away.” The clerk says, “I tried to, my lord, but she refuses to go. She keeps screaming she needs to see you. When I threatened her, the Jerusalem news team showed up in droves, and said any abuse of her would be on the front page. After all, my lord, few people like you!” The judge grudgingly sees her, and turns her away once more. The next morning, and the next morning, and the next morning, it is “Deja Vu all over again”. On the right side of that colon (:) you read:

Luke 18:4-5 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

Jesus said “Hear what the unjust judge saith.”

Luke 18:7-8 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Prayer is the key to power for the Christian. As we pray, God opens our eyes. As we pray, we are changed and the world around us is changed. We must be persistent in prayer.

For Prayer To Be Effective We Must Not
Sabotage Our Prayer Life

The word “sabotage” was coined in the 1890’s by anarchist Émile Pouget. The anarchist suggested that French labor unions promote work slowdowns and inefficiency. The poor workers wore sabots or wooden shoes, whereas better paid management wore leather shoes. Since those who wore sabots were clunking along it made sense for them to slow down in protest. What slows down or stops our effectiveness in prayer?

1 To Live In Sin Infects You Prayers. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 66:16-20 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. 17 I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: 19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.

When we pray, we approach not just another Person, but the Perfect and Holy Creator of all things. The angels declare of God that He is holy, holy, holy. “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). And the four chief angels of Heaven “rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). We cannot approach God with known sin in our lives. The Prophet declared:

Isaiah 59:1-3 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

We must approach the Throne of Grace with clean hands and purified hearts. We do not do this with our own power, but come to God first in prayer, repenting of any known sin, and pleading the Blood of Jesus Christ. What has our Lord told us?

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:7 … the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

That which saved us, saves us still. Cast off the works of darkness, the old man, and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Confess your sins, and trust Him Who saved you to purify you still.

2 I Must Heed And Respect God’s Word. Just last week a couple of visitors took offense at something my brother in Christ Jerry said about abortion. What he said was right and Biblical, but this couple, angry, got up and left the Church. So be it. Light and darkness do not mix. Beloved, you must cherish God’s Word above all else. What God has said is true. Let God be true, and every man and woman a liar (Romans 3:4). The Bible says:

Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

You know that thing Jesus said:

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

He was serious about that. Do you remember when He said:

Matthew 22:39 … Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Jesus wasn’t joking. He wasn’t joking when He said “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12). In fact, everything that God has commanded in this His Word is not optional. So when you read it, or hear it rightly expounded from the pulpit, and your response is “well, that was then and this is now, then you need not expect your prayers to be heard. God does not answer even one prayer from a disobedient heart. It is God’s Word that shows us the will of God. If you cherish His Word and strive to do it, the Bible says:

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

3 God Will Not Hear Prayers That Are Not Directed Heavenward. If I were to stand up here and preach to no one but Eddie Estes – looking at him, talking to him, focusing on him while ignoring the rest of you, would you even listen to me? Of course you wouldn’t. If I never directed my words to you, you would ignore me. The same is true of God. Too often we pray not to God, but so that others can hear what we say. And God knows what you are doing. Jesus said:

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

When you pray in public – especially in public – shut out others. Pray heavenward. Speak to your Heavenly Father. He will hear.

4 When We Pray Doubting, God Will Not Answer. The Bible says:

James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Know that God loves you as you pray. Know that He has numbered the very hair of your head (Luke 12:7; Matthew 10:30), and your Heavenly Father knows what you need (Matthew 6:8). Trust Him, and love Him. If you harbor unbelief share that with Him. I love the story of the man who came to Jesus with a child possessed of a devil. The man told Jesus:

Mark 9:22 … {many times this devil} hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters to destroy {my son}. .. If Thou {dear Jesus} canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

Jesus said unto him (Mark 9:23) If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

The man looked at Jesus, saying with tears:

“Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Confess your faithlessness to God and ask Him to increase your faith. Cast yourselves upon Him Who loves you and gave Himself for you (Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14). Our God is so good. Trust Him, and ask in faith, never wavering!

5 When Pray For Our Selfish Needs Rather Than For The Glory Of God, The Lord Will Not Hear. The stepbrother of Jesus wrote:

James 4:3-4 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

As Children of Light all that we pray for should be for God’s glory. I am reminded of a selfish prayer that God answered in the Old Testament in the life of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a good King who feared God. His name means “God has strengthened”. This King re-established the worship of the true God in Israel. Hezekiah got sick one time, The Bible says:

2 Kings 20:1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

The Bible tells us that we all have an appointed time to die, appointed by God our Savior (Hebrews 9:27). Our lives are gifts from God. When we have reached the end of our usefulness for God on this earth, our God takes us into His glorious Heaven. We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die”. We should not fear death, dear Christian. When our time comes, run into Christ’s embrace! Do not allow the gods of science and medicine to extend your appointment beyond your effectiveness for God. Look up! Look up!

Anyway, I digress. Hezekiah prayed and sought God for an extended life – and God gave it to him. God told Isaiah the Prophet to tell Hezekiah:

2 Kings 20:5-6 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years

Hezekiah’s prayer was not for the glory of God, but for himself. But God allowed it so we could see what happens when we make life about ourselves. Not long after God gave Hezekiah 15 more years of life the Babylonians send a delegation to his palace. Hezekiah shows off his treasury to the Babylonians, which was like showing red meat to a starving wolf (2 Kings 20:13). God told Hezekiah:

2 Kings 20:17-18 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

Pastor J.D. Greear writes:

“{Hezekiah} shows us that it is so easy to receive the blessings of God and make them all about us. God blesses us, miraculously, with life, with prosperity, with family, with salvation from sin . . . and all we can then think about is our comfort, our needs, our glory. Tragically, many of God’s people end their lives just like Hezekiah. They forget that God blesses us to be a blessing. They may never say it out loud, but their lives scream, “Who cares about anyone else? As long as my needs are taken care of and I die happy, it’s all fine! So what if kids in my city are growing up without mothers or fathers? So what if people around the world are dying without hearing the gospel? I’m going to heaven, so it’s all good.”

6 When Our Personal Lives Do Not Shine For Jesus, This Hinders Our Prayers. The Apostle wrote:

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with {your wives} according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

The spouse you have is a gift from God, just as your salvation is. We are to be good stewards of what our God has entrusted to us. Put down the remote control and turn off the television. Put your phones on silent mode. Focus on and love the wife or husband you have. Treat your partners as if they are created in God’s image – for they are!

When You Pray, Be Aware Of What You Are Doing

Prayer is communication and fellowship with the Greatest Being ever. We are talking to God our Father when we pray. We are approaching God through the glorious gift of Christ our Savior. We are empowered to pray by the Spirit of God. Let us be aware of Whom we are talking to when we pray. John Piper put it this way:

“Jesus does not kiss a drunk wife. He may carry her off the street and back to bed. He may be utterly patient with her, and set before her hot coffee and fresh starts. But he will not kiss a drunk wife. What do I mean? I mean that when the bride of Christ, the church, is drunk with the world, she may turn to him for a brief kiss of prayer, but her breath reeks so bad of worldliness that he turns his face away.”

Let us glorify God in our lives and He will hear us – and bless us – as we pray. May God touch you with His Word and Spirit this very night! Amen.

Posted in 1 Thessalonians, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Repent And Follow (A Men’s Sunday Message)

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Matthew 4:17-22 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left [their] nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and {Jesus} called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

We are continuing our study of “The Red Letters”, all the “red lettered” words of Christ in the Bible. We start this morning with a question:

Why Would Commercial Fishermen Drop
Everything To Follow Jesus?

Jesus comes to two sets of commercial fishermen: Peter and his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee James and John. In both cases Jesus calls to them, saying, “Follow Me”. These rugged commercial fishermen drop everything to follow Jesus. In fact, the sons of Zebedee leave their father high and dry, walking away from the family business to follow Jesus.

If you have ever watched these reality television shows like “Swamp People”, “Wicked Tuna”, “Deadliest Catch” (shows I love to watch), then you know commercial fishermen are rugged, coarse, and tough. Their language often reflects their lifestyle. The shows I watch often bleep out certain remarks the characters make – especially when they are agitated. I’m sure they aren’t just saying “Heck” and “shoot” when they’re upset. So here’s my question:

How could a Rabbi, relatively unknown to the movers and shakers of Israel, just walk past some commercial fishermen and, with just a few words cause them to abandon their fishing boats to follow Him?

You would not find the answer unless you carefully read your Bible. There are four “Gospels” in our Bibles, and each Gospel shows a slightly different perspective on Jesus’ story. So let’s look at the back story.

We are told in Luke that prior to calling these fishermen that Jesus preached in His hometown and was rejected (Luke 4:18-28), “for a prophet has no honor in his own country”. So Jesus left Nazareth and went to Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus never forced Himself on anyone. When the Son of God began to preach among these rugged fishermen the Bible says:

Luke 4:32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.

What was the difference between Nazareth and Capernaum? Why did Jesus resonate with the people of Capernaum, whereas He was rejected in His own hometown? I believe it was because of the environment. Fishermen worked hard in Capernaum. Commercial fishing is a hard life.

The trials of life often bring us to a place where God can reach us. Comfort can be the greatest incentive to damnation. The comfortable person never looks up. But the tried person, the struggling person, the abused, the hurting. These people are in a position where God can reach them.

In the Old Testament there is the story of a great man, a wonderful warrior named Naaman, the commander of the Army of Syria. Naaman knew how to fight, and how to lead highly successful fighters. He had the poise of Douglas MacArthur, the determination of Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, the fortitude of that great astronaut John Glenn, and the tactical wisdom of General George S. Patton. Where ever Naaman went he brought victory. But Naaman had leprosy, a terrible skin disease. Naaman’s wife had a slave girl from Israel who said that God, through the prophet Elisha, would be able to heal him. When Naaman talked with Elisha the prophet told him:

2 Kings 5:10-12 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.

Naaman allowed his manhood and pride to keep him from a blessing. But the slave girl convinced him to go and do as God said through the prophet. When Naaman humbled himself and did as God directed he was healed.

What does the Bible say to us all?

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

Men, if you want to be blessed you need to come surrendered to Jesus. Jesus is different. Jesus is a Man’s Man. Jesus is the stepson of Joseph, the carpenter’s son. The only job tougher than being a commercial fisherman in Jesus’ day was being a carpenter. I’ll just say this.

No power tools.
No air conditioning.
You had to make your own nails.
You had to chisel your own stone.

When Jesus came He didn’t come fancy dressed, with philosophies and dainties like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes did. Jesus didn’t come like the politicians, the Herodians did. Jesus was a man’s Man. What He had to say made real sense for real people. The Bible says:

Luke 2:47 And all that heard {Jesus} were astonished at his understanding and answers.

As Jesus preached and healed the sick His followers grew. Though Jesus’ early sermons astonished people, they were NOT recorded. Why? Because the Gospels were written by Apostles. But BEFORE they were Apostles they were rough fishermen. Many of you have heard me preach. I am not fancy. I’m pitiful, as a matter of fact. I listen and wince at many of the recording of my messages. Many of you turn me off, or are just looking to be entertained. But my prayer is, despite my failures and limitations, that you men hear and see Jesus.

Why Would Commercial Fishermen Drop
Everything To Follow Jesus?
Because Of This Unheard Sermon.

Before Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John from the Sea of Galilee (also called the “lake of Gennesaret”) Jesus preached a message that none of the Apostles recorded. The reason none of them recorded it was that they were, at this particular moment, dead in their sins. Jesus was preaching in Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We read:

Luke 5:1-3 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of GennesaretSea of Galilee, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

Jesus spoke the Word of God. People need the Word of God. We don’t need another liberal preacher’s opinion, but we need to hear from our Creator. As Jesus preached the people crowded closer and closer to Him.

Beloved, if you ever fall in love with Jesus and both hear and do what He says, you will see such a wonderful transformation of your life. The people pressed in. They wanted more and more of Him. I want MORE of Jesus!

The crowd pushed, until they pushed Jesus to the water’s edge. Jesus stepped on Simon Peter’s fishing boat, and asked Peter to take Him out on the Lake. The Sea of Galilee is a natural amphitheater, and Jesus’ words easily carried to the crowd. As Jesus spoke to the crowd on shore they listened with rapture. Though the sermon was not recorded, I pretty much know what Jesus said. He told them, I’m sure, that ..

God did love them. God wanted them in His family. God was concerned about their lives. Repent, turn from following the world. Follow Me, Jesus said.
The Father sent Me. Follow Me.

As Jesus spoke the Word of God the crowd listened, but Peter and the fishermen with him heard nothing to note. They were lost souls. The sermon ends, and the crowd disperses. It is possible that Jesus gave Peter and Andrew money to take Him out on the Sea of Galilee. So Peter now looks at Jesus. What does Jesus want now? Is He ready to go in.

Jesus looks at these men, and can tell by their wind blown faces that they were discouraged. They had fished all night and caught nothing. Their families would go hungry if this kept up! Jesus knows what is in our hearts. Men, Jesus knows our pain and sorrow. Jesus knows what we go through day by day. He sees our struggles. I’ve been there, struggling for a meager living. Broken because I couldn’t give my family what they needed. Jesus knows.

James 1:2 … Men, be filled with joy when you go through trials (my paraphrase) ..

Trials are an opportunity for God to reach out to you. Jesus tells Peter:

Luke 5:4 … Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

Jesus paid for the boat. It’s His cruise. Go deeper, Peter. Go further out. Do what I say, for I speak the Word of God. Peter told Jesus:

Luke 5:5 … Master (ἐπιστάτης epistátēs, ep-is-tat’-ace, overseer, boss), we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy Word I will let down the net.

Peter caught nothing all night long, and the only income he has is what Jesus gave him to take Him out on the Sea of Galilee. Peter just does what the Lord says.

And the bottom fell out!

The Bible says “they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” (Luke 5:6). Simon and Andrew cried out. “Yo, the shore. Bring the other boat out! Quick, before we lose this treasure!” The other boat launches … but it was not enough. There was so much fish that both boats nearly sank (Luke 5:7).

That’s what God wants to do for our lives, dear brothers. I’m not a so called prosperity preacher, but I do believe what Jesus 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.

Jesus wants to bless our lives. As men we define ourselves by our masculinity, by our sexual prowess, or money making ability. Jesus wants us to define ourselves in Him. Not in our testosterone. In Him. In Jesus.

On board that ship that day Peter got it. He understood that Jesus is more than just a fad, more than just a healer of the sick, more than anyone he had ever met. Here is the Creator!

Real Men Love Jesus

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.

I want you to see the picture of this. I want you to understand this. This rough fisherman falls down at Jesus’ knees. He is on his knees. He didn’t “accept Jesus into his heart”, nor did he “give Jesus his heart”.

Simon Peter is the very picture of surrender!

If you’re old enough to remember Paul Harvey, a radio broadcaster from years ago, then you now understand the REST of the STORY. It was not just ten words that led these men to follow Jesus. They saw in Jesus Creator God. This Jesus they saw could call the fish, calm the waves, and still the storm.

Matthew 4:19-20 Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left [their] nets, and followed him.

These men walked away from their nets and the great haul of fish. They walked away from their boats. James and John, inseparable brothers,

Matthew 4:22 … immediately left the ship and their father, and followed {Jesus}.

These men – all friends with one another – gave up everything to follow Jesus. They were not disappointed. Jesus Christ is real. He is a real Man. He loves everyone, and wants to bless all who will come to Him.

Matthew 4:23-25 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and {Jesus} healed them. 25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

Back To The Beginning: What Does Jesus Require?

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

What is it that Jesus wants of us all? It is to first “repent”. This is the Greek μετανοέω metanoeō which is a compound word. Meta means to change, and Noeō means “the mind”. We as men must STOP allowing the world to define us. Let us let Jesus define us. Let us live our lives in the light of His perfect teaching and perfect example. Repentance is necessary for salvation. Repentance doesn’t mean:

To do penance.
To try harder.
To improve oneself.

Repentance means to turn back to the God Who loves you, defining your lives the way that your Creator meant it to be. To keep doing things YOUR way is to bring yourselves to an eventual place of destruction. Peter the Fisherman wrote:

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

God through the prophet preached “repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). Jesus Christ said:

Luke 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Sin entered the world because the first Man, Adam, tried living apart from God. He did not lead his family. He did not heed the command of God. Because of this the Scripture declares:

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

The bad things on this earth are here because Adam, the first man, did not follow the Lord. The Lord told him:

Genesis 3:17-19 … cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee … 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

God calls out to us, men.

Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand

Turn from following your own way, and follow the King of Heaven, Jesus Christ. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15). Jesus Christ is the overcoming Son of God (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), and He bids you to come to Him and He will make you sons of God. Jesus said:

Matthew 4:19 Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Jesus wants to take you from among the followers of darkness and foolishness, and make you a son of Light. Will you come? Will you hear Him, and come? Oh that you would this very day give yourselves to Jesus. To you is His promise:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV) … if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Dear brothers, come. The Spirit bids come. The Bride bids come. Come to Jesus. Follow Him to glory. May God the Holy Spirit touch your hearts with His Word! Amen!

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

How’s Your Candle Doing? Red Letters #3

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

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

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

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

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

We Do Not See Our Own Blindness

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

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

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

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

“Give me liberty, or give me death”

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

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

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

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

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

Like A Candle Jesus Wants Our Light To Shine

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

Why a candle?

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

John 1:1-2, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. … 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1:27 … God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

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

But Adam sinned.
(PREACHER blow out candle)

Adam listened to the word of the worldly snake rather than to the Word of God. On that day Adam spiritually died. His flame was blown out by sin. The Bible says:

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

The candle was out. Sin grew in the world, and death by sin. Creation grew so bad and dark that God chose to destroy all by flood.

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

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

Candles Cannot Light Themselves

Matthew 5:15 Neither do men light a candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God has made you to be light.

It Will Cost You To Be Light

Matthew 5:14-15 Ye are the light of the world. … 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

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

(PASTOR, hold up sealed box of candles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Jesus told us:

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

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

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

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

Are YOU Light Or Dark?

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

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

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

Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow,

That a time could ever be,

When I let the Savior’s pity

Plead in vain, and proudly answered,

All of self, and none of Thee,

All of self and none of Thee.

Yet He found me; I beheld Him

Bleeding on the cursed tree;

Heard Him pray, Forgive them, Father,

And my wistful heart said faintly,

Some of self, and some of Thee,

Some of self, and some of Thee.

Day by day His tender mercy,

Healing, helping, full and free,

Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,

Brought me lower while I whispered,

Less of self, and more of Thee,

Less of self, and more of Thee.

Higher than the highest heavens,

Deeper than the deepest sea,

Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;

Grant me now my heart’s petition,

None of self, and all of Thee,

None of self, and all of Thee.

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

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

Children Of Light (Part 1)

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1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

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

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

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

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

To plan for our afterlife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children Of The Day Have Requirements
We Must Meet

1 Thessalonians 5:7-10 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

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

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

then, dear friends, you are living in darkness.

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

1 Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

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

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

1 Thessalonians 5:10 … to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, WE SHOULD LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM.

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

What Does Living In The Light Look Like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we do this? More specifically:

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

We are Christ’s Kingdom of light.

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

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

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

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

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

And Jesus to His Church:

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

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

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

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

Remain In Prayer And In God’s Word

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

The key to this section is the three words:

Pray without ceasing

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

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

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

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

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

If you practice an attitude of unceasing prayer,

You will “rejoice evermore”.

If you make yourself always available to commune with God,

You will give thanks in everything.

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

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

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

Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer is my birthright.
Prayer is my oxygen.

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

Posted in 1 Thessalonians, Sermons Preached | Tagged ,

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

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Photo by Benjamin Smith on Unsplash

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

The Great Commission our Lord Jesus gave His Church is:

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

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

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

Jesus Was Tempted As We Are, Yet Without Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sin was purged from humanity by 40/40.

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

Righteous Law was given by 40/40.

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

Refreshing from God was given by 40/40.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Did Jesus Defeat The Devil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 4:4 {Jesus} answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for IT IS WRITTEN, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

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

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

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

Through Biblical misquotes Satan deceives the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a direct quote from:

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

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

Three Strikes, Satan, and YOU Are OUT!

Defeated twice, now Satan throws everything at Jesus.

Matthew 4:8-9 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

If you want power, worship Satan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After this final challenge the Bible says:

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

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

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

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Despise Not Small Things

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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

What’s In A Name?

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

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

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

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

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

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zerubbabel was discouraged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vision Teaches Us About Success
And Following God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Angel of the Lord told Zerubbabel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Scripture the Apostle said:

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

and Jesus told us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Not Despise The Day Of Small Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By our small act of faith and obedience.

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

John 3:14-18 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

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

The way into Heaven is through small things.

Romans 10:9-10 …if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Great Commission

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Photo by Maria Krisanova on Unsplash

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

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

Our Lord in the “Great Commission” gives us:

A Promise
A Direction
An Action
and A Teaching

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

Let’s Examine The Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is this same Jesus Who tells us:

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

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

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

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

Daniel 7:14 And THERE WAS GIVEN HIM dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

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

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

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

John 5:22-27 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Examine The Direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

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

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Examine The Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now I ask the other question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

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

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

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

Let’s Examine The Teaching

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

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

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

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

God told His Old Covenant people:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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