Sermon Select

What’s Your Story? 10/4/98

Luke 15:11-24
Page 1529 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ was a masterful story teller. He could take the simplest circumstances and make it ring with reason.

As fish live in water so we live in stories. Everyone enjoys a good story. Stories shape our lives. They come from literature, history, politics, family lore, and alas TV. Stories from our childhood live with us all of our lives.

Few people decide “Do I want to be good or bad?” What they really decide is “Who do I want to be like?” Who is your role model?

Few realize they are themselves a story in process. Your life is a drama in which you are the main character. Play your role well.

Jesus knowing this used stories to teach us. A story of pain, pathos, and pleasure was told by Him. In it most of us can find our self represented by one of the characters. It is known as the story of the prodigal son. Actually it is the story of a dysfunctional family.

Before sin ruptured relationships and brought thorns and thistles, the family arrived on the earthly scene as a divine gift. The family was God’s idea and He doesn’t have bad ideas. As intended by God it will transcend time because it is rooted in eternity.

The family has been under valued in our current society. As a result its worth to society has been underestimated. Functioning families are an economic blessing to society. They reduce the welfare rolls and cost of law enforcement while aiding the education environment.

The family has been played down by the culturally elite who insist that we must remain non-
judgmental and avoid preferring one relationship over another.

I have five degrees from colleges and universities but my major learning came from another source. I learned to tie my shoes; dress myself; not play with fire; pick-up and put-up my toys; not hit my brother; stand up to the bully down the street; and how to be quiet when adults were talking. In effect, I learned how to be a worker, a citizen, a neighbor, a friend, a parent, and in general a civilized human being. I learned all these things at a university called — the family. I learned all this before I ever went to school. That is what the family is for.

In some schools secular sociologists are speaking of the family as outdated and an obsolete institution. It is far from such. It is challenged and constantly under attack.

Educator Delores Curran sent out 500 questionnaires to obtain material for her book Traits of a Healthy Family. She received back 551. The 110% is incredible. She sent them to pediatricians, pastors, educators, teachers, social workers, counselors, and volunteer workers with families. They made copies and shared with friends who joined them in responding because the survey was considered important. Most of the characteristics of a healthy family revealed it to be the restored relationship of the prodigal son and his dad.

Let’s quickly look at some of the traits this cross segment of society said typify a healthy family. Such a family:
They communicate and listen. They value table conversation.

They affirm and support one another.

They teach respect for others.

They develop a sense of trust.

They have a sense of humor, play, and share leisure time.

They have a sense of shared responsibility.

They teach a sense of right and wrong.

They have strong sense of family traditions and rituals.

They have a shared religious core.

They admit to and seek help with problems.

Let’s observe the family developments of the boy known as the prodigal son to learn some things that make for a happy family.

This is the story of a broken family and what it took to restore it.

“Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons.’ And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (Luke 15:11 – 13).

After the son hit the bottom reality dawned on him. “Hey, things weren’t so bad at home after all. I’m going home.” The result:

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

For any relation to work certain factors found in this story have to be applied.

“His father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (vs. 20).

Cool, cute, coy, or crazy are characteristics of a TV family. That is a pretend world. In the real world the characteristic that provides a bonding glue is compassion.

Compassion expresses itself in certain ways. Your answer to these questions will reveal whether you have it.

Do your family members regularly receive more strokes than knocks from you?

Do you share pleasant leisure time?

Do you usually settle disagreements with mutual satisfaction and no bitterness?

Do you make others feel wanted, loved and appreciated?

Do you work ambitiously at contributing to making yours a happy home?

The father of the prodigal was forgiving. He had been wronged and doubtless embarrassed, even disgraced. Yet, he forgave.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14, 15).

There are distinct evidences we are losing our will to forgive: Marked increases in requests for marriage counseling, the state of mental health in America: depression, hypertension, and anxiety are on the increase, and child abuse is on the rise.

NO relationship exists long without tensions.
NO community continues long without conflicts.
NO human interaction occurs without possible pain, injury, suffering, and alienation.

Hurts happen. Misunderstandings occur. Trouble is inevitable.

Marriage consists of a series of actions and reactions motivated by our conscious and subconscious minds. The more active and creative people are the greater are their chances of conflict. Fighting is not the answer. Forgiveness is.

Without forgiveness relationships can last only where persons involved are cautiously and constantly superficial.

With forgiveness we are free to relate to each other with integrity.

Any movement toward forgiveness begins with the awareness we are in this pain together.

A second step is the acknowledgment of your own part in causing the conflict.

Most often adults want to deal with problems as they did when children. “He hit me first.” That is fixing the blame and exonerating self.

It is estimated that 90% of Americans spend much of their time trying to find someone to blame for failure and problems.

The father of the prodigal son had suffered because of the decisions of his son but he was quick to forgive.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).

“But when he had come to himself…” is one of the most beautiful lines in literature. When he reflected on his core values he realized he was in the wrong relationship. His was the wrong character in the story. A character change was in order.

He didn’t decide to simply find a new job or clean up his act. He determined to go back to his father and his father’s values.

Remember God cleans fish after He catches them.

The turning point was “when he came to himself.” That is, he made a right choice. Basically it was: “This is stupid. I don’t need to live like this. I have a father and a home. I’m returning.”

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son'” (Luke 15:21).

Translated, “Hey, dad I blew it!”

Sooner or later in some situation we all need to say it: “I was wrong, forgive me.” Or, “It was my fault, I apologize.”

Even Tarzan had to say that to Jane.

Let me make a spiritual application at this point. It is a good day when a prodigal becomes disappointed with the world and says, “Is this all there is?” Only to hear the Heavenly Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

There are no perfect relationships. None! No perfect families. No perfect marriages. The only perfect marriage was that of Adam and Eve.

He never had to listen to her tell of all the other guys she could have married and she never had to listen to what a wonderful cook his mother was.

Marriage isn’t a 50-50 relationship. It is a 100-nothing relationship. We should give ourselves 100% to making others happy and expect nothing in return. The result will be your own happiness. If you want love, don’t look for it, give it, and you will get it. If you want friends, don’t look for them to be friendly.

“Have you hugged your kid today?”

This prevents parental false-pride. Be expressive, demonstrative.

Husbands and wives need to be expressive to one another.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

AGAPE = love is associated with giving of self. Love gives with the idea of meeting others needs. Everyone needs acceptance.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19).

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7).

Expressiveness is essential if a relationship is to last. A special word of encouragement needs to be given dads about this.

Dads needs to be expressive. One of the best ways to be transparent to your family is to pray with and for them.

Many children feel like the little Indian girl who had asked to be taken to the brook to die and pleaded: “Father pray, Father, I am going to heaven soon and I want to tell Jesus, when I see Him that my father prays.”

For any relationship to last all parties have to be responsive and rewarding to the others.

The wise person realizes when he is lost, understands the cause of his or her homesickness, and returns to the one who loves him or her.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The son had been trained right and now it was about to pay off.

TRAIN means to discipline. Discipline and disciple come from the same root. It means to teach.

The way to the Father is often through the far country. The “far country” doesn’t have to be moral dissolution. It often is however. The far country is the point in life when you decide what character you want to be in your life’s drama. It is the point when you say, “Is this where I belong?” and pause long enough to hear the Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

A soldier killed at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain sent a message to his dad: “Father, meet me in heaven.”

The reunion of the dad and son is descriptive of the response of our Heavenly Father when we come to Him responsively.

He put a ring on his finger. This was a ceremony of adoption. It was a time of celebration.

A robe was put upon him. A robe of righteousness is given us when we come to our Heavenly Father.

The father provided shoes. This is a symbol of service.

Victor Frankl said, “Life only has meaning if there is a task, the more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

The Father knows this and offers us meaning by affording us a task.

Prayer: The Way to Be Co-controller of the Universe 8/2/98

Matthew 6:5-13
Page 1416 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST taught us to pray. He set the example for us in prayer. He prayed: at His baptism, temptation, transfiguration, Lord’s Supper, Gethsemane, and briefly on the cross. There was only one period when He did not pray. That was when the sins of the world rested on Him on the cross. That in part explains why so many people are not praying today – SIN.

An overly simplistic descriptive explanation of prayer is simply finding God’s will and praying “Thy will be done.” In this manner one becomes co-controller of the universe. It is done by the will and power of the other co-controller.

Throughout the Bible it is as though God is begging us to talk to Him, to pray. His telling us to pray is like a parent telling a child to clean up his or her dirty room. The parent doesn’t tell the child to clean up the room simply because he or she wants the child to know it is dirty. The parent wants action. For the same reason God tells us to pray. He want’s action.

On a recent flight across our great land I noticed many major rivers and large lakes. These represent large reserves of energy. Most of them were not being used to supply our country with the much needed power. A greater waste is our failure to pray.

In Queensland, Australia some poor workmen tried to eke out a living on a plot of land. They lived in poverty not knowing that there on Mt. Morgan beneath their feet was one of the largest gold deposits in the world. They lived in bread lines with gold of inestimable value beneath their feet. Many Christians are living as spiritual paupers because they have failed to use their greatest right – the right of prayer.

Trials and tribulations are gold mines from which we get some of life’s greatest prizes.

“Lord, when am I going to get out of this?,” instead of, “Lord what am I going to get out of this?”

One of the biggest blessings in a person’s life is helplessness. When this is realized persons respond to God in prayer. As a result many persons are aware of their helplessness today and are turning to God.

There is a prayer meeting every Monday morning at 6:00 AM in the office of General Mathis, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, in the Pentagon.

Numerous prayer meetings are conducted each week on Wall Street.

Satan trembles when he sees – the weakest Christian on his knees.

Prayer is not:
A supernatural credit card.
A magic wand to wave to keep evil away or a lucky rabbit’s foot to bring good fortune.
An opiate to tranquilize nervous Christians.
A campaign to persuade God to do something.

To whom do you pray? Jesus taught us to pray – “Our Father…” In praying most persons are more concerned with what they are praying for than with the One to whom they are praying. Pray to God. Think not about your weakness but about His strength. It may be acceptable for a child to give its dad a Christmas list of things desired, but if that is the only relationship they have it is not a good one. Don’t treat God like a Santa to whom you present your list of wants.

In whose name? Jesus taught us to pray in His name. Just tacking the words “in Jesus name” on the end of your petition does not make it a prayer offered in Jesus name. It is not a verbal spell, but basing our requests on Jesus saving relationship. To pray in His name is to pray as His proxy. It is to pray as one with Christ, one whose mind is the mind of Christ, whose desire is the desire of Christ, whose purpose is the purpose of Christ.

We must not ask Him to contradict Himself and violate His will (I John 5: 13-15).

Young Robert Louis Stevenson said to his mother, “You can’t be good without praying?” She asked how he knew with such certainty. He replied, “I have tried.”

Pilgrim’s Progress: Christian making his way toward the eternal city. His back was burdened with sin. He came to Calvary, knelt, and prayed. His sins were loosed, rolled down the hill into a sepulcher and were buried forever. Then he said with a merry heart, “He has given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death.”

“Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1). Note, they did not say teach us “how” to pray. Most people know how to pray they simply don’t do it. Follow His example.

You might question how to get to a certain place. The answer might be given: “Go to the second red light, turn left, go 6 blocks past the little white church, turn right, go 7 blocks…you can’t miss it.”

Such might be confusing.

You might ask another the same question and the response might be: “Follow me and I will direct you.” Thus, the way becomes clear. Following Christ’s example in prayer sets a good standard.

Don’t try to pray with unconfessed sin in your life. Don’t try to pray in a state of disobedience. Don’t harbor a secret sympathy with sin.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).

NASA reports that the slightest piece of lint from clothing or moisture from a fingerprint can make a sophisticated guided missile traveling twice the speed of sound miss its target. Sin causes our prayers to be off target also.

Prayer has as much to do with what we do when not praying as what we say when praying.

There is a difference in air and breath. Air is all around us. It is presently bringing 14.7 lbs. of pressure per square inch on you. Only when it is allowed to enter us does it become breath. As with air, God surrounds us at all times. When you relax and let air in, it becomes breath. When you relax spiritually and let Christ into your thoughts, that is prayer. It is letting God in.

The sinning man will stop praying – the praying man will stop sinning.

Prayer is simply profound and profoundly simple.

Preacher who is not praying is playing.

People who are not praying are straying.

In prayer put your all on the altar and don’t alter the altar. It is a place of sacrifice.

The love of God wants the best for us.

The wisdom of God knows the best for us.

The power of God can accomplish the best for us.

Let your prayer be natural. Don’t put a steeple in your throat and act like you are speaking through stained glass. Don’t impose on God like a child leaving a test praying, “Please make Macon the capital of Georgia.” Prayer is supernatural but it is not anti-natural.

The answers to prayer are: YES, NO, and YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING!

In reality the answers are: yes, no, or an EXPLANATION; “My grace is sufficient…” Where did the idea originate that NO is not an answer.

We often say, “Prayer works,” and it does. By that we most often mean we got a direct “yes” answer to a prayer. However, not all prayers get a yes answer. However, prayer still works in that it increases our fellowship with God. It draws us closer to Him. It renews and refreshes us. It makes us aware of our dependence on Him.

The pretense of prayer should never be a sly way of gossiping or spreading a rumor. On occasion it is used as a cover for gossip. “I want to share this with you as a matter of prayer concern. Do you know ….”

Prayer should never be used as an indirect method of solicitation. “I have been praying for a…. Pray with me about it.” Prayer is to God. It is not in order that we might be heard.

Roger Staubach, the outstanding quarterback for the U.S. Naval Academy and Dallas Cowboys was followed at Navy by Bruce Bickle. They were close friends. After their stints in the Navy Roger became quarterback for the Cowboys and Bruce became an FCA staff member.

Bruce was a mature Christian and at a stage in his spiritual growth Roger called Bruce and asked that he be permitted to call him long distance each night for a Bible study by phone. This they did for some time.

Bruce was surviving on a meager FCA income and had need of a car. He had been praying for some time for a car. He never mentioned this to Roger who was doing very well on his NFL salary. One evening Roger said, “Bruce, I have just been given a car as the outstanding player in the Super Bowl. I don’t need another car. Can you use it?”

Who answered that prayer God or Roger. I think Roger and Bruce would both say God. Had Bruce been telling Roger he needed a car it might have been simply Roger’s kindness responding to a need. However, Bruce gave God the opportunity to work in supplying his need.

Consider these A, B, C’s of prayer:

ACCEPT. Prayer is the ability to accept. It is not merely the ability to be immune or exempted from a difficult situation. It is the ability to transform difficult situations and conditions.

Paul had a thorn in the flesh which he desired to have removed (I Corinthians 12: 1-10).

It was not. Instead, through prayer it was transformed into an occasion for God to demonstrate His grace.

Jesus in Gethsemane transformed agony into glory.

BEAR. Prayer is the ability to bear. In our human condition there are inevitably conditions we feel we can’t bear. Most have faced such grim circumstances. Prayer is not an escape route. Prayer gives us the ability to face the unfaceable, to bear the unbearable, to pass the breaking point without breaking.

COOPERATE. Prayer gives us the ability to cooperate with God.

Prayer is not a way to push things off on God that we might do for ourselves. It is asking Him for the enabling power to do things for Him. If it is ever turned into an attempt to get Him to do things for us that we should do ourselves it is bad. Such would make us spiritually lazy and flabby. Prayer gives no person the right to sit idly and wait. Instead it gives courage to rise and risk.

When we pray and set about to do all we can then we realize a new dynamic has entered our life. Prayer is not saying, “Dear God, please do for me what I want,” but, “Please do in me, with me, and through me what you want.”

Know the difference in a PROMISE and a FACT. Pray the promises. A promise has a condition. A fact is a reality without condition.

We are encouraged by some to pray the promises and it is a good idea. However, we must not confuse a proverb, a parable, or a prophecy with a promise. Some doing so are confused as to why God doesn’t respond. We are to pray the promises after complying with the conditions.

Jesus said: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name, that will I do…”

John 14: 13,14: The condition is “in my name,” that is, as My proxy. This means to pray what you think Jesus would pray if He were in your situation.

Abraham “staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to Glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4: 20, 21).

We are not authorized to claim anything God has not promised.

James 4:3, “Ye have not because ye ask not…consume it unto your own lusts.”

There must be a cleansed life. Psalms 66:18 calls spiritual contamination “iniquity”. It does not make sense from a Biblical standpoint to pray for anything if there is unconfessed sin in our life.

The Psalmist said it clearly, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm. 66:18).

Solomon in his wisdom wrote: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither is ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Is. 59: 1,2).

James 5:16 gives us insight into the opposite of this: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

I John 1:9 tells us how to have our sins removed and become the righteous person with prayer potential.

There must be obedience. I John 3:22 “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing to Him.”

The Power of God 2/1/98

I Corinthians 1:17, 18
Page 1667 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth…”

The Greek word translated “power” is EXOUSIA, meaning ability, or strength, or authority. Here Jesus boast “all authority”, that is, power has been given unto Him.

This opens one of the major mysteries of life. If that is so, and it is, why doesn’t He make everything and everyone conform to His will? Good question worthy of our exploration. In exploring it you might well find why some things you don’t understand are happening in your personal world. A better, though never complete, understanding of this may revolutionize your life as you come to realize God is very much in love with you and more active in your life than you know.

Let me tell you a story and let me tell it from the end forward. Listen and draw your own conclusion of what is happening and why.

I met a couple who are both now deceased. He loved his wife very much. She “could not walk” and had not walked for some time. She stayed in bed most of the time. However, each afternoon when he came home he would go into the bedroom and pick her up in his strong loving arms and take her outside on the patio and place her in a comfortable chair. There they had refreshments and talked as he shared his day with her.

This was their regular delightful routine. To say the least she looked forward to the sound of the key turning in the door and his coming home. She watched the clock in expectation awaiting their time together.

One afternoon he came home but didn’t immediately come into the bedroom as usual. She called out to him and he responded casually. She urged him to come on in. After what seemed to be an undue delay he came in and stood some distance from the bed. She smiled warmly and appealed to him to pick her up so they could go outside and enjoy the beautiful day. He stood motionless. She appealed more earnestly and he remained unresponsive.

She struggled to sit up on the edge of the bed and begged him to pick her up. He refused. Her frustration gradually turned to anger. In her frustrated fury she stood and stumbled across the room throwing herself on him. He lovingly embraced her and wept. He then picked her up and carried her to the patio.

If you had seen that happen what would you have thought of him? Would you perhaps have thought he didn’t love her. Maybe, he didn’t care for her. Perhaps that he didn’t have the capacity to carry her. His conduct would have appeared to be foolish.

Now the first of the story. The loving husband had gone to see their doctor again that day. They had been to many doctors with no helpful response. This doctor told him they could find no physiological reason why his wife could not walk. Her inability to walk was psychosomatic. That is, she had a mental block. For some reason she thought she couldn’t walk and that disabled her. The doctor had told him he had to force her to walk and suggested the tactic he used. It worked. She walked that day and that set in motion a series of events resulting in her overcoming her mental block and eventually walking normally.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, didn’t care, or didn’t have the power to help her. He wasn’t being foolish at all. In reality he was exercising power.

Power is the ability to achieve purpose. Put that definition on the screen saver of your mind: POWER IS THE ABILITY TO ACHIEVE PURPOSE.

Candidly, as you look at certain things happening or some people and what they are experiencing you might tend to conclude God doesn’t love that person or God doesn’t have the power to help. Not so. He has all authority, all power. However, he wisely uses it to achieve His purpose.

As we look on the husband and wife scenario without the understanding given by the doctor, we might well be critical not knowing it was love that motivated the lack of action.

As we see events in life from our perspective without God’s view point we might well be critical of Him.

Look at Jesus on the cross crying, “My God, My God, why have you forsake Me?” From our vantage point it may appear God the Father no longer loved God the Son or that He didn’t have the power to intervene. He did, but remember, power is the ability to achieve purpose. His purpose is found in our text: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

On the cross God was achieving His purpose — our salvation.

God’s purpose is for His kingdom to come — what does it involve — for His will to be done.

The will of the husband was for his wife to walk. The will of our Heavenly Father is for us to walk in His loving will.

God has a purpose and to achieve that purpose it has to be done voluntarily by us. In all of life God wants to win but NOT BECAUSE OF HIS MIGHT BUT BECAUSE HE IS RIGHT.

God has lovingly imposed limitations on Himself. In His sovereign will He has chosen to give us human beings a free will. That is, the right to make choices. If we did not have a free will we would be nothing more than marionettes, puppets, dangling on His strings under His control.

God has imposed upon Himself limitations that His goodness demands. One limitation is to allow us to exercise our own free will.

He does not force or coerce. He guides and guards in order to enable us to come to understand His will and have the joy of doing it.

God wants people to love Him because they want to not because He has a big stick. Again I say: He wants to win because He is right not because of His might.

As with the husband and wife God’s power can’t be understood without comprehending His purpose.

God’s purpose is to change persons by the power of the cross. That is why God the Father didn’t intervene and bring the Son down from the cross. That is why we are to be constantly “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

He endured the cross and despised the shame in order to achieve His purpose — our salvation. That is the power of God unto salvation.

We are constantly in a state of becoming and what we become is determined by our choices. Our choice of the will of God or the will of Satan determines what we become.

This week on a flight I had two delightful seat mates. One was from England and one was from Scotland. Both had a PhD in chemistry and they were here in the states for only four days. I turned the conversation to these amiable delightful young men and we had a very warm free interchange. One of them said candidly, up front, clearly, “I am an avowed humanist.” The other said very little, but listened and watched intently.

The humanist said, “I cannot believe their is a God. For if there is a God why are things so messed up in this world?” I said simply, “because God imposed upon Himself a limitation allowing us to have a free will and in that free will human beings have created man’s inhumanity to man. God created a perfect environment and placed Adam and Eve therein, and they made a choice. And folks like them who are now us have made mistaken choices similar to theirs. That’s the reason things are so messed up.”

We continued to talk throughout the flight with him raising every old humanistic question there is, and there many, and every one has an answer. As we approached Atlanta I said to the other young man, “have you ever considered the matter of faith in Christ?” Here is a young man with a PhD in chemistry about 40 years of age and he said, “I had never even thought about God.”

As we continued to converse the one who had been so very articulate said, “I believe God is just a figment of the imagination.” I said, “do I understand you correctly? That you are saying, God did not make man, but rather man made God.” He said, “that’s right.” I said, “that would never have happened.” He said, “why?” I said, “because man would never have made a God like that.” He laughed and said, “you know, you’re right.”

I said, “part of the problem people had with Jesus when He was here was that He was a loving and a suffering servant who came to die for the sins of His people and every god on earth that man has ever created is exactly the opposite of that.” He said, “you’re right.”

When Leonardo Da Vinci was working on his famous painting of the Last Supper, he saw a young man in one of Rome’s fine church choirs who had admirable features. He asked him to model for Jesus. That young man’s name was Pietro Bandinelli. If you want to know what he looked like observe his face in the painting by Da Vinci of the Last Supper.

The complete painting took years. The hardest face to depict was that of Judas. Da Vinci searched back alleys looking for a hardened face impacted by sin. At last he found the perfect model. The man sat for him several times. He was a beggar, a thief, murderer, a person who had squandered his life. He was a product of his choices. His face was a masterpiece of evil.

Near the completion of his modeling time Da Vinci asked his name. He replied, “Master Da Vinci! I’m Pietro Bandinelli! I was your model for the Christ.”

You are changing and your choices are determining what you are becoming.

In our text the power of the cross is referred to as impacting two groups of people. Those who — “are perishing.” This refers to a process that is continual BUT which can be changed.

When W.C. Fields was on his death bed a friend visited him. The friend was surprised to find Fields reading the Bible. This was untypical of this man who regularly mocked Christianity. His visiting friend asked what he was doing. He replied, “I’m looking for loopholes!” There are none. Be certain you are not “perishing.” It is a state that can be changed.

“are saved” refers to a principle that is constant BUT which cannot be changed.

God has imposed upon Himself limitations that His goodness demands. Part of that self-imposed limitation is to allow us a free will. That free will sits between the will of God and the will of our adversary, Satan. God has a will for us and Satan has a will for us. We have a free will and can choose which of these we comply with.

Note, it is your free will. God will not impose on it. No human being can determine it for you. It is yours. We revel in that freedom. However, it shouts of individual accountability. That means we can neither blame God nor anyone for our conduct. We demand and delight in having a free will yet when we make a wrong choice we look for someone to blame.

While not imposing His will on us God does work in our lives to bring us to the point of accepting His will.

“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Some of what God is doing in your life may look as unexplainable as the behavior of the loving husband who refused to assist his pleading wife. The husband’s actions looked foolish. What was done on the cross looks foolish to some but to others it is “the power of God unto salvation.”

Mark Twain wryly said, “it is not the part of the Bible I don’t understand that bothers me, it’s the parts I do understand.” Twain understood much of the Bible but did not want to comply with it.

Be committed to doing the will of God before you ask Him to reveal it. Express your love and commitment to obedience. Imagine a child coming to its parents, throwing its arms around the neck, hugging, and saying, “I love you!” Could you conceive of the parent saying, “OH, I have been waiting to hear you say that so I can make your life miserable.” NO! The parent would respond in love. So our Heavenly Father responds when we tell Him of our love.

God is presently employing His power to help bring each of us into conformity to His will. Certain aspects of His known will are well defined in His Word. Such as:

SALVATION: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

SANCTIFICATION: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;” (I Thessalonians 4:3).

SPIRIT: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

SACRIFICE: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

SUBJECTION TO AUTHORITY: “and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you” (II Peter 2:13).

I minister to a number of persons on death row and have great sensitivity regarding their state.

I want to tell you of the most humane way of it being administered of which I know.

In another state the maximum security prison in which prisoners await execution has a compassionate warden. He is of the spiritual persuasion that anybody can be forgiven by God of anything. He believes those who have faith in Christ go to heaven when they die.

He operates his prison within the law and is discrete. He offers his personal assistance to those awaiting execution. Those who desire it are afforded it. He sees to it they have a clear understanding of what repentance and forgiveness is. Within the bounds allowing it chaplins are urged to disciple the prisoner. That is, teach Scriptural principles. Part of this teaching relates to believers death.

On the day of the execution the warden meets with the prisoner. By now the two have become friends. They share the prisoner’s last meal and pray together. Together they walk into the death chamber. The warden stands by the prisoner holding his hand as the lethal injection is begun. Compassionately he urges the condemned man to relax and anticipate the moment he will see the face of Jesus. He continues to talk to the prisoner until his hand goes limp.

Philip: The First Missionary

John 1:43-45

Jesus Christ prudently chose twelve men to join Him in changing the world. Eleven of them became world class leaders. Emerging from the remote region of Galilee they penetrated foreign cultures, infiltrated seats of government, and saturated societies with good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

They were the embodiment of admirable qualities of a leader penned by an unknown author:

Who cannot be bought;
whose word is their bond;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be as honest in small things as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning and hard headedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say “no” with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says “yes.”

To aspire to be such a person is to commit ones self to ridicule and rejection. By following the lives of these men they are revealed to have become such persons. Their eventual rejection did not eradicate the impact of the truth they embodied and shared.

They heard the words of their Master and obeyed unquestioningly. One of the twelve became the first missionary. The others followed his procession to impact the world.

Internal Scriptural evidences indicate how much of an effort went into training His disciples. An audit of the gospels reveals they cover a maximum of thirty-four days of Christ’s three-and-one-half-year ministry. The Gospel of John records the activities of only eighteen days. What were they doing the rest of the time? Evidently Christ was training them. They were going to His private school designed to disciple them.

Philip was from the small community of Bethsaida in the territory of Galilee.

He was the first person to whom the word’s of Christ were directed: “Follow Me!”

In doing so he set for us a worthy example.

Again an anonymous author speaks:
I heard Him call
“Come follow,” that was all;
My gold grew dim,
My soul went after Him
I rose and followed, that was all:
Who would not follow
If he heard His call?

Philip was a Jew with a Greek name. “Philip” means “lover of horses.” Before him the best known man in history with the name was Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Greek conquest left marks of their presence long after they departed. Alexander had dramatic influence on northern Galilee. Not only were children born of Greek fathers and Jewish mothers but the language of the people was impacted. Doubtless it was these influences resulting in this Jewish baby being named Philip long after Alexander departed.

There are Biblical evidences that Christ organized the twelve. It is stated Judas was treasurer. Philip was evidently the supply officer in charge of food. He is postured fulfilling that role on occasion.

It is inspiring to get to know him in three settings.

The first three gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning to see alike. They basically all write about the same events. John breaks from this and shares other insights not contained in the first three. Virtually everything known about Philip is recorded in John. John records that after calling Andrew and Peter, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote; Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:43 – 45).

Philip was from the same community as Andrew and Peter. He was evidently a shy reclusive individual and reluctant to aggressively approach Jesus. Jesus “found” Philip. He went looking for him knowing he was a spiritual diamond in the rough.

Philip’s involvement should be an encouragement to all who are less aggressive and not so assertive. Often those who feel they have so little to offer have much to give.

Once Christ called Philip he went immediately and found his friend Nathanael. This is a case study of the fact “ONE LIGHTED TORCH SERVES TO LIGHT ANOTHER.”

Two interesting facts about being an effective witness are incorporated in this episode.

Studies indicate that most spontaneous genuine witnessing experiences occur in the first two years after a person is saved. Unfortunately many forget what it is to be lost and don’t remember the joy of coming to the Lord.

Secondly, a study of evangelical outreach reveals that 85 percent of converts are introduced to Christ by a friend, family member, working associate, or neighbor.

Both of these principles are seen in the Philip — Nathanael encounter.

John recounts a second occasion when Philip was an instigator.

“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little’” (John 6: 5 – 7).

Philip knew math. He was about to get to know Jesus better. He calculated the cost of feeding the 5,000 gathered before Jesus. His conclusion, “No way, can we feed this mob.”

How many times has the “Philip complex” been expressed in churches. “We don’t have the money. We can’t afford it.” Prudence is always a practical fact. Faith is always a positive force. If the church of the Lord Jesus Christ always waited until they “have” the money Christ’s cause would be retarded even more. The church members always have in their keep the money needed for any task assigned by the Lord. It is merely a matter of releasing it by faith. It is for that reason our Lord let’s us get in extenuating circumstances. It is in order to be forced to exercise faith.

I had the pastor of a very large church in Texas say, “I cannot understand for the life of me how some of the most brilliant men in the business community of Dallas who make million dollar deals regularly can come to church and in a committee meeting become selfish little thinkers.”

Philip had a part in what happened. He was on this and other occasions the contact man. Andrew heard the conclusion of Philip and in essence replied, “Oh, yes there is a way. There is a lad here…” Philip blew a marvelous opportunity. Andrew capitalized on it.

Because of his slow spiritual reflexes some scholars call Philip “the dullard.” Perhaps he was. That should give hope to others. Before we leave him it will become apparent how God can use dullards.

Near the end of Christ’s earthly life “other sheep, not of this flock,” a delegation of Greeks, came looking for Christ. Perhaps because of his Greek name they were attracted to Philip. Then this scenario occurred:

“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified’” (John 12: 20 – 23).

Finding Philip because of his Greek name explains one thing. Why they came seeking Christ is another. The region helps our understanding. Along the shores of the Galilee ran caravan routes from Africa, Europe, and Asia. There were hot springs there that attracted additional people seeking health advantages. This made Galilee “Grand Central Station” or “Atlanta Airport” of the day. Doubtless they or some of their friends had been there before and had heard Christ. Now they returned desiring to make Him a king.

Once more Philip is a bit slow and indecisive. Uncertain as he was he shared the wishes of the Greeks with Andrew. Again Andrew recovers a fumble for the offense. However, Philip, the quiet one is a facilitator in making the contact.

Philip’s final speaking part in the gospel is in the setting of the Upper Room on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion.

“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, Show us the Father’?” (John 14: 8 – 9).

The apostles had seen Jesus go through an emotional catharsis at the tomb of Lazarus. They had heard Him speak of His time not having come. Now He speaks of the end. They knew the climate in Jerusalem to be one of hostility toward Christ. They needed reassuring. Jesus knowing this takes them aside to encourage them. This is no mere pep talk. This is their final briefing for their world wide mission.

He tells them He is going to His Father’s house. There He will prepare a place for them. He assures them He will come again and receive them unto Himself.

While all this was being shared Philip appears to have been in a stupor. It just wasn’t enough. Philip speaks, “Show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

I should hope so!

There is a note of disappointment in the reply of Christ, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14: 9 – 11).

Two things reveal the presence and power of the Father in the Son: His words and His works. Both creditably reveal Him to be one with the Father. They are co-eternal and co-equal.

Take a short course in Jesus 101. Philip saw Him walk on water, calm the stormy sea, feed 5,000, heal the sick, restore the lame, raise Lazarus from the dead, give sight to the blind. Now, Philip, you pragmatist, open your eyes.

Philip heard Him preach the Sermon on the Mount, instruct them in the Lord’s Prayer, confound the wise of His day with His understanding of the Old Testament.

Soon the light will be turned on in the room of rationality for Philip. The event that was to do it was the resurrection. Click! It all came clear. Now he comprehended how the departed Christ could be with all of them at once. Now the mandate on the mountain made sense. It became the compelling influence in his life.

Now the dullard becomes the devotee. He now comprehended what Jesus meant when He said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).

That being true he realized he was accountable for helping tell the world of this love. Secular records reveal Philip took the gospel to what is now Russia and France.

He shared the love of the Lord at Hierapolis in Phrygia with those who worshiped Mars in the form of a dragon. His preaching incurred the wrath of the people who crucified him. His body was wrapped in sheets of Syriac paper and papyrus because he felt unworthy to be wrapped in linen as was his Lord. Though shy in life he was bold in death.

Allegedly Pope John the Third (560 – 572) acquired the body of Philip from Hierapolis and had it interred in The Church of the Holy Apostles Philip and James, in Rome. Bones alleged to be those of Philip and James can be seen there in a large sarcophagus.

Simon Peter

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him”
(Matthew 4:18 – 20).

Jesus Christ called a complex diverse group to follow Him. Each had a unique personality. Based on the interaction recorded in the Scriptures Simon Peter must have been one of, if not the most outspoken one. He was a blithe bold believer who took a stand and spoke out on many things. He was reprimanded by Christ and reprimanded Christ. He was bold enough to draw a sword against a contingency of Roman soldiers and cowardly enough to recoil when confronted by a single young woman. His visibility makes him one of the most familiar apostles.

A first grader had listened attentively as the teacher told of the men Christ called to follow Him. The teacher then asked, “What were the men who followed Christ called?” After a momentary pause one little enthusiast put his hand eagerly. When called upon to tell what the men were called the child said, “They were called recycles!” We might call them transformed apostles but that is Greek for “recycles.” That is what all of us are.

The various lists of apostles varies but the same one is always listed first and the same one last. Peter is always listed first and Judas Iscariot last.

Affectionately known as “the Big Fisherman,” Paul called him, along with James and John, “pillars” of the church (Galatians 2: 9).

John Chrysostom (347 – 407 A.D.) said Peter was “the mouthpiece of the apostles … the leader of the apostolic chorus — the pillar of the church, the basis of faith, the foundation of our confession (You are the Christ), the World-wide Fisherman who brought our race heavenward from the abyss of error.” (“The Twelve Christ Chose,” Smith).

Peter was one of the members of the inner circle that often had special moments with Christ. He was:

When Judas brought the cadre of Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsamene to arrest Christ it was Peter who drew a sword and attempted to defend Christ (John 18: 10).

Christ had previously told the apostles they should each purchase sword “Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one'” (Luke 22:36).

Why would Christ tell them to purchase swords and then rebuke Peter for using his. The Greek word translated “sword” is MACHAIRA. It was a short bladed dagger like knife. Such was an essential possession of all men. It was not a weapon for fighting, but for preparing food, cutting food, and various utilitarian purposes. Telling them to purchase such a “sword” would be like a scout master telling troop members to bring along their Swiss Army Knife on their camping trip. There was nothing warlike about having such a sword. It was Peter’s improper use of it that Christ condemned.

It is probably a stretch of the imagination to conceive of Christ saying that night in Gethsamene, “Peter, put that thing away. I am suppose to die tomorrow on a cross, but if you keep that up we will all be killed tonight in a street fight.”

Peter’s act was a brave impulsive but improper one.

Our zeal for our Lord must be tempered and timely.

In the upper room on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion Peter had boldly asserted that even if all the others deserted Him he, Peter, would not (Matthew 26: 33 – 35). Christ forewarned Peter as to how imminent his betrayal would be. He told him that before the cock would crow three times he would betray Him.

After Christ’s arrest Peter followed the contingency to the house of the high priest and waited around a fire in the outer courtyard. A young woman who had seen Peter with Christ identified him as a follower of Christ (Matthew 26: 58 – 75).

Three times she identified him and three times he denied Christ.

The third betrayal was followed immediately by the crowing of the cock. Peter was deflated.

Those of us who all too often feel like failures can relate. Thank the Lord the story doesn’t end there.

Peter revealed many attitudes that prevail in our time. He once asked Christ: “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?'” (Matthew 19:27).

Transliterated, “What is in for me?”

Later when the mother of James and John asked Christ to let her boys sit on his right and left Peter was one of the ten that was highly indignant about it. They were upset that their little Jewish mothers let her beat them to asking the same question.

What is in if for me? The pay off is two fold.

One, the joy of being with the Lord and doing His will. Inherent in it is the reward. We need to remember that. The pay off is in the process.

Secondly, the pay off is deferred. The pay may not be much but the benefits are eternal.

Christ asked His apostles who they thought Him to be. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

This factual revelation gave Christ occasion to declare the foundation of the church He was to build: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Peter was the first apostle at the tomb of the resurrected Christ (Luke 24: 12). What he saw transformed his life and started a wave of transitions that changed history. The empty tomb filled Simon with zeal.

Jesus, the resurrected Lord, said, “But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7).

Some think Peter was giving up in despair when he said, “I am going fishing.” What he meant was in light of Christ saying He was going to be in Galilee I am going where Christ is.

There on the shores of the sea Peter saw the resurrected Lord whom he had denied. Three times Christ asked him if he loved Him. Simon’s responses revealed a dedication that thrust him into a life time of spreading the good news.

Later Peter wrote two books contained in our Bible bearing his name: I and II Peter. Therein he appeals: “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (II Peter 1: 4 – 9).

Christ had said of Peter he would be called “the Rock.” In this passage Peter reveals the process by which sand is turned into a rock.

Peter became a fearless leader, filled with courage born of a faith in Christ and an awareness of His presence in every time of need.

The faith of Peter, tradition tells us, propelled him into France and England preaching the good news. Tradition further holds that Peter was condemned by Nero to be crucified. He said he was not worthy to die as his Lord and asked that he be crucified upside down. He was rock solid.