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The Great Commission 5/3/98

Matthew 28:18-20
Page 1460 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, made numerous appearances to His beloved followers in the forty days following His miraculous bodily resurrection. As He does for us through His word He encouraged them. Promises were made to them and to us. It was a time of equipping and motivating.

The fact of the resurrection itself is reassuring to all believers. Thereby followers of Christ are given assurance of life beyond the grave, an eternal home, and the gilded edge promise of His abiding presence with us daily. The consolations consequenting from the resurrection are numerous. As He gave the Eleven the gift of His presence so He has bequeathed to us the promise of presence and power to work in us and for us. If you are a believer in Christ you are a benefactor of the resurrection.

We like these facts of “What’s in it for me?” That is our modern mentality. What is in it for us is incomprehensible. However, let’s not let our absorption with our benefits crowd out our awareness of our responsibility.

It was the resurrected Christ who met with the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee and spoke in their hearing a commission applicable to each of us. To us He said, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18 – 20).

That is the Magna Charta of the church. It is an imperative for every believer.

The Eleven obediently believed Him so fully they zealously responded in such as to be referred to as “these who have turned the world upside down.” They evangelized with such passion that they revolutionized their world. Their society was more corrupt and perverted than ours. They were hopelessly outnumbered and without resources. Their one asset was obedience. With abandonment, they went out as men whose lives were immortal to share the good news resulting from the resurrection. Happily they obeyed their Master. Hear the roll call of faith:

MATTHEW, the author of the first gospel, was slain by the sword in Ethiopia.

PETER was crucified upside down, unworthy of being crucified like His Lord.

JAMES, the oldest son of Zebedee, was beheaded in Jerusalem.

JAMES THE LESSER was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and then clubbed to death.

ANDREW was crucified in the Greek city of Patrae, and SIMON THE ZEALOT in Persia.

JUDAS, not Iscariot, died of an arrow wound.

PHILIP was hanged in Asia Minor.

THOMAS was run through with a lance while praying in India.

NATHANIEL was flayed alive in Armenia.

Only one, JOHN, died a natural death.

Yet, in their brief lives they spread the gospel from Spain to India.

They were compliant with the Commission of our Lord.

Biographers are waiting to write of the response of this present generation. Our Lord has put at our disposal the personnel and financial resources to reach our generation for Him. Technology makes it possible to fulfill the commission in our time. Consider:

We are assigned the task of calling people from one sphere into another: from death to live, from darkness to light, out of the world into the church. If you are a Christian that is your responsibility.

Only when the enthusiasm inside the church exceeds the indifference outside the church are those outside the church going to want to come into the church.

The joy of the Lord was their strength. How strong are you? Is Jesus simply your ticket to heaven, a rabbits foot to be used when luck is needed, a spare tire for breakdowns, or a parachute when you need to bail out of difficulty? OR, is He your Master?

Is He your Commander in Chief? If your answer is “Yes,” then obey Him.

John Roberts, the Scotsman, told of a time in primitive Scotland when there was a village in which there was no fire. Fire was found in one small home. It was distributed from house to house until shortly every home in the town had fire. Is there spiritual fire in your home? If so share it with a spiritually cold culture.

There are over 250,000,000 Americans, one-third of them are non church members. One half have not been to church this year. Many are waiting for a warm hearted personal invitation to come to Christ. Will you dare be their personal living invitation?

A satisfied customer always makes the best salesperson. Are you satisfied with Christ?

In a quaint small town lived two mischievous brothers, Billy and Tommy. The two were blamed for almost everything that went wrong and were responsible for most of it. Their mother, very concerned wanted to correct this. She made an appointment for the boys to visit with the pastor who was known as a good counselor.

Upon arrival at the pastor’s office Billy was asked to wait in the outer office as the pastor visited with Tommy. Using his best pastoral skills the pastor sat across the desk from Tommy and sought to build conversational rapport by asking a simple question with a given answer. “Tommy, tell me, where is God?” No response.

After a moment of warm friendly remarks the pastor asked again, “Tommy, come on, tell me, where is God?” Still no answer.

With a broad friendly smile the pastor persisted, “Come on Tommy, you can tell me, where is God?” Operation Deep Freeze was in full operation. No reply.

Several such probes resulted in silence. Finally, the pastor blew his cool and pounded the desk demanding, “Tommy, where is God?”

Tommy jumped from his chair, bolted out the door, and ran toward home with brother Billy in hot pursuit. They ran in the house, up the stairs, into their room, and Tommy ran in the closet and held the door closed tightly.

Billy stood outside pounding on the door pleading, “Tommy. Tommy, what’s the matter?”

“Run Billy, run and hide. God’s missing and they are trying to pin it on us.”

Look around. God’s missing. He is missing from the media, from public education, from government, and from many churches. God’s missing and they are trying to pin it on us. Is that proper? If not, why not? Could it be our failure to comply with the commission of the resurrected Christ that caused this crisis?

The sphere includes the whole wide world, but it also encompasses the lovely community in which we live. In our local county 67% of the population is unchurched. The only solution rests in the hands of the 33% under the mandate of Christ to share His love with others.

To think of changing the world one person at a time may be a great act of faith, but to think of changing it any other way is a greater act of lunacy. Share His love!

You are at this moment in a discipleship class.

We call it “church” or “a worship celebration,” but when God’s Word is taught it is above all else a discipleship class. You are being taught to disciple others.

The Sunday School is the church organized for evangelism. If there is a breakdown in making disciples it is at this point. Every Bible study unit must be mobilized to reach out to others. If not the church merely “good times” itself to death.

Those of you who work with children and youth have a weighty responsibility.

At about the age of 12 or 13 a change occurs in the way children think. About that age they begin to think abstractly. Up until then everything is either black or white. At this stage they begin to say, yes, but there is some grey in between there. Thought patterns change.

Of those children not reached for Christ by the time they leave high school 66% will never be reached. God has given youth workers a golden window of opportunity.

The strategy is simply illustrated by a seminary class on preaching. The homiletics professor assigned a young minister to preach before the class. Privately he begged not to have to but the professor insisted.

As he stood before the class he said in halting words, “You all know what I am going to say.” They shook their heads negatively. He said, “Neither do I,” and sat down.

The professor insisted that he come back the next week and preach. He demurred but the professor insisted.

The next week as he stood before the class he said, “You all know what I am going to say.” Classmates all nodded their heads yes. He said, “Then there is no need to say it,” and sat down.

Not to be outdone the professor insisted that he come back the next week and preach. The student begged but the professor demanded.

The next week he stood before the class and said, “You all know what I am going to say.” Half shook their heads yes and half no. He said, “Very well, let those who know tell those who don’t know and let’s stand for the benediction.”

Evangelism is simply those who know telling those who don’t know.

Many conscientious people say I am reluctant to share because I am afraid I will fail. You might. However, if you don’t try you have failed. Don’t fear failure. One on my former friends in ministry used to say, “Where are you going to scare them into hell #2?”

Each of us is mandated to share the gospel. It must however be run through the final filter of our own personality and unique temperament. Doubtless you will find a Biblical model suited to your style.

Peter was a straight shooter. He had no problem with confrontational evangelism. He was bold and aggressive. He even tried to correct Christ on occasion. It is little wonder that our Lord chose Peter on Pentecost to tell the people they had crucified the Son of God and needed to repent.

As a thinker and analyzer Paul used reason and well-structured logic to share profound truths. In Athens he started with an unknown Greek idol and quoted their poets to reveal Christ as the resurrected Messiah. (Acts 17)

An unidentified blind man was given his sight by Jesus (John 9). When taunted by persons who wanted to engage him in a theological quarrel he did not use the confrontational approach of Peter or the intellectual approach of Paul, but used his testimonial method: “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.”

Matthew the tax collector used his business contacts. He threw parties for them and in the social setting shared (Luke 5: 29). Compassion and empathy were his strong points.

This woman was a most unlikely but willing witness. In her culture she had three strikes against her. She was a woman, she was a Samaritan, and she was living in adultery. When she met Christ at the well in a life-changing experience she simply went and extended invitations to others to “Come and see.”

A number of townspeople came and heard Jesus. At their invitation He spent two days in their town. Upon leaving the people said, “Now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world (John 4: 42).

The Bible describes Dorcas as a woman who was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). She loved others and provided for their needs according to her ability. She made clothes for the needy and shared Christ as she shared clothing.

Neither of these is better than the other. Each has its strength. Unfortunately the only one related most often is the confrontational approach. It is good but it alone is not good. As there are different styles of sharing so there are different needs on behalf of hearers.

Stylize your method of sharing. Let Christ empower your strong points. Personalize your witnessing style.

Christ said, “All authority is given unto Me, in heaven and on earth.”

He is the one through Whom the mediating power of God is manifested. He is our Mediator King.

One of our sons-in-love had an old pick-up truck with a straight shift. While visiting with them he offered to let me drive it. Not having driven a straight shift for some time my reflexes were rusty. I put my feet on the clutch and brakes, fired it up, and shifted into reverse. Looking over my shoulder I took my foot off the brake and depressed the accelerator. The motor raced but there was no response. I shifted again to be sure it was in gear. It was but as I pressed the accelerator again there was no response.

Then it dawned on me my other foot was still depressing the clutch. Only when I took my foot off the clutch did the accelerator and gears work and the truck respond.

Our Lord has “all power” and the only way for it not to be released is for the church to be sitting with one foot on the spiritual clutch. We alone can keep the power from being released.

The “spiritual clutch” is prayer. We are instructed, “Pray you the Lord of harvest that He will send forth laborers into the harvest.”

That is a dangerous prayer because the first laborer He is likely to send is the prayer. Who is better prepared. Let’s join in praying for Him to manifest His power.

This is the near equivalent of “Immanuel,” God with us.

The focus of the commission is not the lost world, BUT Christ. Evangelism must be subordinate to preoccupation with Christ. When it is it becomes spontaneous.

When you love people and you have had a pleasant experience with Christ you want to share the Christ of that experience so others can have a good experience with Him.

He is with us when we go for Him. You don’t go in your strength, but His.

A reporter for the New York Tribune sat on a ridge overlooking what was the battlefield at Cedar Creek. The Confederate forces were on the verge of annihilating the Union forces.

He wrote: “I am witnessing the awful destruction of the United States of America.”

General Phil Sheridan was some distance away in Winchester when informed the battle had been enjoined. He rode at full speed to join his forces. As his horse charged onto the battlefield with him carrying his banner he shouted: “Come on! Here is Sheridan. Sheridan is with you. Follow me and we will save the Union.”

They did —- and they did!

Jesus Christ has said, “Follow Me….” If we do great spiritual victories are to be won. He who said, “All power is given unto Me….” Also said, “You shall receive power…” And of the gospel He said, “It is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.”

Let’s remove our feet from the clutches and let the power move us.

Does Character Count? 9/20/98

Psalm 15:1-5
Page 805 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ dealt with a cast of characters as diverse as we. He provided for all the potential of peace with God in time and for eternity. In time He inspired hope and for eternity He enabled the love of God to be shared.

It is through the most circuitous route that He leads us to build our character. The path is marked for us: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:1 – 4).

This passage explains why so few people live positively with inspired hope. It is character that produces hope.

Character traits were once the words used when persons were spoken of. People were described as persons of character. Words, such as, honesty, integrity, truthful, and dependable were used.

Gradually the operative word changed from character to personality. Charming, cool, funny, and outgoing became the vocabulary.

Character has been so devalued as an admirable trait we have even been assured character doesn’t count. God said it does.

Psalm 15 opens with a strategic question: “Oh, Lord who may approach your holy place? Who may worship on your holy mountain?”

Transliterated that means what are the character qualities we should bring into the presence of the Lord? Then the answer: “Those who walk blamelessly, live righteously and speak the truth from their heart.”

How can it be said character doesn’t count in a world full of “oughts” and “shoulds.” Frequently in Scripture the expression “ought to” is used. It means what we “ought” to do is for our good and God’s glory.

Every “ought” is rooted in a value; every value requires a choice, every choice reveals character. Get it!

Every ought is
rooted in a value;
every value requires
a choice; every choice
defines a character.

Character isn’t something you have; it is something you are that inevitably shows itself in what you do.

As a child I learned the axiom: “Reputation is what people think you are. Character is what you know you are.”

Yet another: “Take care of your character and your reputation will take care of itself.”

And another: “Only you can damage your character.”

Aristotle, the godfather of Greek philosophy, asserted human behavior can be shaped, that certain behaviors are helpful for individuals and society, and the best way to develop good behavior is by observing good role models. The Greeks identified four cardinal virtues: PRUDENCE, JUSTICE, COURAGE, and TEMPERANCE.

Though there are many attributes of those who can come into God’s presence, let’s concentrate on these four. Consider developing these four character traits. Look for them in others and model them.

We live by stories. Your life is a story being lived out. Your autobiography would be your story. Recently we studied the life of the Old Testament character Joseph as a man of character. Let’s consider his story in evaluating these character traits.

Prudence is practical wisdom that leads to good choices and results in successful living.

Certain self-imposed tests of a decision are practical.
A. ACCEPTABILITY: Will this please my Lord?

B. BENEFIT: If this is known will it cause my friends embarrassment?

C. CONSEQUENCE: Am I prepared to live with the outcome?

Joseph was a prudent man, meaning, he had horse sense. As Prime Minister of Egypt he likely was the individual who oversaw the building of some of the greatest pyramids in Egypt. He was no minor player. He handled the fortune of the Egyptian empire. He was the overseer of the personal household of the pharaoh.

Every path has its puddle. There was a big one in Joseph’s path.

His character was shaped by keeping God center stage in his thoughts. When enticed by the wife of the captain of Potiphar, the captain of pharaoh’s elite guard, he resisted the temptation. His prudent choice was based on a simple fact. It wasn’t, I might get caught. It was, “How can I sin against God?”

Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them…”

A modern story compliments prudence as well as that of Joseph.

John, a young soldier, stood nervously straightening his uniform and looking through the crowd in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. He was looking for a woman he knew by reputation but not by face. She was to be identified by a small red rose she was to be wearing.

Their story began several years before in Florida. He bought a used book of poetry. When he started reading it he was more intrigued by the hand written notes in the margin than the words of the author. The notes were by the book’s original owner. They revealed an insightful and prudent person. In the front of the book John found the woman’s name and hometown. With great effort he found her address and wrote her.

The next day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the military and was almost immediately shipped overseas. He wrote again and she eventually responded. The continuing correspondence developed into a romance. He requested a photo but she refused. She said that if their relationship was meant to be what she looked like wouldn’t matter.

Finally, when the war ended they scheduled their first meeting in Grand Central Station on Friday evening at 7:00 PM. She wrote, “You’ll recognize me by the small red rose that I’ll have in my lapel.” He arrived two hours early. Let’s now let him tell his story.

“At just about 7:00 PM a young woman was walking toward me. I stood up. She was the most stunning woman I had ever seen in my life. I started moving toward her, and then I noticed she wasn’t wearing a small rose in her lapel. When she walked past me she said, ‘Going my way, soldier?’

“I was about to follow her when I saw directly behind her another woman who was looking at me expectantly. She was much older than I had expected and not as attractive as I hoped. She was wearing a small rose in her lapel. I wanted to follow the other woman. But I didn’t. I was clutching the book from the used bookstore that began it all. I was going to give it to her as a present.

“‘Hello, I’m John, I’m so glad to meet you.’ Even as I said the words, I was thinking of the other woman. ‘Would you like to go to dinner?’

“The older woman seemed confused and said, ‘Son, I don’t know what this is all about, but that beautiful young woman who was walking in front of me pleaded with me to wear this small red rose in my lapel. She said if you were still going to take me out to dinner, I should tell you that she’ll be waiting for you in the restaurant in the hotel right across the street. She said it was some kind of test.’”

That beautiful young woman was the one with whom John had been corresponding. He made a prudent choice based on his character.

Joseph made a prudent choice not to compromise his character. When the wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him he ran so fast his cloak was torn off him.

He did what Paul years later told young Timothy to do, “Flee … youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22).

The word “flee” means to run so fast as to kick up dust.

Flee and don’t leave a forwarding address.

Psalm 15 notes that in the eyes of a person of character “a vile person is despised”(Vs. 4). That is, there is no playful tolerance with evil. They do not develop friends of base, crude, evil, foul or gross persons.

Conversely a prudent person “honors those who fear the Lord” (Psalm 15: 4b).

Justice centers on acts of fairness, honesty, and the rules of law.

Psalm 15: 2 gives three descriptive terms for such a person:
1. “He walks uprightly…” This is one translation of the Hebrew word for “integrity.” (vs. 2a). He leads an uncorrupted life.

2. “And works righteousness…” (Vs. 2b). He does what is right.

Dr. Madison Sarratt, a math professor at Vanderbilt University, would tell his students before a test: “Today I am giving two examinations, one in trigonometry and the other is in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can’t pass trigonometry, but there are no good people who cannot pass the examination of honesty.”

3. “He speaks truth from his heart…” (Vs. 2c).

This type person tells the truth plain and simple. He doesn’t have a personal glossary of terms as defined by himself. He doesn’t play word games. He avoids semantical sand traps.

An old Hebrew translation of this is: “One who doesn’t trip over his own tongue.”

As a youth Joseph was sold as a slave by his older brothers. Years lapsed and God elevated him from a pit to prime minister. A famine ravaged the land of Israel and his brothers had to come to Egypt to beg for food. They stood before the prime minister not knowing he was their brother Joseph. He did not deal with them vindictively but justly. He had a sense of justice, fairness, honesty, and respect for law.

The person who pleases God is defined in verse 4b as one who keeps his word: “He swears to his own hurt and does not change.” What he says he will do even if it is challenging or costly to do. Parents that is applicable in the parent\child relationship. When you tell your child you will do something —- do it. Don’t promise your child you will go fishing and then cancel when someone with whom you have been wanting to play golf calls with a tee time.

If you do, don’t be surprised when your child promises to do something and doesn’t. You will have taught the child by example.

A sense of justice motivates honesty.

Joseph didn’t have a lapse of memory when it came to justice. He dealt fairly and honestly with his brothers. Justice prevailed.

We often joke about how forgetful we are. Age is often inappropriately associated with forgetfulness. As we age there is one thing we must remember. When we were young we also forgot things. One senior friend with a sense of humor said of a lapse of memory, “Excuse me, I was having a ‘senior moment.’”

An older couple was watching TV one night. As he got up he said, “How would you like some ice cream?” Happily she replied, “I would love it, and put a little chocolate syrup on it. However, before you go to get it write it down so you won’t forget. Write it down.”

She heard his scurrying around in the kitchen for the longest. He returned with a plate of scrambled eggs. She said, “I told you to write it down so you wouldn’t forget. You forgot my bacon.”

God has written down certain things so we won’t forget them. One is we are to “act justly.”

A sense of justice is of no use if we don’t have the courage of our convictions. Joseph was courageous. He was willing to endure false accusation, accept the wrath of Potiphar, and experience prison rather than compromise.

Joseph could have compromised in his conscience. He could have concluded at several stages of his life that following God’s path had gotten him nothing but trouble. It hadn’t worked. However, he had the courage to live by his God inspired convictions.

Temperance, the fourth Greek virtue, means self-control.

The Old Testament is replete with examples of individuals who failed to exercise self-control and lost control.

In the New Testament one of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

We all have appetites. You can run through an inventory of them starting with an appetite for good food. Controlling them is our responsibility.

There is no more classic example of self- control than Joseph. His ego had an appetite. The woman pursuing him found him very handsome the Scripture said. That fed his ego. She was enticing. That appealed to his libido. The ego and libido are two very demanding appetites. We are responsible for controlling them by the power of God. Those who make prudent choices do. Individuals who have a sense of justice do. Persons with courage to stand for the right, do. Self-control results from a combination of these.

Such persons are described in Psalm 15 as those who may abide in God’s presence.

Psalm 15 began with a question and ends with a promise.

Psalm 15 closes with assurance: “He who does these things shall never be moved.” Certain character gives stability and consistency.

Caleb: What It Means to Whole-Heartedly Follow the Lord 6/7/98

Joshua 14:1-15

JESUS CHRIST said, “If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).

Following the Lord isn’t always easy, but it is always right. The Bible is filled with stories of
courageous people who were willing to do God’s will against all odds. Are you?

One such man emerged on the pages of Hebrew history at a crisis time. He stood as a minority in a moment when the mentality was “Thus saith the majority.” Would anyone dare to speak out and declare, “Thus saith the Lord?”

It was a hot day in the wilderness of Paran as the people awaited an important report. We know it was a hot day because all days in Paran are hot. Moses had sent twelve spies into the prospective Promised Land. The fact they returned was good, but the news they brought was bad. Hear their report:
“We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there … (Resume reading verses 31 – 33)” [Numbers 13: 27,28 & 31 – 33].

The land’s bounty is described by the terms “milk and honey.” “Milk” means there were many domesticated farm animals in the land. “Honey” translates the word “dibbs.” It actually is a dehydrated paste made from grape juice. The term meant there were many vineyards in the land.

Notice the response of the people Numbers 14: 1.

Caleb and his friend Joshua were the two among the twelve spies that dared to venture according to the promise of God. He was not deterred and responded — Numbers 14: 6 – 9.

Surely such courage will be applauded. Not so, notes Numbers 14: 10a, “…stone them with stones.”

Surely Caleb did not read the mood of the crowd. He knew such a bold declaration would be met with disdain. No, he didn’t misread the crowd. Neither did he misunderstand the will of the Father. The reason for him confronting the crowd in order to comply with the Lord is found in one description given him on six different occasions: Numbers 14:24; 32:11,12; Deut. 1:36; Josh. 14:8,9 & 14. In each of these verses it is said Caleb “wholly” followed the Lord. He was committed to the Lord with his whole heart.

There are many believers who are truly Christ’s who are not wholly His. Christ is undeniably their Savior, but not undisputedly their Sovereign. He is present in their lives but not President of their lives.

He was like the missionary of a more modern era who died a youthful death serving among the American Indians. The following entry was found in David Brainard’s diary the day of his untimely death: “No reserve, no retreat, no regret.”

God said, “Possess the land.” Caleb said, “Forward hooooo.”
His response was based on:
-Confidence in God’s character and capacity.
-Commitment from a servant’s heart.

These two principles are summed up in God’s description of Caleb, “My servant Caleb…has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully” (Numbers 14: 24).

His exhortation did not prevail. The people protested and complained. God therefore declared that none of these people, including Moses, would enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb among all the people would be allowed to enter the land (Numbers 14: 24). Caleb was 40 years old at the time he received this promise of the Lord.

Israel as a nation was pardoned and remained the people of God, but that “wilderness generation,” by their sin of rebellion forfeited their primary blessing. That generation was destined for “second-best.” By their sins they had placed limitations on themselves. They still saw many blessings of God in the wilderness but never entered the land of promise.

Forty-five years lapsed before the promise to Caleb was fulfilled. God always keeps His word and his time is always right.

Caleb’s spirit and servant temperament was revealed in the land of promise. Othniel had aided Caleb in defeating the giants in the land. Caleb gave him his daughter, Achsah, in marriage. As an inheritance they received the dry lands of the Negeb. Achsah asked her father for a source of water (Joshua 15: 13 – 19). This was the most valuable commodity in the land. In a loving manner like that which God had shown him, Caleb gave them the upper and lower springs to make their barren land productive. He is a role model for those of us who know we should always give our best.

Scripture passages related to Caleb reveal – – –

There were three witnesses of the fact Caleb followed the Lord. Our faithfulness has three similar witnesses.

A. Caleb himself. “I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Joshua 14: 8). This was no idle boast, it was a sincere testimony. He knew he had been faithful and he knew God knew he had been faithful. Can you give such a testimony?
B. Others testified of his faithfulness. Moses said, ‘Surely the land where you foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:9).
C. The Lord was the third witness. God Himself said, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14: 24).

Caleb lived with a standard of appraisal worthy of all of us. It is summed up in his expression: “If the Lord delight in us” (Numbers 14:8). He wanted to please God at all times.

There are three testimonies indicating what motivates a whole-hearted follower to be obedient.

A. Glorification. Only a life wholly committed to Christ glorifies Him. Peter was God’s New Testament agent of exhortation when he wrote: “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, because as it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (I Peter 1: 15, 16).
B. Edification. A whole-hearted Christian is a positive witness for our Lord. A half- hearted follower is a negative witness. Such lifestyles have retarded the gospel.
C. Sanctification. Sanctification means set aside and designated for a specific use. True sanctification is evidenced by wholly following the Lord.

Caleb manifested characteristics becoming of a child of God.

No Anakim distresses the person who has a sense of God’s presence and the associated discernment.

Three traits characterize a person who wholly follows the Lord.
A. Concentration. To follow Him whole-heartedly means to concentrate all you have to Him. This calls for total allegiance.
B. Completeness. This calls for regularity and an uncompromising will to serve Him.
C. Constancy. Many persons run hot and cold. This confuses the non-believer and bewilders the faithful believer. It means to have a non-compromising mind set and heartfelt commitment.

Caleb was able to “wholly” follow the Lord because he had “another Spirit in him” (Numbers 14: 24). In John 14: 16,17 Jesus said He was sending us “another Comforter,” the Holy Spirit. He indwells and infills us as He did Caleb.

Hebron was promised to Caleb because of his faithfulness. It was 45 years before it was actually his. There are “Hebrons” promised those who follow the Lord. These spiritual blessings are actually ours under covenant promises of God. However, they truly become ours only when we demonstrate consistently in serving Him whole- heartedly. Let us like Caleb work diligently while waiting patiently for our Hebron. Such a wait is as much of a blessing as the possession when it too is a gift of God.

We like to assert our right to “whatsoever you shall ask,” while failing to realize it is entirely conditioned on God’s “whatsoever I command you.”

Are you willing to do “whatsoever” He commands you wholeheartedly?

Cain and Abel: Brother’s Keeper or Killer 5/17/98

Genesis 4:1-16
Page 5 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST wants to take you with your background and any bitterness it might have produced and turn it into blessings.

He takes us with our differences and diversity and works to produce through us that which gives gladness to us and glory to God. This is a clear cut, classic example of diversity found in Genesis 4. It is the story of the first two persons given natural birth on planet earth.

Science has overlooked the fourth chapter of Genesis and thus is misreading our history of origins. Homo Sapiens did not start off as cavemen and evolve upward. We did not begin on a low anthropoid or simian state as is commonly assumed. Our human ancestors were on a very high physical and intellectual level. Sin resulted in degradation. Instead of evolution there was devolution, the down- grading of man intellectually and physically.

Eve conceived from Adam but knew the child was “from the Lord.” “From” means “with the help of.” Thus, the sanctity of life is staked out in the first conception in the Bible. She knew this child was a token of God’s faithfulness for He had promised a “seed of woman” would deliver her and all who trusted in Him.

In Genesis 3: 15 God declared that two seed would emerge and be in conflict until the “seed of the serpent” was ultimately overcome by the “Seed of woman.” In Genesis 4 these two distinctly different seeds emerge as prototypes of humankind.

A. CAIN, the name means “acquisition.” His birth brought such joy to Eve that she exclaimed “I have gotten a man from the Lord (4:1). It just may be that in her naivete she thought this was to be her Redeemer.

The seed, Cain, grew an immediate root of bitterness. Out of a root comes a shoot which produces fruit. Everything in his life evidenced the true root of bitterness. This bitterness produced:
1) Anger (4: 5, 6). Perhaps he resented his parents for having enjoyed the blessings of Eden and having robbed him of it. This anger took command of his total personality.

2) Blaming Others. From the beginning he blamed others for his unhappiness. He had a “Why me?” complex.

3) Murder (4:8). His anger expressed itself ultimately in the murder of his brother. Jesus warned that anger is a prelude to murder (Matt. 5: 21, 22).

4) A Smart Mouth (4:9). Cain even wised off to God. He is impudent and hardened. He lied by saying he didn’t know where his brother was and then he seeks to exonerate himself by asking God a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

5) Self-exoneration (4:13). He even protested God’s justice.

6) Forsaking God (4:16 – 24). He even walked away from God and started his own civilization. This was the emergence of humanism.

I John 3:12 is a summary of Cain’s disposition:
a. He was of the wicked one.
b. His works were evil.
c. He hated his brother’s righteous works.

Cain was religious but not righteous.

B. ABEL, means “frail.” For a better understanding of this shepherd boy we can look to the New Testament.

1) Jesus described him as “righteous” (Matthew 23: 35).

2) His works were righteous (I John 3:12).

We need to remember he was reared by the same parents in the same home. The only difference in him and Cain was their attitude and responses.

Do you have a root of bitterness as is spoken of in Hebrews 12: 15 as being defiling? If so admit it. Confess it to God. Share it with the person or persons toward which you hold it and ask their forgiveness. Deal with your bitterness.

A. CAIN’S SACRIFICE was “the fruit of the ground.” This suggests a casual sacrifice. In Eden God had set in motion the standard for worshipful sacrifices in that era as being a living sacrifice. Cain asserted his will to worship as he pleased.

However, it was not the nature of the offering that made it unacceptable, but the spirit. Later the Law of Moses specifies many different kinds of vegetable and meal offerings as natural offerings of grateful people. In the sacrificial system the blood offering always came first. Cain wanted to do it his way. He was willing to engage in ritualistic worship as long as it was done in his way.

Notice the sequence. God did not “respect Cain” is first. The fact that Cain’s motivation and attitude was unacceptable is what made his sacrifice unacceptable. The Hebrew word translated “respect” is SHA’AH and means “to regard with favor.”

Cain did not offer “in faith” (Hebrews 11: 4). God offered Cain an opportunity for a new and right relationship with Him (4: 7). This was an appeal for him to stop the progressive steps away from His love. This reveals that bitterness can be overcome and anger can be conquered. People can change.

Genesis 4: 7 is God’s way of saying “I love you Cain as much as I do Abel. It is your attitude and actions that are unacceptable.” The same is true of us today. This verse does not imply that our works make us acceptable to God. What it actually questions is “have you forfeited your acceptability by sin?”

It was not only the sacrifice of Cain that was unacceptable. Cain himself was unacceptable. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord…” (Proverbs 15: 8).

Thus, Cain started the world’s first false religion. It, as is true of all false religions was characterized by:
a) Falsehood (4:9) “I don’t know.”
b) Futility (4: 10 – 12) “A fugitive and a vagabond.”
c) Fear (4:13 – 15) “My punishment is too great.”

B. ABEL’S OFFERING was acceptable because Abel himself was acceptable because of his motivation and spirit. Abel gave with the attitude and spirit God demanded. Cain did not.

Abel gave the blood offering first as an indication of his awareness of and desire for sin to be forgiven. He gave what God wanted with the spirit He demanded.

Abel’s sacrifice was better because it represented the obedience of faith. Obedience does not bring faith but faith always brings obedience. A sacrifice is acceptable only if it is an outward expression of a devoted and obedient heart.

A. CAIN started with a root of bitterness which developed into resentment of his parents, rejection of God, and reached its culmination in the murder of his brother. He refused any form of repentance.

Cain feared vengeance from people. Who were these people? Genesis 5: 19 clearly states that Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters. At the time Cain murdered Abel he was likely 129 years old. Statisticians have concluded that the world population by this time could well have been about 32,000.

In Genesis 4: 17 the wife of Cain is spoken of. Who was she? She had to be one of these many other sisters. There is no other answer.

As Cain walks off the pages of the Old Testament, he travels through a land called Nod (4:16) which means “flight and banishment.”

He left behind a rebellious prodigy which is the model for all sinners apart from God. They are representative of the “seed of the serpent.”

B. ABEL was the first human being to be murdered. Being cut off he had “no generation” physically. However, Abel lost his life because he chose to serve the Lord and manifest righteousness.

God honored Abel by providing a spiritual seed in the person of Seth (Gen 4: 25). The name Seth means “the appointed.” He was appointed to pick up the fallen banner of righteousness carried by Abel. The line of Seth is described as “calling upon the Lord” (4:26). According to Luke 3: 38 Jesus Christ descended from Seth and is the true “Seed of the woman” (Galatians 3: 16, 19 & 4:4).

Don’t Play the Blame Game 8/23/98

Genesis 3:1-7
Page 4 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Later, before Pilate the inquisitor asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). There should be no criticism of Pilate asking the question. The lament is he didn’t stay around to get the answer.

To the believer the Bible is distilled truth. It is the objective truth revealed by God. As such it becomes the standard of faith and practice of followers of Christ.

John Calvin said of the Bible, “It obtains the same complete credit and authority with believers, when they are satisfied of its divine origin, as if they heard the very words pronounced by God Himself.”

Most persons know the part of a verse which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone…” However, many don’t know the rest of the verse which says, “…but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4: 4).

The Greek word for our word “inspiration,” THEOPNEUSTOS, means “breathed out by God.” Every word proceeds from the mouth of God.

The first question asked in the Bible related to the validity, authority, and reliability of God’s Word: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden…” (Genesis 3:1).

Loss of confidence in the authority of the Bible has caused a loss of respect for all authority. Without its absolute truths to guide us we establish our own self as authority.

II Peter 2: 16 – 21 indicates how reliable God’s Word really is.

Verse 16 states it does not consist of “cunningly devised fables.”

Reference is made to being “eyewitnesses of His [Christ] majesty.” Have you ever thought how wonderful it would have been to have seen Christ in action.

In a court of law a witness under oath who says, “Yes, your honor I was there and saw what happened” is considered a creditable witness. Peter and others there with him were creditable eyewitnesses.

Verse 17 reveals God said, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Peter said “We heard this voice.” In a court of law a sworn witness who says, “Yes, your honor I was there and I heard it when it was said…” is considered a creditable witness.

Verse 19 refers to a more creditable witness than an eye or ear witness. We have “the prophetic word made more sure…” That is a reference to the Bible.

The text goes on to tell how we got the Bible: “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

My friend Zig Ziegler said, “A perfect God would not have any trouble producing a perfect Bible.”

Confidence in God’s word is elemental to spiritual stability. If you don’t believe Genesis 1: 1 you can’t believe anything else, Believe that and you can believe all else. There is a new scholarly book out entitled, The Theory of Everything which underscores the concept of creation from the perspective of science. The Christian scientific community was tardy in gleaning evidence to support creation having accepted it by faith. Now faith is being joined by volumes of creditable scientific evidence. Regardless of what concept one holds of origins it must be by faith. For a matter to be considered scientifically creditable it must meet two tests. It must be:
1. Observable. No one saw creation.
2. Repeatable. No one can replicate creation.

Counterfeit concepts of origins continue to crop up. A relatively new group claiming 40,000 adherents showed up on Miami’s chic South Beach recently to raise funds for a new embassy. The embassy is for aliens from our galaxy but not our solar system. The aliens called Elohim have promised the cults leader they will come to earth if provided an embassy. They would like to visit earth to examine their creating. According to the groups leader these aliens created human beings in their laboratories. So far the group has raised over $7 million for the embassy.

Satan has to be subtle to pull that one off.

“Now the serpent was more subtle” (Genesis 3:1) that is, clever, smart.

We should never feel we are clever enough to match wits with the devil. He is the fourth ranking super power in the universe. Therefore, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3).

Every generation has to defend itself from counterfeit religions. To help encourage our diligence to the subtlety of Satan it is revealed he often deceives by “transforming himself into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11: 14). Such ones often represent themselves as “super Christians” knowing more than anyone because of a fuller revelation.

Note what God said: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

ADDED SOME: “ye shall not touch it.” God never said that. They could have hung an old tier by a rope and made a swing in the tree and that would not have violated the command. They could have built a tree house in it, but they could not eat of it.

The Bible’s plus is the basis of most cults.

ALTERED SOME: She changed God’s “surely” to a “maybe” (“lest ye die”).

OMITTED SOME: She left out, “thou shalt surely die.”

Satan began by planting a doubt about God’s word followed by a denial resulting in a delusion: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

How very subtle this was. Until then they had known only good. Now Satan presented evil as being as good or better than good.

BODY: “saw that the tree was good for food”

SOUL: An aesthetic appeal, “pleasant to the eye”

SPIRITUAL: “A tree to be desired to make one wise”

In salvation these 3 steps are reversed.

There is the immediate justification of the spirit.

The progressive sanctification of the soul.

The ultimate glorification of the body.

Once Adam and Eve ate of the tree in the midst of the garden they began to play the blame game. Adam said, “the woman you gave me she…” He blamed not only “the woman” but God for giving her to him.

Eve responded, “the serpent he tricked me.”

When you foul-up, goof-off, or sin take the hit. Accept the blame. Members of our society have become master players of the blame game.

A teen recently shot a friend and blamed Celine Dion for singing the theme song from the “Titanic.” He said every time he heard it he was moved to violence.

A student snatched $10.00 from the hand of a student waiting in the lunch room line and ran. When caught the student said, “It was her fault, she shouldn’t have been holding it out.”

Locally a student was arrested for buying marijuana. When arrested his mother said it wasn’t his fault the person shouldn’t have been there selling it.

The German soccer team lost to Croatia in the World Cup. A member of the German team blamed the Chancellor for the loss saying he advocated the creation of the nation of Croatia and if he had not there would not have been such a nation and they would not have lost.

Adam said,”the woman,” the woman said, “the serpent.” The serpent looked the other way.

HEAD: He hid from God. He had a wrong concept of God.

Often it is said of a well educated person involved in a cult, “How can such a brilliant person believe that?”

Before Satan’s fall he was an angel known as Lucifer. He was “full of wisdom” (Ezek. 28:12). Next to God he was the most brilliant being in the universe. As a fallen angel he retained the highest of all created intelligence. Though he retained that wisdom it was now warped and perverted. Intelligence is no guarantee of faith. Some of the greatest people of faith have been people of great intelligence.

Johan Kepler the founder of physical astronomy discovered the laws of planetary motion and demonstrated the heliocentricity of the solar system was a man of great faith. He wrote:

“Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.”

Francis Bacon the man responsible for the establishment of what is known as the “scientific method,” a devout believer of the Bible wrote: “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent us from falling into error; first, the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which expresses His power.”

Blaise Pascal the great mathematician established the science of hydrostatics and laid the foundation for differential calculus was a man of great faith. He was also a brilliant philosopher and wrote: “How can anyone lose who chooses to become a Christian? If, when he dies, there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing — in fact he has been happier in life than his nonbelieving friends. If, however, there is a God and a heaven and hell, then he had gained heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in hell.”

Churches in scientific communities such as Huntsville, Alabama, Houston, Texas, and the area around Cape Canaveral are populated with thousands of scientists of great intellect and faith.

Teddy Roosevelt speaking of the evil within persons said an ignorant man may steal from a boxcar. Educate him and he will steal the railroad. Intellectual brilliance is influenced by sin.

HEART: “The heart is ‘deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked'” (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan’s deception causes a wrong concept of God. When God came looking for Adam and Eve after their sin they thought God wanted to destroy them, that He hated them. For the first time after their sin they feared God. Until then theirs was a rewarding fellowship with God.

HANDS: Went out and sewed leaves together in an attempt to cover the evidence of their sin. By this means they sought to make themselves acceptable to God. They, by their works, sought God’s approval. Every system of religion based on works salvation is in keeping with this false concept. Every attempt to make ones self acceptable to God is a counterfeit religion based on the false concept of salvation by works. Ours is a salvation that works, but it is not by works.

SALVATION IS A GIFT – God provided skins as a covering.