Don’t Blame God For Satan’s Work

Posted by on December 28, 1997 under Sermons

What form of injustice irritates you more quickly than any other form of injustice? Call it a pet peeve, or a major frustration, or an insult, but whatever you call it, this form of injustice instantly angers you. It is unfair; it is a deceptive distortion; and it certainly is undeserved.

We all probably know more than one form of injustice that really irritates us. One of mine is being blamed and held accountable for something that I did not do.

“It is your fault! You are the one who caused this!” Not only did I not do it, but I was in no way involved in it. “But you knew about it–this could not have happened without your knowing about it. And if you knew about it, you are responsible.” I did not know it would happen. “Well, I am sure that you could have stopped it if you wanted to. You have the power to stop things like this!” I had no control over what happened. “You can deny it any way you want to, but I know it is your fault! I know that you are the person who should be blamed!”

This type of accusation occurs when the angry person has a fixed perception of you. His fixed perception of you interprets the meaning of everything that happens. He is hurting and angry. He needs someone to blame. And you are the person. He is certain that your knowledge, or your power, or your control, or your influence could have controlled the situation.

I would be surprised if there is an adult man or woman here who has not experienced that form of injustice.

But no adult has ever experienced that injustice to the extent that God has. Our reasoning is very simple. God knows everything. God even knows the hearts of people. Nothing happens without God’s awareness. And God has all power. Therefore God’s knowledge and power equals ability and opportunity. All that happens is God’s fault–if God does not want it to happen, it does not happen; if God wants it to happen it happens. If God simply permits it to happen, it is still God’s fault.

  1. This certainly is not a new view of God–in fact, it is the first view of God to be held by man who did evil.
    1. In Genesis 3 we are told that the evil one tempted the first woman to defy God.
      1. The evil one very successfully played with her mind.
      2. He questioned and suggested–he cunningly planted thoughts and ideas.
      3. She followed her imagination to suspicion and to desire.
      4. Temptation intensified desire, and intense desire led her to defy God.
    2. Evil always seeks companionship.
      1. From the context it seems that the first man listened as the evil one played with his wife’s mind and desires, and said nothing.
      2. It also seems that he went with her to the forbidden tree.
      3. When she ate the forbidden fruit, all she had to do was hand him a piece.
      4. The first man was hardly an innocent victim who had no idea about what he was doing or what he was eating.
    3. The awareness of evil had immediate impact on both of them.
      1. They were immediately aware that they were naked.
        1. Prior to the awareness of evil, nakedness was of no significance.
        2. It was in no way bad.
        3. It was in no way embarrassing.
        4. It was in no way shameful.
      2. But with the awareness of evil they experienced two emotions that they had never known–shame and fear.
        1. In shame they tried to cover their nakedness.
        2. In fear they tried to hide from the presence of God.
      3. When they heard the presence of God, they hid.
        1. God asked, “Where are you?”
        2. “We heard the sound of your presence, and we were afraid because we were naked, so we hid.”
        3. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you done what I told you not to do?”
      4. This is the moment the “God, it is your fault,” injustice was created by a sinful human being.
        1. The word “sin” means to miss the mark.
        2. By yielding to their desires, they “missed the mark.”
        3. God did not “miss the mark; “they “missed the mark.”
        4. But the first man said that it was God’s fault that he “missed the mark.”
        5. “The woman you gave me picked the fruit and gave it to me to eat.”
        6. Or, “God, if you had never given me that woman, this would not have happened.”
        7. The simple truth is this: the first man ate because he choose to eat–it was his decision and his responsibility.
  2. We have learned well, and we repeat well.
    1. The first man’s conclusion was wrong.
      1. He did not eat because his wife handed him the fruit.
      2. He ate because he chose to eat.
      3. He knew and understood what was expected of him, what he was not to do.
      4. He knew the consequences of his choice.
      5. He did what he chose to do.
    2. It is not difficult for us to look at Adam, listen to his excuse, and shake our heads at such a lame excuse.
      1. We commonly shake our heads in disbelief as people use the same lame excuse.
        1. “Boss, this accident is your fault–you gave me a job.”
        2. “Dad, this car wreck is your fault–you bought me the car.”
        3. “Wife, my overweight is your fault–you cook the food.”
        4. “Husband, my overdrafts are your fault–you told me to carry the check book.”
      2. We lament the conditions in society that exist because so many people refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
      3. Then we all use the same excuse when we unjustly hold God accountable for things God did not do.
        1. “God, it is your fault that the person I love is desperately sick.”
        2. “God, it is your fault that a drunk driver killed a family member.”
        3. “God, it is your fault that my family has fallen apart.”
        4. “God, it is your fault that I am in economic ruin.”
        5. “God, it is your fault that my world is falling apart.”
        6. “God, it is your fault that evil causes so much sorrow and suffering in our world.”
  3. There was another key figure who played an essential role in bringing evil into the human experience–the crafty evil one.
    1. He initiated the incident that resulted in Adam and Eve rebelling against God.
      1. He fueled Eve’s suspicion and turned suspicion into distrust of God.
      2. He deceived her into believing that there was value and reward in experiencing evil.
      3. He effectively lied, successfully deceived.
      4. It happened because the liar deceived.
    2. Adam and Eve’s problem did not begin with God; Adam and Eve’s problem began with Satan.
      1. Paul expressed spiritual concern for the Corinthian Christians with this statement: I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
      2. In the same chapter Paul warned them about false prophets and reminded them that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
      3. Paul, in speaking of Eve, told Timothy the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression (1 Timothy 2:14).
      4. The problem was not created by God; the problem was created by Satan’s deception.
      5. Speaking of Satan, Jesus said, Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44).
  4. Holding God accountable for Satan’s work in human life is simplistic and naive.
    1. In this world, in human life, Satan and the forces of evil are powerful beyond our comprehension.
      1. Peter called Satan our adversary and said that he prowls about as a roaring lion (lions roar when they are hungry and hunting) seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
        1. Satan roams our world using evil to eat people.
        2. He prowls this world looking for people to destroy.
      2. Because Christ is more powerful than Satan, because Christ can resurrect to life and restore what Satan destroyed, Christians tend to look at Satan and evil as a “non-force” after a person chooses to belong to God.
    2. Satan loves for us to do one to two things:
      1. Blame God for what he does.
      2. Doubt his power and disregard him as a significant force in Christian’s lives.
    3. The war in human life between Christ and Satan, between righteousness and evil, is very complex and complicated.
      1. While it is very real, we will always have more questions than answers.
      2. We are asked to understand these things:
        1. It was not God’s choice for evil to become a force in human life; it was the choice of humanity.
        2. God cannot destroy evil as a force in humanity, not in time, not in this world.
        3. God can destroy the eternal consequences of evil in any life through forgiveness.
        4. While God can forgive and restore our relationship with Him, God cannot (in this life) remove all consequences as though evil never occurred.
    4. Let me challenge you to think about something.
      1. Satan deceived Judas and led him to betray Jesus.
      2. Satan terrified Peter and led him to deny Jesus.
      3. Satan turned the Jewish people that Jesus healed and blessed against Jesus to the point that they shouted for his death.
      4. Satan deceived the men who knew the most about scripture to the extent that they had Jesus killed.
      5. Satan was successful in getting Jesus nailed to a cross to suffer a painful, disgraceful death.
      6. Satan led people to kill most of the apostles.
      7. Satan led people to persecute and kill Christians.
      8. Satan created all kinds of problems among Christians in the first century.
      9. How can we look at all that and conclude that Satan and evil cannot cause suffering and problems in the lives of Christians today?

“Well, with all His power, God ought to put an end to Satan and evil in this world. He should stop what Satan is doing to people.” God can and God will. But there is only one way that God can use His power to destroy all evil. God can and will destroy all evil when He brings this world to an end. This physical world will cease to exist. The day of judgment will come. All will stand before God. Satan and all who served Satan will be confined to hell eternally. Evil will never touch the forgiven people of God again.

“Well, what is He waiting on?” He wants none to be destroyed eternally. He wants everyone to have maximum opportunity to repent. Because He wants more people to accept His forgiveness, He is delaying that moment (2 Peter 3:9). But that day is coming, and nothing can stop that day from coming.

If you want God to become a more powerful, helpful force in your life, learn to stop holding God responsible for Satan’s work.

The Moment of Decision

Posted by on under Sermons

Life is a sequence of inevitable moments. An inevitable moment is a specific point in time that must come. Inevitable moments are unavoidable; they must happen. The question is never, “Will the moment come?” The question always is, “When will this moment come?”

We know that life’s major transitions always involve an inevitable moment. The moment when we must leave our childhood circumstances and begin an adult life is an inevitable moment. The moment when academic education ends and career begins is an inevitable moment. Death is an inevitable moment.

However, inevitable moments are not confined to major transitions. Inevitable moments constantly occur in our lives.

Perhaps the most common form of inevitable moments is decision. Making a decision of importance and consequence always involves an inevitable moment.

You are in your twenties. You have been in a serious dating relationship for three years. You became friends. You learned about each other’s lives and backgrounds. You love each other. You tell each other that you want to marry, want to live your lives as husband and wife. Setting the specific date for the wedding creates an inevitable moment. On that inevitable moment you cease to be single and immediately are married.

You have a career decision to make that involves a job opportunity. You investigated the situation thoroughly. You weighed the pros and cons carefully. You gathered all the available information and evaluated it carefully. You considered how the decision would affect your life and affect each member of your family. Then came the inevitable moment. The inevitable moment is the moment you accept or reject the opportunity.

This morning I want us to consider one of the classic inevitable moments in the Bible. It is found in Joshua 24.

  1. Israel’s great leader, Joshua, demanded that Israel make an important, critical decision. He demanded that they face the inevitable moment.
    1. Joshua has never been appreciated as he should be.
      1. As a godly man in a nation of hundreds of thousands of people, he trusted and relied on God when only three people did.
        1. He was one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan to scout the land and people before Israel began its invasion.
        2. The twelve men returned astounded at the country’s prosperity.
        3. But they were terrified by the walled cities and capable armies they saw.
        4. Ten of the men said that Israel could not successfully invade and conquer the land.
        5. Two men said that it could be done; they knew it could happen because God said it would happen.
        6. In the entire nation, only Moses agreed with Joshua and Caleb.
        7. Of all the Israelites who left Egypt, Joshua was one of only two adults who left Egypt as adults and entered the land of Canaan.
      2. Joshua was unique in the nation of Israel.
        1. He was selected by God to lead Israel as they invaded and conquered the land of Canaan.
        2. As an adult, Joshua personally witnessed the plagues in Egypt.
        3. As an adult, he personally experienced the escape from Egypt by night.
        4. As an adult, he personally experienced crossing the Red Sea on dry land.
        5. As an adult, he personally experienced all the events that happened in the wilderness over a forty year period.
        6. As an adult, he led Israel into Canaan, and experienced the conquest.
        7. He had seen it all as an adult; he had experienced it all as an adult.
        8. So from the plagues in Egypt to the conquest of the land of Canaan, he had an adult perspective on everything that happened.
  2. Joshua was a very old man when he called Israel together for his last speech–Joshua 24:29 states that he was 110 when he died.
    1. In his last act as the leader of Israel, he called for a national assembly.
      1. All the older men who gave guidance and counsel to each tribe were there.
      2. All the heads of families or clans within each tribe were there.
      3. All the judges who rendered decisions in each tribe were there.
      4. And all the officers within each tribe were there.
    2. Listen to Joshua’s last speech to the nation of Israel; the first part is as though God was speaking; the second part he speaks for himself.”
      1. “All of you are Abraham’s descendants, but Abraham’s ancestors lived far from here.”
      2. “In fact, in that distant place, his father, Terah, and his other relatives worshipped idols.”
      3. “It was I, God, who took Abraham from that distant place over 500 years ago and led him through this very land you are living in today.”
      4. “I gave Abraham Isaac for a son; and I gave Isaac Jacob and Esau for sons; and Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt.”
      5. “Four hundred years after Jacob moved to Egypt, when his descendants had become hundreds of thousands of slaves, I sent Moses and Aaron to lead them.”
      6. “I inflicted the ten plagues on Egypt, and I brought you out of Egypt.”
      7. “The Egyptian army, with horses and chariots, chased your fathers and mothers to the Red Sea, but I kept the army from attacking by separating them from you with darkness.”
      8. “I opened the Red Sea to let you escape, and I closed the Red Sea upon the army to destroy it.”
      9. “You lived in the wilderness for a long time.”
        1. “The Amorites tried to destroy you, but I would not allow that to happen.”
        2. “Balak tried to use Balaam to curse and destroy you, but I used Balaam to pronounce blessings on you.”
      10. “After you lived in the wilderness for forty years, I brought you into this land.”
        1. “The wicked people who lived here could not stop you.”
        2. “I fought with you and for you–and sometimes I fought for you when you did not even fight.”
      11. “The end result was that I gave you a land and country of your own.”
        1. “I gave you cities that you did not build.”
        2. “I gave you farms that you did not clear or develop.”
        3. “I gave you vineyards and orchards that you did not plant.”
    3. Joshua then spoke for himself to the nation.
      1. “The inevitable moment has come; the moment of decision is here.”
        1. “You have every reason to reverence God and serve Him.”
        2. “You have every reason to do it in sincerity and truth.”
        3. “You have every reason to destroy your idols an never worship them again.”
      2. “You know all that God has done for over 500 years to give you this country.”
        1. “You have personally witnessed many of the things God did.”
        2. “You saw with your own eyes God at work in the wilderness and God at work in the conquest of this land.”
      3. “So it is time to decide.”
        1. “Make a choice.”
        2. “Either choose to serve the idols that Abraham’s ancestors served.”
        3. “Or choose to serve the God who brought you out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into this country that you now own.”
      4. “Choose one or the other.”
        1. “You cannot continue trying to serve both.”
        2. “I have made my decision, and my family has made its decision.”
        3. “I have seen everything that happened from Egypt to Canaan.”
        4. “I know what God has done for us.”
        5. “You make your choice, but even if you choose to serve idols, my family and I are going to reverence and serve God.”
  3. Joshua said to Israel, “The time has come for you to move up to a higher spiritual level.”
    1. “You have been on many lower spiritual levels.”
      1. “Spiritually, you were in the basement when you were slaves in Egypt.”
        1. “You did not know who the living God is.”
        2. “He used the plagues in Egypt to reveal His power and nature to you.”
        3. “He was not merely delivering you from slavery; He was moving you to a higher spiritual level.”
      2. “You were trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.”
        1. “You immediately forgot God’s power–you not only refused to trust God; you were certain that there was nothing God could do to help you.”
        2. “You said that God brought you out of Egypt to kill you.”
        3. “God open the Red Sea so you could cross, and God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.”
        4. “He was not merely giving you safety and freedom; He was moving you to a higher spiritual level.”
      3. “In the wilderness God repeatedly tried to move you to higher spiritual levels.”
        1. “Your mothers and fathers resisted God; they did not want a higher spiritual level.”
        2. “Instead, they did things like building a golden calf and calling it their god.”
        3. “Because they refused to grow spiritually, they died in the wilderness.”
      4. “Now you are in the land that God promised them; it is yours.”
        1. “It is yours only because of all that God has done.”
        2. “You know what He has done.”
        3. “It is time for decision; it is time to move to a higher spiritual level.”
    2. When Joshua said, “Choose the God that you will serve,” Joshua was saying much more than, “Bring an end to all idol worship.”
      1. He was also saying, “God has blessed you more than you can imagine.”
      2. “Everything you have is the direct result of what God has done for you.”
      3. “You know how God has been at work in this nation and in your lives.”
      4. “With all that God has done, with all that you have seen and understand, it is time to move to a higher spiritual level.”
  4. It is time for us to move up to a higher spiritual level.
    1. In the history of the world, it is unlikely that any people have ever been as blessed as we are.
      1. We cannot grasp all the ways that God blesses this nation.
      2. We cannot grasp all the ways that God touches and blesses our personal lives.
      3. We cannot grasp all the ways that God blesses this congregation.
    2. But we grasp and understand enough to realize that it is time for us as individuals and as a congregation to move to higher spiritual levels.
      1. January 11 the elders will share with us ways in which they would like for the congregation to grow to new spiritual levels in 1998.
      2. In your own life, isn’t it time for you to move to a higher spiritual level?
        1. Do you want to? Would you genuinely like to be more mature in godliness?
        2. What must happen in your life for you to move to the next level of spirituality?

Not just let it happen — but make it happen.

Do you really mean it when you sing that without Jesus you would be nothing?
Do you really mean that without Jesus you would be lost beyond imagination?
Why were you baptized into Christ? Was it for salvation from sin?

Why were you baptized into Christ from God’s perspective? The great desire of God for every single one of us is for us to be all that we can be in Jesus Christ. We will never know all that we could be till after we die and look back at life. May God open your eyes and let you see what you can be. All that God wants you to be is for your own benefit.

Have you had commitment to a new life?
Rise to the next spiritual level.

When We Get What We Want

Posted by on December 21, 1997 under Sermons

This week is perhaps the most fascinating week of the year. Of all the weeks in the entire year, this week is probably the most unique week of the year to observe and study human behavior. Just consider a child’s behavior. When you are a child, this is the slowest week of life. This week each day seems to be 72 hours long. Every day this week it takes forever for night to come. When you are young, you have the luxury of wishing days would just disappear–and this week you do. There is so much anticipation of Christmas morning. The possibility of you getting what you want excites you so much that you can’t sleep.

Then Christmas morning comes. It was such a long night. You faked sleeping, but you could not go to sleep. You created excuses to get up. As soon as you thought that you could get up without your parents killing you, you got up. And there it is–exactly what you wanted. You are so excited!

But how long does the excitement last? How long does it take to go from incredible excitement to total boredom?

When we get exactly what we want, actually having it never seems to equal the anticipation of getting it.

As adults, we quickly learn that getting what we want can easily become a disaster. We are convinced that having what we want will be an enormous blessing. But when we get it, we learn that having what we want can become a curse.

  1. The book of Genesis says that people’s problems began when Eve got what she wanted.
    1. Genesis 3 briefly tells us how that sin became a part of human life and the human experience.
      1. The evil one asked Eve, “Did God tell you anything that you could not do?”
        1. The blessings of possessing free wills are great–it is a wonderful blessing to have the power to make decisions and choices.
        2. The curses of possessing free wills are just as great–wrong decisions and choices often carry horrible consequences.
        3. Nothing galls our free wills more than the suggestion that we are not permitted to do something.
        4. The greatest single motivation for doing something wrong is to be told that we can’t do it.
      2. Eve answered, “Actually, yes, there is. We were told not to eat the fruit of a specific tree. We were told that if we did, we would die.”
      3. The evil one said, “You won’t die! That’s a deception. God’s is not being honest and truthful with you.”
        1. “God told you not to eat that fruit because it will open your eyes.”
        2. “It will make you like God.”
        3. “You will know things only God knows; you will know good and evil.”
      4. That is what Eve wanted–to see what God saw, to be like God, to know both good and evil.
      5. She did not examine the fruit until she was told that it would make her like God–that is when she examined the fruit, saw that it was pretty, saw that it would taste good, and noted that it would make her wise.
      6. She ate the fruit and gave the fruit to Adam to eat.
      7. And she got what she wanted–just like God, she knew both good and evil, and that was a disaster, not a blessing.
    2. It fascinates me to realize that up until that moment Adam and Eve only knew God’s goodness.
      1. In fact they only knew good–they were incapable of thinking evil, of experiencing evil emotions, or committing evil acts.
        1. What an incredible blessing!
        2. In your personal adult life, would you not like to experience just one day of life in which you were incapable of thinking evil, incapable of experiencing an evil emotion, and incapable of doing an evil act?
      2. You and I are in the opposite situation.
        1. Because we do know evil–in fact because we cannot get evil out of our minds, hearts, and lives–we seem to be incapable of knowing God’s goodness.
        2. We spend more effort trying to define the limits of God’s goodness than we spend on trying to understand and accept God’s goodness.
        3. We know some of the good that He has done and thank Him for it.
        4. But we struggle to try to comprehend God’s goodness.
        5. What a curse! What a horrible consequence! God’s greatest blessings for us are experienced when we understand and trust His goodness!
      3. Eve got what she wanted, and it was pure disaster.
    3. The descendants of Abraham got what they wanted.
      1. God promised them that He would give them what they wanted.
      2. They were slaves in Egypt who lived miserable lives with enormous burdens.
        1. They were property, the raw power to do impossible jobs.
        2. They had no control over their lives or anything that affected their lives.
        3. They were even ordered to kill their sons at the moment of birth.
      3. They wanted to be free, to have their own country, to belong some place, to work for their own good and benefit.
      4. They wanted homes and farms and vineyards and livestock and peace.
      5. They wanted to escape slavery and to leave that life behind.
    4. I want you to consider the things Moses said to them in Deuteronomy 8:1-14.
      1. (Read the scripture.) “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;”
      2. “Obey me when you live in the country I will give you.”
      3. “Don’t forget the struggles and experiences you had for forty years in the wilderness, and humbly trust Me.”
      4. “Remember what you learned in the wilderness about life: living comes by listening to God, not by having food to eat.”
      5. “God is giving you a country filled with fertile land and streams of water that flow from its hills into its valleys.”
      6. “This country will produce food abundantly, and you won’t be hungry.”
      7. “When you are satisfied, remember to bless God for giving you this country.”
      8. “Be careful not to start disobeying Him.”
      9. “When you are satisfied, live in good homes, have lots of livestock and lots of money, don’t become proud.”
      10. “Don’t forget that it was God who delivered you from slavery.”
    5. They got what they wanted and did precisely what Moses warned them not to do.
      1. Instead of remembering God, they insulted God.
      2. Instead of blessing God, they rebelled against Him.
      3. Instead of giving God credit for their opportunities and blessings, they gave idols credit for their blessings.
      4. They often were a proud people who refused to humble themselves before God.
      5. They got what they wanted, but they forgot that God gave it to them, and they suffered many horrible consequences.
  2. That is a little scary, isn’t it? It sounds too much like what has happened to us, doesn’t it?
    1. I want to read something to you that was written to a Christian, a teacher and preacher. It is found in 1 Timothy 6.
      1. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
      2. Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
    2. If you got what you wanted, would it be your blessing or your curse?
      1. We all realize that people handle adversity poorly.
        1. We don’t suffer pain well.
        2. We don’t experience loss well.
        3. We don’t live in genuine need well.
        4. We don’t handle grief well.
      2. Even though we handle adversity poorly, we are even less capable of handling prosperity.
        1. If you question the truth of that statement, just look at our prosperous society today.
          1. As a nation, we are a selfish, indulgent, self-centered, arrogant, pleasure centered, entertainment driven, sex saturated people.
          2. As a society, we are all that because we are so prosperous that we can afford to be all that.
        2. If you question the truth of that statement, just look at Christians today.
          1. We so easily substitute being religious for being spiritual.
          2. We struggle when we attempt to be spiritual, and much of the struggle is caused by what we own, and what owns us.

What would happen in your life if you got what you really want? What would happen in your family if you got what you really want? What would happen in your relationship with God if you got what you really want? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Have you ever prayed for God not to give you what you wanted if it would hurt you spiritually and damage your relationship with Him?

Jesus: Does He Trip You or Lift You?

Posted by on under Sermons

This week everyone is thinking about Jesus. Personally, I am thankful anytime people have Jesus on their minds. When people think about Jesus, they create a priceless opportunity.

People thinking about Jesus are reflecting on the unbelievable. How could God place such value on us that He would allow a part of Himself be born as a human baby? People who rarely read a Bible are thinking about that.

So this week people will think a lot about the things that happened the first few weeks of Jesus’ life.

This morning I want you to consider some things we don’t think much. Eight days after Jesus was born he was circumcised in a religious ceremony (Luke 2:21). Approximately 2000 years before Jesus was born, Abraham accepted an agreement that God offered him (Genesis 17:9-12). Circumcision was the symbol that Abraham accepted God’s agreement. So every Jewish baby boy that was born was circumcised the eight days after his birth.

Thirty-three days after Jesus’ birth, Mary, his mother, went to the temple for two reasons. First, she went to fulfill the rites of her purification (Leviticus 12:4,5). Second, she and Joseph went to present Jesus to God because he was their first born son (Luke 2:22).

I want you to focus on something that happened when they visited the temple.

  1. At this time there was a very godly man named Simeon living in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25-35).
    1. This was a righteous, devout man to whom the Holy Spirit spoke.
      1. God promised the nation of Israel that He would send them the Christ, a special person who would bring a blessing to everyone who lived.
      2. Simeon was expecting the Christ to come.
      3. The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he saw the Christ.
    2. The day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, the Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the temple.
      1. When Simeon saw the infant Jesus, he went to Mary and Joseph, took the baby, blessed God, and said, Now Lord, do let your bond-servant depart in peace (die), according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles (all people who are not Jews), and the glory of your people Israel.
      2. Mary and Joseph were astounded by what Simeon said about their baby son.
      3. Simeon then blessed Mary and Joseph, and made this astounding statement to Mary: Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rise (resurrection) of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed–and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
        1. Simeon, what did you say to Mary?
        2. “It has already been determined that this child will cause many in Israel to fall and many in Israel to be resurrected.”
        3. “This child is a sign (from God) to be opposed.”
        4. “Mary, in all this your soul will be pierced.”
        5. “But the end result is this: the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”
    3. Simeon’s statement seems just plain strange when we consider the messages that surrounded Jesus’ birth.
      1. When an angel told Joseph that his fiancée was pregnant, the angel told him that she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would have a son to be named Jesus, and that he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20,21).
      2. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would have a child, she was told that the child would be called God’s son, that he would sit on the throne of the great king who was his ancestor, King David, and that Jesus’ kingdom would be endless (Luke 1:31-33).
      3. The night that Jesus was born, the angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
      4. And what did Simeon say?
        1. Many in Israel would fall because of Jesus.
        2. Many in Israel would rise or be resurrected because of Jesus.
        3. That Jesus would be opposed.
        4. That Mary’s soul would be pierced.
        5. That Jesus would cause the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed.
  2. Matthew 21:23-44 tells us about something that happened to Jesus during the last week of his life.
    1. Jesus was teaching in the very same place that Simeon saw him when he was a baby–in the temple in the city of Jerusalem.
      1. This time, just as Simeon said, Jesus was being opposed.
        1. The chief priests and the elders, religious leaders, came to him as he taught in the temple and asked, “Who gave you the authority to do this?”
        2. Jesus responded, “I will answer your question if you answer my question first: did John the baptizer baptize by the authority of heaven or by the authority of men?”
        3. They knew that they did not dare answer his question; if they said John baptized by heaven’s authority, Jesus would ask them why they didn’t obey John; if they answered John baptized by human authority, the people would turn against them.
        4. So they said, “We don’t know.”
        5. Jesus said, “Since you won’t answer my question, I won’t answer yours.”
      2. In this same conversation, he gave them a parable.
        1. A man who owned some land spent a lot of money building an excellent vineyard, complete with walls to protect it and a wine press to process the grapes.
        2. The man rented his vineyard and took a long journey.
        3. When harvest time came, the man decided to collect his rent.
        4. He sent some slaves to collect the rent; but the renters beat one slave, killed one, and stoned another.
        5. The owner sent a bigger group of slaves to collect the rent, and the renters did the same thing to them.
        6. The owner decided to send his son to collect the rent thinking surely that the renters would respect his son.
          1. But the renters said, “This is the person who will inherit the vineyard. Let’s kill him, and then the vineyard will belong to us.”
          2. So they captured him, took him outside the vineyard, and murdered him.
        7. Jesus asked the religious leaders, “What will the owner do to these renters?”
          1. They answered, “He will bring their miserable lives to a miserable end.”
          2. “Then he will rent the vineyard to someone who will pay the rent.”
        8. Jesus then asked them, “Haven’t you read the scriptures?”
          1. The stone that was rejected as a stone to be used in the building became the most important stone of the building.
          2. “God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and given to a nation who will produce fruit.”
          3. “The person who trips over this stone will be broken into pieces.”
          4. “The person on whom this stone falls will be scattered like dusts scatters when a rock falls in it.”
      3. What did Simeon say? Many will fall in Israel because of him?
        1. Paul in Romans 9:33 referred to Jesus as the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense.
        2. Peter in 1 Peter 2:8 also referred to Jesus as the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense.
        3. In words that we use, Jesus was called the stone that causes some people to stumble, the rock that causes some people to fall.
  3. How could that be? How could Jesus be God’s great gift to all people and at the same time be the gift that would cause many to stumble and fall?
    1. To understand, start with the nation of Israel before and during Jesus’ lifetime.
      1. They knew who they were.
        1. They were the descendants of Abraham.
        2. They were the chosen people of God.
        3. They were the people who had received God’s promises.
      2. Because they placed their faith in who they were, they had turned inward and become very selfish in their religious, spiritual desires.
        1. They knew what they wanted.
        2. And they were sure that when the Christ came, they would get what they wanted.
        3. That is why the Christ would come–to give them what they wanted.
      3. Jesus in his ministry had an alarming way of revealing hearts, attitudes, and motives.
        1. Those who opened their eyes and hearts to Jesus and repented received great blessing.
        2. Those who reacted against Jesus stumbled, fell, and broke.
    2. Jesus can be our stepping stone to God, or the rock in the path that causes us to fall and break.
      1. The selfishness that causes us to fall and break is a specific kind of selfishness.
      2. Your material unselfishness touches me and moves me–you are such a generous people.
        1. It moves me to see you respond to the family who recently lost their business.
        2. It moves me to see the big box of coats you have given and to know that some of you will see that people who are cold gets the coats.
        3. It moves me to see our food distribution efforts.
        4. It moves me to see the things that CURE is doing.
        5. It moves me to see how you support our mission programs, to consider the $141,000 you gave a month ago to fund that work.
      3. In all our generosity, we still need a deep awareness.
        1. We must never think that Jesus came to give us our desires instead of ministering to our needs.
        2. When I think that Jesus came to give me what I want, he becomes the rock I trip over.
      4. We need to be concerned about our attitudes and hearts as Christ’s servants.
        1. It is easy to do something when Christ wants me to do what I want to do.
        2. It is much harder to let Christ reveal my heart to me to let Christ make me who he wants me to be.
    3. What determines if Jesus is my stepping stone to God or the rock that I trip over? The combination of my heart, my attitude, and my perspective.
      1. If I see Jesus as someone who can rescue me from my evil, someone who can turn my life around, and someone who can rebuild my emotions and my heart, he becomes my stepping stone to God.
      2. If I see Jesus as someone who can give me what I want, do what I want him to do, and be what I want him to be, he becomes the rock I trip over.

This is the astounding thing: when Simeon said that Jesus would cause many to fall, he was talking about religious people. When Jesus said that some would trip over him and be broken to pieces, he was talking to religious people. When Paul and Peter called him the stumbling stone and the rock that causes people to fall, they were writing to Christians. When Christians say to Jesus, “Remake me; rebuild my life; make me who you want me to be,” Jesus lifts them up. When Christians say to Jesus, “This is who you must be, and this is what you must do,” he becomes the rock they trip over.

He came to be our Savior and he can be our Savior. But it is our hearts, not him, that determines if he lifts us up or we fall over him.

God, our Creator, specializes in creating. Since we broke everything He made, His creative power had to be used to put things back together. The God that provided Jesus Christ, provides a way to put us back together again. If you bring the pieces to Him, He will surely put the pieces back together. He can put your broken life back together. God will be in the process of putting you back together–to make you whole, as only God can make you. See what God did for you through Jesus. Trust Him. Be willing to be born again into His Kingdom through faith and baptism. Let God put the pieces back together. We invite you to Jesus.

Please Use the Keys!

Posted by on December 14, 1997 under Sermons

Tonight I want you to consider a third lesson from Matthew 16:13-23. In the first lesson we noted that Peter understood the fact that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But he did not understand God’s purposes in Jesus. Therefore, he rebuked Jesus when Jesus said that he would be killed.

In the second lesson we focused on Jesus blessing Peter. We examined some of the good and bad things that happened to Peter after Jesus said, “Peter, you are blessed.” We noted that God used his successes and his failures to move him along the road to heaven.

Tonight, I want us to focus on Jesus’ statement to Peter, “I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Do you enjoy the experience of having someone “read your mind”? Without expressing or explaining yourself, this person says, “I know what you are thinking. I know what you are concerned about. I understand what you want to accomplish.”

Excuse me. How can you know what I am thinking if I have not told you? How could you possibly know what I intend to accomplish if I haven’t discussed that information with you?

Do you enjoy talking to people who finish your sentences for you? You never finish anything that you start saying. This person always says it for you–or tries to.

Too often Christians “read God’s mind” without allowing God to tell them what He wants or intends. With good intentions, we stress some teachings while we neglect others. We are certain that we “know what God wants and intends.” It is as though we try to think for God and finish His conversations for Him.

  1. When Jesus said, “Peter I will give you the keys to kingdom,” when Jesus told Peter that he would bind and loose on earth, I don’t know what Peter thought those statements meant.
    1. I do know that Peter thought that Jesus came to be the physical king of Israel.
      1. He thought that Jesus would actually sit on a throne in Jerusalem.
      2. He thought that Jesus would be and fulfill Christ’s mission by physically ruling over the nation of Israel.
    2. When Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, I don’t know what Peter thought that he would do with the keys.
  2. To correctly understand Jesus’ promises to Peter, there are some things we need to know.
    1. First, we need to know that Jesus did not make the promise of binding and loosing only to Peter.
      1. Jesus was speaking specifically to Peter in Matthew 16:19.
      2. But in Matthew 18:1 he was speaking to all the disciples as he answered their question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
      3. Speaking to all of them, Jesus said in verse 18, Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    2. Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom only to Peter.
      1. Peter may have thought Jesus was giving him a privilege, but Jesus was actually giving him a responsibility.
      2. All the apostles were given the responsibility of binding and loosing.
    3. What did that mean? Did it mean that they used their own human, arbitrary choice to decide what the kingdom would be and do? Absolutely not. Kingdom decisions were not left to human reasoning, human opinion, or human desire.
      1. Please turn in your Bibles to John 13: the last supper on the last evening of Jesus’ earthly life.
        1. Only Jesus and the twelve were there on that occasion.
        2. Matthew 26:20 states that Jesus shared that meal with “the twelve disciples.”
        3. Mark 14:17 states that Jesus came to that meal “with the twelve.”
        4. Luke 22:14 states that Jesus was at the table, “and the apostles with him.”
        5. The conversation Jesus had in John 13, 14,15, and 16 was with the twelve disciples or apostles.
        6. The specific promises were made to with whom he ate–to the apostles.
      2. What did Jesus promise all twelve regarding their future teaching (excluding Judas who left to betray him)?
        1. After washing their feet (John 13), he urged them not to be troubled by the events of the evening (John 14:1).
        2. In 14:16 he promised that God would give them another Helper who would be with them forever–the new Helper would be permanent.
        3. In 14:18 he promised that he would not leave them as orphans.
        4. In 14:26 he promised that God would sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit, and this is what the Holy Spirit would do:
          He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
        5. The apostles would be taught by the Holy Spirit and have perfect recall.
        6. In 15:26 Jesus promised he would send the Helper, who, when He came as the Spirit of truth, would bear witness of Jesus–the Holy Spirit would be Jesus’ witness to them.
        7. In 16:13 Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would guide the apostles into all truth, would reveal the things that He heard God speak, and would enable them to know the things that would happen in the future.
      3. The apostles would bind and loose because they were guided by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Holy Spirit, could recall everything Jesus said, and were shown things to come by the Holy Spirit.
    4. I think it is extremely important that we understand this:
      1. Being guided by the Holy Spirit did not destroy their humanity, or their ability to make mistakes, or give them instant knowledge of all truth.
      2. Remember our study of Peter’s life last Sunday night.
        1. In Acts 10 Peter did not understand that Jesus wanted him to teach and baptize people who were not Jews–and it took a lot to convince Peter that he was supposed to do that.
        2. Because Peter taught and baptized people who were not Jews, some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem hurt Peter, he became afraid of them.
        3. Later, because he was afraid of these Jewish Christians, he broke fellowship with Christians who were not Jews.
        4. He also encouraged other Jewish Christians to break fellowship with them.
        5. Paul confronted Peter publicly to his face because Peter was wrong and was acting hypocritically (Galatians 2:11-14).
      3. Peter had long been guided by the Holy Spirit when this happened.
        1. Obviously, that guidance did not destroy his humanity.
        2. Obviously, it did not instantly give him total knowledge of all truth–the process of the Spirit guiding him and teaching him was a continuing process.
        3. Obviously, it did not destroy his human weakness.
        4. Obviously, it did not destroy his human ability to make mistakes.
      4. Something else is obvious: being human, weak, and making mistakes did not destroy the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide, teach, and direct Peter.
  3. Now I ask you to think with me very carefully: Peter’s concept of the kingdom was not Jesus’ concept of the kingdom.
    1. Peter opened the kingdom to all people who were Jews in Acts 2.
      1. That day Peter first preached the good news about the resurrected Jesus being Christ and Lord, and he preached it to Jewish people from sixteen different areas of the Roman empire (Acts 2:8-11).
      2. That day Peter taught Jewish people from all over the Roman empire.
      3. That day Jewish people who resided all over the Roman empire had an opportunity to become Christians.
      4. And that was fine with Peter–that fit Peter’s concept of the kingdom; it should be available to all Jewish people everywhere.
    2. Peter first opened the kingdom to people who were not Jews in Acts 10.
      1. Cornelius gathered his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say (Acts 10:24).
        1. An angel instructed him to send for Peter, and Cornelius did.
        2. He was filled with expectation as he waited for Peter to come.
        3. Before that day was over, Peter had taught and baptized these people who were not Jews.
      2. Initially, Peter had a lot of difficulty understanding that he was to teach people who were not Jews.
        1. That did not fit Peter’s concept of the kingdom–he had never envisioned the kingdom including people who were not Jews.
        2. This was so foreign to Peter’s thinking that the Lord had to take unusual initiatives to open Peter’s mind and understanding.
      3. When Peter finally understood this was God’s plan for the kingdom, many of the Jewish Christians did not understand it.
        1. They fought the idea.
        2. They were certain that this was not what God intended for the kingdom.
        3. Many of these Christians never did understand.
        4. They read God’s mind; they knew what God wanted and intended; they were absolutely certain.
        5. They were certain, but they completely misunderstood God’s plans for the kingdom.
  4. Jewish Christians had an enormous disadvantage as they tried to understand the kingdom of Christ.
    1. They mixed the concept of the kingdom of Israel with the concept of Christ’s kingdom.
      1. They had great difficulty separating the concepts of the two kingdoms.
      2. The way they looked at Israel determined the way they saw the church.
    2. The contrast between Israel and the church is dramatic.
      1. For example, the kingdom of Israel was formed around an institution and rituals.
        1. The institution was the temple.
        2. The rituals included animal sacrifices and sacrificial worship.
      2. The kingdom of Christ is not formed around an institution or rituals.
        1. There is no temple–each Christian is a living stone in the living temple of God (1 Peter 2:5).
        2. There are no commanded rituals–Jesus is our complete sacrifice.
      3. Another example:
        1. The morality and ethics of Israel were based on and defined by laws.
        2. The morality and ethics of Christianity are based on and defined by a Savior.
    3. Many Jewish Christians did not want to open Christ’s kingdom to the world.
      1. They wanted to keep the kingdom to themselves.
      2. They wanted the kingdom to be what they wanted and only what they wanted.
      3. They were more concerned about preserving their concept than they were expanding Christ’s kingdom–they did not realize it, but they were.
    4. It is too easy for us to make their mistake.
      1. Though the New Testament does not refer to the church as an institution, it is easy for us to make it an institution.
      2. When we make the church an institution, It is easy for us to be more concerned about preserving our institution than expanding Christ’s kingdom.
      3. It is easy to be more concerned about making the church what we want it to be than allowing the church to become what God intended his kingdom to be.

Peter discovered that using the keys to open God’s kingdom to people was much more difficult, much more complicated than he ever imagined. Even Peter who was guided and taught by the Holy Spirit struggled to understand God’s concept. Even when he understood, he found it very difficult time to help other Christians understand.

It still is difficult and complicated to keep the doors unlocked. It is hard to open our minds to God’s full concept of the kingdom. It is never easy to help each other understand.

One of our greatest challenges and most urgent challenges is to rediscover the importance of opening the kingdom all around us. May we never lock what Christ through Peter unlocked.

Who Would You Choose To Be?

Posted by on under Sermons

Do you like to use your imagination? If you build things, you do. If you solve problems, you do. If you are creative, you do. If you provide leadership, you do. If you play competitive sports, you do. If you hunt or fish, you do. There are very few people who do not enjoy using their imagination.

Most of us just took communion. That is a time when we should use our imaginations with gratitude. We are to focus our minds and hearts on Jesus’ death. As we eat a piece of the bread, we are to think about the physical body that Jesus surrendered to death for us. As we drink the grape juice, we are to think about the blood he poured out in death for us. It is impossible to do what Jesus asked us to do when we take the Lord’s supper unless we use our imagination.

I want you to use your imagination. This morning you and I are a part of the crowd that witnessed Jesus’ death. We are there. We see the whole thing from the moment they walk Jesus up to the place of his execution to the moment they take his dead body down. We are in the crowd that sees him die. Who do you choose to be? This morning you must choose to be one of those people. Which one of those persons do you choose to be?

“Well, what choices do I have? Who was there?”

  1. Let’s look at the list of the people we know witnessed Jesus’ death.
    1. There was a large (probably huge) crowd of people who were the public spectators that any highly emotional, unusual, public event attracts.
      1. The people who lived in Jerusalem had been angrily divided over the identity, the work, and the teachings of Jesus for a long time (John 7:37-44; 9:16).
      2. Often when he came to Jerusalem his presence caused huge public debates.
      3. The week before Passover Jerusalem’s population literally overflowed as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came to the city.
      4. The publicly execution of a controversial man attracted a huge crowd.
      5. In this crowd there were:
        1. People who were delighted that the impostor was being killed.
        2. People who always had been his enemy and opposed him openly.
        3. People who loved him because of what he did for them.
        4. People who expected him to become the next king of Israel.
        5. People who openly were his followers, his disciples.
    2. There were the Roman soldiers who executed Jesus (Matthew 27:35,36; Mark 15:24,25; Luke 23:36; John 19:23,24).
      1. They escorted him to the cross.
      2. They took his clothes off.
      3. They stretched his arms and legs on the cross and nailed him to it.
      4. They mocked him: “If you are the King of Israel, save yourself.”
      5. And they sat and watched as he died.
    3. There was the common jeerer, the heckler, the person casting insults (Matthew 27:39,40).
      1. This was the person in the crowd who ridiculed Jesus as he died.
      2. These were the kind of people who are against everything.
        1. That is their role in life–to be against things.
        2. About the only position they ever take is a position against.
        3. They were against his miracles, against his popularity, against his teaching, against what he was doing, against how he did it, and against where he did it.
        4. They were the kind of people who are thrilled when someone influential or someone powerful falls–and, in their eyes, Jesus had fallen.
    4. There were the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Matthew 27:41-43; John 11:47,48).
      1. The chief priests were the priests in charge of the Jewish temple.
        1. They tried to discredit Jesus and engineer his fall for a long time.
        2. They were among Jesus’ most determined enemies.
      2. The scribes were the technical experts in the scriptures that we call the Old Testament.
      3. The elders were the recognized men of wisdom and sound judgment.
      4. All these men were confident that they had finally won and said:
        1. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself.”
        2. “If he is the King of Israel, let him come down, and we will believe.”
        3. “He said that he was God’s Son; let’s see if God wants him.”
    5. There was the centurion, the Roman officer in charge of the execution (Matthew 27:54).
      1. As he marched Jesus to the site of execution, he likely thought no more than, “We are executing one more Jewish man who caused problems.”
      2. But after the sun stopped shining from noon to 3 p.m. and the earth quaked, in terror he said, “This man must have been the son of God!”
    6. There were the women who followed Jesus (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:40,41; Luke 23:49).
      1. They included Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister.
      2. Mary Magdalene was there.
      3. Many of the women who had followed him to minister to him and the disciples in Galilee were there.
        1. As Jesus and the twelve men who followed him traveled about Galilee, they needed someone to help take care of things like cooking, washing, mending, and likely a multitude of needs that arose as they ministered to all those people.
        2. They certainly could not pull into the nearest McDonald’s or take their wash to the cleaners.
        3. Jesus was not embarrassed for these woman be a part of his work and tour–can you imagine what some people said about this unmarried man allowing all these woman to follow him from place to place?
      4. Obviously these ladies loved, admired, and appreciated Jesus and his work.
    7. Though it is not specifically stated, it is my personal opinion that there were many disciples who watched him die.
      1. They could not believe what they were seeing.
      2. They were sure that everything Jesus came to do would never happen.
      3. The man who should have been king was dying.
    8. Then, there were two robbers who were executed to the right and left of Jesus (Luke 23:33, 39-43; John 19:18; Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:41).
      1. It seems that at first that they both ridiculed Jesus–when they were nailed to their crosses, they likely felt a lot of anger as well as a lot of pain.
      2. “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”
      3. But one of these robbers became convinced, on his cross, that Jesus was the Christ.
        1. He chastised the other for ridiculing Jesus: “Don’t you fear God? This man is obviously innocent.”
        2. Then he said the most amazing thing to Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
        3. To which Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
  2. If you had to be at the cross, and you had to choose to be one of these people, who would you choose to be?
    1. Would you be just a person in the crowd who blended in unnoticed?
    2. Would you be one of the soldiers?
      1. Could you hold an arm or a leg against the cross, or drive the spike, or help raise the cross?
      2. Could you sit and jeer as you watched Jesus die?
    3. Would you be one of the people who ridiculed, one of those who is against everything, one of those who finds pleasure in seeing other people fall?
    4. Would you be one of the disciples who thought to himself, “The hope of Israel is dying! How he could have changed the world!”
    5. Would you be one of those who had been healed, who thought, “This is truly a great man being killed! He was such a compassionate, godly person! He was what religion really should be about.”
    6. Would you be one of the women who thought, “There has never been anyone like him, and there never will be another like him. He gave us dignity. He was not afraid or ashamed to let us follow him.”
    7. Would you be his mother and watch your son die like that?
    8. Would you be Mary Magdalene, one of his closest friends out of whom he cast seven demons, and watch your closest friend die?
    9. Would you be a chief priest, a master religionist, a renowned theologian, and say to yourself, “We finally got rid of this evil man.”
    10. Would you be a scribe, a true expert in the scripture, and say to yourself, “We finally got rid of this evil man.”
    11. Would you be an elder, a respected religious man of wisdom, and say to yourself, “We finally got rid of this evil man.”
    12. Would you be the robber who said, “If you are the Christ, do something!”
    13. Would you be the robber who said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
  3. Of all the people who witnessed the death of Jesus, only one person realized Jesus’ mission was not destroyed.
    1. Only one person:
      1. Knew that Jesus would still be king in his kingdom.
      2. Knew death could not destroy or stop Jesus.
    2. Only one person looked at Jesus dying on a cross and saw God.
    3. It was not:
      1. The soldier who used the power of death.
      2. The centurion who was terrified by the dark and the earthquake.
      3. The negative jeerers who were delighted that Jesus could be killed.
      4. The disciples who thought everything was lost.
      5. The people who Jesus helped who were filled with regret.
      6. The wonderful women who were devoted to this unique, compassionate man.
      7. The chief priests who were powerful theologians.
      8. The scribes who were experts in scripture.
      9. The elders who were respected for their wisdom.
    4. The only person who looked at Jesus and saw God was a robber, a thief, a reject, an outcast, a spiritual failure.
      1. Only he saw God in Jesus, only he said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
      2. Only to this thief did Jesus say, “Today, you will be with me, in Paradise.”

If you had to be one of those persons who witnessed Jesus’ death, would you choose to be the only person who looked at Jesus and saw God?

Once Jesus told some of the religious leaders of the Jewish people, Truly I say to you, the tax-gathers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him” (Matthew 21:31,32).

In our words, dishonest people and prostitutes would enter the kingdom before religious leaders would because they heard about Jesus and believed.

A long time has passed since Jesus was crucified. You know and understand things that the robber never knew. You have spiritual advantages that robber never had. What do you see when you look at Jesus? Do you look at Jesus and see God?

What you see matters — always.
There is not a single aspect of your life in which it doesn’t matter. Your life contains great danger if you don’t see.

What do you need to understand?

You must look at the Cross and see God.
Many things matter, but nothing is more important than Jesus is the Son of God. All that you seek to be and do must begin with recognition that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Do you believe that? Do you see God in Jesus? Do you want His cleansing? Are you ready to be baptized into Jesus? Give value, one more time, to the death of Jesus. We invite you to Him. Why keep Jesus waiting?

Peter, Do You Feel Blessed?

Posted by on December 7, 1997 under Sermons

God gave you and me, as Christians, some incredible promises. Because we were baptized into Christ, God promised that He would forgive and forget all of our sins (Hebrews 8:12). God promised if we maintain faith in Christ, maintain our commitment to live in God’s ways, and maintain a heart that readily repents, that God will continually forgive our sins (I John 1:5-9 ). God promised that He will use everything that happens in our lives to help us get to heaven (Romans 8:28). God promised that He has reserved a place in heaven for us, and that His power will protect us by working through our faith (1 Peter 1:4,5).

God’s most important objective in each of our lives is to bring us home to heaven with Him. God will use everything that evil does to us, everything evil does in our lives to move us closer to heaven. Evil works powerfully in this world, but God’s power in Jesus Christ is greater (1 John 4:4).

No matter what happens in our lives, not matter how much trouble and pain that Satan causes in our lives, Satan cannot destroy one single promise God made to us. Satan cannot stop God as He helps and sustains us in Jesus Christ.

Do we feel blessed? When do we feel blessed?

  1. Last Sunday evening we studied an incident in the life of Peter in Matthew 16:13-23.
    1. We learned this sobering truth: we create great spiritual danger for ourselves when we know facts and truths about God’s will, but do not understanding God’s purposes.
      1. God revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ.
      2. Peter understood that truth, that fact, but he did not understand God’s purpose in Jesus.
      3. So shortly after understanding the fact that Jesus was the Christ, he rebuked Jesus when Jesus said that Jesus would be killed.
    2. When Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the living God’s son, Jesus said, “Peter, you are blessed.”
      1. I wonder what thoughts and hopes went through Peter’s mind when Jesus said, “Peter, you are blessed”?
      2. The gospels reveal that all the disciples, including Peter, expected Jesus to establish his kingdom by becoming the actual king of the nation of Israel.
      3. Since Peter thought Jesus would sit on a throne in the city of Jerusalem, I wonder what Peter thought when Jesus said, “Peter, you are blessed.”
        1. I wonder if he thought about the wealth of Abraham and Job?
        2. I wonder if he thought about the palaces of David and Solomon?
        3. I wonder if he thought about the prestige and the power of Israel’s great kings–certainly Jesus would be the greatest king Israel ever had.
      4. When Jesus said to Peter, “Peter, I am giving you the keys to my kingdom,” I wonder if he thought even more about the material blessings in his future.
    3. Jesus said that Peter was blessed; that was fact; Jesus did not lie about that.
      1. But Peter was blessed in ways that he could not imagine or grasp.
      2. Peter could not begin to comprehend the great blessings of Jesus.
      3. Personally, I doubt that Peter was capable of understanding the blessing that Jesus knew Peter would receive.
  2. I want to think with you about some specific incidents that happened in Peter’s life after Jesus said, “You are blessed.” As we look at each incident, I want to ask the question, “Peter, do you feel blessed?”
    1. Peter, did you feel blessed the last night of Jesus’ life?
      1. Jesus said that all of the twelve would desert him that night (Matthew 26:31-35).
      2. You said that even if you had to die with him that you would not desert him.
      3. All the rest of the disciples said the same thing.
      4. You meant what you said; you were serious in your statement and your commitment.
      5. Later, while all of you were in the garden of Gethsemane, as many as 600 soldiers came to arrest Jesus (Matthew 26:47-52; John 18:10).
        1. You had a sword with you, and you drew it to fight all those soldiers.
        2. But Jesus told you not to fight, but to put up the sword, and you fled into the night.
      6. Peter, as you ran from the garden did you feel blessed?
    2. A little later you returned to a courtyard where the Jewish leaders placed Jesus on trial (Matthew 26:69-74).
      1. You watched the trial and saw the injustice of the situation.
      2. Jesus told you that you would deny that you knew him three times before dawn (Matthew 26:31-35).
      3. As you watched the trial, you were recognized.
        1. A servant-girl said that you followed Jesus, and you said in a voice that everyone could hear, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
        2. Than another servant-girl said that you were one of Jesus’ disciples, and you said with an oath, “I don’t know the man.”
        3. Later, some bystanders said that you were one of Jesus’ disciples, and you cursed and swore saying, “I don’t know the man!”
        4. Then you remembered what Jesus said, and you ran into the night weeping bitterly.
      4. Peter, did you feel blessed when you denied knowing Jesus and fled into the night crying?
    3. About two months later, you and the rest of the apostles were in the city of Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon all of you (Acts 2).
      1. A huge crowd of people gathered when they heard the unusual sound created by the coming of the Spirit.
      2. At first, all twelve of you were speaking to the multitude in different languages as the Spirit guided each of you.
      3. Then you, Peter, took control of the situation and preached to the whole crowd–you proved to them that Jesus was Lord and Christ.
      4. This was in the same city, maybe in front of some of the same people, that just two months earlier you cursed and swore saying you did not know Jesus.
      5. Peter, did you feel blessed when you preached that the resurrected Jesus was Christ and Lord?
    4. Very quickly you became the most influential leader in this huge, new congregation in the city of Jerusalem.
      1. You healed the lame man at the temple gate and created enormous interest (Acts 3).
      2. When you and John were arrested for performing this miracle, you were the spokesman before the Jewish court (Acts 4:8-12).
      3. You were the one who confronted Ananias and Sapphira when they attempted to lie to God (Acts 5:1-10).
      4. You were so well known and respected in Jerusalem that people carried the sick to the sides of streets hoping that you would walk by so that your shadow would fall on them (Acts 5:15)
      5. You were the one who spoke before the court again when all twelve of you apostles were arrested (Acts 5:26-32).
      6. You were the one who healed a man named Aeneas in the city of Lydda–he had been paralyzed and in bed for eight years (Acts 9: 32-35).
      7. When Dorcas died in the city of Joppa, you were the one who brought her back to life (Acts 9:36-43).
      8. You were the best known and most respected Christian leader in the whole region.
      9. Peter, did you feel blessed?
    5. Then the Lord Jesus asked you to use one of the keys to the kingdom that he gave you.
      1. Christ asked you to use that key in a way that you never would have imagined.
      2. In fact, the Lord did a lot of things to convince you to do what he wanted you to do.
        1. The Lord sent an angel with a message to a man named Cornelius, who was not a Jew (Acts 10:1-8).
        2. This angel told Cornelius to invite you into his home to teach him.
        3. Then the Lord, on the very next day, gave you the same vision three times, and the vision really confused you (Acts 10:9-16).
        4. Then the Holy Spirit told you to go with the men who were looking for you because the Holy Spirit sent those men to you (Acts 10:20).
      3. The next day, still confused, you visited with Cornelius (Acts 10:23-48)
        1. You asked him to explain why he had invited you to come to his home.
        2. After he explained, you finally understood that God wanted you to teach this man and his friends about Jesus.
        3. As you were teaching them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell on them.
        4. That is when you fully understood that they had the right to be baptized, and that is when you ordered them to be baptized.
      4. Peter, when you taught and baptized these people who were not Jews, did you feel blessed?
    6. News of what you did traveled to Jerusalem fast–the apostles and Christians throughout the whole region of Judea heard that Peter visited people who were not Jews (Acts 11:1-18).
      1. When you came back, some of the influential members of the church were upset because you associated with people who were not Jews.
      2. They confronted you and took issue with what you had done.
      3. After they listened to your explanation, they quieted down when you told them that the Holy Spirit came on them just as it had on you.
      4. But after your visit to Cornelius, after you allowed them to be baptized, Acts never again presents you as the leader of the Jerusalem church.
      5. You did what Christ and the Holy Spirit told you to do, you used a key to open the kingdom to people who were not Jews, but Jewish people who were already Christians did not like it.
      6. Peter, did you feel blessed when you did what Jesus wanted but your fellow Christians did not want it?
    7. The fallout from Peter’s visit with Cornelius was very painful for Peter.
      1. Later, he was visiting with the church in Antioch, with Christians who were not Jews (Galatians 2:11-14).
      2. At first he was eating with these Christians and freely having fellowship with them.
      3. Then some Christians came from the Jerusalem church.
        1. They were from the same group who condemned Peter for visiting Cornelius.
        2. Peter was afraid of them.
      4. He stopped eating with Christians who were not Jews and refused to have fellowship with them.
      5. He even convinced Barnabas and other Jewish Christians to stop having fellowship with Christians who were not Jews.
      6. Paul told him publicly to his face that what he was doing was hypocritical and wrong.
      7. Peter, did you feel blessed when this happened?
  3. I want to call three things to your attention.
    1. Number one: sometimes our suffering causes us to feel blessed, and sometimes our suffering causes us to be afraid.
      1. There were times when Peter obviously felt blessed by his suffering.
      2. Acts 5:40,41 is a specific example.
        1. When all the apostles were arrested, the court wanted to kill them.
        2. One member of the court (Gamaliel) convinced the court that would be a mistake.
        3. Instead of killing them, the court whipped them (flogged them) and released them.
        4. After the whipping, they left the court rejoicing because they were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name.
      3. But at times Peter did not feel blessed by the shame and suffering.
        1. Peter did not feel blessed when Christians condemned him for visiting Cornelius.
        2. That hurt Peter, and hurt him deeply.
        3. When he visited Antioch Christians who were not Jews, he was afraid of some of the Jerusalem Christians who were Jews.
      4. Sometimes shame causes Christians to rejoice, and sometimes it causes them to fear.
    2. Number two: It is not unusual for some Christians to resent a Christian who does what the Lord wants him/her to do, but what they don’t want done.
      1. The Lord and the Holy Spirit wanted Peter to teach people who were not Jews.
      2. Some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem did not want Peter to teach them.
      3. Peter paid a heavy price for doing what Jesus planned for him to do, a price that left him afraid of some Christians he may have converted.
    3. Number three: The Lord used every experience in Peter’s life to move him along the road to heaven.
      1. The Lord used the agonizing failures and the amazing victories to move Peter toward heaven.
      2. There are some great moments on the road to heaven, and there are some agonizing moments of pain.
      3. But the Lord uses all of them to bring us home to live with God.

One of our greatest challenges is to realize that God’s blessings are working with full power and strength even at those times when life is extremely painful. We want faith to mature in the understanding that God uses everything that happens in our lives to move us along the road to heaven.

If I could ask today, “Peter, do you feel blessed?” I know what he would say–and so do you.

Let’s walk the road to go Home.

Are There “Real” Answers For Aloneness?

Posted by on under Sermons

Have you ever felt desperately alone and completely empty? You felt absolutely nothing inside. Your life was so empty that you could feel the hollowness. You were certain that no one really cared if you were alive or dead. The loneliness was so painful you knew it was obvious, but no one seemed to notice. There was no future because there was no “now.” You felt like the earth had been jerked from beneath your feet and you were falling, plunging endlessly downward, and no way to stop falling.

If I had each of you tell me if you had ever felt this lonely and empty, I know that I would receive these three answers in some form. (1) “Preacher, I don’t know what in the world you are talking about.” (2) “David, I haven’t had that experience, but I certainly know someone has had it–in fact he/she is having it right now.” (3) “Yes, I have experienced that loneliness and emptiness. But I didn’t think anyone knew how people like me felt.”

Jesus came to a world filled with people living in loneliness and emptiness. Most of the world’s population in his lifetime were people whose lives were consumed by such loneliness and emptiness. Many in the first century church had been lonely, empty people who reached for the Jesus who reached for them.

  1. The letters in the New Testament strongly emphasized the urgency of Christians helping each other as they struggle.
    1. Several times those letters make this point: “Christ did the impossible for you when you were dying in your loneliness and emptiness; now you are to do the possible for each other as you recover from your loneliness and emptiness.”
      1. “You are to treat each other as Christ treated you.”
      2. “Christ is your example in helping struggling people; learn from him.”
    2. Let me give you some specific examples.
      1. The letter called Romans was written to the church in the city of Rome.
        1. The Christians in this congregation had some major disagreements including the importance of Jesus, the religious responsibility of Christians, the importance of the laws of Judaism, the role of faith in salvation, the importance of grace, the meaning of baptism–they strongly disagreed about these things.
          1. After discussing these disagreements, Paul told them:
            1. Romans 13:8,10–Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. …Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law (NASV).
            2. Romans 14:1–Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (NASV).
            3. Romans 15:7–Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God (NASV).
          2. They needed this understanding: they were to help each other as Christ had helped each of them.
      2. The people who received the letter we call Hebrews were deeply discouraged.
        1. They were so discouraged that they were seriously considering renouncing Jesus Christ.
        2. They were so discouraged that they did not assemble as Christians (Hebrews 10:25).
        3. The writer urges them not only to assemble as Christians, but to encourage each other when they assemble.
        4. Listen to this instruction: Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb that is lame may not be out of joint, but rather be healed (Hebrews 12:12,13).
        5. “Do not fail to support the weak and the feeble, and make it easier for them to follow the path”–he is speaking of those who spiritually struggle.
  2. I want to focus your attention on a whole group of churches that existed in a Roman province called Galatia.
    1. These churches as a group received a letter from the apostle Paul.
      1. Paul established these congregations–he was the first Christian to visit this area, and the first to teach them about Jesus Christ.
      2. He taught them about Christ, converted them to Christ, and taught them how to begin living for Christ.
      3. Most of the people who became Christians were not Jewish people.
    2. Shortly after Paul left Galatia to teach and preach in another area, some Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem and created some major problems.
      1. “Paul told you about Jesus, but he didn’t teach you all of God’s laws.”
        1. “We have come to tell you from God’s word what Paul did not tell you.”
        2. “If you want to be real Christians, you must understand and do what we teach you.”
      2. These new Christians were easily confused and deceived.
        1. “Paul didn’t tell us that all these other laws of God existed.”
        2. “What God said in ancient written scripture must be more important than what Paul told us about Jesus.”
        3. “Paul placed too much emphasis on Jesus, his death, and his resurrection.”
        4. “We need to learn the laws that God gave Israel through Moses; we need to learn the right rituals that let us honor the living God.”
      3. When Paul heard that these new Christians left the good news about Jesus in order to learn and practice Jewish ritual, he was extremely upset (Galatians 1:6-10).
        1. “I cannot believe what you people have done–and did it so quickly!”
        2. Paul proved to them that the message he taught them came from the direct revelation of Jesus–Jesus personally gave Paul the message he taught them (Galatians 1:11-24).
        3. Paul proved that it had always been God’s plan to use the Jewish law and the nation of Israel to create the means of bringing salvation to non-Jewish peoples (Galatians 3).
        4. Paul declared that non-Jewish people who accept Jesus are the true people of God, the true fulfillment of God’s plan (Galatians 4).
      4. Beginning in chapter five Paul challenged their understanding.
        1. “God did not free you from your slavery to idolatry to create the opportunity for you to become slaves to Jewish rituals” (5:1-12).
        2. “God freed you from idolatry to give you the opportunity to serve each other through love” (5:13).
        3. “Do you really want to fulfill Jewish law? Then love your neighbor as yourself, and stop biting and eating each other” (5:14,15).
        4. “Let God’s Spirit be in charge of the way you live your lives; do not allow your physical desires to dictate the way you live your lives” (5:16-26).
          1. “Do not let selfish, evil physical desires control the way you think and act.”
          2. “Learn to think, act, and feel like people who are lead by God’s Spirit.”
    3. Please pay special attention to the beginning of chapter six.
      1. “You are going to make mistakes.”
      2. “There will be times when someone does something that Jesus does not want them to do.”
      3. “When that happens, this is the objective: those of you who did not made the mistake are to rescue the person who made the mistake; the goal is rescue. ”
      4. “Seek to restore the person who made the mistake gently.”
        1. “Keep a careful watch on yourself as you try to gently rescue the person who made the mistake.”
        2. “Your effort to rescue someone who made a mistake creates the opportunity for temptation–do not violate what Jesus wants you to be when you try to rescue someone who made a mistake.”
    4. “You want a law to obey? Here is a law to obey. It is not a Jewish law. It does not come from Moses. It comes from Jesus. This law is the law of Christ.”
      1. “Here is Christ’s law: bear each other’s burdens.”
      2. “If your mind works on the basis of law, then obey this law: bear each other’s burdens.”
  3. In the context and content of this letter we call Galatians, what burdens? What burdens are we to help each other bear?
    1. “I worshipped idols before Paul taught me about Jesus Christ.”
      1. “I knew nothing about the living God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.”
      2. “I am so ignorant about God, God’s nature, God’s identity, God’s will, and God’s ways.”
      3. “Just trying to learn about the living God is so confusing to me.”
      4. “My burden is ignorance about God; I make so many mistakes because I understand too little about God.”
      5. Brothers and sisters, help him bear his burden.
    2. “I am not a Jew. When Paul taught me about Jesus I had no Jewish background.”
      1. “I never attended a Jewish place of worship.”
      2. “I never heard the Jewish scriptures taught.”
      3. “I don’t know anything about Jewish history or about the ways that God worked in Israel.”
      4. “I know absolutely nothing about Abraham, or Moses, or David, or Elijah, or Jeremiah.”
      5. “Ignorance of scripture is my burden; I make so many mistakes because I know nothing about Jewish scripture.”
      6. Brothers and sisters, help him bear his burden.
    3. “Before Paul taught me about Jesus Christ, I was a proselyte–while I am not Jewish by birth, I converted to the Jewish religion.”
      1. “I invested a lot of time, effort, and hard work learning Jewish scripture, Jewish law, and Jewish ritual.”
      2. “I know and understand a lot about Judaism, and I lived by what I learned.”
      3. “I have a real problem when I contrast the demands of justice and law in Judaism with the kindness and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.”
      4. “Sometimes I have a hard time believing that the God in Israel and the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ is the same God.”
      5. “I really struggle trying to understand what God has done in Jesus, and I know that causes me to make some serious spiritual mistakes.”
      6. “My burden is knowledge of Judaism and Jewish law.”
      7. Brothers and sisters, help him bear his burden.
    4. “Before Paul taught me about Christ, I was a godless person–I didn’t worship anything.”
      1. “I did exactly what I wanted to do–and what I wanted to do was to indulged myself in every pleasure that appealed to me.”
      2. “I indulged myself in everything–sex, drunkenness, greed, exploiting innocent people.”
      3. “That lifestyle made a real slave out of me, and I want to completely escape it, but it is so hard and I am so weak.”
      4. “The temptations and weakness created by my godless past are my burden.”
      5. Brothers and sisters, help him bear his burden.

Why, Paul, why are we to do that? Why is it the law of Christ that we bear each other’s burdens? Why? Because Jesus bears your burdens. He bore our burdens on the cross. Our sins were placed on his body as he died (1 Peter 2:24). He bore our burdens when we were baptized. When in faith and repentance we were baptized, Jesus destroyed every sin we had committed by removing all those sins with his own blood (Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7). He bears our burdens every day of our life. As we daily confess our mistakes to him, he totally cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Jesus asks us to do for each other what he does for every Christian every day. And that is the “real” answer to loneliness and emptiness.

How long are you going to live with your burdens?

It’s your choice.
Give them to Jesus Christ. Let Him carry them. And find the strength to help someone else carry theirs.

Are you serious about bearing the burdens of those around you?
When we are as serious about bearing burdens as we are about baptism, we will have more people wanting to be baptized!

Bring your burdens to Christ. Let Him destroy them.

Lessen your burdens through the forgiveness of God and the love of His people.