Is It Up To Us … Or God?

Posted by on January 30, 2000 under Sermons

Suppose we were eating together in a small group. Suppose someone began a discussion about what needed to happen in this congregation for it to reach its potential. Everyone in the group shares his or her thoughts on that subject. You also share your thoughts. What would you say?

What do you think would be the focus of that discussion? Would the focus be on how we need to respond to our culture? On how we should address problems in our society? On what we need to do to strengthen marriage? On what families and homes need to do to stabilize? On what ministries we need to develop? On the ways that we need to use our facilities?

What place would we give God in that discussion? Would any of the discussion focus on ways that we could depend more on God? Would we discuss the leadership role that we should give God? Would anyone dare suggest that we need to let God lead?

  1. “Get real, David! God doesn’t…”
    1. God doesn’t what?
      1. Finish your thought. God doesn’t what?
        1. God does not act today?
        2. God cannot do anything today?
        3. So if we depend on God’s leadership, nothing happens?
      2. Is the only way that God accomplishes anything is for us to do it?
        1. Do we really think that without us God is helpless?
        2. “If a job is to be done, we will have to do it.”
        3. “If a problem is to be fixed, we will have to fix it.”
        4. “If our lives are to have strength, we must be the source of the strength.”
        5. “If we need answers, we will have to discover them within our own minds.”
    2. What kind of God do you think exists?
      1. What kind of God do you believe in?
      2. Or do you believe in God?
        1. “Oh, yes, yes, I believe in God.”
        2. Then tell me about the God you believe in.
    3. Let me talk to two groups, and both groups are sitting here.
      1. Group one, what kind of God do you believe in?
        1. “I believe in the God who created!”
        2. “I believe in the God who gave Isaac to the 100 year old Abraham!”
        3. “I believe in the God who delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery!”
        4. “I believe in the God who took Israel across the Red Sea on dry land, who sustained them in the wilderness, who gave them Canaan!”
        5. “I believe in the God who sent His son to be a human!”
        6. “I believe in the God who resurrected Jesus from the dead!”
        7. “I believe in the God who created the church in an extremely wicked world!”
      2. And what can that God do in our world, in our culture, and in our lives today?
        1. “Well, what ever we get done for him.”
        2. How many people was God dependent on when He created?
        3. How many people was He dependent on when He gave Abraham Isaac?
        4. How many people was He dependent on when He rescued Israel?
        5. How many people was He dependent on when He raised Jesus from the dead?
        6. How many people was He dependent on when He established the church?
      3. We have great faith in the fact that God was powerful and active up through the first century AD, but we have little faith in the power and activity of God today.
      4. In fact we have swapped places with God: we have the power, and God serves us, so we think.
    4. Group two, what kind of God do you believe in?
      1. “I couldn’t tell you anything about God because I don’t know anything about God.”
      2. “Now I can tell you all about the church.”
        1. “I can tell you about proper doctrine.”
        2. “I can tell you about proper practice.”
        3. “I can tell you about true and false positions on doctrinal issues.”
        4. “I can tell you who we should and who we should not fellowship.”
        5. “I can tell you the work the church should not do and the work the church should do.”
        6. “I can talk to you about anything you want to discuss if we talk about the church, but I cannot talk to you much about God.”
      3. “But let’s be real honest; it is not important to know that much about God.”
        1. “The heart of true religion today is not about God.”
        2. “The heart of true religion today is about the church.”
        3. “Salvation is not about God; salvation is about the church.”
        4. “Salvation involves Christ more than it does God, but it only involves what Christ did, not what Christ does.”
  2. In either case we create a very human church and a very human Christianity.
    1. The end result in both groups is the same.
      1. God does not do anything today.
      2. It is all up to us.
      3. So let’s not waste a lot of time in prayer.
        1. Pray the acceptable, standard prayer at the acceptable, standard times in acceptable, standard worship.
        2. Now we should really get upset if we do not pray.
        3. But we should also get upset if we pray too much.
        4. Give God a little prayer and He is content; just throw Him a spiritual bone.
    2. What if we placed God and Jesus Christ front and center?
      1. What if we had a group who believed in God’s power and the power of prayer who spent time together every Sunday morning praying for the Bible classes and the sermon? Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waster of time?
      2. What if on Wednesday nights we had the elders stand at each side of the auditorium with the invitation that anyone could pray with them about anything on his or her heart. The elders would find a private place to pray with them. Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waste of time?
      3. What if, instead of reading names off a list and giving a generic prayer to ask God to help the sick and comfort the grieved, we had a group to pray for those people by name and by situation? Think anything would happen? Or would that be a waste of time?
    3. “Whoa! Now wait a minute, David! We DO NOT believe …”
      1. We do not believe what?
      2. We do not believe that the God who created heaven and earth and raised Jesus from the death is capable of independent action?
  3. Brothers and sisters, maybe the reason that we have not reached our potential is because we have no faith in God.
    1. Maybe we think that God depends on us instead of us depending on Him.
    2. Maybe we don’t pray as we should because we don’t think God can do anything.
    3. Maybe we place our faith in an institution we call the church instead of the God who sent the Savior and created the church.
    4. Maybe we have built a religion that does not require faith.
      1. Faith in God is secondary; faith in us is primary.
      2. Faith in Jesus is restricted to facts.
      3. Faith in the church as an institution is critical.
      4. Success in the church depends on us, not on God.
      5. It is human wisdom, and human leadership, and human energy, and human logic, and human effort that get the job done. Humans, not God, get the job done.

When Paul spoke to a group in Athens who literally knew nothing about God or Jesus, Paul began his lesson with God. This is what he said:
Acts 17:24-28 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

James, in speaking to Christians who were more like us than we wish to admit, said this,
James 4:1-4 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The God who created the world, who sent the Savior, who resurrected him from the dead, who created the church is active today. He will still be at work long after everyone of us is dead. His existence is not dependent on us. Our existence is very much dependent on Him. When your faith is in God, Christ becomes the center of your life.

God Loves You! But I … But We …

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

How much does God love a person? We all can give the standard church answer! “God loves a person enough: to let His son die for him or her; to forgive his or her sins; to allow anyone to become His son or daughter; to let him or her be part of His family; to ‘stick with’ the imperfect Christian; to give him or her eternal life in heaven.”

How much does God love: your wife when you are very frustrated with her? Your husband when you are very angry at him? Your child when you are very upset with him or her? Your parents when they fail you? Your best friend when he or she has not acted like a best friend? Your boss when the feelings you have for him or her do not fit the concept of love? Your neighbor when he or she is not neighborly?

Let’s accurately simplify the question. How much does God love the person who displeases you? How much does God love the person who hurts you?

Will we ever love the displeaser as God does? No. Will we allow God to teach us how to love the displeaser? Yes. The Christian’s ability to love the displeaser will always move in the direction of God’s love.

Why? “You have heard that it was said, ?You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 4:43-47, NAS)

An enemy is a true “displeaser.” Jesus’ teaching: be a positive force for good in the life of the displeaser even when he or she causes you harm. Why? Because your eye is fixed on God, and that is what God does. God does not act like Satan. He does not act like humans or human forces controlled by Satan. If we only love people who love us and only greet people like us, we are no different from the people who are controlled by evil. Our existence is directed by God, not Satan. We are His children, not Satan’s!

God’s kingdom does not function like anything else on earth. It functions on the will of the God who loved people who opposed Him, who created forgiveness before people repented, who atoned for evil before people turned toward righteousness, who created an inheritance for heirs who had not yet acknowledged Him to be their Father.

People who belong to God do not treat people as does an evil society–not in their families, not their neighbors, not in the store, not on the job, not in the church. People who belong to God live for that life that comes after death, not for the life of right now.

“That’s the Way It Works!”

Posted by on January 23, 2000 under Sermons

This is our year of national elections. This is the year we celebrate the reality of democracy. This is the year that we practice the democratic ideal in ways that are uniquely American. This year we will elect a President.

How do we do that? First, we have a two party system. There are more political parties than two, but the two are the powerful parties that have a realistic chance of electing a President. Second, we have a primary system. Every person who hopes to be a national presidential candidate for one of those two parties must campaign in the primaries. There it is decided, state primary by state primary, who will be the presidential candidates in the two major parties. Third, we have major party conventions. At these conventions the presidential candidates of the two major parties are officially declared to be “the party candidates.” Fourth, these two candidates campaign for the national vote for about four months. Fifth, we have a nation election, and, ideally, the person who gets the most votes is our President for four years.

Why do we do it that way? Do you want the constitutional answer, the historical answer, or the “person-on-the-street” answer? Perhaps one oversimplified answer will do for all three: “That is the way it works.” Is “that the way it works” in every democracy? No. “That is the way it works” in America. Can you imagine living in a country where it did not work that way? Can you imagine it working in any other way in America?

That is the system. The system works. Protect the system. Be loyal to the system. Do not mess up the system. Do not change the system. From the perspective of the American people, the essential key to democracy working is the system.

From the perspective of the American people, the key to anything working is the system. Always stick with the system. In the system you will always find the life and the essence of success.

  1. It is does not surprise me that in our culture and our nation, the key to religious success is declared to be in the system.
    1. That is one reason that many in the Church of Christ often find the needs and the spiritual conditions that surround us so confusing.
    2. If our religious system is right, why are we not more successful?
    3. If our religious system worked well in the past, why is it too often ineffective today?
  2. Placing faith in our religious system does not make us unique.
    1. The nation of Israel in which Jesus was born placed their faith in their religious system.
      1. First, their system began with a fact: the nation of Israel was the chosen people of God.
        1. The Old Testament emphasized that fact many times.
        2. Their problem did not come from that fact.
        3. Their problem came from their interpretation of that fact.
        4. To them that meant God loved them to the exclusion of other people.
        5. A person who was not an Israelite could convert to Judaism and become an Israelite, but to convert the person had to be indoctrinated in the system and live by the system.
      2. Second, the heart and soul of their system was the Law that God gave them through Moses.
        1. The heart and soul of the Law were the ten commandments.
        2. Their religious system was based on their understanding and application of the Law.
    2. In their religious system, the ten commandments (first given in Exodus 20:1-17,) were the foundation of everything.
      1. You worship the Lord God who delivered you from Egypt, and no other god.
      2. You do not make any object that represents God; you make no idols.
      3. You do not use God’s name in a way that enables you to deceive others.
      4. You will keep Saturday holy by making it a day of rest.
  3. Then in first century Israel was born a Jewish man named Jesus, God’s son, who through God’s resurrection became the Christ.
    1. Jesus did not teach or work within their religious system.
      1. Jesus worshipped God, but Jesus did not emphasize the things their system emphasized.
      2. Jesus honored God’s name, but Jesus did not honor God in the Ways their system emphasized.
      3. Jesus honored God by observing Saturday as the day of rest, but Jesus did things on Saturday that their system did not permit.
      4. The devoutly religious and the religious leaders were the greatest adversaries Jesus had.
      5. Why would Israel’s devoutly religious people oppose Jesus? Because Jesus’ teachings did not emphasize the same things that their system emphasized. He declared truth and revealed God outside the system.
        1. The law said, “Do not commit adultery,” but Jesus forgave people who committed adultery.
        2. The law said, “Do not steal,” but Jesus forgave thieves (tax collectors).
        3. The law said not to work on Saturday, and Jesus did good on Saturday.
        4. Jesus did not restrict his work to function within the religious system.
    2. Jesus died to be Savior to all people, not just Israel.
      1. The good news of God’s accomplishments in Jesus’ death and resurrection were shared with the world.
      2. Jesus’ teachings were shared with the world.
      3. Within a few years people who were non-Israelite Christians outnumbered Israelites who were Christians.
      4. Jewish Christians had a problem accepting these people as Christians.
      5. Why?
        1. They did not fit the system.
        2. In the past, many of these people worshipped other gods, and the law said do not do that. How could God save people who had worshipped other gods?
        3. In the past, many of these people honored and encouraged the making of idols, and the law said not to do that. How could God save people who had encouraged the making of idols?
        4. In the past, these people had not honored God, and the law said you must honor God. How could God save people who had not honored Him in the past?
        5. These people had never kept Saturday as a holy day of rest, and the law said to do that. How could God save such people?
        6. Many of these people were completely ignorant of the Law!
      6. Because these people did not fit the religious system of Judaism, many Israelite Christians refused to consider them to be God’s people.
  4. In a concise, direct statement, Paul dealt with the reality of God’s salvation in Christ as he wrote Romans 3:21-26.
    But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. This is my understanding of Paul’s declaration.
      1. God found a way to be righteous and to reveal righteousness that is not based on the Law.
        1. God can independently of the Law be righteous in His actions.
        2. That allows God to extend to people the opportunity to be righteous before Him that in a way that does not depend on the law.
        3. Instead of the Law being the way to become righteous, the Law is a witness to what God has done.
        4. God’s word, the Law and the Prophets, are the witness to this new way to be righteous.
      2. In this is the new way to be righteous:
        1. God Himself is righteous through what He did in Jesus Christ.
        2. God can make people righteous through what He did in Jesus Christ.
        3. Jesus made this new way to be righteous possible by trusting God.
        4. This new way makes us righteous when we trust Jesus.
        5. This new way to be righteous is available to everyone who trusts Jesus.
        6. Everyone, Israelite and non-Israelite, needs this new way to be righteous because every person is guilty of evil and falls short of God’s glory.
      3. Any person who trusts what God did in Jesus can be justified.
        1. By being justified, Paul means God looks at that person as if he or she was not guilty of sin.
        2. This justification does not come through obeying the law; it is given by God as a gift; it comes through God’s grace.
        3. God’s justification has to be a gift; no human deserves justification.
      4. God can justify us, can look at us as if we are not guilty of any evil, because God redeemed us with Jesus Christ.
        1. He used Jesus’ death to buy us back from evil; He paid the full penalty for our evil by giving Jesus’ life and the blood for our mistakes.
        2. God publicly substituted Jesus’ life for the consequences of our evil.
        3. Jesus’ blood paid for our evil.
        4. Jesus’ blood benefits us when we trust what God did in that blood.
      5. Why was it necessary for God to substitute Jesus’ life for our evil?
        1. It was necessary because God endured all the human evil committed prior to the death of Jesus.
        2. It was necessary because God’s justice had not destroyed humanity for wickedness.
        3. It was necessary because God had shown grace and practiced forgiveness in all those generations before Jesus died.
        4. It was necessary because righteousness is a part of God’s nature, and, because His nature is righteous, God could not be unrighteous.
        5. To refuse to make all people pay the full consequences of evil before Christ was an unrighteous act if God had not paid for those passed over sins with the blood of Jesus.
      6. By allowing Jesus to die for human evil, God was just.
        1. In Jesus’ purity God paid the full price of every sin that ever has been or ever will be committed by humans.
        2. Because God paid for those sins, God is just.
        3. Because God paid for all sins, God can forgive any person.
    2. Paul’s point is simple.
      1. God’s innocent Son died to pay for every evil ever committed by people.
      2. Jesus was innocent of any evil, therefore Jesus could be our substitute sacrifice.
      3. Jesus lived and died in absolute surrender to and trust in God.
      4. God fulfilled justice by letting the innocent Jesus die for our sins.
      5. Because God fulfilled justice, God is free to justify every person who trusts what He did in the death of Jesus.
  5. If we want to, we can make rules, regulations, and laws out of everything God did in Jesus.
    1. We can tell ourselves and the world, “That is the way it works.”
    2. We can make a system out of what God did in Jesus.
    3. But if we do that, faith in that system cannot save us.
    4. Faith in Jesus, faith in what God did in Jesus’ death will save us.
      1. Only in Jesus’ death could God be righteous.
      2. Only if we trust what God did in Jesus’ death can we be righteous before God.

[Prayer: God, help us trust the only truth that can free us from sin. Help us trust Jesus. Help us trust his death. Help us trust his blood. Help us trust his resurrection.]

In what do you trust? God knows if your faith is in a system or in His son. Do you know? When you trust a system, you believe in your self. When you trust Jesus, you believe in God.

Being What You Want To Be; Doing What You Want To Do

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Can you imagine telling your children living at home (regardless of their ages), “You are free to do anything you want to do, behave any way you want to behave, be anything you want to be. We impose no restrictions on you.”

Each day your children allowed their moods and wants to determine their behavior and activities. What a nightmare for loving, responsible parents! If your children chose on the basis of “want to,” mood, and desire, what would happen? To school attendance? To dress? To behavior? To bedtime? To diet? To hygiene? To curfews? To automobiles? To recreational activities? To dating activities? To respect?

Can you imagine this: you give your children the true liberty of personal choice in everything, and your children’s behavior improves? That is an unlikely happening because of the immaturity factor. Children do not possess the perspective produced by years, the wisdom produced by experience, the judgment produced by failure, or the understanding produced by success. To them, the restraints of maturity are never in conflict with the self-centeredness of desire.

Parents dream of seeing unrestrained freedom produce improved behavior and choices in their children. Why? Improved behavior and choices would mean they preferred a life, a lifestyle, and behavior based on the Christian values you teach. They would be governed by love for Christ instead of grudgingly controlled by necessity.

What does God want to see in His children? He wants to see freedom in Christ producing improved behavior and choices. He wants to see the maturity factor of love become the governing factor of life. He wants to see children who prefer the life, the behavior, and the focus of the life found in Christ.

I do not presume to know how far the grace of God extends. In the gospels it is obvious that God’s grace flowing through Jesus was more powerful than demons, past sexual sin, or past dishonesty. In the epistles it is obvious that God wants His children to mature as they live in His grace. Our desire to reduce every situation to a “lost and saved” issue oversimplifies the realities of God and the needs of a person. Grace is not a license to sin, but grace is the only way God can permit us to be righteous before Him.

When a mature Christian chooses to behave any way he wants, he acts more like Jesus. When a mature Christian chooses to be what she wants to be, she is more like Jesus. His or her attitudes and behavior are rooted in love, not controlled by necessity. An existence of faith in Christ IS what he or she prefers. It IS his or her life of choice.

Galatians 5:13, For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (NAS)

Boiling Over: Acceptance Of Sexual Ungodliness

Posted by on January 16, 2000 under Sermons

In 1990 George Barna published a book entitled, Frog In The Kettle. That book was intended to be a “wake up call” to churches who were dedicated to converting individuals to Jesus Christ. The book title was taken from a long known situation. If you place a frog in a pot of cool water sitting on the stove, you can bring the pot to a boil and the frog will not jump out as temperature rises. The frog will stay in the water until it dies. He gets so accustomed to the rising temperature that he never recognizes the danger. Barna’s point is simple: the Christian and the church become so accustomed to our changing culture that we can die before we recognize the dangers.

Barna was not challenging us to isolate. He was challenging us to stop deceiving ourselves. He was challenging us to wake up to the changes that are occurring and become a positive, active force instead of just sitting in the pot.

That was a decade ago. Barna’s insights were quite prophetic.

  1. Let me illustrate what has happened and is happening.
    1. I will start way back about four decades, so be patient and think.
    2. Let me begin with us older folks in the audience.
      1. How many of you watched the television series called “The Honeymooners”? (Ask for a show of hands).
        1. What a sexually provocative title–honeymooning!
        2. But that was NOT a sexually provocative series–Ralph Cramden and his wife Alice were not sex symbols!
        3. Even though they were a married couple in the series, did you ever see Ralph and Alice in the same bed?
        4. How many romantic scenes (not sexually explicit scenes!) do you remember being a part of a segment?
        5. When you think about the TV series called “The Honeymooners,” do you think about sex?
      2. How many of you watched the “I Love Lucy” show starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez? (Ask for a show of hands)
        1. Were Lucy and Desi, who were actually husband and wife, sex symbols?
        2. How often were steamy, sexual encounters a part of the story line?
        3. Even though they were married on the show and actually married in real life, how often did you see them in the same bed? They used twin beds!
    3. In 1970 Joyce, our children, and I lived for four years in a rural area in the rain forest area of West Africa.
      1. To give you some insight into our physical circumstances:
        1. Calling to the states was so uncertain that we never attempted it.
        2. It took an air mail letter three weeks to travel from where we lived to our parents.
        3. Very few English language publications were available, and very few English language programs could be heard on the radio.
        4. There was no television.
      2. In virtually every way, we were removed from the American culture.
    4. When we returned to America to live in 1974, things had changed dramatically.
      1. Do you remember the “Mary Tyler Moore” show?
        1. Would you classify Ted as a man of sexually high moral values?
        2. Do you recall that Sue Ann with her typical perspective frequently considered the sexual first?
      2. The television series “MASH” was quite popular when we returned.
        1. And initially we were shocked.
        2. The sexual exploits of Hawkeye Pierce and Hot Lips Hoolihan were very much a part of the story line.
        3. It was straightforward, but it used your imagination.
        4. However, when you look at a program of “MASH” today, it seems down right tame sexually.
      3. The sexually explicit progression continued. Do not raise your hand; just think.
        1. Did you watch and enjoy the series called the “Golden Girls”?
          1. How often were sexual affairs and exploits discussed?
          2. In the story line, how important were sexual situations?
        2. Did you watch and enjoy the series called “Designing Women”?
          1. How often were sexual affairs or exploits discussed?
          2. How often did sexual situations factor in their weekly episodes?
      4. How long have you watched the daytime dramas?
        1. If there were no affairs, no rapes, no adultery, no divorce, no steamy love scenes, how much would be cut out of those dramas?
        2. If you removed all sexual seduction, all affairs, and all sexual unfaithfulness from those dramas, how much material would remain?
  2. How much has changed in what is depicted on the television and movie screen in the last 40 years?
    1. If you grew up as a child watching the television and movies of today, how would that have affected your sexual attitudes and behavior?
      1. Forget the TV comedies!
      2. Forget the TV dramas!
      3. Even forget the PG-13 and R rated movies!
      4. What about some of the commercials?
    2. The changes are nothing less than astounding.
      1. What was considered pornography or X-rated sexual content in the 1960s might make the rating of PG-13 today.
      2. Yet, the average Christian is less shocked and less offended by what is shown on public TV today than the general public was by “the sexually provocative” materials of the 1960s.
      3. We have come to accept it as “just life.”
    3. The temperature rose and the frog did not jump–it cooked.
  3. I understand that my perspective is a not a common one, and you may disagree with me–agreeing or disagreeing with me is not the issue.
    1. For a long, long time I have felt that we missed the point in our opposition to the abuse of the sex drive and sex appeal.
      1. The most popular form of opposition the church directed toward the exploitation and abuse of sexual interest has been to condemn it.
        1. “This is what fornication is; it is wrong; God condemns it; the person who commits fornication is going to hell.”
        2. “This is what adultery is; it is wrong; God condemns it; the person who commits adultery is going to hell.”
        3. “This is what pornography is; it is wrong; God condemns it; the person who uses pornography is going to hell.”
        4. I certainly used a form of that opposition for years.
      2. Our most common approach in opposing any form of sexual exploitation is to try to put the fear of hell in people.
        1. It has not worked among Christians.
        2. It has not been a positive influence in touching people in our culture–would a sexually distressed person come to us for help?
      3. “Do you believe that the abuse or exploitation of human sexual desires is evil?” Absolutely!
        1. My understanding of God makes adultery evil.
        2. My understanding of God makes fornication evil.
        3. My understanding of God makes pornography evil.
      4. If a person acknowledges that the abuse or exploitation of human sexual desires is evil, does that solve the problem?
        1. No!
        2. Many Christians who can make powerful arguments against the evils of being sexually active outside the context of a healthy marriage are guilty of being sexually active outside the context of a healthy marriage.
        3. For too many Christians, the key is that no human in the church knows what you are doing; as long as it is secret or hidden, it is okay.
        4. Also there are Christians who accept as fact that sexual activity outside of healthy marriage is evil, but who do not know how to escape the slavery of sexual evil.
      5. We do not address or solve the problem by merely condemning it.
        1. We have implied that if you keep it quiet and hidden, it is okay.
        2. We have not accepted the responsibility to help people understand and escape sexual evil.
    2. The predictable consequence of abusing our sexual desires, drives, and natures is this: it makes us extremely selfish and insensitive.
      1. Sexual indulgence without responsible, healthy commitment makes us increasingly self centered.
      2. It increasingly diminishes our capacity for compassion and kindness.
      3. It increasingly makes us hard and cynical by increasingly hardening our consciences.
      4. It increasingly causes us to look at other people as things to be used and exploited rather than persons made in God’s image.
    3. Bottom line: irresponsible sexual indulgence makes us extremely selfish individuals.
      1. The latest statistics available reveal that Americans abandon 23,000 babies annually at the hospital.
        1. That number does not include babies who are abandoned on streets, in public restrooms, or other public places.
        2. That number does not include babies who are abandoned in trash cans.
        3. That does not include the number of babies who die from neglect.
      2. The abortion rate is declining, but the last reported rate was over 1,221,000 for 1996.
      3. Do you see any selfishness?
    4. One of the greatest sources of pain in our culture is the pain of rejection that comes from failed or exploitive sexual encounters in and out of marriage.
      1. The people who experience that pain feel:
        1. Used.
        2. Deceived.
        3. Abandoned.
        4. Discarded.
      2. Do you see the consequences of selfishness?
    5. The more selfish we become, the more dismal our relationships are, and the higher the failure rate of our relationships.
      1. Sexual fulfillment is good, not evil; it was created by God, not designed by Satan.
      2. That is why God designed us to live in the successful relationship of a healthy marriage.

To the Christians who were living in the sexually exploitive port city of Corinth, Paul said that in that environment at that time he recommended that they not marry. However, Paul realized that was not an option for some. So he said,

(1 Corinthians 7:2-6) But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

Paul was not recommending that men and women sexually exploit each other in marriage. In an environment less stressful than Corinth, Paul declared to Christians in Ephesus:

(Ephesians 5:22-25,28) Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

In the loving, respectful relationship of a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want to care for each other in every way, in every need.

Promises: The Heart Of Our Joy

Posted by on under Sermons

Parents, suppose your fifteen-year-old son or daughter decided to attend a “blow out” party one Friday night and Saturday. Your son or daughter had always been honest with you. He or she made mistakes, but never deliberately deceived you. He or she has never plotted to create a conspiracy against you.

Suppose your fifteen-year-old is very successful in the deceit. You thought he or she spent the night with a friend, but he or she spent Friday night being part of Saturday at a “anything goes” party. He or she got drunk. He or she experimented with drugs and got high as well as drunk. While drunk and high, he or she decided to become sexually active.

Your teen comes home Saturday afternoon feeling physically and emotionally horrible. The conscience is killing him or her. Your son or daughter feels so ashamed that he or she cannot look at you.

Your fifteen-year-old quickly heads to the bedroom and spends the rest of Saturday afternoon and night in bed. Sunday he or she worships with you. Sunday night he or she says, “I have to talk to both of you.” With tears, regret, and shame, your child tells you everything.

When you hear the confession, you are devastated. You cannot grasp how your teen can know that your love for him or her is genuine and deceive you. You cannot imagine your child doing what he or she did. You are grieved; you are angry; you are embarrassed; you are ashamed; you are confused.

As parents you talk all night instead of sleeping. You get angry together. You cry together. You share your devastation. Finally you make a decision.

Monday night with lots of tears, all three of you talk. And you tell your fifteen- year-old, “This our commitment to you. We forgive you. We will work with and encourage you. We want you to make a commit to us. Work with us to rebuild our relationship. If you will be open and honest with us, we will never stop loving you and encouraging you. We ask you to make us this promise: accept your share of the responsibility to help us rebuild our relationship.”

  1. How powerful is a promise?
    1. What makes a promise powerful?
      1. In human-human relationships and in the human-divine relationships, nothing has as much potential for power as a promise does.
      2. However, for a promise to be powerful, two things must be true:
        1. The first concerns the person who gives the promise: the promise must be genuine.
        2. The second concerns the person who responds to the promise: he or she must trust the promise.
      3. When a promise is not genuine, it quickly loses its power.
      4. If the person who receives the promise does not trust it, it has no power.
    2. Go back with me to the opening illustration.
      1. These were the parents’ promises:
        1. Forgiveness, support, and encouragement.
        2. Continuing love and help if the child will be open, honest, and accept responsibility.
      2. If those promises are to be powerful in the parent-child relationship, two things must be true.
        1. The parents’ promises must be genuine.
        2. The fifteen-year old must trust those promises.
      3. If the promises are not real, if they are not genuine, the relationship will die.
      4. If the fifteen-year old does not trust the promises, the relationship will die.
  2. Most of you in this assembly have been baptized.
    1. This is God’s promise:
      1. If you trust what God did in the death and resurrection of Jesus (that is what it means to believe),
      2. If you resolve to redirect your life by turning it away from the evil in you (that is what it means to repent),
      3. And if you are baptized because you believe and repent,
        1. God will destroy your sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
        2. God will place you in Christ (Galatians 3:27).
        3. God will make you His child (Galatians 3:26,27).
        4. God will raise you from baptism to newness of life (Romans 6:4).
        5. God will place you in His body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
      4. I ask each of you who have been baptized, do you believe those promises? I anticipate most if not all of you would quickly say that you believe them.
      5. I ask each of you who have been baptized, why do you believe the promises?
        1. “Because that is what scripture says.”
        2. “Because those are God’s promises.”
    2. Let me clearly understand you.
      1. I am to trust God’s promises to the person who is baptized; because he believes and repents. Those promises are:
        1. I will destroy your sin.
        2. I will place you in Christ.
        3. I will make you God’s child.
        4. I will give you newness of life.
        5. I will make you a part of Christ’s body.
      2. I am to trust all those things will happen when I believe, repent, and am baptized because:
        1. The Bible says it.
        2. God promises it.
      3. Is that correct?
        1. Is that always correct?
        2. When the Bible reveals a promise from God, I am to trust that promise?
  3. Let me share with you another promise God gives.
    Read with me 1 John 1:5-10.

    This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. In my understanding, these are John’s points.
      1. There is no evil in God.
      2. Those who have fellowship with God do not knowingly live their lives in evil.
      3. If we claim to walk with God and knowingly live our lives for evil, we are lying, and we do not practice the truth.
      4. If we commit ourselves to living our lives in God’s light, two things will occur in our lives:
        1. We will have fellowship with other Christians.
        2. Christ’s blood will continue to cleanse our sins.
      5. If we claim there is no evil in our lives (therefore we do not need God’s forgiveness), we are self deceived and God’s truth is not in us.
      6. If we will confess the evil that we realize is in us, God will do two things.
        1. He will forgive us of the evil we that we realize and confess.
        2. He will also cleanse us of all the evil we commit but do not realize.
      7. If we claim that we have committed no evil, we make God a liar and God’s word is not in us.
    2. In those statements, John reveals some incredible promises from God.
      1. First, John wants us to understand that Jesus’ cleansing blood does not stop flowing through our lives after we are baptized.
        1. Baptism begins the flow of that cleansing blood.
        2. That atoning blood continues to flow in our lives and to cleanse us from the evil that occurs in us.
      2. Second, for the atoning blood to continue to flow in our lives, the Christian must accept these responsibilities.
        1. I must honestly accept the fact that evil will always occur in my life.
        2. I must honestly commit myself to living in God’s light by studying, learning, and understanding His word.
        3. I must honestly accept the responsibility to confess to God the evil I commit when I realize that this evil has occurred.
        4. I must honestly accept the responsibility to maintain fellowship with Christians.
      3. If, as a Christian, I pretend that I do not commit any evil or that I do not need God’s forgiveness, I become a self-deceived liar who does not practice the truth, and God’s word does not live in me.
    3. What is God’s promise to Christians?
      1. He promises that Jesus’ atoning blood will never stop flowing in our lives providing us forgiveness.
      2. He promises that He will forgive the evil that we recognize and confess.
      3. He promises that He will also forgive us of the evil we do not even realize that we commit.
    4. Why should we trust those promises?
      1. We should trust them because God is faithful and righteous.
      2. In our words, we should trust Him because without fail God keeps His promises.
        1. He cannot lie.
        2. He cannot deceive.
        3. He always, without fail, does what He says He will do.
  4. That is why it is called “newness of life.”
    1. That “new life” that comes into existence the moment that you are baptized was not designed to fade away during the rest of your physical life.
      1. This new life begins existing when the believer who repents is baptized into Christ, just like new life begins when a baby is born.
      2. That new life becomes stronger, more powerful as the person grows closer to God by maturing in Christ.
      3. Why?
        1. Part of this has to do with what we do: we mature; we grow up.
        2. Part of this has to do with what God does: He keeps using the blood of Jesus to cleanse us and forgive us each day.
      4. In Christ I begin each day of my life as a new, forgiven child of God because every day I am cleansed and forgiven by Jesus’ atoning blood.
    2. I must not abuse God’s promises and forgiveness.
      1. It is possible for me to do what God wants me to do.
        1. I can live my life in God’s light.
        2. I can have fellowship with Christians by being a responsible part of the Christian community.
        3. I can confess evil in my life when I realize it is there.
      2. I cannot be perfect, but I can be faithful.

[Prayer: God, help us know and trust your promises.]

When we know and trust these promises, we experience freedom and are filled with joy.

God Himself promised that He will never stop forgiving us if we will live our lives in His light and responsibly turn from our mistakes when we realize them.

God will do exactly that! It is impossible for God to make a deceitful promise. What we must understand is this: the God who loves us has no desire to deceive us.

Freedom To Grow Spiritually

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Do you pray this prayer? “Lord, spiritually help me grow up. Help me understand how to develop a heart like Jesus had. Help me learn to think like Jesus thought. Let me see Jesus clearly so I can look at You and see what Jesus saw. Help me develop his attitudes and motives. I know all my important relationships will be blessed powerfully if I just grow up spiritually. Help me learn! Help me grow! Help me surrender!”

Are you attending a Sunday morning adult Bible class? If you are, encourage others to come. If you are not, please join us! Twenty places now use our Sunday morning material for their classes. These places are located in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, California, Oregon, Canada, Guyana, and Australia. Others using this material are in places where Christianity is illegal. It is legal to study these lessons here! Use your freedom! Come learn! Come mature spiritually!

Sexual Perceptions: Passing Them On

Posted by on January 9, 2000 under Sermons

If someone gave you, personally, the power to do anything you willed to do to eliminate irresponsible, selfish sexual behavior in our culture, what would you do?

“I would teach every person that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is wrong. This problem exists because of ignorance!” Do some Christians commit adultery? Have they been taught it is wrong?

“I would pass a law that made it a crime to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage.” Check the law code of any state. Are the laws “on the book” that make adultery a crime? Has there ever been a time when people did not commit adultery?

“I would put the fear of hell in every adult! I would made them aware that the man or woman who has sexual intercourse outside of marriage is going to hell!” Has the fear of hell eliminated adultery among Christians? Listen to a significant irony. Among Christians, the use of pornography and prostitutes tends to increase among those who wage war against sexual sin by the threat of hell.

We will not eliminate sexual sin by declaring that it is evil. We will not eliminate sexual sin by passing laws. We will not eliminate sexual sin by using the threat of hell. Any one of those or any combination of those are inadequate. We have used all three, and look at the reality of where we are.

  1. People who love and respect people do not engage in irresponsible sexual intercourse that makes no commitment, or limited commitment, or short term commitment.
    1. That ancient truth is present reality; it has always been true.
      1. Let me show you that truth plainly and clearly in the Bible.
      2. God brought Israel out of the slavery of Egypt and gave them laws in the wilderness to do three things:
        1. Their laws were designed to change their concepts of God.
        2. Their laws were designed to change their behavior.
        3. Their laws were designed to change the way they treated people.
        4. All three objectives were inseparably linked.
      3. The core of those laws was the ten commandments, and the basic objective of the ten commandments was to do those three things.
        1. In the ten commandments are these two laws:
          1. “You shall not commit adultery” [Exodus 20:14].
          2. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, livestock, or possessions” [Exodus 20:17].
        2. The objective of “Do not commit adultery” was to change their behavior.
        3. The objective of “Do not covert your neighbor’s wife” was to change the way you treated each other; respecting your neighbor definitely changed the way you treated him and his wife.
      4. What are the two greatest commandments God ever gave? According to our Lord Jesus Christ they are [Matthew 22:34-40]
        1. Number 1: You shall love God with all your being.
        2. Number 2: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
        3. He further said that the entire law and the prophets [in our words “the whole word of God”] depends on these two commands.
      5. What is the word that Jesus used for “love” and what does it mean?
        1. The word Jesus used for love in both commands was agapaseis, a form of agapao.
        2. It basically means to seek the highest good of the other person.
          1. Seeking their highest good is not determined by your or their desires.
          2. Seeking the highest good is determined by what is in their present, future, and eternal best interests.
      6. Then what do those two commands mean?
        1. The person who belongs to God will seek God’s highest good with all of his or her being.
        2. The person who belongs to God will seek another person’s highest good with the same devotion that he or she seeks his or her own highest good.
      7. Why do you feel certain about your conclusion? Because that was Paul’s understanding.
        Romans 13:8-10 He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. When a person has sexual intercourse with another person outside the responsibility and commitment of healthy marriage, that act is not an act of love.
      1. You are not seeking God’s highest good.
      2. Your are not seeking your own highest good.
      3. You are not seeking the other person’s highest good.
      4. You seek pleasure and satisfaction, not the highest good.
      5. One of the first things that responsible parents teach their children is this: your behavior is not determined by desires or pleasure.
    3. We will not move sexual perceptions in the church or in Christian individuals in a positive direction until the church as a whole and Christians as individuals understand this basic truth: people who belong to God respect God and respect people.
      1. We must understand that one of the greatest ways to show disrespect to God and to a person is to engage in irresponsible, uncommitted sexual intercourse with the primary objective of experiencing personal pleasure.
        1. Should sexual intercourse be pleasurable? Absolutely.
        2. Did God intend for sexual intercourse to be a powerful means of bonding that advanced companionship and commitment? Yes.
        3. By God’s design and intent, where did He want that to occur? Within a responsible, committed, healthy marriage.
      2. We will not change what is happening among Christians, and we will not be a constructive influence on our culture until we understand that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is one of an expression of disrespect.
  2. How did our culture and Christians get into the sexual mess of today?
    1. Be patient for a few minutes, and really concentrate as you follow me.
      1. The depression had a horrible impact on the American home.
        1. Physical necessity required men to go wherever they needed to go in the effort to find work.
        2. That was a time of horrible poverty.
        3. It had a crippling effect on family relationships.
        4. It made it necessary for many children to grow up in homes focused on survival instead of focused on nurturing family bonds of relationship.
      2. World War II intensified the problem.
        1. Husbands and sons went to war.
        2. They were involved in incredible horrors and inhumane acts.
        3. They returned emotionally and psychologically distressed and crippled just like people do today, and those experiences produced chronic depression and post-traumatic stress.
        4. The end of that war brought a marriage rate that soared to one of the highest peaks in this nation’s history.
        5. A few years later, we experienced our first major problem with divorce.
      3. The effects of the depression, World War II, the Korean conflict, and Viet Nam destabilized a lot of homes, deteriorated a lot of family relationships, and produced a lot of children who became adults with poor relationship skills.
    2. Add another trend that began in the 1960s and still continues.
      1. In the 1960s our college students and young adults began a revolt against the home and family as they experienced it.
        1. They resented and rejected the family that projected an outside facade of goodness and existed in the reality of bad relationships.
        2. They practiced “free love” which meant be sexually active when you want to with anyone you want to.
      2. The role of the woman as homemaker began to change.
        1. Bad marriage relationships did not encourage her to stay at the home.
        2. Poor home relationships gave her too little fulfillment to stay there.
      3. Then we became an affluent society.
        1. We wanted more and more.
        2. We wanted a better living standard.
        3. Since many homes had bad relationships and poor relationship skills, we believed that marriage and the home would not suffer by wives entering the job market.
        4. When your family experiences were rooted in poor relationships, and when you think that is the way it should be, why choose a lifestyle that locks you into those poor relationships?
    3. I fully understand that this is an oversimplification that does not take into account some significant factors.
      1. But I want you to see something.
        1. I want you to see that forces began to work in our society well before 1930 to weaken family relationships and to cripple relationship skills.
        2. I want you to understand that the number one place a person should learn proper perspectives on respect, proper perspectives on love, proper perspectives on communication, and proper perspective on sex, is within the relationships of a healthy home.
        3. I want you to understand that what is happening sexually in our culture and among Christians is directly related to the deterioration of relationships in the home and the loss of relationship skills in the individual.
      2. Our society systematically has been creating this problem for over 70 years.
        1. It will not be improved by imposing a set of expectations, even if they come from God.
        2. It will not be improved by imposing a set of laws, no matter how moral or right they are.
        3. It will not be improved by a congregation, a set of congregations, or an alliance of churches imposing a system of discipline and consequences.
    4. We constructively will address this problem God’s way: we must train Christians to respect people if we hope to alter sexual perspectives.
      1. The solution begins by teaching people how to love and respect within the relationships of a healthy home.
      2. That happens one person at a time.
      3. That happens one family at a time.
      4. If we think that we can change sexual perspectives only by teaching a set of doctrinal truths, we are deceiving ourselves.
      5. When we teach people how to build and live in godly relationships, we will begin to address the problem.
    5. I share an observation that you can see for yourself.
      1. Where there is divorce, sexual perspectives and sexual conduct deteriorates.
      2. Where there is a hostile home, sexual perspectives and sexual conduct deteriorates.
      3. Where there is a seriously dysfunctional home, sexual perspectives and sexual conduct deteriorate.
      4. Why? The answer is simple: those situations do not teach people how to love and respect people.
      5. When those things happen, we pass the problem on to the next generation.

“Does it scare you to talk about these things?” Yes. “Why?” Because I came from that kind of background. Because there is divorce in my family. Because I know how culture attacks the Christian, and I know that I am not immune to that attack.

Does it scare you to realize these things?

I Cannot Live Without That!

Posted by on under Sermons

Besides air, water, and food, can you name something specific that you must have to live your everyday life?

Can you imagine what your life would become instantly if we could not buy gasoline? Think about it. Can you imagine what would happen if for one month neither you nor anyone you knew had access to any gasoline? Think about everything that could not happen. You would have almost no transportation. You could not drive your car–not to work, or school, or the store. You could not call a cab. How would your life change if the only way that you could go places was to walk or ride a bike?

Suppose that one person controlled every drop of gasoline in the Fort Smith area. This person literally decided who could and could not buy gasoline. He or she also decided how much gasoline each person could buy and what price that person paid. What power would this give this gasoline czar? His or her power would exceed your imagination!

“Wow! The people in the Old Testament surely were fortunate that they did not use gasoline!” In their world there were individuals who did control essential supplies.

  1. There was something as essential to life in the Mediterranean world as gasoline is to life in America.
    1. “What was that?” Olive oil.
      1. “David, you are kidding!” No, I’m not kidding.
      2. Olive oil was so important to daily life that the people who owned the olive presses had power over daily life.
      3. Consider life in Israel as an example of the importance of olive oil.
      4. Olive oil was essential to their religious life.
        1. It was an essential ingredient in their holy anointing oil.
        2. It played an important role in their religious ceremonies–it was among their firstfruit offerings, a part of their meal offerings, and was tithed.
        3. It was a part of the ceremonies for consecrating the priest, for confirming the purification of lepers, and for taking the Nazarite vow.
        4. Olive oil played an essential role in the religious life of Israel.
      5. Olives and olive oil were an essential part of their diet and food preparation.
        1. Fresh olives or pickled olives and bread were a common meal.
        2. It was their oil to mix with foods to be cooked.
        3. It was their cooking oil.
      6. Olive oil was a medicine.
        1. James 5:14 states the sick were anointed with oil.
        2. It was taken internally for digestive disorders.
        3. It was used externally for dry skin, bruises, and cuts. (Remember that the good Samaritan poured oil and wine in the injured man’s wounds [Luke 10:34]?)
      7. Olive oil was the fuel for their lamps (their primary source of light at night).
      8. They used olive oil as a hair dressing and used it to make cosmetics.
      9. It was used to anoint the king prior to his taking the throne.
      10. And it was used to anoint the body of a loved one before burial.
      11. In Israel, every day life without olive oil was unimaginable–it gave you light; it cooked your food; it was your medicine; it pampered the body; it made religious life possible; and it was a part of funerals.
    2. Where did they get olive oil?
      1. “That’s a dumb question! From olives!”
      2. How? By crushing the olives, and then pressing the crushed olives to yield the oil.
        1. A heavy rolling stone was used to crush them in a huge rock trough.
        2. A heavier stone was used to press the oil out of them.
      3. Literally, crushing and pressing olives gave people the oil of life.
  2. When God explained the Savior to Israel, God used the olive.
    1. In Isaiah 53 God used four images taken from their common life to explain the most important thing that God ever would do for people.
      1. These were the four images:
        1. A piercing–like having a spear thrust all the way through your body.
        2. A crushing–like the crushing of the olive to get the oil.
        3. A scourging –a public whipping administered for breaking a law.
        4. The slaughter of a sheep, which was at the heart of their worship.
      2. God explained how essential the Savior would be by using these images, and to Israel those illustrations were powerful.
    2. I want you to focus on the image of crushing, because crushing was a critical happening in producing the oil of life.
      1. Isaiah 53:4,5 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Isaiah 53 does an incredible job of revealing how the crushed Savior was burdened or pressed by human rebellion, wickedness, and waywardness.
        1. And under all this burden he would pour himself out to death.
        2. Do you remember in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus prayed with such an immense sense of burden that he sweated as though he were bleeding?
        3. Do you remember when Jesus died that a soldier ran his spear upward into Jesus’ side, and blood and water gushed out?
      3. He was crushed, like the olive, and our burdens that he carried in his death pressed our oil of life from him; through his blood we have life.
        1. He was not crushed for any wrong that he did.
        2. He was not burdened because he was deeply distressed by things that happened in his life.
        3. It was the failures, the evil, the wickedness of all people including us that made it necessary for him to be crushed and pressed.
        4. We have the oil of healing, the oil of life because he was crushed and pressed for us.
  3. Peter calls our attention to this same truth in 1 Peter 2:24.
    He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. I want you to clearly picture what happened.
      1. When Jesus was executed on the cross, God allowed all the evil and wickedness that had ever been committed from Adam and Eve’s rebellion and all the evil and wickedness that ever would be committed until the end of time to be placed on Jesus.
        1. He had the burden of total, collective human evil placed on him in death.
        2. In death, Jesus experienced the two ultimate human experiences.
          1. In death he experienced what it felt like to die as an evil person because he died covered with our evil.
          2. In death, for a while, our sins separated him from God.
      2. He did this for every person who would live after him; he did this for us.
        1. He loved us enough to do this.
        2. He loved God the Father enough to do this.
        3. He wanted us to be freed from the inescapable guilt of our evil.
      3. The blood flowed from Jesus.
        1. That flowing blood covered our sins literally destroying the sins of a person who accepts his blood by trusting what God did in Jesus’ death.
        2. As that flowing blood covers our sins, we are cleansed from every evil thought, every evil word, every evil deed, and every evil that occurred in our lives through ignorance.
        3. When a believer is crushed by repentance and dies with Jesus through baptism, Jesus’ blood cleanses him or her from all unrighteousness.
    2. Paul declared that is precisely what God made possible through Jesus’ death.
      1. Paul declared one of the most graphic statements found in all the Bible.
        2 Corinthians 5:20,21 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. The most critical need you and I have in life is to be reconciled to God.
      3. Paul said to Christians in Corinth, “We beg you; do it!”
      4. Paul said, “Realize the price that God paid to give you that privilege.”
        1. God took the only human who ever lived without any evil in him.
        2. And God made him to be sin!
      5. Why did God do that?
        1. So that you and I would have a choice.
        2. If we accept what Jesus did by becoming sin for us, in him we can become the righteousness of God.
        3. If we accept what Jesus did for us, we can be reconciled to God.
  4. We Christians insult God because we do not understand or grasp what God did in Jesus’ death.
    1. God allowed our wickedness to crush and press His perfect Son.
      1. From that crushed, pressed son flowed the blood of atonement, which to us is the oil of life.
      2. If we accept that blood, the oil of life, we become the pure, cleansed sons and daughters of God.
    2. But neither the church nor the world understands what God did.
      1. Jesus gives us light, but Christians and non-Christians are stumbling around in their lives like blind men who hurt themselves because we live in darkness.
      2. Jesus is the bread of life, but Christians and non-Christians eat poisoned garbage for food and are deathly sick.
      3. Jesus heals the wounds and bruises inflicted by evil, but Christians and non-Christians live in pain and agony because they invite evil to abuse us.
    3. We have lost the joy of God’s guidance in our lives, our marriages, and our homes because we do not realize what God has done for us.
      1. But when we see and accept what God did, there is hope instead of despair.
      2. There is rejoicing instead of sorrow.
      3. There is peace instead of guilt.
      4. There is freedom instead of slavery.
    4. And when that happens:
      1. People see the joy in our worship because we thank God for deliverance.
      2. People see the gladness in our lives because we live in Jesus’ light.
      3. People see the peace in our homes because we live in the healing of the blood of Jesus.
      4. People see the health in our relationships because we eat the bread of life.
    5. And when will that happen? When Christians realize that God crushed and pressed His Son so that the church could anoint and bandage instead of condemn and destroy.

[Prayer: God help us see what You did when You allowed our sins to crush Jesus.]

Does God’s oil of life which He gave in Jesus’ death flow in your life?

Knowing the Difference

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

An eight-year-old child in a healthy family said to his parents, “I want to manage all the money spent on me. I want to make all decisions that affect my life. I want total control of all decisions concerning me. I want to determine all rules that regulate any aspect of my life. I want to determine how my time is used. I want to provide my own guidance.”

The parents answered, “We know you want those responsibilities. But this is not a matter of your desire. You are not capable of caring wisely for such things. There are many responsibilities that you can accept, but those are not among them.”

The insulted eight-year-old had no desire to accept the responsibilities of an eight-year-old. In his thinking, he was fully capable. He just did not have “the rights of power” that his parents possessed.

An adult says to God, “I want to determine all right and wrong for me. I want to be in charge of my own forgiveness. I want to decide for me what is weak and strong, wise and foolish, good and bad, and right and wrong. I want to classify what is ‘temptation’ and what is ‘natural.’ I want to determine the proper use of my life.”

God replies, “I know that you want those things. But it is not a matter of desire. You are incapable of caring wisely for such responsibilities. There are responsibilities that you can accept, responsibilities I want you to accept. But those are not among them.”

The insulted adult knew he was capable. He just did not have God’s “rights of power.”

At its foundation, a mature faith in God and Christ understands two things. (1) It understands some responsibilities are beyond a person’s capability and wisdom. (2) It understands that some responsibilities are within a person’s capability and wisdom. Maturity exists in faith when a person can distinguish between the two.

A critical problem has plagued us from the beginning: we want to be like God. We are certain that we could. We know that we are capable. God denies us that opportunity only because He controls the power.

One of the worst, most wicked periods in the history of Israel existed because “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Will you assume those responsibilities in your life within your capability and wisdom? Will you trust God with those responsibilities outside your capability and wisdom? Will you develop a mature faith? Or, do you want to play God?

The irony: as faith matures, we continually learn how incapable we are of playing God. Mature faith continually increases our awareness of this truth: we do not know or understand nearly as much as we think we do.