Recommended Reading On The Subject Of Church Membership
- Stop Dating The Church, by Joshua Harris, 2004
- What is A Healthy Church Member, by Thabiti M. Anyabwile, 2008.
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever, 2004.
- What is A Healthy Church, by Mark Dever, 2007
- Church Membership, by Jonathan Leeman, 2012
- Why You Should Join the Church, (Sermon by John MacArthur, 1/27/2008).
- Life In The Father’s House, by Wayne A. Mack, 2006
- The Glorious Body Of Christ, by R. B. Kuiper, 1967
[Rosaria Butterfield (formerly "Champagne") was a leftist lesbian professor who became a Christian and pastor's wife]
"...The article [that she wrote] generated many rejoinders, so many that I kept a Xerox box on each side of my desk: one for hate mail, one for fan mail. But one letter I received defied my filing system. It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter. Ken Smith encouraged me to explore the kind of questions I admire: How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn't argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn't know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.
Later that night, I fished it out of the recycling bin and put it back on my desk, where it stared at me for a week, confronting me with the worldview divide that demanded a response. As a postmodern intellectual, I operated from a historical materialist worldview, but Christianity is a supernatural worldview. Ken's letter punctured the integrity of my research project without him knowing it.
With the letter, Ken initiated two years of bringing the church to me, a heathen. Oh, I had seen my share of Bible verses on placards at Gay Pride marches. That Christians who mocked me on Gay Pride Day were happy that I and everyone I loved were going to hell was clear as blue sky. That is not what Ken did. He did not mock. He engaged. So when his letter invited me to get together for dinner, I accepted. My motives at the time were straightforward: Surely this will be good for my research.
Something else happened. Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken's God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends.
I started reading the Bible. I read the way a glutton devours. I read it many times that first year in multiple translations. At a dinner gathering my partner and I were hosting, my transgendered friend J cornered me in the kitchen. She put her large hand over mine. "This Bible reading is changing you, Rosaria," she warned.
With tremors, I whispered, "J, what if it is true? What if Jesus is a real and risen Lord? What if we are all in trouble?"
J exhaled deeply. "Rosaria," she said, "I was a Presbyterian minister for 15 years. I prayed that God would heal me, but he didn't. If you want, I will pray for you."
I continued reading the Bible, all the while fighting the idea that it was inspired. But the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. It overflowed into my world. I fought against it with all my might. Then, one Sunday morning, I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later sat in a pew at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. Conspicuous with my butch haircut, I reminded myself that I came to meet God, not fit in. The image that came in like waves, of me and everyone I loved suffering in hell, vomited into my consciousness and gripped me in its teeth.
I fought with everything I had.
I did not want this.
I did not ask for this.
I counted the costs. And I did not like the math on the other side of the equal sign.
But God's promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world. One Lord's Day, Ken preached on John 7:17: "If anyone wills to do [God's] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine" (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came before obedience. And I wanted God to show me, on my terms, why homosexuality was a sin. I wanted to be the judge, not one being judged.
But the verse promised understanding after obedience. I wrestled with the question: Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God's point of view, or did I just want to argue with him? I prayed that night that God would give me the willingness to obey before I understood. I prayed long into the unfolding of day. When I looked in the mirror, I looked the same. But when I looked into my heart through the lens of the Bible, I wondered, Am I a lesbian, or has this all been a case of mistaken identity? If Jesus could split the world asunder, divide marrow from soul, could he make my true identity prevail? Who am I? Who will God have me to be?
Then, one ordinary day, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked. In this war of worldviews, Ken was there. Floy was there. The church that had been praying for me for years was there. Jesus triumphed. And I was a broken mess. Conversion was a train wreck...." [The Gospel Comes With A House Key, Rosaria Butterfield]
I shared this dramatic testimony on Sunday as we learned about the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-11). This is a young man we have been praying for.
"Social media tends to be a collection of “best foot forward” posts. This is not one of those.
Lately it’s been increasingly apparent to me that I’ve lived a life that’s been all about me, with little regard for others. I’ve hurt a lot of people, some of you are reading this. I’ve been prideful, arrogant, deceitful, and untrustworthy, to name a few character traits.
I‘ve gone through seasons of saying I’m a Christian with my mouth but rarely with action. I’ve been two-faced. Saying one thing and doing another. How can I say I’m a follower of Jesus but I continue to do the things He hates?
Today His mercy found me. Today He opened my eyes even more to see just how ugly I am. What depths of sin I am capable of. How self deceived I’ve been. I can say all the right things but my heart has never been his. I’ve never fully committed to Christ. I’ve never wanted to. Never wanted to change or do the hard work to make changes.
Today God arrested my heart. Brought me to my knees (literally) and showed me that there is a way out, but it’s only through him. I give Him my all, or I get nothing.
Today I’m fully committing to Christ. It truly is a matter of life or death.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
I have done nothing to merit His grace. I’ve done the opposite. I share this because I know I am not alone. If you are out there and you feel like this world continues to let you down, that you can’t find lasting satisfaction in the things this world offers, you’re right. It will never satisfy. This world is temporary friends. Your soul is not.
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
1 John 2:15-17
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9
Come to Jesus friends. Humble yourself before him. Do not delay. There is no reason to wait."
[posted by Brandon on Facebook and Instagram on 10/26/17]
Question: "How can I overcome a habitual sin?"
The first thing to consider in how to overcome habitual sin is to note the change, or transformation, that takes place when a person is saved. The Bible describes the natural man as “dead in sin and trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1
). As a result of Adam’s fall into sin, man is born spiritually dead. In this state of spiritual death, man is unable and unwilling to follow and obey God and habitual sin naturally follows. Natural man sees the things of God as foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14
) and is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7
). When a person is saved, a transformation takes place. The apostle Paul refers to this as the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17
). From the moment we place our faith in Christ, we are in the process of sanctification.
The process of sanctification
is that by which those who are in Christ are conformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29
). Sanctification in this life will never be fully complete, which means that believers will always struggle with remaining sin. Paul describes this battle with sin in Romans 7:15–25
. In that passage he notes that, even though he desires to do what is good in the eyes of God, he often does what is evil instead. He does the evil he doesn’t want to do and fails to do the good that he wants to do. In this, he is describing every Christian’s struggle with sin.
James says we all sin in different ways (James 3:2
), and that means each of us has what may be called “besetting” sins. Some sins are easier to overcome than others. Some struggle with anger, others with gossip, and others with lying. The point is that each of us has a sin (or some sins) with which we struggle. These besetting sins are often, but not exclusively, habits that we developed during our lives as unbelievers and require more grace and discipline to overcome.
Part of the process of overcoming these habitual, or besetting, sins is in recognizing the transformation that has indeed taken place within the believer. Paul writes, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11
). When Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin,” he is telling us to remember that, in coming to Christ, the power of sin has been broken in our lives. He uses the metaphor of slavery to make this point. We were at one time slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:17–18
). At the cross the power of sin was broken, and, in becoming Christians, we are set free from sin’s mastery over us. Therefore, when a Christian sins, it is no longer out of the necessity of his nature, but because he has willfully submitted himself to sin’s dominion (Galatians 5:1
The next part of the process is recognizing our inability to overcome habitual sin and our need to rely on the power of God’s Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. Back to Romans 7
. Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:25
). The Christian’s struggle against sin is one in which our ability does not match our desire. That is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul later says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11
). The Holy Spirit, through God’s Word (John 17:17
), works sanctification in the people of God. Habitual sin is overcome as we submit ourselves to God and refuse the temptations of the flesh (James 4:7–8
Another part of the process of overcoming habitual sin is to change the habits that facilitate it. We have to adopt the attitude of Joseph who, when tempted by Potiphar’s wife to come to bed with her, left the room so quickly that he left his cloak in her hands (Genesis 39:15
). We simply must make every effort to run from the things that tempt us to sin, including access to food if we are given to overeating, and access to pornography if we are tempted to sexual sin. Jesus tells us to cut off our hand or pluck out our eye if they “offend” us (Matthew 5:29–30
). This means removing from our lives anything, even those things close to us, if they tempt us to sin. In short, we have to change the habits that lead to habitual sin.
Finally, we need to immerse ourselves in the truth of the gospel. The gospel is not only the means by which we are saved, but it is also the means by which we are sanctified (Romans 16:25
). If we think we are saved by grace, but sanctified by our own efforts, we fall into error (Galatians 3:1–3
). Sanctification is as much a work of God as justification. The promise we have from Scripture is that He who began a good work in us will complete it on the last day (Philippians 1:6
Recommended Resource: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
Helpful verses that teach we ARE to confront each other when we are sinning.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be ready in season and
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one
looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
James 5:19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading
to death, he shall ask and God
will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading
Jude 1:22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
2 Timothy 2:25 With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape
from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
1 Thessalonians 5:14a “We urge you, brethren, admonish
2 Thessalonians 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet
do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
I am absolutely thrilled at what the Lord is doing in my heart as I am teaching through the Biblical role of Husbands and Wives in Marriage, and also the role of Parents in training Children. I am so troubled by the lack of Biblical training that seems to generate such misguided children which eventually turn into misguided teen-agers and adults. Here is a snippet from my upcoming sermon.
“He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”—Jim Elliot
I’ve never met a Christian who doesn’t love that Maxim. They agree with it whole heartedly. But their agreement is intellectual mainly. In other words, they don’t really comprehend what the statement means theologically or practically. They haven’t been trained.
When they hear that statement, they hear “Sacrifice”
, which they interpret to mean:
Sacrifice their moral presuppositions for the sake of tolerance
Sacrifice doctrine for the sake of discussion
Sacrifice civic duties for civil rights
Sacrifice exclusivity of the gospel for broad mindedness
Sacrifice discernment for compassion
Sacrifice clarity for latitude
Sacrifice self denial for self esteem
But what Jim Elliot meant, and the thrust of the Scriptures, is “Obedience”
God expects us to turn over our lives [“that which we cannot keep”
], so that we might gain a life of servitude to His will.
Proverbs 21:3 To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD rather than sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
So, because we have not properly taught our children, we have a nation of “Christians”
who have never been trained. And that may include people here today.
"The design of the Bible is evidently to give us correct information concerning the creation of all things by the omnipotent word of God, to make known to us the state of holiness and happiness of our first parents in paradise, and their dreadful fall from that condition by transgression against God, which is the original cause of all our sin and misery." [
McGuffy Reader, c. 1837 p. 73]
Christ Jesus our Lord is known by many Titles, and these are by no means comprehensive:
The Amen—Revelation 3:14
The Alpha and The Omega—Revelation 22:13
The Apostle—Hebrews 3:1
The Author and Perfecter of Faith—Hebrews 12:2
The Author of Salvation—Hebrews 2:10
The Branch—Jeremiah 23:5
The Bread of Life—John 6:35
The Cornerstone—Ephesians 2:20
The Counselor—Isaiah 9:6
The Dayspring--Luke 1:78
The Deliverer—Romans 11:26
The Door—John 10:7
Eternal Father—Isaiah 9:6
Faithful Witness—Revelation 1:5
The First and the Last—Revelation 1:17
The Great High Priest—Hebrews 4:14
God Blessed Forever—Romans 9:5
The Guardian of Souls—1 Peter 2:25
The Head of the Church—Colossians 1:18
The Holy One of God—John 6:69
I AM—John 8:58
The King of Israel—John 1:49
King of Kings and Lord of Lords—1 Timothy 6:15
The Last Adam—1 Corinthians 15:45
The Lamb of God—John 1:29
The Light of the World—John 8:12
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah—Revelation 5:5
The Lord of Glory—1 Corinthians 2:8
The Mediator—1 Timothy 2:5
The Messenger of the Covenant—Malachi 3:1
The Messiah—John 1:41
The Mighty God—Isaiah 9:6
The Morning Star—Revelation 22:16
Our Passover—1 Corinthians 5:7
The Prince of Life—Acts 3:15
The Prince of Peace—Isaiah 9:6
The Resurrection and the Life—John 11:25
The Righteous One—Acts 7:52
The Rock—1 Corinthians 10:4
The Root and Descendant of David—Revelation 22:16
The Root of Jesse—Isaiah 11:10
The Ruler of the Kings of the Earth—Revelation 1:5
The Son of David—Matthew 12:23
The Son of God—Luke 1:35
The Son of Man—John 5:27
The Son of the Most High—Luke 1:32
The Sun of Righteousness—Malachi 4:2
The True God—1 John 5:20
The True Vine—John 15:1
The Way, The Truth, and The Life- John 14:6
The Word—John 1:1
The Word of God—Revelation 19:13
The Word of Life—1 John 1:1
But one very endearing title that I did not mention is that of “Shepherd”. (Matthew 2:6)
“The wicked may have something that looks like peace but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid, but there is a great difference between a stupefied conscience and a pacified conscience. This is the Devil’s peace. He rocks men in the cradle of security. He cries, “Peace, Peace!” when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger.” (Thomas Watson, The Peace Of God, 1850
The Manifesto Of The Individualist
“We are all free agents and every relationship and life station is a contract that can be renegotiated or canceled, whether we are dealing with the prince, the parents, the spouse, the salesman, the boss, the ballot box, the courtroom judge or, of course, the local church. I am principally obligated to myself and maximizing my life liberty and pursuit of happiness. Among my various relationships, I may choose to identify with another party but only so long as doing so is demonstrably conducive to personal advantage. I retain veto power over everything. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to dissolve the bands which have connected me to others, I dissolve them.” (Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love
What does it mean to trust God and how can we practice it?
There are three table legs of Trusting God
- God is perfect in Love
- God is infinite in Wisdom
- God is completely Sovereign
Without those three truths, our faith would crumble. We must believe that God cares about our best interests AND we must believe that God knows what He is doing AND we must believe that God is powerful enough to bring about His desired result. If we do not believe those things, then we cannot truly trust God.
Few Christians challenge God’s love or His wisdom, but many strive ardently and frequently against His sovereignty. I have spent countless hours with these people and I understand their concern completely. I understand their arguments as well.
People Question God’s Sovereignty Because They Do Not Understand What God Is doing
People who do not accept the sovereignty of God believe the following:
They believe God is loving and has our best interests at heart. They believe that God is all knowing and wise. And they also believe that God is mighty, maybe even the most powerful being in the universe…but they do not believe He is all powerful.
For whatever reason, whether by choice or by external restraints, they maintain that God cannot overpower free will. People who believe this are referred to as Arminian and they constitute the majority in the American church today.
John 11:25-26 "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? "
Sadly, many today have misinterpreted this promise. No, it does not mean if you say the magic words, “I believe in Jesus” like Abra-cadabra, you’re in. It doesn’t mean you raise your hand or come forward and do the spritual "hokey-pokey". Allow me to give you what I believe to be a helpful interpretation of Christ's words in this passage:
You are going to die. Nothing can change that, it’s a result of the curse. But after you die you are going to have to answer for everything wrong you have ever done in your life. That’s a fact. And it’s not going to go well for you. In fact every single person will suffer forever in hell. That’s what’s real. That’s what’s true, and if you’re honest you already know it.
O.k., so here is His grace which you don’t deserve but He is extending to you because of His love for you. He will let the perfect life He lived count as your righteousness, and He will let the incredible injustice He endured, when He, as God of the Universe, the personification of absolute holiness and purity, suffered the humiliating death of a criminal on a cross, count as punishment for your sin…IF…and only IF…You forfeit all control of your life and become His slave…AND most importantly…you believe it to be an incredible honor, privilege, and gift from Him to let you do this. Because…That is what is true.
Church, anything short of total surrender to that body of truth is false religion. Don’t be fooled.
The outrageous claims of Jesus:
- He had come down from heaven (John 3:13; 6:38)
- He was the Savior of the world (John 3:17)
- He was capable of determining people’s eternal destinies (John 5:22, 27)
- He was the source of eternal life (John 3:16; 4:14; 5:39-40; 6:27, 40, 47, 54)
- He deserved the same honor as God the Father (John 5:23)
- He had the power to raise the dead (John 5:28-29; 6:39-40, 44, 54)
- He was the fulfillment of the OT prophecies (John 5:39, 46)
- He had all authority in Heaven and on earth (John 3:35)
- He was the only source of spiritual sustenance (John 6:33, 35, 48, 51)
- He was the Light of the world (John 3:19)
- He was the Messiah (John 4:25-26)
- He was God (John 3:18; John 5:17-18; 5:19-20, 25-26; 6:40)
The heart of what Paul is exhorting us to do in Romans 14 is seen below in BOX 2. The goal is walking in love toward other believers by not exercising our Christian liberty (with respect to morally neutral matters) in a way that causes them to stumble spiritually. He knows it is not possible to perfectly avoid this, but we must do our best (Acts 24:16).
Offensive but not Sinful
Stumbling block but not sinful
Stumbling block and sinful
|Tattoos and Body Piercing
|Raising Hands in worship
||Taking youth group to public beach
|Drums in Worship
|Men with long hair
||Missing the gathering of the saints
||Unfaithful Church attendance
||Spending much time alone with a married member of the opposite sex
||Enjoying Dirty Scenes in Movies
|Receiving Government Aid
||Fashion Show or Christian Yoga at Church
||Complaining against God established authority
|Staying at a Casino in Vegas
||A single person renting from or with a single member of the opposite sex
||Experimentation with mind altering drugs (even legal ones)
|Consider the person who has a history of being enslaved to drunkenness.
|Taking youth group to public beach
||Not the wisest place for recreation in our culture for young boys
||May be edifying for some, but certainly not for all.
|Missing the gathering of the saints
||Their conscience tells them they should not make a habit of missing because the love of the brethren is top priority, but they see more mature believers missing church and their “conscience… is strengthened” to sin. (1 Cor. 8:10)
|Spending much time alone with a married member of the opposite sex
||Can be dangerous for the marriage, especially if the married person struggles with lust, jealousy, or discontentment
|Fashion Show or Yoga at church
||These things are secular or worse and when the church endorses them the weak are encouraged to pursue things that conflict with their spiritual goals. In some cases, the weak are actually encouraged to feed their fleshly appetites.
|A single person renting from, or with, a single person of the opposite sex
||This amounts to an obliteration of healthy boundaries for someone who came out of a lifestyle of fornication. Besides, though this can work with certain individuals, many times God’s design for sexual attraction is underestimated.
John 6:66 "As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian martyr during Hitler’s holocaust, wrote a book before he was killed at 39. It’s a Christian classic called “The Cost of Discipleship”. In it he wrote—“When Christ calls a man, He bids them to come and die.”
Bonhoeffer goes on to write—“When the Bible speaks of following Jesus it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience. If they follow Jesus, men escape from the hard yoke of their own laws and submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ. But does this mean that we ignore the seriousness of His commands? Far from it. We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when His command, His call to absolute discipleship is appreciated in its entirety. Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single mindedly, and unresistingly lets His yoke rest upon him, finds His burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). The commandment of Jesus is not a sort of spirited shock treatment. Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen and heal it.”
Maybe you’ve heard of the Borden Dairy company and their famous mascot “Elsie” the cow. I can remember riding on the freeway as a child and seeing the billboards and seeing big milk trucks with her picture on the side. There is a remarkable story behind that image.
The Borden dairy company was started by a man named Gail Borden, Jr. in 1857. He had invented a process of condensing milk which enabled Union armies to transport large quantities during the civil war. Borden made a fortune and by 1900 the Borden family had surpassed $10 million in sales. Borden’s son William, married Mary Whiting, and decided to go into the Silver Mining business in Colorado and the wealth of the family increased and the Borden family became prominent in Chicago where they lived. The Bordens had four children, one of which was a boy, also named William. William was the heir to the Borden estate.
When young William graduated from high school his parents gifted him with a year long trip around the world during which he enjoyed the sulfur baths of Japan, toured the Taj Mahal in India, sailed the famous canals of Venice, and climbed the great pyramids of Egypt.
And while you might expect a young 18 year old to be soaking up the good life with such privilege…not so with William. He experienced a growing concern for the spiritually lost of the middle East and Asia. At that time he wrote on the back inside cover of his Bible two words—“No Reserves
”. He wrote his family and said—“I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.”
When he came back to America he attended Yale University as a millionaire Freshman in 1905. He immediately started a Bible Study on Campus. By the time he was a senior, the Bible Study grew to a thousand students. Yale only had 1300 students. He wrote about what inspired his life in his journal saying—“Say No to self and Yes to Jesus—everytime.”
When he graduated from Yale he declined numerous high paying job offers and wrote two more words in the Back of his Bible--“No Retreats
”. He enrolled in Princeton Seminary and developed a focused concern for reaching the muslims in China.
After graduating from Princeton he set sail for China but stopped off in Egypt to pursue a course in Arabic studies to prepare him for evangelizing muslims. But while in Egypt he contracted spinal meningitis. One month later, he died at the age of 25. Some time during that month he wrote two more words in the inside cover of his Bible—“No Regrets
He was buried in an old graveyard in Cairo. His epitaph on his tombstone reads—“Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”
Only a few miles from William Borden’s grave, is the Egyptian National Museum. There one can see the mind boggling King Tut exhibit. Tutankhamen, the boy king, was only seventeen when he died. He was buried with thousands of golden artifacts including solid gold chariots. His gold coffin was found within gold tombs, within gold tombs, within gold tombs.
The Egyptians believed in an afterlife where they could take earthly treasures. However, all the earthly treasures intended for King Tut’s eternal use stayed sealed in the earth for 3,000 years until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922, only 9 years after William Borden died.
Quite a contrast of mindsets regarding wealth. One lived for eternity. The other lived desperately clinging to this life of material wealth.
The New Testament is awash in references to the redeeming property of Jesus’ blood. Here is just a sampling.
- Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
- Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
- Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
- Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
- Colossians 1:20a and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
- Hebrews 10:19 Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus
- Hebrews 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
- 1 Peter 1:18-19 Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
- 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
- Revelations 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood,
- Revelation 5:9 And they *sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Actually, Christ’s blood sacrifice was the antitype that all the OT sacrifices pointed to.
A 2nd century man named “Caecillus”—Argues against “Octavius” (an early Christian apologist) and gives the following description of Christians:
“Who, having gathered together from the lowest dregs the more unskilled, and women…leagued together by nightly meetings, and solemn fasts and inhuman meats…a people skulking and shunning the light, silent in public, but garrulous in corners. They despise the temples as dead-houses, they reject the gods, they laugh at sacred things; wretched, they pity, if they are allowed; the priests, half naked themselves, they despise honours and purple robes. Oh, wondrous folly and incredible audacity! They despise present torments, although they fear those which are uncertain and future; and while they fear to die after death, they do not fear to die for the present: so does a deceitful hope soothe their fear with the solace of a revival.
“And now, as wickeder things advance more fruitfully, and abandoned manners creep on day by day, …They know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another; everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously brothers and sisters, that even a not unusual debauchery may by the intervention of that sacred name become incestuous…certainly suspicion is applicable to secret and nocturnal rites; and he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men, that they may worship what they deserve.”
But what I really want to draw your attention to is the way he mischaracterizes the Christian ordinance of “The Lord’s Table” with these slanderous words:
“Thirstily— O horror!— they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence. Such sacred rites as these are more foul than any sacrileges.” [Minucius Felix, Octavius The Ante-Nicene Fathers(Buffalo, N. Y.: The Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), Vol. 4, pp. 177-178]
"Prevenient Grace" is a theological construct that includes things like God sending the sunshine and the rain on the righteous and the wicked. It is also distributed universally to counteract the effect of sin in the world. The argument is, that since God has given this grace to all, everyone is capable of accepting the offer of salvation. “Consequently, there is no need for any special application of God’s grace to particular individuals.” (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology; 3:920)
That sounds nice but it does not square with Scripture. Scripture says unregenerate people:
- Are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13)
- Slaves to unrighteousness (John 8:34; Romans 6:6, 17, 20; 2 Tim. 2:26; Col. 1:13)
- Alienated from God (Col. 1:21)
- Hostile to God (Romans 5:10; 8:7)
- Spiritually Blind (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Cor. 2:14)
- Powerless to change (Jer. 13:23; Romans 5:6)
- Unable to please God (Romans 8:8)
Biblical Criteria For Assurance of Salvation (1 John)
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1 John 2:4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
1 John 2:9 The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
1 John 3:8-9 The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world;
Unredeemed People Have Souls, but are unconcerned with feeding them.
We have a humming bird feeder on our front porch. We filled it with sweet water…once. It’s been empty for a long time now. But the humming birds keep coming back because they remember it provided satisfaction for their little bellies. That’s what animals do. They live to satisfy their fleshly appetites because that’s all they have, they don’t have souls. That’s why its o.k. to breed animals and lock them up in cages. They’re no worse for the wear.
But human beings have an eternal soul. It’s our soul that sets us apart from animals and causes us to see that the mere pursuit of the flesh is depressingly pointless, that there has to be more to life. And that is why Jesus is appealing to the needs of the human soul.
To the woman He says—“whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. ( John 4:14)
To the crowds He says--“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." (John 6:33)
John 6:35 "Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
What does it mean to “Come to Jesus”? If you go to New York you have to leave Utah. Coming to Jesus means forsaking the old life of sin and rebellion and submitting to Him as Lord. Another word for this is “Repentance”.
Spurgeon said, “You and your sins must separate or you and your God will never come together.” No works righteousness, just a toppling of heart idols.
My seminary professor used to say—“The kingdom of God topples our cherished priorities and demands of disciples new ones. It takes from those who follow Jesus, things they would keep and it gives them things they could never imagine.” (cf., Psalm 37:4)
What does it mean to “Believe in Jesus”? That simply means to completely trust Him as God and acknowledge that salvation from the penalty and practice of your individual sin comes only through His finished work on the Cross. Another word for this is “Faith”.
Repentance and Faith are inseparable. If you have one, you will have the other. To repent is to turn form sin, to believe is to turn to the Savior.
This woman gets it!!! Praise God for her wisdom.
“God does not remove the hardships, He allows them purposes them, plans them, ordains them, permits them and pain and problems and paralysis become the lemon that He kept squeezing in my life, revealing all sorts of things from which I needed to repent…bitterness, spitefulness, selfishness. I don’t like it when God squeezes that lemon, but I need it…I remember though, one day Ken driving me home from chemo-therapy, I was in the back of the van tied down and I could watch him in the rear-view mirror and as we were traveling down the 101 Freeway, we started talking about how suffering is like little splash-overs of hell. When you suffer, it should be your cue to remember the hell from which you were ultimately rescued because of Christ. And so we just started…we’re discussing this and how amazing it was that God allowed splash-overs of hell in our lives to wake us up out of our spiritual slumber and then when we pulled up in the driveway, he turned off the ignition
and looked at me in the rear-view mirror, “Well then what do you think slash overs of heaven are?” And I thought, “Well are they easy-breezy bright days where everything is going well?” We discussed this. Is it times when all the bills are paid and there are no trials, tests, no chronic pain? And in the silence we said no…no, those aren’t splash-overs of heaven. Splash-overs of heaven are finding Jesus in your splash over of hell. There’s nothing more poignant. There’s nothing sweeter than finding Jesus in your hell. And Ken and I are so grateful for the affliction. I know that sounds strange, but all of it helps us stay hungry for the bread of life, it helps us stay thirsty for the living water. And suffering is this, not just a lemon, it’s a textbook that keeps teaching us about who we really are. Its andblasts us, strips us of our sinful ways….And so He keeps sandblasting us, leaving our souls raw and exposed but that is all that we might be better bonded to the Lord Jesus Christ because when our hearts get beating in rhythm with His.” [Joni Eareckson-Tada on the sovereignty of God in suffering from message entitled "A Deeper Healing" given on 10-16-2013]
[While preparing my sermon this week, God enabled me to write this prayer for our church]
Prayer for Grace Family Bible Church
Lord change us from a people that thinks about ourselves and what we prefer
Instead grow us into a people who considers others more important than ourselves
Lord change us from a people that hoards time, effort, and resources,
Instead grow us into a people that finds unsurpassed joy in investing our lives in other people
Lord change us from a people that brag about our faith and good deeds
And grow us into a people that boasts about our weaknesses and your power
Lord change us from a people that spreads gossip and slander,
And grow us into a people that builds one another up with love and encouragement
Lord change us from a people that is easily offended by wrongs done to us by others,
And grow us into a people that truly understands the gift we all received at the cross
Lord change us from a people that is critical of others’ conduct and performance,
And grow us into a people that rejoices in the variety present in the spiritual journey of others
Lord change us from a people that twists and corrupts your character to fit our human mold,
And grow us to a people that uses Scripture as the lens by which we understand Your person.
Lord change us from a people that enthrones heart idols, and polishes heart idols for our children
And grow us to a people that makes a priority of your word, worship, and the church.
The Postmodern position, which has dominated the culture since the 1980’s, rejects every expression of certainty. Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain. Strong conviction about any point of truth are judged as extremely arrogant and hopelessly naïve. This philosophy has saturated our culture and in the last decade we have seen POST MODERNISM invade the church. That’s bad. Where historically Christians have always said…that whatever is true is true for everyone—Now pastors are singing a different tune.
“Let me offer [a suggestion] for reclaiming the Bible for contemporary readers…Drop Any Affair You May Have with Certainty” –Brian McLaren, Former Pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church, Baltimore, MD
I wonder what he would say to Meriam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death this week in Sudan for not denying her Christian faith? I'm guessing McLaren would tell her that Biblical truth is not clear enough to take a stand that would cost her everything.
Leonard Sweet (Professor of Religion at Drew University and leading post-modern pastor)
has this advice for the modern church—“Postmodern culture is a change-or-be-changed world. The word is out: Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die." (Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami: Sink or Swim in the New Millennium Culture
(Zondervan, 1999), p. 74-75)
The Passion of Sweet’s life is to stop the church from preaching the Word of God. Why? Because it is too constricting for a post-modern culture.
“The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. … The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . And God is love.” (Leonard Sweet)
See—He loves love, but he detests truth. He’s a Post-Modern. You can’t define love without truth. But that’s irrelevant to him.
MacLaren and Sweet have authored close to 75 books promoting this new type of Post-Modern Christianity, and their utter contempt for certainty is a theme of every one of them. Other well known leaders of this movement include names like Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Tony Campollo, Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, and Henry Nouwen. But really the movement is so strong that their numbers include thousands of pastors and theologians in America alone. I forced myself to watch a random sermon by Leonard Sweet this week just to see if he was really as far out as his quotes make him seem. He is. Yet his popularity is the younger generation of Christians is undeniable.
At the close of the fourth century one of the most enduring heresies the church has ever known began to be disseminated by a man named Arius. He claimed that the Father and the Son were two separate beings with two distinct natures. I actually ran into this heresy this week at the grocery store this week. Many wearied of fighting Arius, who was adamant that his Christology was correct. But there was one man who fought him relentlessly—Athanasius.
When the Roman Emperor Constantine became a convert to Christianity, he issued the Edict of Milan (313 A.D.) which outlawed all persecution of Christians. There was finally peace across Christendom and no one was eager to incite a conflict over doctrine. Athanasius was often accused by less discerning Christians of being harsh, overly meticulous, unduly critical, and maliciously divisive.
Arius had powerful friends who spoke well of him to Constantine. Constantine eventually came to the conclusion that the whole argument was really just theological hairsplitting. In fact, soon sympathy for Arius grew throughout the Roman Empire. Many who never formally affirmed his heresy, were perfectly willing to make peace with those who did. At one point it seemed that the whole church might become Arian. Jerome, who lived at the time, wrote—The whole world awoke with a groan—“Astonished to find itself Arian.” But Athanasius firmly disagreed. He steadfastly refused against intense political and ecclesiastical pressure, to settle the dispute by compromise. He patiently and thoroughly refuted the Arian heresy point by point with Scripture. He remained firm no matter what the cost to him personally. In fact, over the course of his life, Athanasius was forced into exile five times by a succession of Emperors with strong Arian sympathies.
When someone suggested to Athanasius that the whole world was against his unyielding, uncompromising stance in the controversy, he replied—“Then I am against the world”. To this day the slogan—Athanasius Contra Mundum (Athanasius against the World) is the epitaph usually associated with his name. He is remembered today as one of the most courageous truth warriors the church has ever produced. He was right. The rest of the world and the church was wrong.
Deitrich Bohnhoeffer, Life Together—“
The Physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer, a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. How inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those, who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians. Let him who has such a privilege thank God on his knees and declare it is grace, nothing but grace,that we are allowed to live in fellowship, in community with Christian brothers.”
"They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers. They do not worship strange gods; and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another. …And there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days, that they may supply the needy with the necessary food. "They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God... And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct." --Aristides, 1st Century Secular Apologist
You call Me Master, and obey Me not.
You call Me Light, and see Me not.
You call Me The Way, and walk Me not.
You call Me Rich, and ask Me not.
If I condemn Thee…Blame Me not.
“Remember you are God's sword, His instrument, ...A chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” --Robert Murray McCheyne
"I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12
“We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meat when we can smell the steak sizzling on the grill. The role of the word of God is to feed faith’s appetite for Jesus Christ. And in doing this our taste buds for the deceptive savor of sin are dulled. Our hearts become weaned away from earth’s pleasures and we become hungry for the Lord.” Joni Eareckson-Tada
(from the viewpoint of an unbeliever)
The Lord is not my Shepherd, I will always be in want.
There is no direction for my life,
My bed is rocky,
My life is stormy.
I wander in the paths of unrighteousness for my own sake.
When I walk the valley of the shadow of death,
I am overwhelmed with fear.
I am alone,
There is no one to comfort me.
My table is barren,
My enemies consume me,
There is no power in my life,
My cup is empty.
Surely heartache and misery will follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in Hell forever.
Convicting Parable about The Church's Fading Passion for Evangelism
"On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful lifesaving station so it became famous.
Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and their money and their effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new lifesaving crews were trained and the little lifesaving station grew.
"Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots and beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club's decorations and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club held its initiations.
"About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out they were still called a lifesaving station, but they were finally voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast a little ways, which they did.
"As the years went by the new station experienced the same changes that occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself and if you visit that coast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters but most of the people drown."
The Case Against the Rolling Stone-Understanding Church Membership (Part 2)
- Stop Dating The Church, by Joshua Harris, 2004
- What is A Healthy Church Member, by Thabiti M. Anyabwile, 2008.
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever, 2004.
- What is A Healthy Church, by Mark Dever, 2007
- Why You Should Join the Church, by John MacArthur, 2008.
- Life In The Father’s House, by Wayne A. Mack, 1996.
Have you covenanted together with other believers to love them? Have you followed the “one another” commands of Scripture?
Love one another…(John 13:34)
Be devoted to one another …(Rom. 12:5)
Honor one another … (Rom. 12:10)
Rejoice with one another …(Rom. 12:15)
Serve one another …(Gal. 5:13)
Carry burdens of one another …(Gal. 6:2)
Forgive one another …(Eph. 4:32)
Encourage one another …(1 Thess. 5:11)
Offer hospitality to one another …(1 Peter 4:9)
Confess our sins to one another …(James 5:16)
Pray for one another …(James 5:16)
Charles Spurgeon in a message titled—“Joining the Church”
“Now, I know there are some who say, “Well, I hope I have
given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to
“Now, why not?,” I ask.
“Because I can be a Christian without it,” they say.
Now, are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient?
Well, suppose everybody else did the same, suppose all Christians in the world said, “I shall not join the Church.” Why there would be no visible Church, there would be no ordinances.
That would be a very bad thing, and yet, one doing it—what is right for one is right for all—why should not all of us do it? Then you believe that if you were to do an act which has a tendency to destroy the visible Church of God, you would be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up that
Church? I do not believe it, sir! nor do you either. You have not any such a belief; it is only a trumpery excuse for something else.
There is a brick—a very good one. What is the brick made for?
To help to build a house with. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick; until it is built into the wall, it is no good. So you rolling stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your
purpose; you are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.”
Somewhere around 1500 years before the birth of Christ, God met Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai and gave him what Theologians refer to as the “Mosaic Covenant”
Exodus 19:5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
This covenant had three purposes (Very Important)
- It gave Israel the unique marks of their national identity as God’s chosen people.
Deut. 14:2 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
- It demonstrated the Holiness of God
Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ' By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy
, And before all the people I will be honored. '"So Aaron, therefore, kept silent."
- It revealed Israel’s sin and proved their total inability to obey God.
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes
the knowledge of sin.
I want you to take note of something. I want you to notice what is missing from that list. One of the purposes of the Law is not—SALVATION
The following are principles that we were able to learn from Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.
- It takes a miracle for sinful mankind to abandon their commitment to self-effort and self-fulfillment.
- Spiritual rebirth is something one undergoes and not something one produces
- Citizenship in God’s kingdom requires a spiritual cleansing of the soul which can only be accomplished by the unpredictable, yet abundantly visible, work the Holy Spirit.
- A forsaking of personal opinion, and surrender to God’s decree is the only path to Spiritual Enlightenment.
- Unbelief perpetuates Spiritual ignorance.
- The Law brings bondage and death, while Jesus brings liberty and life.
- God’s gracious gift of salvation is freely available to all who believe in Christ.
- Jesus’ sole purpose in coming to earth was to seek and save lost sinners
- Belief in Jesus abolishes judgment for the sinner
- The Unbeliever is judged by their unwillingness to accept God’s provision
- The World hates Jesus because of its love for Sin
- Those who love the Truth are always drawn to the Light, and hate darkness
- Good fruit proves that the seed of God’s Word is planted in the good soil of Faith
: The process by which God dislodges our self-life and teaches us to rely upon him alone in every facet of our lives.
Why Does God Send Suffering Into Our Lives?
2 Cor. 4:10
- Allows the life of Christ to be manifested in our flesh
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life
which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
Just as it is written, "FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH
ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer [ huper-nike] through Him who loved us.
2. Bankrupts our resources/ Teaches us dependence
Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;
24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me,
2 Cor. 12:
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2 Cor. 11:
30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
3. Teaches us humility
2 Cor. 12:
7 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself!
4. Strengthening of our Character
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us
good, that we may share His holiness.
- Building Spiritual Muscle
5 "If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
God’s weight room. We have a lot a spiritual flab that needs to be burned.
5. Teaches us that the greatest good in Christian life is Christ likeness
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become
conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
- Chastening for sin so that we don’t go down path repeatedly
11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
- Produces Self Control
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word.
8. Our Marching Orders as Christians
2 Tim. 3:
12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Philippians 1:28 [You are]
in no way alarmed by your
opponents-- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too
, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be
9. Cause of eternal reward
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She *said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left."22 But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?"
2 Cor. 4:
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
John 12:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit."
- Produces brokenness which allows life to spring forth
- Produces a perfect faith
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its
perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
or He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 "And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver…
- Binds us together in common
9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are
12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord
of three strands
is not quickly torn apart.
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking
in Christ's afflictions
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said,
"I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
- Increases our anticipation of heavenly glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, 4 and He shall wipe away every tear
from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any
death; there shall no longer be any
mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. "
1 Peter 4:1
- Takes our eyes off of the world
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
34 And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, " If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
3 Because Thy loving kindness is better than life, My lips will praise Thee.
2 Cor. 1:3
- Enables us to help others in their trials
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission
to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. "
Then: Luke 24:25
- Fulfills the scriptures
And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Now: John 15:18
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated
you. 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
- Raises our level of worship
22 "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime."
Though the fig tree should not blossom, And there be no fruit on the vines, Though
the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold, And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
1 Pet. 4:16
- Pleases and glorifies God
but if anyone suffers
as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. [only verse where a Christian uses the label "Christian"]
3 Jesus answered, "It was
this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was
in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.
5 "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee;
To start with many people believe that the universe is just a product of chance, and evolution is chance’s crowning accomplishment. The underlying notion is that we are entirely set adrift and anything good or bad that happens has no correspondence to ultimate meaning or purpose.
Many atheists are passionate about their commitment to a purposeless universe. Consider this statement from 19th
Century American Orator Robert Green Ingersoll who said, “When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust.”—Robert Green Ingersoll
Maybe you prefer the opinion of Oxford Zoologist Richard Dawkins who said "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked)….”
Hand in hand with this ideology that there is no God, is the belief that human beings themselves have limitless power to bring purpose and meaning to our existence.
In his poem “Invictus”, Willima Ernest Henley wrote the famous words—“I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.”
French Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said “Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.”
So we immediately see two possible though conflicting, or at least overlapping, answers to the question—“Who’s In Control Here?”
- We are in Control [which of course really means…]
- Nobody is in Control
Because like it or not, the truth is that when 230,000 people were suddenly killed in 2004 by a Tsunami, no human will ever be able to take credit for planning that catastrophic event. At the most you might be able to say that you can control your response to that event, but you can't even say that if you are one of those 230,000 people.
Christian, this morning I am not here to ask if you believe in God. I assume that you do. However I am asking—“What sort of God do you believe in?”
- 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Whenever Jesus says “Truly, Truly” just know that’s Greek for “Read My lips.” He’s making an analogy. What did Jesus mean “Born of water and the Spirit”? He was speaking in OT terms of purification and renewal.
Isaiah 44:3 'For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants; 4 And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water. '
Isaiah 32:15 Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fertile field And the fertile field is considered as a forest.
You see this imagery in Joel and in Zechariah as well. But nowhere is the analogy of water to the renewing and cleansing power of the spirit more clear than Ezekiel 36:24-27.
24 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Jesus was making a direct reference to this passage and Nicodemus, a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, would have known it. The idea of regeneration is not just a NT truth. In Deuteronomy it is spoken of as “circumcision of the heart” (Deut. 30:6). In Jeremiah, which was read earlier, it is spoken of as the “New covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-17).
But of course the NT writings are saturated with talk of spiritual regeneration. One example being:
Titus 3:5-6 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Without the spiritual washing of the soul, a cleansing accomplished only by the Holy Spirit, no one can enter God’s kingdom.
The Jews were very proud of their temple. In their history, there were three temples. The first temple was built by Solomon about 950 B.C. (1 Kings 6) and lasted for about 350 years, before it was looted and sacked by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Another postexilic temple was erected in the sixth century B.C. by Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, and Zechariah (Ezra 1-6). This temple lasted the longest of all the temples, about 500 years although references to it in the Bible and historical records are rare. It must have fallen into complete disrepair by the first century B.C. because another temple was built on the same site, by Herod the Great (beginning in 19 B.C.).
However this temple was not built mainly for God’s glory. Herod was not liked by the Jews for three reasons: 1. He was appointed King of Judea by Julius Caesar after the Romans took control of Palestine from the Hasmonaeans in the 1st
Century B.C.. 2. Because he was an Idumaean (descendant of Esau). 3. He had also systematically murdered the members of the ruling Hasmonaean family (the heirs to the Jewish throne by right).
So in an effort to endear himself to the Jews, he commissioned the building of this third temple. The Jews never did grow to like Herod, but they did love their temple. Temple construction lasted until 64 A.D. when it was finally completed. Six years later it was completely destroyed by the Roman army led by Titus Vespasian. That meant that the temple was only around for about 90 years and would put this incident almost exactly halfway into this temple’s total existence.
The Jews could not fathom the temple’s destruction, much less its immediate restoration. They had completely missed the point of Jesus’ statement. When we read the accounts of Jesus’ trial before these same men just three years later, we discover that it is this statement that constitutes the only evidence that is ever brought against him. Yet even in that, Jesus was completely misinterpreted.
On Wednesday I noticed that in New Mexico, Dona Ana County Clerk, Lynn Ellins, said that his office decided to provide 35 licenses to same-sex couples. That’s caught my interest because same sex marriage is illegal in New Mexico. When Attorney General Gary King, was contacted about it, he said that he didn’t plan to challenge Ellins decision.
Earlier this past week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that homosexuality is not a sin, and signed a bill into law that will confiscate the license of any counselor who seeks to help gay people stop practicing their homosexual inclinations. The bill’s sponsor described the newly banned therapy as an “insidious form of child abuse." The therapy is banned in two states now.
A couple of days before that, California Governor Jerry Brown decided that it will now be illegal for schools to prohibit boys from using girls bathrooms while girls are using them. He says that if these boys identify themselves as girls then we must accept their decision and allow them to live out their feelings without restraint.
Last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that her office will not enforce her state’s laws prohibiting gay marriage. She has decided to nullify the law based on her own personal beliefs. That’s a notable precedent for an elected politician to set.
Also in July, Montgomery County Register of Willis, D. Bruce Hanes, decided to ignore Pennsylvania state law, and began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. When asked why he was doing it, he replied, “I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law."
And as you know, This colossal meltdown of traditional values was preceded in June by the decision of the United States Supreme Court to strike down the heart and soul of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was enacted in 1996. The high court invalidated the article that stipulated that same sex marriages not be included in the definition of marriage recognized by the Federal Government. The majority opinion was given by Justice Kennedy who said that a moral aversion to the homosexual lifestyle can only be rooted in “animus” [hatred] toward homosexuals.
Well, believe it or not, I didn’t intend to ignite passions this morning with that introduction.
Even though the summary of recent events that I composed for you is probably enough to make an incurable optimist lose hope for this country, it shouldn’t anger us. Jesus never got angry over socio-political issues. He never lost sleep over what the Roman senate did. He never became irate when a politician went liberal or rogue.
You see unbelievers, will always act like unbelievers. They are being consistent actually. Jesus said their way “leads to destruction
”. That’s a true fact, and it’s sad, but not anything to get angry about. At least Jesus never did. He felt compassion (Mark 10:21
However there is something that ought to stir our passions much more than the way godless politicians and courts behave. It is the when the church acts like unbelievers. We are all guilty of this. We need to be passionate about dealing with our hypocrisy.
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;
The Translation of Genesis 50 done by Joseph Smith includes twelve previously unknown verses. Here they are:
24...and go unto my fathers; and I go down to my grave with joy. The God of my father Jacob be with you, to deliver you out of affliction in the days of your bondage; for the Lord hath visited me, and I have obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of my loins, the Lord God will raise up a righteous branch out of my loins; and unto thee, whom my father Jacob hath named Israel, a prophet; (not the Messiah who is called Shilo;) and this prophet shall deliver my people out of Egypt in the days of thy bondage.
25 And it shall come to pass that they shall be scattered again; and a branch shall be broken off, and shall be carried into a far country; nevertheless they shall be remembered in the covenants of the Lord, when the Messiah cometh; for he shall be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the Spirit of power; and shall bring them out of darkness into light; out of hidden darkness, and out of captivity unto freedom.
26 A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.
27 Thus saith the Lord God of my fathers unto me, A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins, and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren.
28 And he shall bring them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers; and he shall do whatsoever work I shall command him.
29 And I will make him great in mine eyes, for he shall do my work; and he shall be great like unto him whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel, out of the land of Egypt; for a seer will I raise up to deliver my people out of the land of Egypt; and he shall be called Moses. And by this name he shall know that he is of thy house; for he shall be nursed by the king's daughter, and shall be called her son.
30 And again, a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins, and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins; and not to the bringing forth of my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them in the last days;
31 Wherefore the fruit of thy loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to a knowledge of their fathers in the latter days; and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
32 And out of weakness shall he be made strong, in that day when my work shall go forth among all my people, which shall restore them, who are of the house of Israel, in the last days.
33 And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.
34 And the Lord sware unto Joseph that he would preserve his seed forever, saying, I will raise up Moses, and a rod shall be in his hand, and he shall gather together my people, and he shall lead them as a flock, and he shall smite the waters of the Red Sea with his rod.
35 And he shall have judgment, and shall write the word of the Lord. And he shall not speak many words, for I will write unto him my law by the finger of mine own hand. And I will make a spokesman for him, and his name shall be called Aaron.
36 And it shall be done unto thee in the last days also, even as I have sworn. Therefore, Joseph said unto his brethren, God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware unto Abraham, and unto Isaac, and to Jacob.
Lessons Learned (over first six months)
- We should refrain from talking negatively about people to others
- We should be careful how we speak and what we say
- We should control our imaginations
- We should never complain
- We should seek to overlook a transgression against us
Amazingly, the first thing that happens to us when we get regenerated is repentance and Faith. Prior to that we are not able to exercise true belief.
26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Grudem writes—“It is natural to understand that regeneration comes before saving faith. It is in fact this work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith…The idea that regeneration comes before saving faith is not always understood by [Christians] today. Sometimes people will even say something like, “If you believe in Christ as your Savior, then (after you believe) you will be born again” But Scripture itself never says anything like that. This new birth is viewed by Scripture as something that God does within us in order to enable us to believe.” (Systematic Theology
This is one instance where I totally agree with Grudem. He is referring to altar calls and sinners prayers—which I don’t really have a problem with—as long as they are understood properly and done honestly. See the danger is that we connect “regeneration” with “decisions”—Decisional Regeneration. That is totally unbiblical. Nobody makes a decision to believe.
In Matthew 19 the disciples throw their hands in the air and ask—“Well then who can be saved.” Do you remember Jesus’ response—“With man this is impossible…But with God all things are possible.”
When belief happens it is a miracle performed by God and witnessed only by the individual.
Colossians 2:13 “And when you
were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you
alive together with Him”
Paul tells us to be patient with unbelievers “if perhaps God may grant them repentance, leading to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Tim. 2:25
I remember one great testimony I heard was from a woman I knew named Diana. She was in the state of having been called but she had not been regenerated yet. She read this verse, “And without Faith, it is impossible to please God.” She said she knew she didn’t believe God, but she wanted to. So she asked God to give her belief. And within a very short time, she received belief. I think this is what Jesus means when He says "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37)
It would be incomprehensible that Diana would pray that prayer sincerely as she did (“Help my unbelief” Mark 9:24) and Jesus not grant repentance followed by saving faith.
Genesis 15:2 "And Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"3 And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
Sometimes when people experience times of doubt they direct their anger and frustration at God. You’ve seen it. They say, “God, Why are You letting this happen to me.” But what they are really saying is, “God You come down here and justify Yourself. I want to measure You by my standard of right and wrong. I want You to give an account.”
This is not Abram’s approach. Abram is not trying to impugn God’s character or discredit Him. He is simply saying, “God, you’re not making sense to me. Am I missing something? I’d like to understand you better.”
Abraham is confused about God’s revelation to Him. This is not doubt, but its doubt’s cousin. He’s questioning God. He’s doing the same thing that Job did. He just cannot comprehend how God’s character can vindicate His actions.
One Theologian gives us a helpful hint -- “It is important that we think about God as God has taught us to think about Him. We introduce vain philosophy when we don’t comprehend something, and because we don’t comprehend it, we try to redefine God in terms we can comprehend. This is a serious mistake because God is incomprehensible. What we must do is bow our knee before God’s revelation to us.”
I saw this in one of your midweek Bible Study homeworks when the question came up “How does your standard of what is right and just compare with God’s standard?—“My standard of what is right and just is flawed and imperfect compared to God’s perfect standard. There still are some things I can’t comprehend as being just—the killing of some wicked people and not others or the giving of salvation to some sinners and not others. I have to just trust His ways are just and righteous.”
That’s it. That’s what we need to do. But it’s so hard because we think our opinion matters.
Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you;"
God is saying, “I won’t let you down Abram. Keep your eyes on Me.” I am convinced that this is the key to the Christian life.
I once was doing an outreach at Camp Afflerbaugh and I taught on Exodus 14 where Moses takes the nation of Israel across the Red Sea. Somewhere in the lesson I had mentioned this. At the end one of the inmates asked me a very honest question. He said, “Why would God want us to fear Him? Isn’t fear a bad thing.” I’ll tell you I was not really prepared for that question. By god’s grace I gave him an answer that was half right. I said, “Because God knows that if you do not fear Him, you will fear other men. You’ve got to fear somebody.”
But you know, its not just other men. Its also our circumstances. We allow our circumstances to dominate our thinking. That’s why you hear so much about anxiety attacks these days. The Bible says it is a sin to be anxious because anxiety happens when we fear our circumstances.
Some of us are facing financial crisis, some health crisis, some career crisis. God is speaking to all of us this morning—He is saying, “Do not fear” your personal circumstances. God makes all things to work for good (Romans 8:28). God takes the evil of people and uses it for good (Genesis 50:20).
So Abram is commanded not to fear. And then God says this: “I am a shield to you"
See the man who administers a defeat to the world becomes a target for its hatred.
But God says that “no weapon formed against [us] shall prosper.”(Isa 54:17)
Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” (Rom. 8:31)
Psalm 63:11 “For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.” Wow! You know what that means? If someone wants to slander us, to ruin our reputation—God can handle it. He doesn’t need us to help him straighten things out. I’m not telling you not to try. But you can only do so much. Winston Churchill said, “Lies will travel twice around the world before the truth ever gets out of bed.”
John 1:42 "Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter)."
Simon was a common name. There are at least seven different Simons mentioned in the Gospel accounts alone. This Simon’s full name was Simon Bar-Jonah, so his Father’s name was John (another common name).
But Jesus immediately gives Simon another name, a sort of a nickname. “Cephas” (Aramaic) or “Peter”—Actually, “Petros” in the Greek which means “Rock” or “Stone”. Sometimes the NT refers to him as “Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; and Gal. 2:9), but more often “Simon”, “Simon Peter” or just “Peter”.
Why did Jesus do this? He did it because He saw past who Simon was. In His omniscience, He saw the man that He would mold Simon into—The foundational leader in the earliest days of the church.
Now I’m not sure how many of you know this but I am a baseball guy. I’m not a fan, no, my version of heaven, would be to play double headers everyday for the rest of eternity. See for some people that would be hell, that’s how I know heaven has nothing to do with my personal preferences.
Anyways, I’m a baseball guy. I read baseball books. When I’m board, I look up stats. I collect baseball cards. And I cry in Baseball movies. I love baseball. I’ve been to Cooperstown, that’s our equivalent of Mecca, twice I’ve been there.
So my mind takes me back to 1985 when Orel Hershiser was a rookie with the Dodgers. His ERA was a miserable 6.2 and he was afraid he was going to get sent back to the minors, and his manager Tommy Lasorda calls him in to his office. Tommy says, “You’re scared to pitch in the big leagues! Who do you think those hitters are? Babe Ruth? Ruth’s dead….Quit being so careful! Go after the hitters. Get ahead in the count! …If I could get a heart surgeon in here, I’d have him open my chest and take out my heart, open your chest and take out your heart, and then I’d have him give you my heart! You’d be in the Hall of Fame!...Take Charge! Make ‘em hit your best stuff! Be aggressive. Be a bulldog out there. That’s gonna be your new name: Bulldog.”
By all accounts everything changed. Hershiser went on to have a miraculous season. He won 19 games, including four shutouts in the month of July alone. Hershiser went on to be the best pitcher in baseball, winning the Cy Young award, and World Series MVP in 1988. He still holds the record that most baseball people say will never be broken—59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.
Well what Tommy Lasorda did for Orel Hershiser’s baseball career, is what Jesus did for Peter’s spiritual life.
21 Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."
This was no personal vision. This was an event that happened in history. It is recorded in Mark and Matthew as well. All three members of The Trinity show up to inaugurate Jesus’ ministry. And this was prophesied way back in in Isaiah 42:1 “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom
My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him;”
Take a look at Psalm 2, a Messianic Psalm.
He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son,… Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in
the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (vss. 7 and 12)
Now, as you know, I do not normally tailor my messages to fit the Holiday. But it is a commonly known fact that Father’s Day is the least attended Sunday of the church year. It’s not really hard to figure out why. Father’s Day is the one day of the year when Father’s can do whatever they want to do. It’s very telling.
But what about the Heavenly Father? What does He want? It’s simple. He wants us to love, honor, and obey His Son.
"Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in
the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
Doctrines and Covenants 132: 52-56 (cut and pasted from www.lds.org)
52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, a all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been a over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide anda unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be b, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an a in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of b in the eternal worlds.
56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid a my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart tob.
Ten key principles derived from Genesis 19:1-16a
Principle #1 (19:1): WE cannot reform the world
Principle #2 (19:1): There is no such thing as an undercover Christian.
Principle #3 (19:6): When we invite worldliness into our lives, We sacrifice our fellowship with God
Principle #4 (19:7): God’s holiness renders true brotherhood with the world impossible
Principle #5 (19:8): Conversation with the world can only result in compromise.
Principle #6 (19:9a): The world has no tolerance for Christians
Principle #7 (19:9b): Christians should expect to have bitter enemies
Principle #8 (19:10): Circumstances do not reform the hard heart
Principle # 9 (19:14): The hard heart is deaf to proclamations of judgment
Principle #10 (19:15-16a): The spiritually immature stubbornly resist the promptings of God
In Scripture God is portrayed in the masculine. Every time a pronoun is used for the functional head of the trinity, a masculine pronoun is used. In relational terms, He is designated as “Father”, not just to us, but to Jesus as well.
But this is not to say that God is a man in every sense of the word. Functionally His role is the model for human fathers, but He does not share anatomical attributes with human males. He is never spoken of in terms of human sexuality. He is never said to have preceded the other members of the Trinity in chronology like human fathers. In fact, one might argue that there are more ways in which God is not like human fathers, than there are ways in which He is like human fathers.
For some people, the notion that God is our “Father” is a real stumbling block. Why? Because they associate the idea of “Father” with their earthly “Father”. That’s a recipe for disaster. No earthly Father could ever adequately represent God. But add to that the reality of the myriad of reprobates and deadbeats that assume the role of “Father” and you begin to see the source of all this confusion about God.
The devastation of an absent father is something very familiar to our family. My own father was never there growing up and has never even tried to be a true father. My wife’s father was never there for her growing up and was determined to follow a path of selfishness that led to the destruction of many families. I know for a fact that many of you experienced the same thing and even worse. But that’s not surprising. Men are evil and it is only be the grace of God that men can be redeemed.
So in what sense is God a Father???
When God is spoken of Father it is a clear reference to His authority and His love.
a. The Father appoints the Son (Psalm 2:7; 110:1—“Thou art my Son…Sit at my right hand”)
b. The Father gives the Son (John 3:16; Galatians 4:6) “He gave His only begotten Son”
c. The Father permits the Son (John 5:19-36 “The Son can do nothing of Himself…Just the works that His Father has given him to accomplish”)
d. Jesus prays to the Father (John 17; Mark 14:36 In the Garden “Abba! Father
! All things are possible for Thee”)
e. Jesus subjects Himself to the Father (Matt. 26:39 “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt”; 1 Cor. 15:28 “the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him,”)
f. Jesus gives all to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24 “He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father
a. The Father loves the Son ("The Father
loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 3:35; John 5:20)
b. The Father loves His children (‘See how great a love the Father
has bestowed upon us”1 John 3:1)
c. The Father disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:5-10 “FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES”)
d. The Father is the source of all good gifts (James 1:17 “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father
of lights”; Luke 11:9-13 “"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”)
e. The Father provides for our needs (Matthew 6:30-33 “for your heavenly Father
knows that you need all these things."But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”)
f. The Father seeks us out and adopts us (Romans 8:15 “but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father
Israel was God’s chosen land where God delighted to dwell and manifest His favor. He always referred to the Jewish people as “My People” despite their frequent rebellion against him.
But instead of learning from their ancestors' mistakes, the Jews of Jesus day rejected the True Light despite the clear testimony of the Scriptures.
John 5:39-40--"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.
Matthew 23:29-32 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 "Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 "Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers.”
Have you ever heard this statement?
"Preach the Gospel at all times...and if necessary use words."
Usually is is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi although I have no idea if that is true. The point is that Scripture is not unclear how we are to communicate the Gospel. It is by far primarily verbal.
The Verbal Nature of Evangelism
· Acts 8:35; 1 Cor 15:1; Gal 1:8; Eph 2:17; 1 Cor. 1:17
- Euaggelizo– “to speak the good news; to evangelize; to preach the gospel”
· Gal. 1:23 (w/ direct object)
· Romans 1:15; Gal 4:13 (w/o indirect object pronoun in Greek)
· Acts 8:40, 14:21; Gal 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:12 (w/ indirect object)
· Acts 5:42; 15:35; 1 Tim. 4:11
- Didasko – “to tell, teach, or instruct”
· Acts 10:37; Rom 10:8-15; 1 Cor 15:11
- Kerusso – “to herald, to preach”
· John 1:15; 5:32; Acts 23:11
- Martureo–“To Witness to, To testify to”
· Acts 19:8; 28:23; 2 Cor. 5:11
- Peitho—“To Convince, To persuade”
We don’t want to treat this life like one of those white-knuckle roller coasters, where we hold on to Jesus for dear life, keeping our eyes closed the whole way until our name is called up yonder. That’s the foolish servant that buried his master’s gold treasure. That’s a horrible way to approach life. God has us here for a reason and that’s true of all areas of our life.
· When we see sin in our lives, we do something about it.
Rom. 6:12-13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
1 Cor. 9:27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
· When we face hardship, we don’t run from it. People who do that are the ones who say Jesus would never want me sick. Or Jesus would never want me poor. Or Jesus would never want me to suffer. And then when they do experience these things they feel cheated by God and so what do they do??? They walk away. No, when we face hardships we meet the challenge and learn from it. That’s how Christ teaches us character.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
4 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
5 and hope does not disappoint,
The great truths which the apostles declared, were that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teaching of his disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them. Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually rose from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life, or in the world to come. Such conduct in the apostles would moreover have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact, that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others of our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same hopes, affected by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations and infirmities, as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of vigorous understandings. If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for this fabrication. --Simon Greenleaf, Royal Professor of Law at Harvard, The Testimony of the Evangelists, 1846