Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Matthew 18:15 – 17
“The cure of evil-speaking”

Note: this sermon is originally by John Wesley. It used to be required that every year, every preacher in our denomination preach this sermon. I have modified it with extra material.

I. The biblical mandate: “Speak evil of no man.” (Titus 3:2a and similar wording in James 4:11a) (KJV)

A. What is “evil-speaking?”

1. What it is NOT:

a. It is not lying about someone else.

b. It is not slandering someone else. (The NIV “glosses” it by translating, “slander no one.”)

2. Wesley’s definition: “evil-speaking is neither more or less than speaking evil (relating a fault) of an absent person.”

a. Notice Wesley’s definition is not concerned with fact or truth.

b. Possibly the worst evil-speaking is true. (Ill. 10 spies, “evil report.”)

B. Wesley’s categories of “evil-speaking.”

1. “Back-biting.” The intentional cause of harm to another’s character.

2. “Tale-bearing.” Telling a story with or without the intent to discredit.

3. “Whispering.” Expression of good-will.

(Ill.) The problem with “evil-speaking” is a bit like what happened to Edith, mother of 8 who lived in Darlington Maryland. One day she came into the house to find her five youngest children huddled together and very interested in something. She checked it out and saw, in her house, five baby skunks. She immediately shouted, “run!” At the sound of her command, each child quickly picked up a baby skunk and scattered throughout the house.

II. “Evil-speaking” is common. Why?

A. “Evil-speaking” is easy.

1. John Maxwell notes there are three types of people and how they react to offense.

a. There are “Hiders.” They refuse to admit they have been offended or hurt and do whatever they can to cover up.

b. There are “Hurlers.” They insist on gossiping it around and making innuendoes (the main weapon of choice for character assassination).

c. There are “Healers.” They are the ones who find a way to use the offense or problem to bring about something good... healing.

2. We do it without thinking. In fact, to avoid this we have to be constantly thinking about what we are saying.

B. It is difficult to avoid.

1. Wesley noted there was outside pressure.

a. It is a way to build and strengthen social ties.

b. It is as common as listening to the evening news.

2. Wesley pointed out there is internal pressure.

a. It comes from pride. We think we are not guilty (or better than someone else). Not consciously, but deep down...

b. It comes from anger. We want to get even or vent.

C. It is often in disguise.

1. We can unleash “evil-speaking” in indignation.

a. Wesley – “commit sin from the mere hatred of sin.”

b. It is sad how out of sense of moral duty or obligation, we do this.

2. What is happening is that we have positioned ourselves in the place of God.

a. We see an offense, so we take action.

b. Digging for the speck in someone else’s eye takes the focus off the 2x4 in our own eye.

D. We pretend it is insignificant. [Jean Baptise Massillion “Of a Malignant Tongue” (who influenced John Wesley)]

1. Massillion said it was:

a. secret pride.

b. mean envy.

c. disguised hatred.

2. The problem, as Massillon, stated it was that it “disturbs society, spreads dissension... and disunites.”

III. Is there a way to avoid “evil-speaking?” YES!
(Jesus teaches us how.)

A. “Go and show.” (One to one.)

1. Wesley noted this should be at the first opportunity.

2. It must be done live (in person).

3. Key, according to Wesley, is that it must be done in the right spirit and right manner.

a. Wesley suggested serious prayer before approaching the other person.

b. Wesley insisted it be done in love (not as an accusation).

4. It must be done according to the gospel (Wesley).

a. Avoid pride at all costs. (Assuming is pride.)

b. Avoid anger, it doesn’t help.

c. Avoid all forms of hate or ill-will, including bitterness.

5. What if we do not? (Thoughts from Rick Warren.)

a. Because of a lack (or fear) of confrontation, “thousands of (churches) have been destroyed.”

b. “This creates a sick environment of secrets were gossip thrives.”

c. “In conflict time heals nothing, it causes hurts to fester.”

6. Wesley noted that a strange and vicious cycle hits when we do not obey Jesus at this point: “God reproves you for a sin of omission, for not telling your brother his fault; and you comfort yourself under His reproof by a sin of commission, by telling your brother’s fault to another person.

7. At this point there are four possible responses to “go and show.”

a. The other person is genuinely ignorant of the fault, offense, or sin that has been given.

b. You discover it has been a misunderstanding.

c. The other person is sorry, they confess this and repent. (If he “listens”... the Gk, word is where we get “acoustics”)

d. The other person rejects or denies. (Maxwell says this is only 20% of the time.)

B. “Take and establish.” (Wesley’s criteria)

1. “Take godly people” with no vested interest.

2. “Take understanding and wise people” who are impartial.

3. “Take a witness who knows both of you.”

4. “Take a witness who is agreeable (and likely to be heard) by the other person.” (And you will listen to if they tell you that you are wrong.)

C. “Tell and treat.”

1. VERY IMPORTANT: Wesley was clear that this does not mean to discuss the matter with people in general.

2. It means to bring the matter to church leadership for potential action. At this point it is out of your hands... do not speak about it again.

3. Jesus then said, “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

a. Love that person, like you love those who need Christ.

b. Love that person, like Jesus would have (sacrificially).

IV. What now?

A. Admit you’ve done this. (We all have.)

B. Take Wesley’s challenge: Will you now make this your rule, speak evil of no man?”

C. Take one more step, according to Wesley, “Then make this your rule, hear evil of no man.” “If there were no hearers, there would be no speakers of evil.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Genesis 43:6 – 14
Conflict and Recovery

I. The anatomy of conflict.

A. Conflict starts with offense. [v 6]

1. We take offense because we are hurt.

a. “Hurt people hurt people”

b. a.k.a. “bitter.”

2. We take offense because we do not trust.

a. We interpret actions or words in a negative way.

b. Lack of trust – vs – “good faith.”

c. Society and sin has trained us to not trust.

Most of the time the other person did not mean to hurt you and didn’t realize they hurt you.

B. Conflict deepens with “self-justification.” [vv 7 – 9]

1. One persons explanation may not help.

a. When trust becomes difficult truth or facts are easily dismissed.

b. Once negative emotions take control, it takes an outside influence to break the momentum.

2. Another persons reassurances seem empty when your mind is made up.

a. Once the trust issue becomes a problem, it becomes a matter of sides (“we” is “us” and “they” is “them”).

b. Once sides are drawn, relationships are often damaged beyond repair BECAUSE it is extremely difficult to admit:

1.) Your part in the conflict.

2.) The possibility you are not right.

C. Conflict causes paralysis. [v 10]

1. Paralysis occurs because of fear.

a. We become overly sensitive and quicker to take offense.

b. We try to keep things civil and become controlled by the conflict.

c. become afraid of potential reaction, conflict, or consequences.

2. This type of fear (which causes paralysis) is sin.

a. “God hath not given us a spirit of fearfulness.” [2 Timothy 1:7]

1.) Being paralyzed by sin is not God’s will.

2.) If it is contrary to God’s will, it is sin.

b. Sin separates us from God and each other.

D. Conflict’s final product is helplessness [v 14b]

1. Helplessness is when you feel things are out of control.

a. Question: why do you have to be in control?

b. “Control” becomes a core issue when trust becomes a problem.

c. “Control” means we BLAME someone else.

2. Helplessness is when you feel you have no choice.

a. We come to the “end of our rope.”

b. BUT this is a rope you do not have to hold on too!

E. Our relationship with others reflect our relationship with God.

1. Being easily offended, means a weak spiritual state.

2. Being unwilling to trust others, means we don’t trust God to take care of us.

3. Being on different sides puts us opposite God’s will.

4. Being in control means God is not.

II. The road to recovery.

A. Accept responsibility. [Genesis 44:16]

1. This means being honest before God and others.

a. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” [1 John 1:9 – 10]

b. Confession is one part of repentance.

2. This means accepting the consequences.

a. Not only do we have to swallow our pride, but we have to take our “licking.” (Punishment)

b. Accepting consequences is another part of repentance.

B. Put others before yourself. [Genesis 44:30 – 34]

1. An inward (selfish) focus is what started the conflict. (“offended”)

a. Until we put others before ourselves, we will always be at the door of conflict.

b. An inward focus violates Jesus’ example on the cross.

2. Another word for putting others first is “love.”

a. Love is when someone else is more important than you are.

b. Your focus is on the other person’s well being.

C. Recognize that God has a purpose. [Genesis 45:5, 50:19 – 20]

1. Perspectives:

a. Life is NOT a matter of chance.

b. Life is NOT guided by blind arbitrary fate.

c. Not everything in life is under your control.

d. In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. [Proverbs 16:9]

e. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. [Proverbs 19:21]

2. You many not control what happens to you BUT you can control how you react to it.

a. Joseph was attacked, sold into slavery, lied about, thrown into prison, forgotten. It would seem he had the “right” to be bitter or hold a grudge.

b. Joseph also saw God at work in the circumstances.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” [Duane Vander Klok]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Matthew 28:1 – 10
What are you looking for?

(Ill.) A man opened his car trunk one day to find a dusty package. Opened it and remembered that he had bought a necklace for his wife as a Christmas gift, but had forgotten to give it to her. Embarrassed, he took the gift home and presented it to his wife. When she saw it she burst into tears of joy. It was their wedding anniversary and she thought he would forget.
What are you looking for today?

I. The women came to look at a tomb.

A. They had their expectations:

1. They expected to find a large stone they could not move.

2. They expected to find guards who probably would not let them by.

3. They expected to find a tomb with the body of Jesus.

4. They did NOT expect to find a living Jesus.

B. We have expectations:

1. When we come to church, is it routine or for an encounter with God?

2. When we come to God, what do we expect to find... a loving God, an angry God, a permissive God, etc...?

3. Today what we find is the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe... who is interested in being involved in your life.

C. Let’s take a reality check.

1. What does the resurrection mean?

a. The resurrection means we have a LIVING God.

b. The resurrection means God has CONQUERED death.

2. The resurrection changes everything.

a. “the sting of death is sin” [1 Corinthians 15:56]

1.) Death has been swallowed up in victory

2.) And has no power over us [1 Corinthians 15:54]

b. The awesome power and majesty of God moves into our lives.

1.) If we have been to the cross, now we must go to and understand the empty tomb.

2.) The power of the resurrection goes beyond anything we can humanly understand.

3.) When it gets a hold of us, it changes us completely.

c. The cross is who we are, the empty tomb is how we live.

1.) Without the resurrection, our faith is useless and we are still in our sins [1 Corinthians 15:17]

2.) With the resurrection, we have power and freedom from sin now. [Romans 6]

II. What the women found changed history.

A. The angel’s message makes us think.

1. “Not here” – You are looking in the wrong place.

(Ill.) When Adam and Eve sinned one of the first consequences was the sense of shame. So they sewed leaves together to cover themselves. In a sense they were trying to cover their sin. Only God can do this.

2. “He has risen” – You are looking for the wrong thing.

(Ill.) The next thing Adam and Eve did was run from God. Possibly they thought this would solve their problem. In a sense they were running from the only one who could forgive them for their sin. Only God will solve the problem, and they were running from that solution.

3. “Just as He said” – You are not listening.

(Ill.) When Adam and Eve were confronted with the truth and responsibility of sin, they blamed someone else. In a sense, they refused to take personal responsibility. God provided a blood sacrifice to cover their shame and remind them of their sin. At the cross God provided a blood sacrifice to cover our sin and shame and to take it away forever.

4. “See for yourself” – You must respond. There is no other answer to life, sin and death, than Jesus: crucified, risen, and coming again.

III. The woman’s reaction can be a positive model for our reaction.

A. There was an emotional response.

1. Emotional responses are natural. They motivate our behavior.

2. The resurrection is a strong emotional event.

3. There are two emotions, fear and joy. When Jesus met them, He said, “do not be afraid.”

B. There was a physical response.

1. They hurried, as they were told to do. (Probably did not need to be told to hurry.)

2. They delivered the message and became the first witnesses to the resurrection.

C. There are three things to do.

1. At the cross, you must yield your sin and guilt to Jesus.

2. At the empty tomb, you must yield your expectations, actions, thoughts, and feelings to Jesus.

3. Once freed, go tell others! This happens as we encounter the power of the resurrection in our lives.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

1 Corinthians 1:18 – 31
“The Foolishness of God”

I. The “perishing” do not believe God. [v 21]

A. The “religious” want miraculous signs. [v 22]

1. The trouble with a sign is that it can be interpreted (just about any way).

2. “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” [Luke 16: 31b] (Jesus is telling what would happen when He rose from the dead.)

B. The “secular” want wisdom. [v 22]

1. The secular mind wants something that “makes sense,” something they can discover through their own initiative.

2. That’s the point of grace. We can not so God reveals salvation to us through Jesus Christ.

C. The “educated” want intelligent. [v 19]

1. Scholarship is the process of building on known knowledge. If the process in intellectually honest, then it means observation and testing.

2. God tests us, not the other way around. The ability to test assumes a position of authority. The problem with testing God is that He is “Almighty.” In other words, God can do anything He wants, any time He wants, any way He wants.

II. The message of the cross:

A Is not liked by these types of people.

1. The “religious” have a hard time submitting to Christ. [v 23]

2. The “secular” can not understand the death on the cross. [v 23]

3. The “educated” struggles to believe a message outside their authority. [vv 24, 25]

B. The message of the cross is about God’s power to chose.

1. Not many were wise, influential, or noble. [v 26]

a. The message of the cross is for everyone.

b. There message of the cross is the ONLY thing in this world that is truly barrier free. Economics, intelligence, race, social standing, location, political system, etc... are all moot. The message of the cross is available to all.

2. God chose the lowly things. [vv 28]

a. The virgin birth had the appearance of being to an unwed mother, born in a stable, and into absolute poverty.

b. Does this sound like a “god.” No but it sounds like God!

3. God chose the despised things. [vv 28]

a. Death on the cross had the appearance of a convicted criminal making the ultimate sacrifice for humanity.

b. We are asked to believe that Jesus being nailed to a cross would save us.

ISA 52:13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
ISA 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him--
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness--
ISA 52:15 so will he sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
ISA 53:1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
ISA 53:2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
ISA 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
ISA 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
ISA 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
ISA 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

3. Think about it:

a. It does not make sense that God Almighty would become the most vulnerable of us.

b. It is hard to understand why Jesus would suffer such a miserable death.

III. What does all this do?

A. Following Jesus is a LIFESTYLE, not a philosophical belief.

1. In Jesus there is all the wisdom we need. Actions + Beliefs = Consequences.

2. In Jesus we are “being saved” (as opposed to “perishing”)

B. Following Jesus SILENCES THE SELFISHNESS.

1. All sin is selfish.

2. Pride (be honest) blinds us to the truth.

C. Following Jesus puts us into RELATIONSHIP with God the Father.

1. It is hard to believe that God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, would even know our names... let alone WANT to be our Heavenly Father.

2. [v 21] “God was pleased.”

a. “Grace” means God wants to...

b. God is not forced out of remorse of guilt. God wants to because He loves us.

IV. Jesus has become:

A. Our wisdom.

1. God and His wisdom does not make sense to people who do NOT know God or God’s power.

2. Jesus sacrificed Himself because there was no other way.

B. Our righteousness.

1. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:21]

a. In other words, God exchanged our sin for Jesus righteousness in what is the worst trade in history.

b. We not only have the righteousness but we BECOME the righteousness of God.

2. God the Father, in one act of His will, exchanged Jesus’ righteousness for our sin.

C. Our holiness.

1. The core quality, or the starting point of understanding God (or anything else) is the holiness of God.

2. In Jesus, we become holy.

a. We are declared holy (legally).

b. We become holy (experience).

D. Our redemption.

1. “Redemption” means “to buy back” or “pay off a debt.”

2. As slaves, bound to sin, we were held captive.

3. When Jesus paid the price, He purchased the keys to the prison door and chains that hold you.

If the message of the cross does not make sense to you, its time for you to get to know God.

If righteousness and relationship with God is a struggle, its time for you to ask Jesus to open your prison door so you can be free.

v 27, “But God chose...”