1998 Sermons

A Heartfelt Purpose 1/11/98

Daniel 1:1-8
Page 1297 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ is depicted as our ideal for inspiration. We are challenged to always be “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).

Jesus had a rough and challenging road in life. Perhaps that is why you have found you can relate to Him and more importantly why He can relate to you.

A family with young children was walking a mountain path together. It was a bit challenging to the children. One of them exclaimed, “This is not a path at all. It is all rocky and bumpy. The older child enjoying the challenge replied, “Sure, the bumps are what you climb on.”

Having observed many lives and read many biographies I have never known of a person who achieved who didn’t have a bumpy path in all of life. Success resulted from learning to climb on the bumps.

We learn and grow by doing so. In a “Peanuts” cartoon, my favorite theologian, Charlie Brown is complaining about his team always losing. Trying to console him Lucy says, “Remember, Charlie Brown, you learn more from your defeats than you do from your victories.”

Charlie replies, “That makes me the smartest man in the world.” You may feel you are Charlie’s chief competition for “world’s smartest.” Remember, bumps are what you climb on. While doing so always keep your eyes on Jesus Who climbed His bumps.

Jesus Christ, Who masterfully climbed on the bumps in his path said, “Come out from among them and be separated…”

God has always looked for His separated band that He might use and bless. In the Old Testament is a classic example of some youth who qualified without qualification.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had conquered Jerusalem and carried a number of the choicest youth back to Babylon. Note these characteristics:

AGE: “young” (Vs. 4a) It was king David who said, “I have been young, and am now old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37: 25).

APPEARANCE: “in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking”

1. “gifted in all wisdom”
2. “possessing knowledge”
3. “quick to understand”

AMENITIES: “who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace”

Daniel had taken a vow regarding his diet and total abstinence from drugs. The drug in question was alcohol. The king’s instruction was a command that would have violated Daniel’s convictions.

Here was an appeal to popularity, prestige, prominence, and power. In this story we can see —

A. Youth. What a fantastic time of life! Ambition is high and experience is low, BUT often that ambition drives one to excessive experiences.

This has left many youths as frustrated as a bird looking for a worm in AstroTurf.

As mixed up as a termite in a yo-yo.

As anxious as a sheep that is allergic to wool.

So nervous they could thread a sewing machine that is running.

It is a challenging time when hormones kick in. Internal stress and external strife often result. It is critically important that young people understand what is happening within them. Be patient with yourself and by all means don’t let your body chemistry separate you from your parents. Let reason take charge of your feelings.

B. Captivity. The greatest slavery the world has ever known is the slavery of a modern American teenager to the opinion of other teens. Rarely does Satan use physical violence to persecute us in America today. He does it psychologically by assaulting our ego, and our feelings. Satan doesn’t say, “I will pull off your nose if you share your faith with a best friend.” Or, “I will rip out your liver if you take a stand in this setting.”

He does impress us with: “You won’t have a friend left if you don’t go along with the gang.” Or, “Folks will think you are weird if you don’t do what they are doing.”

C. Flattery. “Hey, baby I love you!” “I need you.”

D. Isolation. Away from home. Teenage mobility today.

E. Futility. Nothing for which to live, homeland destroyed.

F. Loneliness. Ann Frank: “Youth is the loneliest time of life.”

Sometimes it seems no one wants to have anything to do with us. The dating period of life is a testing one. Excuses are often created for not wanting to accept an invitation to date. Such as:

“I’d love to go out with you, but I’m attending the opening of my garage door.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to spend more time with my blender.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but it’s my night to pet the goldfish.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to work on my cottage cheese sculpture.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I promised to help my friend fold road maps.”

Maya Angelou, in her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, describes her life as a lonely black child being shuffled back and forth among several families, and concludes: “Of all the needs a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied if there is going to be hope of wholeness is the overshaking need for an unshakable God.”

Don’t let loneliness drive you to compromise.

These same things lead many people to opt for drugs in an attempt to synthetically seek to meet their needs.

As a result, between 1960 and 1980:
The delinquency rate has doubled.
The birthrate for unwed mothers is up 130 percent.
Suicide is up 130 percent.
Murder is up 232 percent.

A recent report in USA TODAY showed:

“Almost half of the teen drug abusers got involved before age 12. Cocaine, the drug of the middle-class kids, has risen in use from 7% in ’84, to 63% today.
61% of abusers use alcohol first; 30% used pot.
65% used drugs a year before their parents suspected it.
70% were introduced to drugs by a friend.
34% used drugs for the first time at home.”

WHY are youth doing this? The same appeal is being made to them as made to Daniel: captivity, flattery, isolation, futility, and loneliness.

A. Daniel Purposed Not to Defile Himself. The word “defile” meant “to pollute.”

This had to be a difficult and challenging series of bumps for Daniel. You too may be climbing a seemingly unsurmountable series of bumps. Always remember: “Never doubt in the darkness, what God has told you in the light.” Daniel didn’t.

At times we must by faith cling to the truth of these couplets:
“Yesterday God helped me, Today He’ll do the same.
How long will this continue? Forever — praise His name.”

Chris Craft was asked: “When is the best time to make a decision?”

Underscore in verse 8 the big little word “himself.” Personal resolve is part of the solution. There are some decisions you don’t have to make but once. The decision not to “defile” himself.

Make a decision now not to pollute yourself:
1. With drugs.
2. Morally. Pregnant teens: “I don’t know why I did it.”

B. Daniel Prayed – Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

C. Daniel Proceeded to Trust The Consequences to God. He knew what we must never forget. God won’t keep us from trouble, but He will keep us while in trouble. There are circumstances in life that may hurt us but they can’t harm us.

God will never require anything of us that He will not enable. Otherwise He would just be mocking our weaknesses. That He doesn’t do.

A. He Gained A Healthy Body

B. He Laid a Good Foundation for Adulthood. Be kind to your tomorrow self.

C. He Was Admired By Man and Blessed by God.

Core Values That Count 2/8/98

Romans 1:14-17
Page 1645 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST touches and transforms lives. He did so for the most unlikely candidate. A brilliant though belligerent young attorney who was the apple of the judiciary eye in Jerusalem was assigned the role of special prosecutor to investigate rumors of the resurrection of Christ. His evidence turned on him and convinced him of the reality of the resurrection. He who gathered more facts about the resurrection was a skeptic. His material evidence and the collaborated testimony of eye witnesses changed his life. Thereafter, the life of Paul, filling it with joy so that it overflowed. That elation over salvation thrilled him so that he wanted to happily share it with others. The natural result of the in filling is the outpouring. What happened in the life of Paul was revolutionary. Ambitiously he wanted this spiritual revolution to sweep the known world. He had a sense of obligation to be an agent of achieving this end.

He had – – –

As a result of his redemption, he was completely owned by Christ. This gave him a sense of being completely obligated to Christ. Since Christ died for his sins and rose for his salvation Paul desired to do what Christ wanted and not what he wanted.

We are morally obligated to others as a result of being trustees or stewards of the Gospel.

When we receive something nice from friend, we feel a bit of indebtedness until we can do something nice for them. That wasn’t how Paul felt. He was not indebted to the people because he had not received something from them but something for them.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he became a debtor to Israel not because he received something from them but for them.

This indebtedness is to all persons. Greek culture permeated the known world. Therefore they were included. The term “barbarians” was a term used by the Greeks for anyone that did not speak their language. Other languages sounded to them like “bar bar” so they combined those words with “os” to make the word “barbaros,” meaning anyone not speaking Greek.

The words, “wise and unwise,” refer to cultured and uncultured. Thus, everyone is included. This is amplified in Colossians 1:28, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

About 500 B.C. “The Greek Miracle” emerged. In the lovely city of Athens the Greek culture was born. Their striking architecture was revolutionary. They raised knowledge of math to a new height. They became the first civilization to write history as such. They developed a new system of thought called logic.

Our American culture is indebted to Greek thought. They impacted the entire world.

The Greeks were the first to make their gods in their own image. God’s devised by other civilizations were ghoulish. Most were hybrids of lions/men or bulls/women, etc. Greek gods were like human beings. They said beauty is truth and truth is beauty. Their gods looked like Olympic champions or perfect females. Romans 1:23 describes this process: “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Man was made the center of the universe. Humanism was given a major boost. Our society is currently following their trend.

Societies that do this should expect the result. Romans 1:24 reveals the result: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…”

The term “God gave them up” means God took off all restraints. It was a term used for removing the mooring lines from a boat and setting it adrift. God gave them up to depravity. Verse 18 notes the “wrath of God is revealed” against such persons.

An overlooked aspect of the wrath of God is that God often punishes sin “in kind.”

In the Old Testament era the people of God rebelled during the wilderness wanderings when God was feeding them with “manna” a perfect food substance. What they wanted was not the perfect food God wanted them to have. They complained and demanded meat. God gave them what they wanted. Numbers 11:18ff tells of the result. God said “…you shall eat flesh…until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome.”

God often judges us by giving us more and more of what we want until we become sick of it. In the process we often call it progress.

As a child I loved pickles. Note, I said, past tense, “I loved” pickles. One Sunday afternoon while my parents were hosting relatives on the front porch of our house I got my opportunity. Mom had just made a vat of my favorite home made pickles. I had some with lunch and mother said, “Son, don’t eat any more.”

While they were busy on the front porch I seized the moment to enjoy more pickles. I was just wafting down my third one when I felt the hot laser beam of mom’s eyes on my back. Moms, even on the porch, knew what was going on in the kitchen.

“Enjoying the pickles I told you not to eat?” “Yes, mam!” “Well have another.” What has come over mom? She is rewarding me for misbehaving. What a wonderful way to get another pickle. Down went another large one. Yummy!

With a warm smile mom offered another. Well, that was OK but not quite as good. Slowly I finished it only to be offered another. By now pickles were becoming a punishment.

Believe me, pickles taste a lot better going down than they do coming up.

God gave them up. Romans 1: 21-23 chronicles the behavior resulting in being given up.

IMPUDENT – “They did not glorify God…”

INGRATES – “Neither were they thankful…”

IMPOSING – “They become futile in their thoughts…”

IRRATIONAL – “professing themselves to be wise…”

IDOLATERS – “They changed the glory of the incorruptible.”

God gave them up to “vile passions” (Vs. 26). That is, passions of dishonor.

Our president is alleged to have participated in conduct that would come under this classification. I want to repeat “alleged to have.” My point is not to hint that he is or is not guilty. Mark that.

The point is that in public opinion polls 72% of the people say it doesn’t matter if he did it.

Though I am not passing judgement on the president I am critically judging the attitude that says it doesn’t matter. It does matter to God. Other societies that have become hardened in this attitude have experienced the “wrath of God.”

It is said God gave such persons “over to a debased mind.” That means a person is incapable of making a correct moral judgement.

Verse 22 says, “Professing themselves to be wise they become fools.”

We have the most learned society in history. We have more brilliant people today than ever. We are brilliant about many things. Ask about space exploration, lasers, the Internet, modern medicine and we are capable of giving brilliant answers. Ask about a moral issue and we fail the test. Listen to the average TV talk show and you will hear the wisdom of fools.

As verse 18 says we have “suppressed the truth with unrighteousness.” The truth has now become so popular in certain instances that it is thought to be wrong.

A second characteristic emerges in verse 32. It shows people seek agreement on sin. “You approve of my sin and I will applaud yours.” The ploy is not only to cover sin but to get society to applaud it.

We, like Paul, can never repay our Lord for what He has done for us; but we, like him, should be willing to pay a little interest on the debt by faithfulness. The expression “ready” actually means “eager.”

“So” expresses the same intensity as the same word in John 3:16, “For God so loved…”

Paul was fervently eager to preach the Gospel.

He was mocked for preaching the Gospel in Athens.

He was mobbed for preaching it in Jerusalem.

It looks like he would have learned, but now he was ready to be martyred for preaching it in Rome.

Abraham Lincoln said he liked to see a man preach like he was fighting a swarm a bees.

Some preachers preach like they have just swallowed an egg and they are afraid that if they move, it will break; and if they don’t it will hatch.

What Paul was to preach was “the Gospel,” the good news not man’s views.

It takes time to get ready. Paul had to spend time alone in the Arabian desert with the Lord to get “ready.” No Christian should be reluctant to be trained to share the good news.

It took bold faith not to be ashamed of the Gospel in Imperial Rome.

Paul had previously faced the wicked city of Corinth “in fear, and in much trembling” (I Cor. 2:3). There he saw what the power of the Gospel could achieve. Now with eager boldness he was ready to face Rome, a city that worshiped power, with a greater power, the power of the Gospel.

The Greek word translated “power” is DUNAMIS meaning “God’s power.” DUNAMIS gives us our English words dynamo, dynamic, and dynamite.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 11).

The expression “The just shall live by faith” (vs. 17) was the theme that started the Reformation. It was a revolutionary thought in that era. Man through creedal religion was trying to earn, merit, and deserve God’s favor. Despair and futility resulted.

There is all the difference in the world in man’s self-sought righteousness and God’s righteousness.

READ: Titus 3:5; Eph. 2: 8,9; Romans 4:5.

The good news is revealed “from faith to faith,” EK PISTEOS EIS PISTIN, literally, “out of faith and into faith.” In other words, God does not speak to us directly; but faith comes from out of the heart and life of one believer who shares that faith and into the heart of one who by faith receives it.

The word “revealed” means “to take off the veil.” That is what sharing the goods news is. It is an unveiling.

In the Convent Library at Erfurt is a renown painting. It depicts Martin Luther as a young monk of 24 years of age reading a portion of Scripture in the early morning light. On the page he is reading can be seen the words, “The just shall live by faith.” Centuries before the prophet Habakkuk had penned these words and later the Apostle Paul repeated them. This painting depicts the renewal of humanity.

In the Library of Rudolstadt is a handwritten letter penned by Paul Luther the son of Martin. In it he relates a family insight as follows, “In the year 1544, my late dearest father, in the presence of us all, narrated the whole story of his journey to Rome. He acknowledged with great joy that, in that city, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he had come to the knowledge of the truth of the everlasting Gospel.”

Let me share a summary of that moment of enlightenment in the life of Martin Luther.

Still today in Rome you will find the Cathedral Church of St. John of Lateran. There are three parallel staircases in it. People walk up the stairs on the left and right, but the center one is considered special. On some of the steps of the center case there are coverings of plate glass through which red stains can be seen on the stairs. These steps are still climbed by anguishing would-be worshipers who stoop to kiss the glass covered stains. A late tradition says these were the stairs in Pilate’s Hall in Jerusalem, and these are the blood stains from Christ’s wounds.

As the devout young monk, Luther climbed these steps on his knees seeking thereby to gain the favor of God, the text which he had read in that early morning light came to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.” He jumped to his feet and went on his way rejoicing.

Now back to the Library of Rudolstadt and the handwritten letter by the son of Martin Luther: “Thereupon, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of his doctrine.”

It is the foundation of Christianity.

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?