Chardon church of Christ

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Stop Being Afraid

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Acts 18:1-11

INTRO: Good morning. Last time our text was in Acts 17 and we left the apostle Paul boldly preaching in Christ’s Name to the so-called wise men of Athens. Today we will look at the first verses of Acts 18.

In chapter 17 as usual, we found there were those who were convinced and believed that God was the creator of all things and we found those who weren’t convinced and didn’t believe. No organized opposition to Paul's preaching developed in Athens, but he did not remain there very long. I suspect it was probably because of the arrogant snobbery of the intellectuals who dominated Athenian society at that time.

Luke tells us in Acts 18:1 that “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.” Luke didn’t explain why Paul left Athens or how he journeyed on to Corinth. The journey of some forty miles could have been made in two days on foot or one day if one sailed, but which ever route he took, the final destination was Corinth.

I heard about a man who hadn't attended church in years, then suddenly began attending faithfully on Sunday mornings instead of going fishing as was his normal habit.
The preacher was highly gratified and at the end of service one morning told him, "How glad I am to see you at service with your good wife!"
"Well, Preacher," said the fisherman, "Quite honestly, it's a matter of choice. I'd much rather hear your sermon than hers."

I. When we think of the city of Corinth, honesty is not the word which most people back then would have used to describe it. Let me share with you some background information about Corinth. Corinth was the capital and chief city of Achaia [uh - K AY – uh] which is in the area we call Greece.

A. Corinth became an important city because of its location just one and a half miles south of the Isthmus of Corinth. It was able to control that four-mile-wide neck of land. The city also commanded the eastern port of that peninsula, Cenchreae, [Sen’KRE-uh] which is mentioned in Acts 18:18.

1. To save time and avoid the one hundred and fifty miles of dangerous waters around the tip of Greece, ships would unload their goods on one side of the peninsula and have them carried to the other side. Some smaller ships were even pulled across and placed in the water on the other side. In that way Corinth was a trading center by land and sea.
2. It was also strategic militarily speaking. Although the Romans were a minority in the population, there was a strong force stationed there as this was one of the colonies established by Julius Caesar. This was a port city with all the positive and negative aspects you would expect to find there. The commercial prospects of the city attracted a lot of people. It was mostly settled by Jews and Greeks, both of which were significant in the city. Many other nationalities mixed with those major groups.

B. If Corinth was well known for anything, it was well known for its corruption. Charles Pfeiffer, in Baker's Bible Atlas, writes, "Greeks, Romans, Jews and adventurers from the entire Mediterranean world came to Corinth for trade and vice in all its forms. ’To live like a Corinthian,' became synonymous with a life of luxury and licentiousness."

1. As could be expected, the city's morals were the scandal of ancient times. The Greek language "made a verb out of the city's name, 'Corinthianize' (kəˈrɪnθɪəˌnaɪz) was an intransitive verb meaning “to live a promiscuous life”. The low point for the reputation of the city was prior to the Roman period, but it was still as bad as most major trade cities of the time when Paul was there.
2. I bring this up because while the reputation of Corinth was much spoken of, in reality many cities of this time were scary and getting more so for Jews and Christians.

II. Next Luke tells us in Acts 18:2-3 that Paul - “... found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. ”[NKJV]

A. In Corinth, Paul found two Jews, Aquila, who was from Pontus which was a province between Bithynia [bih-THIHN-ih-uh] and Armenia [aar•mee•nee•uh], and his wife Priscilla, who was also known as Prisca according to 2 Timothy 4:19. Luke reports they, and all other Jews, were expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. This may have been sometime between AD 49 to 52 and was likely because of the continuous disturbances within the city which were attributed to the Jews. I can imagine this had to be frightening being placed under edict to leave the city.

1. All Jews, even the wealthy and learned, were taught a trade. Alexander Campbell wrote; "The Jewish law, after their exile, held that a father who taught not his son a trade, taught him to be a thief." Paul arrives in Corinth and like all good Jews, Paul had a trade, that of tent maker. He immediately found two Jews who had the same occupation with whom he could live and work. We might say Paul was a leather worker because tent making included any type of leather work in Paul's day.
2. Paul's later writings do make it clear that these two became special friends and allies of the apostle as he preached the gospel of peace. Romans 16:3 - “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”

III. Paul had some success in Athens but a lot of rejection too. I certainly would have been discouraged with the reactions of those philosophers in the Areopagus.

A. Now God has set the stage for the next part of Paul’s journey, and the preaching in Corinth. Acts 18:4-8 – “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'' And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”[NKJV]

1. As we have seen many times, Paul first preached in the synagogue when he got to a city. It was during this time that Silas and Timothy once again joined his company. It seems possible from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 that Silas may have come from Berea, while Timothy more than likely arrived from Thessalonica. Luke tells us that it was around the time of their arrival when “Paul was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. ” meaning that he became fully occupied in telling the Jews about Jesus being the Messiah.
2. When the Jews rejected the truth and spoke against the Lord, Paul shook out his garments and began to preach to the Gentiles. Off he went to the house of Justus, which was next door to the synagogue. Next Luke tells us that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed and was baptized by the apostle's own hands according to 1 Corinthians 1:14 where he writes – “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,”[NKJV].

B. I note that it wasn’t only Crispus who believed and was baptized. Those in Crispus' family and many other Corinthians also believed and were baptized. You know, I for one can’t figure out how anyone can study the Book of Acts and not understand the importance of baptism. It’s all over the book.

1. I think the only way a person can miss it is that they don’t want to understand the importance of it. I don’t want to go into the importance of baptism again because we have covered it in other chapters.
2. I do want to point out something else we see here and other places when studying the Book of Acts and that is this. Not everyone wanted to know or be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.
3. The same is true today when you share the good news with people, and find they are just not interested, don’t put yourself down and feel like you’re a failure. You’ve done exactly what God wants you to do.

C. I have heard it put this way; every single human being on this planet deserves the opportunity to reject the gospel at least once.

1. Every time you share the gospel with someone, that’s what we call faith and obedience. It’s faith in God because you trusted Him to help you through that fear of sharing.
2. It’s obedience because He commanded us to share that message in Matthew 28:19-20.

IV. You’re not responsible for people’s responses to the gospel. However, it can be very discouraging and it can bring about a very real fear.

A. Let me ask you; is there a place to which you won’t go because of fear?

1. Maybe it’s your best friend who isn’t a Christian yet, and you’re afraid that if you share the gospel with them, you will lose them as a friend.
2. Maybe it’s your family members and you’re afraid to tell them the good news about the Christ because they might reject you.
3. Maybe you’re afraid to fully commit to God because you believe people will think you take your faith too seriously.
4. Maybe God has blessed you with the gift of teaching or preaching but you’re afraid to step out in faith and trust God to help develop that gift. None of us does an exemplary job the first time we attempt a task. It takes time to develop and just a craftsperson must be an apprentice first, someone who teaches must put in the time to learn themselves and then practice.

B. I do not doubt but many of us have experienced this sort of fear. I suspect that fear even lingers when we are in the process of teaching or preaching. We experience fear not only about failure, and rejection, but we experience fear of saying the wrong thing that might turn someone off and they end up missing the gospel message.

1. Psalm 56:4 says; “In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”[KJV]
2. Whatever God asks us to do, wherever God asks us to go, we need to have the same mindset as Paul when he looked at Corinth and thought to himself, I am afraid but I will go and trust God. After all what can mortal man do to me?

V. I imagine you are wondering; How do we know that Paul experienced fear in Corinth? Read with me now Acts 18:9-10 – “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.''”

A. Does that surprise you? It did me. The great apostle who suffered so much rejection and bad treatment. Like I said earlier fear is a very real feeling, but God does understand. He understands when we are frightened and He certainly understood when the apostle Paul was afraid in Corinth. In fact God was so aware of Paul’s fear that He spoke to Paul in a vision encouraging him and telling Paul to continue preaching and teaching. This promise of the Lord did not mean that men would not assault Paul, but that they would be unsuccessful in their efforts to thwart his preaching.
B. God tells Paul “I have many people in this city.” There were many people in that city who were not yet saved, and there would be many who would accept the gospel when they heard it. This was a promise from God to Paul. Luke continues in Acts 18:11 – “And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
C. Folks, one of the most serious problems with fear is that it paralyses. It paralyses our will and our ability to act. It sucks the determination from our heart, and mocks our every effort to step out in faithful obedience to our Lord.

1. The Bible is filled with the tears of men and women who give in to our enemy named “Fear.” There are people who betrayed both themselves and their God while held prisoner in fear’s grasp.
2. It was fear which cast its shadow over Aaron so that he yielded to the Israelites’ demand for an idol.
3. It was fear that froze the hearts of the ten spies so that they told the people of Israel the giants in the land of promise could not be overcome.
4. It was fear which entered the tents of Saul’s warriors and released its venom into the bloodstream of Israel’s army so that God’s people trembled before an uncircumcised Philistine, named Goliath.
5. It was fear that caused Peter to weep alone in the darkness after his denial of Jesus.
6. It was fear that gripped Elijah when he said in 1 Kings 19:4 – “"It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!''” and then in verse 14 “... I alone am left... ”

D. You and I know that feeling all too well, don’t we? We long to take our God at His word and we long to make His precious promises ours, but so very often fear sows the seeds of doubt in our minds. When fear begins, our best intentions dissolve in a sea of indecision.

1. Paul says, in Philippians 4:19 – “... my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Fear whispers in our ear, “What if?” and our peace of mind disappears like smoke in the wind.
2. Intellectually we can we grasp the meaning of our Lord’s words in Matthew 11:28 – “"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But fear is like a lead weight that threatens to drown us in a bottomless sea of anxiety and worry.
3. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Still fear invades our soul by a dozen different doors. Instead of boldly preaching the word of God to others, we almost whisper the good news, in the hope that someone, anyone will hear our whispers. You see, folks, we’re all suffering from fear. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of rejection, fear of change, fear of darkness, fear of crowds, fear of financial loss, the list is endless.

E. As that fear squeezes the joy from our lives, it is joined by guilt because we know in our heart of hearts that our lives without joy have no power to attract an unbelieving world.

1. That is bad news because when fear is around, guilt and despair are not far behind.
2. There is good news however, and that is fear can be conquered, and it can be conquered by using our number one weapon. Its name is Faith, and its source is the Word of the Holy Spirit. Its fruit is optimism, hope, and courage.
3. The Bible tells us that faith banishes fear in Psalm 27:1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”

CONCLUSION:
I am convinced the way to conquer fear is by filling our minds with the promises we read about in the word of God. When we fill our minds with God’s promises then and only then, will the ridicule of unbelievers and the rejection by people be powerless to harm us.

Faith is also the answer for despondency. The Bible says in Psalm 33:20-21 – “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.” When we trust God and His promises, joy will begin to follow, because trust and joy are inseparable.

There are no doubt times when we all worry about the future. In these days concern for what the future will bring, can paralyze people just as certainly as other fears. Are you worried about the future? Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 57:13 – “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, a breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.” People today look to many things to help them in an uncertain future. Truly those things are as idols and have no real power to save.

Is the prospect of death a shadow upon your happiness? Listen to what Paul said to his young friend Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12 – “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

You probably have talked to people who believe that the world is getting out of control and is becoming more and more unsafe to live in. Does the world appear to be out of control to you? Listen to what Isaiah says in Isaiah 14:27 – “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?''” The point of all this folks is, faith banishes fear!

It is time for us to stop being afraid. Although God asks us to go to frightful places or asks us to share His word with someone and we’re afraid to, we need to remember the promise of Hebrews 13:5, where God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

One night the house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee out his bedroom window to the roof.
The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you."
He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.
All the boy could see, was flame, smoke, and blackness and he was afraid to leave the roof.
His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you."
But the boy cried, "Daddy, I can't see you."
The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

We need to remember that although we can’t see God, if we would just have faith in Him and know that He sees us, then that’s all that really matters. Paul realized that and trusted God to help him overcome his fear in Corinth.

We need to do the same, we need to trust that God will give us the strength and courage to overcome any fear we may have in our lives.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

The Day Is Set

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 17:16-34

INTRO: Good morning. The last time we were together we left Paul speaking with the more noble Jews of Berea and we saw that their attitude towards God’s word was the kind of attitude God wants from everyone. People with that attitude do not just listen to the traditions of men, but examine the Scriptures for themselves to see if what was being preached was true.

What we are going to see today is a debate that Paul had with the so-called wise men of Athens. Our text for today is Acts 17:16-34.

But before we begin there I’d like to look at something Solomon said back in Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 that; “Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom keeps its possessors alive.” [para]

Folks, wisdom is more than knowing right from wrong. It also involves choosing to do the right and not the wrong. What we’re going to see today is wisdom in action.

I. Let’s read from the text today starting at Acts 17:16-21 – “16. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?'' Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,'' because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20. "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.'' 21. For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”

A. While he waited for the others to arrive, Paul apparently toured the city and discovered it was totally given over to idolatry. This provoked, or some might say angered, him. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and devout Greeks of the city. He also discussed the gospel with those he met in the marketplace. Paul preached the gospel, just as he always did, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
B. This drew the attention of certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, some of whom decided they wanted to hear what the "babbler" had to say.

1. These two groups mentioned here by Luke were the most powerful and popular at that time. The Stoics believed that the good life was obtained through the pursuit of what they thought was virtue, glorifying human reason and self-sufficiency. The Epicureans made pleasure the end-all of human existence.
2. Both philosophies, however, were outcroppings of a single basic error, that of the deification of humanity, an error that blinds the present generation no less than it blinded theirs.

C. Some in the crowd thought he was talking about foreign gods. Luke tells us that they took a hold of Paul in a non-threatening way and brought him to the Areopagus.

1. The Areopagus, was the earliest aristocratic council of ancient Athens. The name was taken from the Areopagus, a low hill northwest of the Acropolis, which was its meeting place. The power of the Areopagus waxed and waned for hundreds of years but at this time of Roman domination it was at a high point discharging significant administrative, religious, and educational functions.
2. As an aside, the name Areopagus is a composite of the Greek name Areios Pagos, which is translated “Hill of Ares”. Ares was the mythical god of war to the Greeks and was called Mars by the Romans. Ares was supposed to have been tried by the gods on the Areopagus for the murder of Poseidon's son. Hence the Roman name for the place, Mars Hill.

D. Back to our text, these philosophers and intellectuals want to know more about what Paul is teaching. Paul was not on trial. The council members of the Areopagus only wanted Paul to explain what he had been teaching the people in the marketplace. Of course, Paul takes this moment as an opportunity to teach.

1. I find it interesting that a messenger for the true Prince of Peace was placed in that spot, dedicated to a mythological god of war, so that curious philosophers might hear something new.
2. Let me ask you, have you ever heard someone teach something which you found strange to your ears? In a way it’s easy for us to hear some strange teachings especially if they don’t correspond with the Bible.
3. The following story was shared by a preacher. He said that he remembered speaking with his brother one time about his brother’s views and beliefs. His brother told him that he believed that he had been in this world before and that he saw life as a never-ending cycle repeating until he reached perfection which he called Nirvana.
4. The preacher found that strange because the Bible teaches in Hebrews 9:27 that “... it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” We’re all destined to die once, not over and over and over again. We’re never going to reach perfection even if we had our lives to live over again a thousand times.
5. The preacher went on and said; “Both my sisters had attended a spiritualist church in Scotland, and they believed that they could communicate with the dead and be told what is going happen to them in the future.” He found that strange because the Bible teaches something different in Isaiah 40-48.
6. In this entire section the Lord sets Himself apart from the idols of the people by affirming that He alone will tell them what will happen before it happens. Then when the event takes place they can know that He is God.

a. God says through Isaiah in Isaiah 40:18 – “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” Then in Isaiah 40:25, God says, “"To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” The point being is that it is only God who can see the future, and He cannot be compared to anyone else.
b. In the very next chapter in Isaiah 41:22-23, God says speaking of the idols, “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.” In other words the ability to know the future is restricted to God. The reason I brought this thought to your attention is to remind you that when we share the gospel with people, they too may find it strange.

E. Did you find it strange when you first heard the gospel? Perhaps not, but some people do. You tell someone “You need Jesus in your life!” and you may get a look like you are an oddity. People can’t understand why we come to worship every week to remember a guy who died and was raised back to life.
F. We know that when we say these things to people we are going to get a mixed reaction. Some will say that sounds wise and others will say that’s stupid. That’s what we see happening next in Acts 17.

II. We see a mixed reaction to Paul’s wisdom. Acts 17:22-25 – “22. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23. "for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to the unknown God. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24. "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25. "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all, life, breath, and all things.”

A. Notice how Paul began his sermon. The apostle began by noting that they were very religious, worshipping idols devoted to all types of gods, even an unknown God. I suspect that’s where most of us would make a mess of it. We tend to think that because people don’t behave the way the Bible teaches, or they don’t worship the way the Bible instructs us, that they are not religious when in fact they are. You can be religious about anything. What is wrong is the focus of their religion, either the object of, or the actions they take or even just a lack of full understanding.

1. We saw an example of one case in Acts 10 with Cornelius. Acts 10:1-2 – “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” Cornelius was a religious man in every sense of the word, but he wasn’t saved at that point in time. People can be religious but not saved.
2. Notice also that Paul didn’t go in there all guns firing. Instead, he practiced what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

B. Paul seized upon their recognition of their own limited knowledge and began to tell them about the true God. He tells them that rather than there being a series of gods, each over some small element of the universe, there is one God who created all and rules over all. He says the Creator is not confined to some building made by men, nor did He need men's worship. In fact, Paul stated that all beings and all things are sustained by His power.
C. Paul tells them 4 key things. The first two are;

1. God is Creator (17:24). Paul declares that one God made it all. Paul begins by pointing out that the Athenians worship the gods as if they were distant and cannot be known. In fact, one altar was erected to the "unknown god." Paul wants to teach them that God is known and He is the creator of all things. God does not live in temples made with hands, but is Lord of heaven and earth.
2. Next God is Provider (17:25). Paul also declares that there is one God who gives all things. We do not give to God; God gives to us. God gives to mankind life, breath, and everything. There is no thing that mankind can give to God.

D. We have heard it said that human beings have a built-in urge to worship. If we know anything from history and today’s society it is this, if people do not worship God, they will worship something else. It could be the sun, a tree, money, or self. There are literally no limits whom or what people choose to worship.

1. When Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome, he says in Romans 1:20 – “ For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”.
2. Paul says that the Creator makes His existence known in the wonderful, and obviously designed elements of the universe, and that those who reject that evidence are without excuse.
3. He goes on to say in Romans 1:21-25 that lots of people have refused to glorify God and become vain in their reasoning’s, with their “senseless” hearts being darkened. He says it is so bad that they even exchange the worship of the Creator for the worship of “created creatures,” such as men, birds, beasts, and even creeping things.

E. Isaiah 44:12-17 – “12. The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13. The craftsman stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. 14. He hews down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. 15. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. 16. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.'' 17. And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. he falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god.''” Although this sounds amusing, it’s actually very tragic. It’s tragic because this shows us just how far from God people can get when the knowledge of the Creator is left out, and the human need to worship is satisfied on the lowest level imaginable.

III. Paul tells those gathered there that there’s not a lot of different little gods who represent every little thing in the universe, but there is one God who created all things and rules over all things.

A. Paul continues his sermon in Acts 17:26-29 – “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising.”
B. Here Paul goes on to give them the third key thing; God is Ruler (17:26-28). Paul declares that God is the supreme ruler. Paul tells them that the God of heaven had made all the various peoples and He worked within them in precisely the way and at precisely the time He planned. Paul says to these Gentiles that this divinely controlled flow of history was used by God to encourage men to seek him. Yet, the supreme God is always near since we live in him, move in him, and depend upon him for our very existence. Paul, being an educated man, noted that one of their own poets said men are God's offspring, so God cannot be stone but must be alive just as His children are alive.
C. It’s now that Paul gets to the point. He carries on in Acts 17:30-34 and says, “30. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31. "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.'' 32. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter.'' 33. So Paul departed from among them. 34. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”

IV. Paul now tells them the fourth thing; God sent a Personal Savior (17:29-34). They were not to think of God as gold, sliver, or stone from which an image can be formed. God overlooked this foolishness but now commands all people everywhere to repent. God has fixed a day upon which He will judge the world. Proof of the judgment is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

A. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them mocked, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council.

1. Some became followers of Paul and believed. Luke says that among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
2. Paul boldly stated that God would no longer overlook the ignorant worship of men. But now God demands that they turn from their ignorance and serve Him. This is what we call repentance.
3. Paul didn’t mince his words here, and we should never leave repentance out of the gospel. Jesus tells us in Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

B. When the apostle Paul wrote a tough letter to the Corinthian church, telling them to repent of their ways, he writes again with another letter and says, in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 – “ For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” True repentance means more than just feeling sorry for what you have done or said. It’s a turning, a refusal to go back to the ways of the world. It’s a conscious decision to start following God and His ways.
C. Paul now calls for repentance from these Gentiles in Athens and he says such repentance is especially important. What does he say the reason is? Because a day of judgment had been set aside by the Divine Planner.

1. Make no mistake about it folks. Judgment Day is set and coming, and in that day, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ will rightly judge all men. This is a truth confirmed by His resurrection from the dead.
2. I know some people think, “Yeah, yeah, people have been saying that for the last two thousand years and life is still going on, everything is the same as it always was.”... Please don’t be one of them.

CONCLUSION:
Just before we finish, listen carefully to Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:3-14 – “3. knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
4. and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.''
5. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
6. by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
7. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12. looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;”

Have you ever been away from your friends and family for a long period of time and you end up being home sick?
I remember when I went into the service. Basic training was tough. They removed any reminder of your home including pictures in your wallet. It was so tough that some recruits did not make it a week before breaking down. I wonder if we feel that sort of emotion about heaven?

Do we look forward to Jesus coming to take us home? Are you longing for Jesus to come back?

Peter says, listen if you honestly believe that the Judgment Day is set and coming then “you ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

Peter says if you truly believe that the Judgment Day is set and coming then “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
Repentance needs to happen today.
The Day is set and coming, it really is, but you need to be ready for His coming.

The story goes that just before the death of the actor W.C. Fields; a friend visited his hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. His friend asked Fields what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, "I'm looking for loopholes."

Loved ones, there are no loopholes in God’s judicial system.
Today is the day for repentance.
Today is the day for turning to God.
Folks, that’s the message we need to let people know about, because we don’t know when the Day of Judgment is going to come. There is a sense of urgency about the message.

Oh, I’m sure that when we share that message with people, some like Paul's listeners will mock our words. They ignore the evidence.
Oh, I’m sure like some of Paul’s listeners they will want to hear more. They want more evidence.

One thing I know for certain, as long as we keep sharing that message with others, a few people like Paul’s listeners will actually be moved to obey the gospel.

As we said last week, God has commanded all people to repent. We must seek the Lord and do as He commands. His commands are not burdensome.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# ??? Only a Step

Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

God Loves That Attitude

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 17:1-15

INTRO:
In our last sermon we left Paul and Silas being freed from prison. The preachers through teaching the gospel had led a bunch of people to be freed from their sins and there was also a slave girl who was freed from demon possession. Then they both left Philippi after spending some time with Lydia and her household. Our text for today will be Acts 17:1-15 though we will look at a number of other verses also.

We catch up with Paul and Silas on their second missionary journey at Thessalonica in chapter 17. Acts 17:1-4 – “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia , they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.'' And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.”

Paul tells us in Acts 22:3 – “"I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.” Paul was well qualified to use the scriptures and reason with the Jews. You see he knew his audience and he knew exactly what to say even though sometimes that meant saying words which were going to hurt.

I. Luke didn’t tell us why Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia. He did tell us that the next stop on this second missionary tour was Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Remember that Philippi did not have a synagogue, so Paul and Silas went to the place of prayer in Philippi.

A. Here in Thessalonica, they had a synagogue, so Paul went there for three consecutive Sabbaths to reason with the Jews. We notice how Paul and Silas preached in the city. Verses 2-3 tell us that they "reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead".
B. Remember that the very idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews as we find in 1 Corinthians 1:23. What Paul does here is argue from the prophets, saying that this was precisely what God had foretold in Isaiah 53. He then goes on to establish the fact that God had also planned and accomplished Jesus' resurrection from the dead and made Him King over His people.

1. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul says, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”
2. What Paul does in other words, is show that all these things which were recorded by the prophets were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The scriptural evidence was supported by the miracles worked by the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians from Corinth he writes, 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.” There was more than enough proof that Jesus was the risen messiah.
4. It was during these three weeks teaching in the synagogue in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas worked with their own hands to support themselves. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 – “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”

C. There are three things they did in their preaching: reasoning, explaining, and proving.

1. This is an important lesson that all Christians must see. All of us need to be able to reason from the scriptures, explaining and proving the things which we believe. We must develop the personal tools to be able to reason, explain, and prove the scriptures. We have to put forth some effort and time in study to be able to do this.
2. Consider that Paul and Silas did not ask the people of Thessalonica to have "blind faith" in Jesus. Paul and Silas used logic and reason to teach the people that what happened to Jesus was necessary and that Jesus is the Christ. We must be able to defend our faith.

D. The point we see here is that the combination of scriptural preaching, the miracles and the apostle's obvious commitment to reach the lost had its desired effect. With the proofs presented, the efforts of Paul and Silas were rewarded as Luke tells us in Acts 17:4 “And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women”. Some believe the gospel, others do not; but the difference lies in the hearts of the hearers. The gospel is a message of life to some, death to others.

1. It is to these young Christians whom Paul refers when he writes to the church that meets at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,”. What a great way to be remembered as a congregation! They used to worship idols but now they have turned to God.
2. We should never forget who we used to be and where we came from and who we are now. If someone were to write a letter about us, the congregation here at Chardon, I wonder what they would say about us? I wonder if they would focus on who we were or what we have become?
3. I believe there is a time and a place to talk about our former lives before we became Christians. I think the reason we should do that is to contrast our lives before we became Christians with our present Christian selves.
4. The Bible clearly reminds us who we were and what we have become. I’m thinking of Ephesians 2:1-5 – “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),”
5. You used to be dead in your sins but now God has made you alive in Christ Jesus. You used to look to the world for the answers to life, but now you turn to the living God for those answers. Just like Paul and Silas did with these Jews and Gentiles, you are persuaded that Jesus truly is Lord over everything and your life needs to reflect that persuasion. It’s only when we remember who we used to be in reference to being sinners, that can we show those who are still dead in their sins the way back to life.

E. One preacher suggested that perhaps we can only start to help people outside if we see them as dead. Yes, they may be walking around singing and being merry. Yes, they may give the appearance of being alive, but you and I know all too well that they are dead in their sins. It’s our responsibility to show them the way back to life.

II. Following on in Acts 17, what we have seen happening a number of times throughout the Book of Acts, is there are those who are made alive in Christ and those who choose to remain dead in their sins. Acts 17:5-10 – “But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. "Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king Jesus.'' And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.”

A. Other then the “some” mentioned, the response of the Jews in Thessalonica is total resistance and fury against the message of the word of God. Even though Paul and Silas would defend the scriptures through reasoning, explanations, and proofs, these people would not listen. The people violently opposed the teachings so fiercely that a mob formed.

1. This can be the response of people today. Some people weigh the evidence and think that it is not for them. But many times, as it was in Thessalonica, people simply choose to be mentally shut off to the possibility that there is a God who requires something from them. There are even those today who go to great lengths to attack others who believe in God.
2. Luke says that Paul’s words moved the unbelieving element of the Jews to jealousy. These jealous Jews enlisted the help of some trouble makers and stirred up a mob to go to Jason's house and bring Paul and Silas out.

B. I guess if you can’t find the people you’re looking for, you will take the next best thing, and that’s what the mob did. When they couldn’t find the two missionaries, the mob dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the rulers of the city. Then the accusations began to flow. They accused Paul and Silas of being part of the number who turned the world upside down by teaching that Jesus was King.

1. I do not suppose that there are many who are aggressively fighting against God in the same way that we see in Thessalonica, but there may be some who do not want to listen to any discussion about God. There may be some who do not want to hear the explanation and proofs of the scriptures, for Jesus, and for God.

a. Why have such a mentality? What does truth have to fear? Should we all not want to engage in honest, open, and friendly discussion about the existence of God and Jesus and the trustworthiness of the scriptures?
b. We should want to know the truth, even if it does not mesh with what we believe, because it is the truth.

2. Ignoring the truth does not change the outcome. Ignoring the speed limit does not mean that I will not get a ticket, because the truth is that there is a law against speeding. In the same way, ignoring God does not change the fact that He exists, and if we willfully are violators we will receive punishment. We should want to find the truth. Our lives depend upon the knowledge of truth and ignorance cannot help us.

III. It was during this mess that Paul and Silas were sent away by night to Berea, some 50 or 60 miles away. Acts 17:10-12 – “... When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded (some translations say “more noble”) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.”[NKJV]

A. Luke tells us that Paul and Silas immediately entered the synagogue to teach as had been their custom in every city they entered. However, the character of the Bereans was far different than the character of the people in Thessalonica. Rather than base their decisions on the traditional teachings, the Bereans carefully examined the word of God to determine the truthfulness of the teachings they heard.

1. As a result many Jews believed the gospel along with honorable Greek women and not a few men. The key word I see here is “many” as contrasted to “some” in Thessalonica.
2. Don’t you just love the attitude of the Bereans? I do and so does God. They did not go to their neighbor, or as we might social media, or take some poll or survey to verify what they heard. They did not rely on opinions of their family or the scuttlebutt at work or most importantly, on the traditions they had been taught.
3. Even the word of an apostle is studied and verified in light of the scriptures. Today we are bombarded with opinions about virtually everything and that includes the gospel. How do we respond? Who do we listen to? We need to think for ourselves and examine the scriptures for ourselves.
4. Do not think that it is a simple thing to be open-minded when it comes to teachings. The Greeks had believed in a myriad of gods. It was difficult for them to believe that there is only one true God. The Jews had believed that Jesus was not their Messiah. It was difficult for them to accept that their brethren had killed Jesus who was sent from God to be their Messiah. We must be willing to make changes in the face of truth, regardless of how hard it may be to accept. The truth may indeed hurt when it confronts long held belief.

B. I pray that more people in the world would have that same attitude--an attitude that checks out the Scriptures for themselves.

1. What about when we are teaching, telling someone about Jesus and what God has done and can do in their life? Wouldn’t it be good if the people we try to share the Bible with rechecked it for themselves to make sure that what we are teaching is true?
2. Let me ask you, how do you know what I, or any one preaching here says is true? You can go home today and think to yourself that was a great lesson you heard, but never take the time to reflect and double check what I’ve preached... with the word of God.
3. We’ve had visitors to this congregation who have said they have really enjoyed the lesson, they were happy to hear again things that they have not heard for years. At the same time, I wonder if those very same people will go home and look into the Scriptures to see if that really is the case. We’ve had people come and go and agree with everything we teach but they won’t read the Bible for themselves and do what the Bible says.

IV. James 1:22-25 tells us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

A. James tells us that not only should we be reading the word of God, but we really need to be doing what it says. Because if we don’t, in essence we’re just deceiving ourselves. We’re deceiving ourselves into thinking we are something when we’re not. In other words as the saying goes, don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

1. We all know people who profess one thing, but their lives reflect another thing. Don’t tell the world that you love God if you can’t be bothered to come and worship Him every week! Don’t tell the world you really appreciate what Christ has done for you if all you do is live your life the way you did before you became a Christian!
2. A Christian is a person who not only follows Christ but obeys Him. Folks, there’s a world of difference between a person who struggles with sin and someone who just blatantly goes ahead and sins.

V. Now I ask you; Have you spotted the underlining problem with these troublemakers which Luke refers to here in Acts? When it comes to preaching the word of God, there will be those who believe, who humbly accept the message, and those who don’t accept and are filled with jealousy.

A. In Acts 5 when the apostles were performing many miracles and a great number of people believed, Luke tells us in Acts 5:17 – “Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,” (i.e. jealousy).

1. When the apostles were in Antioch, we see again that their preaching upset certain people and Luke tells us in Acts 13:45 – “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.”
2. Here again in our text at Acts 17 Luke reports that these people who were jealous stirred more jealousy among the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica who then journeyed to Berea and stirred up the multitudes there.
3. Acts 17:13-15 – “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.”[NKJV]

B. Jealousy is a sin and sin prevents a person inheriting the kingdom of God. I’m going to refer you to Galatians 5:19-21 here and I paraphrase – “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” .[para]
C. Since it is a sin, jealousy is one of those things which should have been put off at your baptism. As Romans 13:13-14 says; “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” [para]

1. Jealousy and envy are powerful tools for the adversary to use, and Satan is well versed in their use. To envy is to want something which belongs to another person.
2. For example, God says in Exodus 20:17 – “"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.''”
3. That’s envy but jealousy is the fear that something which we possess will be taken away by another person. Although jealousy can apply to our jobs, our possessions, or our reputations, the word more often refers to anxiety which comes when we are afraid that the affections of a loved one might be lost to a rival.
4. We may fear that our husband or wife, or perhaps our children, will be lured away by some other person who, when compared to us, seems to be more attractive, capable, and successful.

D. That’s what is happening here in Acts, whenever the apostles have any success, and a multitude of people begin to listen to them--the unbelievers get filled with jealousy. They are afraid that they will no longer be popular within the community. They are afraid that the apostles will take these believers away from them and their traditions.
E. Luke tells us that these jealous troublemakers come to Berea and stir things up there also. It reminds me of the parable in Matthew 20 where the workers who had been hired first, were jealous of those who had been hired last when they all received the same pay. In that case the jealous workers “...murmured against the landowner, "saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'” Matthew 20:11-12.

1. "You have made them equal to US!" There is the root of the trouble. WE have done the work, shouldered the load, borne the heat, and carried the mail so to speak. Those latecomers ought to be way down on the scale compared to US! Folks, we all can experience the US problem. Satan is very, very good at using it. It even existed among the sacred numbers of the twelve apostles.
2. But wherever the problem exists, nothing solves it like getting things in the proper perspective. That is what Jesus sought to do with this parable in Matthew. The FIRST ones became last by their very bitterness and pettiness and their self-righteous preference for themselves above others; and those LAST became first by their loving trust of the householder. In Acts the Jewish unbelievers will become last in the same way.

F. Luke goes on to say that some of the brethren escorted Paul safely to the sea while Silas and Timothy continued at Berea. Then the brethren journeyed on to Athens with Paul and were asked by the apostle to send Silas and Timothy as soon as possible.

CONCLUSION:
Paul taught with reasoning, explaining, and proving. Then there were the miracles. As we study Acts we see that some simply mocked what Paul said, others actively resisted the gospel. Both rejected the evidence out of hand without checking.

Today is the same. God has presented the evidence in this world so that mankind would seek to find Him. Atheists and evolutionists have presented their evidence. It is time for you to decide. But God is not on trial. Your soul is on trial. Your eternal existence is at stake.
If you reject the evidence, then you are declaring that you are willing to take the chance that when you die there is nothing. There is no accountability, there is no final reward, there is not final judgment, that there is absolutely nothing. You are saying that this life and this moment that we have right now, is all that there is. If you believe this, then at best you have a few decades of life left and at worse, you will lose your life by some accident today.

If you accept the evidence for God, then you are declaring that you realize the evidence is there. You may still have some doubts, but you realize that there must be something to life more than this. You realize that our moral consciences must come from something. You realize that life and this world must have been created.

Your soul hangs in the balance. If there is anything after death, if there is any light at the end of the tunnel, if loved ones are waiting for us, and if we are more than just matter that goes to the dust, then we must get ready because God says that there is a fixed day for judgment. What will you do if you are not ready?
God has commanded all people to repent. We must seek the Lord and do as he commands. His commands are not burdensome. In fact, following God will bring you peace and true joy that nothing else in this world brings. You will be ready to stand on the day of judgment and know that your soul is spared. Why take the risk? What profit is there to ignore even the possibility that there is a God? Obey before the day comes.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# ???

Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

Freedom!

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 16:16:40

INTRO: Good morning. Last week we left Paul and Silas in Philippi after the conversion of the very first European converts, Lydia and her household who were added to the Lord’s church. Our text for this morning continues in Acts 16:16-40.

First though a quick story I heard a long time ago about a young couple looking for their first new car. While looking around the auto dealer's showroom, the young people were a little surprised by the price of a compact car.
"They're almost the same price as a full-size car!" the young man exclaimed.
The salesman quickly replied, "But, you see, if you want economy, you have to pay for it."

I wonder what value we put on things? Most of us place value on things that are worth something to us, whether it be our homes, our cars, or our possessions. Then there are things that are very difficult to value. What value would we put on our family members lives? I guess all of us would say that our families are priceless.

When we look around at our church family and their families we see people who are struggling with many things. Eyesight, hearing, pain, the ability to move easily, fading memory and a whole host of ailments. In our own families I imagine most of us are used to seeing some of our loved ones struggling too, because they have ailments from time to time. How would you, and they, react if they were suddenly healed of those ailments?

I. What Luke records next is just that very thing, healing. But the reaction to the healing is interesting to say the least. Acts 16:16-24 – “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.'' And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.'' And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; "and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.'' Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”[NKJV]

A. Luke reported that as the group went for prayer, a slave girl who we are told was possessed by a spirit followed them crying out, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation."

1. I would have thought that such an occurrence would be very helpful in furthering the gospel, but Paul clearly did not think so, and after consideration we can see why. After all, the people there believed this girl could foretell the future and her masters made considerable profit in the process.
2. Thinking about it, accepting the recommendation of demons would have been to lend credence to anything else the demon might have made her say, even lies.

B. Paul cast out the demon by the authority of Jesus, but look at the reaction of her masters’. After Paul had healed her, they only saw one thing... they saw their income going right out the window. So, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the marketplace, and once again we see... mob rule. The magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten, cast into the inner prison and their feet placed in stocks.

1. You would think that her masters would be grateful that this girl was now demon free and healed. If your values are in the wrong place though, and all you see is an income and not a person, then you won’t place much value on that human life. That is the essence of slavery, isn’t it? Every day it seems we hear of similar things where people have their values in the wrong place.
2. Let me share a few thoughts with you about so called modern day psychics and fortune tellers. Most psychics use a method called “cold reading” and although I am no expert in “cold reading” in that I’ve never done it, the concept is simple enough to grasp.
3. If the “psychic” wants to reveal something about a person’s past, he or she begins fishing (i.e. talking with the person) looking for affirming nods or verbal agreements from the one for whom the “reading” is being conducted. Then they continue along these lines, making very general statements, until they are satisfied they have “revealed” something that would impress the person, or at least earn them money.
4. When we make these nods and slight body movements while we talking with someone we may not even realize we’re doing them. Psychics look for these things that are done unconsciously by those who are being read. They are trained in reading body language.
5. Most of us see others reactions when we are talking to them and to a large extent we ignore the reactions. However, those non-verbal clues can be quite important in communication. In talking to a friend or relative, expressions or body language indicating displeasure may cause us to quickly reflect on what we have said and help us avoid difficulty or make a correction.
6. I can see reactions when I’m preaching. In that case, I look for agreement, disagreement, or confusion, all of which signal me to consider what I’ve said. I stick to facial expressions because that is the easiest for me to quickly take in. You can move a part of your body in expression and you don’t even know you did it. We do these things unconsciously. Psychics are experts in reading these signs.

C. One person has described psychics as “terrorists of the mind.” If it is the future they are foretelling, their predictions are vague enough to be “fulfilled” in any number of ways.

1. For example, one woman was told that her life would be filled with song. Her daughter became a song leader in high school.
2. Someone told me about a friend who used Tarots cards and every time this person went to visit his friend he would read the cards for him. Some of the things he said were interesting, but one thing the friend said every time was, “you’re going to get some money soon” and do you know what happened? He was right, every second week the person telling me this would receive a check from the unemployment office because he didn’t have a job. His friend knew he was unemployed. His friend knew he would be getting money from the government.

D. I have often wondered how many of the speculative predictions, that fit in the realm of the fantastic have failed, and yet nobody goes back to look into them. Folks, I am persuaded that psychics, astrologers, fortune tellers, Ouija boards, and such like are an abomination to the Lord because they encourage people to place their confidence in someone or something other than God and His will for their lives.

1. I think that when we look in the newspapers and read the horoscopes, we’re guilty of misplacing our values as well. The only place we should be looking for guidance is in the Scriptures. Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” There’s no place on earth or in heaven that God cannot guide you.
2. I like what David said in Psalm 139:7-10 - “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast”.

II. Where do we look for guidance? Back in the days when ships sailed by compass, and in a time before modern navigational technology came along, there was a binnacle, a waist-high case or stand on the deck of the ship, generally mounted in front of the helmsman. Its traditional purpose was to hold the ship's magnetic compass, mounted in gimbals to keep it level while the ship pitched and rolled.

A. The construction of many early (mid-18th century) binnacles used iron nails, which were later discovered to cause magnetic deviations in compass readings. With the introduction of iron-clad ships the magnetic deviation observed in compasses became more severe.

1. I’ve been told that some ocean going ships used two separate compasses. One on the binnacle and one up on the mast. Periodically a sailor would climb up the mast and check to make absolutely sure they were on course.
2. Someone asked a Captain about this, "Why do you have two compasses?" He answered, "This is an iron clad vessel. The compass on the deck is often affected by its metallic surroundings and could give an inaccurate reading. That is not the case with the one on the wooden masthead. The one above is not influenced by what is around it."

B. God has blessed us with two compasses to help guide us. He has blessed us with a conscience, and the Bible. Our conscience is affected by our surroundings and by the way we have been brought up. The way we’ve been taught. The conscience has a history of giving inaccurate readings.

1. He has also blessed us with His Word, the Bible, and it is given to us as the more reliable compass to guide us.
2. Twice in the Book of Proverbs in chapter 14:12 and chapter 16:25, He says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” In a sense this is God's way of telling us, "Be careful which compass you rely on."

C. I hope it is obvious to all of us that if we were to rely on mediums or tea leaf readings and that sort of thing, we would be relying on the wrong compass.

1. Back in the Old Testament before God’s people entered the Promised Land, God warned them to stay away from people peddling those things, and not get involved with them. I’m thinking of Deuteronomy 18:10-12 – “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.” I’d say that is pretty clear, wouldn’t you?
2. Do you know what the punishment for this was? God said in Leviticus 20:27 – “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.” God tells us this is serious. Make no mistake about it, folks, anyone who practices these things will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

III. Now let’s look back in at Paul and Silas who are in prison for doing good. What we find they are doing next is amazing, they are praying and singing! Acts 16:25-34 – “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.'' Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'' So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.'' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”

A. Luke tells us that at midnight, while the other prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas singing and praying, a great earthquake shook open all the prison doors. The jailor was about to kill himself because he believed the prisoners had escaped. He would rather kill himself than face the Roman soldiers because he would get the same punishment that the prisoners were supposed to get.

1. Paul stopped him by crying out that they were all there and he should not harm himself.
2. The jailor called for lights, leaped into the prison in trembling fear, fell before Paul and Silas, brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

B. Folks, the inspired response was the same as found in other conversions in the Book of Acts. The questions were similar, and the response is always the same.

1. It was the same in the beginning when Peter preached to the Jewish brethren on Pentecost. Acts 2:37-39 – “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” [KJV]”
2. It was the same on the Damascus road for the apostle Paul. Acts 22:10 – “ And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. Then Ananias was sent to him and he told Saul what was to happen and we read in verse 16 – “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

C. The jailor was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him so that faith could be produced.

1. Remember what Romans 10:17 teaches. Romans 10:17 - “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of God.” [para]
2. At the same hour of the night, he washed their stripes, which is a clear evidence of repentance. Immediately afterward, he and all the members of his household were baptized just like Peter’s audience did and just like the apostle Paul himself did.
3. Luke tells us then, and only then, "he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household”

D. The jailor and his household weren’t saved just because they believed. They had to do something with that belief. They needed to express that belief in action. Their action was to follow the commands which Paul and Silas told them and that was to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

1. The rejoicing didn’t begin until after they had been baptized into Christ.
2. Why? Because that was the point in time when their sins were washed away, and they entered into a new relationship with Christ Himself.

IV. The church which meets at Philippi is beginning to grow thanks to God adding to their number. Luke continues in Acts 16:35-40 and here I’ll paraphrase - “When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: "Release those men." The jailer told Paul, "The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace." This seems to imply that one of the conditions of their release was that the preachers should leave town; but if that was their intention, the magistrates were in for a shock.

A. “Paul said to the officers: "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out."

1. This indicates that Silas was also a Roman citizen. Perhaps that was one of the reasons Paul had for choosing him for the journey, we do not know.
2. “The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.”
3. The crime committed by the magistrates in beating and imprisoning Roman citizens without due process of law was a serious one. "The Valerian and Porcian laws exempted Romans from degrading forms of punishment," and these had been in force for centuries. No documentation was required. The simple statement, "I am a Roman citizen," took all proceedings against a prisoner out of the hands of local authorities.

B. “After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them... Then they left.”

1. I wondered, why did the apostle refuse to go quietly? One possibility is that Paul wanted the authorities to realize even Roman citizens had believed in Jesus.
2. In any event Paul's refusal to leave the jail except on the condition of being personally escorted by the magistrates was a master stroke. It did much to establish the legality of their deeds in the minds of the people and was doubtless a source of much encouragement to the brethren. Moreover, the implied condition (at first) that they should get out of town was also negated. Paul’s group did leave after but he avoided any appearance of being thrown out of the city.

C. Before they did leave the city, they returned to Lydia's house and encouraged the brethren, then they bid them farewell.

1. There is something astounding about this. Those men who had been so shamefully treated, abused, beaten, illegally cast into prison, suffering the torture of stocks in the inner dungeon - those men encouraged the brethren!
2. They must have still been suffering from their treatment. Yet, they encouraged the young Christians whose distress at knowing of this treatment while real enough, was nevertheless mental rather than physical.

CONCLUSION:
Folks, as Christians we, in a sense, have all been to Philippi. We, like Lydia, had our hearts opened to respond to the message which was proclaimed to us.
We, like the demon possessed girl ,have been freed from the evil things which dominated our lives. We, like the jailor, had no purpose for living until someone came along and shared with us God’s purpose. We too like all the saints in Philippi have been set free.

I wonder about those who are not yet Christians. Is there a sin in your life that you need to be free from? Is there a sin in your life that has you chained to the prison walls?

Maybe your like the English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams who wrote a song called ‘Make me Pure’ but at the end of each verse he writes, “Oh Lord make me pure, but not yet.’
Are you like that? Do you want God to help you take the power of that sin away, but not yet?

I recall the film the Shawshank Redemption and during the film a young man named Andy enters the prison and makes a good friend with a lifer named Red. They are chatting away and Red says to Andy, ‘Prison does strange things to a man, first you hate it, then you get used to it and if you are here long enough you learn to rely on it.”

Sin can be just like that folks. When you first started knowingly sinning you hated it, then you kind of get used to it, and now you rely on your sin to help you through the week.

James describes how sin works in our lives better than I ever can. James 1:13-15 – “ Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” [para]

One of the Hymns we often sing, written by Lewis E Jones, says, “Would you be free from the burden of sin? There's power in the blood, power in the blood; would you o’er evil a victory win? There's wonderful power in the blood.” There is power in the blood folks, power to set people free from the bondage of sin.

The only way to receive that power is by coming into contact with the precious blood of Christ in the waters of baptism. In those waters Christ will wash away all those sins if you will allow him to.

If you’re already a Christian, Christ has and will continue to wash those sins away but you need to allow Him to do that by continually living a faithful life.

Freedom comes to us in different forms. In the film Braveheart, the battle is brewing for Northern England and William Wallace with his family and friends have decided Longshanks has crossed the line. The murderous ways won't be tolerated any more.
Fantastic battles were fought and lost, betrayals and deception, payoffs and corruption abound, until agreements between clans create turmoil and mistrust amongst the warriors. The Rightful King of Scotland is betrayed and betrays as a result.
Clan trust is lost.

William Wallace can no longer hold together what they knew was rightfully theirs. Rebellion and lies costs him his life. Near the end of the film when Wallace is on the gallows, he says that famous word, one last time, “Freedom”.

Christ’s death on the cross, His burial and resurrection sent a clear message to all of Heaven and Hell and everyone in-between, ‘Freedom’! The freedom offered is rightfully yours, the freedom from sin and the power of the devil in your life. Mankind began in that freedom and lost it through sin but God offers us a way to gain it again through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God bless and thanks for taking the time to grow in your understanding of God’s Word.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

He Opened Our Hearts

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 15:35-16:15

INTRO: We are continuing our study of the Book of Acts this morning. We will pick up the story in Acts 15 at verse 35 and then on to 16 verse 15.

First though a story. An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp.
When he rubbed it, a genie appeared and told him he would grant him any wish.
The man thought for a while and said, "My brother and I had a fight 20 years ago and haven't spoken since. My wish is that he would finally forgive me."
The genie clapped his hands, a bright light shot across the sky, and then he said, "Your wish has been granted."
Then the genie said, "You know, most people would have asked for wealth or fame, but you only wanted the love of your brother.
Is it because you are old and do not expect to live long?"
The man said, "No way!
My brother is, and he's worth $60 million."

I guess the point of the story is that not all people are purely motivated by love for their family.

We remember that the church as we find it here in Acts 15 is still in its infancy and to avoid a major division within the baby church, the apostles handled a particularly sensitive question concerning the Gentiles, their eating habits and their way of life.
They did it with the motivation and spirit of pure love for each other.

I. Lets start in our text with Acts 15:35-39 – “35. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36. And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38. But Paul thought (it) not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;” [KJV]

A. The apostle Paul knew the importance of continued teaching and encouragement for the young church. He understood what it was like to be a baby, and so to avoid leaving these young converts to look after themselves, Paul approached Barnabas about visiting the brethren in all the cities where they had previously preached.

1. If there is one lesson the church can learn from this, it’s young Christians need teaching and encouragement.
2. We all have witnessed too many young Christians who have been left to their own devices straight after their baptism and people wonder why they have fallen away.

B. They have fallen away because they are weak in their understanding. There is much they are missing and they haven’t received the next part which we see in Matthew 28:19-20.

1. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20 – “19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” What is Jesus telling them? Look at the progression, Jesus says teach them, baptize them, and teach them more.
2. If you’re a young Christian, and I’m not necessarily talking age here, I would encourage you to allow the teachers of the congregation to teach you. You can be many things as Christian, but a strong Christian, a mature Christian, is not something you achieve without being taught. That’s one of the reasons why Paul wanted to go back to these young converts.

C. It seems from our text that Barnabas had a strong desire to take his cousin John Mark on the journey, but for some reason Paul did not want to go with John Mark. Exactly why that is, we’re not sure. Possibly it had something to do with Acts 13:13 where Luke tells us that John Mark left to return to Jerusalem for an unknown reason.

1. Both Paul and Barnabas were so firm in their opinions, even to the point of being provoked to anger that they decided to separate. I think we should just say a few words about this separation. Strong men with minds strongly made up often find disagreement between them. The one redeeming note in this otherwise unhappy and regrettable episode is that neither party to the dispute permitted it to hinder the work of God. Rather there was a beneficial result in that there were now two teams of missionaries on the field in the place of only one.
2. Many times when we fall out with our brethren, all we remember is the bad things about them. What do you remember about those brethren who have hurt you in the past? Why is it when we think of some people we seem to forget all the good things they have done and we choose to remember the one bad thing? I think the answer is in the word ‘choose’.
3. We choose to remember. Folks, in many ways our memories are a choice. Paul chose to remember the good about Barnabas. Paul later used Barnabas as a good example of one who worked to support himself while preaching the gospel. He says in 1 Corinthians 9:6 – “Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” [NKJV]
4. Paul also chose to remember the good about John Mark. He described John Mark as one who was useful in ministry, in 2 Timothy 4:11 – “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
5. The point here is that despite this early dispute between them, neither of them allowed the dispute to hinder the work of God. God does not create disputes, but He can certainly use disputes to further His cause.

D. Luke tells us that God used the disagreement between these two great men of faith to produce two teams to go in different directions with the gospel. Barnabas went with John Mark to Cyprus which according to Acts 4:36 was his homeland. Then in Acts 15:40-41 – “40. And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”
E. Paul took Silas who appears to be one of the leading men among the brethren at Jerusalem according to Acts 15:22, with him. Luke recorded back in Acts 15:22 – “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren”

II. As Barnabas and John Mark were heading off in one direction with the gospel, Paul and Silas were moving in another direction. They went through Syria and Cilicia to southern Galatia and along the way they strengthened the churches.

A. It is while they are on this journey that we are introduced to a young man named Timothy. We are now in chapter 16. Acts 16:1-5 – “1. Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”

1. If you recall from Acts 14:9-20, Lystra was the place where the apostle Paul was stoned almost to death. That alone might have discouraged some men from returning. However, Luke told Theophilus in Acts 14:21 that Paul and Barnabas went back through the city as they were strengthening the churches at the end of their missionary tour.
2. It’s now that Paul returned again, this time with Silas, and discovered a young disciple with great potential. His name is Timothy, his mother was a Jewish woman who believed and he had a Greek father, but more importantly he was highly recommended by the brethren. These verses reveal the good reputation of Timothy, not only in his home community of Lystra, but also in the more important city of Iconium as well. Paul was rewarded for his earlier efforts in Lystra by the emergence of a young convert who was destined to be a faithful companion of the great apostle.
3. The text tells us that Paul “took him and circumcised him”. Why did he do this? If circumcision in the flesh wasn’t important for salvation anymore, why did Paul have him circumcised?

B. With that question in mind let’s look at what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 – “20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” [ESV]

1. The reason why Paul had Timothy circumcised was simply because this robbed any contentious Jew of at least one argument that might be thrown up in Timothy’s face when he entered the synagogue to teach.
2. I should mention here that there are those who have accused Paul of inconsistency in this, because of his adamant refusal to circumcise Titus as we find in Galatians 2:3. Those who do so have failed to discern the essential differences in the two situations. Titus, was a Greek, who had no Jewish connection and there was no excuse for circumcising him. Except the condition, as the Pharisee Christians demanded, of making his circumcision a precondition of salvation; and Paul never for a moment would have allowed that.
3. Paul then left with Timothy and Silas to carry the message from the meeting at Jerusalem to all the churches with which the apostle had previously worked. In this way, he prepared them to fend off the potential attacks of the Judaizers.
4. Paul avoided another possibility of division, the churches were strengthened in the faith and continued to grow in number. We see how over and over again, if we just think about what we’re doing first, and think of the consequences of our actions, we can avoid many troubles.

C. I do note however that Judaizers are still in business today. (1) attempting to bind sabbath-observance on Christians, (2) ordaining a "priesthood" separate from the "laity," (3) the lighting of sacred candles, (4) the requirement of certain periods of official, formal fasts and feasts, and (5) the imposition of diet restrictions, etc., etc.

III. Continuing now in Acts 16:6-8 – “6. Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.”

A. Just west of the cities in south Galatia was the Roman province of Asia. Luke says Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to enter that region to teach.

1. This might have been done directly or through the agency of a prophet inspired by the Spirit. Paul says in Acts 20:23 – “... the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.” [KJV]
2. It also says in Acts 21:10-11 – “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
3. How it happened that Paul was forbidden to go to Asia is not really important, but we do know that Paul going to Asia wasn’t a part of God’s plan at this point. As we will see later in Acts 19, Paul did get his opportunity to preach in Asia and the church grew there in a fine way, as is evidenced by the Lord's letters in Revelation 2-3.

B. In the meantime, Paul and those with him continued to work their way along until they came to Mysia, which was at the northern border between Asia and Bithynia.

1. They would have gone into Bithynia, but again the Spirit forbade them to go, so they turned westward to Troas.
2. It’s during this time that Paul received a vision. We are now looking at Acts 16:9-12 – “9. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us.'' 10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12. and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.” [NKJV]
3. The group may not have understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Asia.
4. They may not have even understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Bithynia, but Paul and his company determined, after a vision the apostle had in the night, that the Lord did want them to preach in Macedonia.
5. I note the words “... concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Luke is including himself with those who preached the gospel.

IV. They immediately made arrangements and set sail from Troas to Samothrace, then Neapolis and, finally, Philippi, which Luke described as "the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony."

A. Its here we’re introduced to a woman named Lydia. Acts 16:13-14 – “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

1. It was customary at the time for ten Jewish heads of households to form a synagogue within a community. Here in Philippi, there was no synagogue, but there was a group of Jewish women who met by the riverside for prayer. Paul's company joined the women on the Sabbath day and spoke to them. One of the women, whose name is Lydia, was a seller of purple.
2. This was an expensive purple dye, made from rock snails known by the name “murex” in ancient times, and it was one of the most valuable commodities of antiquity. I would think that Lydia's engaging in trade of such a product surely indicates some considerable capital.
3. Notice where Lydia’s home city is. Lydia's home city was Thyatira. You might wonder what’s so significant about that? Thyatira is in the province of Asia Minor. Even though Paul had been forbidden by the Lord to go to Asia personally, he actually got to teach one of its citizens.

B. All of us have read instruction labels on many products. Many of these instructions have made me wonder why they were written.

1. Instructions like these found on;

a. On a packet of airline peanuts: "Open and eat contents."
b. On a chainsaw: "Do not attempt to stop chain with hands."
c. On a container of milk: "After opening, keep upright."
d. On a steering-wheel lock: "Remove lock before driving."

2. Things most of us would call common sense. However apparently these instructions are necessary because not all people have common sense.

C. Common sense must be used when we read what Luke tells us next. Acts 16:14-15 – “ Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.'' And she persuaded us.”

1. Luke doesn’t go into the details of Paul’s message to Lydia, but common sense tells us, that the central message of the gospel was preached. Just as we see Paul reminded those in Corinth of his having preached to them the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – “1. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. 3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”
2. Paul shared with Lydia the story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. After God had opened her heart by hearing the words spoken by Paul, Lydia and other members of her household obeyed the spoken word by being baptized. The obvious means by which God opened the heart of Lydia was the preaching the gospel. Since God gave the gospel, the results produced by it were properly said to be God's action.

D. What was it in Paul’s sermon that led them all to be baptized? Romans 6:3-5 – “3. Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,” “

1. Paul explained the importance of baptism in terms of being united with Christ. In Galatians 3:26-28 Paul says, “26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
2. Paul tells the Galatian Christians that they were all children of God by faith. How did that happen to them? It happened because when they were baptized into Christ ,they entered by faith into Christ, and clothed themselves with Christ, so that there was no longer anything to separate them one from another.

E. In other words when Paul was preaching to Lydia, he explained the whole story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and he explained what she needed to do to be right with God.

1. Don’t let anyone tell you that baptism isn’t important for a person’s salvation. Every single conversion we have recorded in the Book of Acts has the person or the people humbly submitting to Christ in the waters of baptism.
2. If people have not died to self in the waters of baptism, if they haven’t been buried in the waters of baptism, if they have not been raised to a new life after coming out of the waters of baptism, then they are undermining and totally missing the importance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself.
3. Lydia understood how the old covenant worked in relation to sin but now she had her heart opened to the new convent, and she understood that to enter this new covenant with Christ, she needed to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins.

F. After Lydia and her household were added to the Lord’s church, she then pleaded with Paul and the others to stay as guests in her house. Paul may have hesitated because she was a single woman, which seems to be indicated by reference to her house. However, when she prefaced her request by saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord," Paul yielded.

CONCLUSION:
Folks, here we have the first convert to Christ from that part of the world we now call Europe. Lydia didn’t wake up one morning and think to herself, I’ll go down to the river and pray and I’ll become a Christian. No! God sent Paul to share the gospel message with her.

As Romans10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” She heard the message of Christ through Paul and God opened her heart to respond to the message.

People do not suddenly decide with no information that “I’m going to become a Christian today.” No! God sends His people to share His message with them and then He opens their hearts to respond. For those of us that are members of the Lord’s body that is what He did with us. That’s what He did with me and that’s what He did with you. He opened Lydia’s heart, He opened my heart and He opened your hearts.

We should challenge ourselves to ask God help us see the opportunities to share His message about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Ask God to open their heart to respond to that message by being united with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in the waters of baptism.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# ???

Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

July 4th - A Day to Remember

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

INTRO: This morning I’m going to take a break from our study of the book of Acts. Today is July 4th, Independence Day. For Americans it is a wonderful time to celebrate, gather together with friends and family, have picnics, watch parades, see fireworks and generally kick back and relax.

Our text for this morning is from the book of Deuteronomy 8:1-10. I invite you to turn there and read along with me. “1 Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.

6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.”[NKJV]

Moses spoke these words we find in the book of Deuteronomy to the nation of Israel on the banks of the Jordan river just before they crossed over into the promised land.
I particularly note the words of wisdom Moses spoke on that day in verse 2: “you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

In this life we need both a good memory, and likewise the ability to forget. All the blunders, murmurings and fault findings unjustly made need to be forgotten, but here we read of the fear of Moses that they might forget the God who had led them all the way, who had fed them with manna, bread from heaven, and who had caused their garments not wear out, nor their feet to swell.

The nation of Israel was a chosen nation and had a close relationship, a fellowship with God that no other nation before or since has had, except the Christian nation, the Kingdom which is the church that belongs to Christ. Yet, I would like to suggest that there may be somewhat of a parallel in various ways to this wonderful bit of history. This sermon will not be popular with today’s society. It seems to me that we are only happy when we are pointing out the problems, and there are many, in preference to celebrating the virtues.

Some have called America a child of providence.
I am inclined to agree with those thinkers who believe the founding of the United States of America was providential and that God had a hand in it. This is not to say that America is a chosen nation like Israel, but it is to say that possibly there was a guiding hand in the history of America, one of the greatest countries on earth--whose motto is, "one nation under God with liberty and justice for all."

I think it is unfortunate and unforgivable for a nation that has been blessed as we have, not to remember what God has done for us and how He has led us for more than 200 years.

The Fourth of July weekend was approaching, and Miss Pelham, the nursery schoolteacher, took the opportunity to tell her class about patriotism. 'We live in a great country,' she announced. 'One of the things we should be happy about is that, in this country, we are all free.' Little Johnny, came walking up to her from the back of the room. He stood with his hands on his hips and said loudly, 'I'm not free. I'm four.'

July 4th does not mean anything to most people in the world, but to citizens of the United States it marks the day we call "Independence Day." It commemorates our independence from the rule of Great Britain. Of course, a war followed that declaration, but our "freedom" stood the test.

I think the words that Moses spoke to Israel could, in a real sense, be wisely applied to America. We might state it like this, "You shall remember that the Lord your God led you these 200 some years into the 21st century."

I have traveled a little bit and have seen some other parts of the world, and without "knocking" any other country, I believe that we live in one of the most wonderful countries that exist. I thank God for the privilege of being a Christian and a citizen of the United States of America.
What I am trying to say is that on July 4th Americans should stop and consider their blessings. Be thankful for what we have, thankful for God's blessings on our nation, and thankful for His blessings on us.

I do think the year 1620 marks the real beginning of this splendid land we live in.

We should all gratefully remember that it was the coming of those few Pilgrim Fathers in the historic Mayflower who brought and introduced into this country the supreme idea of the one true God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They brought to this land the knowledge that the one true God is a triune God. Jesus and the apostles of Christ revealed this great truth to mankind.

Speaking of the Pilgrims -- Teacher: If there were still Pilgrims alive today, what would they be famous for?
Little Johnny: Their age!

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of looking, inside, and out, at an exact replica of the Mayflower. Great Britain gave this replica of the Mayflower to the United States as a token of appreciation for helping them in World War II. I think that was a nice gesture on the part of England. I was surprised that the boat was so small, just over 100 feet long.

It is said in history that this great undertaking on their part was based on the idea that God would walk together with them. They came here to worship God according to the Christian faith, as they understood it. I wonder what life would be on this continent today, if the people who first founded our country had not been believers in Christ and the Christian religion.

What if they had come from China or India or from the Middle East? Certainly the names of our cities would be different. I am sure the names of people would have been different. Where did these names come from–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, etc.? I am told in this country there are some six million women who answer to the name of Mary.

I do believe that God providentially had a hand in the Pilgrims bringing His name and the name of His son to these shores. God's people have the right to believe in providential experiences, but they cannot be proven.

It was the posterity of the Pilgrims who settled the thirteen original colonies who in the course of years drafted that immortal document, The Declaration of Independence. Yes, six years of bloody warfare followed to make good the decree.

Finally, with the loss of thousands of their kind and their little country almost literally baptized in the blood of their forefathers, they were recognized as a nation among the sister nations of the world. Our great country springing from a foundation like that now extends from ocean to ocean, and from the Lakes to the Gulf.

Today it has the reputation of being the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I think Americans ought to consider how that perhaps God has kept His eye upon us as a people in our civil and religious privileges. We have come to be exceedingly great.
We are feasting upon the very fat of the land, and our wealth seems unlimited.

In the language of scripture, this too is a land flowing with milk and honey, even more than Canaan was to Israel. God has greatly blessed us.
The eyes of the entire world have for some time looked to America, not only as the world money and trade center, but for that religious life which Christ envisioned would encircle the globe, make spiritual ignorance vanish, and bring untold blessings to the millions of earth.

Unquestionably, we lead all nations in spreading the pure gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world. We do big things in America. I know it sounds like I am boasting but the facts speak for themselves.

In 1936, it took five or six days to cross the ocean on the Queen Mary, probably the fastest sailing vessel in that bygone time. It took the Mayflower five or six months. Lindbergh needed but thirty hours. We can now cross the ocean in five or six hours.

In addition, we are rapidly becoming the Medical Center of the world. Rulers from other countries come here to have surgery. Doctors come from all over to train in this country. We should remember how God has providentially blessed our nation.

In saying these things, I do not mean to imply that all things are right with America, certainly they are not. Just as an individual must recognize their own faults and strive to improve in order to grow, so must we as a nation. Nor do I meant to imply that we are a chosen nation, as Israel was under the law of Moses. I have drawn a comparison between Israel and America because in some ways it seems justified.

It is my sincere hope that we do not make the mistake Israel made by failing to remember how God led them and blessed them. He does not lead us miraculously as He did Israel, but He leads by His written word.

All who are acquainted with the history of Israel know that they did not remember God's goodness toward them. Israel drifted away from God and worshiped idols, and God held them accountable by sending them into captivity to Assyria and Babylonia.

Is it not true that we are living in a country where the influence of God and Jesus is rapidly vanishing? The dominant value systems in America are anything but Christian. The moral values of America are changing right before our eyes. As a nation we have lost confidence in our fellow man and in the Bible. We are in an identity crisis.

We don't seem know who we are, where we came from or where we are going. Many think we came down out of the trees 20 million years ago, and we descended from a mother gorilla.

The old time elements of honesty, uprightness and downright truthfulness are below par on the market of the world. The blackest crimes and the most atrocious acts that ever stained the pages of history lies at our very door.

People are beginning to live like people did in ancient times before Jesus came. The Greek Demosthenes, who lived 300 years before Christ and was one of the greatest orators of all time, said, "We keep mistresses for pleasure and concubines for the day to day needs of the body, but we have wives in order to produce children legitimately."

Seneca, the Roman philosopher who lived in the first century said, "Chastity in Rome is simply proof of ugliness. Innocence is not rare, it's nonexistent." The moral values regarding chastity and marriage are changing in America. Chastity is not considered an important virtue, as it once was. I have heard statistics given that men and women are waiting longer to get married. The average age for women to marry was 27 in 2008, and the average for men was 35.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past few decades, 6 million in 1996 to 19 million in 2018. People are afraid to commit because of the problems associated with the desolation of a marriage. Yet experts from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists have shown that a committed relationship provides the most fulfillment for both men and women. Within the last twenty or thirty years, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, abortion and homosexuality have become acceptable human behavior by the general population.

When you compare the moral values of America today with those of America a hundred years ago, I think it is a sound conclusion that America is drifting away from God. It is an undeniable fact that the dominant value systems of America are anything but Christian. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and trying to fill the void they feel.

When we remember the birthday of our nation every July 4th, it is also a time to remember our roots; who founded this country, why they founded it, and why they came. This country was founded by people who passionately believed in Christ and the Christian religion. They came to practice and to promote that religion, not the false religions of other nations.

Although it is refreshing to hear Americans from the highest to the lowest stand up for our pledge of allegiance that contain the words, "one nation under God..." even that is under attack.

Yes, Independence Day is indeed a time to remember. We are standing upon the past. We are its products. The land on which we stand today is a made land, made by people who lived hundreds of years before we were born. The soil into which we are to sow our seed is a prepared land.

For this land we enjoy, there is an obligation and duty we owe to God, the Father of our spirits, and that duty must be paid. But... that is not all. God has given us something greater than America.

The church of the Lord Jesus Christ was established twenty centuries ago in Jerusalem, but Christians drifted away from God; the true church fell away from the truth until by 500 A.D. it has almost disappeared from the earth. This false system of Christianity lasted over a thousand years. The church for which Jesus died lay buried beneath the rubbish of superstition and idolatry during the long spell of the Dark Ages, until about 1500 A.D.
From our studies I hope that you have learned of the great historical events that have corrupted the church Jesus purchased with His blood.

The years 1500 to 1800 saw God's hand of providence that opened the Reformation in Europe. A number of protesting churches were formed and broke free from the Papal Church of Rome. They sincerely believed it was a movement back toward the Bible, God’s word, but it did not go far enough. Many of the Protestant churches did not see fit to throw away their distinctive traditions. They decided to stay divided as separate churches with their own different doctrines and names.

However, forces were at work to continue the Reformation. God's providential hand was seen in a further progress. About 1800, a remarkable development occurred in America among the Protestant churches.

It has been estimated that some thirty to fifty Protestant preachers and thousands of members of those churches all over America became dissatisfied and left those churches. They left because they were not teaching the truth on many subjects such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, worship, and other important subjects. This movement became known as the Restoration Movement.

It was a Restoration of the original church as it was in the first century, as it was when the Apostles lived. This is the way congregations of the churches of Christ came into existence. They did not start a new church, they just rebuilt the old church the apostles built and restored the original names given to the New Testament church.
The early church referred to the Lord's church as the churches of Christ and the churches of God.

Romans 16:16 says: – “Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.”
And I Corinthians 1:2-3 – “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I would suggest to you that I see a similarity between the Pilgrims who first came to our shores and these people in the 1800's who could no longer worship with people they loved dearly, some of them their relatives and friends, who could not worship God in ways the New Testament did not approve.

The result of this great movement, back to the teachings of the apostles, was like the coming of another Mayflower, bringing to America a new vision and a new respect for God's word. That is the way congregations of churches of Christ came into existence in early America. In doing this, their life was almost as difficult as was the life of the original Pilgrims in that first year and in the ensuing years.

CONCLUSION:
I close with the thought that today members of churches of Christ stand upon the ground prepared by others. We should remember those preachers and people who had the vision to bring the original church back to the world in its worship, apostolic teachings and practice.

I recognize that today I am standing religiously upon the foundation prepared by others.
I would be untrue to myself and ungrateful unless I was willing to look back and remember and give honor to whom honor is due. I am glad to share in the continuation of the work, those good people, under God, began in early America. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

# 594 – Jesus Will Give You Rest

Reference Sermon: Whitehall Church of Christ

Real or Fake Faith

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

James 2: 14 – 20

One third grader was wearing a Fitbit watch, which prompted the teacher to ask, “Are you tracking your steps?” “No,” said the little girl. “I wear this for Mommy so when Daddy gets home she can show him how active she was during the day!”
If I said to you, "Thou shalt not think of a purple elephant," - suddenly, you would be able to think of nothing else. But, if I then set before you a huge hot fudge sundae - creamy Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, laced with deep dark fudge, topped with mounds of whipped cream, lightly toasted almonds, and a juicy red cherry - the purple elephant wouldn’t enter your mind because you’d be captivated by something much better right before your eyes.
So it is that Paul can tell us with authority, "I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won‘t be doing what -your sinful nature craves." Galatians 5:16
When you think about our world today, have you ever noticed how many imitation products there are? I guess you could call them fake -
Think about it -
I could walk around in style with a fake rolex watch that looks just like the real thing. I can have fake or imitation perfume or cologne, fake nails, fake hair, fake Apple products, fake Nike Air Jordan's, fake Adidas clothes, I can put fake sugar in my coffee and I can wear fake designer clothes, along with my fake leather, while I talk about fake news.
Of course, sometimes fake works just as well as the real thing. Sometimes fake teeth are better than no teeth. But there is one area in life where fake doesn’t work and you need the real thing. We need to have real faith, not fake faith.
When you think about it, without faith, we would not be able to overcome some of the obstacles we face in life. Fake faith will never have the power to help or save you. Fake faith will never answer prayers nor will it transform you.

We are continuing in the book of James and this morning we’re going to look at, James 2:14-20. The hope from today is that we will better understand what fake faith is . . . and that will lead us to understand a little more at what it means to put our faith into action.

Let me read from James 2, beginning in verse 14 -
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Some people believe James and Paul are contradicting each other. But really they are complimenting each other. Paul is emphasizing how do we know we are saved. James is emphasizing how to show you are saved. Paul focuses on the root of our salvation, which is internal and unseen;
while James focuses on the effects of our salvation, which is external and seen by others.
So, James tells us some things about real faith, but it’s interesting that he starts out by telling us some things real faith is not.

Today we’re going to look at those things, examples of when we’re not showing real faith. In James 2:14, he wrote - 14 What good is it, my brothers, IF SOMEONE SAYS he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
The key is when James wrote, “if someone says they have faith. . .” That’s the main point in this first test of showing you have real faith.
In other words REAL FAITH IS MORE THAN JUST THE WORDS I SAY. It’s more than just a memorized prayer. It’s even more than memorizing scripture. There are lots of people with no faith who can quote scripture better than we can.
Claiming that I have faith and knowing all the Christianese, knowing the buzz words and what all the theology is about doesn’t mean I have faith. This may sound rude, but just because I say I have faith, doesn’t mean I have faith.
Just because I say I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I can. Just because I say I can play the piano, doesn’t mean I can. Think about what’s been going in our world right now. Between the pandemic and social justice issues; and in the past election . . . many people who claim to be Christian certainly have not acted that way. Actions speak loudly.
James is telling us - just because you say you have faith, doesn’t mean you have faith. Faith is more than words.

Listen to these words from Jesus in Matthew 7:21
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Do you hear those words from Jesus? Just because you say Lord, doesn’t mean you will enter heaven. It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do in the name of faith. Now, I have to be a little careful here, because I’m not the judge, but your actions will be a true representation of your faith. That’s what Jesus is meaning. If you have nothing to show for your faith, then is your faith really real?
So what value is fake faith? It has no value other than to delude ourselves and make us think we’re OK, when we really aren’t.
So . . . real faith is more than just the words I say.

Another example of fake faith comes in James 2:15-16
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Real faith is more than just an emotion or lip service. That’s a great example by James. If we see someone in need, someone is outside in the middle of winter without a jacket and we look at them and just say, “hey man, I’ll be praying you can find some warm clothes.” Or if you see someone who is hungry, instead of just saying, let’s pray ... which don’t get me wrong is great to do, but what they need more than anything is a meal.
If I were to shut my finger in my car door . . . and you’re walking by, I want MORE than your sympathy or prayers, I have a very real need and that’s to help me get my finger out of the door.

Real faith is practical, it’s messy and it gets involved with people’s needs.
Next James tells us that real faith is more than an idea I debate. He tells us this in verse 18 -
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

What James is getting at here is that for some people faith is just a conversation, or an idea, or a debate. Some people can talk about God and religion day and night, but they have no faith. They don’t want to practice it, they want to preach it or dissect it. Some people don’t want to obey God, they’d rather debate God. They will talk and talk about God, but don’t ask them to make a commitment to God.

James is arguing that some people want to talk about faith, while others will talk about good works. James quickly dismisses both of these. He counters that by stating - - I can show you my faith from my works.
It’s a contrast between 3 types of people.
1) Those who want to talk about the Bible
2) Those who want to do good deeds,
3) And, those who do both.
They don’t have a desire to show their faith, other than to talk about God, never to demonstrate God to the world around them.

What’s key in this verse is when James says “I WILL SHOW YOU my faith by my works.”
He’s telling us that real faith is visible, that we can see faith in action. Let me ask you, how do you know someone loves you? Just because they tell you?
I guess that’s a starting point. But if that’s all there is to the love, then that’s not real love.
The best way to see someone’s love is to experience their love. When you put love into action, now the words I LOVE YOU, have meaning.

There’s too many people who say I love you, but don’t love. Their love is abusive and dysfunctional. It’s a love that tears down, rather than to build up. That’s not love. Love is shown by the way we treat one another.
We can’t see faith, until we see it in action. I can talk about faith all day. I can debate faith. Real faith has results. Real faith is visible to others. Now, we don’t do things to be seen, we do them because we’ve been called by God to do them.

Show me your faith, and then I will believe you have faith. Don’t tell me about it, don’t talk about it, don’t quote it, don’t give me the feelings behind it . . . show me your faith is real!
When you repent of your sins and turn your life over to God through baptism . . . you should be changed. Paul tells us in one of my favorite verses 2 Corinthians 5:17
17 if anyone is in Christ, you are a new creation, behold, the old has passed away, the new has come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 -

Isn’t that great?! Paul is telling us that those old things, those old sin habits, those old bad things that you used to do - they will pass away, they will die. We have to let them die, and sometimes it takes work and years for that to happen. And when it does happen, we become a new creation! That old caterpillar works it’s way out of the cocoon and flies away as a beautiful butterfly. That should be the image of the Christ follower as well.

Real faith is more than just a truth I believe. James uses sarcasm to make his point. In verses 19-20, James wrote - 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people generically or boastfully tell me “oh, I believe in God.” As if that’s going to get them brownie points from God. Because James counters that thought by saying “even the devil believes.” The devil believes in God, the devil has head knowledge, but doesn’t obey God.
Saying I believe in God, doesn’t get you in heaven. That’s radical sounding, but even the demons believe in God. Why else did satan want to kill Jesus? He knows who Jesus is. He’s the Son of God.
It’s not just something you believe in your head.
It’s not just something you argue about.
Real faith is not a great idea.
It’s not just saying a bunch of words.
Real faith is not getting warm fuzzies and feelings.
Real faith is evident when we put our faith into actions. It is something I do.
Real faith is always active, it’s not passive. Ultimately, faith is a choice, it’s something we all do.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love. -
Those are great words to hear, because they are action words - - -
We are to be watchful, stand firm, act like men, be strong, and do everything in love.
When people look at you and I ... do they see us acting this way? Are we standing firm in the faith? are we being strong? Are we acting like men? Are we doing all things in love?
Those actions tell the world who we are in Christ or without Christ.
Now, here’s the ultimate question . . . if you were arrested for being a Christian. And your case came before the judge to determine if it should go to trial . . . is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?
Will people say - they’ve seen a change in you, because real faith always produces a changed life.
REAL FAITH IS MORE than the words I say,
IT IS MORE than an emotion or feeling,
IT IS MORE than an idea.

James 1:26 & 27 tells us:
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

* Ideas for this message came from a sermon by Rick Warren.

God The Father

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Luke 15:11-32

INTRO: Today is father’s day. There are those of us who are fathers and grandfathers some even great grandfathers. I was thinking about this and I realize that a number of us are “empty nesters”. Our children have left home not just to go to college but to be on their own, perhaps in far away places, maybe to start families of their own. I wondered for those of us in that situation, do we stop being fathers for our children when they leave? How do we continue to be a dad when our kids are grown? How does that relationship change?

Certainly we do not have the same relationship, that same authority line, to use a word maybe kids don't want to hear. How do you deal with a grown child?
Indeed, what is my responsibility to my children and their families once they leave home and have their own family – leaving father and mother and cleaving to their spouse?
These questions are not made-up questions, but things I think about and have been thinking about since our daughter got married. In fact how do you deal with the fact they are married?

You've now got a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law perhaps even both and you don't have the same history with them, obviously, as you have your own children.
You're knowledge of them is limited, especially at the beginning of their marriages. It is something we have to learn about. Parenting grown kids is very, very different than parenting children at home and the relationship is nowhere near the same.

I think about stories in the Bible of godly fathers, and I look to them to give me some examples, because these are not hypothetical questions, they are real questions.

Our lesson today is taken from Luke 15:11-32 which I’m sure you will recognize. One verse in particular I would like us to consider is Luke 15:20 "So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” [para]
The focus of this sermon is the father found in the story of the prodigal son. There are lessons we can learn from this dad.

In the parable that we're going to look at today, Jesus tells us about a father, and in the parable the dad is a representation of God the Father and how God parents grown children.   I want to live in such a way, that even though my children are no longer at home, they will never doubt my love for them or my desire for them to be right with God and so I wanted to look again at this parable..  

I’ll admit I never really thought through this story from the fathers point of view.
I've dealt with the story of the prodigal son by considering the son or dealing with the older brother or a combination of both in the sermon.

Before we dig into the father of the story, it’s helpful if we hear and understand why Jesus tells the story.

I. Background Gives Meaning to the Message - Luke records for us the context of the three parables that we find in Luke 15. Let’s start with why Jesus told these three parables before we look at the last one today.

A. Luke 15 opens with these words Luke 15:1-2 – “ Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them.''” The reason for the parable, the reason Jesus tells all three of these parables, is verse 2, “this man receives or welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

1. That’s the issue here. Jesus interacts with them as if they were equals or friends, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law see them as sinners and He eats with them. These teachers of the law have made this statement around how much of a connection—should religious people have with non-religious people or religious people that are not acting righteously.
2. In fact, to their point of view, eating with, welcoming, being in some type of fellowship with, tax collectors, and sinners would be wrong.

B. To appreciate the parables, we need to understand this group of people that came to Jesus, whom Jesus has table fellowship with. These are people who, by definition, were excluded from the religious community.

1. I would guess most of these people do not attend the synagogue on the Sabbath. They would not be welcomed in those synagogues and if they were there they would not be in fellowship with others as we see in Luke 18:13 – “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven...” These people are, for the most part, considered to be outside of a covenant fellowship.
2. My guess is they are outside of that general bonding that happens in the religious community, but yet these people came to hear Jesus. Obviously, as you take a look at the Ministry of Jesus, He spends a tremendous amount of time reaching out to the very people that the religious world had forgotten about, or pushed aside, or had deemed unworthy.
3. Yet here they are wanting to hear Jesus. We are not told how they knew of Jesus, perhaps by word of mouth, or that His reputation is of one that cares. They gather around him to listen to him. Jesus accepted these people as they were, not what they were worth to the religious assembly. Jesus wanted them to hear God’s message. Unconsciously, His enemies spoke in these words the Master's highest praise. Intended by them as a slander, the words have been treasured by the church of all ages as glorious and eternal truth. I’m thinking of the hymn we sing; “Sing it o'er and o'er again: Christ receiveth sinful men; Make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men!”

C. Jesus is not condoning their actions but is affirming their value in the eyes of God. I say that, because in all three parables, the message is that when a person repents, God forgives.

1. Jesus is not saying these people don’t need to repent, in fact, just the opposite. There is repentance that needs to take place, but when it does, forgiveness is immediately and completely given by God. God desires these “tax collectors and sinners” to be a part of His great family. He places value upon them for who they are, not what their value is to the religious community.
2. If we were living in that time He would not be condoning our actions, but valuing each of us as a person, wouldn't “we” want to hear what He had to say? It is the same today, He can look at you and He can see that you have worth, even though inside you may feel unworthy of anything.

II. God Hurts - Let’s look at the dad of the last parable and see what lessons we can learn from him.

A. I want to take a look at the story from the father’s point of view. Luke opens the parable of the prodigal son in; Luke 15:11-12 – “Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. "And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood”. I have heard people say that the father in this story was wrong for giving the younger son his inheritance. You may disagree with what the dad did, but before you say his actions were unwise, let me remind you that the father of the story Jesus tells, is our Father in heaven. So at this point I’m trying to grasp how the father in the parable did the Godly thing.
B. What Jesus is talking about is how God the Father deals with His children, specifically, the tax collectors and sinners. The giving to the younger son is simply the statement that our Father in Heaven gives us the freedom to love him or forsake him. I repeat, this is really a story from the father’s point of view, and with understanding that the father, is God. There's only one conclusion that I could come to then, and that is God never forces me to be a part of the family.

1. He doesn't do that. It's an honor to be a part of His family. It's a blessing to be a part of Him, but He never forces me to be a part of Him. God will not force your obedience. He wants you to want Him, to see your need for Him, to rely upon Him, but God will not make you stay in the family.
2. We need to understand a truth that is seen in the overall story, God hurts when we think we know better how to live our lives, than being under the guidance of God and a part of the family of God.
3. If as I grow, I decide that I love the world more than I love the Father and I want to live my life my way more than I want to live under the guidance of the Father, then I can take what I think are the blessings that I have been given by God and go and live my life the way I want to live my life. The son is saying; “I would rather get from you what I can get then to be in a relationship with you. In light of that, the father lets him go.
4. Thinking about that this statement that the son makes, it has to hurt the father. Parents hurt when their child leaves home and throws the love of the parents away.
5. It’s not that the child hates the dad here, but the child believes he can lead his life better than being at home with his father. When children refuse a parent’s love because they want to do their own thing, ignore the warnings given by the parent, --the parent hurts.

C. If I think on this story and examine myself, I find that I bring pain to God when my desire to live my life, my way, is me being like the younger son, wanting what God has to offer, but not the God who is offering it.

1. The Father says, I understand that your desire is not to be in a relationship with me, and I'm not going to force that relationship. If you think you can do better out on your own than you can with my wisdom and guidance and love and support then--I'll let you go.
2. To think that the father of this story doesn't hurt, that he just gives the son money and lets him walk away, I think misses the parable, misses all three of the parables, and the meaning behind the father's pain. It is dismissing God when I crave sin more than desire a relationship with Him. When I do so I have done to my Heavenly Father exactly what the prodigal son did to his father.

III. God Forgives - There is more to this teaching by Jesus than just that God hurts when I choose to live in sin instead of in His family.

A. I would have to say that there are times in my life where I have willfully and openly chosen to live in sinful actions that I know are absolutely counter to God. Yet at that moment, I really did not care. I wanted my sinful way of life. It’s what I wanted because I believed it would bring me more happiness in the moment.
B. Let us continue in Luke 15:13 – “the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”[KJV] The younger son takes his inheritance, goes far away and wastes that property in ways that are obviously sinful, until it’s gone. And then in Luke:15:14 – “And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.”[ESV]

1. His inheritance is gone and a famine strikes where the young man is living, and he has two choices: die of starvation or find a job to survive.
2. You know what? Dying isn't his choice. He goes out to find a job. Verse 15 – “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.”
3. Look at the context of all this. The boy gets a job to feed pigs. I don't think Jesus is making this story overly complicated for us to figure out. I am hearing Jesus speak right into my life as well as the lives of those listening. If I am like one of those tax collectors and sinners, and I chose to walk away from the relationship that comes from God’s family, and if I chose to live the way I wanted to live, and then I find that I do not like what my life has become, I did it to myself.
4. Those people may understand the pigs much better than you and I understand them. The young man finds himself feeding pigs. He doesn't just find himself feeding pigs, the Bible says in the next verse that he finds himself wanting to eat the food that he is feeding them.
5. That tells me that pigs are more valuable than the boy is to the owner of the pigs. He who had found the benign governance of his father so unbearable, has been reduced to submission as one of the lowest menials.

C. Back to the parable in verse 17, Luke 15:17 – “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” It says “he came to himself”, some translations say he “came to his senses.”

1. When he came to his senses, what does he remember? The relationship with his father. He remembers what it's like to be a part of the family. His desire is to go back home and to be a part of that again.
2. That's a very difficult thing to do, because the moment you do that, you've got to admit you messed up. Most people don't want to get to that point. They don't want to say, I messed up, I walked away. They want to find a way to blame their situation on someone or something else. It's the church's fault, it's God's fault, it's my family's fault.
3. This boy, to his credit, told himself the truth. Instead of a false bravado with which he might have screwed up his courage to stick it out, he simply faced up to the facts of his hunger, loneliness, and hopelessness.

D. He puts together his confession and his decision in verses 18 and 19, Luke 15:18-19 – “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'' '”

1. The son plans to talk to his father and he's going to say; “I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called a son.” Would you give me a job? He is asking; Would you at least let me be kind of connected to the family, if not a part of the family? Could I be on the outskirts of the family and still enjoy a little bit of the benefits of the family?
2. Remember, if you were listening to Jesus talk and heard the first two stories and now this third one, you knew as a sinner Jesus was talking about you. Jesus spoke into your life, your past, and reminded you that you are spiritually where you are because of your own choices.
3. These people were coming to hear Jesus for a reason. They were on their journey from the pigs back home and Jesus takes them to the Father in the parable.

E. The son has put his confession together in his head and then we come to Luke 15:20. “he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

1. Whoa! Wait a second. Doesn't that boy need to say, Father, I totally messed up. I am wrong. I am no longer worthy to be called your child. Doesn't he need to get all of that out first?
2. Verse 20 is full of emotion: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, felt compassion, ran and embraced him. Wait, doesn't he need to sit on that front row and confess every sin he's ever done publicly in front of everybody else and be totally humiliated before we could give him a hug?

F. The Bible says while he, the son, was yet a great way off, his father saw him. How did that happen? I suspect we might say the father had kept an “eye out” for the son. Remember who the first people to hear this were.

1. The point of the story is that Jesus is saying God desires those tax collectors and sinners. If I was one of those people and I'm listening to that story, this has got to be overwhelming to me. That's the God that I walked away from yet He runs to me.
2. The God to whom I said to; I would rather live my own life than live in relationship with you—embraces me.
3. Doesn’t the son confess? Yes he does in verse 21 but he does not need to seek his father out. I note that the son never came out with the intended request to be made as one of his father's hired servants. His father interrupted him before that part of his speech could be made! The son’s coming home was the repentance his father wanted to see. What is the father’s reaction to the repentance of the son? He throws a party!
4. Think what it would have felt like to know that the Father you rejected would run to meet you. Jesus tells of the father in this verse that he was watching for the son to return and when he saw him “he felt compassion” and ran to him.

G. How does God run to us today? God didn’t wait for us to make it all the way home. God comes running to us with a message of love and forgiveness in the form of Jesus. The father doesn’t wait for the son to get out his words of confession and sorrow. Instead, the father interrupts and throws a party for the son who came home.

1. Jesus Christ, put Himself right here on this earth to show us the Father's love. He came not because I am worthy to go to him, but because of the cross and the resurrection.
2. He opens His arms for me to be in a relationship that I don't deserve to be in, to live under a new covenant, this body of Christ.

IV. Lessons From The Father - Here is what I observe we should learn as fathers from the father Jesus describes: First, there is the possibility that our children will hurt us. Here's the truth, children will probably cause us to hurt inside at some point in our adult life, in their adult life.

A. They will either say or do things that could cause us to feel as though they are dismissing who we are in their life, not that they hate us of course. They've cut those apron strings and I understand much of that, but I know that there are going to be times in which adult children still bring pain to their parents.

1. I have met few parents of adult children who have not felt some hurt by their kids. Certainly not to the degree in this story, but parents hurt when their children dismiss their love and guidance.

B. The second lesson is that we want to be the type of father that should the need arise, meets our repentant child with a true embrace. We want to be the father that doesn't have to wait for our child to say I'm sorry. When we see the actions that he or she is trying to put forth into words, let it cause us to say, “we're good”.

1. Even though they may work through trying to say what they're trying to say, we want to be the type of dad that embraces them and loves them even when they know they've hurt the relationship. If their life shows the signs of repentance, then our actions will be to embrace them without shaming them.

C. Third, we want to be the father that promotes unity in the family. Luke 15:25-28 – “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.”

1. Jesus in this parable tells is not just about the prodigal son and the father. The story is also about the older brother, which we know is the representation of those Pharisees and teachers of the law that were muttering about Jesus spending too much time with the tax collectors and sinners.
2. The older brother, when he hears the music and he finds out what's going on, stays outside. The father has to go out to him, just like the father went running to the younger son. The father could have just focused on the family and the younger son. He also might have said, wait a second, you say you've never messed up. I could probably give you time and time again in which you have.
3. I give a tremendous amount of honor to the father of this parable, because the bottom line is... he's got two kids that have really messed up, one just more publicly than the other. It doesn't stop the father from going out to the elder son and listening to the older son talk about how life isn't fair.
4. Perhaps the older brother would have deserved some correction but the father does not do that. He points out what's right with both of them. The focus is on what is good.
5. We should want to be a type of father who does that. The father doesn't deny anything. He just simply says to that older child, everything I have is yours. Then the father talked about “his brother” that was dead and is now alive, was lost and is now found.
6. The father doesn’t dismiss the older brother or tell him how bad he is, but he wants the boys to see the same value in each other that he sees in both of his sons.
7. The father promotes unity among his children, even though the children, these boys, probably are struggling to have unity with each other. That’s the kind of father we should want to be. The father loves them both, and it really kind of brings me to my fourth and last lesson that I learned from the father in the story.

D. Fourth, we want to be a father who celebrates what’s right about our kids, not focus on their failures. The father that Jesus speaks of sees the good in the repentance of the younger brother and the good in the faithfulness and work of the older brother. That’s the kind of father we want to be.

CONCLUSION:
It’s Father’s Day and I am a blessed dad. I have children who care about me or at least they tolerate me. They live in relationship with me though we are apart physically. They share their family with me. I feel blessed by my children, children-in-law and grand children. I am also blessed with nieces and nephews and their children and their children’s children. They may think I am out of touch with reality at times, but they love me. They are kind to me, treat me with respect and share their lives with me. I am a blessed dad.

Do we ever disagree now that my children are adults? Yes. Do we work through it? Absolutely, we're family and we want to stay family.

Jesus is telling us not about the personal family, but about God's will. Jesus tells us just a little about the nature of our Heavenly Father.

God loves you.
You have a Father in heaven who, even when you disappoint Him, will run to welcome you with a hug when you come home. We have a Heavenly Father who celebrates us and values us even when we have given no reason for God to value us.

We have a Heavenly Father whose family is big enough for all of us. Some of you really are better, more spiritual, and live more holy lives than others. Just don’t forget the family of God welcomes home the worst of us.
If God is going to love the unlovable, the hurtful, the one whose life and words cut to the heart; then I want to make sure this family is open enough for them to come home and be celebrated.

I will close with this thought: Are we the type of church, the church which belongs to Christ, that welcomes home someone whose life has been lived in open rebellion but would really like to find their way back to something better?

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In this plan we learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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Reference Sermon: Jeffrey Dillinger

What Is a “Jesus plus” Gospel?

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 15:1-13

INTRO: This morning I’m going to continue from where we left off in the book of Acts. We left Paul and Barnabas in Antioch encouraging all the believers by telling them what God had done through them and how God had opened a door for them to preach to the Gentiles. What we’re going to see today is warning for the church about legalism.

First I want to tell you a story about someone we all know, Little Johnny. Little Johnny and his mother returned from the store and began putting away the groceries. Johnny opened a box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table. "What are you doing?" his mother asked. "The box says not to eat them if the seal is broken" Johnny explained. "I'm looking for the seal."

That young man did what he knew he should, and read the label. When you read a label, make sure you understand what you’re reading. If there is one thing we know as Christians, it is that there will always be questions which need to be answered. When those questions come up we need to go out of our way to answer them.

I. Read with me what Luke tells us happens in Acts 15... If you recall in Acts 14 at end the chapter Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, now in; Acts 15:1-2 - “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'' Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.”.

A. Luke tells us that certain men caused a great uproar among the Gentile churches. They taught that submission to the Law of Moses, as demonstrated by circumcision, was required for a person to be saved.
B. Their teaching didn’t go unnoticed and led Paul and Barnabas to raise some serious questions. These teachers were quite willing that the Gentiles should come into the Church but on the condition that first they became circumcised. If this attitude had prevailed, Christianity would have become nothing other than a sect of Judaism. Preaching the resurrection of Christ, of course, but nevertheless relying on the Law of Moses for salvation. This argument split what had been a united church into two distinct camps. Circumcised and uncircumcised. Paul and Barnabas argued strongly about this and matters were at a deadlock.
C. Paul records an event in Galatians 2:12-13 – where he is speaking about Peter; “... before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy”. We see from this how Peter was influenced and that in turn influenced others including Barnabas.
D. Commissioned by the church in Antioch, Paul, Barnabas and some unnamed others went to Jerusalem to get answers for those questions. Remember the church is still in its infancy, yet it appears that we’re beginning to see a division within the Lord’s church between the circumcised and uncircumcised.

II. Let’s look at the next verse. Acts 15:3 - “Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren." [NAS]

A. I’d like us to notice that when Paul and Barnabas were on their journey they didn’t stop everywhere and tell about the problems the church in Antioch was having. Instead the group reported the conversions which had been occurring in the Gentile world because of the preaching of the gospel. When the Christians heard the report they rejoiced and this is a great example to us of what our reaction should be to the saving of a soul.
B. Can an assembly have problems? Sure they can, and it is our duty as Christians is to address the problem with love and the Word. Ok, funny story time; Over in England there was a new priest who was trying to institute some reforms in his very old-fashioned parish by teaching his congregation new responses. He said to them, "When I say, 'The Lord be with you,' you will reply all together, 'and with you also.' Then I will say, 'Let us pray.'" The day came for the introduction of the new form of worshipping but something happened to the microphone, and the priest, trying to adjust it, said in a loud voice, "There is something wrong with this microphone." The congregation responded with one loud voice, "And with you also!"
C. When we go around and talk about church problems to anyone and everyone we speak to, there is something wrong with us as well. Paul and Barnabas didn’t speak to anyone about the problems in Antioch until they got to the people they wanted to ask the questions of.
D. What you talk to others about is your choice. However when you make that choice consider; Proverbs 10:19-21 - “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”
E. If all we focus on are the problems, we’re going to miss out on the things which God is accomplishing in front of our eyes. I know news travels fast these days especially with the internet, but it never ceases to amaze me how fast news traveled during Biblical times. My mother used to say “nothing travels faster than bad news.”

III. Let’s look now at the next two verses, 4 and 5; Acts 15:4-5 - “when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees , now listen, which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Note; here we are in Jerusalem and are told of some men of the school of the Pharisees which believed, that is have accepted Christ, yet hold on to something else.

A. Luke tells us that when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem, they again reported on the good which had been done among the Gentiles. When you go home today I’d suggest you take the time to read Galatians 2 where you will find a more detailed account of these events in Jerusalem. In the second verse of Galatians 2 we read; “communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation”. It seems from Galatians 2 that Paul reported to a small group of reputable men.
B. Paul spoke to a small group of men because by doing that he could avoid a public confrontation between the apostles. Paul related to them the gospel he had preached among the gentiles. As Christians we can deal with problems the right way but if there are people who insist in causing more problems, there’s little that we can do to stop it.
C. Luke told us in Acts 15:5 - “... there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Some from among the Pharisees still pressed their point by saying that all Gentiles who wanted to go to heaven would have to submit to the Law of Moses. This is a perfect example of a “grace plus” gospel.
D. These people are saying you need to obey the gospel of Christ but... you also need to be circumcised in the flesh to be saved. Legalism is nothing new nor has it gone away; in fact it’s still very popular within certain religious groups.

IV. I don’t want to look at other religious groups though; Today I want us to take a closer look at ourselves. Are we legalistic? How can we tell if we are?

A. If you think that you only have to attend worship every week for your salvation then you might be a legalist. If you think that you have to do good deeds for your salvation then you might be a legalist. We do not attend worship for our salvation; we attend worship because of our salvation. We do not do good deeds for our salvation we do good deeds because of our salvation.
B. There are too many legalistic Christians in the world who are quick to condemn other people because of something they don’t agree with. Christians who make huge issues out of things like what translation of the Bible we all must use.
C. We can only use this version and never that version. We can only use a particular hymnbook for singing. We can only worship in a building which doesn’t have a kitchen in it. We can only observe the Lord’s Supper each week if we use one cup. Yes, we do struggle with issues of doctrine at times.
D. I heard a story about a man who got to the gates of heaven and Peter was there to meet him. The man asked, "can I come into heaven?" and Peter said, " it depends, I've got to see if you've got 1000 points." The man said, "A 1000 points?" Peter said, "Yeah, tell me what you've done in your life." The man said, "well, I'm sure I've got a 1000 points, I've been a Christian almost all of my adult life, I've been a faithful husband and father, I've got 3 kids, one is a preacher, one is a missionary, my daughter is a nurse in the slums, I went one night a week to work with her, I was a faithful member of the church, I was an elder for 20 years, I supported mission works all over the world, I witnessed my faith in my job, I anonymously helped build a hospital, how much is that?" Peter looked and said, "that's one point what else have you done?"... At that the startled man said, "Lord have mercy". Then Peter said, "That's a 1000 points, come on in."
E. Folks, we do not rely on anything we do for salvation but we totally rely on what Christ has done for our salvation. In other words we don’t try and be faithful to live the Christian life for our salvation; we try and live the Christian life faithfully because of our salvation.
F. We need to keep away from the “Jesus plus”, plans of salvation because all that does is create a legalistic attitude among the saints where some think they are better than others. Paul warns us about that attitude in 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 – which says in part; “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” [NKJ]

V. Well then, what of works? I think it’s important to say that works do have an important place for Christians concerning their salvation. Having said that I know the legalists might be thinking, wait a minute Tom, what about Ephesians 2:8-9 - where Paul says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

A. What Paul says is true but it is also true that the New Testament informs us that faith without works is dead. James tells us this in James 2:14-24. Since the Bible, being the word of God, does not contradict itself, there must be a sensible solution to this apparent difficulty.
B. Certainly the solution is not as Luther suggested, that one is at liberty to reject the book of James as an inspired document! What we need to do is recognize that there are different kinds of works addressed in the Bible, and a difference in the performance of an act or work.
C. For example—the Bible talks about the Works of the Law. In his letter to the Romans, Paul makes it clear that no one can be saved by keeping the works of Moses’ law. In Romans 3:28 Paul argued that “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”. The term “law” in this passage is broader than the Mosaic system, though it certainly includes that law. It does not suggest that obedience to Christ may be ignored with impunity.
D. A little later in Romans 6:17 Paul affirmed that these saints in Rome had embraced freedom from the penalty of sin as a result of having been “obedient from the heart” to the “pattern of teaching” by which they were delivered.

1. As an aside; they knew what they were doing, and did it of their own free will i.e., “from the heart”. Their choice was a response to a “pattern of teaching”, their baptism was instructed baptism. A person was not baptized on a moment of emotion. They were instructed. They had to know what they were doing; they were shown what Christ offered and required. Then, and only then, would they be informed so could they make the decision.
2. Following the works of the Mosaic Law could not save because it required perfect compliance. Paul explains this well in his letter to the Galatians starting in Galatians 3:10 and following.

E. If we look at Hebrews 10:4 it tells us that the commands of Moses had only the blood of animals, which could not atone for sin in the absolute sense. The primary focus of the Hebrew system was to direct attention to the coming Messiah. In Galatians 3:24-25 – we read; “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” [NKJ]
F. The law was never designed to provide the ultimate phase of God’s plan of salvation. Because if it was and the Mosaic Law had that kind of power, Christ need never have died in the first place as the sin-offering. Paul tells us so in Galatians 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.'' [NKJ]
G. Again referring to Ephesians 2:8-9 - that, “For by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works that no man should glory”. [NKJ] The works here which Paul is talking about are those which men pile up, imagining that such will justify them, while they, with a smug self-sufficiency, ignore the sacrifice of Christ and God’s redemptive grace. I know people that say you just have to be a good person and God will take you to heaven. The “good person” they have in mind is man’s idea of “good”. I would suggest, you can not be “good” as God intends it unless you obey the gospel.

VI. The Red Cross is famous for its benevolent efforts, but there is no justification to be found there, because its “works” are mere human benevolent efforts, wholly separated from the mission of the Son of God. Anyone who boasts, “I am a good person; I do not need Jesus Christ,” is guilty of the same mistake.

A. Then the Bible talks about the works of obedience. There are works mentioned in the Bible that are designated as “works of God.” By this expression it is not implied that these are works which God himself performs. Rather, they are works ordained of God, to be obeyed by men, that are indispensable to salvation.
B. Look at John 6:28 where the disciples asked the Lord, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus responded in John 6:29 - "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'' Notice that this “work of God” required a human response. They were to respond by believing.
C. We also need to keep in mind that “repentance” is a component in God’s scheme of redemption. We saw that in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19. Yet, repentance is classified as a “work.” There is no question about it; certain kinds of works are a part of the salvation process.
D. The reason we spent a bit of time on this was simply to explain that we need to be careful when we say that were saved by grace. Because works are also a part of God’s plan for our salvation. Are we saved by grace? Yes we are. Are we saved by works? Yes we are, but we need to be clear when we say that, lest those that hear us start looking for that “broken seal animal cracker”.

VII. Paul and Barnabas have some question from the saints in Antioch and these other circumcised believers in Jerusalem which need to be answered. Look at the next verses in Acts 15:6-12 - “ So the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.'' Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. " [NKJ]

A. First of all note the words “to consider this matter”, this is different from “to decide”. Luke tells us that the questions which needed to be answered were placed before the apostles and elders and it seems as though quite a discussion followed, which in itself is an important point. Luke says “after much discussion” Peter addressed them. A discussion involves more than one person and the reason I believe this is important is because you need to use multiple resources to get your answers.

1. Let me expand on that lest I be misunderstood. In other words when someone asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer, ask as many people as you can for an answer but... start and end with the Bible. When I have questions I will go to my resources for answers. If I don’t find the answer within the text, I look at literature and the web but I don’t just stop there. I ask Christians who are very mature in their Biblical knowledge and get answers from them. When I finally exhaust all my resources, I look at these answers and weigh up which ones make sense and, this is the important point, are in harmony with the rest of the Bible.
2. Folks, please don’t just settle for an answer from one person, look at your resources and ask as many knowledgeable people as you can. That’s what these people did before Peter addressed them.

B. Peter's actions were not always commendable, as when he dissembled in Antioch for example, but it is clear that he knew the truth. He insisted that God intended for the Gentiles to receive salvation through Jesus and such was the rule of authority for the church. He reminded them that God had sent him to the house of Cornelius to preach the gospel and they were accepted on the basis of the same obedient faith demonstrated by the Jews on Pentecost.
C. He asked, “why should the gentiles be burdened with a law which neither the Jews, nor their fathers, had been able to keep”? In fact, Peter said placing such a requirement on the Gentiles would test God.
D. Instead of meriting salvation through perfect law keeping, all would be saved by the grace of God. Here we see the “gospel of grace” silences the “grace plus” viewpoint.
E. Acts 15:13 - “The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.” Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas' gave their dramatic report of the miracles God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

CONCLUSION:
The sectarian idea that this was a General Council of the Church, convened to settle true Christian doctrine, misses the point altogether. The council was in error, not the apostle Paul. Although the brethren appointed Paul to go up to Jerusalem, it was God who sent him there (Galatians 2:2), not to permit the council to pass on Paul's preaching, but in order to correct the shameful failure of the apostles and elders in that city to admit the Gentiles, without any restrictions, into the Christian fellowship. In Galatians, Paul flatly affirmed that:

“But from those who seemed to be something, whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
Note what Paul says: They ... added nothing to me; but on the contrary ... when they perceived the grace that was given unto me ... they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship (Galatians 2:6-9).

Paul had fully as much authority as anyone in the Jerusalem church; and it would have been shameful for the great apostle who for years had already been preaching God's will regarding circumcision and the Law of Moses, both of which had been nailed to the cross of Christ, to then have submitted the issue to the Jewish party in Jerusalem, even bolstered as it was by James and the apostles. No! Paul never did any such thing; but through God's revelation, he went up there to correct them and to bring conciliation, and to bring them into line with the will of God... not the other way around.

Folks, may we never boast about our good deeds. May we never put an extra burden around each others necks to try and earn our salvation. May we always tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ and the great things He is doing through us all. And may we always preach the, “Jesus plus nothing”, plan of salvation.

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In this plan we learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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Reference Sermon: by Mike Glover

It Makes No Difference To God

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

James 2:1-13

I love that story about a man who fell into a pit and could not get out. A few minutes later a subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you, down there." And then an objective person came along and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there." A little later a Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into a pit." And then a mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit. Still a little later a self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit!" And then a charismatic said, "Just confess that you're not in a pit." He was followed by an optimist who said, "Things could be worse." And then finally a pessimist came along and said, "Things will get worse."

You see friends, the world holds different views about people in different situations and while the world looks at people and considers what do to next. We need to be like Jesus who came along and saw that man in the pit and took him by the hand and lifted him out. Because, Jesus doesn’t care who you are or what your situation is, His hand is always outstretched to help you.

Now we know that during Biblical times there were many social barriers, people were either rich or poor, slaves or free, Jew or Gentile, Greek or Barbarian. But part of the good news of the gospel was that because Jesus... social barriers lost much of their strength. Paul says in Galatians 3:28 “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”

He also says in Colossians 3:11“As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all.” But if your living in a society which is so used to social barriers it can take some time for those barriers to come down.
It was going to take time for this truth to sink into the hearts of those who were Christians. Even the apostle Peter, as great a servant of Christ that he was took time to understand this truth. That’s why according to the Book of Acts God had to tell Peter through a vision and a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit that God doesn’t prefer one race of people to another. Acts 10:34-35 “ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Now you may be wondering what has this got to do with today’s lesson? Well in James 2:1-13 James is going to deal with the problem of partiality. Because not only was it a problem which was going on in the Lord’s church in James’ day but it’s still a problem today within the Lord’s church. Now we know from other scriptures that Jewish Christians often showed partiality in regards to the Gentiles.

But here in James the problem was showing partiality between the rich and poor. James 2:1-4 “My friends, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance. Suppose a rich man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes comes to your meeting, and a poor man in ragged clothes also comes. If you show more respect to the well-dressed man and say to him, "Have this best seat here," but say to the poor man, "Stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my feet," then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives”.

The definition of prejudging is to form a judgment on (an issue or person) prematurely and without having adequate information.   "it is wrong to prejudge an issue on the basis of speculation"

And please don’t think that we cannot be guilty of this today. It still happens; I’ve seen it happen where some people treat rich people different from the poor.
I know people who will happily invite their rich friends back for dinner but totally ignore their poor friends. And if there has ever been a long lasting problem in this world, it’s the problem of racism. Christians should not be in the practice of showing favour according to race.

Our goal as Christians is to imitate Jesus, to be like Him in all ways. Luke 6:40 “No pupils are greater than their teacher; but all pupils, when they have completed their training, will be like their teacher”. In other words all of our actions whether they are done physically or verbally should be a reflection of what Jesus teaches.

I’ve said this many times now, people in the street don’t read the Bible, they read our lives and our lives may be the only way they can get to know Jesus. And what I’m saying is that if we show partiality as Christians, then we leave the impression that Jesus Himself is partial. In other words, if you’re prejudiced, then people will think that Jesus is prejudiced. If you’re biased with people then people will think that Jesus is biased with people. If you are a racist, then you’re telling the world that Jesus is a racist. Do you see what James is saying? He’s saying that if we are not careful ...the glory of the Lord can be spoiled by our partiality.

In other words we become judges with evil thoughts. James 2:4 “Then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives.” God has always hated unjust judges, hasn’t He? Jesus Himself warned us about the dangers of judging in Matthew 7:1“Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you.”

Now remember Jesus didn’t say, never judge but what He did say is that we need to judge right. John 7:24 “Stop judging by external standards, and judge by true standards." James’ point is this, if we judge against the poor due to our prejudice against them, we will find ourselves actually fighting against God! The Psalmist reminds us of that fact in Psalm 109:31
“Because he defends the poor and saves them from those who condemn them to death.” But not only do we find ourselves fighting against God, we actually end up despising the very people whom God chose to honor.

James 2:5 “Listen, my dear friends! God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.”
according to 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, the vast majority of those who responded to the gospel message were from among the poor. God chose to honor all people back then and He still chooses to honor all people today.

There's a wonderful story about a church that once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young graduate who was being considered for employment as a preacher. The congregation he was a part of could not say enough about the young man. They wrote, ‘his father was an Elder for many years; his mother was a missionary, his great grandfather was a great preacher and his two brothers serve as deacons in another congregation.’ His recommendation was given without hesitation. Several days later, the church sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read: "We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just to preach."

You see, it makes no difference to God, He is not a respecter of persons but He accepts those from every family, nation, and race who fear Him and work for His kingdom. That was the whole point of Peter’s vision.

Acts 10:34-35 “Peter began to speak: "I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Those who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to.” In other words when we show partiality because of a person's race or because they are a stranger that we do not know.

It’s then that we despise those whom God has honored by His offering to them salvation through the gospel. And let me tell you friends this is one crime we don’t want to be guilty of when we face God on Judgment Day. You see as Christians we sometimes still think like the world thinks.

James tells us next in James 2:6-7 “But you dishonour the poor! Who are the ones who oppress you and drag you before the judges? The rich! They are the ones who speak evil of that good name which has been given to you.” It was the rich who were doing this to the Christians in James' day. And, Just like we find in James’ day there are people today who try to win the majority over to their way of thinking. And sadly what we often find it is usually the "well-off."

And, if we allow them to oppress us or influence us towards others, we all end up breaking what James calls "the royal law or the law of the Kingdom." James 2:8-11 “You will be doing the right thing if you obey the law of the Kingdom, which is found in the scripture, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." But if you treat people according to their outward appearance, you are guilty of sin, and the Law condemns you as a lawbreaker. Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all. For the same one who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Even if you do not commit adultery, you have become a lawbreaker if you commit murder”.

In other words we break the law which says, "You shall love your neighbor as your self." And make no mistake about it, this is one of the most fundamental laws that God has ever given.
A man came up to Jesus one time and asked Him in Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher," he asked, "which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and the most important commandment.
The second most important commandment is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

We need to remember that we are sinners ... Romans 3:22-23 "22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"

So, what James is telling us today is that if we show partiality to some people then that makes us as guilty as an adulterer
or a murderer. And I don’t know about you but this illustrates quite powerfully to me just how terrible any sin is. Those in the world who aren’t yet Christians still have a sin problem to deal with. And it’s a problem they can’t deal with themselves; sin is a problem which only God can solve.

And He paid the price for our sins by sending His son to shed His blood and die on the cross. An old time minister understood this point of Jesus dying for our sins. And, one night while the minister was returning home from an evening service he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature.

As the bandit was leaving, The Minister called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused.
"My friend," said The Minister, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember:
'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'"

The thief hurried away, and The Minister prayed that his words might bear fruit. Years later, The Minister was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before!

"I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," The Minister exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!"

Ephesians 1:6-7   "6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"

You see friends, when we are baptized into Christ, we come into contact with the blood of Christ which sets us free from our sin. And it’s then we are right with God and because we’re right with God we don’t need to fear Judgement Day. But Judgment Day is waiting for us all, and if we’re going to be judged we all need to know and understand the standard by which were going to be judged.

4 And that standard is found in James next words. James 2:12-13 “12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.  13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

The law that sets us free refers to the law of Christ, or the gospel. That law which according to John 8:31-38 has set us free from the bondage of sin through the mercy shown in Christ. That law according to Colossians 2:20-22 which has set us free from man-made restrictions. And so what James is saying to us this morning is that if we apply man-made restrictions upon others like showing partiality. We’re actually not showing mercy toward others. And we all know what happens if we don’t show mercy; no mercy will be shown toward us.

Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.”

Why wouldn’t we want certain people to receive mercy when we need it so much ourselves? Why wouldn’t we want the sex offender or the wife beater to come into contact with the blood of Christ when we need it so much ourselves? Why wouldn’t we want to help the rich or poor person to get to heaven when we know full well we can’t make it without help on our own?

That’s why “My friends, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance”.
James 2:1. That’s why we should “Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law that sets us free.”

A girl recalls a moment in her life that she will always remember...
One evening my mother made dinner after a hard day's work. She put a plate of eggs and burnt toast in front of my father ...
I immediately noticed, the burnt toast ....
And, I was waiting to see if he was going to complain about it, but my father started to eat them, smiling and asked me how I spent my day at school ...
My mom apologized to my dad for the burnt toast.
I will never forget his response to her:
“Honey, I love burnt toast!"
Later when I went to bed and my dad came over to kiss me goodnight, I asked him if he really liked the burnt toast?
He hugged me and said, "Your mother has had a difficult day and she is really tired.
She went out of her way to prepare this meal for us, why blame her and hurt her.
Burnt toast never hurt anyone; but words can be very painful! "
We have to know how to appreciate what others do for us, even if it's not perfect, because it's the intention to do well that counts, and no one is perfect ...

Sermon Contributor : Michael Glover

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