Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

Miracles For Moses

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Exodus 4: 1 – 9

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls,
a flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,
a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
someone will come to show the way.
I believe, I believe.
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer
will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
hears every word.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
or touch a leaf
or see the sky,
then I know why I believe!”

I like that song. I always have. It’s been sung by Frankie Vale, Frank Sinatra, The Lettermen, and many others. And what appeals to me (and the millions that have loved it like I have) is that it declares that there is hope in this world. And the reason there’s hope is because we believe in a God ... who does mighty things. In fact, as Christians, that’s the power of what we believe: we believe in a God who does stuff. A God who does mighty stuff.
And, that brings me to our story this morning. Moses has been commissioned by God who tells him Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

The problem is, Moses doesn’t want to go, and he’s been trying one excuse after another to get out of it. But this morning’s scripture I believe gets to the heart of why Moses doesn’t really want to go.
I don’t think Moses believes... anymore. He might have believed once. He might have felt he was ordained by God to save the people of Israel. I mean, that’s probably why he struck and killed the Egyptian who’d been beating an Israelite. But God hadn’t rewarded him for stepping up and defending His people. And so Moses had become a fugitive from justice and an exile for the last 40 years.
Now God has come to Moses and asks Moses to believe in Him. And Moses is saying “Thanks... but no thanks.”
Our text for today is found in Exodus 4: 1 – 9
Moses says in verse 1 But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”
They WILL NOT BELIEVE! And under his breath I can sense Moses saying: “I don’t either. I don’t believe... either.”
Moses is struggling with unbelief, and so I think these 3 miracles are as much for Moses’ benefit as they would have been for the Israelites he was being sent to. The miracles are there to give Moses confidence. It’s something he desperately needs.

Now, before we get to these 3 miracles, we need to understand the nature of miracles.
1st - when God does something miraculous ... He always has a reason. In the Bible (for example) there were 5 seasons of miracles where God used numerous miracles to establish something He wanted done. At the CREATION He did miracle after miracle. He spoke and the Sun appeared. He spoke and the dry ground appeared. He spoke and there were Fish and Birds and numerous Animals. Then, when God FLOODED THE EARTH there was miracle upon miracle - God brought the animals to Noah and He flooded the earth. When MOSES LED ISRAEL out of slavery until they settled. There were the 10 plagues God brought upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, the miraculous giving of water and Manna in the wilderness. When God used PROPHETS LIKE ELIJAH AND ELISHA He again used numerous miracles to try to draw His people back from paganism. And, of course, during Jesus’ ministry up thru the establishment of the church there were numerous healings, raising people from the dead and casting out of demons.
One person noted that “If these miracles were happening every day, they wouldn't be called miracles, they'd be called regulars.”

But when God did miraculous things... there was always a reason.
A 2nd thing to remember about miracles is that God does them when He’s ready. If God does something spectacular in your life
it will be on HIS timetable... not yours. And that can be frustrating.

ILLUS: There was once a famous preacher who was known for his great faith. But one day a friend of his saw him pacing the floor obviously agitated. His friend asked him “What’s the problem?” The Preacher replied “The problem is – I’m in a hurry... but God isn’t.”
God’s not always in a hurry to do things on our time-table. That’s why the Bible repeatedly tells us – WAIT!
Psalms 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...!”
Psalms 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage...!”
And Isaiah 40:31 “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
The key thing for us to remember us that God commands us to WAIT! God will do mighty thing when He sees the need and when He’s ready to do them, but not until then.
Now, I believe in a mighty God who does mighty things.
Don’t you? Great. You wouldn’t want me up in this pulpit if I didn’t believe that.
In Matthew 13:58 we’re told “(Jesus) did NOT do many mighty works (in His hometown), because of their unbelief.” Their lack of faith robbed them of God’s power in their lives.

HOWEVER, there was one instance in Jesus’ ministry where that wasn’t completely true. In Mark 9:22-24 we’re told about a man who came to Jesus to have him heal his child. It was a desperate situation and the father pleaded with Jesus: “IF you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And Jesus healed the boy!!!
For me, that’s one of the most comforting verses in scripture. The very idea that I could say to God “Help my unbelief!!!” and He’d have mercy on me (as He did for that father) is mindboggling.
And I think that’s kinda where Moses is at right now. I think Moses WANTS to believe, but it’s been a long time since he thought God even cared about him or even gave him a 2nd thought. And so (in his unbelief) God has mercy on him, and shows Moses his power! God does the Miraculous in Moses’ life because that’s what Moses needed at that time.
Now, what I find interesting about these 3 miracles God allows Moses to do is that they’re all kind of... parlor tricks. You know what a parlor trick is, don’t you? It’s a minor magic trick that it’s simply meant to entertain you, but isn’t all that impressive.
But this is Moses! This is the man that God used to bring the plagues down upon Egypt; to part the Red Sea; to bring water rock when the Israelites were wandering/wilderness;
and to feed those same Israelites with Manna every day. By comparison, these 3 miracles aren’t really... all that impressive.
So, I got to thinking that maybe there might be more to these 3 miracles than first meets the eye. I believe there’s something about these miracles that teach us something special about our God.
Let’s take them one at a time.

What is the first miracle Moses is told to do? (His staff turned into a snake) “The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ And God said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.
But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Put out your hand and catch it by the tail’ — so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand. (Exodus 4:2-4)

ILLUS: A preacher once noted: Why would God turn that rod into a snake in the 1st place? Couldn’t He have made it a mouse, or a dog or cat, or some less frightening animal? I think God turned that rod into a snake because the serpent was the symbol of power that was worn on the crown of Pharaoh. It was as if God was saying to Moses, “I created the power and glory that Pharaoh claims as his own... and I can... take that power from him at will”
So this preacher felt the serpent represented Pharaoh, and God turning Moses’ staff into a snake – was God’s way of declaring that He had power over Pharaoh. And that got me to thinking... who else is symbolized by a serpent? MIGHT BE SATAN!
That’s what Revelation 12:9 says “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient SERPENT, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
In Scripture we’re told God has power over Satan. You don’t have to be afraid of him because when God takes hold of your life Satan can’t harm you. In 1 John 5:18 we read “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”
Now, there is a caveat there. If you continue to sin, if you allow bitterness or lust or greed (or some other sin) to rule your life, you might be giving Satan an opening. You’ll be giving him an opportunity to harm you and set up camp in your life. You don’t want that.
But if you give that sin to God (like Moses gave his staff to God) God can use your repentance as a way to destroy Satan’s power. And that was the first miracle – God showing His power over Satan.

Now, what was the 2nd miracle Moses was asked to do? (Put his hand in his cloak/leprous) “Again, the LORD said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, ‘Put your hand back inside your cloak.’ So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.” (Exodus 4:7-8)

ILLUS: One scholar noted that leprosy was the scourge of the ancient world. Nothing evoked more fear, dread, and revulsion than the sight of the walking dead. The smell of decaying flesh would announce their coming long before you could hear their rasping cry of "Unclean! Unclean!" The disease slowly destroyed their bodies, and made them untouchable to society. Most scholars explain that leprosy was a vivid and graphic picture of the spiritual defilement of sin. Like leprosy sin is an ugly, loathsome, incurable and contaminating disease and it separates us from God and makes us outcasts.
Leprosy was a horrible picture of what sin does to us.
And so, as the serpent represented God’s power over Satan, the miracle of the leprous hand represented God’s power over sin. Moses was being sent into Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. And in the same way Jesus was sent to free us from the leprous slavery of sin.
In Romans 7, Paul goes to great lengths to describe the power that sin can have over us and then he says “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this BODY OF DEATH? (Just as leprosy made its victims be the walking dead, so also sin made us the walking dead). Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!... There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:24 - 8:2
We are freed from the power of sin by the blood of Jesus. We’re no longer the walking dead. The leprosy-like destructiveness of sin has been washed away. Now there is no more shame and no more guilt. We are free because of God’s power over sin. That was the 2nd miracle.

Now, what was the last miracle that Moses was to perform?
“God said ‘You shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’” Exodus 4:9
The Nile brought LIFE to Egypt. It was literally - the lifeblood of Egypt because without the Nile, Egypt would die. Thus as the serpent represented God’s power over Satan, and leprosy represented God’s power over Sin, so also the water of the Nile represented God’s power over life and death.

ILLUS: In our Sunday evening Bible Study on ZOOM we talked about a man named Jairus – the leader of the synagogue where Jesus was at. Jairus came to Jesus because his 12 year daughterl was terribly sick and he wanted Jesus to come to his home and heal her. But as Jesus and the father were walking to their home, they’re about ½ way there when a servant comes and tells Jairus “Don’t bother the teacher anymore... your little girl is dead.”
The first time I ever heard this biblical account in the life of Jesus I was in shock! We had to feel that this isn’t the way the story is supposed to turn out. If Jesus had been there in time... that little girl wouldn’t have died! And death seemed so final! This part of the story disturbed me.
I paused for a moment before I read the rest of the story. Jesus told Jairus it would be alright, and then went on to the home. When he entered the room where the child lay dead, Jesus took her hand in his and say “Child arise!” And the girl came back to life.
Many are asked if they feared death... and most . That’s not surprising - the Bible tells us everybody fears death, but that’s why Jesus came.
Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through FEAR OF DEATH were subject to lifelong slavery.”
You see, when we belong to Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of death. Jesus conquered death in order to give us life and the promise of eternal life.

ILLUS: One day in a Sunday school call a 10 year old girl asked the minister if death would be a time of eternal blackness. She was serious, and it deeply bothered her. The minister smiled and said “Oh no. When we become Christians, death has no power over us. That’s the imagery God uses in baptism.
When Jesus died for us He was buried in a tomb... but He didn’t stay there. He ROSE from the dead!
In baptism, the Bible says WE “DIE” to our sins. And what do you do with dead people? You BURY them. That’s why baptism is a burial in water... you’re being buried with Christ. But you don’t stay buried. Just as Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb... you don’t stay in the water. You literally rise from the dead to walk in newness of life
That’s why Romans 6:2-4 tells us: “How can we WHO DIED to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.”
INVITATION

Sermon Contributor: Jeff Strite

Keep Your Focus

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Proverbs 4, Matthew 14

Good morning. It’s good to see everyone out this morning. We didn't plan this, but that particular song goes very well with what we're going to talk about this morning. We just sang about how “evil allurements” cannot prevail.

There are a lot of evil allurements around us, and we do well to keep our focus on Christ, upon God, upon their promise of a glory land that we will go to if we are obedient to God's Holy Word. There are a lot of allurements in this world. We're going to talk a little bit about that. One of those is being “smart”. Researchers tell us people want to be smart. We don't know exactly why, but probably it was one of the reasons why Eve committed that first sin. Why she ate the forbidden fruit. Satan told her what it “will make you wise”. Of course he lied. It brought her grief. There is no smart food.

If you're like me, you get these ads on your phone that say; eat this to increase you're IQ. This food improves your brain function. Of course, they wouldn't advertise this sort of thing if some people at least, didn't pay attention to it. There is no smart food to make you smart.

There's no brain game to make you wise. I get games on my cell phone that say playing this game for ten minutes a day makes you smarter, raises your IQ. If it was that simple then educators such as myself and others in this room, would have jobs that would be very different. True wisdom, of course, comes from God. Let's turn over to, of course, the book of wisdom—Proverbs.

Proverbs chapter four, wisdom is what this book contains, and, of course, it's what the entire Bible contains. Solomon is the wisest man who ever lived who was only a man. Christ was fully man and fully God. He received his wisdom from God.

Returning to Proverbs 4, I will begin with verse 25. It says, Let your eyes look straight ahead (or directly forward in the English standard version), and your eye lids look right before you ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil, (or the ESV puts it do not swerve to the right or left). Simply put, stay focused. Do not be distracted. Stay focused on doing what is right. We're all aware of the dangers of being distracted at the wrong time when we're using machinery.

We've all been there. You see them on the highway. What do we see? These people who are not driving the right way, and you manage to get alongside them or pass them. What are they doing? They're on their phones.

They're on their cell phones. Distracted driving is a very real problem. Studies have shown that being on that phone is just about as bad as being drunk on the interstate. The news reported that a man had a car accident because he was driving with his window down and a cicada flew in and landed on him. He was greatly distracted and wrecked. No one was injured fortunately.
Think of all the things that happen in this world because of distractions. Food is ruined. I'm an incompetent cook. I can ruin microwave macaroni and cheese. Things are spilled. Money gets sucked up in a sweeper. You all know what I'm talking about here? Solomon here warns us not to be distracted by evil. Satan uses distractions because they work so well.

We're entering into what we call the holiday season. What are they? Almost nothing but distractions. I ask you, what's the day we've designated as Thanksgiving for? Most Americans now seem to believe that Thanksgiving is for stuffing your face with Turkey and then passing out on the couch watching football. How much thanks is there anymore in a Thanksgiving?

I can't really drive home until Wednesday. I’m just waiting for the joys of that commute on the road as people act like they're so full of thanks and goodwill. Then after that, what are the other holidays about? Getting together with family and friends. Are they, as Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts always used to say, the gift getting season?

We get distracted by things, and of course, distractions work. That's why Satan uses them. Some are mentioned in this book. Of course, we don't have the time to go through the entire book of Proverbs, but the idea of, easy money, is directly addressed almost immediately in the book of Proverbs, easy money through robbery or through, as we talked about when I was with you a few weeks ago, the things that we would not say, I haven't held a bank or anything, but maybe I pocketed that piece of candy and nobody knew about it. So you might save $0.50 in this dishonest way or you say, okay, well, I commit crime, but don’t I really have time to study the Bible? There's work or there's play, or there's a ball game or there are hobbies or there is I'm just so tired or there's a temptation.

These are the evil allurements that we just sang about. Turn over to Matthew chapter 14 we get an example here of distraction that we're all familiar with, I'm sure, but it's good to remind us ourselves of these things. Matthew chapter 14 and we see how we get distracted by all the things around us. And when do we get distracted? We get distracted when we take our eyes off of Christ.

Matthew, chapter 14, beginning with verse 22, says immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Now evening came. He was alone there. But the boat was down the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves. The wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were trouble saying, It is a ghost, and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is, I do not be afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.

So he said, Come. When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But of course, what do you do? He did not do as Solomon had said, do not turn to the right or left ponder of the path of your feet. As we read in Proverbs 4, what did he start to do? He started to look around. At the very least he started to notice other things other than Jesus. He saw, in verse 30, that the wind was boisterous. He was afraid and beginning to sink. That's when of course he started to sink. He cried out, saying, Lord, save me.

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, oh, you little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those who were in the boat came and worshipped him, saying, truly, you are the Son of God.

Peter was distracted. He took his eyes off Jesus, and then he let his fear distract him.
We're distracted by things that allure us. We're also sometimes distracted by fear. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that we have. We talk about this when I teach politics, we talk about the media.

And how does the media, I don't care if it's the Internet or the newspapers or television stations. How does the media get and keep our attention by scaring you? I’ve got a political cartoon that I put up on my PowerPoint that has a couple of newscasters. It says; we'll be back and after the commercial break with ten more reasons why it's not safe to leave your house. The point being, fear grabs people's attention.

Yes, we need to be cautious, and we need to avoid putting ourselves in risky situations. As both Testament say, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. However, sometimes we let fear keep us from doing what we need to do. We let fear keep us from living our lives for Christ.

To give you an example; sometimes we just don't talk to someone about Jesus because we're scared, because we're afraid. Sometimes we go along with what someone is doing, even though we know it's wrong. Proverbs talks about that. Romans talks about that because we're afraid of losing a friend. We don't want to be unpopular.

Teenagers get a lot of criticism for this, but you can be 18 years old or you can be 108 years old and be subject to peer pressure and be afraid that well. Somebody isn't going to like me anymore if I say anything or if I won't go along with whatever it is they're doing that's not right. Peer pressure can work on us regardless of age. This, of course, can be a serious life changing mistake.

Turn over to the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews chapter twelve and we'll see a simple but yet, of course, very often neglected yet simple to say, but not so simple to do solution to these problems.

I'll read this one from the English Standard, as it's a bit more directly clear. Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews Chapter twelve, verses one and two, it says. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, the witnesses being the most faithful listed in Hebrews eleven, so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely.

The New King James says it easily besets us, but it clings so closely trying to get rid of it, and let us run with endurance or patience, the race that is set before us looking to whom? Verse two, looking to Jesus, who the ESV says is the founder and protector or, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Keep your focus upon Jesus. It's very simple to say, but we don't do it. People, of course, in the coming months are very concerned. We're taking Christ out of Christmas. Well, we should be most concerned about, I suppose, is taking Christ out of our lives.

We shouldn't worry about that in December only. We should worry about taking Christ out of January, February, March and April all the way through December. We need to be looking to Jesus. Too much of the world, of course as we're all familiar with, looks to Jesus maybe twice a year on the holidays we've designated at Easter and Christmas. We need to be looking to Jesus 365 or 366 days out of the year. Looking to Jesus, keeping our focus on Jesus, because there are evil, alarmists and distractions all around us.

Let's look at actually a physical example all the way back to Genesis.

Genesis chapter 39 gives us an actual biblical, physical example of someone who faced evil alarms and certainly physical allurements. They faced trials and temptations and problems and see how he dealt with it. I'm talking about Joseph, Genesis chapter 39.

I'll read this in the English Standard. I'll begin with verse one. This, of course, is after Joseph has just been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt.

It says here in verse one. Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

Let’s stop there for just a moment.

Joseph is separated, of course, from his home, from his relatives. They all just sold him into slavery in the first place. Too often people act like different people. There are a lot of concerns, of course. I know that at least one person here is going to go off to College soon. I hear that, of course, as I teach in College and have been in College, there are a lot of concerns that, well, what happens when the kids leave? When the kids leave home, they'll turn away from God. Well, hopefully, of course, that won't be the case. Hopefully, we and the kids, regardless of whether again, we're 18 or 108, will not turn away from God.

What's the way that we don't turn away from God? We have a good foundation in God's word, and we're dedicated. We dedicated ourselves to fall in Christ. We keep our focus on Christ. We keep our focus on God and what God wants.

Let's see what Joseph does here in verse seven. After a time, it says, his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, Lie with me. But he refused and said to his master's wife, We'll get caught. I'll get in trouble. That breaks Egyptian law. Can't do that.

No, of course, that's not what he said. He said, Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife.

Where was Joseph's focus? How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

We've been through a lot, haven't we? In the last almost two years, I hope and trust, none of us has ever been sold into slavery, been rejected by our own brothers. None of us has ever gone through what Joseph had gone through to this point. Of course, if you're familiar with the story, you know what happens to him later.

You see, throughout Joseph's life, he never did what? he never lost his devotion, his dedication to God. His focus was on; not I'll get in trouble, I'll get caught, I'll go to prison, I'll get my head chopped off. It was always—how could I sit against God? He never forgot that. Who is he ultimately accountable to? He's accountable to God, and so are we all. Joseph made God central to his life. He did not act like many people do. Many people, of course, excuse their evil behavior, their wallow in self pity. He didn't say God has abandoned me. He let me be sold by my own brothers to foreigners, who can blame me if I copy their ways? After all, I'm in Egypt. We often hear when in Rome do as the Romans do. Well, there wasn't Rome yet, per se, but I'm surrounded by pagan Egyptians. Why not just act like (I almost said walk like an Egyptian) act like an Egyptian. My father, Jacob will never know what I'm doing down here anyway. He saw His heavenly Father, trusting God that God would preserve him, preserve his soul, would bring a blessing at this difficult time.

Many children behave for their physical fathers. It's less common than it used to be, but you might have heard “you have disgraced the family name”. At least some of us have heard that. Apparently, maybe we're told that you have disgraced the family name. By the way, my father has the same name as me, and my grandfather had the same name as me. We all had different middle names. So the name of Robert Sidwell is a long one in the family. We behave for our father's sake, our physical father's sake, or, of course, to avoid a whipping.

Older people sometimes try to keep the family name and some of younger people, too. Shouldn't we even more want to keep God's name than others? To behave like we are children of God, to bring glory to his name by a manner of living. The Scriptures tell us to do this over and over again.

That was Israel's Job. Ancient Israel's job was to represent God's people to the world. And if you read the Old Testament, you see that they completely and utterly failed at that. And the question, of course is, do we? We know that Joseph eventually, if you know the story, went to prison because, of course, Potiphar’s wife accused him of, well doing what she wanted him to do anyway. But we know that God did not desert Joseph in the tough times.

We see later, when Joseph testifies as well as prophesy in front of Pharaoh, he confesses that it was God. God does not change. There are a lot of evil allurements and distractions out there.

Turn to First Corinthians chapter Ten and it seems like we get overwhelmed. It seems like we get positively overwhelmed. I am not a computer person. I teach history and politics. I teach political science, not computer science. I know that I've seen some of these videos about the worst computer malware on the Internet. Much of what it does is it actually floods your computer with ads. It absolutely bombards you with ads so it is hard to do anything else because it's so busy. There are just these ads popping up all over the place and you can't stop it. It seems like that's what our physical lives are like. There are just so many distractions, both good and bad.

Family can be a great thing, but when family is distracting you from reading God's Word, from attending services, from serving God as you should, and then it can be a bad thing. There are good and bad things in this world, but none of them, of course, can compare with Christ. It seems like we just can't resist.

That's what you often hear in the attempted defense and sometimes the successful defense of criminals. “Well, he just couldn't help himself, your Honor, he just didn't have a choice. Overwhelming urge came over him. Just couldn't resist.” Well, if you ever said that as kids or adults and thought, quote, the devil made me do it, really? Can the devil make you do anything?

I Corinthians 10:13 says; “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;” In other words, no temptation ever takes you that is not common to man. It's not just you. Different things tempt different people. Some people are more attempted by fleshly things. Some people are more attempted by money. Some people are more attempted by power. Some people are more tempted by their reputation, some people more attempted by sports. It goes on, and you can list all sorts of things that tempt different people. There are all sorts of temptations out there and whatever you're attempted most by, you're not alone. No temptation is overtaking you except that is common to man.

Continuing, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” or “beyond your ability” from ESV, beyond your ability. So we are assured right here that you will not be overwhelmed if you do what? Keep your focus. Keep your eyes upon God upon God's word upon Christ and continues to finish the verse says; “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Let's not be distracted by trials and temptations to leave the path of righteousness. Some of us are from rural areas, originally from Tennessee and such, of course, Geauga County counts as rural, but not compared to where I'm from. It's not. The path of righteousness is a whole lot more. It’s like, probably most of you know this road. I used to take it from Kent to get here and it was fun—Diagonal Road and that nice little road through that swamp in Northern Portage County, where there's a huge drop off on both sides, which is probably the most terrifying road that I've ever been on. Anyway. That's more like the path of righteousness, actually, it's really straight and it's really, really narrow and getting off of it is dangerous. It's not like I-271, where there are three express lanes and three local lanes.

That's not the way that life works. That's not the way righteousness is. It's hard to find, but it's easy to wander off. We've all heard this. Matthew seven, and of course we should.

Matthew 7:13-14 need to be reminded of these things because of just how easy it is to leave the road. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,” ESV here says the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. “And those who and there are many who go in by it because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life. And there are a few who find it.”

To begin to wrap our thoughts up here, Jesus, what's He doing now? Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. Stephen saw him and there are other references to this. After He did what he did, He finished, as He said on the cross, He finished what He came here to do. He is interceding for His children with God.

He is helping them. He's helping us as we are His children, from our high and He is waiting that day, which of course, God alone knows when He will come back. When He comes again. As we sang - to judge the Earth in final victory, He will reward the faithful. But there are a lot of people, of course, who, as another song we just sang, for that will be a sad day.

Another old song found in this book sings truthfully, and I quote everybody’s talking about heaven that ain't going there. God is indeed merciful to those who are obedient. If you turn to Revelation 21, we'll see that the list of those for whom that will be a sad, sad, sad day is a long one. Those who will hear their doom as we sang.

Rev. chapter 21. It's human nature for us to start doing a checklist of this. Revelation chapter 21 verse eight, people say, Well, let's see. I haven't done this or this or this and they go through the whole list. It says that the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars.

You ever lied in your life? Have you ever sinned in your life?

They shall have their part in the lake which burns the fire brimstone, which is the second death. The next chapter, if you turn to Revelation 22, verse 15 says, ESV here, outside of the gates, outside of heaven, in other words, are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters. (I'm not any of those. Look at the last phrase.) Everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

New King James—practices a lie. There are so many people who think that they're living right and they're not. They live in practice a lie. They live and practice a falsehood.

A couple more references here and we'll wrap our thoughts up. Roman chapter two. Here we see that not only is this list a long one of things that can keep us from heaven, but it applies to everybody. It applies to all human beings.

Romans 2:6 again, for clarity sake I'll do this from English standard. It says He, God or Christ, will render to each one according to his works, to those who, by patience and well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and Fury. There will be tribulation and distress or tribulation and anguish (New King James) for every human being who does evil, every human being, the Jew first and also the Greek, the glory and honor, peace for everyone who does good for the Jew first and also the Greek for God shows no partiality or is no respecter of persons.

The whole nation was consumed this week with the trial that went on across the country of the person who's accused of shooting people, if you will wrongfully if you are legally not in defense or whatever. Of course it's not and wouldn't be my place to pass judgment on him. It is ultimately, God’s. Is what he did justified or perhaps not. God assuredly knows.

You think of anybody else, any sort of level of physical trial, not just those are put on trial in our criminal court system. Take each of us. What have we done? How are we living? God knows. Criminals of all sorts, and I'm not singling him out, criminals or accused criminals of all sorts can get away with a lot. Look through history, they've gotten away with a lot, but we will not escape God's wrath.

One more reference here. Turn to Second Peter, chapter three for our final reference here Second Peter 3:9-, he says here by inspiration. Peter says, the Lord is not slack or slow concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is long suffering or patience toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 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 are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in Holy conduct and Godliness 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. Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new Earth and with righteousness as well. Therefore beloved looking notice, we have a lot of looking here looking forward to these things. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.

Be diligence. Put some effort into it. Continue to stay on the narrow gate and we do that, of course, by fixing our focus, fixing our lives upon Christ. I ask you, what road are you on?

Many of us will hit the road, the physical road this week, going to visit relatives. They're expecting travel to be basically at pre pandemic levels. So busy, busy road. Personally, I hope everyone stays safe in the physical sense out there.

Even more important question then are you going to be on I 271 during rush hour, is what road are you on Spiritually? Are you on the straight and narrow, literally, road? Or are you on the wide path that leads to destruction?

We turn on to the interstate physically, but how do we get on straight and narrow road? We hear the Word of God. We hear that Jesus is the Christ for the loving God. Then we believe that and are willing to confess our faith in Him before men.

Then we're willing to repent of our sins and be buried with Him in baptism. Then we continue to live lives focused and built upon Christ. Always looking to Jesus, the founder and professor, the author and the finisher of our faith. And don't get distracted, not during the holiday season and not during the non holiday season. Keep Jesus at the center of your life, whether it is as the world defines it, whether it's time to give thanks, whether it's time to think more about Jesus than people usually do.

I'm talking, of course, about the other holidays. Keep Jesus as the center of your life in October, in August and every other month of the year. So if Jesus is not the center of your life, we're inviting you to make him that. If you've never put him on a baptism, we're giving you a chance to do that. If you have put him on baptism, but you've swerved, you swerved off the straight and narrow, your in danger falling into the ditch.

Of course, you became distracted. You became distracted by what Jesus described in the parable of the soil, by the cares of the world, the thorns that can choke the seed of the Word. We are also giving you a chance to make that right by praying with you and doing what we can for you. So if you need to come to Christ to be baptized, if you need to come back, if there is anything we can do for you, come forward while we sing this song.

Keep On Singing

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Psalms 137: 1-4 & Ephesians 5: 18-19

OPENING:- I would like to start off this morning by taking us on a trip down memory lane for a minute and go back to the Disney Cartoon Movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

There is a famous song that says “Whistle While You Work” the Lyrics are -

Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won't take long when there's a song to help you set the pace And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you'll find you're dancing to the tune
When hearts are high the time will fly so whistle while you work So whistle while you work.

This song written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey is a perfect illustration of how we can emphasize the fun rather than the monotony of work.
You might be asking yourself why is he talking about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is he reliving his childhood - NO - but I want to talk on the subject “Keep On Singing.”
Music has had a profound influence on the culture of the United States and the world. People all over the world love to sing. I for one love to sing. Most people love to sing whether or not they can carry a tune. You must understand that there’s something positive... something healthy in the act of raising our voices in song.
In fact, there’s solid scientific evidence to prove that singing is, in fact, good for your body and your mind.
However, in the Bible singing isn’t just good for us it is a command to us. So Keep On Singing!
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 137:1-4 says “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land”.
James 5:13 says “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
Singing provides a direct experience and feeling of happiness. It’s a mood lifter & anti-depressant with no side effects.
Singing can be done to express any of the 12 different emotions interest, surprise, joy, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, hostility, fear, shame, shyness, and guilt. But when we find singing in the Bible it is usually pointing to times of joy and rejoicing and it is so vitally connected with our worship toward God.
I remember some advice my grandmother Fidler would say when I had to do something I really didn’t want to do – I can hear her say “Sing a song while you are doing it and before you know it you will be done”. She was often heard singing church songs while working around the house.
I didn’t understand it then ... but what she was instilling in me was wisdom because she knew that when you have a song in your heart and you sing that song... it will
change your mood,
affect your attitude,
alter your altitude
and carry you through whatever it is you are going through.

BACKGROUND:- In our text the Children of Israel had been captured and are now in captivity in a strange land in Babylon. While under the oppression of the Babylonians they thought of their homeland and longed to free.
They thought of the former glory they once had and began to mourn and cry utterly for what they had been taken away from. They took their harps and hung them on the tree by the river and refused to sing because of the oppression they were under. They lost their song.

UNDERSTAND: - Singing isn’t an option in Scripture. It’s a command: Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”.
Ephesians 5:18-19 says “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”
Paul lays out this exhortation to let God’s Word dwell in us richly, and then, he tells us how to live out that command. The first, of course, is teaching and admonishing but then he says singing! Singing is one of the two chief ways in which God’s Word dwells in us richly.
We can study the Bible to learn about God. When we sing songs based on scripture... we also learn about God... for example: we all remember the Sunday School song “Jesus Loves Me this I know for the Bible tells me so little ones to Him belong they are weak, but He is strong”. From this song we learn that Jesus both loves and cares about us AND that He is STRONG ENOUGH to overcome anything we face in our daily lives.
When we sing as a congregation, we build up each other. We are hearing the testimonies of faith all around us! Singing helps to build people up emotionally and spiritually.
Psalm 105:2 says, “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works”.
When we sing, we declare war against our adversary.
In 2 Chronicles 20 we find King Jehoshaphat, who was an extraordinarily strong and wise man, and one who served the Lord with all his heart. He took away the idols that the people had been worshiping and turned the hearts of the people to the Lord.
One day a message came to him that an enemy army was coming against his people. He at once did the right thing and turned to the Lord asking for help. He told all the people to pray and said that God would fight the battle for them.
“The battle is not yours, but God’s. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD.”
Early the next morning the people started out to the battle. Then he appointed certain ones as singers to go out in front of the soldiers. This is the song they should sing,
2 Chronicles 20: 21-22 ...And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
Soon it was learned that the enemy had had a battle among themselves and had killed one another. The Lord had caused the enemy army to be destroyed before God’s people reached them.
The king and his army went down to the battlefield and found so much spoil that it took three days to gather it all up and carry it home. They rejoiced and thanked the Lord for giving them the victory over their enemies that worshiped idols.
When things seem to be going wrong all around you and the enemy threatens you sing praises to God and watch Him fight your battle?

UNDERSTAND: - A singing heart... is a heart at war with the evil one and the power of sin.
When you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trials.
In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and while they are in prison they began to sing and pray and in the midnight hour God opened the prison doors. Now they didn’t leave but the prison guard and his whole family were saved.
I said it is scientifically proven that singing is good for you.
Well, you know I like the numbers and their meaning in scripture. The number 10 means Divine Order,
there are the 10 commandments,
the 10 plagues,
10 generations lived on earth before the flood,
in Genesis Chapter 1 the phrase “God said” is found 10 times,
the 10th day of the 7th month in the Jewish calendar is The Day of Atonement,
etc.

Now let me give you 10 scientifically proven benefits of singing.
1. It Relieves stress:- Singing appears to be a stress-reliever. A 2017 study measured the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in participant’s saliva before and after they sang. Researchers in that study found that the amount of cortisol was lower after singing, an indication that people felt more relaxed after they had sang.
2. It Stimulates the immune response:- Singing can be a form of exercise that works the lungs and other parts of the body required to project one's voice. Singing may lead to a stronger diaphragm and stimulation of circulation due to the greater amount of oxygen needed to carry a tune. There’s some evidence that singing may boost your immune system and help you fight off illnesses by producing higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody your body secretes to help you fend off infections.
3. It Increases the pain threshold:- When you sing in a group, whether it’s large or small, the act of collective singing causes your body to release endorphins. This hormone can help promote positive feelings, and even change your perception of pain.
4. It May improve snoring:- Regular singing may change the way you breathe, even when you’re not singing. Researchers in a 2008 study interviewed the spouses of singers, along with the spouses of people who don’t sing. The researchers found that significantly fewer active singers snored. This led them to recommend regular singing as a potential treatment for snoring.
5. It Improves lung function:- Because singing involves deep breathing and the controlled use of muscles in the respiratory system, it may be beneficial for certain lung and breathing conditions.
Studies have shown that the breathing techniques used with singing may offer benefits for people with the following conditions: chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, multiple sclerosis and others. While singing doesn’t treat or cure any of these conditions, you may benefit from gaining strength in your respiratory muscles.
6. It Develops a sense of belonging and connection:- When you sing together with others, you’re likely to feel the same kind of camaraderie and bonding that players on sports teams experience.
One of the neurochemicals released when people feel bonded together is oxytocin. Spontaneous, improvised singing causes your body to release this feel-good hormone, which may help give you a heightened sense of connectedness and inclusion.
7. It Enhances memory in people with dementia:- People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia experience a gradual loss of memory. Studies have shown that people with these conditions were able to recall song lyrics more easily than other words.
Some the singers found they remembered more than just the lyrics. For some, singing familiar songs suddenly brought back life memories they had long forgotten.
8. It Helps with grief:- Singing in a group doesn’t just help you with physical pain; it may also help with the emotional pain you feel after you’ve lost someone you love.
9. It Improves mental health and mood:- A 2018 study done in the United Kingdom evaluated 20 people in a singing program known as The Sing Your Heart Out project. The participants included people with mental health conditions, as well as the general public. Researchers found that the participants reported improvements in their mental health, mood, sense of well-being, and feeling of belonging as a result of these singing workshops.
10. It Helps improve speaking abilities:- It has been proven that people who have a hard time with speech due to a neurological condition can benefit from singing.
Scientist have found that singing improves the speaking ability for people with: autism, Parkinson’s disease, and even stuttering.

Singing stimulates multiple areas of the brain at the same time. This may enable people with an impairment in one part of the brain to communicate using other areas of their brain.
John 10:10 says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. Don’t let the devil steal your song.
Don't Let Persecution Take Away Your Song. John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.

There is going to be persecutions that will you’re your way because our adversary is determined to kill steal and destroy you and he will try whatever he can to do this, but when persecution comes our way keep on singing.
Don't Let People Take Away Your Song. John 16:22 says, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you”.
Living in this day and age we truly see the depravity of man! Depravity speaks of the fallen nature of mankind. People are constantly hurting each other, you cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing of some atrocity someone has committed against another.
Sadly, it isn't just the sinner who hurt others, even Christian people hurt one another! So many times, we find that they will lie and gossip about others. They will do what we would never have imagined that they would do. Don't let people take away your song! Sing anyway!
- Some words of a Song by Kirk Franklin titled (Why I Sing) –
Someone asked a question
Why do we sing?
When we lift our hands to Jesus
What do we really mean?
Someone may be wondering
When we sing our song
At times we may be cryin'
And nothing's even wrong
And when we cross that river
We will sing our song to Jesus
The one whom we adore
I love Your name Jesus
Glory Hallelujah
For the rest of my life Jesus
You'll be the reason why I sing.
I pray that I have given you more reasons to sing. Remember when you sing, you glorify God. Singing has such a unique way of bringing our heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction, singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God.
Psalms 5:11 says “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” There is an awesome joy that comes upon us when we enter into that secret place of the most High.
So often circumstances of our everyday lives literally become a yoke leading us down a path of despair, discouragement and defeat. Singing changes our perspective of our situation and begins to lead us to a place of hope.
The Children of Israel lost their song during their captivity in Babylon, they even refused to sing I want to encourage you don’t lose your song.
Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb”. This is just a glimpse of eternity when a great multitude of people from every tribe, peoples, and languages are singing before the Lamb.

On that day, will you be one of the great multitude that no one can number, singing the song of the Lamb, singing his praises?
Until then Keep On Singing.

The Prayer Of Sorrow

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Luke 22:39-46

OPEN: A minister noticed a young boy kneeling off to the side of the room after youth group and praying very fervently. As the preacher came within earshot of the boy, he was surprised to hear the boy saying: "Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo."
After the boy finished his praying the preacher approached him and said, "Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but I couldn’t help but overhear you saying something like ’Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.’ What was that all about?"
The boy replied, "Well, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying as hard as I can that God would make Tokyo the Capital of France."

APPLY: How many of you think that boy’s prayers will change the Capital of France to Tokyo?
Not going to happen... is it?
Now I’m going to say something next that I find very uncomfortable, and so I want to say something before I get into the body of the sermon itself. I want to make it very clear that I’m a strong believer in prayer. I believe that prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have... and that prayer can give us the power to change the circumstances of our lives.
I BELIEVE THAT.
I’VE SEEN THAT
And I KNOW THAT IT’S TRUE.
But I also know, there are going to be times when prayer will NOT change what’s going to happen. I mean, God can do whatever He wants to do, and He can change whatever He desires to change. But let’s face it, unless God really has a good reason to do otherwise: Tokyo will always be the capital of Japan... not France.
And so, when I was pondering this text for the sermon this week, and I observed this prayer by Jesus that wasn’t going to be answered by the Father, I found myself asking the following three questions

1. What happens when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want them answered?
2. What do I do when God says no?
3. What good does it do for me to pray if I’m pretty sure those prayers may not change my circumstances all that much?

Our Text this morning is found in Luke 22:39-46
39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 [a]Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. 46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Here in our text we have Jesus praying for God to take a “cup” from Him?
What does that mean? What is this cup?

I always thought I knew the answer to that question. But as I was looking at other sermons on the passage, I encountered a preacher that did a better job researching this topic than I’d ever thought to do. This man had looked back into the Old Testament and found that this image of the cup was not a new idea at all.
Isaiah 51:17 says Awake, awake!
Stand up, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD
The cup of His fury;
You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling,
And drained it out.
Jeremiah 25:15-16 says much the same thing:
15 For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of [a]fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. 16 And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.”
The “cup” Jesus asked be spared of was the cup... of God’s wrath
The reason Jesus came to earth...
The reason He took on the form of a man...
The reason He had preached and taught and healed the crowds for 3 years...
Was to come to this very point of His existence.
Jesus came to die for us.
He came to be our substitute.
He came to pay the price for our sins.
(pause...)
Jesus came to drink the cup of God’s wrath so we would not have to taste it for ourselves
That’s why He was born
That’s why He came
And That’s why He died on the cross
And now, just hours before the deed is about to be done, Jesus prays "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me..." Luke 22:42a
The Gospel of Matthew also tells us about this Garden prayer, but Matthew goes into greater detail, telling us that Jesus didn’t just pray this prayer once... He prayed 3 separate times saying pretty much the same thing every time: “Father, take this cup from me.”
(pause...)
Did Jesus think His prayer would change His destiny?
Did Jesus believe that there was some other way to get the job done?
I don’t think so...
So why pray the prayer?
If Jesus knew the Father was going to deny His request
If Jesus knew the Father was going to tell Him NO
If Jesus knew His prayer wasn’t going change His destiny on the cross
Why pray the prayer???
(pause...)

Because prayer isn’t ALWAYS about changing our circumstances and fixing our problems. Sometimes prayer is about laying hold of God...
o Laying hold of His strength
o Laying hold of His comfort
o Laying hold of His Will in our lives
When you grow in the Lord, it is not about you simply following orders. There is a greater level of obedience. Eventually we each need to grow to a level of choosing for ourselves to be obedient. We stop talking about “God making us do things.” Instead, we are obedient to His word because we want to obey. The Father wants more from us than blind obedience. He wants us to choose His will for ourselves. Every parent longs for the day when their children want to brush their teeth, take a bath, and clean their room on their own. Jesus wasn’t simply going to the cross because God wanted Him to go... He was choosing the path of the cross... Himself.

I. Prayer is just an affirmation of what we know is already true. Jesus prayed three times for His circumstances to change... all to no avail. In the end, when all of His close friends abandoned Him, He had the comfort of knowing He was in the center of God’s will. Jesus’ prayer life confirmed it.

II. Too often people see prayer as if it were a magic incantation
If I say the right words, in the right way, at the right time – Abracadabra, presto chango, everything becomes better.

III. So why pray?
If I can’t always get what I want when I pray
If I can’t always avoid danger or pain or sorrow or death
Why pray?
Well, the easiest answer is that sometimes prayer indeed does change our circumstances.
I’ve seen times when prayer has brought healing
I’ve seen times when prayer has brought people back from the brink of death
I’ve seen times when prayer has defied the belief that NOTHING will change
BUT I’ve also seen – and I’ve experienced – times when prayer has a different kind of purpose. A purpose that stands strong in the face of circumstances that MAY NOT change.
This “purpose” of prayer is best summed up by the following poem I once read
“Sometimes God stills the storms of the sea
At other times, He stills the storms within me.”
That night in the Garden, Jesus felt a need for that kind of calmness.
One commentator observed that WHEN Luke 22:41 said Jesus “withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed” the Greek word for “withdrew” was in the “passive voice”. It literally says that He “was withdrawn”.
It was as if Jesus were drawn... physically pulled down on his knees to pray
He HAD to talk to His Father.
He HAD to share the anxiety of what was being laid upon Him.
Luke 22:44 tells us Jesus was And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

ILLUS: One wise preacher observed:
“Where was it that Jesus’ sweat was like great drops of blood?
It wasn’t in Pilate’s hall.
And it wasn’t on his way to Golgotha.
It was in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There He "offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death" (Heb. 5:7).
If we had witnessed His struggle that night, we might have said,
"If He is so broken up when all He is doing is praying, what will He do when He faces real crisis?
Why can’t He approach this ordeal with the calmness and confidence of His 3 sleeping friends?"
And yet when the time for the test finally came, Jesus walked to the cross with the courage, and His 3 friends fell apart and ran away.”
What made the difference?
It was that time of prayer.
It was that time of prayer that gave Jesus His strength
It was that time of prayer that gave Jesus His courage...
It was that time of prayer that gave Jesus His power to face the pain, the humiliation, and the horrors of the cross.
That’s the kind of prayer that we need to learn how to pray. It’s a type of prayer that can give us ability to face the hard tests of life.
And there were two key elements to that prayer that can help our prayers give us the strength and courage we need in the difficult times of our lives.
The first is element of Jesus prayer was His honesty.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden, He was brutally honest. No sugar coating of what He knew was about to occur.
Jesus prayed: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me..." Luke 22:42
He knew what was about to happen
He knew what had to be done
But He still prayed three separate times essentially saying: “I don’t know if I really want to do this.”
There are people who believe that somehow, they’ll offend God by being too honest with Him, by telling Him their fears and their disappointments. They’re afraid to be open with God about their questions and fears.
I mean, life has already turned against them. The last thing they need is for God to turn His back on them.

ILLUS: A few years ago, The Washington Times carried the following article:
“When doctors removed the ulcer next to Bob Sorge’s vocal chord they permanently damaged his throat, leaving him with a remnant of a voice that hurts if he tries to ‘whisper’ more than an hour a day. A terrible tragedy for anyone, but the suffering was multiplied for Sorge. Because Bob Sorge is a preacher... How can a preacher preach without a voice? For years that followed, Sorge learned first hand about suffering. And how did he deal with that suffering?
Sorge explained ‘A lot of Christians will say, ’Don’t ask why.’ I am not in that camp. I am strong in asking why. Jesus asked why. King David asked why. The psalmists asked why. The Bible is full of people who had questions.’”
Oddly enough, Bob Sorge found his comfort from God by being honest with God. He realized that he couldn’t really deal with his problem by simply ignoring it.
Honesty in prayer is like a release valve.
Therapists understand the need for this, so they’ll often spend time in sessions with troubled patients trying to get them to be honest about their feelings and emotions.

ILLUS: There once was a Christian who was going through some rough times in several areas of his life. One day he went out into an isolated field... looked up into the sky, and he yelled out to “GOD!!!!”
He had a bottles up emotion and he knew that only God was big enough to bear the pain he was feeling. But he was wise enough to understand that simply being honest with God was not enough. Honestly by itself could be dangerous.
Honesty – by itself - can destroy the power that we really want to have in prayer. Why? Because honesty, left to itself, used all by itself, can become an expression of hidden bitterness and anger.
In order to be useful as a prayer tool that give us God’s strength this honesty must be coupled with the second half of Jesus’ prayer: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; YET NOT MY WILL, BUT YOURS BE DONE." Luke 22:42
In that article in The Washington Times Bob Sorge said this:
"’Why?’ is a statement of faith, not an expression of doubt. It accepts that God exists, and that He loves us and is in control of our destiny.
"God is to be wrestled with." Sorge continues. "He has unfolded His purpose to me. He’s transformed the way I think, feel, everything about me. The vessel of suffering causes you to be desperate for God and to press into Him."
Jesus’ prayer was a prayer that “PRESSED INTO” the Father. His prayer had power to give Him strength because it hinged on accepting the Father’s Will.
The prayer that can transform our times of weakness into times of strength are the ones that are less concerned with moving God to our will...as they are in moving us toward God.

ILLUS: Someone once made the following observation: “I watched the deck hands on the great liner United States as they docked that ship in New York Harbor. First they threw out a rope to the men on the dock Then, inside the boat the great motors went to work and pulled on the great cable. But, oddly enough, the pier wasn’t pulled out to the ship; but the ship was pulled snugly up to the pier.
Prayer is the rope that pulls God and us together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us; it pulls us to God. We must learn to say with Christ, the master of the art of praying: ‘Not my will; but Thine be done.’”

CLOSE: We need to realize that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane was not a prayer of hopelessness and defeat. It was a prayer of surrender to His Father’s Will. And in that surrender, Jesus found the strength to overcome.
It was when Jesus prayed that prayer that the Father reached down and comforted Him. Luke 22:43 tells us: “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”
It’s that kind of supernatural strength from God that I want in my life. But first we must be willing to pray the way Jesus did.

ILLUS: A Sunday school teacher once asked her group of children if any of them could quote the ENTIRE 23rd Psalm. A little four-and-a-half-year-old girl raised her hand. But the teacher was a bit skeptical that this child could really quote the entire psalm. But she told her to go ahead and try: The little girl hesitated a moment and then said:
"The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want.

Sermon Contributor: Jeff Strite

DIstancing

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Proverbs 1:10-19

Good morning. It’s good to see everyone out this morning. Thank you for the opportunity you’ve granted to me to present a message to you this morning. It's good for each of us to be here. We didn't plan or coordinate all this, but the reading that was read for us and the song that we sang, of course, goes along fairly well with what we're going to talk about this morning. We say about how amazed we should be at God's amazing Grace. In fact, we should be. We were, in fact, wretches who were without hope. Now we have hope to be separated from a sinful world and to be found acceptable, as the scripture reading said.

One of the things that we're all very familiar with these days, in fact we might be a little tired of hearing about it, is the phrase “social distancing”. The news is full of it, among other things. We are told we have been told for the last 20 months now that we are to practice social distancing?

Did it ever occur to you that God has told us to be spiritually distant? We are told to be spiritually distant from certain things and from certain people for the health of our souls. We're all familiar with how far we are supposed to stay away from each other. 6ft. That's social distancing. They have the little signs there on the floor, if you go to the Marks grocery store, it says, stand here, and stand here. 6ft. 6ft. 6ft. We've heard that until we're sick of it along with the other things.

God tells us to spiritually distance from certain things and certain people a lot further away than 6ft. Turn with me to Proverbs chapter one. God has warned his people to avoid certain things, certain activities and certain people who engage in those activities since the days of old. Proverbs 1:10 where it says, “My son if sinners entice you do not consent. If they say, Come with us, let us lie and wait to shed blood. Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause. Let us swallow them alive like Sheol or the grave and like those who go down to the pit, we shall find all kinds of precious possessions. We shall fill your house with spoils. Cast in your lot among us.” Come along with us, in other words. Associate with us, don't distance yourself from us. That goes on, and of course what have we been told? Verse 15, “my son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your foot from their path, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain, the net is spread in the sight of any bird. But they lie and wait for their own blood. They lurk secretly for their own lives.”

We say, okay, we're not going to kill anybody. That sounds kind of extreme, does it? It seems pretty straightforward. We're not going to associate with those who rob and plunder and lie and wait for people. But there are ways to do that, of course, that are physical and ways to do that that are not physical. In other words, do people ever cheat anybody else; ever rob anybody else by defrauding them of things?

Nonviolent, in other words, do you take advantage of people? This passage is a lot broader than simply let's lie and wait and jump someone on the road, so to speak. Look at verse 19. “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain. It takes away the life of its owners.” So you say, I'm not going to rob anybody. Are you greedy? How much do you value money? In other words, don't associate with those who are greedy. We may not join a band of robbers, but there are other evil acts we may commit because greed.

Let's go back to where we were when we talked about being the grocery store. Have you ever been tempted to or you ever seen anyone do this? You see, it someone who just sort of just sort of looking around and nobody's going to notice. So they take something and they put it in their jacket. It might be a candy bar. Maybe nobody will know. It's just, as they think, a little thing, just a little bit of shoplifting never hurt anybody. Right? We're told not to be involved in such activities.

We need to be careful of our money, yes, that's true, because, of course, we've been entrusted with it as a responsibility. But we need to remember that we're not here to make money. Far from it.

Turn over to the New Testament, First Timothy, chapter six. A lot of people, of course, will reassure and comfort themselves by saying, I'm not this or I'm not that. Remember, the Pharisee in his prayer is compared to the tax collector when he said, God, I thank you that I'm not like all these other people, and he gives a long list of all the people who commit the obvious, “sins”. I'm not even as this tax collector over here, essentially. A lot of people like to do that. They reassure themselves that they haven't committed any of the as the world sees that any of the “big sins”, the major sins, the things that are crimes according to the law of the land, but are we greedy? Remember that the word of God is a judge of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.

How much do you really want money? What are you willing to do for money? I teach history. I can tell you. Throughout history, people have been willing to do a lot for money. Recently saw a video on Francis Drake, who was a pirate captain in the 1500s. His voyages for gold took him literally all the way around the world. He became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, sailed all the way around the globe, and he did it in the name of plunder.

The video documentary made clear said his cargo he brought back of gold and spices and silver was worth millions and millions of dollars in today's money. And it cost the lives of more than 100 people. Not to mention all those that Francis Drake himself killed. What people are willing to do for money! Of course, as the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, people haven't changed.

Now First Timothy 6:6 it says, “Now Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” The Egyptian Pharaohs are perhaps most famous for this, trying to carry things with them into the next life. That's what the originally the pyramids were built for. People think of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. That was the only one that was ever discovered in tact, because originally what people don't realize is the pyramids were covered with gold. And of course, they were filled with treasure. What do you suppose happened to them? Very quickly after the mummy was put in and the pyramid was sealed, it didn't stay sealed for very long. Essentially, it was a huge sign that said, rob me. Essentially, people broke in, ripped the mummies apart because the Pharaohs were wrapped with layers of jewels, and well that was it. They didn't take it with them. Even Tut, of course, whose tomb was still around. Even it had been broken into once in antiquity. His tomb was still relatively intact. He was still here, what was left of him, his mummy, his physical body was still here. So were all the gold and all the jewels.

You cannot take it with you. And so we see it is certain, of course, that we can carry nothing out. Moving on here in verse eight it says, “having food and clothing with these, we shall be content. But those who” (notice it doesn't say are rich) “ those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and to many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Or the ESV (English Standard) says “in many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

“For”... is money bad, by the way? A lot of philosophers have said that money itself is evil. No, it's what we do with it. Of course it says in verse ten, as we're probably familiar with, “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have straight from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” or “many pains” in the ESV, “but you a man of God, flee these things.” In other words, “stay” what... “stay distant from these things and pursue righteousness Godliness faith, love, patience, gentleness.

If you look on the Internet, there are all sorts of click here and get rich, essentially. How I made... insert your monetary amount here. I made $50,000 working from home in two weeks. We're familiar with the get rich quick schemes. We need a spiritually distance, spiritually distance, far more than 6ft from those who would involve us in acts that revolve around love of money, evil, greedy acts. Is that it? We're not greedy, so we're good. No, of course, there are far more instances on that account that we can get into.

For example, the number of Boy Scout leaders, coaches, doctors, Catholic priests who have committed sexual sins against innocent children and those who are a lot older in the case of College athletes is a disgrace. TV and movies portray wrongful sexual desire, as normal, as healthy, as good. Of course it is not. We need the spiritual distance from all sorts of sins both those society regards as more acceptable and less acceptable. The Scripture warns us that there are many people who seem safe, but they aren't safe.

Turn over to Second Peter chapter two. The whole chapter actually is dedicated, if you will, to warning about false teachers and false prophets. You don't have to go very far on television, on radio, on the Internet, on some printed media that still comes out, to find people who will tell you things that are flat out wrong. Many of them, the worst ones and I say the worst because they're probably the most dangerous, because people tend to listen to them, are the ones who say, “I'm speaking for the Lord.”

One of them literally said, and I won't mention His name here, that only prophets can judge prophets. I'm quoting him here. “Only prophets can judge prophets. Therefore, unless you've received a message from God, you can't say what I'm teaching you is wrong.” We have a prophetic word, of course, (we sang that one too—Give me the Bible). That's what we need. That is what we need to build our lives on. Not what I say, or Brother Tom says, or Brother Mark says, or anyone else tells you, ultimately, we build our lives on, as the children song says, we build our house upon the solid rock, upon the foundation, upon Christ and upon God's word.

To quote part of that chapter here's Second Peter, chapter two. We could read the whole thing, but we won’t. We'll move in on verse nine. “So then the Lord knows how to deliver the Godly out of temptations or trials and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the Day of Judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh and the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.” The ESV says the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

I don't need to give you illustrations. Turn on the news. You see people who do this, but it continues. (Second Peter 2:10-13) It says “They are presumptuous, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,”

Notice this part here, “while they feast with you.” In other words, where are they? Within the Church, with you. They feast with you. In other words, just because someone claims to be for Christ doesn't make it so. What did Jesus say? They're Wolves and sheep's clothing. He said, by their fruit, you will know them. What did He also say that many will say to Him in the judgment, Lord, Lord, did we not do what? Exactly what some of these people claim to be doing right now.

“... have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name...?” Notice Jesus never denies that. He doesn't say no, you didn't. You didn't prophesy, not in my name. He simply says what? “depart from me you who practice iniquity” or you workers of unrighteousness. “I never knew you.” Always be careful here. One more verse here. They “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin.” Some people seem to be, and they've addicted themselves to it; they're addicted to sin. “enticing unstable souls.”

Let me read this verse one more time from the English Standard. It says “they have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.” “They have a heart trained in callous practices,” in King James, “and are accursed children.” We need to stay away from those people. In numerous letters, say the end of Romans, for example, Paul tells us, tells the Romans, and he tells us, stay away from those who claim to teach the gospel, but aren't. We need a spiritually distance from those situations where lewd and luster promoted. Now Some of these are pretty obvious, but also stay away from those who claim to be on the right, straight and narrow, literally and aren’t. We need to focus on good and proper behaviors and focus and anchor ourselves on God's word. Some of the situations obviously look wrong or more obviously look wrong. Of course, wrong and sin are committed. Some situations though, are in some ways much more dangerous because they look good. They look right. What does Paul tell us? That Satan himself appears as what, “an angel of light”.

Of course, today is the day people call Halloween. One of the images that get circulated, of course, is the devil is this literally demonic figure with red skin and pointed ears and pointed horns and a pitchfork. He looks terrifying. He's depicted as a Dragon in Revelation. Do you suppose the devil is going to appear to most people that way? Of course, the answer is no, because some people yes, would follow someone who will look like that. Most of the time, however, the devil and those who will lead you into sin are not going to say “I'm evil, follow me”. In fact, they'll be far more dangerous, far more deceptive than that. Sin is going to look good. If sin weren't fun, weren't physically pleasurable, in other words, no one would do it. Of course, we need to stay away from this. We need to spiritually distance from the devil, from sin and from those people in those situations that will entice us to sin. We're told what back in verse nine of this passage, we just read Second Peter, chapter two, verse nine, that God knows how to deliver us from (it depends on your version) temptations or trials.

Is there anything else we should stay away from? We could go on and on, but let's just have one more example here. It'd be very obvious, the big sins. There aren’t big and little sins, but most people regard as being the really, really bad behavior. Let's talk about something that's a little closer to home.

We'll start with the story here. The story is told of a young student who asked his father to help with his homework. The student said “I do not understand how wars get started, how wars get started. Will you explain it to me?” “Well”, said the father, “Suppose that the United States did not agree with the price that England wanted to charge for pencils....” “The United States does not get their pencils from England. So why should we care about the price of their pencils?” the mother broke in. “That's a stupid example. Why are you talking about pencils? The United States not get their pencils from England so why do we care of the price of the pencils?” “It was just an example”, the dad said, “Well, it was not a very good example,” Mother said. “I think it was a fine example,” said dad, rather briskly. “It was not a fine example. It was a lousy example,” said the mother, raising her voice. “I understand now” said the student, “I understand how wars get started”.

Turn over to James, please. I know you've been studying James quite a bit with Mark, but here's a couple of passages from James, chapter three. I can tell you while you're turning there. As someone who studies history, war has been pretty much the constant condition of humanity. I read an article in Military History Quarterly that in the last 2000 or 3000 years, there have been seven years of peace all over the world. In other words, there have been seven years in the last, at least a couple of thousand years, in which there has not been a war somewhere on planet Earth. War is constant.

War is a condition of humanity. Let's take that at an individual level, fighting and strife are a condition of humanity. I also teach government. I want to tell you about that because nobody ever fights and quarrels do they? So, James 3:5 says, “Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest, a little fire kindles,” (ESV—how great a forest is set of blaze by such a small fire.)

There are wildfires in the west these past few years. Well, they all started with something. A spark. It’s a myth, by the way, of course, that a cow kicked over a lamp in Chicago and burned the city down, but the blaze started somewhere. Some people can get angry over trivial matters. There have been all sorts of stories about, of course, and yes, the Pandemic has stressed out a lot of people, but the increasing number of instances of road rage, of rage in the middle of airports or on airplanes, of rage and rudeness in restaurants, of rage and rudeness in retail. Some people can get angry over trivial matters. We should not be one of them.

The Scriptures make it very clear that we shouldn't. Turn back to the book where we started—back to Proverbs. Not only should we not engage in this, we shouldn't associate with those who do. We should spiritually distance ourselves. Proverbs chapter 22, beginning with verse 24 because you say, well, I'm not doing it. So why does this matter? There's such a thing called mob mentality.

Recently it was at the University of Tennessee, had an incident where fans were pouting the opposing team's coach with objects, bottles. He was hit in the head with a golf ball. It was because he had been their coach, and now he's a coach at the University of Mississippi. These things usually start with one person. One person, as we say, goes off and then it sort of spreads. It's contagious. So we need to not hang around such people.

Proverbs 22:24 says; “make no friendship with an angry man” or ESV “a man given to anger and with a furious man or a wrathful man, do not go.” Why not? Next verse, “lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” What does Paul tell us? famously in Romans, “evil companions corrupt good morals” or good manners, either one, it depends on your version. They corrupt good morals or good manners. Hang around the wrong people and you start to pick up their habits.

Of course, people pick on teenagers for doing this, “You shouldn't hang around with that crowd.” Well, guess what. 15 year old shouldn't hang around with the wrong crowd. Nor should 95 year olds hang around with the wrong crowd. Doesn't matter if you're ten or 110 hanging around with the wrong people can have a bad effect on you.

Back to James. James 1:19 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” or ESV, “the righteousness that God requires”.

Let’s continue with one more image. We'll wrap it up with this image this particular lesson up here. The magazine cover one set a series of cartoon boxes. They have the little speech boxes and such. In the first a boss was angrily yelling at a man. In the next box, the man goes home and yells at his wife. Next box. She then yells at their son. Next box. The son then yells at his baby sister. Then the next box. The baby's sister yells at the dog and pulls the dog's ears. The next box. Next, the dog bites the neighbor's cat. The next box. The neighbor's cat then scratches a visiting lady. Next box. She goes home and yells at her husband for taking her to dinner with those people with a mean cat. And the next box. The next day their husband goes to work and yells back at the man in the first picture. The point, of course, being anger is a cycle. It goes around and around and it's going around a lot in our society. If anything is spreading faster than the virus, it's bad behavior, bad attitude.

The people, again see the news, are screaming and yelling at each other over the most trivial things. Proverbs tells us that we should avoid learning the ways of the angry man. We are to try to tame our tongues. And it's not easy. I've been here recently when Mark talked about that, about the tongue no man can contain. It's not easy, but we have to do it.

Hebrews 12:14, the New King James, I'll read it again from the ESV afterwards says, “pursue peace with all people and Holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

The ESV here says, “strive for peace”. In other words, it takes effort; “strive for peace with everyone and for the Holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” So it matters. People think, well, I think actually the masks are sort of in a way contributing to that because there's anonymity... there's a sense of, well, you can't see me what I'm doing behind this mask so you don't know the face I'm making so I can get away with things now. Mask or no mask of course, God sees you.

We need to keep that in mind. To wrap our thoughts up as we think of social distancing and it's important of course, to protect each other physically. But it's even more important to protect ourselves and do what we can to protect others spiritually and spiritually distance from these things that are not according to God's word, from greed, from lust, from anger. We need to be mindful about our virtual contacts as well as our physical contacts.

First Corinthians 15:33 “do not be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals.” There are other sins we could mention. We could go on and on and on. But this is a start. Sin is always fatal. Thanks to vaccines and thanks to other therapies that are coming out, Covid while still very dangerous is not as dangerous as it was when this all started. But sin is 100% fatal. Covid has a pretty high fatality rate compared to, say, the flu or the common cold. But sin is 100% fatal... unless the blood of Christ is applied.

In order to get it we must do what we're about to sing about. We must trust and we must obey. That means we must hear that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We must believe that he is. We must be willing to confess that faith we have in Him before men. We must be willing to repent of our sins. We must be willing to do as He has commanded, which is put Him on in baptism. And then we need to continue to live, not like the world lives.

Be distanced from the world, whether there's a pandemic or not a pandemic, live spiritually distanced from the ways of the world and get closer to God. If you need to put on Christ in baptism or there's any need you have, you need to get closer to God, we'd certainly be glad to do everything we can to help you as while we stand and sing this song.

How To Deal With Oppression!

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

James 5:4-12

There is a story about a monastery in Europe perched high on a cliff several hundred feet in the air. The only way to reach the monastery was to be suspended in a basket, which was pulled to the top by several monks who had to pull and tug with all their strength. Obviously, the ride up the steep cliff in that basket was terrifying. On his way up, one tourist noticed that the rope by which he was suspended was old and frayed. With a trembling voice he asked the monk who was riding with him in the basket how often they changed the rope. The monk thought for a moment, shrugged, and answered, "Whenever it breaks."

I’m wondering if the pressures of this world manage to get you close to breaking point. You know life is difficult enough without the pressures which come from being a Christian. But I’m wondering this morning, have you ever felt like someone was out to get you?
*Have you ever felt like someone was trying to take advantage of you?
*Have you ever felt oppressed?
You see some people ask the question what should we do as Christians when we’re being oppressed?
But I think the best way to answer that question is by asking this more important question, what should you not do?

James is going to share with us today in James 5:4-12, principles and instructions which guided the early Christians when they were being oppressed.
And please remember that these principles are just as applicable today when we are being oppressed by others. To help us deal with oppression James tells us not to resist.

James 5:4-6 “You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent people, and they do not resist you.”
Now these guys were being treated badly and treated unjustly especially by the rich, but James tells us that they did not resist. Now I don’t know about you... but this goes against everything which is inside of me. This goes against everything the world teaches about being oppressed.

But when you become a Christian, you’re not following the world’s ways anymore; you’re following the way of Christ. And so not only does your live dramatically change, your whole way of thinking is drastically changed.

Romans 12:19-21 “Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, "I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord."
Instead, as the scripture says: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame." Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.”

You see human nature pushes us to react like the rest of the world would react by lashing out on what we think is "justifiable anger." Human wisdom pushes us to react like the rest of the world would react by "standing up for our rights."

But the Christian is called upon to react differently; we are advised not to react that way. And the reason we don’t react that way is because of three things.

1) An awareness that the Lord is coming to judge.  James 5:8+9 “You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord's coming is near. Do not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you. The Judge is near, ready to appear.”

You see if we know that the Lord is coming we’re more likely not to judge others because we know that the Lord will be the one doing the judging. We know that He is the one who will judge correctly, He is the one who knows all things and because He knows all things... we should leave all things in His hands.
And if we know all things are in His hands, then we shouldn’t need to justify our anger, we shouldn’t need to stand up for our rights. 

Because not only should we be aware that the Lord is coming, we also need to have 2) A willingness to let Him be our avenger.   Luke 18:7+8 “Now, will God not judge in favour of his own people who cry to him day and night for help? Will he be slow to help them? I tell you, he will judge in their favour and do it quickly. But will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he comes?"

Now I know and understand that this is not always easy to leave things in God’s hands. And I know and understand that resisting the temptation to lash out and stand up for your rights is not always easy. But when you were called upon to follow Christ, you were called upon to imitate Christ and His example.

1 Peter 2:21-23 “It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered; he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge”.

So not only should we be aware that the Lord is coming, and we need to have a willingness to let Him be our avenger,  3) we also need to Be patient. You know sometimes as Christians we want things sorted out as quickly as possible and on our timetable. But surely we should know by now that God doesn’t work according to our will and timetable, He works according to His will and His timetable.
And sometimes we get all frustrated and angry even when things are not working out quickly enough.

People oppress us and we say yes I will just leave it in God’s hands but after a few months of continuous oppression we lose patience because we think that God isn’t listening. These are the times that we need to be patient.

James is going to share with us three examples to encourage us to be patient.

A) The farmer: James 5:7 “Be patient, then, my friends, until the Lord comes. See how patient farmers are as they wait for their land to produce precious crops. They wait patiently for the autumn and spring rains.”
B) The prophets: James 5:10 “My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering”.
C) Job: James 5:11 “We call them happy because they endured. You have heard of Job's patience, and you know how the Lord provided for him in the end. For the Lord is full of mercy and compassion”.

Now we understand the patience that a farmer needs for his crops, we understand the patience the prophets had in the Old Testament especially when no one would listen to them. But I want to focus our attention on the patience of Job for a moment.

As someone once said to me, ‘so you think you have problems. Who doesn't?’ And friends, whatever trial you’re going through at the moment, no matter what personal trail you’re facing right now... I want to let you know that whatever is happening in your life at this moment is no reason for you to quit the church or abandon the faith.

Put yourself in the shoes of Job for a moment.

1) He lost his wealth. In rapid succession three messengers came telling Job of the destruction of his property and servants by bands of robbers and by lightning.
2) He lost his family. A fourth messenger came telling of the death of all of Job's children. Seven sons and three daughters were crushed in a moment when the house fell.
3) He lost his health. Job was smitten from head to foot with the most disgusting ulcers. He was constrained to sit down among the ashes and scrape himself with a potsherd.
4) He lost his friends. His servants turned their backs on him. The children in the streets despised Job and mocked him. His friends told him that his sufferings were because of his wickedness. And his wife nagged him to curse God and die.

Now when you look at Job and his trials I’m sure you will agree that he was going through a horrific time. Even if you were to break his trials down separately... they would be horrific, but when you view them collectively most of us would be overwhelmed just listening to him...
never mind actually going through them.
But friends, he didn’t lash out, he didn’t stand up for his rights, instead he did what James is trying to teach us all this morning.

Job 1:20 "Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped."
And friends, Job learned something which I’m hoping we can all learn this morning. Job learned that the Lord is very "compassionate and merciful." The farmers, the prophets and Job all teach us to place our trust in the Lord, that He will eventually reward us for our trust in Him.

But the only way to trust the Lord like this is to take these words off the pages of the Bible and establish them in our hearts. The word "establish" means
to "to fix, make fast, to set."
And the key to establishing our hearts is found in the word of God.

2 Peter 1:12 “And so I will always remind you of these matters, even though you already know them and are firmly grounded in the truth you have received”.
It’s through constant and careful study of God's Word that our faith in God and His eventual justice is made stronger. And if our hearts are rooted and established in God's Word, we are more likely to act as we should when being oppressed.

Now you can always tell the Christians who are struggling with oppression. You can always tell the Christians who struggle to leave things in God’s hands to deal with.
You can always tell the Christians who struggle with patience. Christians who struggle in these areas are normally the grumblers, especially against one another.

James 5:9 “Do not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you. The Judge is near, ready to appear.”
James says if you want to start trusting God then stop the grumbling. Now I don’t know about you but when we go through tough times... we very often take our frustrations out on those we love the most. Whether it is our wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, or our children.

If you’ve had a bad day at work for example the likelihood is that you will take out your frustrations on your family. And friends, we need to understand that sometimes this happens with our spiritual family. And we need to be on our guard against such times... because James told us that if we complain against each other then God will judge us.

So not only are we not to complain against each other, James also warns us not to swear.
James 5:12 “Above all, my friends, do not use an oath when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Say only "Yes" when you mean yes, and "No" when you mean no, and then you will not come under God's judgment.”

Now when times are tough and we’re going through difficult trials, it’s during those times more than any other that we may be tempted to swear. In other words, we’re more likely to make rash promises. And friends, we need to be aware that any promise whether big or small made to God is a promise which God will hold you to.
Ecclesiastes 5:1+2 “Be careful about going to the Temple. It is better to go there to learn than to offer sacrifices like foolish people who don't know right from wrong. Think before you speak, and don't make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don't say any more than you have to.”
So, we need to be careful about any oath we make, either to each other or to God. In fact, James tells us that the best way of avoiding making oaths like this is to stop making oaths altogether, stand by your word and let your ‘yes’ be a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ be a ‘no’.

Finally, in times of oppression, Christians need to know that they have a powerful weapon in their weaponry. It’s called Prayer.
James 5:13 “Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. Are any among you happy? They should sing praises.”

One of the things which frustrates us as Christians when were going through trials is that we often tend to think that God is not listening to us. Don’t allow Satan to whisper those things in your ear. When Christians pray, God hears!

Luke 18:7+8 “Now, will God not judge in favour of his own people who cry to him day and night for help? Will he be slow to help them? I tell you, he will judge in their favour and do it quickly. But will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he comes?"
That is a promise from God!!!
When you are being oppressed and you pray to God for help, He hears and He will take action.
Revelation 6:9-11 “Then the Lamb broke open the fifth seal. I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because they had proclaimed God's word and had been faithful in their witnessing. They shouted in a loud voice, "Almighty Lord, holy and true! How long will it be until you judge the people on earth and punish them for killing us?" Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the complete number of other servants and believers were killed, as they had been.”

It may not come when we want it, but God will take action when the time is right, and the oppressed will be avenged. So friends, when we are being oppressed from anyone just remember not to retaliate but be kind.

Be patient and establish God’s word within your heart. Don't complain or swear but pray. Because when we as Christian react this way to oppression we’re actually following the example of Christ.

1 Peter 2:23 “When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered; he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge.”

With such a righteous God on our side, it should be a lot easier to endure anyone who oppresses us. And remember that any trial or oppression should always be seen as an opportunity to praise God.

CONCLUSION
Oppressed by the noonday heat, a tired farmer sat under a walnut tree to rest. Relaxing, he looked at his pumpkin vines and said to himself, "How strange it is that God puts such big heavy pumpkins on a frail vine that has so little strength that it has to trail on the ground!"

And then looking up into the cool branches of the tree above him, he added, "How strange it is that God puts small walnuts on such a big tree with branches so strong they could hold a man!" Just then a breeze dislodged a walnut from the tree. The tired farmer wondered no more, as he rubbed his head apologetically and said,
"It is a good thing there wasn't a pumpkin up there instead of a walnut."

So friends, when the breezes of life blow, please remember that God, Who is great and wise, makes no mistakes.
He deserves our praise under any circumstance, even when we’re being oppressed.

Sermon Contributor: Michael Glover

Take Courage

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 22:22-23:11

INTRO: Today we will go back to our look at the book of Acts, and we will be examining Acts 22:22 thru 23:11.

Before we begin let me tell you a story.
One night two friends were camping out in the deep woods on a warm summer's night.
Suddenly, their sleep was abruptly interrupted by a huge black bear rummaging through their camp, crushing supplies, throwing backpacks, and scaring the two men half to death.
Thinking quickly, one of the men began to lace up his sneakers for a quick getaway.
"You will never outrun that bear!" his friend whispered.
To this he replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!"

Last time we left the apostle I would have thought that Paul would have had an excellent reason to run away. Instead Paul chose to stay and confidently speak to those in the mob. As we are about to find out confident speaking isn’t going to help if your audience has already made up their minds.

Remember that Paul has been charged with four things.
The Jews have accused him of (1)teaching against the Jews; (2)teaching against the law; (3)teaching against the temple; and (4)bringing Greeks into the temple, thereby defiling it.

In a situation where many of us would gladly put on our sneakers and just run away from the accusing mob, the apostle Paul asked permission from the commander of the Roman garrison to speak to the crowd.

I. Paul was given permission and he goes ahead and shares his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that the crowd was perfectly willing to listen to Paul... up until he mentioned the taboo subject of the Gentiles. We rejoin Luke’s narrative now at verse 22. Acts 22:22-24 – “22. And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!'' 23. Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24. the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.”[NKJV]

      A. To understand the Jews reaction to Paul’s words, we need to understand the Jewish mindset at this time. A Jew could not stand the Gentiles, in fact the Jew saw the Gentiles as unclean.

1. If a Jew were walking down the street and he saw a Gentile coming towards him, the Jew would cross the street to avoid being anywhere near him.
2. Luke is letting us see that the Jews' hatred of the Gentiles was so great, that the very mention of them enraged the audience and moved them to call for Paul's death. They began to throw their garments and dust in the air, perhaps in preparation to stone the apostle.

B. The commander had Paul taken into the barracks and prepared to flog him until he got an explanation. Acts 22:25-29 – “25. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and un-condemned?'' 26. When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.'' 27. Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?'' He said, "Yes.'' 28. And the commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.'' And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen.'' 29. Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”
C. Paul was an educated man, knew his rights, and he knew the law. Paul asked if the law would allow them to flog an un-condemned Roman citizen. The centurion in charge of the flogging didn’t want to break the law so he immediately told the chief captain, who, in turn, asked if Paul was a Roman. After Paul said yes, the captain said that he had bought those privileges for a great sum of money. Paul didn’t pay for the privilege of being a Roman citizen, Paul said he was born into Roman citizenship.

1. Before making a terrible mistake by having Paul flogged, everyone quickly withdrew but the commander was still worried because he had bound a Roman. Why was he worried? Not only did he understand that the Roman law prohibited citizens from being flogged without a trial, but he also understood that the law prohibited Roman citizens being bound without being charged first.
2. We have read about a similar situation to this in Acts 16, when Paul was imprisoned in Philippi. He speaks to the officials and says in Acts 16:37-39 – “But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us openly, un-condemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.'' And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.” Roman citizenship had its privileges and God used those privileges to protect Paul until God got Paul where he needed to be next which was Rome.

II. Now Paul was a Roman citizen, but he understood where his real citizenship lay. He says to the church in Philippi, in Philippians 3:20 – “... our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”[NKJV]

A. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’. He says, “Is” in heaven, present tense, in other words heaven is our present possession. The Philippians could understand that. Remember Philippi was a Roman colony. It was 600 miles from Rome and many of the people had never been to Rome yet they were Roman citizens.

1. They dressed like Romans.
2. They ate like Romans.
3. They spoke the Roman language.
4. They lived the Roman culture.
5. They obeyed the Roman laws.

B. What Paul is saying, “You are citizens of a city you haven’t seen yet, talk like heaven people, dress like heaven people, obey the laws of heaven, live the culture of heaven.” In other words, he says, “I want you to live here, like you’re already there, let you’re walk reflect where you’re going”.

III. Let’s continue in our text at Acts 22:30 – “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”

A. Referring back to Acts 16, Paul told the officials after Silas and he had been beaten in Philippi, about his citizenship and the officials panicked and asked them to leave the city. Here in Acts 22 Paul pulls out his ‘get out of jail free card’ and tells the Roman authorities about his citizenship and they too panic and let him go free. Paul was freed and the chief priests and all the council were commanded to come together, while Paul was put before them.
B. Luke continues in Acts 23:1-5 – “1. Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.'' 2. And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?'' 4. And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?'' 5. Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.' ''
C. As Paul stood before the council, he told them he had lived his life for God until that very time. That’s why he could write to the church in Corinth and say in 1 Corinthians 4:4 – “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”[para] It is also why he could write to his young friend Timothy and say in 2 Timothy 1:3 – “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,”[NKJV]

IV. Paul’s announcement about his clear conscience didn’t go down very well with Ananias the high priest. He commanded the man next to Paul to strike him, which was a violation of Jewish law.

A. God says in Deuteronomy 25:1-2 – “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, "then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows.”

1. They broke God’s law by striking Paul on the mouth. Paul, with the voice of prophecy, told Ananias that God would strike him because he sat to judge the apostle by the law but violated it by having a man struck before he had been tried and found guilty. This is interesting because according to Jewish history Ananias was murdered by his own people just a few years later at the beginning of the Jewish war.
2. Those standing by, asked Paul if he was insulting the high priest, who, of course, was one with certain authority. Let’s see what God says in Exodus 22:28 – “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people”

B. Why did Paul insult the high priest? It is possible that Paul didn’t know who he was. Since this was not a formal assembly, Ananias may not have had on official dress. It is also possible Ananias may not have been the actual high priest at that time, because the title “high priest” was also used for former high priests and those who were merely from the family out of which he was chosen. Any or all of these circumstances may have accounted for Paul's failure to recognize Ananias as high priest.
C. Notice what Paul did as soon as he learned Ananias was the high priest. Once Paul knew who he spoke against, he immediately apologized noting that it was against the law to speak against a ruler of God's people.

V. What happens next in Acts 23 is one of the finest examples we have of divide and conquer. Acts 23:6 – “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!''”

A. Luke tells us that when Paul looked around at his audience, he saw the council was comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees. He begins his defense by saying he was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee and brought up on charges because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead.

1. Why would Paul say he was brought before them because of his belief in the resurrection? Because when you preach about the gospel, as we have already seen time and time again, when you teach the gospel, you must include the teaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – “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,” Paul uses his belief in Jesus’ resurrection to divide and conquer.

B. Acts 23:7-10 – “7. And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. 9. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes who were of the Pharisees' party arose and protested, saying, "We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.'' 10. And when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.”
C. Luke tells us that Paul’s statement immediately created a division between the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who didn’t. The discussion reached a point where some of the scribes who were Pharisees stood up and said they could not find any fault in Paul. In fact, they almost defend Paul by wondering if the apostle had been spoken to by a spirit or an angel. After all, the Pharisees believed in spirits and angels but the Sadducees didn’t.
D. Because of these two different beliefs, the dissention between the two groups was so great that the commander had Paul withdrawn to the barracks, afraid he would be torn apart by them.

VI. I imagine that Paul’s situation was terrifying, yet Paul being the faithful Christian that he was, kept his focus on the mission which God gave him. God didn’t let Paul get too comfortable on this earth, and He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable either.

A. Remember when Paul asked the Lord three times that the thorn in his flesh be taken away? The Lord told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

1. There are places in NE Ohio where we can see eagle’s nests and though some of us have seen or seen pictures of a eagle's nest high up, few of us have gotten a glimpse of the inside.
2. When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and several other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. Then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs.
3. By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave. That's when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest." With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles.
4. Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behavior. Perhaps that is why God allows trials and sufferings in our lives. He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable in this world. He wants us out of our comfort zones, and He wants us to grow.

B. When it came to Paul, God wanted Paul to take the gospel to Rome, and He wants us, you and me, to take the gospel somewhere as well. The Roman Empire believed that it was the light of the world, but Paul knew all too well that Rome was still in the dark and the gospel was the real light.

1. There is this story of a couple who took their son, 11, and daughter, 7, to Carlsbad Caverns. As part of the program, when the tour reached the deepest point in the cavern, the guide turned off all the lights to dramatize how completely dark and silent it is below the earth's surface.
2. The little girl, suddenly enveloped in utter darkness, was frightened and began to cry. Immediately was heard the voice of her brother: "Don't cry. Somebody here knows how to turn on the lights."

VII. We all know people who are still stumbling around in the darkness and God wants us to share the gospel light with them. In a very real sense, that is exactly what the message of the gospel is, it is the light.

A. Jesus says in John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.''”
B. Ok, if that’s who Jesus is, what does He say we are?
C. Matthew 5:14-16 – “"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
D. You see church, every time you open your mouth, every time you walk into a room, every time you do a good deed, -- with everything you do in life, you’re saying to people, I know how to turn on the light.

1. Jesus does not say you’re the light in the bed room, He does not say you’re the light of the meeting place.
2. No! Jesus said you’re the light of the world.

E. Have you ever been looking for a flashlight in your house and when you eventually find it, you discover that it doesn’t work because the batteries are all corroded and leaking?

1. The flashlight is now useless because it hasn’t been used regularly or cared for. Now it needs to be thrown away and replaced with a new one.
2. There’s no point in our shining like stars only on Sunday morning if we are not going to use our light through the week. We come to worship God each week to recharge those batteries so that we can have enough energy left within us to last the rest of the week. If we as torches of God’s light continue to shine every day of our lives, Satan will never have an opportunity to come in and tempt us to corrupt our lives with sin.

F. All of this must have taken a toll on Paul because Luke tells us next in Acts 23:11- “... the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

CONCLUSION:
God told Paul to ‘Be of good cheer’ or as some translation put it, ‘Take courage’ because there was still work God had for him to do. God has work for us to do as well and we also need to take courage. Let’s look at a few verses
Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.''”
Psalm 56:4 – “In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Romans 8:35 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Psalm 139:7-12 – “7. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8. If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10. Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. 11. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,'' Even the night shall be light about me; 12. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

A man once boasted he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocketknife. Asked why he hadn't cut off the lion's head, the man replied: "Someone had already done that." The Bible compares the Devil to a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. One way he devours is through devouring our time by scaring people away from doing God's work. Maybe there is someone God has put in your life recently to speak to about their soul. But perhaps you've procrastinated and convinced yourself you just don't have enough time right now, when the real reason you haven't acted is fear. Remember, Jesus has already cut off the lion's head. Satan is a defeated enemy. So go ahead; get your little pocket knife out and do whatever you need to do to teach the gospel, and redeem the time "
____________________________________________________________________________________

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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Taken from sermon by Mike Glover

Wisdom That Controls

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

James 3

We are continuing our sermon series through the Book of James and we have come to one of the most fundamental warnings for anyone who wants to preach or teach the word of God. But before we get into our text today let me share with you a story I heard about a little boy who told a preacher, 'When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money.' 'Well, thank you,' the preacher replied, 'but why?' 'Because my daddy says you're one of the poorest preachers we've ever had.'

Now I’m sure we’ve all heard some pretty poor preaching over the years and maybe some of you even put some of my sermons on that list. A sermon needs to be clear; it needs to have an explanation of the Bible text, it needs to have an application. As someone once said, ‘a sermon which no-one can understand and without application is about as much use as a deep well without the rope and bucket to draw the water out’.
Paul teaches us in Romans 12:4-8 “We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God's message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.”

All preachers and teachers can lead people to truth or they can lead them to error. And we know from Hebrews 13:17 that church leaders are going to be held accountable to God, so too are all those who teach if they mislead others.

Now James says not only are teachers going to be judged with greater strictness than others but he also says that all of us often make mistakes. I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been a Christian; everyone in this room has faults. But there is one major fault which most people have which James has in mind here and that’s the fault of using our tongue for the wrong reasons.

James says it takes spiritual maturity not to stumble with our words. That’s what he means when he says in James 3:2, “But if a person never makes a mistake in what he says, he is perfect and is also able to control his whole being.” Are you a Christian who is able to control your tongue? If so, then according to James, that’s great news, that’s a sign that you are a mature Christian. But his point is this, if you believe that preaching and teaching is your gift from God, then go for it, but go for it using humility and cautiousness.

Now it’s quite clear that James is referring to using our tongue in this verse and that’s the theme for the rest of our sermon today. Because how we use our tongue doesn’t just apply to preachers and teachers, it applies to every single Christian in the Lord’s church. And so to help us understand the dangers of our tongues he uses illustrations and the first two illustrations he uses is that of a horse and a ship.

James 3:3&4 “We put a bit into the mouth of a horse to make it obey us, and we are able to make it go where we want. Or think of a ship: big as it is and driven by such strong winds, it can be steered by a very small rudder, and it goes wherever the pilot wants it to go”.
Now I know that anyone who has ridden a horse will know exactly what James is talking about here. James says the bit controls a horse and the rudder controls the ship. Now a bit is a piece of metal that is placed in the mouth of a horse that allows a rider to control the animal.
It rests on the bars of the mouth in an area where there are no teeth. It is held on a horse's head by means of a bridle and has reins attached for use by a rider. It’s a very small piece of the riding equipment but you can never ride and control the horse without it.

Now a rudder is another device used to steer a ship, and when you look at the size of a ship, it’s actually very small in comparison and without the rudder it’s impossible to steer and guide the ship. In other words just like the bit for a horse and just like the rudder of a ship; it is the tongue which controls the entire body.
And James goes on and shares another illustration for us, this time he uses the illustration of a little fire. James 3:5&6 “So it is with the tongue: small as it is, it can boast about great things. Just think how large a forest can be set on fire by a tiny flame! And the tongue is like a fire. It is a world of wrong, occupying its place in our bodies and spreading evil through our whole being. It sets on fire the entire course of our existence with the fire that comes to it from hell itself.”

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but scientists discovered that poison from the skin of a tiny South American tree frog is far more toxic than any other known venom. Rain forest Indians use the venom from the skin of the kokoi frog to poison their blowgun arrows. It is said that Very small quantities of its poison can be fatal if they enter the bloodstream. A single frog may contain enough poison to kill more than 20,000 mice, or more than 10 people. Toxin equivalent to two grains of salt is enough to kill one person. But did you know that there is a poison even more deadly? It is the poison which comes from an evil tongue.

On the night of September 2, 1666, a small fire broke out in the premises of a baker's shop in Pudding Lane, London, perhaps started by the carelessness of a maid. If it was carelessness, it was carelessness that had enormous and disastrous consequences, for the fire spread and soon the whole building was alight.  In the close-packed streets of London, where buildings crowded each other for space, the blaze soon became an inferno. Fanned by an east wind, the fire spread with terrifying speed, feeding on the tar and pitch commonly used to seal houses. That event in history has come now to be known as the Great Fire of London.

I am sure that we all can relate to some experience of how quick and devastating a single flame can be. I can relate to a time when I was planning on burning a large number of sticks in my back yard using a burn barrel that my next-door neighbor had designed. He created a small door at the bottom of the barrel to create a more efficient way of lighting and burning. While my wife started out on a walk around the neighborhood with my 4 year old twin grandsons ... I completely loaded the barrel with sticks and then added a small dose of gas as I usually did before lighting. Without thinking about how this NEW DESIGN might impact my USUAL way of burning sticks I bent over and placed a lit match in the door at the bottom of the barrel. KABOOM!!!!!
Lighting the sticks from the BOTTOM of the barrel INSTEAD of the TOP created a cannon like affect. Flaming sticks went flying high into the air. The grandkids were still a distance from the house but looked at my wife and proclaimed, “PAPA!”

You see loved ones, some people with their tongues have used them for deceit, and their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. In other words their tongues are like a small fire, and they can easily cause great destruction. How many congregations have split because of someone causing a small flame with their words? How many relationships have been broken because of words which should have never came from our lips?
You see a loose tongue can ruin someone’s reputation; it can destroy churches, families and friendships. We also need help from God. And James is going to explain that to us in more detail in James 3:7&8 “We humans are able to tame and have tamed all other creatures---wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish. But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison.”
James says that despite being able to tame wild animals, man is unable to tame the tongue. He describes the tongue as an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Now it is true that we by ourselves can’t tame the tongue, but with God's help we can tame it.

Psalm 141:3 “Lord, place a guard at my mouth, a sentry at the door of my lips”. Not only can we tame the tongue with God’s help according to Paul... we must tame it.
Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:29 “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”
He more or less commands the same thing over in Colossians 4:6 “Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.” So as Christians we must tame our tongues but we know that’s not always easy.

And so to further illustrate just how difficult it can be to tame out tongues, he uses a very common problem even for Christians today. James 3:9&10 “We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people, who are created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth. My friends, this should not happen!”

James says we use our tongues to give thanks to God and at the same time to curse other people. Now we do this most days of the week but this is something which I have heard Christians do especially on Sundays. We all come together for worship and just thank God for everything He has done for us but then we jump in our cars and start cursing anyone who pulls out in front of us. James says Christian’s shouldn’t be doing that.
And then to further get the point across, he goes on and uses the illustrations of a fig spring, a fig tree and grapevine. James 3:11&12 “No spring of water pours out sweet water and bitter water from the same opening. A fig tree, my friends, cannot bear olives; a grapevine cannot bear figs, nor can a salty spring produce sweet water”. You see loved ones, James knew exactly what he was writing about here, he knew that what comes out of our mouths is a real reflection of what is in the inside of our hearts.

In fact Jesus Himself said in Mark 7:20-23 "It is what comes out of you that makes you unclean. For from the inside, from your heart, come the evil ideas which lead you to do immoral things, to rob, kill, commit adultery, be greedy, and do all sorts of evil things; deceit, indecency, jealousy, slander, pride, and folly--- all these evil things come from inside you and make you unclean."

It’s what comes out of their mouth that counts. No wonder David prayed in Psalms 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
You see loved ones these are wise words from a wise man, and you know they are wise words because they make sense. And if we want to help each other grow up spiritually together then we continually need to seek wisdom from the right place. In the next few verse James is going to inform us that there are two types of wisdom that we need to be aware of.

In James 3:13-18, he going to inform us there is heavenly wisdom and worldly wisdom. And so to help us understand the two types of wisdom he is going to make several contrasts between the two. First of all he says they are different because of their origins.
James 3:15 “Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is un-spiritual and demonic”. He says that earthly wisdom doesn’t come from heaven, it’s worldly. In other words, this wisdom works according to the standard of the world.
Now although it may seem like the world has got a lot of wisdom to offer we need to remember the words of Paul in  1 Corinthians 1:20. “So then, where does that leave the wise? Or the scholars? Or the skillful debaters of this world? God has shown that this world's wisdom is foolishness!” Paul says the world’s wisdom is foolish but why is it foolish?

Well James says in James 3:15, it’s foolish because “it is un-spiritual and demonic”. In other words, worldly wisdom appeals to our senses, to our emotions and our passions. Its wisdom according to what feels right and we need to remember that because something feels right doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right.
Now look what James says about heavenly wisdom. James 3:17 “But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.”

James says that heavenly wisdom is from above, in other words it comes from God. And if you remember when we looked at James 1:5-8 we saw very clearly that heavenly wisdom comes through prayer.
Now let’s look at the contrast in their nature. James 3:14-16 “But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don't sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil”.

James says earthly wisdom has some characteristics about it. He says earthly wisdom is full of bitter, envy, and self-seeking in the heart. And he says that, that kind of wisdom promotes power, position, privilege, prestige. We need to remember that it was this kind of wisdom that prompted the devil to rebel against God in the first place. It was this kind of wisdom that prompted the disciples to argue over who would be the greatest in the kingdom.
Now let’s contrast that with heavenly wisdom. James 3:17 “But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.” James says heavenly wisdom is pure, it’s above all else, it is true to God's Will.
Heavenly wisdom is displayed in people lives and actions. Heavenly wisdom treats everyone fairly and on the same basis. So not only is it pure, peaceful, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, produces good fruits and without partiality it’s also without hypocrisy.

Now why would James say that heavenly wisdom is without hypocrisy? Because, heavenly wisdom is not an act, it’s not a show. It comes from a heart desiring to please God, not man.
So, the question is... what kind of wisdom do we desire?

If you seek heavenly wisdom you won’t boast about it, according to James 3:13, you will show it in your life with humility. I pray you desire the only wisdom that makes sense, the wisdom which comes from God above. And for those of us who preach and teach, I pray we preach and teach wisely using cautiousness and humility.

Blinded By The Light

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Acts 21:37Acts 22:21

INTRO: Today we will go back to our look at the book of Acts, and we will be examining Acts 21:37 thru 22:21.

Last time we left the apostle Paul in a situation where everyone around him wanted to kill him because a small group of Jews that had come from Asia and accused him of four things.

They accused him of (1)teaching against the Jews; (2)teaching against the law; (3)teaching against the temple; and (4)bringing Greeks into the temple, thereby defiling it.

The chief captain of the Roman garrison who was guarding Jerusalem rushed in with several hundred men to rescue Paul from the mob.

We catch up with Luke’s report of Paul’s actions in Acts 21:37-40 – “37. And as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?'' He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38. "Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago raised an insurrection and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?'' 39. But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia (si•li•shuh), a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.'' 40. So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language...”[NKJV]

There is an old story of a man who had a reputation for being wise and for giving sound advice.
A young person went to him one day and asked, "Uncle Jimmy, how come you have such good judgment?"
"Well, I have good judgment because I have had a lot of experience," he replied.
The boy said, "Yes, but how did you get all that experience?"
"Well," the man laughed, "I got it by making a lot of bad judgments."

I. You would think that Paul asking the commander, if he could speak would be a bad judgment by Paul. Especially after having his life threatened by the very people he is going to speak to. I’m pretty sure if that was me, I would be longing just to get out of there and away from the mob.

A. Paul doesn’t turn away. He asks to speak to them and when the commander heard Paul speak to him fluently in Greek, he was surprised. The reason he was surprised seemed to be because he had assumed that Paul was a criminal. From the text we see that the commander apparently thought that Paul was an Egyptian who had led a band of some 4,000 men in a rebellion.

1. Paul explained to the captain that he was a Jew from Tarsus. Some time ago there were many coins excavated from Tarsus which had the following inscription engraved on them, 'Metropolis Autonomous.'
2. The reason I shared that information with you is because this tells us that Tarsus at some point in time, must have been granted a degree of autonomy by the Romans. The excavations also tell us that Tarsus was an important metropolis noted for its educational facilities, as well as for trade, shipbuilding, and commerce.
3. Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the very multitude that only moments before had sought to kill him. When permission was granted, Paul gestured with his hand to gain the attention of the audience and a hush fell over the crowd.

B. Paul then began to speak to them in their language.

II. Paul begins his defense, and he says in Acts 22:1-5 – “1. "Men, brethren, and fathers, hear my defense before you now.'' 2. And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: 3. "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia (si•li•shuh), 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. 4. "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5. "as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.”

A. We note that most of Paul’s audience was primarily Jewish which is why he addresses them as "Brethren and fathers."

1. We also need to recall what we said at the beginning of this lesson, according to Acts 21:28, Paul's accusers had said he taught against the Jews, the Law of Moses, the temple and brought Greeks into the temple, defiling the holy place.
2. Paul’s response to their first accusation was that Paul himself was a Jew. He was born in Tarsus, but he was reared in the city of Jerusalem as a pupil of the highly respected Jewish teacher, Gamaliel. He had been taught the law, which was handed down from the Jewish fathers, in a most precise way. In fact, he had become a zealot for God, just as had his accusers.
3. His zeal had reached the point where he persecuted those following Christ's way by binding, imprisoning and ultimately assisting in their deaths. What Paul does next is what any good lawyer would do in a courtroom situation and that is call in the witnesses.
4. As witnesses to his zeal, Paul mentioned the high priest and council of the elders. He tells the angry mob that he had personally received letters from the high priest and elders to give him authority to go to Damascus to bring Christians from that city in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.

B. It’s much easier to talk to people when you have been in their shoes so to speak. We can sympathize with people about things they have gone through or are going through, but we do not always fully understand what they are going through unless we have been there.

1. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but unless you’ve been addicted to alcohol you cannot fully understand an alcoholic. Unless you’ve been addicted to drugs you cannot fully understand what a drug addict is going through.
2. Unless your husband or wife has walked out on you, you cannot fully understand the situation of the person who is left, or what their children are going through.
3. Unless you have fallen away from the Lord you cannot fully understand just how difficult it is to come back.
4. Unless you have lost someone close to you in death, you can’t fully understand what it’s like to lose someone that way.
5. Paul understood these people because he was just as zealous about their beliefs as they were. He had walked in their shoes and fully understood where they were coming from.

C. Many times when we meet people and they share their problems with us, if we can relate to them, this will help us to share with them how we understand what they are going through. More importantly it will open a door for us to share with them how we got help with our problems.
D. We may think that Paul didn’t have any problems with sin. Paul had the same serious problem with sin that that everyone suffers from.

1. The story is told that a newspaper wrote to the famous writer, philosopher and theologian G. K. Chesterton, who by the way was the creator of the priest-detective Father Brown, and asked him the question, "What's wrong with the world?" G. K. Chesterton wrote back and said, "I am." What Chesterton was saying is that each one of us is in part responsible for what is wrong with the world.
2. People will never become Christians until they see themselves as sinners. As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 – “... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
3. Paul saw himself as a sinner in need of salvation, and he could relate to his Jewish audience because he’s been where they are.
4. Paul goes on to share his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.

E. I will not go into great detail on the next few verses because we already dealt with most of this in Acts 9.

III. Paul goes on and says to them in Acts 22:6-11 – “6. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8. And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 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. 11. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.”[KJV]

A. Paul shares with them the unique conversation he had on the Damascus Road with the voice from heaven. Remember that Luke had already reported this to Theophilus in Acts 9, but here Paul adds the fact that the bright light was seen at noon, when it outshone the sun.

1. Paul fell to the ground, and the voice asked why he was persecuting Him. To accurately answer the question, Saul, as he was known at that time, had to know who was speaking.
2. Jesus then clearly identified Himself to Saul. The only sense in which Saul, or Paul, persecuted Jesus was in that he persecuted the church, or Jesus' body.

B. Paul continues and tells them that his travelling companions were afraid, and did not hear the voice of our Lord. Or as the American Standard translates, it they did not hear in the sense that they did not understand it. Saul fully understood and asked what the Lord would have him to do. Jesus tells him to go into the city to be told what was planned for him, both in reference to his own salvation and that of many others.

IV. Off they went, with Paul's companions leading him to Damascus because he was blind. When he arrives at Damascus Paul tells them in Acts 22:12-21 – “12. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13. Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. 17. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18. And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20. And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”[KJV]

A. In Damascus, a devout, God-fearing man named Ananias came to Paul. Paul’s sight was restored and Ananias told him that God had appointed him to know His will, see the Righteous One, and hear His voice. Ananias further said that God planned for him to be a witness to all men and told Paul to be baptized to have his sins washed away.
B. Paul then told the multitude that he returned to Jerusalem and was praying when the Lord told him to leave quickly because they would not receive his testimony. Paul argued with the Lord telling Him the Jews knew of his zeal. The Lord however, told Paul to depart and He would send him to the Gentiles. As I said we have already looked at the conversion of the apostle Paul in Acts 9.

V. I thought though, that it would be useful for us to spend just a few moments looking back at all the conversions recorded in this beautiful book.

A. We’re not going to read all the scripture references but what we are going to do is quickly highlight some important truths that you will discover if you take the time to read through them yourself.

1. If you take a moment when you get home to read Acts 2:38-41 you will find reference to the fact that on the Day of Pentecost, the people, heard the word of God, repented of their sins, and were baptized.
2. In Acts 8:5-13, where we find Philip in Samaria, you will read reference to the fact that the people heard the word of God, believed it, and were baptized.
3. In Acts 8:26-40 where we find the account of Philip and the Eunuch, if you take a moment to read through it you will find references to the fact that the Eunuch, heard the word of God, believed it, confessed Jesus as Lord, and was baptized.
4. It is in Acts 9:18 where we find the account of Saul’s conversion that you will find reference to Saul, hearing the word of God and being baptized.
5. In Acts 10:47-48 we find the first Gentile converts to Christianity. In reading through that account you will find reference to them, hearing the word of God and being baptized.
6. In Acts 16:15, where we find the first European Christians, we find Lydia and her household, heard the word of God, and were baptized.
7. In the next few verses Acts 16:16-33, we find the account of the Philippian jailor. We find reference to him and his household, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
8. In Acts 18:8 we find the account of Crispus and others in his home, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
9. In Acts 19:3-5 we find reference to other people, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.
10. Finally, here in Acts 22:16 where we find Paul’s story again, we find him, hearing the word of God, believing it and being baptized.

B. There are a couple points to note here and the first one is this; you cannot become a Christian unless you first hear from the Bible how to do so.

1. Paul says in Romans 10:14-15 – “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!''”[NKJV]
2. Paul is saying no one can conclude that Jesus is Lord and wants to save people from their sins if they have never been told. Every single person in our conversion list heard the good news concerning Jesus before they became a Christian. Notice their responses, every single person was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
3. This simple look tells us that if a person wants to become a Christian they need to be told how to, because a person cannot die to self if they haven’t died to Christ first. Salvation doesn’t come before baptism, it comes during.

C. Now, let’s look at John 3:3-5 where we find Jesus speaking to Nicodemus and Jesus says to him; “... "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'' Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'' Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

1. In Romans 6:3-6 Paul tells us; “... do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
2. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:21 that; “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
3. I know that I’m preaching mostly to the converted here, but there are a whole host of people out there who believe that they are right with God, yet they have never been immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Because according to Acts 2:36-41 your sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given only at your baptism.
4. I do notice that in the Book of Acts we don’t find one single person saying, “Do I have to be baptized? Must I be baptized?”

D. Jesus said in Mark 16:16 – “"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Every single conversion we read about in the Bible has people submitting to Christ in humble obedience in the waters of baptism.

1. There are those that argue, “Jesus doesn’t say if you are not baptized you will be condemned, He says, ‘if you do not believe you will be condemned’.” He does not say; “He that believeth NOT and is NOT baptized shall be condemned.” True enough, but that is exactly what it means. The quibble raised by such a question is unworthy of intelligence and faith alike, it being implicit in the nature of baptism that, unless one believed, they COULD NOT be baptized.
2. If we were to think about that question logically, we could also say that Jesus didn’t mention repentance either. Are we going to teach that a person may be saved without sorrow for sin and a corresponding improvement of life? Surely not. When Jesus affirmed that one who disbelieves will be condemned, it was entirely unnecessary to add further acts of rebellion to make the case. The unbeliever is condemned at that point so it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to add more acts of disobedience to a list.
3. Suppose we were to say, “He who eats and digests his food shall live, but he who eats not shall die.” Would it be sensible to say, “He who eats and digests his food shall live, but he who eats not, and does not digest, shall die”? Can a person digest something he hasn’t eaten? In other words, is it even necessary to discuss baptism with a person who is in a state of disbelief? Of course not, logic and common sense tells us that Jesus didn’t need to mention baptism the second time because anyone who doesn’t believe, won’t be baptized as a action of faith and obedience.

E. People need to know that salvation does not occur until the believer has been baptized. That’s an important point for us to remember, because when God opens a door for us to share our testimonies with unbelievers, we need to make it clear to them that at our baptism was the point where we received not only the forgiveness of our sins, not only the gift of the Holy Spirit, but also our baptism was the point in which we received our salvation.

CONCLUSION:
Not only was Paul blinded by the light, but we have also been blinded by that same light. We are able to talk about our road to Damascus to unbelievers because we’ve been there. We were merrily walking along life’s road when suddenly, we heard someone speak about God. Then we were blinded by the bold truth that we are sinners and in need of rescuing from our sins.
We were blinded by the truth that we can’t make it to heaven on our own, we need Jesus to help us. Blinded by the truth that our lives were in a mess, and no one could help except God Himself. Blinded by the bold truth that no one could forgive us for the sins we had done except God.

We are reminded of the words John Newton wrote to that famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that sav’d a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Let me ask you before we finish, how is your eyesight this morning?
Can you still see God clearly?
Can you still see God’s purpose for your life clearly?

Is living in this sin filled world beginning to make your eyesight a little hazy? Maybe there is some sin or problem in your life which is beginning to cloud your vision.
We need to stop looking at the faults in our brother’s or sister’s eyes and remove the plank from our own.

Luke 6:41-42 – “41. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42. "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.”

Whatever the problem or the sin is, God can heal it.
God helped us see that light clearly before, and He can do the same again.
Just like our physical bodies may sometimes need a doctor, our eyes may need some care and attention from the optometrist to maintain good eyesight.
God is always on hand as the great physician, our spiritual optometrist, to help restore our spiritual eyesight back to its full glory. So that we can clearly see the hope that lies ahead of us, the purpose for our lives, and glory of heaven which waits for every one of us.
____________________________________________________________________________________

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.

# 624—Why Keep Jesus Waiting?
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover

What Did You Do With Jesus?

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Philippians 1:21-26

INTRO:
Good Morning. This week I’m going to take a break from our look at the book of Acts.

I was asked recently to speak at a memorial for the passing of a relative and in the process I contemplated again the fragility of our life here on earth. I’m going to begin this morning with a question that I hope you will forgive me for. It is something many will consider a depressing question, but it is one we need to think about. What would your thoughts be if you knew that you were about to die? What philosophy of living and dying, does each of us have that we would pass on to our loved ones if we had only a little time and just a few words to say?

Please turn your bibles to the Book of Philippians.

We find that the apostle Paul is in that same situation. Remember that Paul is in a Roman prison. He doesn't know whether he will live or die. He faces the possibility of immanent death. In Philippians 1:21 Paul sums up everything we need to know about living and dying using these few words. Paul says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."

Nowhere in this letter, will you find Paul expressing self pity. As far as Paul is concerned he is in a no lose situation. If he lives, he lives for Christ. If he dies, he is with Christ, which is gain. Paul is saying, "It doesn't matter what happens, I’m going to be OK". As we saw in our study of Acts, Paul is focused on Christ. He knows it doesn't matter what happens to him because he can't lose. To Paul Christ is a matter of life and death.

So then the question, What about us? Do we summarize life and death in terms of Christ? Most people do not. I mean, most people focus on what is to be done in this life as they see it. Most people live by a different philosophy of life and death.

I. Some of them might say; "To live is me and to die is tragic”... The “me” is really a very small reason for living, and it leads to a very empty kind of living. Perhaps this helps explain the despair, depression and fear in the world today. The more I see the more I think most people have 2 great fears. 1. They are afraid they might die tonight. 2. They are afraid they might live tomorrow.

A. You see, dying frightens many people and living has no passion for them. Then there are people like Paul, who have a passion for living, and they have a passion for dying. If you were to ask those people which they would choose, they couldn't answer because they have a passion for both.
B. Listen a Paul continues in Philippians 1:21-26 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.”.
C. Paul tells us that if he is to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for him, but to chose one over the other—he cannot. Paul has the desire to depart and be with Christ, but he knows it is important he remain to teach. Since he is convinced this is important he will remain as long as he can. He will continue with them for their progress and joy in the faith, so that through him their joy in Christ will overflow.
D. Paul has summed up the philosophy of living and dying that will change our life—litterly change our life. Let's look at living first of all.

II. Living. Paul says that, "Christ provides the purpose for joy in living". There are people who don't have a reason for living and certainly do not see the joy in it. We can work hard to get a new car. We can work hard to buy a new house. We can work hard to build a business. Yet, people are not satisfied for long when they reach these goals. You might hear people say, “I don’t have enough to live on.” Perhaps the real problem is that they don’t have enough to live for. That can be a very real problem.

A. What about Paul? He had a passion for living. Paul says, "He's not afraid to live" because if he lives, it's going to matter. If he lives he knows, it's going to make a difference. He says, to the Philippians, "I’m going to continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith."
B. Paul loved living, because that meant that he could bring the joy of Jesus to other people. Perhaps there is so much depression today because there is so much pre-occupation with self. Why did God leave me on this earth? Why do I have one more day to live?
C. The old devil, Satan tries to sell us a lie here. He's says, "The reason you are still alive is because you are not saved yet”. He's says, "You better work hard to try and earn that salvation before you die”. Isn't that a miserable way to live your life? When Jesus died on the cross, He said, "It is finished."
D. We are united with Jesus Christ, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:1- “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” . Everything for our salvation has already been done. Our salvation is a settled issue as long as we are in Christ and walk in His ways.
E. Then why are we still here? Not to finish our salvation. We’re still here because God knows that somebody else needs us. That's why we're here. If we follow Christ and love God, we know what we are here to do. God isn’t letting us live another day for ourselves, but for someone else. It may be for people we already know and love, or it may be for those we have not met yet.
F. This life in these bodies will never be joyful as long as we look for our own interests and not for the interests of others. Paul is saying that, "As long as God has got something for him to do, he will stay". Although Paul desires to die and go home to Jesus, he recognizes the reason he is staying.

1. The quality of our lives really does depend on the quality of our investments. Just not the investments the world thinks about. One day we are all going to stand in front of the Lord and give an account of everyday that was a gift from Him. We have to do that.
2. What are we going to report to Him? Will we say, "Well, in my life time, I built a house"? Will we say, "Well, in my lifetime, I had a good job". Or "I had a nice retirement, enjoyed travel and cruses". Do we realize that all that stuff is going to be incinerated when Jesus comes back? It’s going to be burned up. Have faith. It would be better for us to invest our life in something eternal. Every day we live, is a gift of grace from God to be used to invest in people.

G. Let me mention something Steve Jobs said in a speech he gave in 2005. He was describing how he approached each day. Since the age of 17 until the day of the speech when he was 50, without missing a single day, he looked in the mirror in the morning and asked himself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

1. Whenever the answer had been “No” for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something.
2. Why did he keep reminding himself everyday for 33 years, “each day could be the last day of his life?” This was his answer: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
3. Putting it simply he says, “Live like you're dying so you can live doing what matters most to you.”

H. Yet even with this wisdom, discipline and sucess, Steve Jobs acknowledged his fear of death. He said “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.” Though it sounds as if he praised death as “ Life’s change agent which he said clears out the old to make way for the new.“ You could hear in his speech the thoughts “I want to live. I don’t want to die.”
I. Unfortunately, he didn’t and couldn’t talk about hope of what would last even after death. He could only talk about how best one may live in this life as he knew in the worldly sense.
J. Steve Jobs died in 2011 at age 56, 6 years after the speech. By human standards, no doubt he would be one of the best examples of success—he was true to himself and his own vision.

III. Dying. Since I’ve already led us into a lesson that can seem dark to some, let me make it a little worse.

A. I first want to quote something Mark Twain wrote, "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,...a world which will lament them for a day and forget them forever."
B. Rough sentiment to hear. Let me ask you this question.

1. Who's going to cry at your funeral? Who's going to cry because a major source of joy in their lives is gone? That's what Paul said, "It is necessary for me to continue living, so that you can have joy on account of me." Paul is still teaching, he is still encouraging, he is still edifying... he is still loving those who need love.
2. Who are we a joy to? That's why we are here. We are still living because the use of our lives is something that will last forever. Only Christ can give that much living.

IV. When people become Christians and think back over their previous life some of them wonder. Why did I drink? Why did I take drugs? Why did I do things that were bad for me, ungodly things and things hurtful to those around me and those I love? The answer is “I was trying to put meaning into an otherwise meaningless life.”

A. That's just half the story. Not only does Christ give us a meaning for living, Paul says that, "Christ gives us the hope and courage for dying."
B. What do we say when someone is dying? What are some of the things we hear said around the time of death? When someone is dying, we might say, "It doesn't look like they have got long to live."

1. Let me share something with you. Nobody in this room has got long to live. Everyone here is terminal.
2. Do you know what I am? I am a dying man, talking to a room full of dying people, about the only person I know that can give us life. None of us have long to live.

C. What about this phrase, "Well, they will probably be better off”?
D. "PROBABLY!!!" “REALLY?” Why do we think it is a shame when a Christian dies? Paul says, "Not probably, they are far better off." Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far."

V. Sometimes when we talk to insurance sales people, perhaps updating our auto insurance, or it may be in a cold call from a sales person who might ask if we have life insurance. Know what I would answer? “I’ve got something better—soul assurance.” That is something they do not have to sell us.

A. When I was younger we would take vacations to other places in the US, national and state parks mostly. To stretch out our funds we often slept in a tent. You know what a tent is don’t you?
B. The tent was not our home. A tent was a place we slept in because we're going somewhere else. Then we would fold up that tent, and we would pack it up, so that we could go on to where we were going next.
C. That's is what Paul says. He said, "This isn't my home; this isn't where I belong, because I'm ready to go my home,". You see, life isn't about carnal things or success. It's about eternity rather than time. Our bodies are getting older and they’re breaking down. They are not meant to last forever. Our bodies are not meant to be permanent.

VI. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 – “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,”.

A. Why did Paul want to die and go to Jesus? If I think about our lives, I can see that a person might get tired of the struggle here. Perhaps we tire of the burden of teaching and encouraging people, or maybe we tire of seeing people make the same mistakes others have made, and then helping them by teaching over again what had been taught. That is what I imagine.
B. The main reason Paul wanted to go was simple. Paul wanted the company of Christ. Paul says, "When he goes, he's going to have Christ like he's never had him before." He's going to have union with Christ.
C. Let us consider it this way. Have we ever been homesick for heaven? Do we ever just hurt inside to get to heaven? If we don’t—why not? Perhaps we need to improve our personal relationship with Jesus. We need to get to the point where we are so obsessed with Christ, so focused on Christ and so in love with Christ that the thought of being with Christ just makes our heart ache. That’s what we should desire.

VII. People all over the world today are still deciding that Jesus is a matter of life and death. That's how we should feel about Jesus. Let me share with you 3 things that we need to take out of our heads and into our hearts.

A. First we need to internalize the certainty of salvation. Ask ourselves, do we know where we are going when we die? Paul knew exactly what would happen when he died. He knew where he was going.
B. When we go on vacation as a family, I usually go over the preparation and packing many times... because I usually forget something. The first thing when you go on any journey is you need to at least know where you are going. Then you need to make sure you are going to be able to get there before you start. Perhaps we need to consider the condition of the vehicle we will use. Condition of the tires. Is an oil change needed? How are the fluid levels? Are all the lights working?
C. Paul knew that someday Christians would weep and put that old tent of his in the ground. They would say, "Goodbye" to it. Even as they did, on the other side. Jesus was going to say, "Hello" to the new one.
D. Second we also need to internalize the necessity of service. Life is not measured by duration, life is measured by use. James tells us in James 4:13-14 - “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit''; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
E. You may have heard this. Someone has calculated how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate: We sleep for 23 years of our lives. We work for 16 years of our lives. We watch TV for 8 years of our lives. We spend 6 years of our lives eating. We travel 6 years of our lives. We have 4.5 years of leisure time. We suffer from illness 4 years of our lives. We spend 2 years of our lives dressing, and sadly, we only spend 0.5 years of our lives devoted to religion.
F. That’s just an average number of years for an everyday person. I’m sure if we had calculated these things for Christians the numbers would be different. The point is this; we really need to make our short lives matter. We really need to use the gift of life, - to give the gift of Jesus to someone else. We really need to be a joy to them.
G. Finally, we need to internalize the security of sacrifice. Paul says, "I'm willing to give up everything I have for Jesus." Are we willing to do that? For those who are not yet Christians, are you willing to repent and turn to God? Are you willing to confess Jesus as Lord of your life? Are you willing to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? Are you willing... to give up everything... so that you can gain even more?
H. You see, folks, we all need to say—and believe, that we are going to love Him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength, and when we die,... it will be a gain. The only way something can be a gain is if the reward you get is bigger than the investment you put in.

CONCLUSION:
Man will pursue joy and happiness in every way imaginable. In the end of what does he have? Let me give you some words about where joy can not be found.
Not in Unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Not in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
Not in Money -- Jay Gould, an American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Not in Position and Fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
Not in Military Glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer."

We may say, “for to me - to live is my husband or wife, son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, family, or business, reputation, even being true yourself, your own inner truths”. (like Steve Jobs)
No matter how noble the persons or things we mentioned are that we may live for, apart from Christ, we can’t say “to die is gain.”
The only way we can do that is if we can say “for me to live is Christ”. Without that we can’t say “to die is gain.”
To say it another way, - if we say for me to live is something or someone other than Christ, no matter how good it is or he is or she is, we are heading to a hopeless end.

Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus Christ is the greatest gift God could give and He gave Him to save us. This being true, God’s greatest concern for you and me is “What did you do with my son, Jesus Christ, that I gave you?” “What did you do with my Son who died for you?” Did you receive Him as your Savior or reject Him?" What did you do with Jesus?

What Paul tells us is, "There's nothing you can give to Jesus that's not going to be a gain." There's no safer investment you can make with your life, than to spend it on Jesus Christ. Paul says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." In Romans 8:18 Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
We really need to pray that we can be obsessed with, that we can be focused on Christ, because it really is a matter of life and death.

Think about this life and ask; “If today were the last day of my life, would I be ready for my final departure? I hope and pray that our final destination, is a day of endless hope rather than a hopeless end.

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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.

# 647—Almost Persuaded
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover

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