Reconciliation: God’s Solution to Alienation

Posted by on February 25, 2001 under Sermons

Our society has a Ph.D. in alienation. Every teenager and every adult know what alienation is. Most of us have personal experience with alienation. Even though I wish it were not so, too many preteens have experienced alienation. Stated simply, alienation is the separation of two individuals or groups who have experienced togetherness. In this sense, alienation produces the unfriendliness, the hostility, or the indifference that separates two persons or two groups.

In the following, I used the most recent statistics available. In 1998, there were 1,135,000 divorces in the United States. In 1999, 27% [more than one in four] of the children in the United States lived in a one parent home. Over half of the Americans who are alive this morning will experience one or more step situations before they die. Each day 1,300 new step-families are formed in this country. Of these families, two out of three will divorce. Most divorced people remarry, and most remarriages involve children.

If we only consider family realities, most Americans experience alienation first hand. Yet, alienation experiences certainly are not restricted to family situations. Have you ever had a good friend who became an enemy?

  1. One of life’s helpless feelings is the earnest desire to end alienation, and to be unable to end it.
    1. Consider an adult, of any age in any situation, who desperately wants alienation to end and reconciliation to begin, but cannot make it happen.
      1. This person’s heart yearns for reconciliation.
      2. He or she make sincere efforts to reconcile, but every effort fails.
      3. He or she is confused because he or she does not understand why the alienation happened or why reconciliation cannot happen.
      4. Or, he or she is grieved because he or she knows what caused the alienation but cannot do anything about it.

    2. Consider an adult, of any age in any situation, who desperately wants alienation to end and reconciliation to begin with God, but thinks it is impossible.
      1. Do you remember an experience when you felt like a Mack truck hit you?
        1. You feel totally crushed.
        2. You do not know what hit you.
        3. You simply do not know what happened, but it was bad!
      2. Life’s experiences can run over you like a eighteen-wheeler.
        1. Life’s events can run over you with guilt, depression, despair, and grief.
        2. When they do, you can feel the separation from God.
        3. Your heart yearns for reconciliation.
        4. And you try to be “good enough” for association with God, but you cannot.
        5. You see your own flaws and failures, and you grieve–there is nothing you can do to change the past and “make it right.”

    3. If what you do is search for a way that you of yourself can “fix” your relationship with God, you are right–there is nothing you can do.
      1. You of yourself cannot destroy the alienation.
      2. You of yourself cannot create reconciliation.
      3. You of yourself never can associate with God because you are “good enough.”
      4. If what you are trying to do is deserve relationship with God, it cannot happen.

  2. Let’s play a game of questions and answers.
    1. Question # 1: What was God’s basic objective in sending Jesus to this world?
      1. Answer: “God’s objective was to give the world a Savior.”
      2. Most of us agree God’s basic objective was to give the world a Savior.

    2. Question # 2: What is a Savior?
      1. Answer: “A Savior rescues us from a situation that will destroy us.”
      2. Most of us agree that a Savior rescues us from destructive situations.

    3. Question # 3: How do people learn about this Savior?
      1. Answer: “People learn about the Savior by hearing the ‘gospel.'”
      2. Most of us agree that people learn about the Savior by hearing the gospel.

    4. Question # 4: What is the “gospel”?
      1. Answer: “The ‘gospel’ is the ‘good news.'”
      2. Most of us understand that “gospel” means “good news.”

    5. Question # 5: What is the “good news”?
      1. I do not want to try to answer that question.
      2. In the claim of “preaching the gospel” the religious world has shared every attitude and perspective imaginable, and so have we.
      3. “Paul, why don’t you help us understand what the good news is?”
        Colossians 1:19-22 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [Jesus], and through [Jesus] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet [Jesus] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
        1. God the Father’s pleasure was for the divine fullness to live in Jesus.
        2. God the Father’s pleasure was to reconcile everything to Himself through Jesus.
        3. God the Father’s pleasure was to make peace through the blood of Jesus’ cross.
        4. The Christians at Colossae needed to understand before they were Christians their evil deeds alienated them from God.
        5. But, Jesus died on the cross to reconcile them to God.
        6. Jesus made it possible for people to stand before God as holy, blameless people who were beyond reproach.
        7. Christians can stand before God as holy and blameless because Jesus reconciled them to God.
        8. What is the good news? In Jesus, we are reconciled to God.
          Romans 5:10,11 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
        9. Paul told the Christians at Rome that God paid the full price for everyone’s reconciliation while people were still enemies, still alienated from God.
        10. If God by choice paid the price of reconciliation while people were His enemies, God will do much more than that by saving us in Jesus’ new life.
        11. So God is the Christian’s greatest, highest joy. Why? Jesus Christ ended the alienation and reconciled us to God.

    6. Just how much did God want to reconcile us to Him?
      2 Corinthians 5:18-21 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 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. You never wanted anything as much as God wants to reconcile us to Himself.
      2. Think of something you want and have wanted above everything else, and realize God wants reconciliation with you more.
      3. What God did in Christ was reconcile the world to himself.
      4. God gave Paul and his mission companions the ministry of reconciliation–God wanted them to inform everyone that God paid the price of reconciliation.
        1. God did not use Christ to take an accurate count of people’s sins.
        2. God used Christ to destroy sin so we could have reconciliation.
      5. God wanted reconciliation so much that He made Jesus sin for us so we might become God’s righteousness in Jesus.

  3. So, how do people react to that good news? Different people react in different ways.
    1. Some people react by declaring that is totally useless information
      1. In fact, they say it is not even information.
      2. To them there is no God, no good, no evil, no right, no wrong, no alienation, and no reconciliation.
      3. To them, religion is useless and Christianity is “bad news.”

    2. Some people react by declaring, “I do not need reconciliation because I am basically a good person. Evil is not and never has been a problem in my life.”
      1. “There are no absolutes; nothing is always good or bad.”
      2. “Every consideration of good and evil is relative.”
      3. “God is not upset with me–everything between God and me is cool.”
      4. “God wants me to be happy, and that is what life is all about–me being happy.”

    3. Some people react by acknowledging that guilt, despair, and depression are major problems.
      1. Many of these people try to “fix” problems on their own.
      2. They try to be good and do right, but the harder they try the deeper the guilt and despair become.
      3. Peace is not an option in their lives.
      4. They are convinced God would never look at them; their situation is hopeless.

    4. Some react by saying, “I do not need reconciliation nor an understanding of reconciliation.”
      1. “God is obligated to take care of me.”
      2. “I did what He said I must do.”
      3. “God owes me.”
      4. “Because God owes me, reconciliation is not an issue for me.”

    5. Where are you? What is your reaction?

  4. I conclude the following scripture I want to share with you is Paul writing about himself.
    1. Paul had the whole range of experiences: keeper of the law, expert in the scriptures, religious persecutor, guilt’s devastation, dependence on the grace of God.
    2. Please read and listen.
      1. Hear the despair.
      2. Hear the solution.
        Romans 7:18-8:2 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
        1. The despair: human effort cannot make a person pure. Our mistakes always condemn us.
        2. The solution: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

[Prayer: God, help us accept and trust reconciliation in Jesus Christ.]

Are you alienated from God? Or, do you live in peace because you live in God’s reconciliation?

Complacency: Satan’s Weapon of Choice

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Satan uses quite a collection of weapons against the godly. His attacks are highly specialized. He always uses “the effective weapon of choice.” His objective is always the same: in each situation, do as much damage as possible. He does not use the same weapon against every godly person.

Godly individuals exist in a variety of different circumstances. Satan rarely attacks anyone with a weapon he knows will be ineffective. His purpose in the attack is to create distressful temptation and struggle.

Never doubt Satan’s ability to choose an effective weapon! Peter was one of Jesus’ “inner three” apostles. God revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ (Matthew 16:17). Even the other eleven did not understand that truth! Peter was the confident champion of Jesus the Messiah. The last night of Jesus’ earthly life, Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny Jesus that night (Matthew 26:34).

Impossible! Peter was certain death itself could not make him deny Jesus (Matthew 26:33,35)! Yet, before daylight, Peter said, not once but three times, that he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:75).

How could “the impossible” happen? Did Satan use alcohol, drugs, a seductive woman, greed, or jealousy? No. In that situation, those were ineffective weapons. Ineffective weapons would strengthen Peter, and that was not Satan’s goal! Satan used an effective weapon, a weapon Peter regarded stupid and ridiculous. He was strong! He was sacrificial! He paid great prices to follow Jesus!

Satan’s weapon? Complacency. “Oh, no! Peter’s situation was highly volatile–the last supper, the garden, the prayers, the betrayal; Jesus’ arrest, trials, and humiliation! Those circumstances were too volatile for complacency!” A form of complacency thrives in volatile situations. In volatile situations, it is a powerful form of temptation. It counts on volatile situations to make it effective.

What form of complacency is that? The complacency that convinces you strength comes from faith in yourself. The form that convinces you the present situation does not equal your past performance. The form that convinces you that you are “right.” The form that makes it easier to pass judgment on the moment instead of opening your mind to consider the complexity of the situation.

Peter was certain he was strong because of his commitment and conviction. Peter was certain he was equal to the situation because of his past performances. Peter was certain he understood God’s will, and it did not include Jesus’ death. So, in the certainty complacency produces, Peter judged the moment instead of opening his mind.

It always is easier to judge the moment than to open our minds and hearts–and think. It always is easier to pass judgment than it is to see and deal with complexity.

Liberating Faith: Obedience (part 2)

Posted by on February 18, 2001 under Sermons

Because of several good things that happened the last three Sundays, four weeks have passed since my last Sunday evening lesson. A painful part of preaching is being honest with yourself. In all honesty, as painful as it is to admit, I doubt many of you still retain much of what I shared four weeks ago. My first objective in tonight’s lesson is to connect tonight’s lesson to my last lesson on obedience.

The “over-all” theme we are considering is “Liberating Faith.” I want us to believe and respond to everything God reveals about Himself, His Son, His Spirit, His will, and His purposes. I do not want us to mistrust or reject anything God reveals. I do not want us to oversimplify anything God reveals.

I want us to do three things in understanding God’s will and purposes. (1) I want us to base our understandings on God’s perspective and balance as revealed through His word, scripture. (2) I want us to grow in the awareness of all God did and is doing through Jesus Christ. (3) I want us to accept, even welcome, the discomfort of spiritual growth and development. [I personally know and understand that spiritual growth and development produces personal discomfort!]

  1. In my last lesson on “Liberating Faith” we started studying obedience.
    1. Many of us, maybe all of us, have oversimplified God’s concept of obedience.
      1. We oversimplified the definition of obedience: “Obedience is doing what God says.”
        1. “God is the authority.”
        2. “You must yield to authority.”
        3. “You do what God says you must do.”
      2. In that definition, the primary focus [maybe even the exclusive focus] of obedience is on physical acts.
        1. Obedience is simply a matter of doing the right acts.
        2. Stated negatively, most Christians are confident that a person obeys God if he or she does not rebel against God.
      3. That concept and definition of obedience is an oversimplification.

    2. Tonight I will not present again the material in the lesson of 1/21/01 p.m.
      1. If you want to consider that material in detail, it is available to you on audio tape, in written copy supplied by the office, or on our Web site.
      2. To basically recap that material:
        1. We looked at the Sabbath command [one of the ten commandments] found in Exodus 20:8-10 and noted it clearly stated the Sabbath day [the seventh day, Saturday] must be kept holy by Israel by not working.
        2. We looked at Leviticus 15:32-36 and noted the execution of a man who worked on the Sabbath day by picking up sticks.
        3. We looked at the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6) and noted that on the Sabbath that the military at least marched around the city.
      3. My personal conclusion is that Israel’s army fought the battle that conquered Jericho on the Sabbath.
        1. That is my personal conclusion because Exodus 20:10 specifically declared the seventh day is the Sabbath.
        2. Joshua 6:4 states the attack was to occur on the seventh day.
        3. Israel’s victory over Jericho had a highly symbolic significance to Israel.
          1. One of the reasons Israel did not enter Canaan about a year after leaving Egypt was their fear of walled cities (Number 13:28).
          2. Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron told them that God could give them victory even over a land of walled cities (Numbers 14:7-9).
          3. Thirty-nine years later when Israel began conquering Canaan, God gave them the first city, a walled city.
        4. The fall of Jericho was a constant symbol of the fact that Israel would conquer Canaan because God would be with them.
        5. My conclusion is this: God took that symbolism to its height in two ways:
          1. God brought the walls down.
          2. God did it on the Sabbath.
          3. So all the spoil taken by that battle belonged to God.

    3. When I take all this into consideration [the Exodus 20 Sabbath law; the Leviticus 15 execution of the Sabbath violator; and the fall of Jericho], this is my conclusion: obedience is the complex response to God.
      1. The obedience response involves far more than human acts.
      2. An action without faith is meaningless.
      3. An action without repentance is meaningless.
      4. If obedience occurs, it must involve the mind, the heart, and the act.
      5. The act always depends on understanding God’s priorities and purposes.

    4. I really appreciated your responses.
      1. Let me suggest three kinds of response, some vocal, some silent.
      2. Response one: “I have never thought about Jericho being marched around or attacked on the Sabbath.”
      3. Response two: “That unsettles me. What does it mean? I always have considered obedience to be such a simple thing.”
      4. Response three: “David, I think that you are snatching straws out of the air.”
        1. “We decided a long time ago what obedience is.”
        2. “That closed the matter, and we should not reopen it.”

  2. Do you think that Jesus “snatched straws out of the air?”
    1. In the first century, the Pharisees were the best versed, best read, most accurate students of scripture.
      1. Even Jesus acknowledged their factual knowledge was accurate (Matthew 23:2,3).
      2. Yet, their leaders viciously attacked Jesus’ teachings and actions.
      3. Their criticisms and judgments were intended to destroy Jesus’ credibility and effectiveness.
      4. They constantly challenged:
        1. Jesus’ understanding of the scripture.
        2. Jesus’ application of the scripture.

    2. Interestingly, one of their continuing, constant challenges was this: Jesus violated the Sabbath.
      1. When Jesus countered their criticisms concerning the Sabbath, he called their attention to the same types of situations I asked you to consider in the last lesson.
      2. Jesus’ disagreements with the Pharisees and scribes about what constituted working on the Sabbath day resulted in the Pharisees feeling enormous animosity against Jesus.

    3. Consider Matthew 12:1-7.
      1. The situation:
        1. It was a Sabbath day, a Saturday.
        2. It was harvest time.
        3. Jesus and his disciples were walking along the edges of grain fields (the line that paths commonly took).
        4. His disciples were hungry, so they stripped the “heads” of the mature grain from their stems and ate the raw grain.
      2. The accusation:
        1. The Pharisees, following them, looking for faults and mistakes, said the disciples broke the law.
        2. They violated the law by violating the Sabbath.
        3. They violated the Sabbath because eating the grain necessitated the act of harvesting which was an act of work.

    4. Jesus said there were three basic problems with their accusation.
      1. First, “you form your concepts and conclusions before you consider the full information of scripture.”
        1. When David fled from King Saul, David asked for and took from the priest the shewbread [the twelve loaves of bread that represented the twelve tribes of Israel in the tabernacle] for emergency rations (1 Samuel 21:1-6).
        2. Such bread was to be in the tabernacle before God continually (Exodus 25:30).
        3. It was to be renewed [replaced] every Sabbath day as an everlasting covenant (Leviticus 24:8).
        4. That bread was holy, and only the priests were allowed to eat it (Leviticus 24:9).
        5. However, the priest gave it to David [who was not a priest], David ate, and nowhere did God condemn the priest or David.
        6. Jesus declared that was relevant in forming a complete, correct concept of God and Sabbath expectations.
      2. Second, “you form your concepts and conclusions without considering exceptions.”
        1. The priests violated every Sabbath by offering sacrifices.
        2. Offering sacrifices involved major acts of work.
        3. Yet, God expected them to work and did not condemn it.
        4. If the pharisees justification was that this work was required to maintain the temple, they needed to understand that Jesus was more important than the temple.
      3. Third, “you form your concepts and conclusions in ignorance of God’s full intents and purposes.”
        1. Hosea [a prophet of God to the northern ten tribes of Israel] told those people they did not have a proper understanding of scripture.
        2. Jesus said neither did the Pharisees have a correct understanding.
        3. Hosea said (Hosea 6:6) that God desires compassion, not sacrifice.
        4. Jesus said, “You have no compassion; you condemn the innocent.”
        5. Without compassion for people, a sacrifice given to God has no meaning.
        6. Let’s put that in words we use and understand.
          1. Sacrifices were commanded acts of worship.
          2. Commanded acts of worship are meaningless to God when the people who worship have no compassion for others.
          3. Jesus said, “If you Pharisees understood that, you would not have judged and condemned my disciples.”

  3. Let’s be honest by examining the obvious (at the cost of painful awareness).
    1. First, Jesus declared there were relevant considerations in understanding the Sabbath law that we would not likely use.
      1. David eating the holy bread did not directly involve the Sabbath.
      2. The priests offering sacrifices on the Sabbath did directly involve the Sabbath.
      3. Hosea’s statement did not directly involve the Sabbath.
      4. However, Jesus declared all three examples were relevant to understanding God and His interactions with people.
      5. Therefore, when you fail to properly understand God, you cannot understand the Sabbath.
      6. If you understand God, it will affect the way you treat people.
      7. If you do not understand how to treat people properly, the worship you offer to God has no meaning to God.

    2. Second, Jesus said understanding his true identity is the number one relevant consideration in understanding the will and purposes of God.
      1. The Pharisees did not understand Jesus’ true identity.
      2. The basic reason they failed to understand Jesus’ identity was this: Jesus did not agree with or endorse their conclusions, and they were the experts in scripture.
      3. Because they failed to understand who Jesus was, they failed to understand God’s purposes in Scripture.
      4. The result: the people who should have been Jesus’ greatest friends actually were Jesus’ greatest enemies.
      5. That is scary!

It is impossible to understand everything we need to understand when we become a Christian. It is impossible to understand everything we need to understand in a lifetime of faith. There will never be a point in our lives when we do not need to grow spiritually. The easiest thing to do is stop growing. We must never, never do that!

Atonement: Paying the Bill

Posted by on under Sermons

People are quite different. That is an undeniable fact. The fact we are different is the foundation of many crises. Almost every teenager considers his or her family weird because everyone in the family is different. Then we marry someone different. And, after a few years of trying to change the person we marry to be “like me”, the differences distresses us. At the same time, we have children, and every child we have is different. And those differences distress us. Then our children become teenagers, and they think their family weird because everyone is different. And the cycle begins all over again.

People are quite different. When we look at the same thing, what we see is different. When we hear the same thing, what we hear is different. When we examine the same facts, we come to different conclusions. When we consider the same concepts, we reach different determinations.

  1. Consider some common understandings about “paying life’s bills.”
    1. Some were taught this basic understanding of life: “I made my bed; now I must lie in it.”
      1. Life is about enduring consequences.
      2. In this concept, a person “pays the bills” by living with their mistakes.
      3. Whatever the consequences, you live with them.
      4. That is only “fair;” you made the mistake, so you pay the consequences.

    2. Others were taught this understanding: “I got myself into this; it is up to me to get myself out of it.”
      1. Life is about escaping consequences.
      2. In this concept, there is a way out, but it is up to “me” to find it.
      3. “I” must accept full responsibility; that is the only way that “I” can escape consequences in life.
      4. If “I’ do the right things, “I” can escape consequences, but “I” have to do it; it is up to “me.”

    3. Others reach adult life with this conviction: “There are no bills to pay, and if bills exist, someone else should pay them.”
      1. In life, there are no consequences.
      2. Life is about “me,” and everything exists to benefit “me.”
      3. Even when someone else pays, if “I” use it, it is “mine.”
      4. “I” have no responsibilities; “I” only have rights.
      5. Let me share an example of this thought process: if “I” have primary use of a car, the car is “mine.”
        1. Dad may be making the payments.
        2. The company I work for may own the title.
        3. But if “I” use it, it is “my” car!
        4. Possession is determined by use, not by who pays the bill.

    4. These three understandings are also three views of life.
      1. “I made my bed, so I must lie in it” declares it is impossible to escape the consequences of my mistakes. Life is about living with consequences.
      2. “I got myself into this, so I must get myself out of it” declares mistakes can be escaped, but escape is all up to me. Life is about escaping consequences.
      3. “There are no bills to pay” declares significant mistakes cannot happen, and I will not accept consequences. When bad things happen, it is not “my” fault.
      4. All three views are in fundamental error.

  2. To understand this situation, we need to understand a basic truth about God.
    1. The truth: God and evil are total, complete, exact opposites.
      1. The presence of evil and the presence of God exclude each other.
      2. That is why evil cannot stand good and good cannot stand evil.
      3. Good and evil are enemies dedicated to each other’s destruction.

    2. That puts all of us in a major crisis.
      1. Everyone of us is guilty of evil.
      2. There always are things in our minds, our hearts, and our actions that oppose God’s will and purposes. That means three things.
        1. Every person is guilty of his own evil.
        2. Unresolved evil, without exception, excludes a person from God.
        3. No one of himself or herself can solve the problem of personal evil.

    3. That crisis is seen in two facts.
      1. None of us, of ourselves, can approach God because God is absolute purity and each of us is evil.
      2. It is impossible for us of ourselves to produce reconciliation with God.
      3. If any of us saw ourselves through God’s eyes for thirty seconds, we could not stand what we saw.
        1. If you doubt that, consider Isaiah’s reaction when he had that experience.
        2. Isaiah found himself in God’s presence, and he immediately reacted.
        3. Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
        4. If it is only me, I do not dare approach the holy God–not in prayer, not in worship, not in repentance, not in anything.
      4. Yet, God wants us to approach Him.
        1. Therein is the problem.
        2. God wants me to approach Him, but my evil and His purity make that impossible.

  3. Look at the problem: the holy, pure God cannot be approached by people guilty of evil.
    1. God in His purity cannot be approached by impure people.
      1. Just as human nature is made of many parts and is complex, God’s nature is made of many parts and is complex.
      2. We like some parts of God’s nature: God is loving, merciful, kind, forgiving, compassionate.
      3. But God’s nature also includes wrath, justice, absolute holiness, and absolute purity.

    2. God is totally removed from evil.
      1. For us, that is a problem.
      2. We are evil; we even consider some of our evil to be good.
      3. The result: our evil makes it impossible for us to approach God.

  4. God solved the problem none of us could solve, and God’s solution is called atonement.
    1. In the Old Testament, Israel could approach God if Israel atoned for their evil by offering animal sacrifices.
      1. The Hebrew words for “atonement” come from a common root word that means “covering.”
      2. Atonement allows two who are estranged to come together as one.
      3. We do not use the word “atonement” much; we use the word “reconciliation.”
      4. The Old Testament word is atonement; the New Testament word is reconciliation.
      5. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel could approach God because they offered animal sacrifices.
        1. The animal’s life and blood “covered” their sin and allowed them to approach God.
        2. But the life and the blood of a sacrificed animal “covered” the people’s evil only for the moment; animal sacrifices could not permanently “cover” evil.

    2. For a permanent solution, someone “had to pay the bill in full.”
      1. Humanity’s evil created an enormous “bill.”
      2. Our individual “bill” was enormous.
      3. Humanity, collectively or individually, could not pay the “bill.”

    3. For atonement to work, some definite conditions were required.
      1. The sacrificial animal had to be “perfect;” or in Old Testament words, “without blemish.”
      2. The sacrifice had to cost; evil was and is a serious matter.
        1. It cost the sacrificial animal its life.
        2. It cost the one who offered the sacrifice the best animal he had.
      3. To use words familiar to us, atonement required the sacrificial death of the perfect specimen.

    4. Permanent atonement exists for us because God “paid the bill:” God sacrificed the life of the perfect specimen.
      1. God let His sinless Son die on the cross.
      2. Listen:
        Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
        Hebrews 10:10-14 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He (Jesus), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

  5. The more I understand Jesus Christ, the more terrified I am by what I see among Christians.
    1. Let me ask you to read a scripture with me.
      Ephesians 4:17-20 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.
      1. Paul was writing to Christians who in their past did not even know God.
      2. He said, “Christians cannot live and act like people who do not know God. Christians cannot have the attitudes, the emotions, or the value system that people who do not know God have. Christians cannot treat others as do people who do not know God.”
      3. “It is not possible to know Jesus Christ and act like people who do not know God.”
      4. “You were not taught Jesus Christ in a way that told you to act like godless people.”

    2. Why is it impossible for people who know Jesus Christ to live like godless people?
      1. When I accept Jesus’ atonement, God renews the spirit of my mind (Ephesians 4:23).
      2. When I accept Jesus’ atonement, I want God to re-create me in the righteousness and holiness of truth (Ephesians 4:24).
      3. When I understand Jesus’ atonement, I want to be the new self who lives in God’s likeness (Ephesians 4:24).

    3. Why? Why would an adult ever choose to be baptized into Christ?
      1. Why would anyone choose to be buried into Christ?
      2. Why? Atonement! Reconciliation!
      3. Jesus died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, was raised to a new life for me.
      4. When I understand atonement, when I understand God was covering my sins in Jesus’ death, I want to die with Jesus, be buried with Jesus, and be resurrected with Jesus.
        1. Jesus did that for me so I could be one with God; Jesus reconciled God and me.
        2. I want to participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection so I can be one with God.

[Prayer: “God, help us see and understand everything You did for us in Christ.”]

Atonement means no one has to lie in the bed he or she made. Atonement means it is not up to me to discover the way to escape consequences. Atonement means all of us make mistakes–big ones. Atonement means God paid the bill in full with His own Son’s death to “cover” my evil. Atonement means that I can be reconciled to God.

Because we are all different, atonement individually reconciles us to God by individually “covering” the evil in our individual lives. That “covering” is permanent. We recognize that “covering” as forgiveness. A Christian needs to believe and repent every day. A Christian does not need to be baptized every day. Have you accepted the atonement?

Everyone Needs Appreciation

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Sunday was special! It was special for many reasons. It was special because of decisions made by Christian men and women over twenty years ago; because of the sacrifices, commitment, and dedication of Christ-serving Christian men and women in that period. It was special because of those who had dreams and visions, gave time and effort, provided leadership, taught classes, preached sermons, served in ministries, loved, and trusted God. Without all of them, Sunday would never have happened.

It was special because so many made the day possible. We appreciate Jack Harriman and his family returning and sharing. We appreciate Will Ed Warren returning and sharing. We appreciate everyone who helped make worship a time to praise God and lift our hearts. We appreciate all who came early and worked hard to prepare the meal. We appreciate all those who stayed to clean up and put up.

We appreciate all the love and the rewarding bonds of fellowship. We thanked those who were the avenue of blessing, but we understand God gave the blessings. In both the twenty years and Sunday, each opportunity for good came from God who created those opportunities in Christ. God made it all possible by giving us Jesus and letting His Spirit live in us so we can be His temple. Nothing was or is possible without God.

God gave us His Son to reconcile us to Himself. He gave us His Spirit to make us His living temple. Jesus showed us what God wants in human existence. He taught us the meaning of love from God’s perspective and showed us how to be God’s servants. Because of Jesus, we learn the meaning of compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. Jesus intercedes for us before God, and the Spirit helps us express ourselves to God when words fail us.

Where would we be if God had not re-created us in Christ Jesus? Where would we be if Jesus was not Lord? Where would we be without the Spirit’s encouragement? Where would we be if God refused to reconcile? Where would we be if Jesus refused to give the atoning blood? Where would we be if we had no access to the Comforter? Where would we be without “new birth” and “re-creation”? Where would we be if God did not clothe us in Christ? Where would we be without the purity, the holiness, and cleansing God provides us in Jesus every day we live?

Where would we be without Jesus’ cross and resurrection? Where would we be without our God who accepted Jesus’ death and provided the power of Jesus’ resurrection?

Where would we be? No where–except in the pits of inescapable, hopeless despair.

Always, always, always appreciate God.

The ‘Now’ — Twenty Years Later

Posted by on February 11, 2001 under Bulletin Articles

Twenty years! How things change in twenty years! In 1981 Ronald Reagan became our fortieth president; the first portable computer was introduced (the Osborne 1); the first case of AIDS was reported; Prince Charles married Diana; the space shuttle Columbia made its first successful space voyage; John Lennon was killed; and Lionel Richie had his first of thirteen top ten hits, all occurring in six years.

Oh, the changes that occurred in my life in the last twenty years! What about your life? Where were you twenty years ago? Where were your children twenty years ago? What was your personal “vision” for life twenty years ago? Were you married twenty years ago? What was your “vision” for your family’s future twenty years ago? What “now” knowledge was not even a “thought” twenty years ago? Examples? In 1981, did you use a personal computer, e-mail, a cell phone, a disc player, a microwave, or cable television? How is the car you drive today different from your 1981 automobile?

Sunday we celebrate twenty years of existence. In the 9:30 a.m. Bible class hour, all adult and teen classes are encouraged to meet in the auditorium. Roy Dunavin, Brad Pistole, Ted Edwards, and David Chadwell each will share a brief thought or insight.

In the 10:30 a.m. worship assembly, Jack Harriman will speak. Jack was pulpit minister of West-Ark when we began.

At 1:30 p.m., we will enjoy an early afternoon worship. Will Ed Warren will speak. Then we will dismiss for the afternoon. At 6 p.m. a communion assembly will meet for those who were unable to attend the morning worship.

Where do you think God will lead West-Ark in the next twenty years? We are deeply grateful for our past blessings and opportunities. May they be a platform for our future usefulness to God’s purposes.

God Is the One Who Justifies

Posted by on February 4, 2001 under Sermons

There are many experiences I hope I never have. I hope I never lose my freedom. I hope I never exist without love. I hope I never live in circumstances that show me no respect. I hope I never live in a situation completely ruled by fear. I hope that I am never forced to exist without hope.

It appears to me that people use two basic approaches attempting to escape adversity. The first approach simply stated is never attract attention to yourself. Be as invisible as you can. If no one sees you, other people never think of you. Therefore they do not cause you trouble. The second approach also simply stated is maintain a high profile that radiates strength and power. If you are too important to bother, no one will bother you. If you are too powerful to bother, no one will bother you.

Both approaches can be stated simply. Neither approach is accomplished simply. People who attract no attention are sometimes considered weak. Their perceived weakness can attract a lot of attention when adversity strikes. People who maintain a high profile that radiates strength and power are sometimes considered the target. People who use adversity greedily want their position. When adversity strikes, high profiles can become challenges.

Whose attention do you want to avoid if at all possible? Some do not want to attract God’s attention. Speaking personally, I want God’s attention. I would like to avoid Satan’s attention.

  1. One day Satan had the audacity to walk in on a meeting God was conducting (Job 1:6).
    1. Instead of making Satan leave, God interviewed him (Job 1:7-12).
      1. God: “Where have you been?”
      2. Satan: “Roaming around the earth.”
      3. God: “Did you notice Job? He is the most outstanding follower I have on earth.”
      4. Satan: “He should be the way You protect him. He is not stupid; the only reason he follows You is because he knows it would be foolish not to follow You. If he lost Your protection, Job would curse You.”

    2. God knew Job followed Him because of faith, not because of the physical blessings.
      1. God said, “You can do what you wish, but do not touch him.”
      2. In quick order, Job lost everything, but Job did not blame God (Job 1:13-22).

    3. Satan visited God again, and God again interviewed him (Job 2:1-6).
      1. God: “Where have you been?”
      2. Satan: “I have been roaming around the earth.”
      3. God: “What do you think about Job now? He lost everything without cause, and he still is a man of integrity.”
      4. Satan: “Oh, but You still protect him. Let him suffer, and he will curse you.”
      5. God: “You may cause him suffering, but you may not kill him.”

    4. In that way we are introduced to an ancient question that we still struggle with today: why does a godly person suffer?
      1. Three of Job’s friends came to visit and explain why these ordeals fell on Job.
        1. They take turns explaining why this happened.
        2. All their explanations were wrong, and Job knew they were wrong.
        3. Job answered each argument presented to him.
      2. The fact that the arguments were wrong made Job increasingly bold.
        1. Job was so convinced of the injustice of the whole situation that he was certain he could argue the injustice to God…and win (Job 23:1-7)!
        2. Finally God spoke to Job, and instantly Job realized there were aspects of the situation that he knew nothing about (Job 38-40:5).

    5. There are a lot of questions we have about Job, but there is one certain thing we never want to happen: we never want Satan making accusations against us to God.

  2. Zechariah 3 informs us of another interesting situation.
    1. Some of the Israelites who were in Babylonian captivity returned to Jerusalem.
      1. The first tasks were to rebuild the temple, reestablish the priesthood, and restore sacrificial worship.
        1. Zerubbabel started rebuilding the temple, but the project came to a stand still (Ezra 4 and 5).
        2. Even when the temple was completed, the priesthood had to be activated and a high priest put into position.
      2. Both challenges–the rebuilding the temple and putting a high priest in place–were enormous challenges.

    2. This is my understanding of what happened in Zechariah 3:1-5.
      1. God selected Joshua to be high priest [Joshua was the grandson of the high priest in office when the temple was destroyed].
      2. Satan stood at Joshua’s right hand to accuse him.
        1. Satan’s accusation: “God, you cannot make Joshua high priest. By Your own standards this is not right.”
        2. “Joshua is not pure; his impurity prevents him from serving as high priest.”
      3. God rebuked Satan.
        1. God had an angel standing near Joshua to remove his filthy clothes.
        2. By removing the filthy clothes, God destroyed Joshua’s iniquity.
        3. Then God clothed him in clothing suitable for the high priest’s work.

  3. In both situations, Satan served a common role.
    1. Satan was Job’s accuser before God.
      1. Satan challenged Job’s motives.
      2. Satan questioned Job’s faith in God.
      3. Satan the accuser caused Job’s suffering in an attempt to prove that Job had ulterior motives for following God.

    2. Satan was Joshua’s accuser before God.
      1. That is why Satan was there: to accuse Joshua.
      2. It was Satan who challenged Joshua’s fitness to be high priest.
      3. It was Satan who wanted God to focus on Joshua’s mistakes.

    3. I think I can predict many of our reactions: “I certainly do not want Satan making me and my mistakes a topic of his accusations before God.”
      1. If you are a Christian, Satan cannot do that to you.
      2. Satan does not now have the access to God that he had when Job and Joshua lived.
      3. God does not listen to Satan’s accusations now as He did then.
      4. Now God will not listen to Satan’s accusations against His people.
      5. Why? What is the difference between now and the ages when Job and Joshua lived?
        1. The why and the difference have the same answer, the same reason.
        2. Satan does not have access to God now because of Jesus Christ.
        3. Satan cannot accuse God’s people now because of Jesus Christ.

  4. Perhaps your reaction is, “Aw, David, that is ridiculous! I think you are just pulling that out of the air somewhere.”
    1. Consider with me Romans 8:31-34.
      What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 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.
      1. Paul wrote this statement to the Christians in Rome who experienced a lot of suffering.
      2. Paul wanted them to understand these things:
        1. Our eternal blessings will make the sufferings of now seem insignificant.
        2. We are sustained in our painful experiences by this expectation.
        3. When we are so distressed that we do not know what to say, the Spirit intercedes for us.
        4. If we love God and seek to fulfill God’s purpose, God will use every experience we have to produce eternal good for us.

    2. This is my understanding of the scripture we read.
      1. God is on our side–always.
      2. If God invested His son’s death in us, we should understand God will do whatever it takes to keep us for Himself.
      3. No one can accuse the man or woman who lives in Christ because God justified that person.
        1. When God looks at His people, He does not see our flaws and failures.
        2. Justification in Jesus Christ destroys our flaws and failures.
        3. No accusations can be made; in Christ we are forgiven; our mistakes are destroyed.
        4. Jesus did and does three things for us: he died for us; he was resurrected for us; he intercedes before God for us.
      4. If we belong to God, there is nothing Satan can do that will remove us from God.
        1. Can we be tempted? Yes.
        2. Can we sin? Yes.
        3. Can we choose to leave God? Yes.
        4. But if we do, we separate ourselves from God; Satan cannot.
        5. We have a tempter, but we do not have an accuser.

God’s justification makes it impossible for us humans to be each others judges. Satan cannot accuse the person in Christ, and people cannot judge the person in Christ.

Why? Justification destroys Satan’s power to condemn. Justification destroys people’s right to judge.

Does that mean godly people are free to do ungodly things? No, it means quite the opposite. Justification is not a license to sin. Justification means God did for us in Jesus what it was impossible to do for ourselves. We are totally dependent on God’s forgiveness. God knows the heart, knows the struggles, and knows our motives.

The issue will never be, “Are you perfect?” The issue will always be, “Is your heart and mind faithful to God?”

Faith Is …

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“Faith is…” seems such a simple statement to complete. It seems that statement’s ending should be as simple as its beginning.

Ask a Christian who was abandoned as a child, or who was abandoned as an adult, or who feels abandoned now, to complete that statement.

Ask a Christian who is a recovering alcoholic, or who is in the middle of recovering from substance abuse, or who fights addiction to materialism, to complete that statement.

Ask a Christian who has lost his or her job, or who has lost his or her business, or who dedicated years to a company that just “closed down,” to complete that statement.

Ask a Christian whose life is being destroyed by incurable disease, or who daily endures severe disability, or who lost abilities in a tragic accident, to complete that statement.

Ask a Christian who is lonely, or who is deeply troubled, or who is struggling in the diligent effort “to make sense of what happened,” to complete that statement.

Ask a Christian for whom life is good, or who sees and acknowledges incredible blessings, or whose life has “fallen into place” recently, to complete that statement.

Will they all complete the statement with similar endings? No. Faith has many legitimate facets. Faith is like an expensive, exquisitely cut diamond. What you see is real. However, what you see depends on your angle of vision and the lighting. When we look at faith, what we see depends on our angle of vision and the lighting.

The message was devastating. God’s punishment was inescapable. Jerusalem would become ruins. The temple would be destroyed. Many Israelites would die. Survivors would be captives. Nothing could prevent this. Then came an astounding message. God promised the Israelites they would come home. The same prophet who delivered God’s “bad news” was instructed to “comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1).

Among Isaiah’s encouragement was this: Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).

It all happened. Jerusalem fell. Babylonian captivity became reality. Israelites, in time and after repentance, could return home.

Sometimes faith is … waiting for the Lord. Waiting is God’s most difficult expectation. Waiting takes our highest level of trust. Fear attacks faith and waiting. It is easier to fear than to trust.