The Mark of Obedience

Posted by on March 28, 1999 under Sermons

Obedience has at least two primary responsibilities. In the first, ideal obedience is concerned about the best interests of the one who obeys. God asks us to obey because God seeks our best interest. In God’s concern, obedience’s objective is to prevent the injuries that result from the ignorance of the person who is to obey. Because of our ignorance, dangers, unrecognized and unknown to us can destroy us. In this concern, God asks us to obey to protect us from disasters created by ignorance.

In the second, ideal obedience functions on our understanding of God’s purposes. An unselfish understanding of God’s purposes dedicates the person to assisting God’s purposes. This is the highest level of obedience that we want to develop in our children. When a child understands his or her parents’ purposes and acts to assist those purposes, we rejoice in the child’s wisdom. When Christians understand God’s purposes and act to make those purposes happen, God rejoices in His children’s wisdom.

  1. Let me use some simple illustrations of both basic aspects of obedience.
    1. You teach your four year old to never, never, never play with the stove.
      1. If the child plays with the stove, he or she will turn the stove on.
      2. He or she will not be aware that the stove was turned on, so he or she will not attempt to turn the stove off.
      3. If the skillet that you used to cook hamburgers happens to be on the eye that the child unknowingly turned on, the child’s act will result in a serious fire.
      4. So because of what the child does not know, you punish the child when he or she plays with the stove.
    2. Your 13 year old learned to drive a driving a truck in grandpa’s pasture.
      1. But he or she is under age and not permitted to drive your car.
      2. Your specific instructions: “Never start the car. Never move the car.”
      3. Your house catches on fire, and thirteen year old alertly runs to the garage, starts the car, drives it a block down the street, and parks it.
      4. Do you praise your child’s understanding of the situation, good judgment, intelligent decision, and prompt action, or do you punish him or her for moving the car?
      5. In that circumstance, the thirteen year old understood your purposes, and he or she acted in accordance with your purposes.
    3. Let me share a specific example regarding the church and Christians.
      1. I personally doubt any issue in the church is more emotional than the role of women in the church.
      2. When I was a missionary in West African, my evangelistic efforts in a large village resulted in the conversion of about ten women, all of whom were baptized within one week.
      3. For months that congregation had only women members.
      4. There were no preachers to send, no male Christians near, and I could not visit more than once a week on a weekday.
        1. I would go for public preaching once a week.
        2. Deborah Wilson, then Deborah Brown, went with me to teach the women.
      5. Which accomplished God’s purposes in the crucifixion of Jesus?
        1. For the women to share nothing they learned with men in this large village because the declaration for women to be silent is more important than people learning about the Savior who died for our sins?
        2. Or for the women to share what they learned so the men in the village could learn about the Savior who died for our sins?
      6. I am not advocating anything; I am asking you to recognize the two basic concerns of obedience.
  2. In the first three chapters of 1 John the following conditions are acknowledged to exist in the Christian community, the family of God at this place.
    1. In chapter one:
      1. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God while they chose to live an evil lifestyle (1:6).
      2. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God because they declared that they did not sin (1:8).
    2. In chapter two:
      1. There were those who affirmed that they knew God but they refused to keep God’s commandments (2:4).
      2. There were those who affirmed fellowship with God while they hated a Christian within the Christian community, God’s family (2:9).
      3. Some who affirmed that God’s love was in them loved the world [those things that oppose God] (2:15,16).
      4. Some were antichrists, Christians who declared that Jesus was not the Christ (2:18).
    3. In chapter three:
      1. Some practiced lawlessness (3:4).
      2. Some affirmed they were conceived by God but practiced sin (3:9).
      3. Some affirmed that loving Christians had nothing to do with loving God (3:10).
  3. John powerfully coupled the essential bond that exists between loving God and sustaining a fellowship of love with Christians.
    1. Carefully note the importance of a real love relationship between Christians.
      1. “Don’t be shocked when those who oppose God hate you (3:13).”
        1. My personal understanding of the context of this statement is not restricted to those people outside the Christian community.
        2. Cain and Abel were in the same family, brothers, of the same parents.
        3. But Cain hated and killed Abel because of the influence of evil in his life.
        4. That is John’s illustration, an “in-the-family” illustration.
        5. Remember the antichrists had been a part of the community, and I would not affirm that their choice to separate removed all their influence.
        6. Obviously, as we just noted, there were those among them that lived evil lifestyles and justified evil.
        7. They should not be shocked when these people hated them.
      2. They were to understand that the unquestionable proof of their transition from death to life was real (3:14).
        1. The undeniable evidence was their love for Christians.
        2. The Christian who does not love Christians lives in death, not in life.
          1. How different the church would be today if we stopped measuring faithfulness by checklists!
          2. How different the church would be today if measured faithfulness by Christians’ love for Christians!
      3. This is the fundamental criteria of faithfulness: those who love God love His people; those who hate God’s people do not love God (3:15).
        1. Christians who hate Christians spiritually are murderers.
        2. Eternal life lives only in Christians who love Christians.
      4. How much love are we to have for Christians? As much as Jesus has for Christians: enough to sacrifice life for them (3:16).
        1. The bond between Christians is such that they would die for the family.
        2. What bond exists today?
      5. John is writing about real love (3:17,18).
        1. It helps those who are in need; their hearts go out to each other.
        2. Their love is not merely limited to words; they love with deeds, with truth.
    2. How do we know that we are people devoted to truth (3:19-21)?
      1. Our hearts persuade us that we are devoted to truth because of our willingness to place ourselves before God.
      2. If our hearts will not let us stand before God Himself, if our own hearts condemn us, God will most assuredly condemn us.
      3. But if our hearts are confident before God, the all knowing God who is greater than our hearts will not condemn us.
    3. If we have that confidence, God will respond to our requests (3:22,23).
      1. Why?
        1. Our confident hearts stand before God obediently; we keep his commands.
        2. We do the things that are pleasing to God.
        3. We place our faith, our trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
        4. We love each other in the way that God commanded us to love each other.
      2. The person who keeps God’s commandments continually lives in God and God continually lives in him.
      3. We know that God lives in us because God gave us His Spirit.

The number one commandment we must obey, the number one proof that we have passed from death to life, the number one reason that our hearts can stand before God in confidence, is this: we love Christians.

The number one proof that none of those things are true is this: we hate some Christians.

Christians too often teach and advocate stands and positions that motivate Christians to hate Christians. Christians too seldom teach Jesus Christ’s teachings that motivate Christians to love Christians.

No matter who we are, when in the name of truth our teachings create and justify hatred, we desperately need to reexamine our concepts as well as our positions.

Only Jesus more powerfully made this point: Christians love Christians. The only thing Christians may have in common is Jesus, the Christ. But that is more than enough. When Christians know Jesus, the Christ, the love of Jesus, the Christ, teaches Christians to love Christians.

God’s Good News

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I do not want to be insensitive, and I certainly don’t want to be offensive. I do want you to be fully aware of an essential realization. Can you conceive of any one of these things happening?

You take you car to a mechanic to check it. He calls you in two hours and says, “I have good news. Your transmission is shot.”

You put your home on the market. An inspector examines your house. When he finishes he says, “I have good news. There is extensive termite damage everywhere.”

You think your marriage is sound. Your marriage problems are typical problems. One afternoon when you come in from work, your wife greets you with these words. “I have good news. I have filed for divorce; move your things out of this house tonight.”

Or, you think your marriage is stable with only normal problems. Your husband comes in from work and greets you with these words. “I have good news. I am leaving you and the kids. I will move out this weekend. I will put this house on the market soon.”

You go to the doctor for your annual check up. You feel fine and have no medical complaints. The doctor says, “I have good news. You have a tumor.”

“David, that is not even slightly funny. That is sick.” I totally agree. To use the words “good news” in any of those situations is cruel. Good news IS good news.

  1. After years of studying, thinking, and understanding, I reached to a conclusion that I want to share with you.
    1. When the early translators either created a word or substituted a word instead of translating the word, they laid the foundation for misconceptions and conflict.
      1. If a word could be translated and they did not translate it; if a word could be translated and they substituted instead of translating, they created confusion.
      2. Some of our greatest confusion can be traced to words that were not translated.
    2. Let me share two examples.
      1. The word “baptism” was created by the early translators.
        1. It was created by a process called transliteration; a letter from the English alphabet was substituted for a letter in the Greek alphabet to form a new word.
        2. The sad thing is that the Greek word was easily translated: it was a common word that meant to sink or to immerse.
        3. But at that time Christian immersion was not practiced.
        4. So they created the word baptize.
        5. Enormous confusion would never have existed, countless arguments would never have occurred if “baptizo” had been translated.
      2. I believe that we encounter a similar situation with the word “gospel.”
        1. If you look in the margins of a study Bible, it usually notes that the word “gospel” means “good news.”
        2. The word “gospel” does not come from Hebrew or Greek, the basic languages of the Bible.
        3. “Gospel” comes from two old Anglo-Saxon words: “God’s spell” meaning “God’s news” or “good spell” meaning “good news.”
        4. The Anglo-Saxon word “spell” seems to have meant “God’s influence on reality.”
        5. These words were used for Greek words that mean “true message,” “well message,” or “good message.”
        6. In its early use the Greek word meant “bringing the news of victory,” the news that a messenger brought from a battle to inform the king of the defeat of an enemy’s army or the death of an enemy.
        7. We create unnecessary problems when we talk about the “gospel” without identifying what the good news or good message was.
  2. “Gospel” is an important word in the New Testament: John preached the “gospel;” Jesus preached the “gospel;” and Christianity from its beginning accepted the responsibility to share the “gospel.”
    1. Unfortunately, we make too many assumptions when we use the word.
      1. We assume that the “good news” that John preached was the same “good news” that Jesus preached.
      2. We assume that the “good news” that Jesus preached was the same “good news” that Christians preached.
    2. John unquestionably preached “good news” or the “true” message to Israel.
      1. Luke 3:18 states that John preached the gospel to the people.
      2. Luke 16:16 makes a fascinating statement about John’s preaching. “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John, since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached…”
        1. John was the transition.
        2. Those who taught before John taught what we call the Old Testament; they called those scriptures the Law and the prophets.
      3. Luke 1:15-17 and Luke 1:68-79 clearly state the mission God gave to John.
        1. In Luke 1:16 the angel told John’s father before John was conceived that he would turn the hearts of many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.
        2. Luke 1:68-79 declares God was keeping His promises by sending John. It says that John was to get the people ready for the Lord, for the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins.
        3. John’s good news was centered in God as God fulfilled His promises about the kingdom.
    3. Many, many statements in the first four books of the New Testament declare that Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom.
      1. In Matthew 11:2-6 John is in prison, he can’t preach, he can’t prepare people any more, and he likely realized that he would be killed.
        1. He sent some disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the One who was to come?” In our words, “Did I complete the work God gave me? Did I fulfill my mission?”
        2. Jesus answered John’s question by reciting a promise God made in Isaiah 35. Go tell John:
          1. The blind are seeing; the lame are walking; those with leprosy are healed; the deaf hear; the death are raised; and the poor have the gospel, the good news, preached to them.

            ii.Blessed is the person who is not offended by me.

        3. When John heard that, he knew Jesus was the Christ; he knew Jesus was the person God promised to send; he knew he fulfilled his mission.
      2. In Luke 4:18 Jesus was in his home town of Nazareth reading Isaiah 61:1 on the Sabbath day in the synagogue.
        1. Luke 4:18,19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        2. Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21). (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        3. That was the good news: God is keeping the promise He made to Israel hundreds of years ago; it is happening right now.
  3. After the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, from the time of Acts 2 forward, a fundamental responsibility of the Christian community, the family of God, was to share and spread the “good news.”
    1. What “good news?”
      1. Understanding the good news presented to Israel is fairly simple.
        1. For hundreds of years they had the scriptures.
        2. Most of the prophets were sent to Israel.
        3. God promised to send His son to Israel.
        4. God promised a renewal of the kingdom to Israel.
        5. To reveal to Israel that God was keeping His promises was good news.
      2. But Israel was a small nation and a small people. What about the greater majority of the world, people who were not Israelites?
        1. Most of the world’s population did not know Israel’s scripture.
        2. They did not have the messages of the prophets.
        3. They did not know the promises of God.
        4. That Information could not be the basis of “good news” for them.
  4. When the “good news” was shared with the non-Jewish world, what did Christians share?
    1. Paul in writing to people who were not Jews declared the “good news” he preached to non-Jews. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4– Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. This was the good news that he preached to them, that they accepted, that enabled them to spiritually stand, that saved them.
      2. This is the good news: Christ died for our sins; he was buried; three days later he was raised from the dead.
      3. Please notice the good news is centered in the Christ.
    2. To another group of Christians Paul wrote this: Romans 1:16– For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. I am not ashamed of the good news.
        1. I am not ashamed of Jesus who was executed like a criminal.
        2. I am not ashamed to place my total confidence in his resurrection in a world that does not believe that dead people come back to life.
      2. I am not ashamed because it is in this good news that God released the power that can save anyone who believes that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead.
    3. To these same people Paul wrote: Romans 15:18,19– For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

Prayer: God, increase our understanding of the meaning of Jesus being the Christ and help us place our faith in the Christ.

For those who have lost hope, there is good news. For those oppressed by their burdens, there is good news. For those who are depressed because life overwhelms them, there is good news. For those whose life is in ruin because of their mistakes, there is good news. For those who are troubled, there is good news. For those who are in despair, there is good news.

What good news? Jesus is the Christ. Exactly as the prophets predicted, He died for our sins. Exactly as the prophets predicted, God raised him from the dead. The God who sacrificed Jesus’ life for our sins will forgive us. The God who raised Jesus from the death will resurrect us out of spiritual death and give us new life in Christ. The God who made Jesus the Christ can and will make us sons and daughters of God. That is the gospel. That is the good news. That is the true message. That is the well message. That is the news of victory.

The Meaning of Jesus Being the Christ

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

God succeeded! His intention became reality! His “plan of action” became an accomplished fact! God made us in His own image. God knew what He would do if we used our free will to rebel (1 Peter 1:20, 21; Ephesians 1:4). And God did it!

When evil entered human life, God set His plan in motion. He was determined to succeed! Nothing would stop Him! Reconciliation to God would become fact!

Satan’s best efforts could not stop God! Mankind’s worst wickedness could not stop God! Nothing could make God quit! Not the absolute wickedness of Noah’s day! Not the problems in Abraham’s family! Not the family problems of Abraham’s extended family! Not Israel’s faithlessness in the wilderness! Not Israel’s horrible wickedness in the time of the judges! Not Israel’s unthinkable idolatry in the time of the kings! Not the Assyrian captivity of northern Israel! Not the Babylonian captivity of southern Israel! Not the crucifixion of Jesus! Nothing stopped God!

God succeeded! He did what He intended to do! Nothing stopped God from making Jesus the Christ! Because Jesus is the Christ, God’s every intent became reality!

Peter announced God’s success. “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). In making Jesus the Christ, God did three things. (1) He kept His promise to Abraham [Genesis 12:3]. (2) He kept His promise to restore the nation of Israel [Ezekiel 39:25-29]. (3) He produced the means to recreate every person in Christ [Colossians 3:8-11].

On March 14, I shared the lesson, “Who Are You?” I suggested that many of the problems and trials that we experience in life and in the church exist because we have not understood the meaning of Jesus being the Christ.

The Elders asked me to focus on differences produced by understanding the meaning of Jesus being the Christ. Last Sunday’s focus: Understanding of the Meaning of Jesus Being the Christ determines the way we understand the world, life, self, and death. (1) It teaches us that life is about God, not about “me.” (2) It teaches us to let God define “who I am.” (3) It creates in us a godly conscience.

The next two lessons: “God’s Good News” (March 28th) and “God’s Called-Out People” (April 4th).

Our Joy and Privilege

Posted by on March 21, 1999 under Sermons

The husband has an affair with her best friend. In his shame, he does not confess his unfaithfulness. She discovers his unfaithfulness. She is devastated. The two people whom she trusted the most betrayed her trust. She feels betrayed. She feels rejected. And she is deeply wounded.

After the shock wears off, after she copes with her grief, she approaches her husband. “I want us to save our marriage. I want us to restore our love. I want us to heal our relationship and rebuilt our trust and respect for each other. I honestly, genuinely love you. I will forgive you. I will not be vengeful. I will not try to punish you. I do not want to make you suffer.”

“If this is what you want, I offer it to you. But it must be your choice. You must trust my love and my promises. You must be committed to working with me to restore what we had.”

What do you think of that wife? “That is not a parable; that is a joke! In his dreams! That jerk deserves every consequence he gets!”

  1. What God does for everyone of us so far exceeds that wife’s forgiveness and love that God’s love and forgiveness and her love and forgiveness are not comparable (1 John 3:1).
    1. Everyone of us fail God in ways that hurt God deeper and create more unnecessary disaster than that husband’s failure.
      1. Yet, God’s love is so incredible, so enormous, that He not only forgives us, but He also accepts us into His family as His own children.
      2. When God forgives us and accepts us into His family, God begins to remake us into totally different persons.
        1. God remakes us to be like Him.
        2. Those who oppose God do not recognize God.
        3. Because God remakes us like Him, those who oppose God do not know us, either.
      3. God’s declaration that He loves us with this astounding love is not merely a claim.
        1. He proved His astounding love for us by giving us Jesus.
        2. He proves that love by allowing us to be His own children.
        3. That God would allow imperfect, flawed, weak, sin prone physical beings to actually be His children is absolutely astounding!
      4. John’s point in 3:4-12 emphasized again the truth that he declared in 1:5,6: God is light; in God there is no evil; we cannot practice evil and be in fellowship with God.
        1. In His love, God allows us to be His children.
        2. The blessings God will give us in eternity cannot even be imagined.
        3. One small indication of His great blessings to come is seen in the promise that when Jesus returns we will be made to be like Jesus.
      5. Children are to be like their father (3:3).
        1. God makes us His children so that we will be like Him.
        2. By choice and preference, we want to be pure because God is pure.
        3. The more we become like God the less those who oppose God will understand us.
        4. They did not recognize God; the more like God that we become, the less they will understand us.
    2. John emphasized the truth in 3:4-12 that he emphasized in 1:5-10.
      1. Just as there is a total contrast between light and darkness (chapter one) and a total contrast between the chosen lifestyle of evil and the chosen lifestyle of fellowship with God, there is a total contrast between a life of purity and a life of sin.
      2. Sin is lawlessness; a sinful lifestyle declares “good” does not exist, so there is no “right doing” (3:4).
        1. Law does not exist.
        2. Therefore right doing does not exist.
        3. There is no standard.
      3. Righteousness declares “right doing” does exist.
        1. There is a standard.
        2. Those who live in God’s love accept God’s standard, honor God’s standard, and cherish God’s standard.
  2. When a Christian wants to be in fellowship with God, wants to be God’s child, wants to be pure, wants to be devoted to God’s righteousness, he or she must understand that sin and purity are total opposites (3:7,8).
    1. There is zero compatibility between practicing sin and practicing righteousness.
      1. It is impossible for a Christian to embrace both by choice.
      2. Jesus came to destroy sin; he succeeded; in Jesus there is no sin.
        1. In Jesus the Christ sin does not exist.
        2. The person living in Jesus Christ has his or her sin destroyed by Jesus Christ.
        3. The choice of the person living in Jesus is not to practice sin.
        4. The Christian who practices sin has not seen and does not know Jesus.
      3. The person living in Jesus chooses to practice righteousness.
        1. Jesus was righteous.
        2. The person who lives in Jesus chooses to be righteous.
        3. The person who chooses to be righteous practices righteousness.
      4. It is impossible to chose to do both, to practice sin and to practice righteousness.
        1. The Christian who believes that you can do both is deceived.
        2. The Christian who consciously seeks to do both is following the devil.
    2. The truth:
      1. Jesus is righteous (3:7).
        1. The Christian who is devoted to Jesus practices righteous living.
        2. To be righteous you must practice righteousness.
      2. The Christian who practices sin belongs to the devil (3:8).
        1. The devil practiced sin before human history began.
        2. Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil.
        3. We cannot belong to Jesus while we practice an existence that Jesus came to destroy.
    3. Christians conceived by God do not practice sin (3:9).
      1. The Christian who chooses to practice sin has not been conceived by God.
      2. Christians conceived by God do not chose to practice sin.
        1. Their choice is purity, not sin.
        2. It is not a matter of fear; it is a matter of desire.
        3. Even if there were no consequences, they still would choose to practice righteousness.
        4. They choose righteousness because they understand how much God loves them, what Jesus did for them.
        5. They choose righteousness because it is in being like God they find both joy and privilege.
      3. When John said that a Christian conceived by God cannot sin, John is not saying conception by God makes us incapable of sinning.
        1. John was saying that a Christian understands that loving God and practicing sin is not an option. He or she has no desire to practice sin.
        2. Practicing sin opposes everything we become by living in Christ.
        3. Practicing sin opposes God’s love and embraces the existence Jesus came to destroy.
        4. If we have been conceived by God, we simply cannot do that.
    4. These are the distinguishing characteristics that contrast the children of God and the children of the devil [among Christians–remember the influence of the anti-Christs who had been among them] (3:10,11).
      1. The children of God practice righteousness.
      2. The children of the devil practice sin.
      3. The children of God love those who are in God’s family.
      4. The children of the devil hate some who are in God’s family.
      5. It has always been true that the people who love God also love God’s people.
        1. Christians are not like Cain who killed his brother Abel (3:12).
        2. Cain killed Abel because Cain’s deeds were evil and Abel’s deeds were righteous.
        3. Evil’s influence in Cain’s life made loving his brother an impossibility.

The person who has been conceived by God does not want to practice sin and does not choose to practice sin. Why? He discovered God’s love. He discovered the privilege of being righteous. He wants to be righteous and do righteous things. He has no desire to be evil or to practice ungodliness. He is elated that Christ destroyed evil in him through forgiveness.

John’s declaration and the too common practice of some who have been baptized illustrate the failure to see life from God’s perspective. How many baptized people say, “If you cannot show me in the Bible where it says that I will go to hell if I do that, leave me alone.” How many say, “Just show me where the Bible condemns that?” How many say, “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

I suggest that the church has fought the wrong problem in the wrong way too long. In our attempt to prove that every kind of sin will send a person to hell, we did and do things that Christians conceived by God should never do. We created commands when we needed one. We took proof texts out of context. We used creative logic and deduction. All to try to prove that a Christian will go to hell or be condemned if he or she practices sin.

We lost sight of the basic problem. We believed that the basic problem was correcting ungodly behavior. In truth, the basic problem is changing the heart. Have we ever proven that we can change behavior without touching hearts!

The Christian who chooses to practice unrighteous behavior understands little or nothing about God’s love. He or she feels no sense of privilege in being God’s child. He or she finds no joy in practicing righteousness. Joy is found in practicing sin if he or she can just find a way to do it without being punished. The motivation is to avoid hell. It is not being a part of God’s family in heaven.

The person who is conceived by God is overwhelmed by the knowledge of God’s love. He or she finds it a privilege to be God’s child. It is an honor to practice righteousness.

Ask Yourself, “Who Am I?”

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If someone asked you, “Who are you?” how would you answer? “I would give the person my name.”

What if the person said, “I did not ask for your name. I asked who are you?”

“Then I would give the person some identification, like my driver’s license.”

What if the person said, “I did not ask you for identification. I asked who are you?”

“What do you want? An address? My educational background? My occupation? My family tree? What do you want to know?”

“I want to know who you are.”

Let me approach this same question in another way. Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?” If you have, what was your answer?

  1. “David, you lost me. I do not understand what you mean by that question.”
    1. Consider the same question from a different viewpoint.
      1. If a person is committing suicide, what is his or her answer to, “Who am I?”
      2. If a person decides to be a prostitute, what is his or her answer to, “Who am I?”
      3. If a person decides to commit a murder, what is his or her answer to, “Who am I?”
    2. Could you commit suicide or decide to be a prostitute or murderer?
      1. To the majority of us, any of those decisions are unthinkable.
      2. Most of us “cannot see” ourselves doing any one of those things.
      3. Why? “That’s not me. I simply could not do one of those things.”
      4. If that is not who you are, then who are you?
    3. Our answer to “who I am” determines many basic realities about who we actually are and how we actually live.
      1. “Who am I?” seems to be a very simple question.
      2. In truth it is one of the most complex questions that you will ever answer.
  2. The person’s answer who understands the meaning of Jesus being the Christ and the person’s answer who does not understand the meaning of Jesus being the Christ are radically different answers.
    1. “Why? Why would understanding the meaning of Jesus being the Christ change my basic answer to the question, ‘Who am I?'”
      1. Jesus did not die to create another religion.
      2. Choosing to be a Christian is not a supermarket decision; it is not one religious choice of many religious choices.
      3. Christianity is a specific way to understand the world, to understand life, to understand self, and to understand death.
    2. When I understand that Jesus is the Christ, I answer the question, “Who am I?”
      1. Originally, we humans began in an ideal relationship with God (Genesis 1,2).
        1. We lived a complete, fulfilled existence that had no needs, no wants.
        2. There was no fear, no worry, no anxiety, no pain, no guilt, no shame, and no embarrassment; that life surpassed anything we can experience.
      2. We knew nothing about evil, but we were curious about evil (Genesis 3).
        1. Satan used temptation to peak our curiosity.
        2. To satisfy our curiosity, we defied the God who made and loved us.
        3. We learned about evil by choosing evil, and evil totally, completely, irreversibly changed us.
        4. It changed the way we saw ourselves; it changed the way we looked at life; it changed the way we lived life; it changed our natures, our dispositions, our attitudes, our emotions, and our behavior.
        5. Most devastating of all, it destroyed our relationship with God, and we were powerless to escape or reverse those destructive changes.
      3. With time, our knowledge of evil destroyed everything good in us and about us; we reached a point that we thought only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).
    3. As evil as we became, God refused to abandon us; He was determined to rescue us from our self-imposed tragedy.
      1. God created our opportunity to escape the consequences of evil by sending us the Christ.
      2. God was determined to send the Christ; He literally refused to fail.
      3. God refused to allow our evil and ignorance to stop His planned solution.
      4. God’s plan was simple.
        1. Find one person who would trust Him so completely that this person lived life by trusting God.
        2. Make the descendants of this person a nation, hopefully a nation who knew how to trust God.
        3. Through this nation allow His Son to be born as a human in this world.
        4. Through His Son’s ministry, death, and resurrection, make His Son the Christ.
        5. Through the Christ, God would reconcile people to Himself by forgiveness; and, through new life in the Christ, God would allow people to become His sons and daughters.
      5. In spite of every human failure imaginable, in spite of Satan’s most powerful opposition, that is exactly what God did.
        1. The person who trusted God was Abraham.
        2. The nation that came from Abraham, the nation God worked through was Israel.
        3. His Son who came to this world was Jesus.
        4. In Jesus’ sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection, God made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
    4. Only because God sent us the Christ:
      1. Can we be forgiven.
      2. Can we be made spiritually alive.
      3. Can we be reconciled to God.
      4. Can we live in peace with God and die in the secure promise of God.
  3. How does that answer the question, “Who am I?”
    1. First, the Christ teaches me that life is not about me; it is about God.
      1. Life is not about fun, or pleasure, or possessions, or physical existence.
      2. Too many Christians answer “who am I” by using the answer of people who are not Christians.
        1. They say, “The only reality is the right here right now; that is all there is.”
        2. So the purpose of life is self-preservation in a dog eat dog world.
        3. Or the purpose of life is materialism; what you own determines your importance.
        4. Or the purpose to life is to have fun and pleasure because every tomorrow is uncertain.
        5. Or life has no purpose; everything is going to fall apart any way.
        6. Or the purpose of life is selfishness; all that really matters is me.
        7. The moment that you decide that life is only about the “right here right now” you answer the question, “Who am I?”
      3. When a person understands what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, he understands that life is about God.
        1. Life’s origin is God.
        2. Life’s destiny is God.
        3. The objective of evil in my life is to separate me from God.
        4. The Christ came to destroy evil’s control over my life and to reconcile me to God.
        5. The moment that you decide that life is about God, you answer the question, “Who am I?”
    2. Second, Christ teaches me to let God’s heart, attitude, and behavior define who I am.
      1. Because Jesus is the Christ, I can be God’s son or daughter.
      2. Therefore God is the road map for my life.
      3. And Jesus is my guide through life.
      4. I can understand God because the Christ was divine and became human; Jesus shows me what God would be and do as a human.
      5. One clear example: Jesus said those who belong to God love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-45).
        1. There is much to be understood in that statement, and we don’t have the time to explore the meaning of loving your enemies.
        2. What I want you to see is the reason that we are to love our enemies: “that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.”
        3. Why would I ever love an enemy? Because understanding what it means for Jesus to be the Christ permits God to define who I am.
    3. Third, understanding the meaning of Jesus being the Christ gives me a godly conscience.
      1. The world Jesus was born into was a world without a conscience.
        1. That world in general was too wicked to have a conscience.
        2. Israel used religious reasoning, pat answers, and religious logic to destroy Israel’s conscience.
          1. The religious leaders were concerned about behavior control.
          2. Their religious teachings were not primarily concerned about what happened in people’s heads and hearts; the primarily concern was what people did with their bodies.
        3. The perfect illustration is a statement Paul made, the Paul who had an exceptional Jewish religious education.
          1. In Acts 23:1 he said that as a Jew, before he was a Christian, he lived with a “good conscience;” that “good conscience” allowed him to encourage a Christian’s execution and persecute Christians.
          2. After conversion, did Paul’s behavior change? Absolutely! Could he do after conversion what he did before conversion? Absolutely not!
          3. Why? Understanding that Jesus’ was the Christ gave Paul a godly conscience.
      2. I would affirm that our society is becoming a society without a conscience.
        1. I would affirm that often the church does not have a godly conscience; look at some of the ungodly ways the church treats people; look at the way the church justifies those acts.
        2. I would affirm that often a godly conscience is a non-factor or a weak factor when Christians make their decisions.
      3. Understanding the meaning of Jesus being the Christ gives birth to a godly conscience, and a godly conscience helps answer, “Who am I?”

[Song of reflection: #768, Jesus, Let Us Come to Know You]

We can make the primary foundation of our faith the organization, the structure, and the practices of the church without learning the meaning of Jesus being the Christ. We do that by learning a system that never connects with the Savior.

But if the primary foundation of our faith is understanding the meaning of Jesus being the Christ, we will seek to be the Christ’s kingdom. When we understand the Savior, we will discover his kingdom.

We do not have a behavior crisis in the church. We have a faith crisis in the church. We have an identity crisis in the church. We founded our identity on the church, not on the Savior. Because too many do not understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, we do not know who we are.

Wise and Peaceful or Thoughtlessly Harmful

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In past decades Christians enjoyed a favorable status. Any “church” endeavor in a community received special consideration. Commonly, preferential treatment was extended, “red tape” was “cut,” opportunities were created, and help was offered.

The community considered spiritual values to be an asset. Our moral values and ethical principles were “good.” Christians were a community asset to be encouraged.

To an extent (depending on the geographical area) that is still true. However, it is a shrinking reality. In our society, growing numbers do not regard Christian influence to be a community asset. Christian moral values and ethical principles are increasingly regarded to be contrary to the “best interests” of society.

Certainly, the existing situation is complex. Oversimplifying it is not to the spiritual benefit of Christians or to the best interests of society. Many (who are unquestionably devout in their convictions) send distressful messages to society. The first Christians never used destructiveness or lawlessness to defend or preserve Christian values.

Christians are in conflict with our unspiritual society. This is not just a war for minds and thinking. It is a war that assaults Christian values and emotions. It assaults our feelings as well as our lifestyle. It challenges our standards and attacks our principles. It seeks to turn our priorities upside down.

For generations we existed with society’s blessing. This opposition confuses us. We are “the good guys.” Why assault “the good guys”? This opposition also angers us.

We want to reclaim what we think is “ours.” We do not want to be controlled by those who oppose us. Yet, controlling those who reject our faith and life seems desirable.

Christianity began in a hostile society. It became a world movement in a hostile world. In both it not only survived, it flourished. We are not Christians because it is convenient. Spiritual success does not depend on ideal conditions in favorable circumstances. We are Christians because in our trust of God we belong to the Christ. The war will not be won by controlling an unbelieving society. It will be won by allowing the Christ to be our Lord.

“I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

When We Are Our Opposition

Posted by on March 14, 1999 under Sermons

That is true in our social associations. It is true in our roles in the community. It is true spiritually.

It is also true of the Christian community, the church. No force external of us believers can inflict as much damage on our spiritual community, the kingdom of God, as we can. That has always been true, and it always will be true. Satan can never through external attack inflict the wounds on God’s family that we can inflict on ourselves. As is true of any family, the most serious threats to God’s family come from within, not from without.

  1. From 1 John 1:5 through 1 John 2:15-17, John emphasized two obvious concerns.
    1. The first concern John emphasized was fellowship with God: specifically, those who are in fellowship with God.
      1. They must be committed to living the lifestyle that God revealed to believers (1:5).
      2. They must not knowingly, by choice, live a lifestyle of evil (1:6).
      3. They must maintain fellowship with fellow believers (1:7)
      4. They must accept responsibility for their mistakes and confess those mistakes to God (1:9).
    2. The second concern John emphasized was pretentious lying; to pretend to be in fellowship with God is to lie.
      1. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she is in fellowship with God while knowingly living an ungodly lifestyle is to lie (1:6).
      2. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she has no sin is to lie to self (1:8).
      3. For a person in the Christian community to say that he/she has not sinned is to make God a liar (1:10).
      4. For a person in the Christian community to claim fellowship with God while refusing to obey God is to lie (2:4).
      5. [Inferred] For a person in the Christian community to claim fellowship with God and hate a Christian is to lie (2:7-11).
      6. [Inferred] For a person in the Christian community to claim God’s love is in him/her while he/she loves that which opposes God’s purposes and objectives is to lie (2:15-17).
  2. John then began addressing the problem of false teachers.
    1. It is of critical importance to note carefully how John used the concept of false teachers.
      1. What John said in identifying such teachers has been ignored which results in the abuse of his statements.
      2. Too many have followed this pattern.
        1. They personally conclude, either by personal judgment or by collective conclusion, that something is “wrong.”
        2. They declare that anyone who teaches this “wrong” to be a false teacher.
        3. They “seal” their conclusion with divine authority by citing statements from 1 John (or some other New Testament writing).
        4. They accept no responsibility to use their quotations as did the writer.
        5. They do not restrict their condemnation to the writer’s concern.
      3. As a result we use John’s statements to condemn things that John did not address, and we do not address John’s concerns.
    2. John said many antichrists already existed when he wrote. (2:18).
      1. The fact that they existed was proof that the “last hour” had come.
        1. I do not understand that to be a predictive statement about the end of the world or the return of Christ.
        2. I understand that to be a declaration that a major transition had begun.
      2. In the context of what John said, what person was an antichrist?
        1. An antichrist was a person who affirmed that Jesus was not the Christ, the son of God.
        2. An antichrist affirmed that a person could be in fellowship with God without Jesus Christ.
        3. There have been antichrist in every age; there will always be antichrist in this world.
      3. The antichrists to whom John referred had been a part of the Christian community to whom he wrote this letter (2:19).
        1. These people had left the community of those who belonged to Christ.
        2. They left of their own choice; they wanted separation; they were not forced out.
        3. They left because their conversion to Christ was not genuine.
      4. Understandably, the views of these people about Jesus Christ and their departure caused genuine concern among those who believed in Christ.
        1. Both the views and the departure of the antichrists cast suspicion on the believers’ fellowship with God.
        2. John understood the doubt that the antichrists had created.
    3. John said that you have no need to doubt your fellowship with God or to wonder about Jesus Christ.
      1. They should not doubt for two reasons (2:20,21).
        1. They have been anointed by Jesus Christ.
        2. They know the truth about Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ established and sustains their fellowship with God.
        3. That truth is never the source of a lie.
      2. The liars are the antichrists (2:22).
        1. Anyone who has been a part of the Christian community and denies that Jesus is the Christ is the liar.
        2. To declare that Jesus is not the Christ is not merely disputing a fact; it is affirms that Jesus was not God’s promise, was not God’s plan, was not God’s work through Israel, was not God’s Son, and did not achieve God’s eternal purpose.
        3. It denies the basic bond and relationship between the Father and the Son.
      3. This is truth and fact (2:23).
        1. The person who denies Jesus also denies God.
        2. The person who confesses Jesus also confesses God.
    4. “Let what you heard and learned from the beginning live in you, and you will be in fellowship with God as the Son and the Father live in you” (2:24).
      1. What had they heard and learned from the beginning? The identity of Jesus and Jesus’ relationship with God.
      2. Review the sermons in Acts beginning with the sermon in Acts 2; from the beginning they stressed Jesus’ identity and his relationship with God.
      3. The result of letting the Son and the Father live in them was that they would receive the promise: eternal life (2:25).
    5. Do not be deceived; Jesus is the Christ (2:26).
      1. You should not be confused by a pretended new revelation.
      2. The anointing you received confirms the truth about Jesus and life in Jesus (2:27).
        1. The anointing does not lie to you.
        2. It instructs you in truth.
      3. Live in Jesus so that you will not be ashamed when Jesus returns (2:28).
        1. Jesus was righteous (2:29).
        2. Those who are born of Jesus practice righteousness.
  3. The more I understand what John wrote about these antichrists, two things scare me.
    1. The first thing that scares me is to note how often that we made fellowship with God depend on something besides Jesus Christ.
      1. A person can believe in Jesus, redirect his/her life away from evil, be baptized into Christ, trust the resurrection of Jesus, accept scripture as God’s word, and devote his/her life to serving and ministering.
      2. BUT, some will say, “If you do not accept this position, if you do not take this stand on this issue, you are not in fellowship with God.”
      3. When a person in God’s family establishes conditions for fellowship with God that either exclude Christ or go beyond being in Christ, is that person flirting with the voice of the antichrist?
    2. The second thing that scares me is to see some in God’s family giving the role and the work of Christ to the church.
      1. It is not enough to declare that the saved are the church because of an act of God (He adds, Acts 2:47); some declare that the church does the saving.
      2. It is not enough to declare that the forgiven are the church; some declare that the church does the forgiving.
      3. When people attribute to the church the things that scripture attributes to Jesus Christ, are those people flirting with the voice of the antichrists?

The community of Christians, the church, needs to make certain that Jesus Christ occupies the place, the role, and the purpose that God gave him when God accepted his atoning blood and raised him from the dead.

I am afraid that too many leave the church because they never had a relationship with Christ.

I am afraid that too many never become a part of the community of Christians because they never understand the true relationship between Christ and the church. I am afraid that restoration of the church has lost sight of the importance of restoration of the place and role of Jesus the Christ.

Who Are You?

Posted by on under Sermons

Consider the three small words…who…are…you? Three words of three letters each. The whole question is has but nine letters, two spaces, and one punctuation mark. Have you considered how many things you can ask with those three words?

[Use that question with different voice inflections to illustrate the following usage.] (1) “Who are you?” “I do not know you. I have not met you. Please introduce yourself.” (2) “Who are you?” “I think I know you. I am sure that I know your family. Please help me remember.” (3) “Who are you?” “Just what makes you think that you have any authority or position of power around here?” (4) “Who are you?” Given as a insult, a “put down,” a demeaning declaration intended to embarrass you. “Who are you?” A question of mystification. “You obviously are someone important. Pardon my ignorance but I don’t know you.”

  1. During Jesus’ ministry, there were a lot of arguments about his identity.
    1. Jesus could not be dismissed or ignored by the prominent religious and political leaders of Israel.
      1. This man came out of nowhere from a nothing town.
      2. He came from the wrong region; he had the wrong background; he had no religious training.
      3. Yet, he influenced the Jewish people as no other spiritual force in the nation.
        1. Wherever he appeared, thousands of people came to see him, to hear him, to touch him, and to be healed by him.
        2. There simply was no explanation for his extraordinary power that he used daily.
        3. Everybody talked about Jesus; everybody had an answer for the question, “Who is he?”
    2. In Matthew 16, while Jesus and his twelve disciples were in the northern region of Palestine, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
      1. They informed him of what people said about who he was.
        1. Some said that he was John the baptizer who was resurrected.
          1. Matthew 14 states that John was beheaded by Herod the tetrarch.
          2. John was a dramatic, charismatic religious teacher in Israel who attracted thousands of people and baptized thousands of people.
          3. Some said that Jesus was John raised from the dead.
        2. Some said that Jesus was the Old Testament prophet Elijah.
          1. The Jewish prophet Malachi wrote that Elijah would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).
          2. The Jews commonly believed that Elijah would return before God sent the Christ.
          3. In Matthew 11:14 Jesus said that John the baptizer fulfilled the promised return of Elijah.
          4. In Matthew 17:12 Jesus said that Elijah had returned and they did not recognize him.
        3. Others explained Jesus by saying that he was Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.
      2. Then Jesus redirected the question, “Who do you say that I am?”
        1. Without hesitation, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
        2. “You are the person God promised to send to Israel.”
        3. “Israel was introduced to the living God in their ancestor Abraham; you are that living God’s Son.”
      3. Jesus blessed Peter.
        1. He stated that no human taught him this.
        2. He said Peter understood this because God revealed it to him.
        3. Jesus said Peter’s understanding could not be explained by education; it could be explained only by revelation.
  2. In the last fifty years as the church we made a grave mistake, and that mistake is costing us dearly today.
    1. “What mistake?”
      1. For the last fifty years we have assumed that the majority of people believed that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God.
        1. We said little about the living God; we assumed everyone believed in him.
        2. We said little about Jesus being the Son of the living God; we assumed everyone knew that he was God’s Son.
        3. We said little about the Christ, what the Christ was, why the Christ came, what being the Christ means, and why the Christ is important to us.
      2. We have been concerned about getting people to change churches.
        1. We wanted religious people to know that the Church of Christ is biblical.
        2. We wanted religious people to know that the Church of Christ seeks biblical practices and biblical structure.
        3. We wanted religious people to know that the Church of Christ is committed to Bible authority because we trust the Bible to be God’s word.
    2. “Why would you ever consider that a mistake?”
      1. It is not a mistake to be biblical.
      2. It is not a mistake to be biblical in practice and structure.
      3. It is not a mistake to live by Bible authority and trust the Bible as God’s word.
      4. It is not a mistake to challenge religious people to seek to be the church that Christ died to bring into existence.
      5. It is a mistake to fail to teach people that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God.
    3. Why is that a mistake?
      1. First, it is a mistake because today between sixty and sixty-five percent of Americans do not attend a church assembly.
        1. When we talk about the church to people who are not interested in any church, they do not listen because they do not consider our message relevant to their lives and problems.
        2. For over fifty percent of the people living in our nation, we commonly have no message.
        3. Many Christians have little to discuss if they cannot talk about the church.
      2. Second, it is a mistake because too many of us do not understand what it means to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.
        1. If we did, our lives would not be as distressed as they are.
        2. If we did, our families would not be as distressed as they are.
        3. If we did, we would not live like we live.
      3. Third, it is a mistake because about half of our children have been walking away from the church when they become adults.
        1. Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of the living God is a non-factor in their decision.
        2. The living God is a non-factor in their decision.
  3. No level of faith, no level of trust will eliminate the stress, the trials, the problems, and the suffering caused by Satan and evil.
    1. Satan and the forces of evil will create problems and suffering in this world as long as it exists.
      1. Jesus was crucified.
      2. The early church was persecuted.
      3. Many of the apostles were martyrs.
    2. To me, this is the tragedy: many of our problems and trials are not directly produced by Satan, but by the fact that we do not understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ the Son of the living God.
      1. Either:
        1. We do not understand what that means.
        2. Or the friends who influence our lives do not understand what that means.
        3. Or the person we marry does not understand what that means.
        4. Or our family does not understand what that means.
        5. Or our children have not understood what that means.
      2. It is just a fact.
        1. Like Lincoln freed the slaves or electricity flows through wires.
        2. It doesn’t mean anything; it just happened.
        3. It is not relevant to our lives; it does not do anything or change anything.
      3. Then, the “black holes” of life declare the meaning of Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the living God is more than a fact.
        1. When you are so depress you don’t want to go on,
        2. When your life falls apart,
        3. When an accident permanently alters your life,
        4. When your health fails,
        5. When death is staring you eye to eye,
        6. A “fact” won’t do anything for you; Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God will.
    3. Because we insufficiently presented Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, we allowed Christianity to become ninety percent human and less than ten percent divine.
      1. Our faith is built on human knowledge, human reasoning, and human logic.
      2. We act as if God sent Jesus and quit; Jesus was resurrected from the dead and quit; and the Holy Spirit inspired men to write scripture and quit.
      3. The question is always, “What are we going to do?” We conclude it is all up to us.
    4. Consider an obvious difference between Peter and the Pharisees or Sadducees.
      1. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew more scripture, had their religious reasoning down pat, and logically drew all their religious conclusions.
      2. Peter could not compete with their knowledge, reasoning, or logic.
      3. Yet, with all they knew, twice when they tried Peter in their highest court they could neither hush him nor intimidate him (Acts 4:1-22; 5:27-42).
      4. And they knew that he was an uneducated, untrained man (Acts 4:13).
      5. Why? They had the superior knowledge and education. But Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Peter understood what that meant.

    [Prayer for God to save us from ourselves.]

  4. Early in my life I wanted to “change the world” in a way that blessed people.
    1. As a teenager, I wanted the world to be a better place because I lived, and I thought that would be simple and doable. I quickly learned that it was not.
    2. When I was in my late 20s, married, with a family, I wanted to do mission work in a third world country.
      1. I wanted to go somewhere that I could make a difference, and I thought I did.
      2. I believed that I could make a difference among a disadvantaged, poverty stricken people; it seemed very doable; but it was much too complicated.
    3. I learned so much on the mission field that I really believed that I could make a difference in a town or city back in this country.
      1. It seemed very doable.
      2. But things were even more complicated when I came back.
    4. I cannot make a lasting change in the world, or a country, or a town.
      1. I won’t change the world, and that is no longer important.
      2. God never asked me to change the world.
      3. God never expected me to change the world.
      4. God asks me to understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.
      5. And he asks me to help others understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.
      6. Why? Because when God made Jesus the Christ, God made a lasting change in the world.

Do you understand what Peter understood when he truly grasped that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?

Why Is Everyone Shocked?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In the 1960s our society altered the concepts of sexual morality. The 1970s made living together while unmarried an acceptable lifestyle. The 1980s altered the basic concepts of integrity and character. The “political correctness” of the 1990s has erased the “archaic, meaningless” distinctions between “good” and “bad,” “right” and “wrong,” and “moral” and “immoral.”

Many people who grew up with these altered concepts accept them as verified truths. Accountability has nothing to do with personal behavior. Personal choices should not produce consequences. “Fun” determines “right” and “good.” Only irresponsible prejudice declares anything to be “wrong” or “evil.” If the individual is valued, there can be no judgmental responses. Society is unimportant; the individual is all important.

The Monica view: catastrophic consequences do not result from the irresponsible conduct of “poor,” “unwise,” or “wrong” behavior. Catastrophic consequences are the result of getting caught. If a person is not caught, no problem exists. The “wrong” is not in the behavior; the “wrong” is in getting caught. The “real” problem is not about the person, or his/her choices, or his/her behavior. The “real” problem is about things “personal and private” becoming public. “It is so unjust and unfair! No one else should know! How can people be so mean to those who just had fun?”

Many who do and do not live by religious principles are astounded to hear such views freely embraced about personal decisions and actions that resulted in monumental national consequences. Why are those who are and are not religious astounded? We are seeing and hearing the end product of forty years of altered concepts.

Do we hear and see nothing else? How often are Christian teens and adults deeply concerned about the consequences of getting caught, but unconcerned about the consequences of what “my life” has become? How often are Christians embarrassed by “public knowledge” of happenings, but not concerned about “my life”? How often is the concern focused on justifying the occurrence instead of redirecting the life?

If we think that the tragedy of altered concepts is society’s problem, we are deceived. Once, because of evil deeds, people loved darkness instead of the light. Those who practiced evil did not want the light to expose their deeds. Those who loved truth came to the light to expose their deeds (John 3:19-21). We need to be Christ’s light of hope instead of blending into the darkness of despair.

Why Was She Crying?

Posted by on March 7, 1999 under Sermons

There are times and occasions when we expect people to cry. We expect people to cry when there is a disaster. We expect people to cry when they learn of a serious illness or death in the family. We expect people to cry at a funeral. We expect people to cry when they experience a unexpected, radical, severe change. When we see a person crying at such times or in such circumstances, we understand. No one has to explain why the person is crying.

There are times and occasions when people cry that we see no reason for tears. When we see someone crying, and we see no reason for tears, we ask, “Why is she crying?” or “Why is he crying?” If a person cries, it is for a reason.

  1. Luke wrote about a fascinating incident in Jesus’ life (Luke 7:36-50).
    1. A curious Pharisee extended an invitation to Jesus and to some other people of the town to have a meal in his home.
      1. Nothing in the context suggests that the Pharisee had a serious intention of learning from Jesus.
        1. This country preacher was the rage of all Palestine.
        2. The popularity of this miracle worker was beyond exaggeration.
        3. The Pharisee wanted to look at Jesus “up close and personal.”
      2. After the meal began, a highly unusual thing happened.
        1. An immoral woman, likely a prostitute, came into the Pharisee’s house uninvited and unwelcome.
        2. She went to Jesus and stood at his feet as he lay on a couch eating.
        3. Likely at any other time the Pharisee would have had her thrown out of the house immediately.
        4. However, his curiosity was greater than his indignant feelings.
      3. What she did was totally, absolutely unacceptable as public behavior.
        1. She wept so hard that her tears wet Jesus’ feet.
        2. She let her hair down (absolutely forbidden!) and dried Jesus’ feet.
        3. She repeatedly kissed his feet (absolutely forbidden!) and anointed his feet with an expensive perfume that she brought.
        4. She continued to wash, dry, kiss, and anoint Jesus’ feet.
      4. The Pharisee was fascinated by this entire spectacle.
        1. He thought to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would know who this woman is.”
        2. “He would know that she was immoral (the Pharisee knew who and what she was), and he would not allow her to touch him.”
    2. Jesus knew what Simon was thinking.
      1. He taught Simon a private, pointed lesson.
      2. The person who is forgiven much loves deeply.
      3. The person who is forgiven little loves little.
      4. Then he said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
  2. Would you ask and answer this question: “Why was the woman crying?”
    1. The woman was crying because of what she knew.
      1. She knew what she was.
        1. She was the town prostitute.
        2. Everyone, including the Pharisee, knew what she was.
        3. There was not the slightest question about what she was.
      2. According to the Jewish law, she knew what she deserved.
        1. In the Mosaical law, the punishments for sexual sin were quite severe (Deuteronomy 22:13-20).
        2. She knew that men of the town tolerated her because she served a purpose, but she knew that was the only reason she was tolerated.
      3. She knew that she was worth nothing.
        1. There were few ways for a woman to support herself.
        2. The majority of people lived in poverty, so if your husband died and no one married you, prostitution was one of the few available options.
        3. Many women were reduced to prostitution.
    2. Do you understand what prostitution does to a woman’s mind, heart, and self-image?
      1. Before the act you are wonderful, you are important, you are desirable.
        1. In a society that considers itself to be moral, after the act you immediately become a problem for the man.
        2. Sneak in, flatter, pay, sneak out.
        3. “In public I don’t know you, and you don’t know me.”
      2. Nothing can hide the fact that you are used.
        1. How many times of being used does it take to make you hard, cynical, bitter, and distrustful?
        2. How long does it take for you to realize that no man honestly cares about you as a person; you are a thing to be used, not a person.
    3. Jesus could see past the hardness, past the bitterness, past the distrust, past the pain, and as he looked past all of that, Jesus cared.
      1. How long had it been since she encountered a man who cared about her?
      2. How long had it been since she met a man who understood?
      3. How long had it been since she knew a man who would not use her and reject her?
      4. And she cried, no, she sobbed.
        1. In a house where she was unwelcome, she sobbed.
        2. Among men who looked at her as worse than nothing, she sobbed.
        3. In a place she did not belong, she cried, openly, deeply, without shame.
    4. Where did her tears come from?
      1. The tears came from her grief.
      2. The tears came from her gratitude.
      3. The tears came from her sorrow.
      4. Those are the tears of conversion.
  3. And Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
    1. Forgiveness? Do you think anyone had ever forgiven her?
      1. She felt used, like a nothing, like a nobody, like she was not a real person.
      2. Forgiven? As though she mattered? As though she was a person?
      3. She could be forgiven, after the life she lived?
    2. Which had you rather hear?
      1. The Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes tell you that you have won $10,000,000?
      2. A travel agency tell you that you have won an eight day, all expense paid cruise on the Caribbean?
      3. The General Motors Company tell you that you have won a new luxury car?
      4. Or Jesus tell you, “Your sins are forgiven?”
    3. Have you received an honor that moved you deeply?
      1. Have you felt moved because you were picked to be on an all-star team?
      2. Have you been honored as being the best at what you do?
      3. Have you been given a place in a prestigious group?
      4. Have you ever won an award?
      5. Have you ever felt any sense of honor in the fact that the eternal God offers you forgiveness?
      6. No honor any person can ever receive in this life will begin to equal the honor of having Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven.”
        1. May we understand that honor before we die.
        2. The moment we die, every earthly honor stays right here.
        3. Only love and forgiveness travels with us through death.
  4. Any serious attempt to restore New Testament Christianity must be committed to restoring conversion to Jesus Christ.
    1. Conversion to Jesus Christ is the heart, the soul, and the core of Christianity.
      1. The heart of New Testament Christianity is not behavior modification.
      2. It is not building better habits.
      3. It is not learning the correct rituals.
      4. It is not about practicing better traditions.
    2. The heart of New Testament Christianity is found only by seeking and accepting forgiveness.
      1. Christianity is about needing forgiveness.
      2. It is about wanting forgiveness.
      3. It is about seeking forgiveness.
      4. It is about finding forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
      5. It is about gratitude for forgiveness.
      6. It is about the peace found through forgiveness.
      7. It is about relationship with God given to us through the forgiveness made possible by Jesus Christ’s blood.
      8. Christianity is about life that comes because forgiveness is given.

    [Song of Reflection: Amazing Grace, # 129]

  5. We live in a skeptical, cynical, deeply distrustful society.
    1. Many things are ineffective in calling the people of this society to Christ.
      1. Telling people that “we know more about the Bible than you do” will not impress many people.
        1. Many will say, “So what?”
        2. They know we know more Bible than they do; so what?
      2. Telling people that “we understand the Bible better than you do” does not impress many people either.
        1. Again, many will say the same “so what?”
        2. Some will vigorously disagree with that claim.
    2. Most people with little or no religious background do not believe that Christians have found anything in Jesus Christ that would benefit their lives.
      1. Many people have zero interest in what we believe until they see two things.
        1. They must see that what we believe causes us to care.
        2. They must see that what we believe blesses our lives on a daily basis.
      2. The faith that produces a fulfilled life worth living impresses them.
      3. A relationship with God that enables us to cope with life impresses them.
      4. When living in Christ produces better marriages, better parents, better neighbors, better friends, better workers, and just plain better people, that impresses them.
    3. Our genuine conversion to Christ creates opportunities to share Christ.

Have you ever been converted, or have you only complied with what you were told to do? Compliance is not conversion.

Many prostitutes saw and heard Jesus. This prostitute came to Jesus crying. Why? She knew what she was. She knew what she deserved. She knew Jesus cared.

Have you ever cried when you came to Jesus? Have you ever realized who you are? Have you ever realized what you deserve? Do you understand that Jesus cares? Has Jesus said to you, “Your sins are forgiven?”