Sunday, July 11, 2010

Many apologies

Hey, everyone who's still here...

Many apologies for not loading messages and outlines for the last five months. I had not realized it was that long ago.

I've been teaching a class on homiletics for our conference. All the grading will be done soon and the weeping and wailing will begin (joke).

Between that and the computer melting down and the ancient Olympus digital recorder finally deciding to not connect to the computer (I have a new Olympus digital recorder, purchased on my own volition...)

If you are Sony or someone else, and really want to risk me evaluating your product... feel free to send me one. (Yeah, that's a "double dog dare.")

Any way.... I will try to be back on-line... at least until the next virus that wipes out my hard drive, or something like that...

God bless you.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Free for joyful celebration

Isaiah 42:1 – 10 Free for joyful celebration!

Here’s the situation:

God is often seen as one of two things:

1. So loving He would never cause or allow harm to people.

2. So spiteful He is always looking for an excuse to punish us.

This leads to misleading concepts of God.

1. If God is “loving” why do bad things happen?

a. This question misunderstands the “problem.”

1.) It expects God to prevent all forms of “bad,” “harm,” and “pain.”

2.) Bad things are a matter of perspective.

(Ill.) While America was angry and mourning over September 11, others celebrated in the streets.

A person who trusts Jesus for salvation dies. The family may mourn but the person, in the presence of Jesus is in joy beyond description.

***** The interpretation of events as “good” or “bad” is not universal. *****

b. The question misunderstands the nature of God.

1.) God has given humans the freedom to choose, the responsibility to care for this world, and the requirement to face judgment for those choices and actions.

2.) God has set certain physical and spiritual laws in motion. (The law of sin and death.) God will not violate those laws… it would make God a “law breaker” (a.k.a. “sinner”).

If God were to intervene and prevent a person from sinning, then God would be breaking His own laws, like the law of free will and the law of sin.

We cannot be insulated from the consequences of other people’s action. Imagine if you got shot and the bullet harmlessly bounced to the ground. That’s comic book stuff, not life.

2. Accusation: God is spiteful and always looking for reason to punish us.

a. This misunderstands the nature of “justice.”

A person falsely accuses another of a crime. The accused gets sent to prison. Where is the justice?

Your child is in school and a person comes into the school and shoots them. Regardless of what happens to them… where is the justice?

You’re daughter is one of the 30,000 girls in this country that is kidnapped and sold into the sex industry as a slave (CBS). Even if you get your daughter back she has long term emotional damage. What would count as justice for you?

***** Our problem is that ultimately there is no earthly justice that satisfies us when we feel we have been wronged. *****

b. This misunderstanding denies our responsibility as sinners.

1.) “There is no one righteous, not even one.” [Romans 3:10] In other words… nobody is without guilt.

2.) “All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” [Romans 3:12] In other words, we do not do things God’s way. As a result we are “worthless.” Without exception.

Here’s the solution:

1. God intended to send a “servant” one who was “chosen.”

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.” [Isaiah 42:1]

a. The KJV (and many others) translate it “Behold my servant…”

1.) Into our dismal in infested situation, God send a “servant.” Not a conquering King, not a great person… a servant… a slave.

2.) It is a HUGE surprise… (That’s the idea of “behold.”) It is Isaiah’s way of saying WOW!

b. The idea of “chosen one” was what the Jews called the Messiah, we call the Christ. Jesus.

2. Jesus came with God’s Spirit on Him to bring justice to the nations.

a. That’s the job description here in Isaiah 42. (There are others.)

b. In our concept of justice, someone has to pay for the wrong in someway.

“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- [26] he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” [Romans 3:25 – 26]

3. What does this mean?

a. God sent Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to pay for all the wrong (sin).

b. Jesus’ life blood became the only means for that sacrifice to satisfy the requirements of justice.

c. Only by faith do we accept this sacrifice as completely sufficient to pay for our sin.

d. Jesus sacrifice shows God was right to tolerate, be patient, and forgive what was done in the past.

e. Jesus sacrifice shows God is right to accept those who have faith in Jesus because Jesus paid the price of our law breaking (sin).

Here’s the stink:

1. How can God do this?

a. God’s servant would take a “humble” and “gentle” approach.

1.) [v 2] He would not raise his voice. People who raise there voice have lost control… they are naturally scary people… bad people.

2.) [v 3] He would not further hurt those who are damaged. (bruised reed, smoldering wick)

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group [4] and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. [5] In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" [6] They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. [7] When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." [8] Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. [9] At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. [10] Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" [11] "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." [John 8:3 – 11]

b. Jesus does not condemn the woman AND He will not let her go back to her sin.

1.) When we talk about sin we cannot separate it from forgiveness and freedom from sin.

2.) The idea is not to damage hurting people further; it is to bring hope and healing from the hurt sin causes.

2. Why would God do this?

a. Because God can… (God is the ONLY one who can)

1.) [v 5] God created… God has decided to buy us back from the slavery of sin and save us from the eternal consequences by sending His own son to Hell for us.

2.) That is the message we remember and prepare for during Lent. Jesus died and went to Hell in our place.

3.) This message is followed by Easter, where we learn that neither death nor Hell can hold Jesus… or anyone whose faith is in Jesus.

b. Because we are helpless.

1.) [v 7] “blind,” “captives,” “sit in darkness.”

2.) We are in a desperate situation that if we truly understood… we would not want to be in.

3.) Trouble is that we are in darkness… we don’t really see (understand).

Wesley: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.” [From “And Can It Be?”]

Here’s the significance:

1. [v 8] God will not share glory with another or loose praise to an idol.

a. Only God the Father has accomplished our saving freedom through the blood of Jesus Christ.

b. God does not need to be represented by an idol because God is in those who believe and trust in Jesus.

2. [v 9] Because of Jesus, something new happens…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

a. This must be chosen or we continue in the same old rut that is not taking us to heaven.

b. We can continue in the slavery of sin or follow Jesus.

3. [v 10] Joyful celebration will be the result as evidenced by praise to God.

(Ill. Footprints rewrite) Person looked back and saw two sets of foot prints, then one, then foot prints all over the place. Asked for an explanation.

Two sets, you learned to walk with me. One set, when I needed to carry you. The scattered foot prints, when we celebrated with joy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ten Commandments made easy

Exodus 20:1 – 17
The Ten Commandments made easy

1. Most of us do not know them, even though they are easy to learn.

a. 97% of Americans say they are important while only 5% can name only three of them. (Jerry Shirley)

b. 10 fingers, 10 commandments (teach)

[READ Exodus 20:1 – 17]

(Ill.) of the person who has a small 10lb dog. Macho… barks fiercely through a window at a big German Shepherd that walks past his house, like he wants to tear the big dog apart. It would see the small dog is despising the window because it’s keeping him from getting at the German Shepherd. He’d like nothing better than to break through the window.

Question: what’s the one thing that’s saving his life? The window.

God is not separating us from dangerous things because He hates us. God is not trying to spoil our fun. It is because God loves us. “Love and law go together.” (Jerry Shirley)

2. Most of us break at least one of them regularly.

a. “No other gods:” The first “god” we had was ourselves. “People are incurably religious.” When was the last time you skipped church for something that seemed important or desirable?

b. “No idols:” Explain “household gods.” Represented “god” or represented something that divided loyalties.

c. “Not misuse the Lord’s name,” to say something false (vain) about God, speak in God’s name when you don’t, uses God’s name as a swear word, use God to invoke a curse, using God’s name without meaning it (like “Christians”).

d. “Remember the Sabbath,” When did you work, fix a meal, cause someone else to do work for you, eat out, buy or sell.

e. “Honor your father and mother,” Ever disobey your parents?

f. “You shall not murder,” (not the word “kill”)

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' [22] But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” [Matthew 5:21 – 22]

(“Fool” was someone who lived like there was no God… technically this may be judging someone’s salvation.)

g. “You shall not committee adultery,” Anything that breaks the marriage trust or divides loyalty. Men: lust… women: worry. Men are visual so we naturally notice, but we don’t have to think about it. Women naturally connect things continually and divide loyalty to their marriage.

h. “You shall not steal.” (Self explanatory)

i. “False testimony,” the New Testament version would be “gossip.” Telling a story to deliberately hurt someone.

j. “Covet,” We call this “commercialism.” The desire to “keep up with…”

3. Jesus said our righteousness was to go beyond the externals.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]

a. Everyone of the commandments has a New Testament internal, heart attitude.

b. Die to self, die to the world, yes or no, shadow of the things that were to come, “heavenly father,” forgive, the mind of Christ, cheerful giver, pray for, walk by faith not by sight.

c. In other words, if we follow Jesus, righteousness will be defined about the things that go on inside our attitude, the choices we make in the heart…. It is very possible to do or not do the externals yet still violate the essence of the law.

“And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [10] For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother,' and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' [11] But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), [12] then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. [13] Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” [Mark 7:9 – 13]

4. How are we to surpass this righteousness?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" [37] 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.' [40] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." [Matthew 22:37 – 40]

a. “ALL”… anything less is technically sin… (We are comfortable with way less than “all.”)

b. “as yourself” … seriously?

Free to be sons, not slaves

Romans 8:15
Free to be sons, not slaves.

Wesley noted there were three spiritual states a person can be in: the natural (no fear or love of God), the legal (under the law without love for God), those that loved God. Looking at Romans, we see these three spiritual conditions.

I. What spiritual conditions are there?

A. There are people who are “amiss.” (The word “sin” originally was an archery term that meant to “miss the mark.”) [Romans 3:10 – 18]

1. Paul runs many verses from the Old Testament together to paint a picture of how bad we actually are...

a. We are not righteous in our own efforts.

b. We do not understand or seek God on God’s terms. (Which is why we have so many versions of “god” in this world.)

c. We are on the broad path leading to destruction and not the narrow path.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. [14] But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13 – 14]

2. The natural state of humanity is “lost.”

a. No fear or love of God.

b. No desire for spiritual things, no concept of holiness.

c. It is at rest because there is no sense of danger and is not troubled by sin.

d. Life is measured externally: an illusion of happiness and liberty.

***** The fact is that every human is polluted by the natural state of sin. It is our “human nature.” *****

B. There are people who are “ambivalent.” (Having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone. – Oxford) [Romans 7:14 – 25]

1. The progression of Paul’s argument, and the use of the first person “I” indicates this can be the conflicted state believers.

a. Want to do good... but fail.

b. In fact, Paul recognizes “sin” as a spiritual law “living in me that does it.”

c. Sin, as a spiritual law wages war in his mind and makes him a “slave” and a “prisoner.”

d. He sees “sin” as a separate body, one that is dead and decaying, strapped to him.

2. Self-effort, trained by the law (list of “do this not that”) will only get us so far.

a. We can see God as “loving” and “merciful” but “angry” at our failures.

b. We can understand there is right and wrong, and struggle with it.

c. We can become frustrated because we never seem to be good enough...

Symptom: Thinking good things “reward” are from God and bad things are “punishment” from God.

(Ill.) Woman TV evangelist preaching on getting what you want from God... if you don’t get it then “it is because you are not ready for it yet.” She told the story of wanting a new fur coat, asking God. Friend came over and showed her a new fur coat that just happened to show up unexplained on her door step. She said, “I thought the angel had delivered it to the wrong house.”

[Context: This was aired the day before the earthquake in Haiti. I dare you to go to Haiti, with a cold bottle of water in your hand and tell someone who is suffering with thirst, the reason they do not have a cold bottle of water in their hand is “because you are not ready for it yet.”]

***** There are two problems here. First, we measure ourselves against someone else (the Bible says that person is a fool). Second, sin and repentance comes in cycles. *****

C. There are people who are “adopted.” [Romans 8:15 – 17]

1. Children KNOW beyond any doubt their relationship.

a. The key for the believer is the Spirit... Holy Spirit.

b. Children do not have to make an effort to maintain relationship of being the child.

2. Children LOVE.

a. It’s not a matter of effort, it is a matter love (relationship) that motivates.

b. Love generates obedience.

II. What are the honest problems we have?

A. We think religion is about our effort.

1. We create ritual that help us focus or attention. They are good unless they distract us from the reality.

2. We turn the Bible into a list of “do this not that.” The Bible makes many moral demands on us. There are many “do this not that” requirements... many things please God... many things displease God. They are good unless we replace the doing with genuine relationship.

3. Our effort will only take us so far. “Not enough.”

B. We think we can measure relationship in concrete terms.

1. Imagine if a parent starts a chart of bad things a child does with a line. When the child reaches that line, then we buy them a bus ticket and wish them luck. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

2. Yes, there are consequences to our actions... but grace is not an accountant that weighs things against one another.

C. We think that performance creates relationship.

1. Some people are givers, others are takers... but keeping track of points is deadly to a relationship.

2. Why? Because we *always* give ourselves massive bonus points and extra credit. We tend to give others massive negative points they can never make up.

3. This reasoning is backwards... and possibly abusive.

III. What is the reality?

A. Here is what we know from the Bible:

1. If you are outside God’s grace when you die you are eternally separated from God...

2. If you are convicted by God’s grace, and feel uncomfortable about your spiritual destiny; it means God is awakening you. You must chose because the window of opportunity is limited.

3. If you conflicted after you have chosen to accept God’s grace, it means you will struggle with self-effort and cycle between failure and repentance.

4. If you have, through the Spirit of God, accepted your adoption by God’s grace you will be in love with God.

IV. How do you make the transition?

A. To move from being “amiss” to becoming a child of God, you must believe.

“and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:24]

1. Believe means you accept that you can be redeemed (saved) ONLY through Jesus.

2. The issue is trust. Do you trust God’s grace or do you trust your own effort, a church, a ritual?

B. To move from being “ambivalent” to becoming a child of God, you must fail.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [2] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8:1 – 2]

1. The failure of your “self” must be so complete you have no choice but to be dependent on Christ Jesus.

2. While the “law of sin and death” may be active, God has intervened with the “law of the Spirit of life.”

C. To be “adopted,” you must trust the Spirit of God, who produces the condition of adoption.

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, [14] because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” [Romans 8:13 – 14]

1. What’s this going to look like?

a. We trust only on God’s mercy given to us through Jesus Christ.

b. The reign of sin is broken, we not only struggle against sin but we win.

c. We keep in step with the Spirit of God.

d. We live in joy.

e. We love.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” [Galatians 5:6b]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Free From Sin

1 John 3:4 – 10
Free from sin

(Part one of the “free” series.)

Sin is the main problem of humanity. Sin causes us to act selfishly. It causes war and strife of all sorts. The Bibles tells us that we physically and spiritually die because of sin. Sin is the root problem of everything bad in this world. It is the core problem of our existence.

How do we get free from sin?

The short answer is we can never be clear and free from sin. However, as John Wesley observed, “sin remains but does not reign.”

The answer lies in an old idea called “renewing grace.”

I. Context.

A. This section of the Bible is about a very WRONG idea.

1. There were people who wanted to lead believers the wrong way. [v 7a]

a. John says they have “never seen” Christ [v 6c]

b. John on the other hand has seen Jesus Christ.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” [1 John 1:1]

2. The WRONG way was the idea that sin didn’t matter.

a. FALSE teaching: It was not possible to be free from sin.

b. FALSE teaching: Since it was not possible to be free from sin then it was ok to indulge at will.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? [2] By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” [Romans 6:1 – 2]

B. Modern reaction: another equally WRONG idea developed.

1. The disguise was a misunderstanding of “Christian Perfection.”

a. The Greek word that is commonly translated “perfect” in the KJV and other translations is “telios” which means, “complete, mature, fulfilling purpose and function.”

b. PROBLEM is when we think of the English word “perfect” we think “free from any flaw; faultless.” [Oxford]

2. “Home brewed theology” of “sinlessness” developed.

a. This is close to blasphemy because ONLY Jesus was without sin.

“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]

b. Here’s how the reasoning goes: Sin separates us from God. One sin breaks the relationship. Therefore, one sin revokes salvation.

3. What does the Bible say about this?

a. First, if you “fall from grace” or “lose your salvation” it is a one way trip. You can not be “re-saved.”

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” [Hebrews 10:26 – 27]

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” [Hebrews 6:4 – 6]

b. Second, if we are saved by “grace” (undeserved favor) through “faith” (response) then nothing we do can add to or subtract to that...

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [9] 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 1:8 – 10]

***** Nobody is flawless, but everyone can be mature. *****

II. How so?

A. Jesus had two purposes:

1. [v 5] “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.”

a. Jesus died in our place... Took the penalty we deserve...

1.) Sounds harsh? It is. Remember we where helpless and without hope.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. [7] Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. [8] But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6 – 9]

2.) Our struggle is simple: admitting we are powerless sinners.

b. The good news is this:

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:22 – 24]

1.) Yes we have ALL sinned.

2.) But God has provided unearned righteousness and free justification through Christ Jesus... He’s bought us back from the slavery of sin!

2. [v 8b] “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”

a. Fact is that sin is the chain the devil uses to keep us from God and salvation.

b. Jesus provided a way for that chain to be broken.

B. “No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin” MSG]

1. Sin and loving Jesus are mutually exclusive. (Like being married but still dating other people.)

2. Living deeply in Christ, there is a continual “renewing grace” we receive that keeps sin from regaining its controlling interest in our lives.

III. Oh really?

A. We don’t like the idea of “exclusive.”

1. It works this way (using the image painted for us by John Wesley in “Christian Perfection”)

a. Love causes us to be loyal to someone or something. In this case God.

b. Knowledge gives us an honest assessment of what is required. We are no longer acting in ignorance.

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” [v 9]

2. Notice the continual sense of sin.

a. Sin is NOT the habit. Sin is NOT the inclination of the heart.

b. In other words, we do not sin “deliberately and by design.” Sin is not by deliberate plan or purpose. Sin is not “presumptuous.”

c. When we do sin, we can be restrained and recovered (see 1 John 1:9).

B. Here’s the real issue: “Where do you live?”

1. [v 6] “Abide” (KJV), “live in Him” (NIV) carries the idea of a constant condition of habitually doing God’s will. “Stay one in their hearts with Him” (CEV)

2. This connection with Jesus breaks the power of sin and prevents sin from reigning.

a. “He does not sin” vs “He is obedient.”

b. There is a principle of “renewing grace” at work.

1.) Renewing grace means we cannot continue to be dominated by sin.

2.) Renewing grace constant brings light that shows us our shadows.

3.) Renewing grace gives us a strong distaste for sin. We cannot stand it in our lives.

4.) Renewing grace gives us disposes us towards repentance and breaks us free from the controlling power of sin.

IV. How do you break free from sin?

A. Understand this first:

1. Your struggles and strengths are different than others.

2. It all comes down to “where you live.”

B. Here’s what you do.

1. You MUST be a child of God.

“In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” [John 3:3]

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

2. You MUST continually yield to God’s renewing grace.

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. [11] In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. [12] Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” [Romans 6:10 – 12]

3. You MUST replace doing wrong with doing right.

“Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” [v 10b]

“He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” [v 7b]