Saturday, December 15, 2007

An unusual story

Matthew 2:1 – 12

An unusual story



Remember as a child the bedtime stories. They were filled with wonder and awe. Here we have a story that not only passes them in the wonder and awe department, it tells us about the circumstance around the birth of Jesus.

 

I.         The seekers were unlikely believers. [Magi – “Wisemen”]

 

            A.        The Jews of Jesus’ time did not take them seriously. (Herod did, but they didn’t.)

 

                        1.         “Goi” was the Hebrew word for Gentile.

 

                                    a.         When used it had a subhuman flavor behind it.

 

                                    b.         The word almost sounds like the Hebrew word for “dog” and was often deliberately mispronounced.

 

                        2.         Israel did not recognize Gentile’s spiritual rights.

 

                                    a.         (Ill.) Jonah’s attitude toward Nineveh was on example.

 

                                    b.         They forgot about Rahab, Ruth, and Caleb.

 

            B.        Who were the wisemen? (We don’t know for certain.)

 

                        1.         They may have been a Persian priestly class, who’s work involved interpreting special signs.

 

                                    a.         These priests were more scholar philosophers influenced by religion than actual priests.

 

                                    b.         They were known and respected by Greek philosophers.

 

                        2.         They may have been a variety of councilors to various Eastern kingdoms.

 

                                    a.         There are stories of high ranking ambassadors traveling from as far away as China during the Roman time.

 

                                    b.         Europe, Asia, and Africa were in an unprecedented time of peace.

 

                        3.         They may have been astrologers and interpreter of dreams.

 

                                    a.         Fairly common for Kings to collect such people (Pharaoh – Joseph, Babylon – Daniel and friends)

 

                                    b.         We know they were following a star.


***** The seekers were unlikely believers.

 

II.       The sign demonstrates that God never lacks a means to convey His message.

 

            A.        The star.

 

                        1.         The word indicates this was a constellation, something very unusual.

 

                        2.         Ancient belief that a star heralds the birth of a great King.

 

                        3.         When Balaam “blessed” Israel, part of that prophecy said: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.” [Numbers 24:17]

 

            B.        God had a method of communicating to the world.

 

                        1.         God spoke to His people through prophets (Scripture). God’s people were expected to pass that information on to the Gentiles.

 

                        2.         Somehow the Magi knew about the start, and the birth of a King.


***** The sign demonstrates that God never lacks a means to convey His message. The believer is the primary means God uses.

 

III.      The search demonstrates the earthly joy does not satisfy; only joy given by God can satisfy.

 

            A.        The search was earnest.

 

                        1.         It involved hardship. This might have been a 4 year trip for them.

 

                        2.         While there was peace, travel outside the Roman empire was fairly dangerous.

 

                        3.         There was discouragement. They looked in the wrong place.

 

                                    a.         Jerusalem was the natural (and human) choice.

 

                                    b.         Somehow they lost sight of the star...

 

            B.        The search depended on God’s guidance.

 

                        1.         They followed, only to go the wrong place.

 

                        2.         [v 10] “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed”


***** The search demonstrates that joy is found only in God’s guidance.

 

IV.      The success of the seekers following the star gave them the opportunity to give all they had to God.

 

            A.        Success was not found were expected.

 

                        1.         Success is never found were the world expects to find it.

 

                        2.         Notice they were looking for “King of the Jews” who they found was “King of Kings.”

 

            B.        The Magi came with treasures for a King.

 

                        1.         [v 11] “they bowed down and worshiped him.”

 

                        2.         What they really gave was themselves.


 

***** The seekers found success. They thought they were looking for a King but found a savior. They gave to Jesus what they held precious and offered to Him what He holds precious (their worship).

 

1.         What are you seeking?

 

2.         What is guiding you in the search?

 

3.         What are you prepared to give, when you find Jesus?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Golden Age

Isaiah 11:1 – 10
“The Golden Age”

“... and His place of rest will be glorious.”  [v 10]

I.    Who is this Messiah?

    A.    He will come from the “stump of Jesse.”

        1.    A stump is what’s left when a tree is cut down.

            a.    At the time of Isaiah’s David’s line was strong.

            b.    By Jesus’ time, it was buried in infamy.

        2.    Notice, this is “the stump of Jesse” (not David)

            a.    There is only one Jesse.  He was considered “the least.”

            b.    David’s origins are “lowly” and reflected in Jesus’ birth.

    B.    He will demonstrate dependence on the Holy Spirit.

        1.    The human nature of Jesus required dependence on the Holy Spirit.

            a.    “But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” [Philippians 2:7]

                1.)    “Made himself nothing” – the Greek work literally means “emptied.”

                2.)    NLT “gave up His divine privileges.”

                3.    MSG “He set aside the privileges of deity.”

            b.    Necessary because our human nature is bent.

                1.)    Jesus demonstrated how to live.  He was the model and pattern.

                2.)    The template is to show us how to depend on the Holy Spirit.

        2.    There are three sets (couplets) that must be understood together.

            a.    Wisdom and understanding.

                1.)    Wisdom is the intellectual ability to perceive.

                2.)    Understanding is moral intelligence (the correct use of perception).

            b.    Council and might.

                1.)    Council is the ability to give direction.

                2.)    Might is the ability to build and have strength.

***** These two would indicate the ability to create a plan and make the though into action.

            c.    Knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

                1.)    Knowledge is acquainted with the true will of God.  (As opposed to wishful thinking or cultural induced/conditioned thinking.)

                2.)    The fear of the Lord is seen in the determination to carry out the will of God.

II.    How does He judge?

    A.    Different than the world.

John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”  Or as the NLT puts it, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

        1.    Not by sight or appearance.

        2.    Not by hearing or hearsay.

    B.    Judge with:

        1.    Righteousness is what is right.

        2.    Equity means what is fair.

        3.    We see the contrast between the Messiah and human systems.

            a.    The poor/needy get justice.

            b.    The meek/exploited get things set right.

***** In Jesus there is not social class, no economic class, no racial distinctions, and nobody but Jesus gets any glory.  (He’s the only one worthy.)

III.    What will the Messiah’s kingdom look like.

    A.    Creation is restored to God’s original (and intended) order.

(Romans 8:19 – 25)

        1.    Romans 8:20 “the creation was subjected to frustration.”

            a.    The theological word for this is “cursed.”

            b.    The Curse is the consequences of the first sin (disobeying God).

        2.    Romans 8:21 “liberated from the bondage of decay”...”glorious freedom.”

            a.    Isaiah sees a “new heaven and a new earth”  [Revelation 21:1] where everything is back to its original design.

            b.    Isaiah 11:9 “neither will harm or destroy.”

    B.    We see the image of “perfect peace.”

        1.    The animal world is at peace.

            a.    There is no predatory behavior.

            b.    There is no need to eat each other.

            c.    There is no need to protect themselves.

        2.    There is peace between humans and animals.

            a.    This is not talking about domesticated animals.

            b.    Even the image/relationship between children (innocent) and animals ( by nature would hurt or kill) is one of peace.

    C.    Key: “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

        1.    The knowledge of the Lord starts at the cross.

            a.    Jesus is “the lamb that was slain.” [Revelation 5:12]

            b.    Jesus is the “King of Kings.” [Revelation 19:16]

        2.    Jesus’ rest... His kingdom will be glorious!


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When everything goes wrong

Habakkuk 3:17 – 19
“When noting goes right.”

I.    Desperate Circumstances.

    A.    The reasons:

        1.    An invading nation.

        2.    Habakkuk saw what was happening as the judgement of God.

        3.    The self-inflicted result of sin.

    B.    The physical reality.

        1.    There was no food.

            a.    No fruit: no sweets, no indulgence.

            b.    No grain: no basics, no stability.

            c.    No meat: no proteins, no luxury of wealth.

        2.    The political picture:

            a.    There were no extras or luxuries to indulge.

            b.    There was no stability, it takes time to produce crops.

            c.    There was no wealth, symbolized by a high protein diet (privilege of wealthy societies).

    C.    The Spiritual reality:

        1.    There are plants without fruit. (See John 15:1 – 6)

            a.    It means they have not “remained.”

            b.    Branches without fruit are pruned, dried and thrown into the fire.

        2.    Oil and grain are the staple of like – for bread and other things.

            a.    Even the basics of spiritual life are missing.

            b.    Oil is often the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

            c.    Grain for bread.  Bread is the symbol of the Word of God and the broken body of Jesus.

What would happen if God sent a “famine” of the Word or the Holy Spirit?

        3.    No sheep in the pens, no cattle in the stalls.

            a.    Cattle were food, also a source of sacrifice.

            b.    Sheep are a biblical picture of God’s people.

When we wonder off we miss the blessing and care of our God.

This is a picture of a desperate situation that effects the righteous and the unrighteous.  It is a picture of judgement due to sin, of empty meaningless lives, and fruitless spiritual lives.  Yet when there seems to be nothing, for Habakkuk, God is enough because he understands joy is not dependent on circumstances (good or bad).

II.    Overriding circumstances:

    A.    God’s names reveal His nature and in this case, hope.

        1.    “LORD” is the sacred name of God, “I am, I am.”

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yahweh” and the Latinized is “Jehovah” (Hebrew does not have the “J” sound.)

            b.    Pick a question, the answer God gives is “I am.”

Does God care? “I am your provision.”

Does God love? “I am love.”

Does God save? “I am your salvation.”

        2.    “God my Savior” (KJV “the God of my Salvation”)

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yeshua” (literally “Yahweh saves”) or in Greek it would be “Jesus.”

            b.    The Vulgate says, “exultabo in Deo Iesu meo” (I will exult in Jesus my God).

        3.    “The Sovereign LORD.” (KJV “The LORD God”)

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yahweh Adonai” (literally “Yahweh rules”).

            b.    Genesis 2, this name is used.

                1.)    [2:4b] “When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

                2.)    [2:7] “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

                3.)    [2:16a] “And the LORD God commanded...”

                4.    [3:23] "So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

The Creator had power to create, the right of ownership, the authority to command, the obligation to judge.  All this is unquestionable.  Is it a wonder that evolutionists work so hard at their godless (literally) religion?

    B.    Joy is beyond circumstances.

        1.    We submit to God regardless of what is happening.

        2.    Have you ever gotten tired of working for yourself?  Joy allows us to have confidence that whatever happens will ultimately bring glory to God.

        3.    Joy is our best and final response to God’s victory.

 
Lessons: God’s people will suffer, either because of sin or their society’s sin.  God’s people will see beyond ugly/bad circumstances.  God’s people will have joy in the most difficult circumstances.

   

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving is Remembering

Deuteronomy 8
Thanksgiving is Remembering

Context: Israel is read to enter the “Promised Land.”  Moses then gave his farewell speech where he recaps the Law and retells the story of their adventures.

Point: Wealth will either DISCIPLINE or DESTROY you.  You will be thankful (a spiritual discipline) or be thankless and destroyed.

I.    The problem with thankless:

    A.    [v 17] It is easy to become proud.

        1.    Wealth can be a trap [v 12] (which is relative and about our attitude)... satisfied with food, fine homes [v 13], herds, flocks, gold and silver multiply.

        2.    The pride of life is a dangerous thing.  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” [Proverbs 16:18]

        3.    Pride keeps us from God [Romans 1:18 – 20].

    B.    [v 14] It is easy to forget.

        1    Forget what?

            a.    God’s work: He brought you out of slavery [Romans 6:16 – 18].

            b.    God’s leading: thirsty land, venomous snakes, etc...

            c.    God’s provision: water, manna in difficult times. [vv 16 – 18]

The danger is we think we produce the good things but God gives the ability to produce good things.

        2.    The result of forgetting is devastating,.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
[Romans 1:21 – 23]

            a.    We become stupid (“thinking became futile and there foolish hearts were darkened”).

            b.    We lose sight of who God really is and replace Him with gods of our own invention.  (We even reshape Jesus into a benign, wishy washy candy man.)

Thanklessness is connected to being proud, forgetting God, and leaving God for false gods.  The result is destruction.

II.    The discipline of being thankful.

    A.    Be careful to obey [v 1].

        1.    The key to “success” with God is obedience.

        2.    God made a promise, but asks something of us.

    B.    Remembering is a key to thankfulness.

        1.    Remember to be humble [v 3].

            a.    [v 3] “to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

            b.    We need food, but the “word” that comes from the LORD is

        2.    Remember to pass the test.

            a.    God k knows if we will pass, the test is a learning experience for us.

            b.    Desert areas are life’s testing grounds.  (e.g. Moses’ 40 years, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, etc...)

        3.    Remember to accept discipline.

            a.    [v 5] “ Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

            b.    Discipline is a teaching process (not a punishing process).

If you are not being disciplined by God, then you need to check “who’s your Father.”

Thanksgiving is a time deliberately set aside to remember and exercise gratitude.  Back in the late 1930 America was in a terrible depression.  On top of that, crops were failing and nothing seemed to be going well.  The President issued the yearly proclamation for Thanksgiving and the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism objected.  They claimed there was no reason for thanksgiving.  Their problem is they associated the “good things” of the “roaring 20's” with a reason for giving thanks and missed the important things like friends, family, love, liberty, freedom, and God’s grace.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 10 Commandments

Psalm 100
The Ten Commandments of Joy

I.    Worship brings joy.

    A.    How we enter God’s presence:

        1.    “Shout” means a joyful cheer.

        2.    “Worship” with gladness.

        3.    “Joyful” songs.

    B.    Joy is a decision.

Abraham Lincoln – “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.”

        1.    There is exuberance in the words of Psalm 100.

        2.    There is reason in these words.

II.    Desire to obey brings joy.

    A.    What commands are part of the new covenant? [from Mike Mason]

        1.    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” [John 14:1] Trust God, be at peace.

            a.    Context of Jesus death, a disturbing idea.

            b.    Context of our eternal destiny, heaven or hell.

            c.    Salvation, and giving peace, is Jesus’ work.

        2.    “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” [Ephesians 4:1]

            a.    [Ephesians 4:2] Humble and gentle means less energy and focus on yourself and more on others.

            b.    [Ephesians 4:3] Unity through peace means trusting and loving enough to not take differences personally.

        3.    “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” [1 Peter 4:7]

            a.    The context is the realization of the end.

            b.    “Clear minded” = alert, “self-controlled” means sober minded.  These facilitate prayer.

            c.    On the peg of prayer hangs love [v 8], hospitality [v 9], and the correct use of spiritual gifts [vv 10 – 11].

        4.    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” [Philippians 4:4]

            a.    Joy is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian.

            b.    Joy is foundational to gentleness [v 5], and peace [v 6].

            c.    Then there is a promise: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [v 7]

    B.    Joy is a choice.

        1.    Mike Mason – “intentional time set aside”

        2.    Why? Because the “dreary pragmatism of existence” will grind us down if we do not deliberately take the time to be joyful.

(Ill.) Oil change.

III.    Relationship with God brings joy.

    A.    Psalm 100:1 – 2 Worship is a means of expressing and receiving joy.

        1.    Mason – “Unhappy people withhold worship, which is the very reason for their unhappiness.”

        2.    Worship = the presence of God.

            a.    The presence of God causes worship.

            b.    Worship brings a realization of the presence of God.

    B.    Psalm 100:3 Worship puts God and us in context.

        1.    “Know.”  Spurgeon – “Our worship is intelligent.”

            a.    Knowledge leads to understanding leads to choice leads to behavior.

            b.    Not just an emotional ecstasy that overpowers reason.

        2.    What do we know?

            a.    The Lord is God.  (There is no other.)

            b.    He made us.  (Rights of ownership.)

            c.    We are His people. (Nobody else.)

    C.    Psalm 100:4 Worship is joy expressed in thanksgiving.

        1.    A cheerful spirit is appropriate.

        2.    We sing “count your many blessings... and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”  We are surprised because we have deliberately shut joy out of our lives.

        3.    Where there is joy there is thanksgiving.

IV.    God brings joy.

    A.    Consider this: (Psalm 100:5)

        1.    “The Lord is good.”

            a.    This is not part time, it is God’s character.

            b.    Our response is hope born in trust.

        2.    “His love endures forever.”

            a.    Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

            b.    Our response is love natured in relationship.

        3.    “His faithfulness...” (Never ends)

            a.    Sometimes a generation (or two) will miss out, but God does not give up.

            b.    Our response is faith unshaken by time.

    B.    No child of God has an excuse...

        1.    What about circumstances?

            a.    Remember they are temporary (even life long ones are temporary).

            b.    God is not temporary.

        2.    What about heart-ache and pain?

            a.    Life can hurt.  Jesus crucifixion hurt.

            b.    Perspective: eternal.



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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Almost Christian

Acts 26:28
The Almost Christian

When the Titanic sunk, two lists were posted.  The title of the one list was “lost.”  The other was called “saved.”  So it is spiritually, there are ONLY two kinds of people in this world: the lost and the saved. 

You are either one or the other.

Yet we have created several myths that tend to give people a FALSE sense of conversion.  They are the “almost” Christian and the “sincere fraud.”

Lets look at these groups.

I.    The “lost.”

    A.    They are not saved.

        1.    They have no relationship with God and are described as “enemies.”

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” [Colossians 1:21]

        2.    They have no sense of sin or conviction of sin.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” [Ephesians 2:1]

    B.    Some are willingly determined to go to hell.

        1.    Some have the knowledge of the truth but:

            a.    think it won’t happen.

            b.    think God will change His mind about Hell.

            c.    don’t care.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” [Hebrews 10:26]

        2.    Some want to go to hell.

    C.    Traditionally some are “fence riders.”

        1.    They want Christ but they also want sin

            a.    It seems the “best of both worlds.”

            b.    The idea is to maintain sin’s fun without guilt or consequences.

        2.    Their life resembles a ping pong ball.

(Ill.) As I was growing up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Sunday a.m. the churches were full and the bars were empty.  When the service is over, the church is empty and everyone heads to the bar.

***** When God’s saving grace affects you life: Your behavior (24/7) changes because you are changed.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17] *****

II.    The “almost” Christian.

    A.    They know everything they need to know....  King Agrippa.

        1.    He was an expert in Jewish customs and questions.

        2.    He knew enough about the Scriptures to have some understanding.

        3.    Paul suspected he, at least, believed the prophets.

    B.    They are “good” people: Honest and trust-able in their dealings.  High regard for the truth, typically they do not lie.  Willing to help others.  Avoid what is forbidden (and even dislike the forbidden).  Avoid excess.  Hard working, do good when they can.  Faithful in religious duties and involvement.  Uses prayer.

***** Good is good, it is not saved.  Neither those who give intellectual agreement with the gospel or those who are devout in religious practices are saved.  The intellectual cannot devise salvation by his own wisdom.  The religious cannot gain salvation by his own moral merit. *****

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:19]

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentile.” [1 Corinthians 1:22 – 23]

III.    The “sincere fraud.”

    A.    The “sincere fraud” will abstain from evil and actively pursue doing good.

        1.    Motivated by fear (an attempt to avoid punishment) not love.

        2.    This person is commonly known as a “hypocrite” (lit. “actor”).

    B.    Some have a “sincere” desire to serve God.

        1.    They really do want to please God.

        2.    Fact: They know about God but they do not know God.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [23] Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” [Matthew 7:21 – 23]

        3.    Fact: They are building on the wrong foundation. 

“Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? [47] I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. [48] He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. [49] But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” [Luke6:46 – 49]

***** In other words, obedience is on their terms.  Like going to a buffet.  You chose what you want and leave the rest behind. *****

John Wesley noted “Sincerity is the moving principle of the one who is ALMOST Christian.”

Reality, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    C.    There is even good designs and good desires.

        1.    There is trouble with “good” because it is not saved.

        2.    (Ill.) Four frogs are sitting on a log, 2 want to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because wanting to jump and jumping are different things).  Four frogs are sitting on a log.  Two decide to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because deciding to jump and jumping are different things.)

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” [1 Corinthians 4:20]

IV.    The “real” Christian

(Remember you are or you are not.)

    A.    The real Christian is “broken.”

        1.    Another word for this is “conviction.”

“(Because) our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”
[1 Thessalonians 1:5a]

            a.    Broken carries the idea that we are completely helpless before God.

            b.    Broken understands that the only thing between us and the hell we deserve is God’s desire to be merciful.  We call that mercy His grace.

        2.    It is a work of the Holy Spirit.

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” [John 16:8]

            a.    Broken means we understand our sin, our failed righteousness, and our rightfully deserving judgement.

            b.    Broken identifies with Jesus.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." [25] In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." [26] For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” [1 Corinthians 11:24 – 26]

    B.    The real Christian lives by the law of love.

“Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37 – 39]

        1.    Love the Lord.

            a.    Love is whole hearted, it fills the mind and soul.

            b.    Love is one of those things you know because it fills the mind and thought.

*****God becomes the priority, the things of God are more important than our priorities. *****

        2.    Love others.

    C.    The real Christian has faith that transfers trust.

        1.    The new covenant (broken body and shed blood of Jesus) changes us.

            a.    One idea is repentance: changed mind and changed behavior.

            b.    Another idea is “adoption.”

“Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." [16] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. [17] Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” [Romans 8:14 – 17]
       
        2.    The “abba” faith of a child, completely dependent on the Father.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” [“Solid Rock” by Edward Mote]

IV.    A real Christian is one inwardly and outwardly.   

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]

    A.    Clean hands: outward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend inward purity without outward purity.

            a.    We claim a good heart while our deeds displease God.

            b.    Basically this person is a self-deceived open-sinner.

            c.    It is unprofitable, it does us no good, and is down right impossible.

        2.    The “clean hands” is a changed life.

            a.    The soul has not been lifted up to a false god, one of our making (as when we create God in our own image and call him God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit).

            b.    The behavior is in line with the belief.

    B.    A pure heart: inward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend outward purity without inward purity.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. [28] In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” [Matthew 23:27 – 28]

            a.    Life or defilement comes from inside.

“Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean.”
[Mark 7:15]

            b.    The pure heart is the source.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” [Proverbs 4:23]

        2.    With a pure heart, there will be consistency.

            a.    It doesn’t necessarily eliminate mistakes, misunderstanding, and mis-speaks.

            b.    It does keep us on track.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What happened?

Galatians 4:15
“What Happened?”

The Christian life is one of joy.  If not something is wrong.

I.    The Galatians’ problem.

    A.    They were deserting God. [1:6]

        1.    The key issue is Jesus.

            a.    Jesus is God, come in the flesh, crucified, risen, and King of Kings.

            b.    Jesus is Lord.

            c.    “Grace” means God’s undeserved loving kindness... God’s “want to...”

        2.    The results:

            a.    They were turning to a “different” gospel (“good news”) which was no gospel (“good news”)

            b.    Once we take our eyes off Jesus, we will sink.  (Ill. Peter in the storm, got out of the boat at Jesus’ command, took eyes off Jesus and began to sink.)

        3.    Cure: none.  Consistently  rejecting the grace of God leave us on our own.

    B.    They were thrown into confusion. [1:7]

        1.    The key issue is outside influence.

            a.    Probably the outsiders were well meaning and sincere.

            b.    The outsiders had strong reasoning skills and were persuasive.

            c.    The REAL PROBLEM was they were “those who wanted to impress others.” [6:12]

        2.    The results:

            a.    They “pervert(ed) the gospel of Christ.” [1:7]

            b.    The goal was to “make us slaves.” [2:4c]

        3.    Cure: Instead of “stars” we need “nameless and faceless” leaders and followers who are not concerned about fame or power.

    C.    They were “not acting in line with the gospel of truth.” [2:14]

        1.    The key issue is fear.

            a.    Peter was pressured and Barnabas was lead astray.

            b.    [2:12] “because he (Peter) was afraid.”

            c.    Unfortunately weaknesses have a way of haunting us.  (Peter had once denied Jesus because he was afraid of the crowd.)

        2.    The result:

            a.    The “forced” compliance.  One key trick is to insist that people “keep the peace” and just go along.

            b.    Not only is hypocrisy demanding, it is contagious.

        3.    Cure: those brave enough to lovingly stand for truth.  (Notice that Paul did not do it to advance his own standing or agenda.)  Loving confrontation is necessary.

    D.    They were trying to finish by human effort. [3:3]

        1.    The key issue is control.

            a.    They started by believing. [3:2]

            b.    They began with the Holy Spirit. [3:2]

            c.    Assuming control of salvation is a natural result of perverting the gospel.

        2.    The result:
       
            a.    They made the gospel “for nothing” [3:4]

            b.    Was the gospel in vain?  Did they make it in vain?

            c.    [4:9] “turning back to those weak and miserable principles (forms)”

***** The over all effect: [5:2] “Christ will be of no value to you at all.”

*****No wonder there joy was gone.

II.    There are two ways to walk: human effort and depending on God. [4:23]

    A.    Human effort: [3:3]

        1.    Human effort comes through “observing the law.” [3:2] (This is our own efforts to earn, deserve, and maintain our salvation through religious/other exercise and practice.)

        2.    Human effort means slavery. [4:23]

            a.    Sarah’s idea was to give Abraham children (despite God’s promise).

            b.    Abraham did not trust God, so the human effort made sense.

                1.)    Human effort makes sense in a competitive/achievement oriented society.

                2.)    Human effort makes sense corporately when we compare ourselves and hold someone up as the “how to” standard.

        3.    Human effort will alienate us for Christ. [5:4]

        4.    Human effort means we “HAVE FALLEN from grace.” [5:4]

    B.    Depending on God’s promise. [4:3]

(A promise is only as good as the one who makes it.  Our reaction and dependence to a promise reflects our attitude and opinion toward the one making the promise.]

        1.    God’s promise comes through grace. [3:18]

        2.    In Jesus, we become children of God THROUGH faith. [3:36]

        3.    When we move from slaves to sons, God does some things for us. [4:5]

            a.    We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts [4:6]

            b.    We have absolute “Abba” trust. [4:6]

            c.    We are heirs of God. [4:7]

        4.    Depending on God’s promise looks like this:

            a.    You are crucified with Christ. [2:20]

            b.    You will express faith “THROUGH love.” [5:6]

III.    How do we restore joy?

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” [1 Thessalonians 1:6]

    A.    It goes back to the Holy Spirit.

        1.    The Holy Spirit “wakes” us.

            a.    We are awake to our spiritual state and need.

            b.    We are awake to the ONLY solution: Jesus.

        2.    The Holy Spirit “convicts” us.  (Caught between a rock and a hard place.)

            a.    We are uncomfortable with and about the truth. (The “rock”)

            b.    We are uncomfortable with and about ourselves.  (The “hard place”)

        3.    The Holy Spirit brings “godly sorrow.”

            a.    We repent of sin.  (Sin in general in our lives AND specific ones we know we are guilty of...)  (Absolutely necessary.)

            b.    We let go of human effort.

        4.    The Holy Spirit brings “joy.” (According to the individual personality of the believer.)

            a.    Joy is intelligent (able to reason and think).

            b.    Joy is emotional (able to feel).

    B.    How does it work from here?

        1.    We are free to serve in love. [5:13]

        2.    We have the fruit (product) of the Holy Spirit. [5:22 – 23a]

        3.    We keep in step with the Holy Spirit. [5:25]


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Perfect Will v Permissive Will

2 Chronicles 35:20 – 24 & 2 Chronicles 34:26 – 28
Perfect Will v Permissive Will

What happens when things do not go well? When bad things happen to good people? When what happens seems to contradict the will of God?

I. God has a “perfect will.”

A. The “perfect will” should not be mistaken for the “will of God.”


1. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” [Romans 8:29]

2. God’s plan [will] is for the believer to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

a. In other words, we are to imitate Jesus.

b. We are to live by Jesus’ words and example.

B. God has a “perfect will.”


1. Definition: this is the “best case” things happen the way God would ideally like them to happen.

a. Problem is that is not always the case.

b. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, BUT EVERYONE TO COME TO REPENTANCE.” [2 Peter 3:9]

c. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, [4] who WANTS ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.” [1 Timothy 2:3 – 4]

2. Jesus understood the “perfect will” of God is not always done.

a. Its why Jesus taught us to pray for it to be done: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10]

b. Its why Jesus had to submit to the Father’s will: “Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." [39] Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” [Matthew 26:38 – 39]

1.) Jesus was agonizing, the physical/human side knew what was coming...

2.) Jesus prayed because it was possible for him to disobey.

Please notice the “perfect will” of God is not always comfortable and death is possible. Death is not the determination of being in God’s will or not... It is God’s judgement, not ours.

Jesus said, “and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Matthew 10:38]

The problem with the “perfect will” will of God is that it can be resisted.

II. Man has a “free will.”

A. Man was created in the image of God.


1. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” [Genesis 1:27]

a. An “image” is a reflection... (as a poem, you see the reflection in the text)

b. The image included self-awareness and self-determination.

c. We are not “will-less” robots or puppets. We are held responsible for loving or rejecting God.

d. God gave Adam and Eve a choice. They had the ability to choose good and reject evil. (That’s called free will, or else Adam and Eve were created with a sin nature.) They sinned. Sin is part of our twisted human nature.

2. Sin shattered the human ability to be a “free agent.”

a. Wesley [vol. 6] “Indeed, without liberty (freedom is the ability to choose, liberty is having the choices), man had been so far from being a free agent, that he could have been no agent at all... He that is not free is not an agent, but a patient.”

b. Sin involves knowledge (with or without understanding), will, and (volition) and liberty (choices available).

c. The will of man, by nature is “bent” [C. S. Lewis] and in bondage to sin.

3. It is so twisted that slavery is mandatory.

a. “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. [18] You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” [Romans 6:17 – 18]

b. You will be a “slave” to sin (who will naturally act sinfully, with the ability to do good) or a “slave” to God (who will naturally act righteously, with the ability to sin).

B. If the “free will” will of people seems to contradict the “perfect will” of God, how are we to understand God’s sovereignty?

III. People must then suffer God’s “permissive will.”


A. This is not “plan B” or “contradictory” to the will of God.


1. Our limited mind wants to see things happening in absolutes or polarities.

a. An “absolute” is when we think if it happens this way then it must be God’s “perfect will.”

1.) “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” [James 1:13]

2.) God does not tempt, nor does God cause evil. That’s the horror of human “free will” not God’s sovereignty.

b. Polarity is when we put things on opposite poles.

1.) Some people think the “sovereignty” of God is contradicted by “free will.”

2.) The belief in “free will” (such as human responsibility for evil/sin, choosing or rejecting the offer of salvation in Jesus) does not contradict the concept of God’s sovereignty unless you misunderstand (“control”) sovereignty.

2. Examples:

a. Paul’s thorn in the flesh, Paul’s arrest (despite being warned at least three times).

b. King Jehoshaphat’s alliance with King Ahab, which included marrying his son to Athaliah (Jezebel’s daughter).

c. Hezekiah prayed on his death bed for life, God gave him 15 more years. It was during this time Manasseh was born. Manasseh was considered the most evil of all kings. (Even worse than Ahab.)

Understand “sovereignty” as “control” makes God the CAUSE of sin and misery. Submitting to sin and misery is not a comfort, nor is it an answer to the questions that plague us.

B. Josiah’s story.

1. Josiah decides to exercise his ability to choose.

a. We do not read that he consults God.

b. We know he was promised that he would die in peace (not in battle).

c. Josiah must have known he was not invincible because he disguised himself.

d. The result of his choice(s) was that he died.

2. God has established certain laws (that are in place to maintain order).

a. The law of sin and the law of death are very real spiritual laws, like the law of gravity is a physical law.

b. When Lucy and Susan ask Aslan to break the law of the Emperor... Aslan’s response is that they even he (the Emperor’s son) can not break those laws because the purpose they were put in place would then be destroyed. What becomes clear is that there is a deeper law at work.

3. God’s plan was for Josiah to live a long prosperous life and to die in peace.

a. Josiah stepped outside that plan.

b. That exposed Josiah to any and all possibilities of natural spiritual laws (such as the law of sin and the law of death).

Conclusion:

1. The only place we are “safe” is in the will of God.

2. The only way to be in the “perfect will” of God is by submitting our will to God.

3. The “un-submitted will” is really a slave to sin – it gives the appearance of “free will” but it is only an illusion. Only submitted to God can we exercise any kind of freedom.



(Ill.) The junk yard has a fence around it to keep people out (safe).  Outside that fence people are free.  Inside the confines of the junk yard fence there is limited movement and danger.  So it is with sin.  Inside sin we are limited and in danger.  Outside is the freedom that comes from being in Jesus.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taste and See

Psalm 34:1 – 10
Taste and See

Truth can be seen in one of two ways. You can begin with a certain principle and reason down to the “facts.” You can reason back from the “facts” to create principles. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. The trouble is that both can mislead a person.

For instance, suppose bad things happen. Using the first one can believe that God is good and have no need to blame God for the bad. Using the second one can question the goodness of God based on what is observed.

David understood that “facts” are a matter of interpretation. This allowed him to hold to the principle that God is good.

I. Praise God in PRECARIOUS circumstances.

A. David’s story:

1. David had been anointed King [1 Samuel 16:12 – 13]

a. David was the 8th son, the youngest, probably considered insignificant.

b. David was keeping sheep when God anointed him King.

c. David was given the Holy Spirit in a powerful way. (“rushed on him”)

2. David beat the unbeatable enemy [1 Samuel 17:45 – 47]

a. Goliath was the champion of Gath, a warrior from birth.

b. Goliath was massive. He was at least 9 feet 9 inches tall (possibly as tall as 11 feet) and extremely strong.

c. When Goliath spoke, people ran in fear.

3. King Saul wanted to kill David. [1 Samuel 20:31]

4. David fled to Gath (remember Goliath) for protection. [1 Samuel 21:10 – 15]

a. Someone remembered he had killed Goliath and got credit for destroying Gath’s army.

b. David, the slayer of Goliath, was reduced to “pretended(ing) to be insane.”

B. Here’s the principle:

1. “I will extol (bless) the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” [Psalm 34:1]

a. The word “all” is a “predeterminer” or “determiner” (a modifying word that determines the kind of reference a noun or group has... Oxford).

b. The word “always” means “continually” or without interuption.

c. Principle: If “all” then “now.”

1.) When weighed down start listening/counting reasons to praise God... (Ill. Hymn “Count Your Many Blessings”)

2.) God’s goodness should never be out of our minds.

II. Praise God in ABJECT circumstances.

A. David found himself in a very humiliating place.

1. He acted like a “madman.” He was anointed King of Israel, he was victorious in battle, he was running for his life, and now this... (CAUTION: mental illness is a serious problem that affects many people is serious ways and needs professional treatment.)

2. This might have been the low point, so far, in David’s life.

a. If you think you will never, or should never have trouble, then you are in trouble.

b. Trouble did not shake David’s faith.

B. Here’s the principle:

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” [Psalm 34:18]

1. “To be humble is to be glad.” [Unknown]

a. Why? Because God has a special place in His heart for those in abject circumstances.

b. Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3]

2. How? The unshakable confidence that “God is good.”

a. The core problem is the same one it is with sin.

b. We want to decide what is “good” (acceptable to joyful) and “bad” (unacceptable to miserable) and the project that on God.

III. Praise God in COLLECTIVE circumstances.

A. Emotions are contagious.

1. Emotions are projected, not hidden.

a. Angry words stir up anger in others.

b. Studies of “mob mentality.” It starts with one person acting inappropriately on their emotions.

2. “Misery loves company.”

a. Miserable (or hurt) people either seek out others who are miserable or make others miserable (or hurt).

b. Thought: “Joy also loves company.” (What’s the point in celebrating alone?)

B. Here’s the principle:

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” [Psalm 30:5]

1. Jeremiah in the bitterness of his circumstances recognized: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: [22] Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. [23] They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” [Lamentations 3:21 – 23]

2. What favor? What mercies?

a. [v 4] “He answered me.”

b. [v 4] “He delivered me.”

c. [v 10] “those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

IV. Praise God ENTIRELY.

A. The invitation is to “taste.”

1. To taste is to experience something.

2. When you taste it is not partial.

3. Taste triggers an entire sensation and experience.

B. “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” [v 8]

1. Taste is extremely personal.

a. Some tastes are acquired (sauerkraut, coffee, etc...).

b. Some tastes are conditioned (“don’t put THAT in you mouth”).

2. Taste differs from person to person.

a. What is sweet, sour, salty, or tart to one may be different to someone else.

b. It is all in the reaction.

C. Here’s the principle:

1. Taste is unforgettable.

a. Ever hear (or say) “That tastes like dirt (motor oil, or some other undesirable thing)?”

b. How do you (they) know it taste like dirt...?

2. God wants you to EXPERIENCE Him in a personal and unforgettable way. It’s the only way we are going to keep “pace” with life and deal with difficult (or even great) circumstances.


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Participating in Jesus

1 Corinthians 10:16
Participating in Jesus

I. This is a SACRAMENT.

A. It means to confess and identify with Jesus.

1. Not magical, not superstition, not mechanical (going through the motions), not by virtue of priest or church.

2. It is personal faith in God and love for God.

John Wesley – “means of grace” “Is not the eating of this bread and the drinking of this cup, an outward, visible means whereby God conveys spiritual grace into our souls? Conveys all that righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit which was purchased by the body of Christ once broken and the blood of Christ once shed?” [BTW, Wesley also considered read the Bible, prayer, and church attendance as “means of grace.”]

B. “Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” [John 6:53]

1. [v 54] We are promised “eternal life.”

2. [v 56] We are promised that we will “remain” in Jesus.

3. [v 58] We are promised “will live forever.”

II. This is SYMBOLIC.

A. We realize the benefits of the body and blood of Jesus.

1. Many people can be summed up in a sentence.

e.g. Abraham – “a friend of God.” David – “a man after God’s own heart.” Thomas – “doubter.” Peter – “impulsive and coarse”

2. Jesus can be understood by His death and resurrection. So we have the broken body and shed blood (of the new covenant).

B. “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." [33] He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” [John 12:32 – 33]

1. Notice what will draw people to Jesus is not His power expressed in miracles.

2. It is not Jesus’ teachings that will draw people to Him.

3. It is the broken body and shed blood that is a demonstration of Jesus’ power. That is what Jesus wanted us to remember and celebrate.

III. This is SELF-SACRIFICING.

A. The real power of Jesus life was His self-sacrificing attitude and action.

1. Human nature is selfish, we want our rights, we want to be comfortable, we want to be happy, etc...

2. The problem is how we go about achieving these things.

3. The Christ like principle is that these are achieved by focusing on others, not ourselves.

4. The broken body and the shed blood are the ultimate examples.

B. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” [1 Peter 2:21]

IV. This is SHAPING.

A. “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” [1 Corinthians 10:16]

1. As we participate together in Jesus, we become one as a community.

2. Thus, the idea of “communion.”

B. We are STRENGTHENED.

1. We participate in “communion.” We draw strength from several places.

2. We draw strength from God.

a. We recognize we are “unworthy” but loved.

b. We admit we are short of where we need to be but still accepted.

c. We feel our weakness and dependency on God.

3. We draw strength from each other.

a. There is power in “another.” If one falls the other can help.

b. “Another” gets us past ourselves and keeps us honest.

c. This becomes a house of prayer (desperately praying for each other), not a den of thieves (a safe base of operation for sin).

d. We can move beyond the selfish tone of “is it just me?”

C. We are SATISFIED.

1. Only shared together and focused on Jesus do we really find what we are searching for.

2. We fulfill our “duty” as adopted Children of God by encouraging one another and teaching one another.

Tony Dungy – “The reason we make mistakes or fail is not because of lack of motivation. It is because there was something we did not know.”

D. We are SEPARATED from sin.

1. We tend to comply with our desires, that do not please God, are contrary to God’s law, or are out right rebellion against God.

2. Our obedience or disobedience happens in CONTEXT and the context we find ourselves in is controlled by ATTITUDE.

3. Where you are and who you are with often determine our behavior and the outcome of that behavior.

e.g. At church with others seeking God. At a bar with others seeking...

ATTITUDE question: Seek God or seek your own needs?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

PS 139:24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Psalm 139:23 – 24]

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

“The substance and evidence of the soul”

Hebrews 11:1 – 8
“The substance and evidence of the soul”

Just after saying “But my righteous one will live by faith.” [Hebrews 10:38a], the Bible challenges us with historical examples.  The reason is: “Faith has always been the mark of God’s servants.” Matthew Henry

I.    Faith is the EYES of the soul.

    A.    What is faith and how does it work?

“Faith is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all He promised to us in Christ.” [M.H.]

        1.    It is “being sure of what we hope for.”

            a.    KJV = “substance”

(Ill.) When you bake and the aroma fills the house.  You can smell the baking to the point were you can almost taste it.

            b.    Forward-looking confidence. (Future)

            c.    This means we will “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7]

        2.    It is being “certain of what we do not see.”

            a.    KJV = “evidence”

            b.    This is the demonstration or proof. (Past and present)

(Ill.) You can not see the wind but you can see and feel the effects.  You can not see oxygen but you breath it and benefit from it all the time.

            c.    It is irrational to disregard faith or think it is opposed to reason. 

(Ill.) Everyday we exercise faith.  Why do you use a light switch? (You believe it will turn the light on or off.)  Why do you use a key in your car? (You believe that it will start your car.)

    B.    Why is faith the foundation?

“Faith assumes the place of substance... faith holds the place of argument.” (Dante)

        1.    Faith allows us to have God’s “seal of approval.”

            a.    “This is what the ancients were commended for.” [v 2]

            b.    It stands to reason they are examples, if faith was honored then, it is honored now.

        2.    Faith understands the true place and nature of God.

            a.    The existence of a Creator is the foundation of faith.

            b.    A Creator means undisputed right of ownership. 

(Ill.) If you make something, it is yours.  If you design something, you own that design (assuming someone else has not created that design).

            c.    A Creator means undisputed authority.

(Ill.) If you design something and make it, you probably understand it better than someone else.  When God says, this is the way it works and this is the way it doesn’t... the created cannot dispute it.  It’s why you check the “owner manual” when you have a question or problem.

            d.    A Creator means undisputed power.

                1.)    “Formed at God’s command” [v 3b]

                2.)    God did not have to use tools, process, etc... God spoke.

“Faith in the creation is the foundation and specimen of all faith.” [John Wesley]

***** Another way to say this is if you do not believe in a Creator, you do not believe in God. *****

II.    Faith is the HEART of the soul.

    A.    Able’s example (He humbled himself before God):

        1.    “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” [v 3a]

        2.    What was different/special about Abel’s sacrifice?

            a.    It was the best of the best.  (“But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” [Genesis 4:4]) We can see, the difference is ATTITUDE.

            b.    It was a blood sacrifice.

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
[Hebrews 9:22]

                1.)    In other words the blood sacrifice reflected the penalty for sin and the need for mercy.  It reflected (set the precedent) the atonement of future blood sacrifices.

                2.)    “Able had faith in the blood substitute while Cain had faith in the work of his own hands.” [Jack Waite]

    B.    The result of Able’s faith:

        1.    Able died...

            a.    Many people today are under the hatred and persecution unleashed by Cain.

            b.    It is said that more people have died for Jesus in the last 10 years than in the history of the world.

        2.    Able still speaks.

            a.    We see the early and extreme degradation what sin does to a person.  (And are horrified by murder.)

            b.    We see a clear distinction between righteousness and sin.

III.    Faith is the FEET of the soul.


    A.    Enoch’s example (He earnestly sought God):

        1.    Enoch had a special connection with God.  He “pleased God.” [v 5c]

            a.    “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” [Genesis 5:24]

            b.    Enoch was also a prophet who saw the return of Jesus. [see Jude 1:14]

        2.    Other than that, we know very little about Enoch.

    B.    The result of Enoch’s faith:

        1.    Enoch did not die.  (This only happened twice.  Enoch and Elijah.)

        2.    Enoch’s example is that of seeking God. [v 6]

            a.    Enoch sought God, and the result of that was a special walk (holiness) with God (at a level none of us will ever know).

            b.    The image is that of Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden... Enoch did not have the Garden but he did walk with God.

IV.    Faith is the HANDS of the soul.

    A.    Noah’s example (He obeyed God):

        1.    Noah, when warned built an ark.

            a.    Context: it had never rained, never flooded.

            b.    Noah’s confidence was that God would do what He said... The word of God was sufficient to move Noah to action.

        2.    What else do we know about Noah?

            a.    “This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” [Genesis 6:9]

                1.)    Here was someone who also “walked with God.”

                2.)    He was called “righteous” and “blameless” by God as a contrast to the people of his day.

            b.    “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” [Genesis 6:22]

                1.)    Obedience and attention to the details are a mark of faith.

                2.)    God spoke, Noah acted on what God said.

            c.    2 Peter 2:5 “a preacher of righteousness.”

                1.)    Imagine preaching for 120 years and having nothing more than your family to show for it...

                2.)    Building and arch and preaching must have been humiliating.


    B.    The results of Noah’s faith:

        1.    He saved his family and condemned the world (which is the real reason people fear the faithful).

        2.    “Good examples either convert sinners or condemn them.” [M.H.] “Your obedience makes their disobedience stand out.” [LAB]

        3.    We love to talk about the mercy and kindness of God (which are true) but sometimes we God’s intention is to bring severe justice.

            a.    Isaiah’s call: “He said, "Go and tell this people: `Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'  Make the heart of this people calloused;  make their ears dull and close their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” [Isaiah 6:9 – 10]

            b.    Jeremiah’s call: “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.” [Jeremiah 1:18]  “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” [Jeremiah 7:27] 

            c.    Ezekiel’s call: “But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.” [Ezekiel 3:7]

            d.    Moses’ call: “The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” [Exodus 4:21]

V.    Faith is the BREATH of the soul.

    A.    Abraham’s example (When called, he did not hesitate):

        1.    When called, he went. [v 8]

        2.    Abraham knew it was right to follow even if he did not know the direction, destination, or duration of what God was asking.

    B.    The result of Abraham’s faith:

        1.    He gave up what was secure and familiar.

        2.    He gave up what was most precious (Isaac) [see Genesis 22]

        3.    His going became “the first link in the golden chain of his faith.”

        4.    He was never hesitant to obey God.

Conclusion:

1.    What has captured your eye and holds your attention?

2.    What has captured your heart and directs where your energies are focused?

3.    What has captured your feet and directs your habits and what/who you are seeking?

4.    What has captured your hands and motivates your affections?

5.    What has captured your breath and gives you the confidence to never hesitate to obey God?

Never forget, Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham were ordinary people... just like you. 

“Many Christians become frustrated and defeated because their needs, wants, expectations, and demands are not immediately met when they accept Christ as Savior.  They become impatient and quit.” [LAB]

***** Where do you start? *****

1.    Recognize there is spiritual distance between you and God.  This gap is created and maintained by sin.  It separates us from God and spawns suspicion and distrust about God, the church, God’s messengers.

2.    The only solution for closing this spiritual distance is through faith in God’s character (love and mercy) and desire (grace) to save you through the blood of Jesus.

3.    You are at this point because God is waking you up from your sin, you now have a choice.  Will you go back to the sleep of your sin or wake fully to the new life God is offering you through Jesus?
       

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