The Courage To Consider Reality

Posted by on March 22, 1998 under Sermons

I love you. I love this congregation. I feel a deep sense of joy and privilege to be a part of you and to have the opportunity to work with you.

I believe this congregation has a future. I don’t think that we realize our potential. “How much potential do you think we have?” I believe we have enormous growth and service potential. “Do we have the potential of becoming a 1000 member congregation?” We surely do. “Do we have the potential to become a 1500 member congregation?” We certainly do. “Can we have even 2000 members?” It’s possible.

“Do you think that can happen if we do what we have done in the past?” No. “Do you think that can happen if we do what we are doing right now?” No.

“Why?” More than a decade ago Churches of Christ began to study church growth. We began to study why some congregations grow and why some die. In fact, we have a Center for Church Growth in Houston, Texas. This center makes in depth, nation wide analyses of congregations that are growing, that are not growing, and that are dying. It does not predict. It analyses and evaluates.

Based on those studies, no congregation doing what we are doing experiences appreciable growth. If we only continue to do what we are doing, and we double in size and work, we will do something no other Church of Christ in this nation has done.

This morning I want to share my heart with you. If we are to use the potential that God has given us, I want to think about some things that need to happen.

  1. First, we need to form a deeper sense of congregational identity.
    1. I am deeply impressed with the many excellent things happening in this congregation.
      1. We are blessed with many self-motivated, committed, serving members.
      2. I doubt that any of us realize how many good things are happening.
      3. When I talk about our sense of congregational identity, I certainly am not suggesting that nothing is happening.
        1. In no way am I criticizing us.
        2. But I want you to consider some cause and effect situations.
    2. Allow me to give our newer members a very brief history lesson.
      1. This congregation is seventeen years old.
      2. The Windsor Drive and the College Terrace congregations merged.
      3. The College Terrace building was on this property.
      4. That building was razed and this building was built.
      5. During construction, the new congregation met in the Windsor Drive facilities; those facilities were sold after we moved into this building.
      6. Both congregations had many, many good people in them.
        1. But both congregations had different congregational personalities, different focuses, and different objectives.
        2. There was absolutely nothing wrong or undesirable about that.
      7. Merging the congregations is much like marrying a fine thirty-five-year-old man to a fine thirty-five-year-old woman who are quite different.
        1. They married after a brief courtship.
        2. They knew they wanted to be married, and that’s all that mattered.
        3. They did not consider the significance of their differences before they married.
    3. Some members who predate the merging feel like “we lost our congregation.”
      1. They appreciate West-Ark, but they loved the congregation they lost.
      2. They feel no sense of history with West-Ark, and they still have not formed a deep bond in this congregation.
    4. I realize that I have been here only 15 months.
      1. But it seems to me that the merger, combined with some struggles we experienced in the past few years, generated a special need.
      2. We have a significant need for a deep sense of congregational identity.
      3. Not having a broad based sense of identity hurts us.
      4. It is too easy to come watch instead of being a part.
  2. Second, we need realistic confidence in our potential for local development.
    1. My study of Jesus Christ, of the good news about Christ, and of Christianity in the New Testament leads me to this conclusion: Jesus Christ is relevant to every problem and every need in human existence.
      1. In specific ways, we agree on that.
      2. We agree that Jesus Christ is relevant:
        1. To marriage, home, and parenting.
        2. To sickness, terminal illness, and death.
      3. This same Jesus is relevant to everything else that occurs in our existence.
        1. To the problems created by troubled marriages, divorce, abusive spouses, abusive parents, and children or parents who cause heartbreak.
        2. To the problems created by the trauma of rape recovery, abortion recovery, unfaithfulness in marriage, and all forms of sexual sin.
        3. To alcohol problems, drug problems, and any other problem that often is misery looking for a way to escape.
        4. To depression, loneliness, and grief.
      4. We are surrounded by hurting people who live in despair.
      5. They need answers; they are hungry for answers; and the foundation of those answers is found in Christ.
        1. But “don’t do that,” “don’t think about that,” “forget that” are not the answers.
        2. That was not, never has been, and is not Jesus’ message.
        3. Struggling, searching people do not need another guilt trip–they are on a guilt trip.
        4. They need help; they need the Great Physician; they need to learn how the Great Physician can help them.
    2. We desperately need some effective support groups in this congregation; groups that can understand together, study together, and pray together.
      1. For example, we need a grief recovery group.
      2. We need a divorce recovery group.
      3. We need crises and trauma support groups.
      4. We need a single parent support group.
      5. We need Christ-centered, Bible studying, praying groups that help people understand what is happening in their lives and help them learn how to let Christ work in them and with them.
    3. We desperately need more care groups in this congregation.
      1. Every time a person is baptized, every time a person places membership, they need to become part of a small care group.
        1. Jim and Deborah Wilson and Bill and Martha Walker are coordinating an excellent work with our newcomers, and I deeply appreciate what they are doing.
        2. In addition to this work, newcomers need to be part of a care group.
      2. Every member of this congregation needs to be part of a care group.
      3. We have some wonderful care groups in the congregation, we just do not have nearly enough.
        1. A recent death and a recent marriage illustrate their value.
        2. Joyce and I are always impressed with these groups.
  3. Third, we need a staff large enough to coordinate and facilitate our work.
    1. The purpose of a staff is to coordinate and facilitate the work, not to do the work.
    2. How large a staff do we need?
      1. We need enough staff to coordinate the work and to address the spiritual opportunities within the congregation.
        1. We need enough staff to coordinate our community outreach.
        2. We need enough staff to best utilize your time and abilities.
      2. Brad Pistole’s health gave many of us a real scare last Sunday morning.
        1. When I talked to Bob Fisher last Sunday morning, he remarked, “Brad is burning the candle at both ends.”
        2. I should have asked Bob, “Is that the voice of experience speaking?”
        3. I have often been concerned for Brad and Yvonne.
        4. He is over committed to the point that it puts him and his marriage at risk.
        5. Yvonne is a very understanding wife, but Brad’s work must not abuse her.
      3. We need staff members who know how to meet the needs, know how to address the needs, know how to see the opportunities, and who know how to make the most of your time and abilities.
    3. Why do you think the elders are preparing us to select additional elders?
      1. The extensive needs of this congregation frequently overwhelm them.
      2. Our need for shepherding is enormous.
      3. They need help.
  4. Today, as this congregation begins the process of making a number of important decisions, I want to ask each of you to do two things.
    1. First, I ask each of you to earnestly pray for yourself and for the congregation as we make these decisions.
      1. Our greatest concerns must be about accomplishing Jesus’ purposes.
      2. Pray for the wisdom to do that, for we surely need it.
    2. Second, I ask you to focus on the realities of “now.”
      1. It is easy to think about what should be–but what should be is not what is.
      2. It is easy to think about the way we wish things were–but the way we wish things were is not the way things are.
      3. It is easy to react or to rebel–but reactions and rebellions do not constructively deal with reality.
      4. As you take part in our decisions, think about the realities of right now, and let the realities of right now influence you.

Jesus was frequently criticized by religiously proper people who did religiously correct things in technically correct ways. They criticized Jesus because he spent time with and taught dishonest people and people known for their wickedness. This was Jesus’ response: “It is not those who are healthy that need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12,13).

May I share a true occurrence? I started a group that worked with people who wanted to recover from serious problems. One lady in her late twenties came, but could not enter the doors of the church building. She had been hurt so deeply by churches that she could not force herself to enter a church building. With lots of encouragement, she finally came in. But she was so nervous she could hardly stay.

When she went home, her roommate (who was an agnostic) saw that it really helped her to be a part of this group. The roommate promised to come with her the next week to make it easier for her to attend.

The agnostic roommate also had a horrible experience in a church. When she was a child, a Sunday school teacher told her daughter, “This is the kind of people I told you not to associate with.”

On the first visit the agnostic friend could not believe what she saw and heard. On the third visit she came because she wanted to come. Both women became regular participants in the class. In less than a year, the agnostic became a believer and was baptized. In about two years, the other lady was baptized. Why? They found a congregation that helped troubled people instead of hurting them.

Do we dare be a congregation with the heart of Jesus?

Jesus cared so much for those who were troubled, He had time to spend with anyone who was hurting. He can minister to your need if you will repent and allow Him to serve you. Are you willing to surrender totally to Him through baptism?

“If I Had Only Known . . .”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“Hindsight” is incredibly accurate. Last week a group of us were enjoying each other’s company. As is typically, we were sharing “tales from our pasts.” One person shared an incident that occurred about thirty years ago. A sale provided him with some uncommitted funds. A gifted businessman asked him, “What do you plan to do with that money?” He replied, “I have no plans for it.” The businessman strongly urged him to invest the money in a new company–Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, he just deposited it in a bank. Laughingly, he wondered what that investment would be worth today had he made it. Hindsight!

Every congregation looks back over a history of great decisions, mediocre decisions, and poor decisions. Rarely is it immediately evident that a decision was great, mediocre, or poor. Some great decisions “at the moment of deciding” prove to be poor decisions in time. Some poor decisions “at the moment of deciding” prove to be fortunate decisions in time. In most decisions, we make what we believe to be the wisest decision at that moment.

Our “wise decisions at that moment” are subject to many influences. Are we addressing “now” realities? Are we considering the future? What do we want to accomplish? How do we view our purpose? How do we define our objective? Are we exercising responsible stewardship? Of course, our answers are subjective. Personal perspectives, experiences, concerns, and value systems form the foundation of our decisions. No process can eliminate the subjective element.

We approach many decisions that will affect our future. May each of us add these to the questions we ask and answer. Will this minister to the families within the congregation? Will this strengthen the fellowship of God’s family? Will this increase the potential for outreach and influence in our community? Will this promote growth in ways that can increase our outreach and influence in the world? Will this allow God’s Spirit to be more active in the life of the congregation? Will this make our ministries more like Jesus’ ministry?

Will these questions remove the subjective element from our decisions? No. Will they lead us all to the same conclusions? No. Will they give us all the same focus? No. Will they guarantee that we will make the wisest choice? No.

Then why consider them? They will bring each of us closer to the heart that Jesus wants us to have. Our best decisions always come from Christ-centered, good hearts.

And God Said, “It Never Happened” (part 2)

Posted by on March 15, 1998 under Sermons

Through much of this century, one of the common topics of discussion in the church has been what is right. Countless sermons have been preached on what is right. We could not estimate the number of arguments that produced confrontations about what is and is not right. Many debates were conducted to defend what was right.

Any in depth discussion of the concept of “right” is lengthy and complicated. However, we commonly approach our concepts of “right” as though “right” is simple and easy to discuss. To the person defending what he is convinced is “right,” “right” is always simple.

Our human concerns about “being right” commonly focus on what is correct. “Right” is centered in correctness–correct organization, correct teachings, correct practices, correct information, correct positions, correct reasoning, and correct conclusions. In our devotion to correctness, we defend right organization, right teachings, right practices, right information, right positions, right reasoning, and right conclusions. This concept focuses on “right” as compared to “wrong.”

So, from human perspectives, the discussion of what is right is a simple discussion. We often think it is as simple as opposing and rejecting what is wrong.

God’s concern about “right” does not focus on correctness. God’s concern about “right” focuses on much more important, much more serious than our human preoccupation with correctness. God’s basic concern regarding “right” involves guilt. Specifically, it involves human guilt.

While Christians are commonly concerned about correctness, God is concerned about human guilt.

  1. God is right; that is fundamental to God being righteous.
    1. His rightness and his righteousness are affirmed by the fact that God is free from all evil.
      1. No form of evil is in or associated with God.
      2. God is not right because of His power; God is right because there is no evil in God.
    2. Because we misuse our wills, all people are evil.
      1. Certainly, evil exists in people in different degrees and different forms; but all people have an enormous amount of evil in them.
      2. But no person who possesses and uses his will is free from evil.
      3. Therefore, all people have guilt.
    3. Therein lies God’s basic problem in His association with people.
      1. God is totally free from all evil.
      2. All people have evil.
      3. Because people are evil, they have guilt.
      4. So how can a God who is right because He is free from evil associate with people who are guilty because they are incapable of being free from evil?
      5. This is the basic work of justification: making people who have guilt “right” before the God who is free from evil.
  2. For God to make a person “right,” God has to destroy the person’s guilt.
    1. How does God destroy guilt when people are guilty?
      1. This is the condensed version of what God does to make guilty people right:
        1. God placed all evil committed (and to be committed) by people in the body of Jesus as Jesus died.
        2. In that act, God made Jesus to be sin.
        3. Every person who will trust and accept what God did in Jesus as he died is forgiven.
      2. Forgiveness provided through Jesus’ blood literally destroys the sin.
        1. By destroying the sin, God destroys the guilt.
        2. Because the evil and the guilt of the forgiven person is destroyed, the person is right before God because he or she has been forgiven.
      3. Every person needs this solution to guilt.
    2. God’s primary concern in our becoming “right” centers in words and concepts that declare the destruction of our guilt.
      1. We are cleansed from our sins; they are washed away by the blood of Jesus.
      2. We are purified, made free of sin, through the blood of Jesus.
      3. We received atonement through Jesus’ blood; the function of atonement is to remove sin.
      4. By using the innocent blood of Jesus, God:
        1. Redeems us–frees us from Satan by purchasing us for Himself.
        2. Sanctifies us–sets us apart from evil for himself.
        3. Justifies us–makes us right; looks at us as though the evil did not occur.
      5. We are right because our guilt and evil have been destroyed in Christ.
        1. We focus on correctness, the issue of right versus wrong.
        2. God focuses the destruction of evil in us; the issue of guilt versus forgiveness.
        3. God justifies us by destroying our guilt.
  3. I want to share some things with you from the book of Romans (and we could share the same things from the book of Galatians).
    1. I have a very specific objective tonight.
      1. We are not trying to do an in depth study of these scriptures.
      2. I am encouraging you to deepen your understanding of justification in Christ.
    2. In the letter called Romans, you encounter the same problem that you encounter in many of the New Testament writings: the enormous misunderstanding that existed between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians.
      1. In the first two chapters of Romans Paul demonstrated that every person needs a means to be right before God that does not depend on human achievement.
        1. Paul did a fascinating job of showing that humans cannot make themselves right before God.
        2. We cannot make ourselves right by morals or by keeping laws.
        3. Every human attempt to do so is based on human achievement, and all attempts result in our becoming extremely wicked or very judgmental.
      2. The first scripture I call to your attention is Romans 3:19-25. Please take a Bible and read the verses as I paraphrase the central thoughts of the verses.
        1. Many Jewish Christians were deeply offended by the true teaching that all people are saved by God’s grace.
          1. “We have known the living God for 1400 years, and we had God’s law all that time.”
          2. “If now God saves people by grace, what was the purpose of all that? It is not fair. Being God’s people all those years means nothing.”
        2. Verse 19: The primary purpose of God’s law was to make every person accountable before God. The focus of law is accountability, not forgiveness.
        3. Verse 20: No one can be made right before God through law; law can only make us aware of the evil in us.
        4. Verse 21: God created a means for people to be “right before God” that has nothing to do with law; in fact, the law itself declared that God would do this.
        5. Verse 22: This new means of being right before God came into existence through Christ, and every person who trusts Christ can receive it.
        6. Verse 23: Every person has failed God, every person is guilty of evil, so every person needs this new means of being “right before God.”
        7. Verse 24: This new means of being right before God perfectly expresses God’s grace through the redemption that is possible in Christ to justify any person–make any person right before God.
        8. Verse 25: That is precisely why God sent Jesus–Jesus came to die in our place so his blood and our faith in him could make us right before God.
      3. The second scripture I call to your attention is Romans 4:1-8. Paul was still talking to the Jews attempting to help them understand.
        1. Verse 1: The beginning of the Jewish nation was Abraham: why was Abraham right before God?
        2. Verse 2: If Abraham was right before God (justified) because of his acts of obedience, then he had reason to take credit for his righteousness.
        3. Verse 3: But Genesis 15:6 states that God considered Abraham to be righteous because of his faith.
        4. Verse 4: If a person is right before God because of his deeds, then he earned righteousness; it is not the gift of God’s grace.
        5. Verse 5: But if a person is right before God because he trusts God’s justification, then he is righteous because God made him righteous.
        6. Verse 6-8: This is not a new understanding; it is as old as King David who wrote in Psalms 32:1,2:
          1. Blessed is the person whose sins are covered through forgiveness;
          2. Blessed is the person that God refuses to hold accountable for his sin.
      4. The third scripture I ask you to examine is Romans 8:31-34.
        1. Being a Christian brought many hardships and suffering to those people.
        2. Paul wrote that no matter how much they suffered, they could be absolutely certain that God never stopped loving them or deserted them.
        3. Verse 31: God is greater than anything that exist; there is no enemy of the Christian that is greater than God.
        4. Verse 32: God proved that He will do everything necessary to secure our salvation when He allowed His own son to die for us.
        5. Verse 33: No one can use your guilt to separate you from God because it is God who justifies you. If God makes you right before Him, no one can make you wrong before Him.
        6. Verse 34: If God refuses to condemn you, you cannot be condemned. It cannot happen because Christ died and was resurrected to return to God and intercede for you.
      5. Romans 8 is the most powerful expression of the importance of justification for each of us.
        1. God destroyed our guilt when we surrendered in faith to Jesus Christ.
        2. Our guilt does not exist because we are justified; we are guilty, but God used Jesus to make us right before Him.
        3. Satan cannot accuse us as he accused Job because of what God does for us in Christ.
        4. Though we are not and never will be perfect, though we will always make mistakes, Satan cannot charge us or condemn us.
        5. Why? Because God justifies and Jesus intercedes.
        6. When Satan attempts to charge or condemn us, God’s response is simple: it never happened.
        7. This is only reason that God refuses to see our sins: God destroyed our sins and our guilt with forgiveness in Christ.

Never, never, never think that you are right before God because you are good or that you are obedient. If you want to know the reality of your guilt, ask Satan. If you want to know the proper consequences for the evil in your life, ask Satan. You are not right before God because you have not sinned. You are right before God because God destroys your sin. He forgives you. He justifies you.

If God has washed your sins away with baptism, stop worrying about guilt. Turn loose of it. Focus on serving God.

Have your sins been destroyed?
Have you discovered this freedom?
Have you given yourself to Christ?

And God Said, “It Never Happened” (part 1)

Posted by on under Sermons

A judge who had three cases scheduled for the day called his court room to order. The first case involved mean-spirited, destructive vandalism. The judge handled the case in highly questionable manner. He looked at the broken, grieving defendant and immediately declared, “I wish to see the defendant and the plaintiff in my chambers without counsel.” In chambers the defendant remorsefully acknowledged his guilt and his sorrow. The judge mediated a resolution. Then the judge reentered the courtroom and declared, “I rule that this alleged crime never occurred. Case dismissed.”

The second case involved a violent act of hatred. Again, the judge saw the broken, grieving defendant. Again he declared that he wanted to see the defendant and the plaintiff in chambers without counsel. Again the defendant remorsefully acknowledged his guilt and expressed his sorrow. Again the judge mediated a resolution. Then the judge reentered the court room and declared, “I rule that this alleged crime never occurred. Case dismissed.”

The third case involved a wanton act of disregard for human life. Again, the judge saw the broken, grieving defendant. Again, he declared that he wanted to see the defendant and the plaintiff in chambers without counsel. Again, the defendant remorsefully acknowledged his guilt and expressed his sorrow. Again, the judge mediated a solution. Then for a third time the judge entered the court room and declared, “I rule that this alleged crime never occurred. Case dismissed.”

The immediate outcry was loud and furious. How dare the judge ignore the law! How dare he disregard the rights of the victims! How dare he bypass the judicial process! How dare he conduct himself in such an outrageous manner! His behavior was inexcusable and indefensible! He was unfit to be a judge and should be removed from the bench at once!

And we joined in the outrage that demanded the judge be removed from the bench.

  1. How can we become “right” in God’s eyes?
    1. If you think about that seriously, it seems an impossibility.
      1. God is perfect; we are imperfect.
      2. God is sinless; we are sinful.
      3. Evil has never been a part of God; evil is always a part of us.
    2. How can the God who sees all deeds and knows all hearts ever look at us as though we were “right?”
      1. God knows everything each of us does.
      2. God knows everything each of us thinks.
      3. God sees and knows all evil in every person–even when we don’t!
      4. How can we be made “right” in God’s sight when we are powerless to eliminate all evil from our lives and our hearts?
    3. We are “made right” in God’s eyes when God justifies us.
      1. When God justifies us, God makes us right.
      2. God will justify any person who:
        1. Believes that Jesus is God’s Son.
        2. Trusts what God did through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
        3. In that faith responds to God by allowing God to place him or her in Christ.
      3. Incredibly, when God justifies us, He not only makes us right, but He also declares us to be right.
  2. One of the common failures of religious people is found in the fact that we want to make ourselves “right before God. “
    1. We do not want to trust God to make us right; we want to make ourselves right.
      1. We want to be confident of our salvation because we are “right;” we did the “right things;” and we made ourselves “right.”
      2. Ask a person who believes that he or she is right before God this question: “Why are you confident that you are ‘right before God?'”
        1. “I am right before God because of the commandments that I obeyed–obedience made me right.”
        2. “I am right before God because of my accurate knowledge and understanding–knowledge made me right before God.”
        3. “I am right before God because of the terrible sins that I do not commit–refusing to do terrible, evil things makes me right.”
        4. “I am right before God because I live a good life–a good life makes me right.”
      3. Are those things important? Absolutely! If I am a Christian:
        1. I must obey God.
        2. I must grow in my knowledge.
        3. I must refuse to do evil things.
        4. I must live a good life.
    2. But do those things–obedience, knowledge, avoiding terrible evil, and living a good life–make me “right before God?”
      1. No.
      2. Why? For this reason: when I am the most obedient me, the most knowledgeable me, best me that I can be, I still am not perfect, I still have evil in my heart, mind, and life.
      3. Only God can make me right; only God can justify me.
  3. Consider three examples that involve justification in the gospel of Luke.
    1. The first example is the incident that caused Jesus to give the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
      1. An expert in the teachings we call the Old Testament came to test Jesus–this egotistical know-it-all came to prove that Jesus was a fraud.
      2. So he asked Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
      3. Jesus answered by asking, “You are the expert–you tell me.”
      4. Being a know-it-all, the expert could not keep his mouth shut.
        1. He answered, “Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.”
        2. Jesus said, “You are correct. Do that and you will have eternal life.”
      5. Now the know-it-all was in a terrible situation–he just condemned himself.
        1. He had not loved his neighbor as himself.
        2. He put himself “on the hook” and needed to get himself “off the hook.”
        3. He wanted to justify himself–he wanted to make himself right.
        4. He was certain that he could use his knowledge to do that; ask Jesus for an answer that he could reject by using his knowledge.
        5. He asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He implied that he could not obey that commandment because the word “neighbor” could not be defined.
      6. That is when Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan.
        1. A man who was despised by the Jews saved the life of a Jew who had been robbed and beaten.
        2. This Samaritan made personal sacrifices to take care of the Jew.
        3. That was after two important Jewish religious leaders walked by the injured Jew and did nothing.
      7. Jesus asked the expert, “Which of these three people was his neighbor?”
        1. The expert said, “The man who showed him mercy.”
        2. Jesus said, “If you want to love your neighbor, go do what he did.”
      8. The expert tried to use his knowledge to justify himself, and he failed miserably.
    2. The second example is found in Luke 16:14,15 and involved the Pharisees.
      1. Jesus had given an unusual lesson on the necessity of using material things to achieve eternal purposes.
      2. It says that the Pharisees who loved money ridiculed Jesus.
      3. Jesus then made this statement: You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
        1. Just like the religious expert, these Pharisees tried to justify themselves.
        2. They tried to make themselves right by using the opinions and conclusions of people.
          1. If the judgment and consensus of people said that they were right, that made them right.
          2. Religious human approval made people right.
          3. So, if I win the religious approval of other people, that makes me right.
        3. But Jesus said there is a deadly flaw in that reasoning: the things that religiously impress people are the things that God despises.
        4. Commonly, that which wins people’s approval is offensive to God.
      4. Their attempt to justify themselves also miserably failed.
    3. The third example is found in Luke 18:9-14 and involved a guilty, greedy, dishonest Jew who collected taxes for the Romans.
      1. The parable was given to a specific group: people who trusted in themselves.
        1. These were religious people who were certain that they were right because they made themselves right.
        2. They also had zero respect for people who failed, who made mistakes.
        3. They looked with contempt at people who failed to measure up to their standards.
      2. This is what Jesus said to them:
        1. Two men went to the temple to pray, one was a Pharisee and one was a guilty, greedy, dishonest tax collector.
          1. Fact one: the temple was the holiest place on earth to pray, the place that let you come directly into God’s presence.
          2. Fact two: Jewish society considered the Pharisee to be the finest example of knowledge and devotion to God.
          3. Fact three: greedy, dishonest tax collectors were regarded to be among the most evil people in the nation.
        2. The Pharisee was sure that he was right–he thanked God that he was not like swindlers, unjust people, adulterers, or this tax collector.
          1. He recited his religious virtues.
          2. To express humility before God, he did not eat two days a week.
          3. He continually gave ten percent of everything he had to God.
        3. The guilty, greedy, dishonest tax collect was ashamed to raise his head.
          1. Filled with a sense of unworthiness, he stood back.
          2. He beat on his chest.
          3. All he prayed was, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
        4. Jesus said one of these men left the temple area justified.
          1. God made the tax collector right because he humbled himself.
          2. The person who believes that he makes himself right is arrogant.
          3. God rejects the arrogant and exalts the humble.

Does that seem right to you? Does it seem wrong that God refused to look at the classic religious type as “right” and that He made someone guilty of awful things to be “right?”

Did God do that because the religious people had knowledge, obeyed, and showed commitment to religious practices? No. Did God do that because a man was guilty of greed and dishonesty? No.

Any person who trusts in himself and believes that he makes himself right will not be justified. Any person who sees and acknowledges his own wickedness and turns to God, trusting God and not himself, will be justified.

How? God justifies a person by redeeming and forgiving. He frees the person from Satan and destroys the sin. Only because God redeems and forgives can the person be right. Our efforts to make ourselves right always fail. Faith in what God does for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus always succeeds.

This is what happens. When a believing, repentant sinner turns to God in the faith of surrender, the Great Judge takes the person with his or her guilt into his chambers. He uses the blood of Jesus to mediate a solution. Then he declares, “I rule that the evil never occurred. This person is now my child. Case dismissed.”

Why are you right?
      I would have you obey God.
      I would have you grow in your knowledge of the Bible.
      I would have you refuse to do evil things.
      I would have you live as good as you can live.

But always remember that you are [or can be] right before God
      . . . only because of the Cross.
      . . . only because of the blood of Christ.
      . . . only because God cleansed you.
You will never be right because of what you have done.

Let God make you righteous before Him.
Let us know if we can help.

God Claims Ownership

Posted by on March 8, 1998 under Sermons

You send your son to a university that has an excellent academic reputation. For four years he is an exceptional student. He maintains a 3.9 grade point average. He is involved in the leadership of several campus organizations. He graduates with honors.

His academic success presents him with an excellent job opportunity. But there is an unusual requirement. As his father, you must write a cover letter for his job application. The first thing the potential employer will see and read when he receives your son’s application is your cover letter. The cover letter is to answer one question: “How do you want me to look at your son?”

What would you write in your cover letter? Would you write, “Look at him as the success that he is. You can see his ability and potential by looking at his grade point average, his course grades, and the honors he received. Consider him as the talented, successful person that he is.”

Or would you write, “Look at him as though he were a failure. Let him bear the responsibility for every person who attended the university and failed, or dropped out, or caused trouble. Consider him as though he were the worst student who ever attended that university.”

  1. The only person who did everything God wanted done exactly the way God wanted it done was Jesus.
    1. I wonder if the full truth of that statement has registered with any of us.
      1. No other human ever did that–not Peter, not John, not Paul, not any Christian.
      2. Isn’t that amazing!
        1. When we want to understand how God wants us to act, to think, and to feel, who do we listen to?
        2. Are we not more likely to discuss what Peter, or John, or Paul said than we are to consider what Jesus did or said?
    2. God accomplished something in Jesus that He accomplished in no one else.
      1. Speaking of Jesus, Peter wrote “. . . He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
        1. Our sins were placed on Jesus’ body as he died.
        2. Only because our sins were placed on Jesus can we be healed spiritually.
      2. Paul wrote of Jesus, “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
        1. God made Jesus to be sin.
        2. We have the opportunity to become God’s righteousness only because God made Jesus sin.
    3. What ever does that mean? Our sins were placed on Jesus’ body? God made Jesus to be sin? What does that mean?
      1. As Jesus died on the cross, God placed all human evil on his body.
      2. Justice said, “Here are all the lies of liars and all the deceit of dishonest or weak people,” and God said, “Put them on Jesus.”
      3. “Here are all the evils produced by rapists, spouse abusers, child molesters, and murderers,” and God said, “Put them on Jesus.”
      4. “Here are all the evils associated with adultery, with fornication, with abortion, and with homosexuality,” and God said, “Put them on Jesus.”
      5. “Here are all the evils associated with stealing, with violence, and with all criminal acts,” and God said, “Put them on Jesus.”
      6. “Here are all the evils produced by hypocrisy, self-righteousness, pride, judgmental attitudes, conceit, prejudice, and self-justification,” and God said, “Put them on Jesus.”
      7. “Here are all the evils produced by mean spiritedness, gossip, selfishness, self-centeredness, jealousy, wrath, hate, anger, and contempt,” and God said, “Put it on Jesus.”
      8. “Here are all the evils created by promoting divisiveness, by being unloving, by encouraging strife and conflict, by wounding hearts and souls and minds,” and God said, “Put it on Jesus.”
      9. And God said, “Put all human evil on Jesus; spare none of it; put it on Jesus in full measure.”
      10. And, as Jesus died, God made him to be sin.
        1. God looked at Jesus as he died, and God saw evil covering his innocent Son.
        2. He saw all the evil of humanity covering His Son, and it was such a repulsive sight that it repelled God, and God turned away from His own Son.
        3. And Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  2. God paid for the right to do incredible things for us because God allowed Jesus to be sin.
    1. For example, because God made Jesus to be sin, God can sanctify you and me.
      1. The word sanctify means “to make holy.”
        1. In making us holy, God sets us apart from that which is ungodly and evil.
        2. In making us holy, God also consecrates us to Himself; He claims us as His own.
      2. In a very real way, being sanctified means a change of ownership.
        1. We belonged to Satan.
        2. But God took us from Satan and set us apart for Himself.
    2. The concept of sanctification was so clearly understood in the first century that the common name for people who belonged to Christ was saints.
      1. The Bible writings called the gospels refer to people who followed Jesus as disciples.
      2. But the book of Acts and the epistles referred to baptized believers by the word “saints.”
        1. Fifty-six times those writings call baptized believers saints.
        2. It was the common name for people who belonged to Jesus Christ.
      3. Don’t you think that the name saints was wonderfully appropriate–the people God set apart for Himself?
      4. They were not called saints because they were morally perfect; they were called saints because they had been sanctified–set apart for God in Christ.
  3. If we had a better understanding of sanctification, we would have a better understanding of salvation.
    1. Sanctification never meant or indicated moral perfection.
      1. The sanctified, or saints, or Christians were not and are not morally perfect–or perfect in any other way.
      2. Listen to the way that Paul addressed the troubled congregation at Corinth: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
        1. The church in Corinth, the Christians there, had been sanctified.
        2. They were saints.
        3. It certainly was not because they were morally perfect; it was because they were in Christ.
      3. Later, Paul said to these saints, “I could not speak to you as spiritual men, but as men of flesh, as to babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
        1. They were not capable of eating solid spiritual food.
        2. Among their many spiritual problems were jealousy and strife.
      4. Obviously, they were not morally perfect or spiritually mature, but they were sanctified.
    2. God sanctified the Christians at Corinth when they were baptized into Christ.
      1. An act of God sanctified them.
      2. Still later Paul informed them that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s kingdom.
        1. He listed some unrighteous people who belonged to Satan, who had not been sanctified–he named fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, idol worshippers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, people who were verbal abusers, and swindlers.
        2. Then he said, “Such were some of you.”
        3. Why were they no longer unrighteous people? Because they had become morally perfect? If you have read 1 Corinthians, you know that is not true.
        4. Then why were they no longer the unrighteous? This is Paul’s explanation: “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
      3. They had been sanctified, they had been set apart for God, they had been made holy, and they needed to learn and understand what that meant.
      4. They were people in transition.
        1. They had been ungodly people.
        2. God sanctified them.
        3. Now they needed to learn and understand what it meant to be set apart to be God’s people.
      5. They were not sanctified because they achieved perfection; they were sanctified because they were in Christ.
        1. God did for them what they could not do for themselves.
        2. But they needed to understand what God did for them in Christ.
        3. And they needed to commit themselves to living like people who were set apart for God.
  4. When we enter Christ, God sanctifies us–He sets us apart from evil for Himself.
    1. Because we are sanctified by God, we belong to God, not to Satan.
      1. Rarely does a person comprehend what God does for him when he is baptized into Christ.
      2. Even though most people do not comprehend sanctification, it still happens when the person is placed in Christ.
      3. At that point the learning and understanding should begin.
      4. At that point the life transition should begin.
    2. Wednesday morning when we learned of Lou Porter’s accidental death, many of us went into shock.
      1. Lou was a quiet, gentle spirit who touched more lives than we can imagine with her faith and her service.
      2. I thank God that this congregation has been blessed from its beginning through her life.
      3. Lou was an exceptionally kind, thoughtful person.
      4. If Lou could give us a message this morning, one of the things she would tell us would be this: “Please learn this lesson now: we are not saved because were are good; we are saved because we are in Christ.
        1. “We seek to be good people because we have been saved.”
        2. “But we are saved because we are in Christ.”
        3. “We are saved because God sanctified us.”

Every single person in Christ is saved. Why? Because God sanctified every person who enters Christ. By what right does God do that? By the right God gained when he placed all sin on the body of Jesus and made Jesus to be sin.

Every one of us who accepts sanctification in Jesus must do something. Every one of us must learn and accept the responsibility of being set apart for God.

Incredible, wonderful news, best in the history of the world:

No matter what you have done, God can sanctify you.
There is no human evil that God cannot save you from if you understand that He made Jesus to be sin. Share in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus through baptism.

If God sets you apart for Himself, He expects you to then live as if you belong to Him and not behave as if you are Satan’s.

Evil Is Real

Posted by on March 1, 1998 under Sermons

Christians have an enormous tendency to forget that evil is a real, powerful, every day force or to believe that evil is not a real, powerful, every day force. And you say, “David, you have to be kidding. Everyone of us knows that evil is real. We see evil all around us every day. We see evil destroying people every day. I can’t believe that you would suggest that any of us don’t think evil is real.”

Would you focus on a specific perspective? To many Christians, evil is the great beast that makes war against us. But the war is mostly mental stuff. That war mostly has to do with minds and emotions. We tend to think of evil is not solid or real. Just change the way people think and it goes away.

We tend to see evil as a benign force. It only troubles people if they chase it. Evil is really not that aggressive. Again, it is more philosophical and theological than real.

Then we hear that thirty-nine people living in another country are arrested for studying the Bible in a private home. Evil attacked. We don’t think so much of this evil being specific people or specific places. We think of it as this world wide, faceless force that exists everywhere that happened to cause problems in this situation.

And we are committed to opposing evil in the world. Our God hates evil. Our God allowed His Son to die to rescue people from evil. So we call out to God to defeat the evil. We take what initiative’s are available to us to defeat the evil. It is not bad people that we are opposing. It is not a government that we are opposing. It is evil.

So we pray, as we should. And we write letters to the ambassador, as I think is good and appropriate. And we pray and we write in hope, maybe even in expectation. When good people appeal to our good God in the desire for good things to happen, we do so in hope and expectation.

Then we learn that thirteen people are facing prison sentences that could run as long as five years. And we learn about the tragedy that these individuals and their families will experience. And we realized that the situation may not be resolved in a way that will rescue these people. And we are stunned. That is not supposed to happen. The evil is real in ways that we do not often consider.

  1. I think that this is highly probable: it is easier for a person to be a Christian in the USA today than it has ever been in the history of Christianity.
    1. Again, many of my Christian brothers and sisters might strongly object.
      1. “No, David, it was much easier to be a Christian back in the 1950’s than it is today.”
      2. Personally, I disagree–and I confess that is just my opinion.
        1. We lived in greater isolation in the 1950’s–we were far more likely to be surrounded by people who shared our thoughts and values.
          1. So the decision was made with greater ease and less need for change.
          2. In fact, there were times that the decision was simple and uncomplicated–it involved little more than your desire.
        2. We don’t live in isolation today–we live right in the middle of the real world at home, at school, and on the job.
          1. And it is a evil, complicated, real world.
          2. And the decision to be a Christian is not simple; it commonly involves much more than a simple personal desire.
      3. The decision is not as simply made today, but there is more spiritual opportunity than has ever existed.
        1. The Bible translated in ways that we can study and understand has never been more accessible to any generation.
        2. Written literature that exists to increase our understanding of Christian living and Christian commitment has never been more extensive.
        3. The applications of spiritual principles to the real problems of life have never been more abundant.
        4. We have extensive information available to us in audio and video form.
        5. What is available to us through computer technology is dumbfounding.
        6. It has never been easier for any people anywhere in the world in any age to learn, understand, and apply the messages of Jesus Christ.
      4. Let me verify those truths in a very practical way.
        1. How many times have you said or heard someone say, “I wish I had know that 40 years ago!”
        2. I would hesitate to guess how many times I have heard that statement.
        3. The truth is this: we did not know or understand most of that information 40 years ago.
    2. This incredible opportunity that surrounds us, this opportunity that we take for granted, has also created a illusion.
      1. The illusion is that we can control evil.
      2. We not only think that we can control evil in our society, but we also think that we can exercise control over evil virtually anywhere in the world.
      3. We have become so comfortable with the conclusion that evil can be controlled that we are shocked when a situation occurs wherein we are powerless to control evil.
      4. We have created a serious spiritual danger for ourselves.
        1. We reason that if we have enough faith that we should be able to either defeat evil or control evil.
        2. Thus, when a circumstance arises when we can neither defeat or control evil, it very easily becomes a faith issue.
        3. We conclude that the reason evil is not defeated is because our faith is defective.
  2. I want you to consider some key examples from the Bible that suggest two things: (1) evil is real and powerful and (2) people cannot control evil even when they have great faith.
    1. Example number one: Joseph (Genesis 37,39-41)
      1. Before Joseph was sold into slavery, he was a bratty, obnoxious teenager.
      2. After Joseph was sold into slavery, he became a man who had an impressive value system and great faith.
      3. Joseph learned very quickly that evil is real.
        1. His brothers sold him into slavery.
        2. As a slave, his owner’s wife tried to seduce him.
        3. When he rejected her advances, she falsely accused him and framed him.
        4. His owner believed the lies of his wife and threw Joseph in jail.
        5. In jail his kindness and trustworthiness was forgotten.
        6. Joseph lived for years suffering from horrible injustices because evil was real.
    2. Example number two: Peter.
      1. Peter was an outspoken, aggressive disciple.
        1. Once he dared rebuke Jesus because he was convinced that Jesus had made a terrible mistake.
        2. Once he declared that Moses and Elijah were equal in significance with Jesus.
        3. Once he said nothing could cause him to desert Jesus.
        4. Three times he declared to Jesus’ enemies that he had never met or known Jesus.
        5. Years later after he had served as an apostle in the church for a long time, he made another very hurtful mistake–he refused to have fellowship with Christians who were not Jews.
        6. Peter found out how real evil is.
    3. Example three: Jesus, the only sinless person who ever lived.
      1. Jesus never suffered any form of pain or hurt because of evil he had committed.
        1. No suffering occurred in Jesus’ life as a consequence of ungodliness.
        2. However, Jesus experienced enormous suffering.
        3. Jesus suffered not because he was evil, but because evil was real.
      2. In the course of his ministry he was verbally attacked, ridiculed, condemned, and subjected to numerous forms of injustice.
      3. In the last 24 hours of his life:
        1. He was betrayed.
        2. He was abandoned by his best friends.
        3. He was subjected to enormous humiliation and deliberate injustice.
        4. He was innocent but convicted as though he were a criminal.
        5. He was tortured.
        6. He was executed in one of the most painful forms of death ever invented.
      4. All of that happened to God’s own Son because evil is real.
    4. Example four: Paul.
      1. Before he became a Christian, Paul was a very religious, very sincere, very mistaken, very violent man.
        1. Paul was a powerful instrument of evil, and evil used him effectively.
        2. However, Paul did not have the slightest idea that evil was using him–he was totally convinced that he served God.
      2. After Paul became a Christian, his life was a constant experience of suffering and imprisonment.
      3. Listen to Paul’s own list of things that happened to him as a Christian (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
        1. Numerous times he was whipped, and no one bothered to count the number of lashes he received.
        2. Often he was close to dying.
        3. Five times the Jews beat him with 39 lashes, the recognized legal limit.
        4. Three times he was beaten with rods.
        5. Once he was stoned.
        6. Three times he was shipwrecked, and one of those times he spend a day and a night on board the wrecked ship.
        7. He listed 8 different forms of danger that threatened to kill him.
        8. He talked about the physical sufferings produced by hunger, thirst, cold, and exposure.
        9. He mentioned the stress and struggles he endured from churches.
      4. And we can add to that list at least three times that he was in jail or prison, and the fact that he was executed.
      5. Paul knew that evil was real.
  3. I want to share something that you may disagree with; as I have often told you, it is perfectly okay for you to disagree with me.
    1. Something increasingly distresses me in the church.
      1. It distresses me that Christians spend so much time, energy, and effort fighting each other because we disagree.
      2. It distresses me that we devote so much time and energy fighting other people who are seeking to do good, often good that we have never tried to do.
      3. It distresses me that use so little effort, energy, and time to fighting evil.
      4. At times it seems that we are more likely to oppose good than we are to oppose evil.
    2. As I said last Sunday evening, God works in an astounding number of ways in our world, and many are ways that we never recognize, never know.
      1. God surely uses hundreds of thousands of different people and hundreds of thousands of different ways to work His countless purposes in this world.
      2. I certainly do not expect everyone to have my focus or my objectives–that could not accomplish all of God’s objectives.
      3. But this is where I am.
        1. It is the objective of many Christians to develop the means and approaches to control evil in our society, and I certainly believe God can and does use Christians who have that objective.
        2. My passion, my desire is not focused in the mission to control evil.
          1. My passion is to reach out to the people who are attracted to evil–in and out of the church.
          2. My passion is to use Jesus to rescue people who have been trapped in evil–in and out of the church.
        3. My passion focuses on deliverance in Jesus Christ, not on the control of evil.
      4. Whenever any congregation develops into a godly spiritual family that seeks to rescue people from the reality of evil, I believe that God will use that congregation powerfully.
        1. When we redirect our energies away from fighting among ourselves and fighting those who seek to do good, and direct those energies to fighting the reality of evil, God will use us more powerfully than we have ever been used.
        2. We will help Christ rescue more lives than we have ever helped rescue.
        3. And we ourselves will more be alive in Jesus Christ than we ever have been.

It has never been necessary for godly people to control evil for God to use them powerfully. Joseph, Peter, Jesus, and Paul powerfully testify that this is true.

If your focus is to let Christ live in you, don’t think that there is something wrong with your faith or that God has failed when you find you cannot control evil. God will accomplish His intended purposes through you if you surrender to Him. Evil can never destroy your soul if you are alive in Christ. Will you come to the Savior?

God Freed Us Slaves

Posted by on under Sermons

For generations one of the most familiar themes in our worship through song has been redemption. Are these words familiar to you?

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
I know that my Redeemer lives, And ever prays for me.
Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior forever, He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.

At least 80% of you recognize those songs. May I ask some questions? What is a redeemer? What does redemption mean? Why is redemption wonderful?

  1. The concept of redemption is found throughout the Bible.
    1. The Old Testament stresses the concept of redemption. Consider some brief examples.
      1. Consider Exodus 21:28-30.
        1. If your ox gored someone to death, the ox is killed and you are punished.
        2. If you were warned that the ox was dangerous and the ox killed someone, the ox was killed and you were executed.
        3. However, if the victim’s family accepted a money settlement, you can be redeemed–when you paid the settlement the execution was canceled.
      2. Consider Leviticus 25:47-52.
        1. If poverty was destroying you, you could sell yourself into slavery.
        2. If you sold yourself into slavery, you could be redeemed at any time.
        3. When a blood relative paid your owner the price of your freedom, and you were released from your slavery.
      3. However, Numbers 35:30-34 states that a murderer could not be redeemed; a murderer must be executed.
    2. In the Old Testament concept of redemption, two facts are obvious.
      1. Fact one: Redemption released a person from punishment or slavery.
      2. Fact two: one single, powerful, effective means of redemption did not exist; nothing could redeem all people from every form of punishment and slavery.
  2. What about the concept of redemption in the first century world? What did people know and understand about redemption in the first century world?
    1. The every day need for redemption was well understood.
      1. The actual meaning of the Greek words translated “redeemed” literally meant “the price of release;” the basic New Testament meaning was “to buy with a price.”
      2. Redemption was used in two common ways in their every day world.
        1. It was the price you paid to release something used as a pledge or put in pawn.
        2. It was the price paid to liberate a slave, to purchase freedom.
    2. Let me make the every day reality of redemption very vivid.
      1. Situation one had to do with prisoners of war.
        1. Wars were often financed through selling the prisoners into slavery. These prisoners of war were slaves the rest of their lives.
          1. Some times slave merchants followed the army to buy the prisoners.
          2. Commonly soldiers came from free families and often were educated.
          3. A prisoner of war sold into slavery had only one hope of ever being free again: only by being redeemed could he be free.
          4. Only if a family member could afford to buy him out of slavery would he be freed.
        2. There are actual records of prisoners of war committing suicide because they knew no one could afford to buy them out of slavery, and they had rather die than be a slave.
      2. Situation two had to do with a common slave.
        1. A common slave’s only hope for freedom was buying his freedom.
        2. A slave would never have enough money at any one time to buy his freedom.
        3. But there was a way that he might buy his freedom.
          1. He could go to a temple and arrange to make deposits at that temple.
          2. Then he would make any small amount anytime he could make it.
          3. It would take years and years of tiny deposits, but if he made deposits long enough, one day he would have enough to buy his freedom.
          4. He would take his owner to the temple, a priest would pay the owner the price of his freedom, and he was no longer a slave.
          5. That was his day of redemption; he was “free of all men.”
      3. But there was only one way that could happen: by redemption.
        1. Redemption was the price of deliverance.
        2. It was the only way that a person could be freed from barbarian slavery.
  3. Keep slavery and redemption clearly in mind and listen:
    1. Spiritually, every person was a slave.
      1. Paul said in Galatians 3:13 that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.
      2. He said in Titus 2:14 that Christ redeemed us from all iniquity.
      3. Every person was a slave either because of law or by the evil he committed.
        1. The law condemned anyone who disobeyed the law, and every Jew disobeyed the law.
        2. Every person, Jew and non-Jew, was guilty of evil.
        3. So either by disobeying the law, or by wickedness, or by both, every person was a spiritual slave.
      4. Jesus paid the price of redemption for every person; every person who disobeyed the law, and every person who was guilty of evil.
        1. Only because Jesus paid the price of redemption could any spiritual slave be released from his slavery.
        2. No spiritual slave could free himself.
      5. In 1 Peter 1:18, Peter soberly reminded Christians, the redeemed, that the price God paid for their redemption was not money, was not silver or gold.
        1. God, not a relative, paid that price.
        2. The price God paid was the innocent blood of His own Son.
    2. Think about the connection between slavery, consequences, and redemption; as you think, listen to these verses.
      1. Romans 3:24–Christians are “justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
        1. God destroys our sins through the redemption that is in Christ.
        2. That redemption is a gift; it is God’s gift to us.
        3. That gift exists because God is good.
      2. 1 Corinthians 1:30–“By his (God’s) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”
        1. By God’s doing you are in Christ.
        2. You accepted Christ, but you did not place yourself in Christ–God did that.
        3. God made Jesus wisdom to us.
        4. God made Jesus the power to make us right before God.
        5. God made Jesus the power to make us pure.
        6. God gave Jesus as the price that freed us from our guiltiness.
      3. Ephesians 1:7–“In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”
        1. There was only one price that could redeem us from spiritual slavery: the innocent blood of Jesus.
        2. Without that blood, we are forever slaves, not only in this world but also in eternity.
        3. In eternity, instead of being God’s sons and daughters at home with Him, we would be Satan’s slaves in hell.
        4. Only because of Jesus’ blood can we be forgiven.
        5. Only because God was good enough to pay the price can we be redeemed.
      4. Colossians 1:13,14–God delivered us from darkness, and God placed us in the kingdom of his beloved son “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
        1. God took us out of the slavery of evil and God placed us in the freedom that exists in Jesus’ kingdom.
        2. God did that by paying the price of our redemption.
        3. The price of redemption gave us God’s forgiveness.
    3. Now, does this verse have greater meaning to you?
      1. In 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, Paul told the Christians in Corinth that Christians will not engage in sexual evil ; they will not justify sexual evil. He explained it in this way: don’t you understand that you do not belong to yourselves? “You were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
      2. God bought me out of my slavery with Jesus’ blood.
        1. I entered that slavery through my own failure and evil.
        2. When I accept God’s redemption and continue to live and act like a slave, I insult God and abuse His goodness.
    4. Listen again to this statement from Jesus in Matthew 20:28.
      1. He was explaining why he came to earth.
      2. He said, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
      3. He came to pay the price of redemption; he came to release us from slavery.
  4. This is redemption’s incredible blessing: redemption releases you from all the spiritual punishment, all the spiritual slavery, all the spiritual obligation, and all the spiritual liability that exists because of your evil.
    1. Because of God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ blood, if you are in Christ, all your sin is totally, completely, forever destroyed.
    2. If you live in Christ, the evil you that has been a part of you no longer exists.
    3. You were Satan’s slave; now you are God’s son or daughter.
      1. All spiritual consequence and guilt has been destroyed in Jesus’ blood.
      2. Because God redeemed you, you are under no spiritual obligation to evil; you have no spiritual liability for forgiven evil.
      3. In Christ you are released from your slavery, released from the slavery that you could not escape.
    4. That is one of the incredible, glorious mysteries of our salvation.

Someone says, “David, I don’t like all this slave talk. I am not and never have been a slave. I am saved because of what I have done. I was baptized and I come to church. That saves me.”

I am sorry that you think that way. I am sorry for two reasons. First, you deceive yourself if you think you have never been Satan’s slave. Second, if you have never known your slavery, you have never experienced the joy of one of God’s greatest blessings. You cannot know or enjoy freedom until you know and accept your slavery.

Only two kinds of people do not rejoice in God’s redemption in Jesus Christ. The first are those who do not know their own sinfulness. The second are those who have never looked into hell.

The person who has seen his sins and looked into hell never stops rejoicing. He understands what God did when God redeemed him. She understands what God did when God redeemed her.

The greatest tragedy is one who is a slave to sin and never recognizes it.
Are you free? Have you accepted the price that has been paid for your freedom? Would you be free? The price has been paid by the innocent blood of Jesus. Enter Christ by being baptized into His death that His blood may destroy your sin.