Please Don’t Bother Me

Posted by on March 26, 2000 under Sermons

Describe the ideal congregation. Were it possible for each of us to write our description of an ideal congregation, the descriptions would be fascinating. I am talking about descriptions from every age group and from every need group of Christians.

I would not dare guess how many different concepts of an ideal congregation are seated here right now. Each of us assume that the majority of the congregation have the same concept of an ideal congregation that we have. When we consider an ideal congregation, I sincerely doubt that a majority hold any concept in common.

I recently heard about a conversation between two members of the church in another state. One asked, “What’s the congregation like where you attend?” The man replied with some frustration, “My congregation is always planning something new to do. They have more ministries than I can count, and they are constantly urging people to get involved. It is just busy, busy, busy all the time. And they never leave you alone.”

The man who asked the question relied, “That is too bad! You ought to go to church where I go. You come in, sit down, get up, and go. Nobody bothers you.”

Is your description of an ideal congregation a congregation that never bothers you?

  1. I want you to listen to the Psalms describe a person.
    1. The description:
      1. Psalm 1:1,2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
      2. Psalm 63:6-8 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
      3. Psalm 77:11-13 I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God?
      4. Psalm 143:5,6 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.
      5. Psalm 119:9-16 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.
    2. I want you to note some common characteristics of the person described in these Psalms.
      1. Each of the readings obviously talk about a person who hungers for a close relationship with God.
        1. This person does not reach out to God because he has to.
        2. He reaches out to God because all his being wants to.
      2. Each of these readings declare that it is as natural as taking a breath for this person to think about God.
        1. He thinks about God as he goes about the day to day affairs of life.
        2. He thinks about God at night.
        3. It is a natural thing for him to meditate about God.
      3. Each of these readings show that it is important to the person for God to be pleased with him.
        1. God’s opinion of him matters.
        2. He wants God to know that he cannot imagine life without God; such an existence is unthinkable.
      4. This hunger, this desire to think about God and to walk with God comes from the heart.
        1. While it certainly involves what the person does, it cannot be contained by mere deeds and acts.
        2. This hunger and desire arises from what the person is, from what he inwardly is.
    3. To me it is obvious that this person could never regard a “Please don’t bother me” congregation as being ideal.
  2. Consider two well known verses heard frequently if you grew up in the church.
    1. Jesus gave the first in an introduction to a sermon.
      1. It is one of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-11.
        1. The beatitudes describe the righteous person.
        2. Jesus’ description was quite different to the common description given in the Jewish religion.
      2. One characteristic of a righteous person was this:
        Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
        1. The righteous person has an appetite for righteousness.
        2. He is like a person who is starving, or a person who is parched.
        3. Jesus’ promise is simple–the person who hungers for righteousness will be satisfied.
      3. To me the profound insight is this: God does not force feed anyone.
        1. The decision to eat or not to eat belongs to each one of us.
        2. The person who cultivates an appetite for righteousness will have it.
        3. We each develop the willingness for Him to feed us.
        4. We meditate on his teachings.
    2. The second verse is a statement made by Paul shortly before his execution. Consider Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 2:15 as it is translated in several translations.
      • King James translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
      • New American Standard translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
      • New International translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
      • Jerusalem Bible translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work, and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth.
      • Today’s English translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to win full approval in God’s sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God’s truth.
    3. Carefully note the key emphasis in Paul’s statement.
      1. First, receiving God’s approval is a serious commitment in our lives.
        1. It is not, “if it happens it happens; if it don’t, it don’t.”
        2. It is not an accident, the accident of being with the right people at the right time.
        3. It does not happen without our involvement and interest.
        4. Gaining God’s approval was to be so important to Timothy that he committed himself without reservation to gaining that approval.
      2. Second, we will settle for nothing less than God’s approval.
        1. The objective is not our fellow Christian’s approval.
        2. The objective is not the church’s approval.
        3. The objective is not the approval of the prominent perspectives in our area.
        4. The objective is not the approval of the “who’s who” in the Church of Christ.
        5. The objective is standing and living in God’s approval.
      3. Third, we seek to obtain God’s approval by doing two things.
        1. We serve God’s purposes in such a manner that we have no reason to be ashamed of our work.
          1. Our work makes us unashamed.
          2. Our insensitive stubbornness does not blind us to shame.
        2. Our work does not shame us because we handle God’s message of truth carefully and accurately.
          1. We do not force God’s teachings to say what we want them to say.
          2. We are devoted to understanding the message, and we live by God’s emphasis, not by human emphasis.
  3. Give serious thought and consideration to two things.
    1. On April 1 we will have our annual teachers’ appreciation dinner in our Family Life Center.
      1. This week Ted Edwards wrote everyone who has taught in any part of our teaching program to encourage them to attend.
      2. If by some chance you didn’t get a letter, but you taught in VBS, in WINGS, in the education program, or in any aspect of our work, we want you to come.
      3. Everything that God wants to happen in our lives begins by learning.
      4. To learn and to grow in faith, there must be teaching.
      5. We want to encourage and appreciate our teachers.
  4. Next Sunday morning quarter two of emphasis on Christian service begins. (See Year 2000: Spiritual Success or Distress?)
    1. The first quarter we focused exclusively on Jesus.
      1. We learned that Jesus was a servant.
      2. We learned what it meant for Jesus to be a servant.
    2. Next Sunday morning we begin studying the fact that Christians are servants.
      1. The title of the quarter’s study is, “Jesus Makes Us Servants.”
      2. Jesus is the perfect example of what God wants us to be.
      3. This quarter will develop a basic understanding of what God wants us to be.
    3. I want to issue three challenges.
      1. The first challenge is given to those who do not attend Sunday morning classes.
        1. All the adult classes are studying the same material.
        2. All the teachers of those classes get together every Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the next Sunday’s lesson.
        3. There is a variety of study opportunities.
        4. This is the ideal time to become part of a class.
        5. Bring your appetite to learn, and come.
      2. The second challenge is to those who attend but want a different learning situation.
        1. The elevator works.
        2. Every adult has access to all the classes upstairs and all the classes down stairs.
        3. The reason we installed the elevator is to give every adult access to every class.
      3. The third challenge is to those who enjoyed last quarter’s study.
        1. I have received so many encouraging comments and so many statements of appreciation for the material.
        2. One person came to me this week asking permission to share some of the material with another congregation in another state.
          1. She said that she has been a Christian for a little over ten years.
          2. But our recent studies have taught her more than she has learned at any time in her Christian life.
        3. If you enjoyed your class last quarter, encourage someone to come next Sunday.

[Prayer: God, stimulate our appetite for righteousness. Increase our hunger to understand Your message. Help us handle Your truth properly so that we understand You and Jesus properly.]

In my introduction, I asked you the wrong question. The question is not, “What is your concept of the ideal congregation?” The question is, “What is God’s concept of the ideal congregation?” God’s concept begins with people who are hunger and thirst for righteousness.

The Christian Life Is Based On Conversion

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In the 1960’s I preached for a university congregation in Florida. John F. Kennedy ran for the Presidency. He was the first Catholic to run for President, and it was a dirty campaign that incorporated a lot of religious prejudice.

In the congregation was a professor who supported Kennedy and was deeply offended by the religious prejudice. One day he and I had a private conversation. He reacted against the common “slippery slope” argument that, if Kennedy were President, the Pope would control America.

I was not “into” politics and never knowingly used “preaching” to pursue political objectives. He said, “You would do the same thing, wouldn’t you? If you had the power to make everyone do what you think is right, you would make them do it, wouldn’t you?”

His question shocked me. I could not comprehend that any Christian seriously held that perspective. I managed only a simple “no.” I was quite young (from my today’s perspective!). I did not know a Christian could endorse a perspective of forced obedience. Forced obedience is faithless obedience.

Forced obedience (in any form) is not conversion. Conversion is based on three things. (1) It is based on the astounding realization that the resurrected Jesus is God’s son [faith]. (2) It is based on a personal desire to redirect life [repentance]. (3) It is based on the personal determination to let Jesus teach you how to live life [commitment]. The combination of that realization, that desire, and that commitment expresses itself in the rebirth of baptism.

The problems we witness in the church astound us. Long ago Christians “bought” the assumption that being “the church” eliminated problems of every kind. I do not know how that assumption was created and empowered. Being “the church” in the first century did not eliminate the problems of their day.

Why are there so many problems among Christians today? Why do we find virtually every problem in our culture among those who have been baptized into Christ? Why? There are many reasons. Among them is this one: too many who were baptized were never converted.

One objective of our adult Sunday morning Bible classes is to convert the baptized to Jesus who is the Christ. Please begin or advance your conversion by studying with us.

The Quiet Enslaver

Posted by on March 19, 2000 under Sermons

The quiet enslaver is pornography. For our introduction tonight, I want to you to watch and listen to part of the interview James Dobson did with Ted Bundy on January 23, 1989. On January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was executed for the murders of several women and girls.

[Show the video clip from Life On The Edge by James Dobson from Session 7, “Pornography: Addictive, Progressive, and Deadly,” produced by Word Video Curriculum Resource and distributed by Focus on the Family.]

  1. A synopsis of the information [is given to produce continuity for those who read this lesson on our Web site].
    1. Ted Bundy grew up in a good home that emphasized Christian values.
      1. He stressed that his parents were not responsible for what he did.
      2. They tried to protect him from the things that contributed to his destruction.
      3. He was one of five brothers and sisters.
    2. His addiction began with his involvement with “soft” pornography.
      1. When he was 13 he and some friends found some pornographic materials that someone had thrown away.
      2. They began to search garbage cans, and the materials they occasionally found introduced them to a higher form of pornography.
    3. He emphasized this progression in pornographic addiction.
      1. Once a person becomes addicted to pornography, he searches for more potent forms of pornography that can create a great sense of excitement.
      2. Like other addictions, addiction to pornography reaches a point when even “hard” pornography is not enough to produce the excitement the addict wants.
      3. At that point the person wonders if an act of sexual violence would produce the excitement he wants.
      4. Prior to his first murder, he described himself as a normal person, in no way a monster or a pervert.
        1. The secret of his pornography addiction was so well hidden that no one suspected it existed, and no one thought him capable of murder.
        2. Prior to the first murder, he lived a normal life and was “okay.”
        3. After the first murder, all his moral convictions and values returned within a day.
        4. He felt horrible and could not believe that he was capable of such acts.
    4. He stressed the fact that men who are influenced by pornographic violence are not monsters.
      1. Any man can fall victim to that influence.
      2. Men so influenced are sons and husbands.
      3. He stressed that he came from a good Christian home, and parents could not protect their children from this influence.
    5. He requested that Dobson conduct his last interview because he wanted to share a message with the country. In that statement:
      1. He emphasized 100% of the men he had known on death row (and he had been in prison a long time) who were awaiting execution for violent sexual crimes had been addicted to pornography.
      2. He stated that he could not believe (in the 1989 world and prior to the Internet) what was coming into the homes via cable television.
        1. The graphic sexual violence available in the home would not have been permitted in X-rated movies thirty years prior to 1989 (in the 1950’s).
        2. Seeing what children could watch in their homes terrified him because these things fed children like it fed him, and it would have the same effect on people with his problem that it had on him.
      3. He did not blame pornography for his violent, cruel acts.
        1. There were many contributing factors to the development of his violence.
        2. But he said that he would not have committed the kind of violent acts he did had it not been for hard pornography.
  2. [The text of my sermon after the video clip began at this point.] Remember some basic thoughts in that interview.
    1. Number one: the pornography problem began in a way that seemed innocent and harmless.
    2. Number two: the natural progression of pornography leads to addiction.
    3. Number three: that addiction motivates the male to look for new highs.
    4. Number four: the addicted can be every day, normal, okay, good people from good homes; they just have a secret that they hide well.
    5. Number five: that the most conscientious parents cannot protect their sons from this influence in our society.
    6. Number six: that 100% of the men on death row facing execution for violent sexual crimes in the time Ted Bundy was there had been addicted to pornography.
  3. One of the most powerful, horrible addictions that exist in our society is sexual addiction.
    1. The foundation of sexual addiction is pornography.
      1. It devastates the addicted.
      2. It devastates marriages.
      3. It devastates homes.
      4. The cruelty that it inflicts on the lives of the men, of the wives, and of the children cannot be exaggerated.
    2. “That is itself an exaggeration! Why should pornography be considered so devastating and cruel?”
      1. Number one: once a man is addicted, he cannot escape the war of sex appeal.
        1. America is a sexually oriented society.
        2. Explicit sex surrounds us–on comedy television series, on violent television series, on television talk shows, in television commercials, in the newspaper, in catalogues, in movies, on videos, in the way women dress.
        3. And Americans are constantly told the greatest pleasure to be experienced in life is sexual pleasure.
        4. In fact, how many things can you name that do not use sex appeal in powerful, explicit ways?
        5. If you are addicted to drugs and want to break the addiction, change your environment.
        6. If you are addicted to alcohol and want to break the addiction, change your environment.
        7. If you are addicted to pornography, how can you change your environment so that you are not constantly facing erotic stimulation from our society’s abuse of sex appeal?
      2. Number two: the addicted man struggles as he tries to establish and maintain a long term, healthy relationship with a wife.
        1. Pornography builds excitement by creating fantasies.
        2. No healthy marriage relationship can compete with sexual fantasies.
        3. In fact, the addicted person prefers his fantasies to a relationship.
          1. A relationship requires two persons, requires effort and understanding, and involves disappointment.
          2. Fantasies take only one person (self), require no effort, and do not have to deal with the disappointments that occur in a relationship.
      3. Number three: the fantasies become a powerful form of slavery.
        1. Since a love relationship does not exist, the kindness and fulfillment experienced in a love relationship do not exist.
        2. Fantasies are extremely selfish; healthy love relationships are extremely unselfish.
        3. Fantasies exploit; healthy love relationships fulfill.
        4. Sexual fantasies attack and destroy relationship skills by making the person increasingly selfish, self focused, and self centered as he increasingly is ruled by his feelings and desires.
  4. How do teens and men get involved in pornography? What are the common doors that lead to that involvement? [The following doors are not listed in any order of priority or common occurrence.]
    1. Natural curiosity is a door.
      1. The boy is going through puberty.
      2. His body is maturing.
      3. He deals with feelings and desires he never experience before.
      4. He is curious, and that curiosity is fueled by our culture’s use of sex appeal.
    2. The inability to relate to other people is a door.
      1. Commonly, this person has no role models; he develops in a relationship vacuum.
      2. He does not know how to interact with others.
      3. He prefers fantasy to confusion.
    3. Low self esteem and low self image is a door.
      1. Mom commonly verbally emasculated Dad.
      2. Dad commonly verbally abused Mom.
      3. They taught him a thousand subtle ways to tear people down.
      4. In the process he perceives that they are tearing him down.
      5. He grows up in an environment that tears people down, and in that environment he is always afraid, always unsure of himself.
    4. Learned behavior is a door.
      1. His home was not a religious home.
      2. Pornography was openly used by Dad.
      3. Dad encouraged him to develop the same desires and attitudes.
    5. Peer influence is a door.
      1. The teenage world is full of pornography.
      2. Business trips are full of pornography.
      3. Pornography is supposed to be a part of the male experience in our society.
    6. A personal search for the sexual highs portrayed on television or in the movies is a door.
      1. There is no realization that these are actors and actresses acting out a script.
      2. Such sexual highs do not exist in real life; they are artificial.
      3. When these sexual highs are not experienced, the man thinks something is wrong, and that he is being cheated or robbed.
    7. Friends who live “on the dark side” are a door.
      1. Pornography is a part of their life style.
      2. They delight in inviting others to join them in their lifestyle.
    8. The rites of social passage are a door.
      1. In our society pornographic preoccupation is the way you stop being a boy and start being a man.
      2. It easily becomes a part of the activities at proms, spring breaks, college parties, bachelor parties, business trips, and conventions.
    9. Drugs and alcohol are a door.
      1. Pornography contributes to inducing the “high.”
      2. Stimulate all the physical senses; seek maximum pleasure.
    10. Being “cool” is a door.
      1. The vast majority want to be accepted by those who are popular.
      2. That is a powerful force among teens.
      3. But it is also a powerful force among those who “are playing the game” in the business world.
    11. Loneliness and sexual frustration in marriage are a door.
      1. In the last lesson we talked about the power of the male sex drive.
      2. We also saw from Genesis that the purpose of marriage is to destroy loneliness.
      3. When marriage does not destroy loneliness in the husband, pornography becomes a powerful temptation.
    12. A loveless environment is a door.
      1. That loveless environment may be the home for the teenager.
      2. It may be the marriage for the husband.
  5. What is so bad about pornography?
    1. It dehumanizes women.
      1. Women are portrayed as objects instead of persons.
      2. They exist to be used and exploited, not loved in a caring relationship.
    2. It encourages the man to become ultra selfish.
      1. It focuses the man on himself, his feelings, and his desires.
      2. Nothing is as important as his sexual gratification.
      3. Nothing is more devastating to a marriage than being married to a sexually selfish man.
    3. It destroys relationship skills.
      1. It makes you less a person in your marriage.
      2. It diminishes you as a husband and a father.
      3. You are unconcerned about relationship skills that build a mutually fulfilling life.
      4. Your wife has value to you only to the extent your wife gratifies you.
      5. You become increasingly selfish in your perspectives and outlooks.
    4. It perverts a powerful gift from God into a destructive evil.
      1. Pornography never makes a man more godly.
      2. Pornography never makes a man kinder, more compassionate, more understanding.
      3. Pornography never makes a man more like Jesus.
      4. Pornography never makes a man a better Christian, a better husband, a better father, or a better person.
    5. It robs the man’s children.
      1. It robs them of the depth and quality of love they should experience.
      2. It robs them of the role models they need in the healthy, loving interaction of Mom and Dad.
      3. It robs them of the greatest opportunity they have to learn the value of a person and respect for a person.
      4. It robs them of the quality of warmth and caring that a child should experienced in any home.

The use of pornography is a significant problem among Christian men. Today it is an easier problem to develop than it has ever been. Today it is easier to hide than it has ever been. With Internet access, it is easily, quickly available to teens and to men.

The ease of availability and the ease of secrecy makes it more urgent than ever that we structure our homes to be an oasis of love, peace, and faith. It makes it more urgent than ever that husbands and wives build happy, fulfilling marriages that destroy loneliness.

“I Wish I Lived When …”

Posted by on under Sermons

If you could pick any time period to live in and any geographical area on earth to live in, what would you pick? If you could live at any time in history, in any age, what age would you choose?

Since we are Christians, since we are here to remember Jesus’ death and resurrection, since we are in a worship assembly, it is likely that some of us would say, “If I could choose a time and place, I would choose Palestine in Jesus’ lifetime. I wish I could live when Jesus lived and worked.”

Why? “I would like to hear him preach. I would like to see his miracles. I would like to the watch the people. That must have been an incredible experience!”

I would not want that. I would be afraid to live at that time because I would be afraid of my reactions. If I lived in Palestine when Jesus lived, I do not know how I would have reacted to Jesus. Jesus was extremely different. When Jesus died, he was so misunderstood that nobody grasped what he was doing or what God was doing.

  1. This morning I want you to consider the things that happened to Jesus in Mark 3.
    1. Mark 3 begins with Jesus teaching in a Jewish synagogue on a Sabbath day.
      1. In attendance was a man with a withered hand.
        1. That meant the hand was contorted and drawn and of no use to him.
        2. It also meant that his hand would never be of any use to him.
        3. He would live and die with a useless, withered hand.
      2. Jesus asked the man to come stand before the congregation.
      3. He asked the congregation, “Which of these actions comply with the laws concerning the Sabbath: doing good or doing harm; saving life or killing?”
      4. Nobody answered his question; everyone was silent.
      5. Jesus looked at them in anger, grieved because their hearts were hard.
      6. Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand, and immediately the man’s hand was restored to its usefulness.
      7. The Pharisees, the best read and most religious people present, left immediately and began to plan how to destroy Jesus.
    2. Jesus left the synagogue and went to the shore of the sea of Galilee.
      1. An enormous crowd of people from far and wide had gathered because they heard of Jesus’ miracles.
      2. He sent the disciples ahead to secure a boat that Jesus could use to keep the huge crowd of people from crushing him.
        1. The people knew that he had the power to heal.
        2. Everyone was trying to touch him.
        3. Even the demon possessed were bowing before him as the demons acknowledged that he was the Son of God.
    3. Later Jesus went up on a mountain with many of his disciples.
      1. From all those disciples, he selected twelve.
      2. These twelve were to be with him, to preach for him, and to cast demons out of people.
    4. After that he returned to Capernaum and entered the house where he stayed.
      1. When people heard that he was in the house, such a large crowd gathered that he and the twelve could not even eat a meal.
      2. When his relatives heard about what Jesus was doing and the great commotion he caused, they came to take him in custody because “he has lost his senses,” or “the man has gone crazy.”
      3. Some scribes from Jerusalem [a scribe became a religious expert by copying scripture by hand] came and declared that Jesus was using Satan’s power to cast out demons.
        1. Jesus said, “That is an amazing explanation! If that is what is happening, that is great news!”
        2. “If a kingdom has a civil war, the war destroys the kingdom.”
        3. “If a family fights itself, the fight destroys the family.”
        4. “If Satan is fighting against himself, he is destroying himself.”
        5. “However, no one robs a strong man’s house without first tying up the strong man.” Satan was the strong man, and Jesus was robbing Satan’s house by casting out demons.
        6. “The one sin that God will not forgive is the sin of giving Satan credit for the work of God’s Spirit.”
      4. Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrive.
        1. With all the crowd and commotion they cannot get to him.
        2. They want to talk to him privately–wonder if the relatives sent them?
        3. He was informed that his mother and brothers are outside and wanted to talk to him.
        4. Jesus responded by saying, “The person who does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
  2. “Wow!”
    1. I do not like to be verbally attacked and I do not like to watch as other people are verbally attacked.
      1. Watching people attack Jesus for doing good things would have distressed me.
      2. I did not need to be there.
    2. I do not like to hear people oppose God while they act as if they are serving God.
      1. Hearing the Pharisees plan to destroy Jesus by discrediting him would have distressed me.
      2. I did not need to be there.
    3. I do not like to be misunderstood, and I do not like to see other people misunderstood.
      1. Watching Jesus’ family misunderstand him would have distressed me.
      2. I did not need to be there.
    4. I do not like to be in crowds that are pushing and shoving as every person tries to get what he or she wants.
      1. Being in a huge crowd where everyone wanted the opportunity to get close enough to Jesus to touch him would have distressed me.
      2. I did not need to be there.
    5. I do not like to have people assign evil significance to good motives and godly acts, and I do not like to hear people assign evil significance to the godly motives and deeds of others.
      1. To listen to the scribes say that Jesus functioned by using Satan’s power would have distressed me.
      2. I did not need to be there.
  3. To me, one of the fascinating lessons in Mark 3 is seen in the way people reacted to Jesus.
    1. Mark 3 is a chapter filled with incredible contrasts.
      1. We see the Son of God doing nothing but good as he helps physically sick people and teaches spiritually sick people.
      2. And, we see all these different reactions by different groups and persons.
    2. Look at the reactions.
      1. Religiously, the Pharisees were the most influential people in Israel.
        1. They were restorationists who wanted Israel to return to the old paths (that was their terminology).
        2. They were the best read, most knowledgeable religious people in Israel.
        3. They knew the scriptures.
        4. Their reaction to Jesus:
          1. “You cannot heal a man on the Sabbath day!”
          2. “That is a violation of the law, for the law clearly says that you must not perform an act of work on the Sabbath!”
          3. “And how dare he challenge us and embarrass us in public! That man is dangerous! His influence and popularity must be destroyed!”
      2. The demons knew Jesus’ true identity.
        1. They knew who he was, and they knew what he could do.
        2. They had no intention of serving Jesus instead of serving Satan.
        3. They just knew his power was supreme over Satan’s power.
      3. The people who knew Jesus had the power to heal the sick wanted a miracle.
        1. They saw Jesus as an immediate solution to a physical problem.
        2. Life would be fine if they could just get their physical problem fixed.
      4. In naming the twelve, Mark listed Judas Iscariot and noted that he was the one who betrayed Jesus.
      5. His extended family thought he had gone crazy.
        1. How else could they explain what he said?
        2. How else could they explain what he was doing?
        3. How else could they explain his challenges to the religious establishment?
        4. The family needed to get this man under control!
      6. The scribes, the experts in the literal wording of scripture, said that Jesus’ ability to cast out demons came from Satan.
        1. The demons knew him because he was the chief demon.
        2. The demons obeyed him because he was the leader of the demons.
        3. Jesus could be explained away because Jesus was the ultimate form of evil.
      7. Perhaps his immediate family wanted to talk to him because the extended family could not bring him under their control.
      8. Then there were the listeners who sincerely wanted to hear and understand what Jesus taught.
        1. Jesus said that they were his real family.
        2. They were his real family because they wanted to do God’s will.
        3. He came to do God’s will, and he shared a special bond with all people who wanted to understand and serve God’s will.
    3. On the deepest level of my understanding, may I share with you the reason that I would not want to live in Palestine during the time of Jesus’ ministry.
      1. I do not know which one of those people I would have been.
      2. Jesus was so radically different in how he lived, what he did, and what he taught, I do not know if:
        1. I would have been one of the Pharisees who, as a religious expert, said that Jesus was so different and radical that he was dangerous.
        2. I would have been one of the demon possessed.
        3. I would have been one of the sick that just wanted my physical problem fixed.
        4. I would have been a Judas that saw Jesus as an opportunity to satisfy my greed.
        5. I would have been one of those who thought that he was crazy and needed someone to bring him under control.
        6. I would have been a scribe who thought that Jesus was an evil man who got his power from Satan.
        7. I would have been a listener who wanted Jesus to teach me God’s will.
    4. Who do you think you would have been?

[Prayer: God, create within our hearts and minds a hunger to do your will. Open our understandings to the teachings of Jesus so that we can understand your will.]

How do you look at Jesus right now? Is he too different to be taken seriously? Do you acknowledge his identity, but you let Satan control your life? Do you just want Jesus to fix physical things? Do you think he is crazy? Do you think he is evil? Or, do you listen to Jesus with an open mind and heart because you want him to teach you God’s will?

People can tell how I look at Jesus. They can tell how you look at Jesus. The way we live and the way we use our lives tells others how we look at Jesus. What do they see when they look at our lives? What do you want them to see?

If You Don’t Have Love …

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“My work” is thought provoking. I work for God with people. No two weeks are alike. God constantly increases my insights, and persons are never alike. Combining the work of our unique God with the needs of unique people makes each week unique.

Last week cancer claimed Stan Spainhour’s physical body. His friends would tell us quickly that cancer never claimed Stan’s life. He refused to allow cancer to take charge of his life. His faith and his attitude in the last fourteen months were a challenge and inspiration. Though he was very sick, he refused to stop being Stan.

Last week I was privileged to be with those who loved him in Fort Smith. I was privileged to be with those who loved him in Witchita Falls, Texas. Even after death, Stan provided me the time and opportunity for reflection from an unusual perspective.

In my reflection an obvious truth stood out. If you do not have love, you do not have anything. The abundance of love makes a person wealthy. “Things” cannot make a person wealthy. We leave “things” behind. We take love with us.

Love’s wealth is unique. You must have love to have love’s wealth. You cannot buy love. You cannot force love to exist. You cannot demand love. You cannot “fake” having love. You cannot borrow love. The only way to have love is to give love. The more love that you share the more love that you receive.

As unique as love’s wealth is, people know it exists. People are starved for love! They prize love’s wealth! When they do not have love and its wealth [and many do not!], people go to unusual extremes to find and possess them. Do you doubt that? If you don’t have love, what would you give for it? If you have it, for what would you sell it?

The greatest gift you can give is love. The greatest power you have to alter life is found in your power to love. The greatest treasure you will leave behind is your love. Nothing contains the power or the influence of love. And every person has the ability to love!

While love is this earth’s greatest power, it is also this earth’s most neglected reality. Why should that surprise us? Love is from God, and this world neglects everything that comes from God. Do you want to increase love in your life? Get closer to God.

Now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Is God Still Able?

Posted by on March 12, 2000 under Sermons

For thirty seconds I want you to dismiss the fact that you are sitting in a church building. For thirty seconds I want you to forget that you are supposed to give “church answers.” Can you do that? Can you be honest with yourself for thirty seconds? Can you answer this question as you would while sitting at home?

Give me thirty seconds of honesty with yourself and answer this question: what do you believe in? Nothing is not an honest answer. Everybody believes in something. Do not tell me what other people believe in. Quietly, in your own mind and heart, tell me tell me honestly what you believe in.

Let me ask the question in another way. Do you believe in anything bigger than you? Do you believe in anything bigger than your feelings? Your wants? Your desires? Your priorities? Your personal convictions?

Or, what is supreme in your life? When you absolutely must make hard a choice, what consistently comes out on top? You? Your feelings? Your wants? Your desires? What is important to you? In hard decisions, what consistently is the deciding factor?

  1. May I share with you what I personally believe?
    1. These factors lie at the foundation of my hard decisions.
      1. I believe that God is the origin of life.
        1. I do not know how He made the world.
        2. I do not know why He made the world.
        3. I do not understanding why He made humans the unique life form that they are.
        4. But I accept as fact that life came from God; God is the origin of the person.
        5. My existence is not the product of accident, chance, and time; I exist by the design and power of God.
      2. I believe that God talked to, guided, and made the world’s key promise to Abraham.
        1. I believe that God was able to work through Abraham because Abraham trusted God’s promises.
        2. I believe that Abraham lived as a nomad in the land of Canaan because he followed the specific direction of God.
        3. I believe that Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah by an act of God to fulfill God’s promise.
      3. I believe that God made the nation of Israel from the descendants of Abraham.
        1. I believe that God began with one couple, one child, and two grandchildren and produced a nation.
        2. I believe that God intended that nation to live by the same faith that produced the same dependence on God that Abraham had.
        3. I believe that God gave that nation specific reasons to trust His promises.
      4. I believe that God brought Jesus into our world through the nation of Israel.
        1. I believe that was God’s specific intent and purpose before Abraham lived.
        2. I believe Jesus came to reveal the purpose and intent of God for people.
        3. I do not believe that Jesus was an accident or a convenient opportunity.
      5. I believe that Jesus is the Christ.
        1. I believe that he was executed by people and was resurrected by God.
        2. I believe that he gave his life and his blood for our atonement and was raised from the dead to become the Savior of all people.
      6. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.
        1. As Lord, I believe that he has the power to destroy the sin of any individual through his forgiveness.
        2. As Lord, I believe that he has the power to sustain the forgiven through his the grace and mercy by continuing forgiveness.
        3. As Lord, I believe that he can and will enable forgiven people to stand before God unafraid in the judgment.
    2. Now, permit me to share with you what I know: I know I am going to die.
      1. “Oh, David, how morbid can you get!”
        1. Accepting a fact that I cannot alter is not morbid.
        2. I cannot appreciate what God did for me, does for me, and will do for me in Christ if I do not accept the fact that I will die.
      2. Death is a fact.
        1. Everyone born dies.
        2. Have you personally ever known an exception?
        3. Do you actually think that you will be that exception?
    3. Americans are a strange people.
      1. We do everything we can to remove ourselves from the reality of death.
        1. For example, I grew up on a farm and like many, many Americans we grew, killed, and preserved our meat.
        2. Today meat comes from the grocery store and does not involve death.
        3. Another example, our hospitals, as much as possible, separate the living from the dying.
        4. There was a time when death was a family experience.
      2. At the same time, Americans are enthralled by violence.
        1. Violence is a major part of American entertainment.
        2. We enjoy violent sports.
        3. One formula for making a movie financially successful is to include graphic violence in the plot.
        4. Many successful television series must include at least occasional violence.
        5. Many of the most successful video games are based on violence.
      3. We want to remove ourselves from the reality of death, and yet we want to be entertained by simulated death.
        1. We do not wish to deal with the fact that we will die.
        2. Yet, we want to be entertained by simulated violence and death.
  2. What I believe and what I know makes me confront a necessary choice, and I must make a decision, in fact I will make a decision–and so will you. The choice:
    1. I will decide that this life is it and indulge myself.
      1. I will make me supreme.
        1. I will make my feeling supreme.
        2. I will make my desires supreme.
        3. I will make my preferences supreme.
        4. I will make my priorities supreme.
      2. I will not allow anything to get in the way of the importance of “me.”
        1. I will not let my marriage get in the way.
        2. I will not let my children get in the way.
        3. I will not let people get in the way.
        4. I will structure everything in my life around the importance of “me.”
      3. And the older I get:
        1. The more selfish I become.
        2. The lonelier I become.
        3. The emptier my life becomes.
        4. The more afraid I become.
      4. And I will die.
    2. Or, I will decide that this life is not it, and the One I meet after this life is bigger than I am.
      1. I will understand that the purpose of life is to allow God to live in me, to change me, and to teach me how to treat people.
      2. There is a tremendous emphasis in the New Testament on the fact that belonging to Christ changes the way I treat people.
        1. Jesus placed enormous emphasis on:
          1. Forgiveness
          2. Mercy
          3. Kindness
          4. Compassion
          5. Humility
        2. We are told that love is a part of God’s nature, and that the Christian who does not love cannot know God (1 John 4:8).
        3. We are told that the Christian who loves, lives in God and God lives in him or her ( 1 John 4:16).
      3. When I live in God, God lives in me.
        1. My marriage gets better because the person I married is important.
        2. I become a better parent because the people I brought into this world are important.
        3. I become a better person because people are important.
        4. I structure my life around my concern for people because my God teaches me how to love people.
      4. And the older I get:
        1. The more unselfish I become.
        2. The more purpose life has.
        3. The fuller life becomes.
        4. The less afraid I become.
  3. There are about 700 of us sitting together right now. If I asked you, “What is the purpose of the West-Ark Church of Christ?” what would you say?
    1. I am sure that we would give many different kinds of answers.
      1. There are many appropriate answers.
      2. There are also some highly questionable answers.
      3. I have no doubt that many of you would disagree with some of my answers and that I would disagree with some of your answers.
      4. And I understand that agreeing or disagreeing would not make any of our answers God’s answers.
    2. Let me anticipate one answer that I disagree with: “The mission of the church is to preserve the Church of Christ.”
      1. If we are truly a part of the church that God built on Jesus Christ, none of us individually nor all of us collectively could destroy it if we wanted to.
      2. God is still able.
      3. God who is the origin of life, who made a nation from Abraham, who sent his son through Israel to be Savior of the world, who resurrected Jesus to be Lord and Christ and head of the church is still able.
      4. God will preserve the church; we just need to be the church.
      5. Our decision is not how to preserve the church; our decision is how to serve God’s purposes as the church.
      6. The Christian assists God by doing this: (1) we belong to God only, and (2) we allow God to teach us how to treat people as God wants us to treat people.
        1. If we do less than that, we oppose God.
        2. If we do more than that, we try to be God instead of serve God.

[Prayer: God, increase our faith in Your ability.]

In Luke 12 Jesus told a parable about a wealthy farmer who had an enormous harvest. His harvest was so big he did not know what to do with it. He made two decisions. He decided to build bigger barns. He decided that he would have enough to take care of him for many years, so he would live the good life and take it easy.

God called him a fool. He said, “Tonight you will die, then who will all this belong to?” Jesus said so it is with every person who uses wealth for himself and is not rich toward God.

What do you believe in? Is anything bigger than you? Is God still able?

We Can’t. God Can

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

There are many things I wish about me. I wish that I was not so hard-headed. God has an awful hard time leading me. Sometimes I am so “dense” that I forget what He taught me in the past–over, and over, and over again.

I wish that I was not so forgetful. God, I deeply apologize for making it necessary to reteach me the same lesson–over and over and over again. When my children were at home, they frustrated me because they forgot lessons already learned. God must get terribly frustrated with me!

I wish I more readily trusted the lessons God taught me. I deeply value some of the most difficult experiences in my life: being forced by the authorities to cease work as a missionary; experiencing the trauma of reverse culture shock; having close friends become determined opponents. While I never want to endure them again, God used each experience to teach me powerful lessons. Yet, in “crunch times,” I find it so difficult to trust those valued lessons. In “crunch times,” feelings overwhelm understanding.

We live in an incredibly complex society. We live in the shadows of overwhelming cultural wickedness. We stagger through the devastation of weak and failed relationships. We witness and experience so many heartaches and so much suffering.

Our country uses “cosmetics” to distort reality. Each day America “puts on its face” to create a glamorous appearance. It skillfully uses the “cosmetics” of pleasure, fantasy, and escapism to convince us that it knows the secret to “the good life.” But America’s “good life” reduces relationships to rubble piles. “The good life” is ultra selfish.

Life is so complicated! It is so deceptive! It is so demanding! Culture’s deceitful “makeup face” is devastating. Its deceptions create suffering, betrayal, and misery. The innocent are deceived before they are old enough to gain understanding.

Often the needs of the devastated overwhelm us. Those whose hearts wish to share the real hope of a compassionate Savior see the needs and despair. At that moment caring hearts are the most vulnerable to Satan’s discouragement.

At that moment we must trust a truth as old as mankind, as old as earthly evil. Those in despair must learn to trust this truth. Those with caring hearts must continue to trust this truth. What truth? “We can’t. God can.” The solution will not be found by our playing God. The solution is not found in our brilliance, wisdom, and perceptions. The solution is found by learning how to let God be God in our lives and relationships.

Perhaps life’s most critical lessons are learned from two simple realizations. “I can’t. God can.” From those two realizations we understand what God knew from the first sin: we need a Savior. In all matters of salvation, “We can’t. God can.”

Male and Female: A Fundamental Difference

Posted by on March 5, 2000 under Sermons

I have already shared with you three lessons in this series. On January 2nd, I shared with you the lesson, “Culture and the Church: Sexual Perceptions.” On January 9th, I shared with you the lesson, “Sexual Perceptions: Passing Them On.” On January 16th, I shared with you the lesson, “Boiling Over: Acceptance of Sexual Ungodliness.” All three of those lessons are available to you on audio tape, on our Web site, or in hard copy. The three of them form a background for tonight’s thoughts.

May I state clearly why I am sharing these lessons with you. Pornography is a major problem among Christians. Sexual intercourse among the unmarried is a major problem among Christians. Adulterous affairs are a major problem among Christians. Indulging sexual passions in sexual fantasies is a major problem among Christians.

Commonly, these problems are either ignored or denied in the church. We commonly choose to do one of three things: (1) we deny the prevalence of these problems. (2) Or, we declare that helping people with such problems is not the work of the church. (3) Or, we make sexual sin a Christian taboo and condemn it. Our condemnation sends this message: “if you are struggling against a sexual problem, stop the problem. But, whatever you do, don’t come to us for help.”

Jesus forgave people who wanted forgiveness for sexual immorality. The churches in the New Testament educated people who struggled with sexual immorality. The objective of education was to free them from their slavery. We need to allow Jesus and the churches in the New Testament to encourage us to help people who want help. If we do not, Satan will continue to use sexual evil to slaughter Christians.

  1. The book of Genesis was written by Moses to the Israelites who had been released from Egyptian slavery.
    1. Genesis had a specific message with a specific purpose for these people.
      1. The word Genesis means “beginning.”
        1. The Hebrews or Israelites named their books by using the first word that appeared in the book.
        2. The first Hebrew word in this book means “in the beginning.”
        3. Genesis is its English name, and it originated with the Greek translation of the Hebrew.
      2. “Beginning” is a very appropriate name for this book.
        1. Its basic purpose was simple: it explained to these freed slaves (1) their origin and (2) why they lived in Egypt.
        2. The material begins with God’s creation and ends with Joseph’s death in Egypt.
          1. Only two chapters of fifty are devoted to the creation, a total of 56 verses.
          2. One chapter of fifty, or twenty-four verses, is devoted to the origin of evil.
          3. Thirty-nine chapters of fifty are devoted to Abraham and his descendants.
      3. The book told the Israelites basically two things:
        1. It told them that every physical thing that exists, including them, has its origin in the living God who delivered them from Egypt.
          1. No Egyptian god delivered them from slavery.
          2. The living, Creator God delivered them from slavery.
        2. It explained to them that they were the descendants of Abraham.
          1. Abraham had a special relationship with the Creator God.
          2. They were delivered from Egypt so the Creator God could keep His promise that He made to Abraham.
      4. The book was not written to be a science book, a philosophy book, or a book on ethics.
        1. The book was written to explain to Israel their origin and their history.
        2. The book was written to help hundreds of thousands of freed slaves understand and claim their identity.
        3. It was not written to address 20th and 2lst century issues that did not exist when Israel was delivered from Egypt.
    2. Genesis contains two creation accounts; one is general and one is specific.
      1. The general account, Genesis one, briefly discusses how the Creator God brought the physical world, all physical things, and human life into existence.
      2. The specific account, Genesis two, discusses in more detail the creation of the man and woman, the human male and female.
      3. This is the information I want you to consider.
        1. The creation of the human was unique; the human was a unique life form.
        2. God made a special environment for the human and placed the male human in that environment.
        3. In that environment the man had only one need: the need for companionship because loneliness was not good.
      4. Genesis 2:18-25 deserves your special attention. Notice the progression of its information.
        1. First, notice the statement that the state of loneliness is not a good state of existence for the man.
          1. That was not a discovery God made after creating Adam; God knew that before creating Adam.
          2. But Adam did not know that, and Israel needed a better understanding of that.
          3. Adam needed a helper suitable for him; literal translation, Adam needed a helper “corresponding” to him.
          4. Make a mental footnote of that thought.
        2. Second, God had Adam name all the land creatures.
          1. In that process, Adam discovered that no creature was like him, was suitable for him, could be companion to him, had an existence that corresponded to his existence.
          2. God knew that. Adam did not know that. Adam had to discover that truth before he could appreciate the uniqueness of Eve.
        3. Third, God created Eve from Adam to be his equal, not his superior, not his servant, but his equal.
          1. When God presented Eve to Adam, Adam immediately understood.
          2. “She is unique! There is no creature like her! She “corresponds” in existence to me! She is a part of me!”
      5. We correctly understand that this is the origin of family.
        1. Humans were made to (1) be in relationship with God and (2) exist as families by establishing a relationship between a man and a woman.
        2. The individual was created to bond with another individual and bring into existence family life; we were created to be social beings.
      6. It was very important for Israel to understand those facts.
        1. Israel was family.
        2. Israel was family who belonged to the living Creator God.
        3. Because they as family were descendants of the Abraham who had a special relationship with the Creator God who just released Israel from slavery, they needed to understand that God was working through Abraham’s family to bring a blessing to every family on earth.
        4. As family, they needed to commit to and cooperate with the Creator God.
    3. I now want you to think about a statement you have used all your life.
      1. Those of you who grew up in the church always have heard and taught that Eve was created to be a suitable helper for Adam.
      2. Question: help Adam do what?
        1. When Eve was presented to Adam, there was no evil in the world.
        2. There was no toil and labor.
        3. They lived in an environment designed by God to met every physical life need they had.
        4. He did not go to the office, and she did not iron clothes.
        5. He and she did not make money at different jobs to make ends meet.
      3. Marriage exists so that we can help each other. But:
        1. If that help is limited to cleaning house and paying the bills, we miss the core concept of helping each other.
        2. If that help is limited to making money and acquiring possessions, we miss the core concept of helping.
        3. Help each other do what?
    4. The marriage exists by God’s design to destroy loneliness.
      1. We miserably fail to bring into existence what God intended marriage to do.
      2. There are more married Christians who are lonely than there are married Christians who live in a relationship that destroys loneliness.
      3. Too many Christians experience two common failures in marriage.
        1. Too many Christians, too many people do not understand how to destroy loneliness through marriage.
        2. Too many Christians, too many people do not understand how to create a healthy sexual relationship that nurtures marriage.
  2. I do not wish to offend anyone, but we cannot address one of the fundamental reasons for marriage distress without speaking frankly.
    1. There are two fundamental reasons for so many marriages experiencing deep distress.
      1. The first is that the two people in the marriage are not in a healthy relationship with God.
        1. In a January 8 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette entitled, “Christians more likely to divorce than non-Christians, Survey finds,” the results of a Barna Research Group of almost 4,000 adults reveals that the divorce rate is higher among born-again Christians than among those who declare themselves to be atheist and agnostics.
        2. The results also seem to indicate that there is some relationship between conservative beliefs and divorce: it seems that the more conservative the beliefs of the group, the more likely people in that group are to divorce.
        3. You may interpret those results as you wish, but, whatever your interpretation, the evidence indicates that people professing to be born again Christians do not create the kind of relationship with God that nurtures marriage.
      2. The second fundamental reason many marriages experience deep distress is this: many married Christian men and women do not understand each other well enough to destroy loneliness.
    2. Men and women are fundamentally different as persons.
      1. The magnitude of that difference is seen in the monthly cycle of a woman and the sex drive of a man.
      2. No man understands the power the monthly cycle has in a woman’s life.
        1. That is totally outside a man’s life experience.
        2. He does not even observe that reality until he is married.
        3. It takes a while for him to grasp that the effects of that cycle are real.
        4. Because he never experienced those experiences, many men decide, “It is all in your mind; get tough, forget about it, and don’t think about it.”
        5. He does not understand, and his wife experiences the loneliness that comes from realizing, “He does not understand me as a person.”
      3. No woman understands the power of a man’s sex drive in a man’ life.
        1. That is totally outside a woman’s life experience.
        2. She does not even observe that reality until she is married.
        3. It takes a while for her to grasp that the effects of the sex drive are real.
        4. Because she never experienced those experiences, many women decide, “It is all in your mind; get tough; forget about it, and don’t think about it.”
        5. She does not understand, and her husband experiences the loneliness that comes from realizing, “She does not understand me as a person.”
  3. A fundamental purpose of marriage is to destroy loneliness.
    1. The objective of the unique companionship shared by a man and woman in marriage is to destroy loneliness.
      1. A key component of that companionship is a mutually healthy, nurturing sexual relationship.
      2. That relationship cannot exist if the husband and wife are not committed to understanding each other.
      3. Without that commitment, marriage cannot accomplish one of the primary objectives of God’s design–the destruction of loneliness.
    2. Having good sex does not create marriage.
      1. Good sex alone cannot create successful marriage.
      2. The understandings that destroy loneliness create a successful marriage.
      3. Those understandings will build a good sexual relationship.
      4. A healthy, nurturing sexual companionship is critical to a healthy, nurturing marriage that destroys loneliness for both the husband and the wife.

The church will not be successful in helping people leave pornography, unmarried intercourse, and adulterous affairs until we help people understand that God designed marriage relationships to destroy loneliness.

Religious Band-Aids or Spiritual Healing?

Posted by on under Sermons

We all have our likes and dislikes. I certainly have mine. For example, somewhere in my process of growing up I was taught that you fix a problem the first time you work on it. The saying I was taught: “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” So when I fix something, I want to fix it right.

That formed an important part of my work ethic. I will work hard to do something right the first time, but I hate to fix the very same problem a second time. Focus on what you need to do, do the job right, and truly fix the problem when you work on it.

  1. When God sent Jesus to this world, God was fixing a problem.
    1. The problem was created by Satan the first time Satan deceived people into rebelling against God.
      1. That first human rebellion invited evil to become a part of our world and a part of our lives.
      2. God set in motion His plan to fix, to fix perfectly, what Satan broke by deceiving people.
    2. Stated in a simple way, this was God’s plan to fix the problem evil created.
      1. Step one: find a man who would trust God enough to put his confidence in God’s promises even when the man did not understand those promises.
        1. That man was Abraham.
        2. Abraham trusted God’s promises even when he did not understand them.
      2. Step two: from descendants of that trusting man, produce a nation.
        1. That nation was the nation of Israel.
        2. Israel was and is the descendants of Abraham.
      3. Step three: through that nation create the conditions that would allow God to send His son to destroy the sins of all people.
        1. God worked for centuries in Israel creating the conditions that would allow Him to send Jesus.
        2. God worked through Israel to produce a Savior who would offer salvation to the world.
      4. Step four: when God made Jesus the Savior through his atoning blood and his resurrection from the dead, God would do two things.
        1. The first thing He would do was offer this salvation to Israel.
        2. The second thing He would do was offer this salvation to all people regardless of who they were.
    3. When God sent Jesus on his human ministry, God sent Jesus exclusively to Israel.
      1. When Jesus sent the twelve on what we call the limited commission, he specially instructed them to teach only the people of Israel, only the Jews (Matthew 10:5,6).
      2. He once declared that his ministry was for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24).
      3. Acts verifies that God intended the people of Israel to hear the gospel first.
        1. In Acts 3:26, Peter declared in Jerusalem to an audience at the temple, “For you first, God raised up His servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
        2. When Paul preached Jesus to the Jews in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia, he said that it was necessary to preach to the Jews first (Acts 13:46).
        3. Years later Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “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” (Romans 1:16).
        4. In the missionary journeys of Paul, if there was a Jewish population in the place he visited, he always began preaching first in the Jewish synagogue.
  2. Matthew 15:21-28 records a very interesting incident that occurred in Jesus’ ministry.
    1. The scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem began to shadow Jesus’ movements and to attack him as he taught.
      1. Once as they increased their confrontations with Jesus, he traveled outside the traditional territory of Israel, outside the area we call Palestine.
        1. This is the only time that the gospels verify that Jesus went outside the Jewish homeland.
        2. He went into the district of the cities of Tyre and Sidon.
        3. This was the area just north of Galilee.
      2. While he was in that area, a Canaanite woman came to him begging him to show mercy and heal her demon possessed daughter.
        1. The first thing I want you to notice is that this was a Canaanite woman, not an Israelite woman.
          1. God commanded the first Israelites who entered the land of Canaan to kill this woman’s ancestors because of their great wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:5).
          2. God did not want these wicked people to influence Israel with their evil ways (Deuteronomy 7:1-5).
          3. He did not want the Canaanites to teach Israel to worship their gods.
      3. The second thing I want you to notice is the way this lady approached Jesus.
        1. She called him Lord.
        2. She acknowledged that Jesus was a descendant of King David, and that was one of the important qualifications of the Messiah.
        3. She asked for mercy.
        4. She said the demon was cruel to her daughter.
      4. The third thing I want you to notice is Jesus’ initial disregard for this Canaanite woman.
        1. He did not even acknowledge her presence.
        2. He did not respond to her pleading.
        3. He did not say one word to her.
        4. God sent Jesus to the Jews; he was fulfilling God’s mission; he was following God’s master plan; so he totally ignored her.
      5. The fourth thing I want you to notice is that the woman would not give up.
        1. She continued to follow Jesus.
        2. She continued to beg for mercy.
        3. She would not give up.
      6. The fifth thing I want you to notice is the disciples’ reaction.
        1. The disciples became tired of her and her begging.
        2. They asked Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them.
        3. Perhaps that was a request to give her what she wanted so that she would go away.
      7. The sixth thing I want you to notice is what actually happened.
        1. Jesus spoke to the disciples, not to the woman, and said, “I was sent only to Israel, and she is not a part of Israel.”
        2. But, when Jesus spoke to the disciples about her, she took that opportunity to bow down in front of Jesus and ask him to help her.
        3. Then Jesus spoke to her for the first time, and, oh, what he said: “It is not proper to take bread away from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
          1. Suppose that you begged Jesus for mercy, and he said that to you?
          2. What would you do?
      8. The seventh thing I want you to notice is that the woman agreed that it was not proper to take bread from the children and throw it to the dogs.
        1. “Lord, you are right; I am not one of the children; I am one of the dogs; and it is not right to take anything away from the children and give it to me.”
        2. “But, even the dogs get to eat the crumbs.”
      9. The eighth thing want you to notice is Jesus’ statement.
        1. “Woman, you have a lot of faith.”
        2. “May what you wish happen.”
        3. What she wished was the healing of her daughter, and it happened.
  3. What do you want from Jesus? What do you want Jesus to do for you?
    1. “I want Jesus to fix this physical problem. I want Jesus to fix this physical situation. I want Jesus to change this physical circumstance.”
      1. Is that it? Is that all you want from Jesus?
      2. All you want from Jesus is a miracle to fix something physical?
    2. Miracles that fix the physical are what we are about; miracles that fix the physical are not what Jesus is about.
      1. Miracles that fixed the physical were not permanent.
        1. Every sick person Jesus healed got sick again.
        2. Every hungry person Jesus fed got hungry again.
        3. Every dead person Jesus resurrected died again.
      2. Did Jesus fix all the physical problems in Israel? No.
        1. Did he heal every sick person in Israel? No.
        2. Did he feed every hungry person in Israel? No.
        3. Did he raise every dead person in Israel who died during his ministry? No.
      3. Jesus’ physical miracles verified that God sent him to heal spiritual sickness.
        1. Jesus’ concern for physical needs proved his love for people.
        2. By compassionately ministering to the physical, Jesus focused people’s attention on their greatest sickness, their spiritual sickness.
  4. If Jesus said to you, “Let your wishes become your reality,” what would happen?
    1. If Jesus gave you what you wanted him to give you, what would you have?
      1. Would it all be physical?
      2. Would it all deal with this life?
      3. Would it all be spiritual?
    2. If Jesus gave you what you wanted, would it honor God?
      1. Becoming a Christian totally changed Paul’s understanding of life and death.
      2. Of himself, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20).
      3. As Paul began his letter to the Ephesians, three times he declared that the purpose of Christian existence is “to praise God’s glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
      4. As he looked death in the face, Paul said, “I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).
    3. I have an ambition, a goal for the rest of my life.
      1. Like all who live on this earth, I am physical.
        1. That means I experience aging.
        2. That means I experience trials.
        3. That means I experience sickness.
        4. That means I experience suffering.
        5. That means I will die.
      2. My ambition and goal:
        1. May my aging process honor God.
        2. May my trials honor God.
        3. May my sickness honor God.
        4. May my suffering honor God.
        5. May my death honor God.
      3. May people not say of me, “Wasn’t he a great person!” May people say of me, “Didn’t he belong to a great God and a great Savior!”
    4. It has taken a very long time to learn this truth, but I have begun to learn it.
      1. Christian living is about honoring God.
      2. Christian obedience is about honoring God.
      3. Christian service is about honoring God.
      4. Christian worship is about honoring God.
      5. For the Christian, dying is about honoring God.

[Prayer: “God, help us learn to honor You. Help us stop blinding the world to Your greatness by showing the world us instead of You.”]

Satan has deceived us. He says honoring God has nothing to do with the way we use our lives. Do not allow Satan to deceive you. Whatever happens in your life, use it to bring God honor. Never use religious Band-Aids. Instead, heal your soul in Jesus Christ. Live in Christ and let God fix your heart and mind.

The Spiritual Ones

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Paul received a report about the Christians at Colossae. He heard about their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for Christians. When he wrote them, he included this prayer: “… That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding …” (Colossians 1:9). What would be the result of spiritual wisdom and understanding? They would live in a manner worthy of the Lord.

The Christians of Galatia astounded Paul. They exchanged the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for a fake message masquerading as good news. Paul verified that the true good news was based on God’s accomplishments through Jesus Christ.

Many Galatian Christians were victimized by the teachings that discarded the importance of Jesus Christ. Many left Christ to follow the new fake good news. Paul’s instruction: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

“You who are spiritual” can be translated “the spiritual ones.” Paul wanted the spiritual ones to restore Christians who were caught violating God’s teachings in Christ. The Christian spiritual ones were to rescue the Christian victims who discarded Christ.

Why? The spiritual ones understood God’s will. They understood that God’s purposes were fulfilled in the flesh and blood struggles against the evil realities of everyday life. God sent Jesus to rescue people captured by evil. Christ died to rescue the hopelessly trapped. The extent of the person’s wickedness was no barrier to God’s forgiveness. God can forgive any person who chooses to redirect life and enter Christ.

The spiritual ones understand their mission by understanding Jesus’ mission. Jesus restored in the spirit of gentleness. The spiritual ones seek to restore in the spirit of gentleness. Just as Jesus bore our burdens on the cross, the spiritual ones seek to bear one another’s burdens. The spiritual ones realize that they are temptable rescuers. They do not rescue in an attitude of judgmental arrogance. They rescue in a spirit of humble compassion.

The mission of the church is to call people to closeness with God. How close? Close enough to be the spiritual ones. When the church merely calls people to be religious, its message becomes a fake gospel, and its altered purpose will not bring people close to God.