The Basic Issue: Who Reigns?

Posted by on June 30, 2002 under Sermons

The person who belongs to and follows God learns from the mistakes and misunderstandings of others.

  1. In 49 A.D., Claudius, who was the Roman emperor, issued an edict that made it necessary for all Jews to leave the city of Rome.
    1. At the time of the edict, there was a significant Jewish population in Rome.
      1. The Jews formed close communities within Rome.
      2. Claudius expelled the Jews because their communities had intense internal confrontations, perhaps even riots, over a person the historian Suetonius called “Chrestus.”
        1. Many think this is a reference to clashes in Jewish communities in Rome between the Jews who believed in Christ and the Jews who rejected Christ.
        2. That certainly is consistent with what occurred at other places.
        3. Before he became a Christian, Paul went to synagogues arresting Jews who believed in Christ (Acts 9:1,2).
        4. After he became a Christian, it was not unusual for Paul’s preaching for Christ to cause intense disturbances, even riots in Jewish communities (Acts 13:44,45,50; 14:1-6).
        5. It seems Jewish disagreements in Rome were so intense that Claudius forced them to leave to promote order in that city.
      3. We know almost nothing about the beginning of Christianity in Rome.
        1. We know that Paul did not begin that work.
        2. We also know that almost every congregation of Christians began with Jews who believed in Jesus Christ.
        3. We know in the book of Romans that there were Jewish Christians.
    2. This seems to be what happened.
      1. Claudius made no distinction between Jews who did not believe in Christ and Jews who did believe in Christ.
      2. He just ordered all Jews out of Rome.
      3. This had a profound impact on the Christian community in Rome.
        1. For many reasons, including knowledge of the scriptures, Jewish Christians provided the bulk of leadership and teaching in many of the early congregations.
        2. Many early congregations had a distinctly Jewish character.
        3. Many things were done in distinctively Jewish ways.
      4. Evidently this was the time Aquilla and Priscilla were forced to leave Rome (Acts 18:2).
        1. Quickly the church in Rome lost much of its leadership and many of its teachers.
        2. Converted non-Jews took over the vacated roles, and the basic character of the church in Rome changed from the ways Jewish Christians did things to the way Gentile Christians did things.
      5. Claudius died in 54 A.D.
        1. The kind of order that he made which forced the Jews to leave Rome automatically ended at his death.
        2. After Claudius died, many Jews returned to Rome, including many Jewish Christians.
          1. They returned with two basic expectations.
          2. First, they expected to assume roles in the church they had before leaving Rome.
          3. Second, they expected the church to do things the way they were done before they left.
        3. A major conflict developed between the Jewish Christians and the non-Jewish Christians in Rome.
          1. One of the basic things Paul does in his letter to the Romans is discuss that conflict.
          2. The conflict in that church was very much a control issue.
          3. Who would control: would the church do things the way Jewish Christians wanted them done, or would the church do things the way non-Jewish Christians wanted them done?

  2. I want to encourage you to look at Romans 6 in this context.
    1. Often Romans 6 has been our “go to” chapter to emphasize the nature of baptism.
      1. The first thing I ask you to remember is this: there were not different “modes” of baptism in the first century: sprinkling, dipping, and immersing.
        1. At this time the word baptism had one meaning: immersion.
        2. At this time baptism played a key role in a person’s acceptance of forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
        3. Since Paul is writing to Christians, and since baptism meant immersion, Paul’s basic lesson could not be the mode of baptism.
        4. The mode of baptism is a “today issue” not a “then issue.”
      2. Then what was Paul’s point? What was his basic lesson to the Christians in Rome? Let’s allow Paul’s emphasis in Romans 6 to speak for itself.
        1. Everything he wrote in the chapter is important, but focus on his emphasis.
        2. To make the emphasis obvious, I will share in blocks.
          Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
          Romans 6:5-7 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
          Romans 6:8-11 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
          Romans 6:12-14 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
          Romans 6:15-19 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
          Romans 6:20-23 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
      3. If my counting is correct (New American Standard translation):
        1. The words “death” or “His death” occurs nine times.
        2. The word “die” occurs five times.
        3. The word “dead” occurs twice.
        4. The words “life,” “live,” “newness of life,” “alive,” and “eternal life” occur nine times.
      4. To me there are two over-all obvious emphases.
        1. Christians die to sin.
        2. The life God makes possible in Christ is available to those who die to sin.
    2. Paul’s basic point is straightforward.
      1. “The issue is not are you a Jewish Christian.”
      2. “The issue is not are you a non-Jewish Christian.”
      3. “The issue is not who is in control.”
      4. “The issue is not do you do things as Jewish Christians want them done or the way non-Jewish Christians want them done.”
      5. “The basic issue for all of you as Christians is the same issue: are you dead to sin?”
    3. There were a lot of ways they could not participate in Jesus’ death.
      1. Jesus did a lot of things in his death they could not do.
      2. His death produced atonement–they could not duplicate his atonement
      3. His death produced propitiation–they could not duplicate his propitiation.
      4. His death produced redemption–they could not duplicate his redemption.
      5. His blood produced forgiveness–they could not duplicate his forgiveness.
    4. But there is one thing he did in death they could duplicate.
      1. He died to sin.
      2. They, too, could die to sin.
      3. Was Jesus temptable? Yes! And they would continue to be temptable.
      4. Did Jesus know struggle and agony? Yes! And they would continue to know struggle and agony.
      5. But Jesus firmly established God as the sovereign ruler of his life, and that meant that he said, “No!” to sin.
      6. As Christians, they also established God as the sovereign ruler of their lives, and that meant they would say, “No!” to sin.
      7. This was not their choice: to never fail, to never make a mistake, to never sin.
      8. It was their choice to never give control of their lives to sin.
      9. Evil must not rule them!
      10. They never gave control of their lives to evil!
        Romans 6:12,13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
      11. In their arguments among themselves, in their struggles for control in the church at Rome, they missed the basic issue.
        1. It was not, “Who is in control?”
        2. It was, “As a Christian, are you dead to sin?
      12. Baptism is about dying to sin to live the new life.
      13. Baptism is not about gaining control over other Christians.

There are some thoughts concerning Paul’s point that deserve your consideration. It has been said the Paul is not presenting sin here in the sense of a defect in a person’s life (a flaw), but in the sense of a defection.

Evil is presented as a very real force, a force that will control you as your master.

Baptism into Christ is the conscious choice of which force will control my life: evil or God? There may be times when a Christian falls prey to temptation, but a Christian will never, never enthrone any form of evil as the force that rules his or her life.

There is one way we cannot die to sin as did Jesus. Jesus is dead to sin forever. As Christians, we die to sin every day. Every day we resist temptation, every day we refuse to put evil in charge of our lives.

Is that your focus every day? Does God rule your life?


Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Everyone looks for peace. People look for it in different places. Everyone wants peace. The only people who abandon that search are convinced they cannot have it. Because of this conclusion, they settle for forms of temporary escape from the moment’s struggles.

For what is everyone looking? Because “peace” is one word, many are convinced that everyone looks for the same thing. That conviction deceives. It is not unusual for people’s concepts of peace to differ radically.

Some people’s concept of peace is focused on “me.” “Peace is having no one hassling me about anything–including my wife, my husband, my children, my parents, my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, my friends, my boss, or my fellow workers.” Peace is having the freedom that permits “me” to do anything “I” want to do without others bothering “me.”

Some people’s concept of peace focuses on needs. “I never am caught up! My husband needs too much! My wife needs too much! My kids need too much! Everyone who impacts my life needs too much! For me, peace would be escaping all these needs!”

Concepts of peace multiply: the absence of conflict; the absence of violence; the absence of grief; the absence of guilt; forgetting the past; not fearing the future; escaping sickness; eliminating conflict between the important people in my life; significantly reducing hate, greed, and inhuman treatment of others in our society or our world; etc.

All these concepts of peace frequently share a common denominator. This is the concept: peace is the absence of struggle. Our definitions of struggle vary greatly. Often peace destroys or resolves the source of our struggles.

Were I to form a list of Bible people who had peace, high on that list would be Jesus and Paul. I use them now because of their contrast. Jesus experienced the struggles produced by his disciples’ small faith, the Pharisees’ opposition, people’s poor focus on life, misrepresentations, and temptation. His death was violent, misunderstood, and lonely.

Paul’s pre-Christian past was horrible. His post-Christian reality was filled with conflict and danger. Often those who benefited most from his sacrifices caused his greatest grief.

Yet, each man had an enormous sense of personal peace. How could they endure such struggle and have such peace? Simple — peace is not the absence of struggle. Peace is found in an eternal relationship with God that gives life an indestructible meaning. In God, you gain identity. In God, you live for eternal values. That is peace’s foundation.

The Way God Works — Always!

Posted by on June 23, 2002 under Sermons

All of us understand the importance of “catching on” or “getting it.” So most of you are to talking to yourself right now saying, “No, we do not all understand ‘catching on’ or ‘getting it.’ We do not have a clue of what you are talking about!”

Your will understand quickly. Help me build your understanding. Everyone here who works outside the home for financial payment, hold up your hand. Thanks! Everyone who at some point in your past life worked outside the home for financial payment, hold up your hand. Thanks!

When you are employed on a job, how important is it to understand how things are done? When you begin the job, you have a learning period, a grace period. In that period you are expected to learn “how things are done.” You are expected to “catch on” and “get it.” If you do not, your job is in serious jeopardy.

It is essential to “catch on” and “get it” in every important responsibility in life. Each one of us have to “catch on” and “get it” in successful marriages, in quality child and parent relationships, or even in meaningful friendships. Any serious involvement or interaction with people involves “catching on” and “getting it.”

God, like people, has His way of functioning. If we are serious about belonging to God, we must “catch on” to God’s ways and “get” what God expects of His people. From the first part of the Bible until today, God’s basic way of functioning in His interaction with people has not changed.

  1. I want to begin with incidents and information that should be familiar to many of you. [If what I share is new to you, that is okay; just focus on the way God has always functioned.]
    1. In the first book of the Bible God promised Abraham that through his descendants would come a blessing that would benefit all people.
      Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
    2. Abraham died. His son Isaac died. Jacob and his sons went to Egypt and died. For years Abraham’s descendants through Isaac are in Egypt existing as slaves to the Egyptians.
      1. They have been slaves for a long time (most of 400 years).
      2. They think like slaves.
      3. They act like slaves.
      4. Their lifestyles are the lifestyles of slaves.
      5. Their morals and ethics are the morals and ethics of pagan slaves.
    3. God commissioned Moses to go to Egypt and do two things: (1) confront the Pharaoh [the king] and (2) to lead Israelite slaves out of Egypt to become God’s people.
      1. “Did these Israelite slaves deserve God’s deliverance?”
        1. No. They were not righteous, or godly, or of great value, or more worthy than other people.
        2. “Then why did God deliver them from Egypt and eventually give them Canaan as their own land?”
        3. For two reasons.
          1. First, to keep His promise to Abraham.
          2. Second, to punish the incredible wickedness of the people in Canaan.
      2. If you internal reaction is, “That simply is not true,” listen to what the Bible says.
        1. First is God’s assessment of these people after He brought them out of Egypt and they turned back to idolatry.
          Exodus 32:8,9 “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshipped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”
        2. Second is God’s statement to Israel just before they enter Canaan about forty years later.
          Deuteronomy 9:4-6 Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”
        3. While there are many things to consider in this, I want you to see one obvious, simple point: God did not redeem these people from slavery because they deserved it–they did not deserve God’s kindness nor God’s deliverance.
    4. I want you to see something very clearly.
      1. First, God released them from their slavery.
        1. That happened because if was 100% God’s kindness and graciousness, and 0% their deservedness.
        2. They had been slaves who thought like slaves, lived like slaves, and acted like slaves.
        3. God redeemed them; God separated them from slavery; God did for them what they never, never could do for themselves.
      2. Second, God redeemed them from slavery so they could be totally different.
        1. They had been slaves.
        2. Now they would be God’s people.
        3. As God’s people they would not think like the slaves they were, they would not live like the slaves they were, they would not act like the slaves they were.
        4. Slavery was a thing of the past when they had no choice but to be slaves.
        5. “You are not slaves any more, so don’t function like slaves.”
        6. “Your are now God’s people, so function like God’s people.”
      3. Third, God redeemed them from slavery before God gave them the law [responsibility].
        1. The act of redemption was God’s act.
        2. The act of obedience to their new existence was their expression of appreciation for God’s ending their slavery.
        3. Redemption came first, but redemption was supposed to be followed by a changed existence.

  2. The sad thing is this: Israel never “caught on,” never “got it.”
    1. When they built the golden calf and called it the god who brought them out of Egypt, they were acting like slaves, not like God’s people.
    2. In the book of judges when they rebelled over and over, they were acting like slaves, not like God’s people.
    3. In the last of Saul’s rule and the last of Solomon’s rule, they were acting like slaves, not like God’s people.
    4. When ten of the twelve tribes separated themselves from God to worship idols, they were acting like slaves, not like God’s people.
    5. The written prophets repeatedly sought to awaken Israel to what they were doing, but Israel continued to act like slaves to be destroyed rather than God’s people to be redeemed.
    6. They deceived themselves because they put absolute trust in the fact God redeemed them, and they accepted no responsibility to be God’s people.

    Transition: Do you see this? Do you understand it? First came deliverance from God, then came the responsibility to be and live like people who belong to God.

  3. Nothing has changed. We were slaves to sin, and God in His kindness and love delivered us from slavery to sin through what God did in Jesus’ death.
    1. God did not redeem us because we deserved it, because we are such extraordinary, valuable people.
      1. Just as with Israel, we did not and do not deserve it.
      2. Just as with Israel, it is God’s faithfulness, not our worth.
        Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    2. God did not redeem us for us to continue to live and act like the people we were before we were redeemed. He redeemed us so we could be His people instead of “those people.”
      1. I literally could take hours to show you again and again the emphasis in New Testament books that said, “You must not live like you lived before you were redeemed by God in Christ. You must live like God’s people, not like people enslaved to sin.”
      2. That was an important message in the book of Romans spelled out very clearly from chapters 12 on–when you belong to God in Jesus Christ you do not have the morals and ethics of people who do not belong to God.
      3. That was an important message in the Corinthian letters–you are behaving like people who do not belong to God.
      4. That was an important message in Galatians–you do not live in the desires of the flesh; you live in the fruit of the Spirit.
      5. That was an important message in Ephesians–that is what you were before redemption, this is what you are as God’s new creation.
      6. Over and over this point is made: those who are redeemed in Christ do not live as do people enslaved to sin.
      7. Just like Israel, we were redeemed from slavery to live as God’s people.
        1. That life, that existence cannot be reduced to a set of rules and regulations.
        2. There is much more involved than “going to church” and “plugging into the institution and organization.”
    3. It has never been more important for Christians to “catch on” and to “get it” than it is right this very moment.
      1. That is the way God functions.
      2. That is the way God has always functioned.
      3. God redeems people to accept the responsibility to be His people.
      4. When they accept God’s redemption in Christ, everything changes.

  4. I want you to listen carefully to a statement Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14. Paul is making a comparison of Christians to physical Israel, and he said very plainly that we need to learn from their example.
    1 Corinthians 10:1-14 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

God did not redeem us in Jesus Christ to keep on living the same old lives we lived as the unredeemed. He did not redeem us in Jesus Christ to live and act like people enslaved to sin. He did not redeem us to look, and act, and talk, and live like people do who made no commitment to God.

God redeemed us in Jesus Christ to be His people, to look and act and talk and live like His people. If you say to yourself, “God forgave me because I am special,” you are deceiving yourself. You are doing the same thing Israel did. Do not make their mistake! God is special! We are not! He is our God only if we are His people!

That “Overwhelmed” Feeling

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

You know the feeling, don’t you? You have it often, don’t you? Sometimes, maybe weekly? Sometimes, maybe daily? Regardless of frequency, each of us DO experience such feelings! We all do! This is NOT one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences!

When do you have this feeling? What situations create the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling? For many of us, examining our whats should be an enlightening challenge. What goes on in our minds [our thinking] and our hearts [our emotions] to open the door to our ‘overwhelmed’ feelings? Listing the situations that generate that feeling likely will produce two reactions — insight and fear.

First make the list. Initially, do not try to categorize the experiences. Just finish this sentence: “I feel ‘overwhelmed’ when ?” Be honest with yourself. God already knows the what and the why of ‘overwhelmed’ feelings. Only we [as individuals] will see our list [unless we make it available to others]. Since God already knows our what and why, and since it is a “for our eyes only” list, the only deception at risk is self-deception.

All forms of deception are horrible, but perhaps no form of deception has as many consequences as does self-deception. One cruel consequence of self-deception is the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling. [Self-deception is not the only cause of the ‘overwhelmed’ feeling. For example, trying to do too much also produces that feeling.]

After you make your complete list, place your causes in categories. Do you see a pattern? Do you see inter-relationships among your categories? Do you place pressure on yourself in your attempts to please others? Are you trying to make yourself indispensable by being too helpful to be rejected or ignored? Are you trying to control others through your ‘overwhelmed’ feelings? Are you trying to prove something? If you are, what are you trying to prove and to whom? Do you pretend you are proving something to yourself when you really are seeking others’ approval? Are you trying to escape an internal, mental label that haunts you? Are you giving control to unreasonable people with unrealistic demands?

Paul comforted Christians in Philippi with these words: (Philippians 4:7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Proper knowledge of God generates peace. Know God, and find peace. ‘Overwhelmed’ feelings are not rooted in a healthy relationship with the God of peace.

Appetite’s Blessing

Posted by on June 16, 2002 under Bulletin Articles

We often consider appetite to be a curse. It can be destructive, but it more commonly blesses. Appetite loss is a symptom of numerous unhealthy conditions. No appetite is the symptom of serious health problems. Good health includes a healthy appetite.

Regarding appetite, physical well being and spiritual well being share much in common. In a sermon, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

His statement is part of a list called the beatitudes. Often studies of this list focus on individual beatitudes without first seeing the overall picture. While the study of each beatitude is beneficial, it is essential to see the overall picture the beatitudes, together, draw. Jesus verbally pictured healthy dedication to godly existence.

In healthy dedication to godliness, spiritual appetite serves an essential role. A satisfied appetite for righteousness results from hungering and thirsting for righteousness. If there is no appetite for godly existence, one will not experience spiritual health.

Spiritual “junk food” cannot produce spiritual health. Declaring spiritual “junk food” to be “God’s healthy diet” cannot produce spiritual health. Our appetite must be for righteousness. It cannot be an appetite for (a) the past, (b) a defense of traditional forms, (c) a promotion of preferences, (d) an advocacy of “my” conclusions, or (e) fads. It must hunger for God’s priorities and purposes.

Have you examined your spiritual health lately? How is your spiritual appetite? For what do you hunger? What satisfies you? Do you hunger for a deeper understanding of Jesus? Do you hunger to pray? Do you hunger to study the Bible? Do you hunger to allow Jesus actually to be Lord of your life on a daily basis? Do you hunger to encourage God’s Spirit as he encourages you?

Do you have little or no spiritual appetite? Do you distance yourself from God? Is spirituality primarily appearing at some church building on Sunday morning? Do you enjoy being “away” from Christians? Do you handle crises alone? Is prayer a last resort? Are God’s purposes consciously excluded from your decisions? Do “fun times” occur with people who do not care about God? Do you consider godly matters boring?

A healthy appetite for righteousness includes (a) awareness of God’s accomplishments for us in Jesus’ death; (b) life’s deepest sense of indebtedness; (c) a profound grief for the evil in us; (c) a constant realization of dependence on God; and (d) the joy of salvation combined with the fulfillment of freedom from evil because of Christ’s forgiveness.

Is It Worth It?

Posted by on June 9, 2002 under Sermons

All of us make major investments. The greatest investments we make are investments of ourselves. We invest ourselves in two primary ways: through intense interest and through time.

When it comes to the investment of self, we all make basic investment decisions as we live our lives. Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our families. The wife, or the husband, or the children are a major priority in our lives. Nothing is more important than family.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our jobs or our careers. Nothing is more important than succeeding in our job or career. We literally define who we are by the level of success we experience in our career.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our lifestyles. The house we live in, the car we drive, the circles we move in, the people we know are an extremely important measurement of who we are. If we cannot use these means of defining ourselves, we think we do not amount to much.

Some of us make major investments of ourselves in our pleasures. The form of pleasure differs greatly from person to person. But, having fun, enjoying life is extremely important. Whatever is necessary to reach a pleasurable high is considered reasonable.

No matter how each of us invests life, the moment always comes when we must ask, “Is it worth it?” Because people now live longer than people used to live, more and more people are asking themselves, “Was it worth it?”

A necessary question everyone who seeks to be a Christian must ask: “Is investing my life in Jesus Christ worth the investment?” Is living for God worth it? When my physical life approaches its end, when I look back at my past and I ask that question, what will be my answer?

  1. This morning, I would like for us to consider Paul’s answer to that question. [I challenge you to look at Paul’s life and consider his answer.]
    1. The early part of Paul’s childhood was spent in the Roman province of Cilicia a few hundred miles north of Israel.
      1. His childhood was spent in the city of Tarsus, which was the principle city of that area (Acts 22:3).
      2. Tarsus, when Paul lived there, was a very old city–it was an important trade city 2000 years before Paul was born.
        1. During Paul’s lifetime, Tarsus was the capital city of the province.
        2. Tarsus held a position that many cities envied and aspired to: it had autonomy as a free city; it could govern itself.
      3. Tarsus was an important city.
        1. On an earlier occasion, Anthony met Cleopatra there.
        2. Caesar Augustus exempted Tarsus from Roman taxes.
        3. It was a university city whose school devoted itself to the study of liberal arts and philosophy.
        4. It was a wealthy city that had a reputation for its linen and a special material made from goats’ hair.
    2. Childhood in Tarsus probably provided Paul an interesting environment for personal development.
      1. He grew up living in an important place.
      2. The trade that he learned [a trade he used as a Christian adult to support himself as a missionary when circumstances required self-support] was tent-maker which perhaps meant he knew how to use the special cloth made from goats’ hair.
      3. Far more important than those two, he was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:25-29).
        1. That means that at least his father had been awarded citizenship or had been given opportunity to purchase citizenship.
        2. Roman citizenship was a highly prized possession that was not available to everyone.
          1. A citizen was guaranteed a fair public trial.
          2. A citizen was protected against certain forms of punishment.
          3. A citizen could not be executed simply by the wishes or command of a local ruler.
      4. He was a curious mix of influences, because he also referred to himself as being a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:6).
        1. According to the Jewish law, he was circumcised as a religious ritual when he was eight days old.
        2. He was a member of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin, the tribe which hundreds of years earlier produced the first Jewish king, King Saul.
        3. Though he grew up in a prominent city known for its prosperity and having a university, he grew up as a “Jew’s Jew.”
        4. That indicates he and his family were among the most committed, devout Israelites.
        5. It likely meant that he spoke Aramaic, the spoken language of Palestine (Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14).
        6. He grew up in a home that kept the traditions and practices of the homeland.
    3. At some point as a young man he moved to the city of Jerusalem to study as a Pharisee under the influence of the very prestigious Jewish Rabbi Gamaliel.
      1. In his studies he was very strict in his commitment and dedication (Acts 22:3).
      2. He was very zealous for God.
      3. In fact, he wrote of himself (Galatians 1:14), … I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
      4. He was a Pharisee, and his father was a Pharisee (Acts 26:5).
      5. Paul was an “up and coming” influence in Israel, and he had all the right credentials and connections.
        1. He served a role in Stephen’s execution, and he was the leader of the first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3).
        2. He was so “connected” that he could ask the high priest for authority to travel to another country and arrest Jews in the Jewish synagogue who believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1,2).

  2. Paul (his Greek name) or Saul (his Hebrew name) was absolutely certain of two things: (1) the man Jesus was not Christ; (2) those who believed Jesus was the Christ were a serious threat to the nation of Israel and God.
    1. Then this man met the resurrected Jesus in person (Acts 9).
      1. In an instant, in a quick moment, this man realized he had been completely, totally wrong in vicious, unpardonable ways.
        1. The person he said was not the Christ was in fact the Christ God promised Israel for hundreds of years.
        2. He who claimed to be a devoted servant of God had encouraged the executions of fellow Israelites who knew Jesus was God’s Christ.
        3. He instantly knew that if he received what he truly deserved, God would kill him.
      2. All Jesus instructed him to do was to go on into the city of Damascus where he would be told what he must do.
        1. Years later Paul said Jesus gave him this explanation:
          Acts 26:15-18 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
        2. In a short time Jesus sent a man named Ananias to talk to Paul and instruct him.
        3. When Ananias hesitated and protested, Jesus made this statement:
          Acts 9:15,16 “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
        4. Years later this is what Paul explained to Timothy why he received opportunity to serve Jesus Christ:
          1 Timothy 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
    2. When Paul became a servant of Jesus Christ instead of a persecutor of Jesus Christ, it cost him everything.
      1. Israelites who considered him a promising leader in Israel’s future immediately hated him enough to seek his death.
      2. Jewish Christians in Jerusalem distrusted him, and some of them resented his efforts to teach Christ to people who were not Jews.
      3. Some Christians who were not Jews rejected him, verbally attacked him, and did all they could to discredit him–they did not appreciate his teachings.
      4. The man who had all the right connections and knew all the right people suddenly became the man many people hated–all because he knew Jesus was the Christ.
    3. I want to read to you two statements Paul wrote about his hardships and his decision to follow Christ.
      1. This statement was written because some Jewish Christians were making Paul’s life miserable as they opposed his work and teaching:
        2 Corinthians 11:22-31 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?–I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
      2. He wrote this statement to explain the absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
        Philippians 3:4-1 I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    4. There is one obvious question we must ask Paul.
      1. “Paul, you made phenomenal physical sacrifices to invest your life in Jesus Christ.”
      2. “Was it worth the investment?”
        2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

“Paul, was it worth the investment?” “Yes! And it will be worth the investment to you, also, if you are willing to trust and love Jesus’ return.”

The Hypothetical Versus the Actual

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The Bible study of Christian ethics studies the principles and concepts that are godly behavior’s foundation. The Bible study of Christian morality studies the behavior those principles and concepts produce. The mature Christian accepts those principles and concepts and applies them to each situation encountered in his or her life. Living a godly life is much more than yielding to a set of rules and regulations.

Serious Bible teachers experience the same frustration. The frustration: many Christians view godly principles and concepts as hypothetical. To them, these principles and concepts are not intended to deal with the actual. They are intended only for the hypothetical. These principles and concepts become hypothetical when reality challenges them. Maturing in Christ-like perspectives is demanding! The highway to that maturity confronts many question marks and temptations.

Years ago [in another city] I was physically assaulted in a public parking lot in the early afternoon in the full view of pedestrians and passing motorists. The situation was completely unexpected. Instantly the hypothetical became the actual.

To be physically assaulted is unnerving. To be assaulted because someone who knew you disagreed with you is very unnerving. To remain seated on the wet ground while someone stands over you, cursing you, doing all is his power to anger you, wanting you to fight him is indescribably strange. Every sense of physical security vanished!

Were Jesus’ teachings hypothetical? When an actual situation challenged Christ’s principles and concepts, were those principles and concepts real? Or, were they just thoughts concerning hypothetical situations?

We emphasize godly principles and concepts that easily can be focused on the hypothetical. Often those principles and concepts do not become mental and spiritual tools that exist to deal with reality. Real life and spiritual life become unrelated realities.

How do spouses treat spouses in a crisis? How do parents work with children in the face of serious trouble? How do children react to parents when real oppression exists? How do Christians treat each other when there is strife in a congregation? How do we react to enemies in or out of the Christian community? How do the godly act when the ungodly oppress them? When evil is in control, how do those who are in Christ react?

Do Christians use evil’s tools to confront evil? That is never a hypothetical question. It is a real life decision. From earliest Christianity, it always has been. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

My Opinion of Me

Posted by on June 2, 2002 under Sermons

What do you think of yourself? Chances are that the way you look at yourself is a real paradox. In some ways, we hold ourselves in very high esteem. There has been and is considerable emphasis in this society on self-esteem. In some ways, we hold ourselves in contempt. There has been and is considerable contempt in this society for failure. If we focus on self-esteem, we think about our value. If we focus on our failures, we hold ourselves in contempt.

If we look at ourselves through glasses that magnify our value, we tend to be arrogant and presumptuous. If we look at ourselves through glasses that see only our weakness, we tend to be defeated and believe we are worthless.

The problem: most of us tend to move in one of those two directions. Being a Christian does not make us immune to the problem. Either we tend to have such a high opinion of ourselves that we seek to control and dominate everyone. Or, we feel so inferior that we have no confidence.

God challenges us to have His view of us. The closer we come to God, the more we change the way we look at ourselves. The more we change the way we look at ourselves, the more we change the way we look at others.

  1. The man or woman who walks with God must change the way he or she looks at self. (That change is fundamental to Christian existence.)
    1. More than once Jesus’ twelve disciples debated among themselves which of them was the most important.
      1. Luke 22:24-30 states they had that discussion the last night of Jesus’ earthly life.
      2. In fact, the discussion was so intense that evening, Luke called it a dispute.
      3. Jesus stated some facts about his kingdom they were to remember.
        1. Fact one: his kingdom did not function as other kingdoms did.
        2. Fact two: in other kingdoms, those who possess authority or were older were served.
        3. Fact three: In his kingdom, the situation is distinctly different.
        4. Fact four: in his kingdom, the one who serves is more significant than the one who is served.
    2. Jesus reminded them that he and his treatment of them was an example.
      1. He used his power to serve others and to serve them.
      2. Though they called him their master and acknowledged they were merely disciples, that very evening he would wash their feet (John 13:12-17).

  2. The way we look at ourselves, the opinion we have of ourselves, is one of the enormous problems most of us struggle with in our lives.
    1. “I” want “you” to verify my significance and importance.
      1. In order for “me” to feel significant, “you” must serve “me.”
      2. For “me” to serve you is demeaning, but for “you” to serve “me” verifies my importance.
    2. I want you to focus on a statement Jesus made in Luke 17:10.
      1. But, in order to have a contextual focus, we must begin our understanding in Luke 16:10.
      2. Jesus made a statement on the unacceptability and undesirability of a person who belonged to God placing his or her trust in money.
        1. God will not entrust someone with eternal wealth if that person does not manage small things in God’s interests.
        2. No person can give primary allegiance to two controlling, opposing forces in his or her life–both God and wealth cannot control your life.
      3. Some Pharisees (important religious influences) heard Jesus and ridiculed what he said.
        1. They loved money, and they (in their estimation) belonged to God–there was no conflict between the two.
        2. Jesus said, “You use what people think to justify yourselves.”
          1. “God knows your hearts.”
          2. “What people justify, God detests.”
      4. Jesus related the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the prosperous man who enjoyed everything in contrast to a poor man with a horrible life.
        1. Jesus said the person who will not listen to what God said in the Law and the Prophets (scripture) will not listen to anything.
        2. Not even a resurrection from the dead will change their beliefs.
    3. Then Jesus directed his teachings and remarks to the disciples.
      1. “There is no way to prevent people from spiritually stumbling–it will happen.”
      2. “But woe to the person who causes someone to stumble–he faces a worse situation than a certain death in which the body is never recovered.”
        1. “Be careful! Forgive rather than discouraging those who fail.”
        2. “Forgive repeatedly rather than causing someone to stumble.”
      3. These concepts overwhelmed the disciples–these were new concepts!
        1. The concept that God and wealth are in conflict was new!
        2. The concept that you repeatedly forgive a person who failed rather than cause him to stumble is new!
        3. It would take a lot of faith to learn to trust these new concepts.
      4. Jesus said, “You are right! You do not have much faith! If you even had a tiny faith, mustard seed size, you could tell this mulberry tree to be planted in the sea and it would happen.”
    4. This is the point I want you to see: if you are to have even a small faith, you must have a correct view of your relationship with God, and that means you must change the way you look at yourself.
      1. In relationship with God, you must see yourself as a slave.
      2. You understand very clearly, very well a slave-master relationship.
      3. When the slave works hard plowing or tending sheep all day, the master does not take care of the slave.
      4. The slave serves the master, and that was proper.
      5. Then Jesus made the statement in verse 10:
        Luke 17:10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”
        1. Nothing God expects of us is unreasonable, and we do nothing that should not have been done.
        2. He will not exploit us.
        3. He has done far more to care for us than we can ever return to Him.

  3. If we are to serve God as is appropriate, if we are to treat one another as we should, we hold the correct opinion of ourselves.
    1. That fact receives enormous emphasis from New Testament writers:
      1. Sandwiched between Paul’s challenge for the Christians in Rome to be living sacrifices and to function as Christ’s body is this statement in Romans 12:3–
        For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
      2. In Romans 12:16 Paul wrote:
        Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
      3. To the Christians at Corinth, Paul wrote this statement in 2 Corinthians 13:11–
        Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
      4. To the Christians at Philippi, Paul wrote this statement in Philippians 2:1-3–
        Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.
    2. One statement that I find to be powerful in my own life is Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 5:6,7
      Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
      1. The only attitude for the man or woman who begins to grasp what God does for him or her in Christ is humility.
      2. With all willingness and desire, that person humbles himself or herself before God.
        1. He or she realizes how mighty God’s hand is.
        2. God’s hand is so mighty that He can and will take care of your troubles.
        3. That hand will exalt you at the proper time–you never need be concerned about exalting yourself.
        4. That hand can take care of all your anxieties because God cares, and His caring is personal.

So, what is your opinion of yourself? You are not worthless–God values you so much that He gave His son for you. But your worth and my worth is discovered when we understand our relationship with God. That is when we are willing to be servants with humble attitudes. That is when we begin to treat other people as God wants. That is when life and relationships turn around.

Who Turned Loose? Me or God?

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to challenge your thinking this morning by asking you a multiple choice question. The question: in daily life terms, what is the purpose of life? Rank these five options with number one being the highest option:

Achieving success

Taking care of your family

Achieving a desirable lifestyle

Enjoying life

Serving God

I ask you to rank these items privately, in your own mind, with no one knowing your list. All I ask is for you to be honest with your own heart and mind. In your own mind and heart, list each with number one your most important consideration and number five your least important consideration [in this list].

  1. Now that you have made your selections, I want to read some New Testament scriptures for you to consider.
    1. Each of these statements was made by Jesus either to a group listening to him or to his disciples.
      1. I realize that each scripture must be studied in its context with serious consideration given to Jesus’ point at the time.
      2. I am not going to discuss each scripture, but I hope to call your attention to a single factor all these scriptures have in common.
      3. As we read together (you are encouraged to follow each reading on the screen), ask yourself what do these scriptures share in common.
    2. Scriptures:
      1. Matthew 8:19-22 Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”
      2. Matthew 10:24-28 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
      3. Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
      4. Mark 8:34-38 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
      5. Luke 9:23-27 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
      6. Luke 12:4-7 I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
      7. Luke 12:49-53 I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
      8. Luke 14:25-33 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
      9. Luke 18:26-34 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
    3. What do all these passages have in common?
      1. There may be more than one thing they share in common, but one thing is obvious to me.
      2. The obvious: Jesus did not ask people to follow him because it would be to their physical advantage.
        1. Jesus’ call to discipleship never included promises of “here and now” physical prosperity as a part of the call.
        2. He called people to a sacrificial existence, not to a prosperous existence.

  2. In his ministry and his teachings, Jesus redefined the meaning of following God.
    1. Jesus redefined following God in a religious society composed of people who were convinced that they were following God.
      1. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had their definition of what it meant to belong to God.
      2. Each of their definitions included:
        1. Prosperity
        2. Power
        3. Prominence
        4. Prestige
      3. Jesus said, “No! Belonging to God, following me involves sacrificial service.”
    2. These people who considered themselves to be God’s personal representatives did much more than disagree with Jesus.
      1. They did not like his emphasis!
      2. Jesus’ emphasis was the exact opposite of their emphasis!
      3. His emphasis was too expensive; it meant they were mistaken about God!
      4. So they killed Jesus thinking they would shut him up, but they just verified the truth of what he said.

  3. The conflict between godliness and evil in this world is very real–all the time!
    1. The older I become, the more profoundly I believe that is the truth.
      1. We live in a world where God and Satan are at war.
      2. This is the last battleground–the judgment that will come when this present physical world ends will also end the war.
      3. Of this each of us can be certain: following Jesus Christ will cost us.
    2. My enormous fear for me, for you, for the church is founded on the fact that we have swallowed the great deception without so much as blinking.
      1. We believe that we can combine being Jesus’ disciples with enjoying what we consider to be the best that this world has to offer.
      2. We see no conflict because we believe life’s purpose is pleasurable happiness.
      3. Thus when crises come, we conclude that either our God or our faith has failed.

It is difficult to exist in a prosperous society dedicated to pleasure and live for God’s world to come. It is too easy in a prosperous society to blame God for Satan’s actions.

The question: whose world do we live for? Have we considered the cost?

Going Through The Motions

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In everyone’s life, a person once close to us deeply wounded, insulted, and offended us. For any person to “be nice” because he or she concluded it was the “right thing to do” is an offensive, detestable, obnoxious act. In a relationship, when “I” am not valued as a person, “I” am deeply offended and feel horribly exploited.

The deeper the relationship “I” thought “I” shared with the offender, the more offensive his or her act is. When anyone is intimately involved in a deeply personal relationship with a person who treats us in that manner, we are deeply offended and wounded. Love quickly becomes disgust. What were joyful acts become contemptible acts that produce disgust. Additional “acts of kindness” performed as “the right thing to do” are now contemptible behavior [a significant reason for the difficulty in restoring broken marriages.]

Can you explain key differences between Jehovah God and idols? Consider one of the many. God emphasized this key difference to Israel in the ten commandments: “I am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). This is stated in God’s rejection of idolatry. Understanding God being “jealous” is directly related to understanding why idolatry insults God.

Idolatrous gods were typically capricious, disinterested, easily offended, and had to be pacified to keep them happy or to receive their favor. Jehovah God is attentive to His people, not capricious. He is patiently interested in our existence. Our challenge is to maintain a profoundly appreciative, respectful love relationship with Him, not to pacify Him. The more one realizes the magnitude of God’s love, the more he or she loves God.

In Hosea 6:1-3, Hosea informed Israel they genuinely had upset God. God was disgusted with them! They reacted to God as if He were an upset idol. “We must calm God down! He is upset with us, but if we just do the right things He will settle down. In fact, He will be nice to us. That is certain!” The result: their attitude deepened the alienation by increasing the insensitivity of their insult.

We should belong to God! He made us! He is our origin physically and spiritually! Humanity began in a deeply personal relationship with God (Genesis 1:8). God wants that relationship back! He does not want us to tolerate Him, or pacify Him, or put up with Him! He wants us to love Him in the manner He loves us!

When in our lives or worship, we lovelessly, faithlessly “go through the motions” to keep God from being “upset with us,” we infuriate God. Our acts, though perhaps correct within themselves, are a profound insult. Have you read Isaiah 1:11-17 lately? Surely, we always must seek to do the right things. Yet, our faith must never be in what we do. Our faith must always be in the God we love.

May we never seek to pacify God. May we ever love God — more and more!