The Unequal Partnership

Posted by on October 29, 2000 under Sermons

Life’s most valued blessings are based on a sense of partnership. A great friendship is an incredible blessing. Great friendships are built on a sense of partnership. A successful marriage is one of the most powerful gifts of human existence. Successful marriages are built on a sense of partnership. A love-filled home is one of this world’s precious opportunities. Loving homes are built on a sense of partnership. Being part of a successful business is a source of, personal fulfillment. Successful businesses are built through a sense of partnership.

Many view successful partnerships with great skepticism. Commonly, that skepticism rises from personal experience. “Yea, sure! I tried that, and it did not work for me! Your partnership is not real! I see what they contribute to the partnership. But I cannot see what you contribute to the partnership.”

In America, we are hard pressed to think of a significant, common blessing that does not involve some form of partnership. Perhaps for that reason Americans tend to view salvation as a partnership with God.

Let’s consider salvation on the assumption that it is a partnership. Let’s assume that salvation is a partnership with God that gives us eternal life.

  1. What does God supply the partnership?
    1. First, God supplies what I call the inexhaustibles.
      1. God supplies inexhaustible mercy.
        1. Our need for mercy can never exhaust God’s ability to provide mercy.
        2. When I repent, my sins are destroyed by God’s mercy.
        3. When I repent, none of my sins are bigger than God’s mercy.
        4. Paul, writing to Ephesian Christians who were converted from an idolatrous lifestyle, said (Ephesians 2:4-6), But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
      2. God supplies inexhaustible grace.
        1. God does not provide any of us mercy because we deserve mercy.
        2. To provide mercy to people who deserve mercy is a contradiction.
        3. Mercy by its nature is given to the undeserving.
        4. God does not provide us mercy because we are good or are worth saving.
        5. God provides us mercy because He is good.
        6. Grace makes it possible for the good God to accept and love evil people.
        7. Paul, writing to those same Ephesian Christians said (Ephesians 2:8), For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
      3. God supplies inexhaustible forgiveness.
        1. When we place our confidence in Christ’s death and resurrection, when we want to redirect our lives away from evil, God separates us from our sin when we are baptized into Christ.
        2. God’s forgiveness does not end when we are baptized into Christ.
        3. God’s forgiveness begins when we are baptized into Christ.
        4. For us to walk each day with God, God must forgive us every day.
        5. John, writing to Christians, said (1 John 1:9), If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    2. A person outside God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness asks, “How is that possible? How can God provide Christians with inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness?”
      1. It is possible because God gave us a Savior.
        1. It is impossible to understand our Savior unless we understand what a savior is.
          1. A savior rescues a person from a situation or circumstances that are impossible to escape.
          2. A savior rescues us when we cannot rescue ourselves.
        2. We desperately needed a Savior to rescue us from evil because we cannot rescue ourselves from evil.
      2. What did God do when He gave us a Savior?
        1. God took all our evil and all our guilt and placed them on our Savior.
        2. 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.
          1. This was written to Christians who (1) did not realize that they needed God’s Savior and (2) did not rely on that Savior.
          2. “God gave you the Savior to make reconciliation possible.”
          3. “Accept the reconciliation.”
          4. “God desperately wanted you to be reconciled to Him.
          5. God wanted you to have reconciliation so much that God made Jesus sin to make it possible for you to be made righteous.”
          6. “But you cannot become God’s righteousness if you do not accept God’s reconciliation.”
        3. Someone suggests, “Paul was talking symbolically, not actually–God did not actually make Jesus sin so we could be saved.”
          1. Peter understood what God did to be actual, not symbolic.
          2. 1 Peter 2:24 He (Jesus) 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.
        4. Because Jesus paid for our evil with his death and sinless blood, God through Jesus gives the people who enter Christ inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
          1. When God does that, He creates a real relationship with the forgiven person.
          2. When God does that, He creates a real relationship between all those who live in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
          3. It is our responsibility to maintain and mature in our relationship with God and to maintain and mature in our relationship with each other.

  2. When we let Jesus rescue us and reconcile us to God, what do we give to the partnership?
    1. We give God our sins, so that God can forgive and reconcile us.
      1. It was our own evil that separated us from God.
      2. It is because we are evil that we need to be reconciled.

    2. We give God our trust by placing confidence in the Savior God gave us.
      1. We take God at His word.
      2. We place our confidence in God’s promises knowing that God will not break His promise–we trust God!

    3. We give God our love because we appreciate our Savior, our forgiveness, and our reconciliation.
      1. We love God because we understand what God did for us.
      2. We love God because we appreciate our forgiveness, and we understand how desperately we needed to be forgiven.
      3. We love God because we understand that we are reconciled to God only through His mercy and grace.

    4. What do we give the partnership? Sins, trust, and love.
      1. Does that sound like much of a partnership to you?
      2. So, what do you think it does to God when we arrogantly act like God needs us and has to depend on us?
      3. So, what do you think it does to God when we deny how much we need God?
      4. So, what do you think it does to God when we act like God appointed us to be judges who reject and discourage other people?

  3. In the last several decades, too many Christians contributed to a terrible problem.
    1. This terrible problem offends our God, the God who gave us a Savior, the God who gives inexhaustible mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
      1. What terrible problem? We asked God to stand on the outside.
      2. How did we ask God to go outside? We act like the power and the wisdom to “get things done” are found in us.
        1. We act like salvation is about us, not about God.
        2. We act like the church is about us, not about God.
        3. We act like worship is about us, not about God.
        4. We act like spiritual things serve our agenda, not God’s purposes.
      3. This seems to be a common attitude among many Christians: “God, we understand what You want better than You do. You do not have a clue about how to accomplish Your purposes in today’s world. So if You will just step outside and stay out of the way, we will take care of the situation.”

    2. Our concept of partnership with God is all about us.
      1. The partnership depends on us.
      2. We say we place our faith in God, but we really believe in ourselves.
      3. We say we trust God, but we really trust ourselves.
      4. We say we are concerned about God’s values, but we are really concerned about our values.
      5. Why?
        1. Because our confidence is in our answers, methods, and approaches.
        2. Because we really do not think God’s values are that important.
        3. Because we are convinced God’s way will not work.
        4. Because we have not learned God’s definition of success.

    3. So we rarely ask God to come inside and work through us to accomplish His purposes.
      1. When we pray, we often do one of two things.
        1. We use a formula that touches “all the right bases.”
        2. Or, we give God our “laundry list” that asks God to take care of situations we do not like.
      2. We do not beg for guidance or ask for the courage to surrender.
      3. We do not confess our ignorance and ask for wisdom.
      4. It is His church, His Son, His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, His purposes, His will, His judgment, and His eternity.
        1. But we do not give Him the lead and ask Him to teach us how to follow.
        2. We do all the talking, all the planning, all the figuring, and assume God will say, Amen.
        3. God is just supposed to listen and do what we tell Him to do.

  4. Would you say these people had a partnership with God: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Mary, Jesus, Peter, and Paul?
    1. When Noah was bobbling around in the ark, God was in control.
    2. When Abraham was a nomad in a strange land, God was in control.
    3. When Moses led Israel through the wilderness, God was in control.
    4. When David fled from his own son, God was in control.
    5. When Daniel was a captive in Babylon, God was in control.
    6. When Mary was unmarried and pregnant, God was in control.
    7. When Jesus died, God was in control.
    8. When Peter preached to Cornelius, God was in control.
    9. When Paul was executed for preaching Jesus Christ, God was in control.
    10. I have no idea of what is happening your world, but God is in control.
    11. May we as His people give Him control.

[Prayer: Father, teach us to follow. Give us the courage and strength to trust. Help us invite You inside and give You the lead.]

What can we do to destroy the evil idea that God quit after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? What can we do to destroy the wicked conviction that today “it is all up to us”?

Romans 8:32-34 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

A Frightening Parallel

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I seriously doubt anyone influenced [and influences] the thinking and direction of the American restoration movement as much as did [and does] Paul, the evangelist and apostle. Because the modern tap root of the American Church of Christ is in the American restoration movement, our single most significant spiritual influence is Paul’s thinking, insights, and writings.

That is understandable. We regard New Testament writings to be God-inspired scripture. Paul is the understood author of thirteen of the twenty-seven writings that comprise the New Testament.

How influential are Paul’s thoughts, insights, and writings? Though we call Jesus our Lord and Christ, though we call ourselves Christians [Christ-like ones], we are more likely to quote Paul than we are to quote Jesus. When we research a spiritual question, we are more likely to begin our research in Paul’s writings than in Jesus’ teachings.

Among the many invaluable lessons Paul taught, one lesson is fundamental to understanding Paul the Christian. If we read and examine Paul’s perspective in context before we decide Paul’s emphases, we see that Paul clearly, firmly anchored everything to an understanding of Jesus’ person, cross, and resurrection. The foundation for all of Paul’s emphases is Jesus, God’s crucified, resurrected Son.

So what is the lesson? What information about scripture did Paul gain after conversion that he did not possess before conversion? Paul acknowledged he was an advanced student of scripture before conversion (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5,6). There was little difference in his information [his knowledge] of scripture before and after conversion.

Yet, there was an astounding difference between Paul the enemy of Jesus and Paul the servant of Jesus. If his information did not change, what changed? When he understood Jesus was the Christ, his understanding of God’s purposes changed. Before conversion, Paul was certain Jesus was not the Christ. Paul regarded Jesus to be destructive to God’s purposes. After conversion, he understood Jesus was the Christ. As the Christ, Jesus was the centerpiece of God’s purposes.

Paul’s information did not change. Paul’s understanding of the information changed.

As with Paul, information without understanding creates many crises in our lives and the church. As with Paul, a lack of understanding leads us to resist God’s purposes. What can help us? The same thing that helped Paul. We must constantly grow in our understanding of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. God’s purposes must (without fail!) be bound to God’s work in Jesus Christ. When Paul understood that Jesus was the center and the foundation of God’s purposes, he was transformed. The same understanding can and will transform us as powerfully as it transformed Paul.

Christian Morality: The Challenge

Posted by on October 22, 2000 under Bulletin Articles

Jesus challenged the Jewish people to be godly. His teaching emphasis made several truths obvious. (1) For a person to be godly, he or she must be moral. (2) Morality arises from the internal condition of the person and is reflected by his or her external behavior. (3) A person’s behavior does not always prove he or she is moral. [A person may “wear” the morality mask for motives that neither express faith in God nor a commitment to morality.] (4) However, if one’s heart and conscience is moral, his or her internal morality expresses itself in his or her behavior.

From our perspective, Jesus’ challenges and teachings about morality were given to a strange audience. His audience was the conservative, religious standard bearers inside a religious nation. Why would he teach conservative, religious believers about principles of morality? Why did people who believed in God need lessons on morality? Unfortunately, they did what many religious people still do. They separated godliness from morality. Jesus declared it was impossible to separate the two. A godly person must be a moral person, and a moral person must be a godly person.

One reason for people who are not Christians resenting people who are Christians is based on Christian moral expectations. Too many Christians expect those who are not Christians to be bound by Christian morals. Yet, these Christians are not bound by the morality they teach. Hopefully, such Christians are a minority, but they exist. Too many Christians regard Christian morality to be essential in theory. Yet, they do not consider those morals to be the standards for daily life.

If Christian morality is to become the positive force Jesus intended, Christians must be the light of the world, the city on a hill, and the salt of the earth. Society must be blessed by our lives. Our standards must benefit the community. Homes, families, work relationships, and human relationships must be improved by our standards and our behavior. Our lives, our families, and our spiritual community bless people who live among us.

On election day, November 7, this state will decide the status of gambling. If gambling is legalized, our city and county is a designated site for legalized gambling activity. For the residents of Sebastian County, this decision determines what happens in our community.

Bill Wheeler will be our speaker Sunday evening. He has served as a minister of the church in West Memphis, Arkansas. Presently, he is Executive Director of Families First Action Committee. This committee exists to promote and encourage values that will strengthen families in Arkansas. He will encourage us to be informed about the problems produced by legalized gambling. He encourages Christians throughout the state to oppose Amendment 5 when they vote November 7.

May we do more than support moral stands. May we be godly, moral people. May we not restrict our actions to acts of good citizenship. May we live in a manner that demonstrates the value of godliness and human compassion in Christian morality.

Love Me!

Posted by on October 15, 2000 under Sermons

Does anyone see what you have spiritually, and want it? Gary Brown just shared with us about missions Sunday and West-Ark’s commitment to and involvement in missions. Basically, missions is a matter of sharing what we have spiritually with other people and creating in them the desire to want it.

Why would anyone want what we have spiritually? What would touch them so profoundly that they would be willing to redirect their lives to have it? If they watch our lives on a daily basis, what would impress them about our spirituality? Our sense of duty? Our fear of hell? Our obligations? Our habits? Our routine?

One attitude is a positive attitude wherever it exists. One bond is an incredible bond wherever it exists. When this attitude, this bond, this emotion is honest, when it is genuine, people want it. People not only want it, people hunger for it. People hunger for it because it is constructive and filled with blessings.

What is this attitude, this bond, this emotion? Love. Many will never respect our sense of duty toward God. Many will never be touched by anyone’s fear of hell. Our sense of obligation, our habits, or our routine will never impress many. But if our love for God directs and guides our lives, builds our relationships, determines our values, and shapes our commitments, people will notice. Love will attract their attention when nothing else can.

  1. God always wanted people to obey Him because they love Him.
    1. We destroy something precious when we challenge people to follow God and serve Christ without loving God.
      1. Spiritually, obedience and love were never intended to be separated.
        1. If we are God’s people, we love God.
        2. God loves us, and He wants our love.
        3. We obey Him because we love Him.
        4. Love must express itself.
        5. So the person who loves God wants to obey God.

    2. Sometimes we think our discovery of love in the God-human relationship is something new, something only Christians understand.
      1. Jesus demonstrated the depths of God’s love, but Jesus did not reveal the existence of God’s love.
      2. The cross and the resurrection demonstrated the power of God’s love, but they did no reveal the fact of God’s love.
      3. God always has loved, and God always has wanted people to love Him.

  2. Please note that we created the impression that God can be satisfied with a form of obedience that “goes through the right motions.”
    1. In the attempt to stress the importance of obedience, we destroyed the foundation of obedience.
      1. What wood was Noah to use for lumber in building the ark?
        1. “Gopher wood (Genesis 6:14).”
        2. Why? “Because God said so.”
      2. Why was Nadab and Abihu burned to death when they brought their incense burners before God (Leviticus 10:1,2)?
        1. They did not use the fire God told them to use.
        2. Why did they die? “Because they did not do what God told them to do.”
      3. Think about the primary examples of obedience we stressed in past years.
        1. What did we stress? That you must do exactly what God said do.
        2. What was important? Doing exactly what God said do.
        3. How often did we stress the fact that obedience must be based on love?

    2. God clearly declared to Israel the importance of loving Him.
      1. Deuteronomy 6:5,6 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
      2. Deuteronomy 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
      3. Deuteronomy 10:16 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.
      4. Deuteronomy 11:13,14 It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.
      5. Deuteronomy 11:18 You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

    3. “Israel, love me.”
      1. “I destroyed your slavery; love me.”
      2. “I made you a nation; love me.”
      3. “I took care of your physical needs in the wilderness; love me.”
      4. “I will give you your own country; love me.”

    4. Many of the destructive problems existing among Christians today have their roots in our failure to love God.
      1. Our families suffer in crises because we do not love God.
      2. We treat people poorly because we do not love God.
      3. We fail to nurture each other in God’s mercy and grace because we do not love God.

No one ever succeeded in being God’s people without loving God. No one can succeed in being your husband without loving you. No one can succeed in being your wife without loving you. No one can succeed in being your family without loving you. No one can build a successful friendship with you without loving you. In all interpersonal relationships, love is essential for success.

Every successful interpersonal relationship must be founded on the respect, appreciation, and honor that only love can produce. That includes relationship with God.

Jesus: Our Struggles and His Peace

Posted by on under Sermons

A part of my weekly routine is walking three miles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I start about 6:10 a.m. This time of the year those walks are almost over before daylight.

I prefer to walk outside. “Why?” I like the feeling of actually going somewhere. I like the fresh air. I love to be outside. And it is a great time to ponder the “deep issues of life” and to ask “the mysterious questions of human existence.” For example, Tuesday morning I was about a third of the way into my walk when I smelled the distinctive, overpowering odor of a skunk. Immediately, I asked one of those mysterious questions about life. My question: “How can skunks stand to live with each other?”

  1. Basically, we have two reactions to physical existence.
    1. Reaction one: “Life is good!”
      1. Advertisers love to use this reaction.
        1. Advertisers tell us that life should be good.
        2. Then they tell us that life will be good if we just buy their product (this car; this toothpaste; this “fun thing to do”).
      2. In other words, if I cannot say, “Life is good!” it is my fault because Ido not have the right things.

    2. Reaction two: “Life stinks.”
      1. Movie makers and television producers love to use this reaction.
        1. An common theme in too many movies is, “Life stinks!”
        2. A common theme in daytime dramas, talk shows, and television series is, “Life stinks!”
      2. We are told that if we honestly look at the ugly facts all around us, “Life stinks.”
        1. Angry people are angry because life stinks.
        2. Depressed people are depressed because life stinks.
        3. Enraged people are filled with rage because life sinks.
        4. Life is not fair; life is not just; life is not kind; life stinks.

  2. Consider some statements Jesus made that are so familiar that many of you can think of them without thinking about them.
    1. Scripture # 1:
      Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
      1. Is that statement familiar to you?
      2. Have you ever used it?

    2. Scripture # 2:
      John 10:10 “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
      1. Is that statement familiar to you?
      2. Have you ever used it?

    3. Question: what do those statements imply to you?
      1. Do they imply that anyone who comes to Jesus will receive and experience the “life that is good”?
      2. Do they imply that anyone who comes to Jesus will never experience pain, frustration, struggle, or hardship again?

  3. Consider three situations that occurred in Jesus’ ministry.
    1. The first situation is found in Luke 7:36-50.
      1. A Pharisee invited Jesus to come have a meal at his house.
      2. The Pharisee also invited the community’s religious elite to come.
      3. While they were eating, a woman known by the community to be a sexually immoral woman (likely a prostitute) walked in uninvited.
      4. She went straight to Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, anointed them with perfume, and repeatedly kissed them.
      5. As this happened, the Pharisee (Simon) thought to himself, “If this man was a prophet he would know what kind of woman this is who is touching him.”
      6. Jesus said, “Simon, let me talk to you,” and Simon said, “Talk.”
      7. Jesus said two men owned debts to the same man, one owed a huge debt and one owed a small debt.
        1. Neither man could repay his debt.
        2. So the man forgave both debts.
        3. Jesus asked, “Which debtor loved the man the most?’
        4. Simon gave the obvious answer: “The debtor who owed the most.”
        5. Jesus said he was right, and compared the debtor who owed the most to the woman, and the debtor who owed the least to the Pharisee.
      8. Jesus then told the woman, “Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
        1. What does that mean?
        2. “You mean what does ‘your sins have been forgiven’ mean?” No.
        3. “You mean what does ‘your faith has saved you’ mean?” No.
        4. I am asking what does, “Go in peace,” mean?
      9. What kind of peace would this woman have the first time one of her former lovers came to see her?
        1. “I know what your are.”
        2. “The whole city knows what you are.”
        3. “You know what you are.”
        4. “What do you mean ‘never again’?”
        5. Peace?
      10. Did the fact that Jesus forgave her and told her to go in peace mean:
        1. Every man and every wife in the community forgot what she used to do?
        2. She could go back to worship and no one lift an eyebrow?
        3. The Jewish religious community would welcome her with open arms praising her because she decided to redirect her life?
        4. Her life would suddenly be easy?
        5. Suddenly life would be simple, temptation would end, and everyone would be incredibly encouraging and helpful?
      11. Those who know much about real life in the real world among real people would say, “No, it did not mean those things.”
        1. Then what did “go in peace” mean?
        2. If “life stinks” did not suddenly become “life is good,” what did he mean?

    2. The second situation is found in Luke 8:43-48.
      1. A woman had hemorrhaged for twelve years.
        1. No one was able to heal her physical condition.
        2. She believed touching the fringes on the bottom of Jesus’ robe would stop the hemorrhage.
          1. Numbers 15:38,39 commanded the Israelite men to wear fringes or tassels on the hem of their clothes as a reminder of God’s commandments.
          2. Every generation of men were to wear these fringes.
          3. Jesus wore those fringes.
        3. I do not know how the woman did what she did.
          1. I do not know how a woman could fight through all that crowd of men and get close enough to Jesus to touch him, but she did.
          2. I do not know how she maneuvered to touch the bottom of his clothing without getting stomped, but she did.
          3. Immediately, when she touched the fringes, she was healed.
      2. With the multitude pushing and shoving, with countless people trying to touch Jesus as he passed, Jesus knew when someone with faith touched him.
        1. When she knew that Jesus knew something happened, she was terrified.
          1. First, as a woman in a man’s world, she had no right to do what she did.
          2. Second, the fact that she had a hemorrhage made her unclean (Leviticus 15:25-30), and anyone who touched her was made unclean just by touching her–she was not even supposed to be in the crowd.
          3. No wonder she was terrified!
        2. You can imagine what she expect to happen when, trembling, she fell down in front of Jesus?
          1. She explained what she did and why.
          2. Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
      3. What did that mean? Go in peace?
        1. Do you think that the whole multitude applauded, or do you think some said, “Who does this woman think she is touching Jesus? What if she had made Jesus unclean?”
        2. Do you think instantly everybody and everything made life good?

    3. The third situation occurred the last night of Jesus’ earthly life while he was with the twelve apostles in John 13-16.
      1. In hours he would be betrayed, arrested, denied, tried, and convicted.
      2. In less than twenty-four hours he would be dead.
      3. In twenty-four hours their leader would be in the tomb.
      4. Jesus made two statements to the twelve who followed and served him, men who thought that Jesus would become Israel’s king in a matter of days.
        John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
        John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
      5. I am leaving you with peace? In me you have peace?
      6. Do you remember what happened to these men for preaching about Jesus after the resurrection? Peace?

  4. Does belonging to Jesus end injustice, unfairness, wrong treatment, and turn a person’s life into the physically good life?
    1. No, and it never has.
      1. Jesus died on a cross, eleven of the twelve apostles were killed, Stephen was killed, persecution of Christians was common, and having faith in Jesus often resulted in hardship and struggle.
      2. Faith in Jesus did not solve the physical problems of the early Christians.

    2. Then what was the peace?
      1. The peace of knowing God’s forgiveness.
      2. The peace of having your guilt destroyed.
      3. The peace of living in the mercy and grace of God every day of your life.
      4. The peace of being loved by Jesus and God.
      5. The peace of knowing the injustice and unfairness of this world cannot exist in eternity.
      6. When our faith is firmly fixed in Jesus, because he forgives us, we can go through life in peace. Our peace exists because he overcame the world.

[Prayer: God, help us understand that the peace Jesus gives is something far superior to having our physical desires granted. Help us stop looking for our peace in the things of this world. Help us find peace in our relationship with You. Help us find peace in Your mercy and Jesus’ forgiveness.]

Tuesday morning, shortly after I smelled the skunk, in the dim light of a streetlight I saw something shining on the sidewalk. In that light it looked like a big, heavy, silver, ring. I walked past it, but coming back I thought, I ought to check that out. I stopped, reached down, picked it up. As soon as I touched it I knew it was not what it appeared to be. It was just a worthless aluminum bottle cap.

As we live in this world, things tell us that they are of great worth. But when we pick them up, we discover they are not what they appear to be.

The peace Jesus gives us is not found in things or in physical circumstances. His peace is found in God’s mercy and Jesus’ forgiveness.

Missions Awareness

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The “God loves me more than anyone else” attitude is ancient. It is first cousin to the attitude, “God cannot love you because He loves me.” God is best understood through love (1 John 4:8). Is it not astounding to hear someone committed to God express lovelessness for other people?

Among the numerous active groups who bless this congregation is our missions committee. It is large, very active, and loves people. Their love of Christ is evident in their love for people.

They help many in a variety of circumstances. They maintain continuing, coordinated commitments to Laos, Thailand, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Guyana. They maintain involved interests in Romania and New Zealand. This year a group plans to begin active involvement in the City of Children in Mexico.

Our missions committee plans and coordinates most of West-Ark’s missions outreach. Several on the committee make short-term mission trips. Some finance their own efforts. All of them are generous and committed. When we are involved in a mission effort, they (a) stay informed, (b) supply meaningful help, and (c) have someone visit.

Our missions involvement takes many forms: evangelistic teaching; preparation of missionaries; training and supporting nationals on the field; assisting the Ethiopian deaf work; ministering to Ethiopia’s drought crisis; providing moral support and spiritual encouragement to Christians in difficult circumstances; medical missions; and working with C.U.R.E. (one of our ministries) to provide medical supplies.

Since 1990 a team travels to Guyana each year to combine four intensive efforts in a week’s work: (a) provide desperately needed medical treatment; (b) through that expression of physical concern create evangelistic opportunities; (c) teach in the schools; and (c) conduct evening gospel meetings in several congregations. Over one hundred members of this congregation have participated in that effort.

The weekend of November 12 will be devoted to missions awareness. In the morning assembly of the 12th, a special contribution will be collected. The purpose: to fund much of the committee’s budget for 2001. The committee will soon share with us the amount needed for the 2001 budget. In the past the congregation has given or pledged from $110,000 to $140,000 in support of the coming year’s work.

May we each think, plan, and pray about the help we will provide that Sunday. Someone recently asked about the significance of the flags in a corridor in our building. They represent the countries that have received teaching or help from West-Ark.

Deuteronomy: What Did Israel Need That We Need?

Posted by on October 8, 2000 under Sermons

Here we are as a nation facing a major election. The presidential candidates tell us this election is a major decision at a critical moment in this nation’s history. (I have observed that every four years presidential candidates declare it is a critical time of decision in our nation.) We are informed that this is a “cross roads” election that will determine the direction of our nation in a new century.

Locally, we face some interesting decisions. We face another initiative to legalize gambling in Arkansas. Gambling zones have been established prior to the decision. Regina’s House of Dolls taught our city a hard, expensive lesson: the importance of establishing zones before a decision. We citizens of Arkansas will decide if the state will or will not legalize gambling.

So what does this nation and this state need?

  1. Some say, “We need to return to the moral values that built this nation!”
    1. It is seriously suggested that we as a people need to return to the great morality that once characterized the American people.
      1. My question: when and where was that?
        1. Was that when towns killed women who were accused of being witches? our first president had children by a slave? our early cities used children virtually as slave laborers? the person who controlled bootlegging and “speak easies” became wealthy? the age of saloons, brothels, and violence? the time of Bell Starr (who used to visit Fort Smith)? the time of Pretty Boy Floyd who grew up and is buried not far from Fort Smith?
        2. Was that when plantations functioned by using slave labor? the Native Americans’ land was confiscated and reservations were established? the Cherokee was forced to walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma? the Garrison Avenue area had sixty-six saloons and seven houses of prostitution (about 1900)?

    2. When was that age?
      1. My own conclusion: the age of great American morality is a myth we created by remembering what we want to recall and forgetting the ugly.
      2. In every age, religious people find reasons to think their generation is the worst of ages–conditions and situations were always better in the past.
      3. If you really examine beneath the facade, get below surface appearances, the ideal age of great godliness and morality never has existed.
      4. There certainly were ages when “keeping up appearances” were more important, but it was appearances, not substance.

  2. Some say, “This nation needs to return to faith in God!”
    1. What do we mean by return to faith in God?
      1. Was there an age of great faith when the whole nation was religious?
      2. Is it just a matter of talking about God? or passing and enforcing laws that are in agreement with Christian standards? or having religious meetings? or controlling what happens in a community?
      3. Do we define spiritual success as causing everyone to agree that the God of the Bible exists?

    2. I am confident that the circumstances and situation of my childhood community and the circumstances and situation of many of the older adults’ childhood community are not that different.
      1. In my childhood community, many people who were not openly religious expected their kids to live by the rules of Christian morality.
        1. They did not attend a church of any kind.
        2. In fact, many people in the community were not active in any church.
        3. They did not oppose Christianity; they did not oppose churches; but they were not religiously involved.
      2. There also were religious people who were involved.
      3. And there also were ungodly people who had little respect for religion.
      4. Is that the way it was in your childhood community?
      5. Would we conclude we achieved spiritual success as a nation or a city if we reproduced the conditions of our childhood? My question is not, “Would you like that better?” My question is, “Would that be spiritual success?”

  3. What is your understanding of the obedience God expected from Israel?
    1. “God declared the law and said, ‘Do it!'”
    2. “Israel was expected to do it just like God said to do it.”
    3. “If they did what God said to do exactly like God said to do it, they were okay.”
    4. “If they did not do exactly what God said to do, God destroyed them.”
    5. So your understanding of obedience for Israel was basically “do what you are told to do”?

  4. Take your Bibles, turn to Deuteronomy, and read with me.
    1. Deuteronomy 4:9
      1. Context: Moses urged them to remember the great things, the unique things that God did for them.
      2. “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
      3. Keep your heart in your memories of God.

    2. Deuteronomy 4:29
      1. Context: Moses said that future generations would turn to idolatry, and the result would be that God would be angry and scatter them.
      2. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”
      3. What happened in their hearts was the key to the repentance that would cause God to return.

    3. Deuteronomy 4:39
      1. Context: Moses stressed a basic understanding Israel must never forget.
      2. “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.”
      3. Their commitment to God had to come from their hearts.

    4. Deuteronomy 5:28,29
      1. Context: The nation of Israel heard God speak the ten commandments from Mount Sinai.
        1. They sent a delegation of leaders to Moses who said, “We heard God speak in a human voice and did not die.”
        2. “But the experience terrified us.”
        3. “From now on let God speak to you only, and we will listen to and obey everything you tell us.”
      2. “The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me (reverence me) and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”
      3. To God, their words were pleasing, but God understood they had a heart problem; God wanted a heart response, not just a word response.

    5. Deuteronomy 6:4-6
      1. Context: Moses stressed Israel’s basic responsibility to God (the commandment that Jesus said was the most important commandment God ever gave).
      2. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”
      3. Obedience must began with the heart belonging to God.

    6. Deuteronomy 8:2
      1. Context: Moses explained God’s purpose for Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
      2. “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
      3. God wanted something far beyond control; God wanted obedience to be a response from the heart.

    7. Deuteronomy 26:16
      1. Context: Moses admonished Israel to obey God’s instructions.
      2. “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.”
      3. It was not enough to do them; they needed to obey with all their heart and soul.

    8. That is not all the scriptures in Deuteronomy that emphasize that obedience must come from the heart.
      1. There are too many to read in one lesson.
      2. Others include 8:5; 8:11-14; 28:45-47; 30:1-3; and 30:6.

  5. Let me ask you to think with me.
    1. Do you give God control of your life, or do you give God your heart?
      1. In your relationship with God, is that one question or two questions?
        1. Is the matter of God controlling your behavior one issue?
        2. Is the matter of God having your heart a separate issue?
        3. Or, is it the same issue: God is in charge of your behavior because your heart belongs to God?
      2. Is the primary issue in obedience the issue of control, or the issue of heart?

    2. God always has expected people’s obedience to come from the heart.
      1. God always has expected heart based obedience.
        1. That is what God expected in the Old Testament.
        2. That is what God expects of Christians.
      2. The people who truly obey God are the people who love God.
      3. It is as necessary to belong to God inwardly as it is to do what God says.
      4. Do these words sound familiar to you? “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8,9).

  6. What do our nation, our society, our state, our city need?
    1. My understanding: the greatest need in America is the need for men and women who love God with all their hearts.
      1. Heartless obedience to God will not bless our society.
      2. Heartless obedience to God will not redirect our families.
      3. Heartless obedience to God will not rescue our children.
      4. Heartless obedience to God will not save us.

    2. From the moment they left the slavery of Egypt, heartless obedience would not work in Israel.
      1. It will not work in the church.
      2. It will not work in our families.
      3. It will not work in our personal lives.
      4. The greatest single restoration need in Christianity is the need to restore the obedience of love–we obey God because we love God.

With all that God did to prove His love and compassion, Israel had every reason to love God from the heart. With all that God did to prove His love and compassion, Christians have every reason to love God from the heart.

Israel quickly forgot what God did for them. Do you remember what God did and does for you?

God’s Will: Control or Conversion?

Posted by on under Sermons

The American people as a nation have great confidence in the benefits of good government. Most of us realize our democratic form of government produces incredible benefits. No other form of government in any other large nation gives its people the benefits we enjoy. No one else has our kind of freedom. No one else has our guaranteed human rights. No other large nation values the individual as do we. The openness and opportunity that exists in our society is unthinkable in many other nations.

Religiously, a powerful truth exists that most people never see. They not only do not see it, but they may never realize that truth exists. The truth: what works best in a society is commonly superimposed on the church. The longer the church exists in a society, the more the church reflects the structure of that society. That is not hard to understand. What society does well must be good. When Christians accept it as good in society, they believe it will be good in the church.

  1. That is not something new; it happened in the earliest days of the church.
    1. Allow me to show you two New Testament examples (there are more than two examples).
      1. Among the early Jerusalem Christians were baptized Pharisees.
        1. They believed with all their being that the church should baptize only the people who first accepted Judaism (the Jewish religion).
        2. They believed with all their hearts God’s will was obeyed by keeping strict, controlling regulations.
        3. When people who had not accepted the Jewish religion were baptized, Pharisees who were Christians declared, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5).
        4. The church should adopt the Pharisees’ approach; that was good.
      2. Among Christians baptized in Corinth were people who had lived an idolatrous, sensual lifestyle.
        1. They declared Christians should not be condemned for satisfying their sexual desires in any way they chose (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
        2. This was their basic argument: “When you are hungry you eat to satisfy your natural appetite. The hunger for sexual satisfaction is no different.”
        3. The church should adopt sensual idolatry’s approach to life. That was good.

    2. The American religious movement that resulted in the existence of the American Church of Christ began about 1800.
      1. That movement began with a double emphasis (a) on the freedom to follow only the Bible and (b) on the importance of unity.
      2. In time the emphasis shifted in a significant segment of that movement.
        1. The emphasis shifted to church structure.
        2. In that emphasis concerns focused on correct theology and correct forms.
      3. When more time passed, the emphasis shifted again in a significant part of the movement.
        1. This time the emphasis focused on worship.
        2. But the focus was on the forms in worship rather than an understanding of what worship is.
        3. The essential thing was to worship in the right way.

    3. To me, something is obvious (it may not be obvious to you, and it is certainly okay if you disagree with me.)
      1. We did what some Christians in the early church did: we superimposed our American experiences on the church.
      2. “Whatever are you talking about?”
        1. The “right” form of government produced incredible blessings in our nation.
        2. The “right” way of doing things would produce incredible blessings in the church.
      3. During the majority of my life, the congregations I worked among in the Southeastern United States focused on “correct forms.”
        1. The “right form” of organization for the congregation.
        2. The “right form” of organization for the leadership.
        3. The “right form” of organization for the church’s work.
        4. The “right form” of organization for worship.

    4. In a basic way, this influenced our view of God, Christ, and the church.
      1. “God is an authoritarian.”
        1. “We call Him Father, but He is really a mysterious authoritarian.”
        2. “When he says jump you just ask, ‘How high?'”
        3. God’s concern is proper government, not relationship.
      2. “Jesus is Lord.”
        1. We define the concept of Lord in the terms of an authoritarian.
        2. “What Jesus became after his resurrection is completely different from what Jesus was before he died.”
        3. “As a man, he was compassionate; as Lord he is authoritarian.”
        4. “We call him the good shepherd, but he is actually the Lord who exercises all authority.”
        5. Jesus Christ’s concern is proper government, not relationship.
      3. “The church is an authoritarian institution.”
        1. “The church is about the control of spiritual government.”
        2. “We call the church the family of God, but the church is actually about control, not about relationship with God or His people.”
        3. “The church is Christ’s body.”
        4. “The church was designed by God.”
        5. “God and Christ are authoritarians.”
        6. “So the church is an authoritarian institution.”

    5. “Big deal, David! What difference does that make?”
      1. It makes a basic difference.
        1. It powerfully influences what you regard to be spiritual.
        2. It is a significant factor in our children leaving the church.
        3. It is a significant factor in the darkness and emptiness too many Christians struggle against inside themselves.
      2. “Why? I do not understand.”
        1. It distorts our view of God, Christ, and the church.
        2. It creates an inadequate biblical view of God, Christ, and the church.
        3. It tempts us as Christians to place our confidence in rules and forms instead of God’s love and Jesus’ compassion.
      3. This is not a new problem; it is almost 2000 years old.
        Ephesians 4:17-24 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
        1. There are many wonderful things in this scripture that deserve our attention, but I want you to see one obvious fact.
        2. How were many Christians in this congregation living and behaving?
          1. They were living and behaving just like the people who did not believe in God.
          2. Paul’s basic point was this: “when you understand what God did for you in Jesus Christ, you will not live like people who do not know God.”
          3. “That is not what you were taught about Jesus Christ.”
          4. “Let God recreate you in Jesus Christ.”

  2. Every week I know and understand that the needs in this congregation are much bigger than I am.
    1. Every week I see three major needs that never end.
      1. I see the constant need to emphasize the truth of God’s grace and mercy.
      2. I see the constant need to emphasize the fact that Christ’s forgiveness is not a license to do evil.
      3. I see the constant need to emphasize the fact that faith in rules and forms cannot save you, but faith in Jesus Christ will save you.
      4. And it is impossible for me to address those three needs in thirty minutes on any Sunday morning.

    2. I will do something this morning I never remember doing in thirty eight years of full time work as a preacher, and I likely will never do it again.
      1. On any given week my work is quite interesting.
        1. Last Sunday a family who recently placed membership made it a point to thank me for my lessons.
        2. Several times this week I worked with people to help them understand how to use God’s help as they fought major battles in their lives.
        3. Monday night I received an e-mail from Michael Cole sharing how many people read the lessons on our web site.
        4. Tuesday I received an anonymous letter.
      2. I have never before publicly discussed an anonymous letter.
        1. I will this morning for three reasons: I genuinely believe the person loves me; I am confident the person prays for me; I know the person is hurting.
        2. “I will try to be gentle. I aim to be kind. But I do have a point to make. I need to be fed from the word! I don’t know how you select the topics you do, but from my seat, I go away unfulfilled, uninspired and upset…”
      3. “That must have upset you!”
        1. No, it did not upset me; I felt a deep sense of sadness for the person.
        2. I do not know who this person is, but I do know this person is a friend.
        3. The note talked about how much the person loves me and prays for me, and I believe that is the truth.
        4. It made me sad to know that someone thought that he or she could not talk to me.
        5. I never want to be the kind of person someone fears; I want to be a person who is approachable because I care.

    3. One of the things I really value in this congregation is its diversity.
      1. Some of you live in a really tough world every day of your life.
      2. Some of you live in a very opportune world every day of your life.
      3. Some of you have very limited opportunity.
      4. Some of you have incredible opportunity.
      5. No matter what happens in our personal worlds, I want us to be God’s family.
        1. I want us to help people find God, depend on Jesus, and be filled with God’s Spirit.
        2. I want people to come to Christ because they know they matter to God, and they matter to God’s family.

[Prayer: Father, we thank you for the life and forgiveness that you provide us in Jesus. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for the privilege of being Your family. Help us place our confidence in You and Your Son without fear. Help us open our hearts and minds so You can sustain us.]

Please let me make a confession. There is nothing I can say in thirty minutes on Sunday morning to meet every need present. So let me ask you to do these things.

  1. Understand that you can never exhaust God’s grace, and you never exhaust God’s grace by using it. But also understand that you must never abuse God’s grace. You abuse it if you frivolously take it for granted.

  2. Understand that you can never exhaust Jesus Christ’s forgiveness, and you never exhaust Jesus’ forgiveness by repenting and accepting it. But also understand that you must never abuse Jesus’ forgiveness. You abuse it if you frivolously take it for granted.

  3. This is my plea. Do more than declare that Jesus is Lord. Let Jesus direct your life, but also let him be your good shepherd. Understand what it means to let Jesus be Christ in your life. Allow Jesus to do for you what he wanted to do when he died.

God’s Fingerprints

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Our arrogance is often exposed. Yet, we are convinced that we are not arrogant! Arrogance exists in two basic forms. The first reveals itself in human-human relationships. The second reveals itself in the human-divine relationship.

Commonly, culture and society define arrogance in human-human relationships. In human-divine relationships, God’s nature defines arrogance. We typically attempt to confront arrogance in human-human relationships. We typically are poor in identifying or confronting arrogance in our relationship with God. The Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes also failed to identify arrogance in the human-divine relationship.

To conclude God is dependent on humans is arrogance. To think “it is primarily up to us” to achieve God’s will in our world is arrogance. The conviction that the critical leadership in the universal church, the American church, or the local congregation is human leadership is arrogance. To believe that God’s will cannot be achieved in the crucified/resurrected Jesus unless “the right people are in control” is arrogance. To conclude that the “future of the church depends on human minds” is arrogance.

God is not helpless. He actively will pursue His eternal purposes after we are dead. The first century persecutions, decline of the Mediterranean world, dark ages, European Protestant Reformation, Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, and twentieth century’s instability did not stop God. Neither will the twenty-first century and whatever is beyond.

God is not a dependent. When we conclude He is, we are incredibly arrogant. When we think God is helpless, we need to open our eyes and see His fingerprints.

West-Ark is significantly involved in evangelistic and medical missions. One service we provide in other nations is the distribution of used eyeglasses. Skilled, committed members do an excellent job matching glasses to needs. To simplify their work, a special instrument was acquired.

Opportunities created a need for a training video. One Sunday an “SOS” was sounded, and Ralph Smith volunteered his skills. Thanks to those who use this new instrument and Ralph’s abilities, the training video became a reality.

Bob and Jane Fisher visited a Texas congregation. A class talked about a member who would soon visit Russia to match eyeglasses to needs. Bob asked the lady if she had this particular tool. She did, but she did not know how to use it. She promptly received the video and had a very successful trip.

Can you see God’s fingerprints? Do you examine them in your world and life?

Why Deuteronomy?

Posted by on October 1, 2000 under Sermons

This is the situation. You are healthy. You are mentally and physically fit. You are free. You are in no imminent danger. However, you know for an absolute certainty that you will physically die very soon. You will not die from sickness. Your death will not be the result of a criminal act. But you know for a fact that you will die, and your death is unavoidable.

While you do not fear death, you are not ready to die. There is something that you want to do before you die, and you really want to do it. Yet, you are absolutely certain that you will never do it. You want to live, but you know that you are going to die.

For forty years your extended family has been in a major crisis. You provided the only leadership that enabled your family to survive. In a very short time, the family crisis will end; it will be history. While the crisis will end soon, you know you will be dead before it ends.

You have one last opportunity to share with your family. What would you say?

  1. If you can place yourself in that situation, you can identify with Moses when he spoke and wrote the book of Deuteronomy.
    1. That was Moses’ situation.
      1. Though he was a very old man, he was in excellent physical health.
        1. His body was much younger than his chronological age.
        2. Deuteronomy 34:7 records, “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.”
        3. He did not die because he was old, or sick, or murdered.
        4. As far as his physical condition was concerned, there was no reason for him to die.
      2. However, Moses knew that he would die.
        1. In Deuteronomy 4:21 Moses told them, “Now the Lord was angry with me on your account and swore that I should not cross the Jordan…”
        2. Moses clearly understood that he would die before Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan.
        3. Deuteronomy starts with Israel camped next to the Jordan River.
        4. The date is the eleventh month of the fortieth year of Israel’s wilderness wandering (Deuteronomy 1:1-3).
        5. Israel wandered in the wilderness one year for each day the Israelite spies spent traveling in Canaan [thirty-nine years earlier.]
          1. It took one year to travel from Egypt to Canaan the first time.
          2. They spent thirty-nine more years in the wilderness.
          3. In one month the forty years would be over.
          4. Moses knew that he would die very soon.

    2. Moses’ leadership brought this people through an enormous crisis.
      1. Through God’s appointment and guidance, Moses was their leader.
        1. Moses led them in the confrontation with Pharaoh.
        2. Moses led them out of Egypt and slavery.
        3. Moses led them across the Red Sea to freedom.
        4. Moses led them to Mount Sinai to receive God’s law and organization.
        5. Moses led them to the border Canaan the first and second time.
        6. Moses led them in the wilderness for forty years.
      2. Moses literally saved Israel from destruction on several occasions.
        1. When the people had Aaron build the golden calf so they could turn to idolatry, it was Moses who pled with God not to destroy the nation (Exodus 32:9-11).
        2. When the ten of the twelve spies destroyed the confidence and faith of the nation, it was Moses who pled with God not to destroy the nation (Numbers 14:11,12).

    3. With all his being, Moses wanted to enter Canaan; he even pleaded with God to let him go with the nation into the land (Deuteronomy 3:23-29).
      1. God responded by saying, “No! And do not ask me again!”
      2. “Prepare Joshua to lead the people into Canaan.”
      3. Moses was enabled to view Canaan from the top of Mount Pisgah, but he never entered Canaan.

    4. Much of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last opportunity to share with Israel.
      1. For forty years he has been their leader in the worst of conditions.
      2. By the power of God, he led them out of slavery.
      3. By the power of God, he led them across the Red Sea to total freedom from the Egyptians.
      4. By the power of God, he led them in the desert for forty years.
      5. By the power of God, he fed and watered them.
      6. And he watched as every adult [but two] who left Egypt died in that wilderness.
      7. And he had a relationship with God unsurpassed by anyone but Jesus.
      8. And he had to say good bye, to give the leadership to Joshua.

  2. What did Moses say to Israel in his final message?
    1. I want us to focus on Moses’ message for about four weeks.
      1. I predict many of you will be amazed.
      2. I urge you to bring your Bibles and see for yourself.

    2. Why do you think many of us will be amazed?
      1. Let me use your own concepts to illustrate why.
      2. If you characterized the book of Deuteronomy, how would you describe it?
        1. “It is a book of laws.”
        2. “God gave these laws to the nation of Israel, and Israel was to obey them.”
      3. What kind of obedience were they to give God?
        1. “I did not know that obedience came in ‘kinds’.”
        2. “They were just supposed to do what God said do.”
        3. “If they did it, they obeyed; and that is what mattered.”
      4. If you think Deuteronomy is just a book of laws that God gave Israel, and all Israel needed to do was what God said do, you will be amazed.

  3. The first four chapters of Deuteronomy are an introduction and foundation to what Moses said in the rest of the book.
    1. This was their physical situation: they were camped near the Jordan River ready to cross into the territory that God promised them.
    2. Moses reminded them of their past.
      1. “You remember when I reorganized our method for addressing problems” (1:9-18).
        1. At first, every man in the nation who needed a judge to resolve a conflict between himself and other man came to Moses.
        2. Moses organized a system for judgments to resolve problems within each tribe.
      2. “You remember that we traveled from Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai) to the border of Canaan” (1:19-40).
        1. We sent twelve spies into Canaan (it was to be a “how do we go about it” mission, not an “is it possible” mission).
        2. Ten of the spies discouraged your fathers, and your fathers refused to enter Canaan.
        3. Their refusal angered God, and He declared that your fathers would die before the nation entered Canaan.
      3. Then your fathers realized their refusal was a huge mistake (1:41-46).
        1. Against God’s instructions, they decided to attack, and they suffered a great defeat.
        2. They wept before God, but God was not moved by their tears (there is a huge difference between the tears of regret and the tears of repentance).
      4. The nation then spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, and God provided their physical needs (2:1-7).
      5. Then the account focused on Israel’s conquest of the territory east of the Jordan River that became the land belonging to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
        1. Principle one of that conquest: Israel could not take any of the land that belonged to the nations who descended directly from Abraham (God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations in Genesis 17:5).
          1. Several nations came from Abraham.
          2. God gave each of those nations their country just as God gave Israel Canaan.
          3. Israel was not to take what God gave those nations.
        2. Principle two of the conquest: they could take the land of the nations who did not descend directly from Abraham.
      6. The men who inherited the territory east of the Jordan River were given the responsibility to help conquer the territory west of the Jordan River (3:18-22).
      7. God told Moses, “Do not ask Me again for permission to enter Canaan! You will not go into Canaan” (3:23-29).
      8. I would characterized 4:1-14 as, “Listen, remember, and obey.”
      9. I would characterized 4:15-31 as, “Carefully do two things: avoid idolatry and keep your agreement with God.”
      10. I would characterize 4:32-40 as, “Think about God’s nature and remember why God blessed you.”

    3. There are two points I want you to consider carefully.
      1. Point one: “God occupied the primary role in everything that happened to bring you to this moment.”
        1. “Your choices determined God’s responses.”
        2. “But God always occupied the primary role.”
        3. “You are not here because of your power; you are here because of God’s power.”
      2. Point two: “God is unique; nothing is like God.”
        1. “No nation has the righteous laws you have” [other nation’s laws were based on their concept of justice, but not on fairness] (3:8).
        2. “No nation has been helped by God like you have been helped” (4:32).
        3. “No people has heard God’s voice and survived, but you have” (4:33).
        4. “No nation has been formed inside another nation through trials, miracles, war, and God’s mighty hand as you have been” (4:34).
        5. “God did these things in these ways for a reason.”
          1. Reason one: “That you might know He is God and there is no other.”
          2. Reason two: “He loved your forefathers and chose their descendants hundreds of years before you were born.”
      3. “Therefore, never exaggerate your importance.”
        1. “God personally brought you out of Egypt with His power” (4:37).
        2. “God removed stronger, bigger nations so that you could have their land.”

    4. That is why you should follow and obey God.

Four powerful truths were affirmed to Israel that need to register with us as powerfully as they did with Israel.

  1. One: you are because God is.

  2. Two: you always have been totally dependent on God; God has never been dependent on you.

  3. You are blessed because of God’s love for people who were more faith filled than you.

  4. Never diminish God’s significance; never exaggerate your own significance.