“GET BUSY!” Sermon notes from 1/29/17

“GET BUSY!”                                                 Acts 13:44-52

INTRO – FD devotional each Monday – “Monday School.” A couple of weeks ago, one of our firefighters walked in wearing a T-shirt that had this saying on back (show pic): “Off Duty. Save Yourself!” Of course, it’s a joke, but it got me to thinking.

How many of us adopt this attitude when it comes to witnessing to those who are lost? I certainly don’t think any of us would be as crass to say it that way, but, by our actions or our inaction, are we showing that we are, for all intents & purposes, “off duty”? Be honest. Are you basically “off duty” when it comes to sharing the Gospel w/ those who are lost?

Friends, this is going to be a pretty simple, straightforward sermon today b/c it’s time for each one of us to GET BUSY!

In the passage we read today, we find Paul & Barnabas getting busy doing the work of the Lord of spreading the Gospel. We know that Paul was formerly known as Saul, & was a major persecutor of the Church until Jesus saved him & radically changed his life on the road to Damascus. Barnabas is most well-known as being a strong encourager to others. Acts 4:36 tells us that his name means “Son of Encouragement.” These 2 men had been set apart to do some serious mission work. As soon as they were set apart by the leaders of the church at Antioch, they got busy sharing the Gospel at every opportunity everywhere they went.

In the verses we read earlier, Paul & Barnabas had come back to Antioch. If you’ll look in the back of your Bible at the maps, you’ll find Paul’s first missionary journey. That’s where we are right now. Let’s walk through these verses & look at the things that happened when these 2 witnesses for Jesus got busy sharing the Gospel:

  • Lots of people came to hear the message – “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (v. 44).
  • Jealousy & opposition erupted from the Jews – v. 45
  • P & B didn’t back down, but spoke out boldly to their opponents – v. 46
  • They turned & shared the Gospel w/ the Gentiles in obedience to the Lord’s command – v. 47
  • The Gentiles responded to the Gospel enthusiastically, & many of them were saved – v. 48
  • The Gospel spread like wildfire through the whole region – v. 49
  • There was even more opposition, & P & B were driven out of the city – v. 50
  • But they just kept on going, kept on preaching – v. 51
  • The new followers of Jesus were filled w/ joy & the power of the Holy Spirit – v. 52

 

We can expect similar things to happen when we get busy sharing the Gospel. There is growing opposition in our nation today to the Gospel, to true, biblical Christianity, & to a bold, courageous Church that is busy sharing the Gospel in an unashamed way (FB posts yesterday). Rev. 12:12 says, “…so be glad, you heavens, and all you that live there! But how terrible for the earth and the sea! For the Devil has come down to you, and he is filled with rage, because he knows that he has only a little time left.” (GNT) We are definitely see lots of evidence of Satan’s rage as his time grows short!

But like Paul & Barnabas, we can’t give up, but we need to be even bolder in our witnessing & sharing of the Gospel! There are people everywhere who are ready to hear the Gospel & ready to give their lives to Christ. And they need someone to share it with them. Rom. 10:14-15 – “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’”

 

So, Church, each one of us must GET BUSY doing 3 things:

 

Get Busy Shining the Light – Jesus said in Matt. 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

Get Busy Sharing the GospelJesus said in Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” (AMP)

There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moving the hands of the so-called “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to midnight, to total global disaster. According to these scientists, the hands of the clock now stand at 2 ½ minutes to midnight.  All the more reason to GET BUSY SHARING THE GOSPEL!

 

Get Busy Showing the Way – John 3:16-18 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Vincent Ardolino –captain of a small tugboat in NY Harbor on 9/11/01. Wife asked, “What if there’s another attack?” “If I only rescue 1 person, that’s 1 less person who will suffer & die.”

DAVE LANG STORY

ALL ON THE ALTAR

“GET RIGHT!” – Sermon notes from 1/817

“GET RIGHT!”                                  Hebrews 12:1-2

INTRO – Need to make an announcement: I’m not Bobby Welch! This is Bobby Welch (show pic).

 

Welch,Bobby-H..jpgHad to reschedule. He will be with us on Jan. 22. More time to pray & prepare & publicize. Luncheon rescheduled for that day, too. Sign up.

Another event that was impacted by “Ice-Mageddon 2017” was the annual Ms. Blues Marathon. Supposed to have happened yesterday morning. Canceled. Just too dangerous. Too cold. Too slippery. Too treacherous. No refunds or rescheduling of race. Have to take that risk when you register that, if an “act of God” happens like this bad weather, you lose your money.

But there’s another race happening right now that will never get canceled. It’s the Christian Life Marathon. It’s on & we are running it even as we meet here this morning. You will run well sometimes. But there will also be times that it is dangerous, times that it is slippery, times that it is treacherous, times that it’s hard. You will fall sometimes. You will struggle sometimes. But you can’t quit. You can’t stop. You can’t take a break. You can’t drop out.

We all have to “run with endurance this race that is set before us.” Amplified Bible: “run with endurance & active persistence.” Other translations use word “patience” & “perseverance.” Hebrews 10:36 in NLT says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”

Not only do we all have to run this Christian Life Marathon w/ persevering endurance, but we all have to run this race well. We all want to be spiritual champions, running well, & finishing strong. Our goal is not perfection, but progress. We aren’t going to be sinless, but do need to strive to sin less. This race isn’t like someone leisurely walking their dog in a park, or casually meandering down the beach on vacation. It’s an intense, challenging race that we must take seriously if we are going to run well & finish strong! The Christian Life Marathon is serious business!

So as the title of the sermon tells us, today we going to talk about how to GET RIGHT so we can all run this race well & finish this race strong! Here are 4 race realities for the Christian Life Marathon:

 

First of all, for us to get right, we’ve got to realize that it’s a CORPORATE thing – “let us” – (Tim Hawkins video)

Some people are like that in their Christian life. They just want to live their Christian life in a bubble where no one else touches them & they don’t have to touch anyone else. They’re like spiritual “germaphobes.” If they don’t have to touch or relate to anyone, then maybe they won’t get “dirty” spiritually.

Can I let you in on a little secret? The Christian life is not like that. The old “My Christian life is personal. It’s a private thing” just doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s not biblical. While you do come to Christ as an individual, the Christian Life Marathon is a corporate thing. We are in it together. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said, “let US throw off these weights” – “let US get rid of this sin” – “let US run this race that is set before US.”

There’s a “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone on before us. Hebrews 11 is full of the names of many of those people. And not a single one of them was perfect. But they ran the race before us, & now it’s OUR turn to run the race. They cheer us on, letting us know that they made it & that we can make it, too. So we press on & we run this marathon together w/ those who’ve gone on before us, & together w/ those who are here w/ us now.

 

To get right, we have to remember that it’s a COMMANDED thing – “lay aside” – “strip off” – “throw off” – “put off” – “put to death” – “forsake” – “flee” – “resist” – “crucify” – “abstain” – The Christian life is a life of choices. Are we going to honor God or dishonor Him? Are we going live for Him or live for ourselves? Are we going to say “yes” to Him or “yes” to temptation? Are we going to live in purity or impurity, in truth or falsehood, authentically or hypocritically?

While it’s true that sometimes we tend to focus too much on the “thou shalt nots” in our relationship to God, the truth is that, if we are going to run well & finish strong, we must obey the command to “lay aside” those things that weigh us down, those things that trip us up, those “encumbrances” that drag us down in our walk w/ Christ.

  • Sometimes those weights are outright sins – things we know we need to get rid of, but we just won’t do it.
  • Sometimes those weights are besetting sins – things we have tried to get rid of, but they keep coming back.
  • Sometimes those weights are distractions – things that may not be sinful, but still slow us down & impede our spiritual progress.

 

Third, to get right, we need to remember that it’s a COMPLETE thing – “every” – Suppose you went to the doctor for a checkup this next week. Ran tests & procedures & came back & told you that you had a cancerous tumor. Need to operate immediately. So you go in for surgery & when you come out from under the anesthesia, the surgeon comes in & says, “Well, I found the tumor. It was very easy to get to, & I got 99.9% of it out. Could have gotten that last .1% too, but just decided to leave that little bit in there. I know it will probably end up killing you eventually, but I just decided not to get every bit of the cancer out. Hope you’re OK with that.”

How would you respond to that? Of course you would not be OK with the surgeon not getting all of the cancer when he had the opportunity to do so. He has the training to do it, the expertise to do it, the experience to do it. It makes absolutely no sense for him not to get every bit of the tumor when it was right there in front of him.

And yet, week after week, the Holy Spirit shows us the sin tumors that are in our lives, right in front of us, & we choose not to do anything about them. We reason & rationalize, thinking, “It’s not a BIG tumor. It PROBABLY won’t kill me, at least not for a long time. At least I got MOST of the sin out of my life.”

Fellow Christian Life Marathoners, if we are going to run well & finish strong, we’ve got to get EVERY sin out of our lives. It’s a lifelong pursuit, a daily battle, a constant concern. The farther we run in this race & the closer we get to Christ, the more we will see the sin in our lives & the more we will desire to get it out of our lives as quickly as possible, even those “little sins,” or “respectable sins” as Jerry Bridges called them. It’s like when you open the curtains & you can see the dust particles when a shaft of sunlight beams through. As the light of Christ shines more & more in our lives, we will see our sin more clearly & confess it & repent of it more regularly. We just will not be satisfied w/ allowing any sin to remain in our lives.

Finally, to get right, let’s remember that it’s a CLEANSING thing – “the sin which clings so closely” – Have you ever seen the triboelectric effect? Of course you have! Let me explain it to you: Electrons can be exchanged between materials on contact; materials with weakly bound electrons tend to lose them while materials with sparsely filled outer shells tend to gain them. That’s the triboelectric effect. Still a little confused? How about this? (pic of Addie)

addie.jpg

The triboelectric effect is the main cause of the cling of static electricity in everyday life.

Sin has a clinging effect on our lives, too. When we give in to temptation, the sin sticks to us & infuses our lives with its filth & muck. No marathon runner wants to run in mud. No runner wants to get mired down & slowed down in sticky, sloppy mud. A few years ago, a bunch of us went & ran in “The Warrior Dash,” a race that was an obstacle course through the woods. Some of the obstacles were nothing more than deep mud pits with mud so thick & clingy that it would literally pull your shoes off your feet.

All of us have gotten stuck in the muck & mire of sin in our lives at times. Some of us are stuck there right now. If we are going to run well & finish strong, we’ve got to be cleansed of the muck & mire of the sin that clings so closely to us. And the only way to be cleansed of that sin is to bring it to Jesus in confession & repentance.

Ps. 40:2 – “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” (ESV)

Ps. 69:14 – “Rescue me from the miry mud; don’t let me sink. Let me be rescued from those who hate me and from the deep waters.” (HCSB)

 

“The Word of God in 2017” – Sermon notes from 1/1/17

“THE WORD OF GOD IN 2017”                 Heb. 4:12

 INTRO – I’ve seen a lot of people saying that they are glad that 2016 is gone & 2017 is here. Many people talking about the losses that happened in 2016 – lots of well-known celebrities died in 2016. Seems like the headlines were regularly filled w/ the name of the next famous actor or actress who had died.

While each of these deaths is tragic – especially if they didn’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior – there’s no guarantee that just turning the page on the calendar is going to slow down the rate of deaths or tragedy in our world. There’s certainly nothing magical that happened at midnight this morning that is going to insulate us from heartache & grief & pain. If anything, we can be assured that tragic events are going to continue to happen.

“Well, thanks for the uplifting Happy New Year, Jon!” Here’s the best Happy New Year message that I can give to you: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday & today & forever” (Heb. 13:8). In a world that is rapidly changing, He is our constant, our true North who will guide us perfectly to His will for our lives. While everyone else is wringing their hands in fear & anxiety, you & I can stay calm as we experience the peace that passes all understanding. When folks all around us are confused as to why these things are happening, you & I will have the calm assurance that we can face uncertain days b/c our Lord Jesus is alive & unchanged & unfazed by all that’s going on in our world.

So, as we take our first steps into this New Year, let’s make sure those first steps are firmly placed on the truth of God’s Word. As we’ve placed these new Bibles in the pews to be used in our corporate worship times, let’s make sure that we place the Word in our hearts & lives. Let’s renew our commitment to the Word of God & to the God of the Word. Let’s make a commitment today that we will not take a step without seeking God’s direction through His Word. We will not make a decision without making sure that it lines up w/ God’s Word. We will strive to live our lives aligned w/ His Word & will be quick to confess & repent when our lives get out of line with His Word.

 

It’s not just any old book – It’s “living & active.” 

I remember when I was in college at MC how much it cost to buy the books I needed for my classes. And I remember thinking how much of a waste of money that was. And I also remember actually burning some of those books after my classes were over, being so thankful that I would never have to look at another physics book again in my whole life!

Not a single one of those books that I bought was a “living & active” book. Not my Western Civilization book, my English literature book, not my biology book. There’s only 1 book in all the world that is a living & active book. It’s that book that you placed in that pew rack. It’s that book that you have opened up on your iPhone right now. It’s that book that maybe you got for Christmas this year b/c you’ve realized that you need to read it more, study it more, & apply it more to your life.

It’s living & active b/c it’s the personal utterance from God to us. The Word is living & active b/c God is living & active. The Word is perfect b/c He is perfect. The Word is holy b/c He is holy. He’s a living & active God, our Father, our Creator, our Redeemer. He’s not a static, lifeless deity that has no interest in our everyday lives. He’s alive – He’s watchful – He’s alert – He’s involved – He’s all-knowing, all-powerful, & everywhere present.

 

Its purpose is clear – It’s “sharper than any two-edged sword.”

There are a lot of places that you could get bogged down for hours in discussion about the different pieces of this verse:

  • What does joints & marrow mean?
  • What’s the difference between soul & spirit?
  • What’s the difference between thoughts & intentions?
  • Is the heart mentioned at the end of the verse different from the soul & spirit mentioned earlier in the verse?

These are all good questions & worthy of discussion. In fact, some of you were answering them even as I was asking them.

But this morning, I don’t want to miss seeing the forest for the trees. I think we can all agree on the fact that this verse makes it clear that the purpose of the Word of God is to penetrate deeply inside of us, cutting through all the tough layers that are there, & make true judgments about what if finds there.

Listen, that’s why the Bible has been under attack throughout the centuries of time. Its critics know that there’s something different about this book. They can’t put their finger on it, but they know it’s a different kind of book. They know it’s not just a novel, or a fairytale book, or a history book. If it were just those things, they would have left it alone a long time ago.

But it continues to accomplish its purpose of drilling & boring & piercing through every barricade that man erects against it, showing itself to be true time & time again. J.C. Ryle: “The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are his marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which he nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!”

 

It won’t leave us unchanged – It “pierces” & “discerns.”  

“Piercing” & “discerning” – the 2 action words in this verse. They’re the words that tell us that there something significantly different about this book. They’re the words that clearly show us that this book will not leave us unchanged.

It “pierces.” Like this dagger, it is sharp on both sides & on its point, & will penetrate whatever it presses against. There’s no barrier or wall that we can erect against the Word that God is not able to penetrate through. Our opinions, our prejudices, our habits, our self-righteousness – all are as flimsy as a house of cards in a hurricane when they encounter the piercing power of the Word of God.

It discerns. It’s the judge of our thoughts, motives, & attitudes. It passed judgment on our feelings, showing them to be true or false, authentic or fake. What we regard as secret & hidden, God brings out for inspection through His Word. Nothing is hidden from Him & His Word. There are no secrets w/ God.

The Word of God will always bring about the change that God desires for it to bring in our lives. Isa. 55:10-11 – “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

For that change to happen, we’ve got to apply the Word to our lives & live it out. The world is not necessarily waiting to see if we completely understand & comprehend the Word; they’re waiting to see if we really believe the Word. And the way they’ll see that we believe the Word is when we are living out the Word. They know we say our Bible says to love others, no matter who they are, how they live, what color their skin is, what their socioeconomic status is; they want to see that happening. They know our Bible says that we are people who walk by faith & not by sight; they want to see if we do that. They know that our Bible says that we love each other in the Church; they want to see if we truly do that. The Church that will make a difference in our world today is the Church that lives & obeys the Word. The world doesn’t want flashy programs; the world wants “real.”

Let make a new commitment today to live out & obey the Word of God in our lives.

“Angels Announced Him” – Sermon notes from 12/18/16

“ANGELS ANNOUNCED HIM”                     Luke 1:26-38; 2:8-20

 INTRO – town crier.jpg

 

This picture is of a town crier. His name is Tony Appleton, & he is announcing the arrival of Prince William & Kate Middleton’s daughter in 2015 in London.

Town criers date back to the 18th century & were used mostly during a time when the general population was illiterate. They would announce all sorts of things for the citizens to know about. The official legal definition of a town crier from Black’s Law Dictionary is this: “A town crier, or bellman, is an officer of the court who makes public pronouncements as required by the court.” They would usually begin their announcements by ringing a bell & shouting, “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,” which means, “Hear ye, Hear ye, Hear ye!” Then they would begin their announcements of new proclamations, bylaws, or advertisements. Sometimes, before public hangings, the town crier would read reasons why a person was about to be hanged. The town criers were protected by law b/c sometimes they would have to bring negative news from the government, such as tax increases. To harm a town crier was considered an act of treason.

 

Angels are heaven’s “town criers.” They are the divine town criers, God’s town criers, His messengers, dispatched by Him to do His work & make His announcements & proclamations all throughout the Bible.

  • Genesis 3:24 – First appearance of an angel when God placed them at entrance of Garden of Eden after He expelled Adam & Eve.
  • Angels came to Abraham in Gen. 18 to warn him of the impending destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. Angels also protected & escorted Lot & his family out of Sodom before it was destroyed in Gen. 19.
  • 2 Kings 6 – Elisha & his servant saw an army of angels on the hillside protecting them from the enemy armies.

And then, of course, we have the encounters that Mary & the shepherds had w/ the angels, the most well-known angelic encounters in the Bible. And, WOW, what messages they delivered! Look at the messages & proclamations that these heaven criers brought to us:

 

A message of sovereign grace – 1:30 – “favor” – charitoo from root of charis, which means GRACE!Mary had not done anything special to deserve being chosen by God to be Jesus’ mother. She “found favor” with God simply & solely because of His undeserved grace that was poured out upon her. He chose her for this task simply b/c He is God & He has the sovereign right to make that choice. She had not earned it, nor did she deserve it. It was an act of sovereign grace!

God’s grace is truly amazing! To think that He would choose a simple teenage girl in a remote Galilean town called Nazareth for such a monumental task is truly mind-boggling. The word for “favored” means that God freely gave Mary this privilege. How awesome is that!

And it also means that you & I are highly favored by God. There’s only 1 other reference in the NT where this word is used & it’s in Eph. 1:6 where it says that, as God’s children, we are “blessed in the beloved” or “accepted in the beloved.” This means that not only is God’s grace given to us freely, but it also means that we are freely, completely, & eternally accepted & adopted into God’s family! When we begin to comprehend that, our lives will be forever changed & transformed! God accepts you & loves you no matter what! You cannot do anything to make yourself more acceptable. His grace is so amazing that you are just as “highly favored” as Mary was when Gabriel showed up!

 

A message of special miracles – 1:31, 34-35 – The angel, Gabriel, also made an announcement of the special miracles that would bring the Christ-child into the world. Mary would become pregnant w/ the child without ever having been intimate w/ a man. It would be a miraculous act of the Holy Spirit that would cause her to become pregnant, ensuring that Jesus would not inherit the sin nature that comes from Adam, as all other humans do. The only way that Jesus could be born as the Holy Son of God would be for this miracle to happen.

In commenting on Jesus coming into the world, Martin Luther once said that there were three miracles involved. “The first, that God became man; the second, that a virgin was a mother; and the third, that the heart of man should believe this.” We live in a day & among a multitude of people who push hard against anything miraculous or supernatural. Theological liberalism has elevated science & intellectualism over the biblical revelation found in scripture & evaluates scripture using scientific methods. Reason rules over revelation, & anything that found to not be verifiable by scientific methods is discarded. That means the virgin birth should be discarded according to this line of thinking, which leads to the resurrection also being discarded, which leads to a total breakdown of the Gospel message, which leads to anyone holding to these teachings to be outside of Christ & headed to hell. See how important this announcement from Gabriel is now??? He’s not just another character in the next Christmas pageant for a little kid to wear a white gown w/ cardboard wings & a tinsel halo. His message of the special miraculous conception & birth of Jesus is FOUNDATIONAL to the Gospel message, which means we must NEVER discard it or deemphasize it. I agree completely w/ what Dr. Russell Moore states: “No true Christian can deny the virgin birth.” (http://www.bpnews.net/17343) So settle it now, my brothers & sisters in Christ – Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in the most astounding, most amazing, divinely miraculous way!

 

A message of the Savior’s reign – 1:32-33 – Gabriel’s divine announcements continued as he gives Mary the news that this child that will be born to her will be a king, & not just any king, but the King of kings! This baby would be the new David, the king over all Israel, with the awesome title, “Son of God.” And even greater news is that His rule & reign will never end! He is Israel’s long-awaited Messiah & our loving Savior. He came into the world the first time as a frail child, but will come back again into the world the 2nd time as a our glorious, conquering King! “The kingdom of God that is realized in the coming of Jesus and is to be consummated at the [2nd coming] will continue forever.[1]

 

A message of salvation’s hope – 2:10-12 – We move from Mary’s home to the shepherds’ hillside where the angels announce a message of salvation’s hope. JESUS HAS COME!!! HE’S HERE!!! And look at the message of hope that the angel gets to share b/c Jesus is here:

  • Fear is gone – “Fear not”
  • The Gospel has come – “I bring you good news”
  • Abundant joy is expressed – “of great joy” – megas
  • Everyone is included – “which shall be for ALL people”
  • It’s personal – “For unto YOU…”
  • He will rescue you from sin & death – “a Savior”
  • He is God’s chosen, anointed, perfect One – “Christ”
  • He has a wonderful plan & purpose for your life – “the Lord”

 

A message of spectacular worship – 2:13-14 – Finally, the angels culminated their announcements w/ a glorious, immediate, unexpected message of spectacular worship of God. It’s almost like they couldn’t help themselves! They just HAD to break out in worship! The coming of the Savior of the world into the world was just too magnificent for them to let it go by w/out, what SHOULD be the response of ALL of us when we hear this message – HEARTFELT, SPIRIT-FILLED, SOUL-FERVENT WORSHIP!

 

CONCLUSION – When the angels showed up w/ their announcements of sovereign grace, special miracles, the Savior’s reign, salvation’s hope, & spectacular worship, they came to people who were normal people, dealing w/ the pressures & struggles of living life in a fallen world. Not much has changed since then. Sure, technology has changed, the pace of life has changed, the population of the world has changed. But, many things are still the same. The angels came to the shepherds at night, but it wasn’t just night b/c the sun had gone down. It was night b/c the world was enveloped in spiritual darkness. Greed, intolerance, a lust for power, immorality, & religious hypocrisy was everywhere, just like today. Everywhere we look today, we see the darkness of sin as people are driven by their lusts for power, their lusts for pleasure, their lusts for possessions. Even within the church, we find ourselves gossiping against each other, not trusting each other, questioning motives, bitter towards others, angry, & unreconciled in our relationships, & content to stay that way. It’s a dark world we are living in.

But we must remember that the angels announced that the Light of the world has come into this darkness, & b/c of that, there is hope, b/c HE is hope.

  • There is the potential for peace b/c He is the Prince of Peace.
  • There is joy b/c He is the very source of joy.
  • There is love b/c He came to show us the love of God & teach us how to love one another.

[1] Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24, p. 84). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 11/27/16 – “U-Turn”

“U-TURN”                                          Matt. 4:12-17

 INTRO – Wabush is a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada. It was completely isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only on one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave—by turning around.

Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out–a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, there’s no way out of town. We are stuck, trapped in that town called Sin if we willingly choose not to get on the road that God has provided.

The Greek word here for “repent” is metanoeo, & it means to change one’s life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness[1]. It’s a word that most folks don’t want to hear. Most of the time, when they see it, it’s on a sign like this: (slide). Or when they hear it, it’s from a street preacher standing on a street corner. It is unbelievable what happens when you tell someone that they need to repent, that they have to change their way of life, their way of thinking, their perspective & their beliefs. I’ve watched numerous videos of street preachers all over the United States. Many times, they are assaulted, arrested, spit on, screamed at, pushed around, & abused. Watched one this week where a very mild-mannered preacher was standing on a sidewalk in Houston, TX, during a Gay Pride event. A very aggressive homosexual man stood in his face for 15 solid minutes & screamed at him, w/ every other word being the vilest, most offensive profanity you’ve ever heard, accompanied by some of the lewdest, most obscene gestures you’ve ever seen. Why? All b/c the preacher was simply preaching the same word that Jesus used here – REPENT. Granted, I don’t always agree w/ the street preacher’s methodology, although this preacher was staying incredibly calm as he continued to just consistently & sincerely preach the Gospel. But the point is that the message of the word REPENT is extremely offensive to those who are mired in sin. It simply means turn away from sin & turn to God. And it’s for lost people AND for saved people!

So what is the U-turn of repentance?

 

It’s a U-turn out of darkness – v. 16a – We are now officially in the Christmas season. Thanksgiving has happened, Black Friday has happened, & we are 4 days away from December this Thu. In fact, on Thu. evening at 6:00, the THS choir will be having their Christmas program here in our worship center. Invite you to come & welcome folks into our church. Great way to touch our community, & a great way to usher in the Christmas season.

These words we find in v. 16 are from one of the prophetic passages in Isaiah that foretold the coming Messiah. Let’s read them together. Turn to Isa. 9:2-7 (pg. 481 in the pew Bible).

God’s chosen people, Israel, were in trouble. They had turned away from God & are the “people living in darkness” that Isaiah talked about. Look at how Isaiah describes them in Isa. 8:21-22. When you turn to the darkness of disobedience, your life will definitely be characterized by distress & anguish.

Jesus came as the Messiah for all people, starting w/ the Jews. He came as the “Light of the world” as He said in John 8:12. He came to lead people out of darkness, out of disobedience, & out of distress, & into the light of spiritual freedom that ONLY He can bring.

Let’s think about this: WHAT HAPPENS IN DARKNESS?

  • Injury
  • Danger
  • Confusion
  • Lostness

But eventually, our eyes grow accustomed to the dark & it doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Same true w/ sin – we eventually grow accustomed to it. In fact, Jesus said in John 3:19 that men loved darkness better than light b/c their deeds were evil. In spite of the inherent dangers in the darkness, people would rather stay there than come into the light. They don’t want their deeds exposed. They don’t want the reality of their sinfulness exposed. They don’t want to have to take an honest look at their own lives & see the putrid garbage that is there. That’s one of the reasons that people recoil so much when someone tells them that they need to repent. In their spiritual ignorance & rebellion, they love the darkness & want to stay there.

 

It’s a U-turn out of death – v. 16b – Sin = death. The Bible is very clear about this. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, we see that sin brought death into the world. When Adam & Eve sinned, their sinless innocence died; their perfect fellowship w/ God died; their pain-free life died; an animal died to cover their nakedness. Soon after that, death came into their family when their son, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel.

  • Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death…”
  • John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
  • Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
  • James 1:15 – Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death.”

Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson: “We were all involved in guilt; none of us could plead, ‘not guilty.’ Being guilty, we lay under a sentence of death.”

Sin always brings death! But, thank God, when we repent, that U-turn leads us out of death into life.

 

It’s a U-turn out of drought (revival) – Drought – something USED to be alive, but b/c of a lack of water, it is drying up & withering away. Deer hunters’ food plots aren’t coming up. Went to TN at what was supposed to be peak time for color. Trees had gone from green to brown. MS & others states are suffering from severe drought conditions. Drought conditions threaten way of life for many people. Great danger of devastating fires in these conditions. So many bad things can happen during drought conditions.

Spiritually, all of us can experience, & HAVE experienced times of spiritual drought – those times of spiritual dryness when our passion for the Lord is running low & our commitment to Him & His work is faltering. Our heart feel like it’s filled w/ lead weights. Our spirit feels empty. Our soul feels like there are tumbleweeds blowing through it b/c it’s so dry.

David had times of spiritual drought:

  • Psalm 13:1 – “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
  • Psalm 63:1 – “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry & weary land where there is no water.”
  • Other psalmist wrote in Ps. 42:3 – “My tears have been my food day & night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’”

What causes the spiritual drought conditions in our lives? Let me offer a few for your consideration:

  • Unchecked lust
  • Love of money & material possessions
  • Pride & arrogance
  • Gossip
  • Deep-seated bitterness
  • Inconsistent or nonexistent quiet time
  • Inconsistent or nonexistent service to God
  • Living a no-risk life – in other words, a no-faith life

Jesus’ remedy for spiritual drought? Matt. 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary & heavy-laden, & I will give you rest.”

[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sermon notes – 11/20/16 – “Thanks Be to God!”

“THANKS BE TO GOD!”                              2 Cor. 9:15

 INTRO – Everybody get out phone. Think of one person that you are thankful for & send them a text right now. Got that person in mind? Go!

Aren’t you thankful for Thanksgiving? Aren’t you thankful that we have so much for which to be thankful? We, as children of God, ought to be the most thankful, thanks-filled people in the world. I love what one writer said: “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’” (William Ward)

The title of the sermon today is, “Thanks Be to God.” I simply want us to spend this time together around the Word of God, pondering, meditating on, & rejoicing in some of the things that we can be thankful for as children of God. Certainly, we could spend the entire day & on into tomorrow just naming things that we are thankful for, &, even then, we wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. But, let’s get going this morning & focus on 5 important items that should cause us to say, “Thanks be to God!”

 

Thanks Be to God…

 

…for His Provision – Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth was written in the midst of a difficult season in Paul’s relationship w/ the Corinthians. Some false teachers had begun infiltrating the church, & the only way they could get a foothold in the church was to attempt to discredit Paul. So they viciously attacked his credibility & character to try to persuade people to turn away from Paul & from the true Gospel that he had preached to them, & turn to the false gospel they were attempting to spread. How many of you know that sometimes, the only way folks can build themselves up is to tear others down? Essentially, that’s what was going on here.

One would think that it would be hard to find anything to be thankful for in a time like this. But, Paul’s God was much bigger than these difficult circumstances, & certainly much bigger than these puny false teachers. God was still at work in the hearts of the Christ-followers in Corinth, & many of them had rejected the false teachers, repented of their rebellion against Paul, & were supporting him in his mission work. And Paul gave thanks to God for His provision through the Corinthian believers – v. 11-12.

 

Friends, can I tell you that our God is a providing God?

  • His provisions are plenteous – Ps. 50:10 tells us that God owns that cattle on a thousand hills – EVERYTHING in all creation belongs to Him, meaning His provisions are eternally plenteous!
  • His provisions are promised – This verse means SO much to me – Phil. 4:19 – “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Daddy: “The Lord will provide.”
  • His provisions are purposeful – to cause us to trust Him more & more. To increase our faith in Him. – Prov. 3:5-6

 

…for Participation in His Work – If there was anything that Paul was thankful for, it was that Jesus had saved him & given him the unbelievable, undeserved, unmerited privilege of participating in the work of the Gospel.

In Acts 9, Paul, whose name was Saul at that time, encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. When he met Jesus, he was on his way to persecute Christians. After he met Jesus, he was on his way to proclaim the Gospel. Paul never got over the amazing fact that Jesus had saved him. And he never got over the amazing privilege that he got to share the Gospel, even when he was persecuted b/c of it, & even when it eventually cost him his life. Think about what Paul was saying in v. 15, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” There just aren’t enough words to say thank you to God for the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone. It’s an inexpressible, incomprehensible, incredible gift that is given to anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior & Lord.

And b/c that gift is so great, our response should be to gladly, obediently participate in the work of spreading the Gospel. Thanks be to God that He allows us to do this!

  • Matthew 28:19-20
  • Acts 1:8
  • 2 Timothy 2:2

 

…for His Promises – My goodness! Where do we start w/ this? Paul definitely understood the power of the promises of God in the life of the Christ-follower. Just look at all these promises! Listen to these promises from some of Paul’s letter:

  • Already mentioned one powerful promise from God – Philippians 4:19. How about Philippians 4:13
  • Romans 10:9, 13
  • 1 Cor. 15:51-52
  • 2 Cor. 5:17
  • Galatians 5:16; 6:9
  • Ephesians 1:13-14; 3:20
  • Philippians 4:7
  • Colossians 1:13-14
  • 1 Thess. 5:9
  • 2 Thess. 1:9 – “[Those who don’t know Christ] will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord & from the glory of His might.”
  • 1 Tim. 2:5-6
  • 2 Tim. 1:7
  • Titus 2:11

Thanks be to God for ALL of these promises that are made to US, His children! They appear to us in the Word of God; they have been appropriated to us by the blood of Christ; & they are applied to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

…for the Possibilities – WOW! When you seriously consider the faithful provision of God for His children, & the joy of participating w/ Him in His work of salvation, & the incredible promises that He makes just here in the letters of Paul (not to mention all the rest of Scripture, you can begin to see the possibilities that we have RIGHT NOW b/c of who He is & what He has said & done. As Jesus said in Matt. 19:26, “With God, all things are possible.”

Do we really believe that today? Have we become so jaded w/ all the trouble in our lives & in our world today that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God? Have we let the enemy steal our joy to the point that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God? Have we drifted so far away from God that we aren’t really sure that all things are possible w/ God?

Then let’s move to the last “thanks be to God” item:

 

…for Prayer – Not just any prayer, but earth-shaking, life-altering powerful prayer! Prayer that is filled w/ faith, filled w/ the Spirit, filled w/ passion, filled w/ fervency, filled w/ truth. Urgent prayer! Desperate prayer! Intentional prayer! Focused prayer! When God’s people get serious about praying, things happen as God begins to move. E.M. Bounds: “Prayer is God’s plan to supply man’s great & continuous need w/ God’s great & continuous abundance.” Billy Graham: “Prayer is the rope that pulls God & man together. But, it doesn’t pull God down to us: It pulls us up to Him.”

Have Deacons stand all across worship center to lead small group prayer time.

  • Look at the worship communicator. See that budget deficit? How many of you believe that God can take care of that if we pray about it? So, let’s do it! Let’s stop right now & all pray about that specific need in our church.
  • Look at this worship center. See the empty pews? How many of you believe that God can fill this place up if we pray about it? So let’s do it! Let’s stop right now & all pray about that specific need in our church.
  • NOW: Look at your life? See the deficits in YOUR life? See the emptiness in YOUR life? How many of you believe that God can take care of your deficits & fill your emptiness if we pray about it? So, let’s do it!

Sermon notes from 10/2/16 – “It’s Not MY Righteousness”

“IT’S NOT MY RIGHTEOUSNESS”                          Phil. 3:7-11

 INTRO – Let me start this morning by jumping right into this passage. Philippians is an awesome little book in the NT. It’s a letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian believers to encourage them in their walk w/ Christ, to challenge them to be a unified body of believers, & to thank them for their generosity in providing a monetary gift in support of his ministry. He was in prison in Rome when he wrote this little letter, probably somewhere around AD 60.

Right here in the middle of the letter, he issued a stern warning to them to “look out for the dogs…the evildoers…for those who mutilate the flesh” (v. 2). The people that he was referring to were false teachers, Jews who taught that salvation came through keeping the requirements of the Law, symbolized by circumcision, which is what he was referring to w/ the mutilation of the flesh comment. Calling them “dogs” was an especially strong comment. Dogs were not viewed in the same way in their world as they are in our world. You would never see this or this or this in that day & time (slides). Dogs were hated & for Paul to call them dogs was to say that they were a ravenous pack of religious scavengers.

These false teachers were pompously emphasizing all their religious accomplishments & credentials. It was all about THEIR righteousness, or, at least, their ATTEMPTS at being righteous. Their confidence was in their “flesh” (v. 3) & in their legalistic keeping of the Law. Paul took just a minute to make it clear that if anyone had bragging rights & confidence in their flesh, he did! He had it all – circumcised according to the Law, born in the tribe of Benjamin, a devout Pharisee, & a faithful adherent to the OT Law. Paul was the man when it came to Jewish Law requirements!

“BUT” – When Jesus came into his life, everything changed b/c Jesus is in the transformation business! Let me give you 4 quick points about this transformation that happened in Paul’s life:

 

The Greatness – v. 7-8a – There is simply nothing better or greater than knowing Jesus! Everything that Paul COULD have rightly bragged about, he put in the loss column. There was simply nothing that can compare w/ knowing “Christ Jesus my Lord.” Not just knowing facts, but knowing Him personally, intimately, passionately. Wesley when he got saved: “Feel like such a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!” The surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus means that, no matter what the circumstances of your life are, having Him in your life makes all the difference!

  • Vicki’s cousin, David Smith. Diagnosed w/ cancer. Began to ravage his body. Evident that he was not going to be alive much longer. His goal was to make sure that every person who came into that hospital room heard about Christ before he breathed his last breath.

 

The Garbage – v. 8b – Paul takes it up a notch here in the next part of v. 8. Not only are all those religious accomplishments in the loss column, he said that they are nothing more than garbage. Or to put it more literally & more graphically, he considered them to be “skubalon,” or dung, or human excrement. Yes, that’s right – Paul said that all of his accomplishments were nothing more than a pile of stinking ________ – you fill in the blank. When you compare all the “good” things we try to do w/ the “great” thing of knowing Jesus, our good stuff just stinks!

 

The Gain – v. 8b-9 – Against that explicit backdrop, Paul exclaims that he has let all of that old stuff go so that he might “gain Christ & be found in Him.” The greatest gain anyone can incur is the gain of the knowing Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord. The greatest place that anyone can be is to “IN” Christ. Our salvation is not based on our performance; it’s based on His promised gift of eternal life! Let me illustrate it this way: Take a single piece of paper & a book. Open the book up & place the piece of paper right in the middle of the book, then close the book. The paper represents your life & the book is Jesus. You’re not just close to Jesus, or beside Jesus. You are “in” Christ. That’s what salvation is. When you close that book w/ the paper in it, you can’t see the paper – you can only see the book. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you; He sees Christ. He doesn’t see YOUR righteousness; He sees Christ’s righteousness!

Let’s take the truth of “righteousness” apart a little bit right here. There are 2 facets of righteousness that are important for us to know:

 

EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We ARE righteous.” – To be righteous simply means to be right w/ God. That doesn’t come by our good works, but by faith alone in Christ alone for our salvation. On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His righteousness, so that one day, when we stand before the Lord, He will not see our sin, but only the perfect, holy righteousness of Christ! As the sermon title says, “It’s Not MY Righteousness!” When we place our faith in Christ alone for our salvation, we are MADE righteous, & it’s an everlasting righteousness! His righteousness is credited to us, imputed to us, placed on our account by the grace of God. We are accepted by God as righteousness, not based on what WE have done, but based on what CHRIST has done FOR us!

  • 2 Cor. 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • (Baptism robe) God wraps us in the robe of His righteousness – Isa. 61:10 – “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation & draped me in a robe of righteousness.” (NLT) And that robe will never come off!

 

EVERYDAY RIGHTEOUSNESS – “We LIVE righteously.” – As a result of our being MADE everlastingly righteous w/ the righteousness of Christ, our lives will reflect that righteousness in how we live. In other words, His everlasting righteousness will be seen in our everyday righteousness.

  • 1 John 3:7 – “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”
  • 1 John 3:10 – “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

When I put this robe on, it usually means that I’m about to baptize someone. That’s the purpose of this robe. I wouldn’t go play football in it, or wear it to go deer hunting. I wear it for a reason.

Listen: You & wear Christ’s righteousness for a reason – 2 to be exact:

  • The preeminent reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is to MAKE us right w/ God.
  • The practical reason for Christ’s righteousness covering us is so that we might show Him to the world. As 1 Peter 2:9 says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (AMP)

Which leads to the final point:

 

The Growth – v. 10-11 – Paul’s desire was to “know Christ…becoming like Him in His death…” The Christian life is a life of progressing in knowing Christ, in becoming more & more like Him. When you are “IN” Him, you’ll want to know Him & become more like Him. Look at how Paul continued this thought in v. 12-14. If you don’t have a passion for that in your life, you may not truly be “in” Him. You may not be saved. Or if you are saved, you’re not in fellowship w/ Him like you should be or could be.

The goal of our life as a Christ-follower is simple: to grow to be more like Jesus. I want to BECOME more like Him. I’m not there yet, but I want to become more like Him. John Newton, the pastor who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace” in the 1700’s, said this: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Sermon notes from 9/18/16 – “Our Filthy Rags”

“OUR FILTHY RAGS”                                   Isaiah 64:1-9

 INTRO – When is the last time you were just worn slap out?

  • Maybe you worked in your yard all day yesterday, or at your deer camp all weekend getting it ready for deer season.
  • Maybe it was a long day at work this week that just never seemed to let up.
  • Maybe your kids were sick & you had to take care of them.
  • Maybe there was a project at school that consumed all of your time & energy.

There are lots of ways that we expend large amounts of energy trying to accomplish some goal or finish some task. And hard work is an important quality for all of us to have. Thomas Edison put it plainly when he said, “There is no substitute for hard work.”

But there’s one thing that millions upon millions of people all over the world do that completely wears them out. And the sad thing is that they will never accomplish what they’re working for.

That thing that they’re working for: They’re working for their salvation. They’re working to try & make themselves right w/ God, to try & get in His good graces, to try & earn a place in heaven.

The OT prophet Isaiah was called to bring God’s message of repentance to the people of the nation of Judah. They had gone through times of revival & times of rebellion. There were times that they were walking w/ God & responding to His leadership, & there were times that they were walking away from God & rebelling against His leadership. There were times that they stumbled around in a state of spiritual deafness & blindness – Isa. 42:6-7 – “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

The weight of the sins of the people was heavy, as sin always is. Isa. 43:24 – “But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.”

That’s what sin always does. It ALWAYS weighs us down. It ALWAYS brings weariness into our lives. There have been so many people that I’ve talked to & counseled with who found themselves mired in the quicksand of sin. The signs of spiritual, emotional, relational, & physical weariness are all over them as they struggle w/ sin & its consequences. You can see it in their eyes, in their countenance, in their body language, & hear it in their voice.

3 elements I want us to look at today in this passage:

 

Our Pitiful Reality – v. 6 – The book of Isaiah has been called the Romans of the OT. The NT book of Romans is known to be the book in the NT that shapes our doctrine & theology more than any other book. Isaiah has that same distinction in the OT. It is chocked full of deep spiritual truth. Paul made it clear in Romans that we are all great sinners who are in need of a great Savior.

  • Romans 3:9-18, 23 (v. 15-17 are quotes from Isa. 59:7-8)

Isaiah makes that same truth clear in v. 6 in Isa. 64 when he gives us the “3 ‘Alls’” of our pitiful reality:

  • We are all unclean
  • All our righteous acts are as filthy rags
  • We are all shriveled up like a leaf blowing in the wind

 

We don’t like to see that about ourselves. We don’t like to be told that about ourselves. And we certainly don’t like to believe that about ourselves. But it’s the plain truth of Scripture: The pitiful reality of our lives is that we are all sinners. The infection of sin has spread to everyone everywhere. There is no one who is immune or has been able to avoid it. Isaiah is making it clear to the people that this is not a problem that has been brought upon them by an outside force. It is a heart problem that causes every person to be unable to avoid that which is sinful. It has so pervaded our lives that even our righteous acts are like filthy contaminated rags that a woman would use during her time of the month. It’s horrible. It ‘s so much more than just a slight or harmless mistake that probably doesn’t even need to be confessed. No, it is a condition of the heart that adversely affects every area of our life. One commentator said, “Sin is a dark and destructive act that makes a person an enemy of God.[1]

Look at the descriptiveness that the 2nd part of v. 6 shows us. Sin will shrivel up all of our lives like a dead leaf. Why does a leaf die? B/c it’s lost its source of nutrients, either from disease or blight, or by being separated from the tree itself. And then when that happens, the winds will pick that leaf up & blow it away. That is our pitiful reality. The blight of sin shrivels up our lives, keeping us from the source of nutrients that we find in Christ alone, causing us to be a vile disgrace. And then, to make matters worse, our sins don’t stop there but blow us away like a hurricane-force wind, farther & farther away from the Lord. As someone once said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, & cost you more than you want to pay.”

 

Our Poor Response – v. 7 – Verse 7 goes on to show our poor response to our pitiful reality. Sin blinds us to who we really are & what is the actual state of our lives. The enemy, who is a liar & the father of lies, whispers to us that we aren’t all that bad; that there are so many other people who are worse than we are; that we can live any way we want to live, do anything we want to do, b/c, after all, it’s our life, so we have the right to do w/ it whatever we choose to do. Pride seeps into our thinking & keeps us from truly acknowledging how desperately wicked our lives truly are. So instead of calling out to God in confession & repentance, no one calls on His name. No one makes any effort to take hold of God for the help that only He can bring. We think we are smart enough to fix our own problems, or strong enough to make it w/out God. So many people try so many other avenues to try & find peace & contentment in their lives before they ever turn to God.

Because our poor response is to not call out to God, it seems that God has hidden His face from us. We are always looking to place the blame on someone else, even on God Himself. The truth is that He has already told us this in Isa. 59:1-2: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

 

Our Possible Restoration – v. 8-9 – So far, this sermon has been pretty heavy, showing us the truth of our pitiful reality – we are all sinners, all shriveled up, all dead, all blown away by the winds of our sin. We’ve also seen how poor our response is to our sinfulness. We don’t call on God, but instead try to cover up our sins, or minimize them, or try to ignore them. It’s a tremendously sad situation!

But, I want to end this sermon on some good news. I want you to understand the possibility of our restoration. And that restoration will only come in the hands of God. And that restoration only happens when we willing yield our lives completely to Him, like the clay in the hands of the potter. “Just as the clay finds its highest purpose when it remains pliable in the hands of the potter, so our lives fulfill their highest purpose when we let our Potter have His way with us.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/potter-and-clay.html)

In 1902, Adelaide A. Pollard, a hymn writer, was hoping to go to Africa as a missionary but found herself unable to raise the needed funds to make the journey. Greatly discouraged, she attended a prayer service one evening and as she sat there, she overheard an elderly woman say “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your own way with our lives.” The elderly woman inspired Pollard and…upon her return home that evening, wrote all four stanzas of the hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” before retiring for the night.

 

1 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after thy will,

while I am waiting, yielded and still.

 

2 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Search me and try me, Master today!

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,

As in thy presence humbly I bow.

 

3 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Wounded and weary, help me I pray!

Power, all power, surely is thine!

Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

 

4 Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway.

Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me!

[1] Smith, G. (2009). Isaiah 40-66 (Vol. 15B, p. 690). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Sermon notes from 9/11/16 -“All for His Glory”

“ALL FOR HIS GLORY”                    Ps. 86:11-13; 1 Cor. 10:31

INTRO – There’s not a first responder in here from any agency that doesn’t love what they do most of the time.

  • Sure, there are those times when we get frustrated or discouraged – recent attacks on LEO’s prime example.
  • There are those times when we find ourselves nearly overwhelmed w/ the scope & magnitude of the tragedies we deal with – We all remember where we were & what we felt as we saw 343 NY firefighters killed on 9/11, along w/ 23 NYPD officers & 23 Port Authority police officers – The recent wreck on I-55 that left 3 people dead – those calls we talk about for years after they happen.
  • There are those times when we see the raw depravity of humanity through crime, abuse, the disintegration of families, & suffering of innocent victims.

 

But, through it all, we continue to respond when the pager goes off or the dispatcher calls. Why do we do it? Other than for all the money we are making… (Ha!):

  • Invest in our community – make it a better place to live
  • Impact lives of others – nearly every time we respond to a call, we are encountering people in a crisis situation
  • Intense experiences – The experience of going into a situation that most people are getting out of is pretty intense.

 

But there’s a bigger reason & a greater purpose for doing what we do – to glorify God. And this principle doesn’t just apply to the first responders who are present today; it applies to all of us.

 

The more we learn about God, the more we will want to praise Him – v. 11a – God is an amazing being! There’s no way that we will ever be able to fully get our brain around how amazing & magnificent He truly is. There are not enough words in all the languages & dialects in the entire world to be able to completely express the greatness of our God. Here are a few verses to help us think about Him & His greatness:

  • Jeremiah 10:6 – “There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.”
  • 1 Chronicles 16:25 – “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods.”
  • Psalm 47:2 – “For the LORD Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earth.”
  • Psalm 47:7 – “…God is the King of all the earth…”
  • Isaiah 108:4 – “For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the skies.”
  • Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,…”

 

A God this magnificent, this massive, & this majestic is worthy of our attention & our affections. The more we learn about Him, the more we will want to praise Him, & that’s not just coming to church & singing songs of praise, but praising Him all the time in every aspect of our lives.

We need to give a portion of our time to learn more about Him, & to grow in our understanding of Him & how He works. And, friends, this isn’t just an academic pursuit. We aren’t studying Him in the same way that we are studying to pass an EMT exam, or to ace a course in new criminal investigation procedures, or a training module in vehicle extrication methods. Those courses & classes will make us better in our chosen fields of work.

But studying God’s works & ways through studying His Word will change our lives for all eternity. We will “walk in His truth” (v. 11). Why? Because His Word is a living Word that tells us about a loving God who wants to have a lifetime relationship w/ us.

  • We will discover that we are all sinners.
  • We will find out that we have an amazing Savior.
  • We will learn that, if we will trust in Christ alone, He will give us the gift of salvation.

 

No matter how bad things are, God is always worthy of praise – v. 12 – There are some words & phrases that we need to take note of in v. 12:

  • “…with all my heart” – If you’re doing something w/ all of your heart, that means you’re doing it w/ passion & purpose. It means that it is something that is extremely important to you. That’s one of the things that drives first responders to do what we do: we do it w/ all of our heart.
  • “forever” – literally means “long duration, always.” It means that you’re going to keep doing this as long as you possibly can, no matter what else is happening in your life.

 

Sometimes, when things are going south in our lives, we start blaming God instead of praising God. Statements like, “I don’t deserve this, God,” or, “This isn’t fair, God,” start surfacing in our minds & seeping from our lips. We allow the pain to poison our lives. And when we are under pressure, that poison can come flooding out like acid that hurts & burns our families, our friends, & our coworkers. We find ourselves pushing away from God instead of praying to God. Praising God is the farthest thing from our minds.

And, yet, praise is one of the meds that God prescribes for the pain in our lives. Even one small word of praise can help us get a new perspective on what God may be doing in the midst of our pain & our struggles b/c for that one, small moment, our focus is off of ourselves & on the One who loves us w/ an everlasting love. Isa. 25:4a – “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm, & a shade from the heat.” When we praise Him we focus more on his provision than our poverty, more on His protection than our predicament, more on His shelter than the storm, & more on His help than the heat. Our trust in Him grows when we get to the place where we can say that in the hard times, the down times, the tough times, the scary times, the painful times, the confusing times, I still will praise God no matter what.

 

“Do it all to the glory of God.” – 1 Cor. 10:31 – Through the power of advertising, the Nike company made the slogan, “Just do it,” a common, household phrase. That slogan was introduced in 1988 as a part of an ad campaign that was targeted to anyone of any walk of life & any level of fitness. Nike’s idea worked as millions of people bought their shoes, hoping to achieve some level of greatness like the people who had been featured in the ads.

I want to tell you something: If you want to experience true, lasting, ETERNAL greatness, then make a commitment today that you are going do everything you do all for the glory of God! Doesn’t have anything to do w/ what brand of shoes you wear, how much money you make, or how many influential people you know. Has everything to do w/ a true commitment to Jesus Christ & a true passion to live for Him every day of your life. The less you exalt yourself & the more you exalt Him, the greater He becomes in your life, & the more awesome your life will be! John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Some of the most enduring words from the 9/11 tragedy were the 2 words spoken by Todd Beamer before he & some other passengers tried to take over the cockpit of UA Flight 93 before it crashed into a field outside of Shanksville, PA. Those words: “Let’s roll.” He was saying, “It’s time to man up, take action, & change the direction of this flight.”

And that’s how we bring this message to a close: It’s time to take action & change the direction of our lives.

  • “I COMMIT!” Make a commitment or a recommitment to live your life all for the glory of God!
  • “I REPENT!” Repent of something in your life that has prevented you from living your life for the glory of God.
  • “I BELIEVE!” Place your faith in Christ & change the eternal direction of your life

Sermon notes from 9/4/16 – “Jesus Made It All”

“JESUS MADE IT ALL”                                 John 1:1-5

 INTRO – What do you think about when you hear the name “Jesus”?

  • A little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes & lying in a manger.
  • A man who has been beaten & bruised, hanging on a cross.
  • A great teacher or a great healer
  • The Messiah, The Savior of the world
  • The Son of God
  • The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright & Morning Star, the fairest of 10,000 to my soul…”
  • I love the song that we sing named “Your Great Name”
    • “Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and man, You are high and lifted up, & all the world will praise Your great name.”

Of course, all of these things about Jesus are true. They’re all biblically-based truths about Him. He is all of these things & so much more. As John 1:14 tells us, He’s the “Word made flesh & made His dwelling among us.”

These first 5 verses of the Gospel of John are INCREDIBLY important to our doctrine & theology of Jesus, “the Word.” They are full of meaning & truth. They tell us so much about who He is, what He has done, & why we must believe on Him, place our faith in Him, & worship Him alone. These verses set Him apart in a divinely unique way.

  • They speak of His divinity
  • They speak of His deity
  • They speak of His transcendence, which means that He is above all things, He surpasses all things, & that He is not dependent upon anything or anyone in creation.
  • They speak of His truth & His trustworthiness.

These verses separate Him from all other gods, & set Him apart from all other saviors. They are foundational verses in our faith system, teaching us unchangeable truths about Him. Billy Graham wrote:

“No personality in history stands above Jesus Christ. Agnostics and atheists have found fault with Christian ideas, but they can never find fault with the Person of Jesus Christ. They have found fault with Christians, but not with Christ. Jesus of Nazareth transcends methods, ideas, and followers. He stands at the turning point of time. Men everywhere must bow to His superiority. Since Christianity is Christ, those who wish to be a Christian must accept and follow Him as a Person. He and He alone is able to meet every need of the human race.” (https://billygraham.org/devotion/jesus-is-transcendent/)

There are 3 foundational truths about Jesus that I want us to focus on this morning:

JESUS IS THE ETERNAL GOD – v. 1-2 – Christian, settle in your minds & in your hearts that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, 100% God & 100% man. Don’t worry if you can’t completely understand that, b/c you never will this side of heaven. Establish in your heart right now that the Bible is the perfectly true Word of God, & since it says that Jesus is God, then HE IS GOD!

Baptist Faith and Message: II. God. “There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”

  1. God the Son (Baptist Faith and Message)

“Christ is the eternal Son of God…He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission.”

This truth sets us apart from other world religions & cults.

  • Islam – “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity” : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son…”
  • Mormonism – Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115; Mormon Doctrine, p. 547). Mormons believe Jesus is a god, but that any human can also become a god (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345–354). (http://www.gotquestions.org/Mormons.html)
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses – Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being… Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the inanimate power of God. (http://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovahs-Witnesses.html). They believe that Jesus was only a perfect man, but not God.
  • Even Roman Catholicism – Exalts Mary to the level of being a co-redeemer w/ Jesus Christ. John MacArthur spoke on this heresy & shares that Catholic doctrine teaches that “[Mary] became a co-redeemer with Christ in His suffering on the cross, and is now a co-mediator alongside Him in heaven—essentially an alternative avenue of access to God. She replaces the Holy Spirit in bestowing aid and comfort to believers. In effect, she becomes an additional member of the Trinity.” (http://www.gty.org/blog/B130227/exposing-the-heresies-of-the-catholic-church-mary-worship)

None of these beliefs are true, not Islam, not Mormons, not JW’s, not Catholics. There is only 1 God & Savior Jesus Christ. When He came to earth, He came to show us who God is & what God is like – that He is eternal, that He is personal, that He is powerful, that He is perfect, & that He is personable, approachable, & knowable. The words & deeds of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry were the very words & deeds of God.

JESUS IS THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS – v. 3 – Do you ever think about Jesus being the Creator of all things? He is. Jesus made it all.

  • Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven & on earth, visible & invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him & for Him.”

Just as God the Father has existed before all time, so Jesus has existed before all time. And as such, Jesus was present & active in the creation of all things. One commentator said it this way: “Jesus was the source of power in the original physical creation and in the spiritual creation by which people are brought to new life in Christ.”[1]

We need to expand & deepen our understanding & appreciation for who Jesus is & what He has done. He’s not some 90-lb. weakling who got sand kicked in His face. No, He’s the Creator who, along w/ the Father & the Spirit, spoke the universe into existence & flung the galaxies into their place in the cosmos. When God said, “Let US make man in OUR image,” He’s wasn’t talking about the angels. He was talking about the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Russell M. Grigg of Creation Ministries International: “Jesus Christ is the Creator God. Not only does Scripture affirm it, but during His earthly life and ministry He did the very things we would expect the Creator God to do. He did them in the way that we would expect the Creator God to do them—by His word of authority and the exercise of His will. And the doing of them displayed His glory.” (http://creation.com/is-jesus-christ-the-creator-god)

JESUS IS THE LIGHT & LIFE – v. 4-5 – As the eternal God & as the Creator God, Jesus not only made light & life, He IS light & life.

Sin brings darkness.

  • The darkness of despair – The word despair means “loss of hope.” So many in our world today have no hope. You may be in the darkness of despair right now.
  • The darkness of doubt – Our beliefs are being bombarded constantly these days. Christianity is under attack in ways most of us have never seen before. The result is that many people are wandering in a dark place of doubt.
  • The darkness of disaster – The direction of so many people’s lives is headed toward disaster. And this disaster is not the result of a storm or floods or fire, but the result of sin as tons of people turn their backs on God.
  • The darkness of death – Sin brings death. Death is separation. Physical death occurs when our soul is separated from our body. But a million times worse than physical death is spiritual death, which occurs when our soul is separated from God.

But into the darkness shines the light of Jesus. And His light brings life! This is one of the main messages of John’s Gospel. And it’s the message that we must shout from the rooftops!

  • John 3:16
  • John 3:36
  • John 4:14
  • John 5:24
  • John 6:35
  • John 6:47
  • John 10:10
  • John 10:28
  • John 11:25-26
  • John 14:6
  • John 20:30-31

 

OUR ONLY RESPONSE TO JESUS – THE ETERNAL GOD, THE MAKER OF ALL, & THE LIGHT & LIFE?

SURRENDER!

[1] Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 8). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.