2000 Sermons

Satan Unbound 2/6/00

Revelation 20:1-3 & 7-10

Jesus Christ is coming again in the air for His church. This is known as the Rapture. All believers will be caught up to be with Him.

Thereafter follows a period of time known as the Tribulation. During this seven year period the Antichrist will deceptively rule the world in a reign of terror.

This global holocaust will end with Christ coming again to the earth for His saints to reign for 1000 years. This period is known as the Millennium. During this time Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit. This utopian environment will in effect be Eden restored.

As we relate to the passage under consideration it will become apparent why Satan hates the Book of the Revelation and does everything he can to divert ministers from preaching from it. The Book unveils the end times and Satan’s destiny.

In our pragmatic state of mind we tend not to believe in what we cannot comprehend with our basic senses. Therefore, the idea of world conditions being different from those we know seems far fetched.

Yet, scientists tell us there are spectrums of light the natural human eye can’t see. We can see the violet in the rainbow and believe in it. However, only slightly removed is the ultra-violet rays we cannot see. The fact we can’t see them does not mean they aren’t there. Likewise, there is a new and different era coming that though we find it difficult to comprehend it is coming. Consider yet another phase of the end times.

At the end of the 1000 year millennial reign Satan will be unbound and unleashed on earth again “for a little while.”

Question: Why?

His deceptive work will be resumed. A vast number of persons who have lived during the Millennial reign of Christ will defect. These are persons who though living in a perfect environment with Christ literally ruling on earth will have defected in their hearts. Outwardly they will conform to the rule of Christ, but inwardly they will not have willfully submitted to Him as Savior and Lord. Satan is released to reveal their covert rebellion. This is the final rebellion and proves you can’t change people by changing their environment. Depravity, not environment, is the issue. This is a lesson from which current sociologists should learn. It is noble to work to improve persons living conditions. However, it is not outward conformity, but inward conversion that changes people.

These defectors having lived in a perfect environment, never having been tempted by the devil, never having been tested will opt to desert Christ and follow Satan. Outwardly they will have conformed but will never have been saved. They will have given homage to the enthroned Christ but will never have trusted Him as Savior. Their outward appearance and compliance with His rule will be a sham. When Satan is unleashed their inward rebellion will erupt into outward insurrection. Why?

The answer is found in the heart of humanity. It began in the Garden of Eden and has afflicted every mortal since. The whole human race has “heart trouble,” known as depravity. It is the most ancient and all-pervasive disease. It is the most communicable disease the world means to corrupt or pervert. More literally it means “to fail the test.” It means man kind failed the test of pleasing God. It is a reference to the old sin nature with which every human being has been born since the time of Adam and Eve. In theological circles it is called the Adamic nature, meaning a nature like that of Adam. It is the most deadly form of heart disease.

One of the most broad-brush statements in Scripture relates to depravity: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

Three words jump out: “every,” “only,” “continually.”

Some things depravity does not mean are important to note:

Most folks don’t “look” depraved. It is masterfully masked by some. Others have an admirable temperament and warm personality that keeps it from showing prominently.

Depravity doesn’t mean necessarily that a person acts bad. A person may not be bad, but without Christ is as bad off as possible.

The Bible is old but not out of date. It reveals the root cause of sin to be the heart.

It is the quality in our lives that necessitated the coming to earth of Christ to die as Savior.

That all-time classic poem helps our understanding of this profound theological issue.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Like Humpty we need fixing. Many have tried but no one can. A revised version of Humpty Dumpty reveals our salvation.

Jesus Christ came to our wall;
Jesus Christ died for our fall.
He slew Queen Death.
He crushed King Sin.
Through grace He put us together again.

What Jesus does for the repentant person is the equivalent of unscrambling our omelet.

“The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7).

To be “in the flesh” means the same thing as to be “in Adam,” or unsaved.

In Romans 8:5 reference is made to those “who live according to the flesh…” This means to live as unsaved after being saved.

One reason for the Millennial reign of Christ is to disprove the complaint against God that a perfect environment will produce perfect people. It didn’t in Eden and it won’t during the Millennium.

Only Christians enter the Millennium with Christ. The survivors of the Tribulation will populate the earth. The perfect environment and absence of sickness will result in longevity. There will be children born to and reared by these Christian parents. This will result in a dramatic population explosion. These children will grow up in a perfect environment with Christ literally ruling on earth, and yet many will rebel. With Christ’s theocratic rule justice will have been absolute.

With the curse imposed in Eden removed nature will be harmonious and productive. Still there will be those who rebel. Outwardly they will conform because Christ will rule with a “rod of iron,” meaning He will be the only and absolute authority. Though there is outward conformity there will be those who inwardly resent and reject Him.

Throughout history God has tried various approaches to show His love and draw people to Himself. Under each administration there have been those who receive and those who reject. God’s purpose in using these varied approaches will be to exhaust every possible means and technique of showing and His. By the end of time persons will have lived under:

GOVERNMENT the era of the Old Testament Judges
LAW the Old Testament period of the Commandments
GRACE the church era in which we now live
GLORY the Millennial rule of Christ.

In every era person’s free will have resulted in various responses. In these varied eras of God manifesting His presence and purpose He has exhausted every potential approach to reaching people. Each effort will be met with alternate responses.

These individuals who at the end of the millennial reign of Christ rebel and follow Satan have lived in a perfect environment and never been tempted or tested. Now for the first time they are and they yield. It is the heart of persons that is deceitfully wicked.

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).

Jeremiah, the prophet warned: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Personal accountability is stressed throughout the Bible.

In our current time there are often Christian parents who lovingly provide well for their children. They meet their physical, cultural, social, and spiritual needs only to have their hearts broken by their children rebelling. Some of these even move to new communities in order to try to provide a more perfect environment for their children. Some have lavish expensive “toys” and provide game rooms at home in order to create a utopian environment for their children. Some even search for a church with a good youth program. Even then there are parents whose loving efforts fail to keep their child or children from evil.

Many of these parents with broken hearts blame themselves. In doing so they overlook one element they can’t control. It is controlled only by the individual child. It is their heart. In finality the child has a free will that not even God will make to conform to His will. Personal responsibility must be taken by the individual.

Numerous are the stories of children reared by Godly parents in a wonderful spiritual environment who have rebelled against Christ. They had both heredity and environment as assets and still rebelled. There are many sons and daughters of Godly parents in prisons today who willfully made the wrong choices and rebelled not only against their parents but Christ.

Conversely, there are accounts of those who were reared by ungodly parents in a deplorable environment who responded positively to Christ and became spiritually productive.

A former member of this church comes to mind. He was reared as a member of Chicago’s largest crime family. There never was a day he didn’t know, see, and do evil. He rose in the syndicate to a place of prominence and power. He told me of one night he and his body guards got out of his limousine only to see a person walking toward him. The man was carrying something immediately recognized and feared —- a Bible. He told me he was so enraged at the very sight of the Bible he pulled his revolver and said to the man, “If you say one word to me out of that book I will kill you.”

In continuing his account of his carnal life he related the day he repentantly embraced Christ as Savior and renounced the gangster life. At the time he was living here he was in the witness protection program and living a vibrant life for Christ. His will overcame his heredity and environment.

There is a classical Biblical example of two reared in the same environment and by the same family who went different directions. Moses and Pharaoh were reared together. Moses’s path is well known. A passage posing a bit of a mystery to some says, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” A superficial reading makes it appear God was unfair to Pharaoh. Not so! Moses was the only person of the era to whom God revealed as much as He did to Pharaoh. Pharaoh had more divine revelation than any person of his era other than Moses. Moses responded positively to God and Pharaoh hardened his own heart by rebelling.

Their number will be “as the sands of the sea” (Vs. 8). This indicates the deep, complex nature of evil. The source of rebellion does not rest in man’s environment or fundamentally with the devil, but within the heart of man. Satan’s return illustrates this dramatically in that people will rebel against Christ after His Millennial reign. Christ’s earthly rule does not end until He has dealt with this final challenge to His kingdom. At that time He demonstrates the victory of His cross and puts down this Satanic rebellion.

“For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (I Corinthians 15:25).

Satan and his forces are pictured as having “surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city” (Vs. 9). This may well be at Jerusalem, however, the reference is to all the people of Christ globally at that time.

At this point when it appears Satan will prevail physically fire comes down from God out of heaven and he is finally defeated. At this point there is a literal fulfillment of Hebrews 12:29, “Our God is a consuming fire.” The devil is at this time “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,” hell (Vs. 10).

Stick a fork in him —- he’s done. Fine! He is no longer a player on earth.

Satan was judged at the cross. At this time his final sentence is carried out. It is said of him and his cohorts “…they will be tormented day and night forever” Vs. 10).

Jesus told us when on earth He had a place prepared for the devil. It is called by Him “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Any person who goes there to share Satan’s destiny does it in rebellion to God’s expressed will.

“It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The “whosoever” of John 3: 16 reveals our unlimited opportunity.

Our Lord has prepared for us a means of having a heavenly home. You can prepare now to avoid the Tribulation. The certainty of ones destiny gives great peace.

In the 1600’s there lived a faithful and bold band of believers who refused to capitulate to the tyrannical powers of the day. They covenanted together to be loyal to the Lord regardless of the cost. Hence, they became known as the Covenanters. One of their number, Hugh Mackail, the youngest and bravest of their ranks was condemned to be hanged in December 1666. They gave him four days to live before being hanged.

As the guards led him back to prison many in the crowd watched and wept. It seemed a pity one so young should suffer such a fate. In his own eyes there were no tears, on his face a bright subtle smile. The face of this young Galahad of the cross was radiant as he shouted “Trust in God. Trust in God.”

Suddenly he caught a glimpse of a friend in the crowd and shouted, “Good news, good news! I am within four days journey of enjoying the sight of Jesus Christ.”

You can begin your brief journey to see the face of Christ.

We can choose to live as a victim of our depravity in the energy of the flesh.

Or. We can choose to live as victors through the power of Jesus Christ.

The Rapture 1/9/00

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

JESUS CHRIST said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again…” (John 14:3).

Just when we had snuggled into our warm comfortable world, along comes messengers alerting us to needs in our lives for the coming of the Lord. The uncertainty of the last couple of years has abruptly revealed that the god of materialism is an unstable and inadequate idol.

This is a time to search the Scripture for certain answers in an uncertain time.

Read the New Testament and your ears will ring with the footsteps of Christ’s return.

Two major events are spoken of in I Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5.

One is referred to as the rapture. The word itself isn’t found in the Bible. It comes from the word RAPTO meaning a sudden seizing or snatching away. It speaks of Christ coming in the air for His people. The suddenness is emphasized by Christ who said:

“I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17: 34 – 36).

The ones taken are those with faith in Christ as Savior. Those left to endure the horror of the tribulation are those who have rejected Him.

The other is the tribulation. This is a term used to describe a period during which a man of peace, known as the anti-Christ, will emerge and rule on earth. This seven year period which begins after the rapture is defined in Daniel 9: 26, 27 as consisting of three aspects:




Two things now emerging are setting the stage to enable this man of peace to gain power in order to persecute.

1. Biblically we are told in II Peter 2:1 that churches will become apostate. That is, most of them will cease to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. There will be little Bible preaching. Already we have seen many churches turn often to good things in the neglect of their primary mission. Many have turned to social ministries. Others have been diverted to health, wealth, and prosperity theology. A church where the Bible is taught is becoming an increasingly rare oasis.

Many good people remain in apostate and dead churches because they have always been a member of it and all their friends are there. By doing so they are supporting apostasy.

2. Biblically the second essential according to Revelation 7 and 13 is a one-world government. The U.N., the United States of Europe, and New Age aficionados are all encouraging such. Europe has approved a common currency that will rival the American dollar. They are now talking about a Euro-judicial system as a prelude to an authoritative world court.

Many of the recent millennial themes related to “One World.” All of this hints of the coming cultural environment in which the anti-Christ can easily persuade the public to let him become the global leader.

This is how we are currently seeing the principle work that will eventuate in a one world government. Marietta has good fiscal policies, but Cobb County doesn’t. [This is only hypothetical.] Therefore, we need a county law. Cobb County has good money regulations but some counties do not, therefore we need a state law. Georgia has good economic policies but some states don’t so we need a national law regulating it. America has a good form of currency but not all nations do. Hence, we need an international law controlling it. Bit by bit national sovereignly is to be eroded in favor of a one world government.

In I Thessalonians there are three thrilling themes:

– There is the faith-engendering story of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

– There is the courage-infusing of Christ’s presence and power with us.

– There is the fear-dispelling good news Christ will come back a victorious Lord of history.

On this occasion I want us to study the RAPTURE.

Subsequently I want us to study the TRIBULATION.

The first of these is spoken of in I Thess. 4 and the second in I Thess. 5. Let’s consider the RAPTURE.

Paul had been with this church previously and apparently taught about Christ’s coming again. Since having been away, he learned of two confusing concepts that had gained support in the confused congregation.

In anticipation of Christ’s coming, some had quit work and were just sitting around idly waiting for His return. Ironically, there are still some Christians who excuse their laziness by saying Christ is coming at any moment so why work.

A second bit of confusion revolved around those Christians who had died before Christ’s return. What about them?

In verse 13 Paul said he didn’t want the people to be ignorant concerning these things. Therefore, he wrote to address the issues.

A. A reality = Vs. 13 “…those who have fallen asleep.”

When the figure of sleep is used for death, it never refers to the soul but to the body. It is used to picture the peacefulness of death for a believer. How different this is from our modern concept of death. We are taught that we work through several stages from denial to acceptance. The Biblical view is to accept death as a natural part of living. For the believer, the experience goes far beyond mere acceptance. It means “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). This is the Biblical view of death and dying.

B. A return = Vs. 16: “For the Lord Himself shall descend…”

The verb form of the word translated “shout” is KELEUO and it means “to order,” “to summons,” or “to command.”

The Bible is quite clear that no one knows the time of Christ’s return. Christ Himself did give us signs of the time in which He will return. Note them and see if you think our era qualifies as the time for His inevitable return.

They are found in His address recorded in Matthew 24:
Verse 4: “Be not deceived…” This is a day of great deception. The proliferation of the occult and the rampant growth of the New Age philosophy have combined to deceive many.
Verse 5: There will be counterfeit Christ’s.
Verse 6: There will be wars and rumors of wars. In the last 100 years there have been over 225 major wars. Presently there are over 15 raging today.
Verse 7: Famine will be rampant. More than 10,000 persons starve to death each day.
Verses 9, 10: Martyrdom will increase. Nearly 1,000,000 Christians have been martyred in Africa.
Verse 11: False prophets will proliferate.
Verse 12: A loss of love. America experiences nearly one million divorces a year. There are 1.4 million abortions annually.

C. A resurrection = Vs. 16: “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Being asleep implies future awakening. As awakening from sleep is to be expected, so the coming resurrection of the body is to be expected.

II. A SUDDEN RAPTURE Vs. 17a “we…shall be caught up.”

Various theories prevail regarding when the rapture will occur. Some say mid-tribulation others say after. I believe the Bible teaches it will occur before the tribulation: “… to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (I Thess 1:10).

“God has not appointed us to wrath” (I Thess. 5:9).

The question is sometimes asked, “Why are the dead caught up first?” It is because they have six feet further to travel.

The expression “caught up” has several Biblical usages that can be applied here.

III. A SWEET REUNION Vs. 17b: “to meet the Lord in the air.”

Death for the believer is a revival of sacred friendships.

IV. A SUPERB REASSURANCE Vs. 18: “Comfort one another…”

Cheer and encourage one another with these facts.

Death is no novel thing for “It is appointed for men to die once” (Heb. 9:27). Death isn’t an accident, it is an appointment.

Death for the believer is merely a summons into the Lord’s presence. Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15).

In an ancient graveyard near Windsor Castle this inscription can be found on a gravestone:
Pause, my friend, as you walk by;
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be.
Prepare, my friend, to follow me!

A visitor who read that epitaph is reported to have said:
To follow you is not my intent,
Until I know which way you went!

You owe it to your Lord and your friends to leave no doubt about which way you are going. Prepare now for the inevitable. Give them the comfort of knowing where you are going. Leave your friends with hope.

Emile Brunner, Swiss theologian, not one of my favorites, nevertheless, said, “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of life.”

Our current false gods have left us without hope. No longer is there an attitude that everything is going to work out OK. In this pessimistic society we have reason to share reason for authentic hope. Authentic hope must have an ultimately reliable source. Only a personal, intimate relationship with Christ affords this dependable hope.

Some ask why those who have died and been in heaven will be bodily resurrected from the grave. It is because every great historical spiritual period of history has been ushered in by a major cataclysmic event. For example, the resurrection of Christ ushered in the new age known as “the church age.” The return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead will be an introduction to another period known as “the great tribulation.”

The fact that His coming could be at any moment, and those who have not received Him will be left behind to endure the tribulation, is a primary reason to get ready NOW.

Christ spoke of calling out of this world those who belong to Him. Revelation 20 clearly teaches the tribulation will follow this.

Comfort yourself and your loved ones with the knowledge you are ready for His return or your death. Then, with that hope, you can really get on with truly living to the fullest.

Legitimately the question is asked, “How can one get ready for the rapture?”

We get ready for the last day by living for the King in His Kingdom today. Those with such a lifestyle are ready for Him today, tomorrow, or in the distant future. They live in a state of readiness.

Sir William Osler, the great pioneer Christian doctor, once said, “If we throw all of our energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm into doing superb work today, there will be nothing to fear tomorrow.”

During the uncivil Civil War Atlanta fell to General Sherman’s army, July 1864.

General John B. Hood, commander of the Confederate army in the area marched westward to attack the communications of General Sherman with Chattanooga. By doing so he hoped to draw Sherman’s army out of Georgia. One of his principle attacks was Allatoona Pass, commanded by the courageous General Corse. Sherman himself went back with part of his army as far as Kennesaw Mountain. From the summit he signaled to the beleaguered garrison: “Hold the fort! I am coming!”

Our beloved Christ has given us this hope:

“I will come again and receive you unto myself.”

Motivation for Life’s Race 10/1/00

Hebrews 12:1-4

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12: 13).

JESUS CHRIST is our worthy example. A appropriate goal of life is to be like Him.
If you wish to be disappointed, look at others.
If you wish to be discouraged, look at yourself.
If you wish to be encouraged and experience victory, look to Jesus Christ.

Athletes are objects of admiration and veneration globally. As Christians, that is, Christ partisans, let us by looking to Him; the ultimate one deserving our devotion.

Nations of the world send some of their finest athletes to compete in the Olympics. The Sydney games are the largest Olympics ever. They are larger than the Barcelona, and Los Angeles games combined. Athletes came from over 200 countries. We Americans can better understand the enormity of the size of the games by comparing it to hosting 10 Super Bowl Games a day for 17 days.

However, ancient Rome offers us an example of competition on an even larger scale.

The ancient Romans conducted contests in the Circus Maximus built by King Tarquin Priscus about 500 B.C. The arena was 700 yards in length and 140 yards wide. It consisted of three tiers. Before being expanded by Titus it seated 150,000. He enlarged it to seat 250,000. Later in the Fourth Century it was expanded to seat 385,000. Their water sports were conducted on artificial lakes. Whole flotillas contended. Fleets of ships with more than 19,000 seamen fought to the death in these contests.

Nearby Emperors Vespasian and Titus built the Flavian amphitheater known to us as the Colosseum because it was erected near the colossal statue of Nero.

In the 120 days marking the dedication of the Colosseum 12,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators died therein.

Come with me and enter the Colosseum!

Notice that special enlarged seating area. It is the place for the Caesar known in Latin as the “podium,” meaning “place of honor.”

On your left is the great arch of the PORTA SANAVIVARIA, “the Door of the Living.” Soon the procession of the gladiators will enter through it.

On your right is the PORTA LIBERTINA, “the Door of the goddess of corpse.” Through this arch the corpse of the fallen warriors will be dragged with hooks.

The parade of athletes is always a stirring moment. Enter the gladiators. In cadence they chant as they have hundreds of times: AVE, CAESAR; MORITURI TE SALUTANT!” “Hail, O Caesar; those about to die greet thee!”

How could they do it with such a sense of satisfaction?

They did it because they believed Caesar was divine. He was their god and they were willing to die for their god. What an example! What a challenge to us to live for our God. To live “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

The expression “looking unto Jesus” means to be dependent upon Him for inspiration, support, encouragement, and strength.

There is a magnificent work of art that depicts a beautiful young woman in the arena being stalked by a hungry lion. She is stooping to pick up a single rose thrown into the arena at her feet. As though oblivious to the presence of the lion, as she stoops to pick up the rose, she is looking up into the stands for the one who loves her and tossed the rose.

Like her we must look to Jesus for our hope.

Part of the promotional theme of the Para-Olympics in Atlanta was “faith is a decision.” Won’t you make faith in Christ as Savior and Lord a decision. That means to profess your dependence upon Him to forgive your sins and give you new life. Look to Him for salvation and as the source of strength for life.

Into the Colosseum there began a march of a different kind of people. They bore the name of their benefactor, their God. They were mockingly called “Christians,” meaning “Christ’s partisans” or “belonging to the Christ.” That was their primary reason for being there. They refused to swear allegiance to any one but Christ.

The procession of devotees to Christ continues today.

Explore our text for insight and inspiration. It speaks of:

The “great cloud of witnesses” is a reference to the persons listed in chapter 11. The word “witness,” MARTUS, means one who bears witness by death. A casual reading of Hebrews has led many to think of these “witnesses” as heavenly spectators observing us earthlings. They are not noted as observers but as examples. They are witnesses in the sense they bear testimony. Their earthly lives are testimonies to the fact God will see you through.

They are not simply depicted as being in a stadium observing our acts to be inspired thereby, but to inspire us by their action. It is as though those who have gone before us are shouting words of encouragement. “God enables us to be winners. He will do the same for you. Don’t quit.”

By their lives they testify to the fact God is faithful.

Weights is a reference to things that are not necessarily sins but they are hindrances to spiritual victory. They are things that restrict us like an athlete’s warm-ups would be a restriction in competition. They are to be taken off.

There are some things that are neither good or bad, but neither are they helpful. Remove them from your life. A good athlete doesn’t choose between good and bad, but better and best. A “weight” is anything that weighs us down, diverts our attention, saps our energy, or reduces our enthusiasm for Christ. Notice reference is made to “the sin which so easily ensnares us…” “The” means in every life there is an area of weakness. Satan desires to exploit it. As an athlete works on any area of weakness so we must know our area of vulnerability and work on it. Control it.

Now comes the basic nitty and fundamental gritty of the race.

A. AN EXHORTATION = “run with endurance”
Almost anyone can enter the most difficult race. It takes endurance to finish. The Bible is full of stories of people who started the spiritual race and didn’t complete it.

John Mark who started on the missionary journey with Paul and turned back.

Demas of whom it is written, “Demas, has forsaken us having loved this present world.”

To endure and run to win requires:
DETERMINATION. Make the decision to compete for Christ.
DISCIPLINE. Submit to His life-long disciplines.
DEDICATION. Resolutely be dedicated to stay the course.

B. AN EXAMPLE = “looking unto Jesus”
Jesus Christ is the ultimate witness. He ran the same race course of life you are running. Verses 3 and 4 describe His racecourse:

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12: 3, 4).

“Looking unto” describes an attitude of trust. It speaks of a continuous attitude that prevails, not just a single act.

As Christ was motivated by pleasing the Father so we should be motivated by pleasing Christ. Then all that the Father was to the Son the Son will be to us.

Verse 3 contains the appeal to “consider Him.” That is, analyze your own life as compared to Christ.

To “consider Him” means to take Him into account and concentrate on Him; focus on Christ. Keep Him in mind.

He is the source and sustainer of our hope.

Come back to the Collosseum again. Hear the echo of the chanting gladiators, “Ava, Caesar; morituri te salutant.”

Let the two vast arched doors represent the door of eternal life or spiritual death. Through which will you enter into eternity?

Today, this very day, let’s take an imaginary walk into the arena.

There in front of the podium you will see a white cross erected around 1300. It bears this inscription: AVE CRUX SPES UNCIA, “Hail to thee, O Cross, the only hope!”

The many who died there had faith stronger than the hatred of those who killed them.

The cross which was in their day the symbol of their suffering is now the symbol of their victory.

The fallen faithful are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that testifies: “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me” (Hebrews 13: 6).

For them the Colosseum was merely the foyer to heaven.

“Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12: 28). They served God as martyrs to demonstrate God’s sufficiency in the worst of circumstances. Historians record many gladiators were won to faith in Christ by the
radiance on the faces of the Christians.

In Christ we are more than conquerors.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

The expression “more than conquerors” translates the word “hyper-nikemos.” “Hyper” means “super.” The word “nike” means “victor.” In Christ we are more than winners.

We are eternal victors.

How to Develop a Strong Faith 9/17/00

Psalm 27

JESUS CHRIST wants to enable you to stretch yourself spiritually and expand the circumference of your faith.

On His Earthly walk He greatly admired faith. After a woman had exercised admirable faith, He said to her “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Genuine faith begins when a person finally decides he or she isn’t God and happily acknowledges submission to the living God.

Such faith is assuring, insuring, and enduring.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

Faith helps us walk fearlessly, run confidently, and live victoriously.

Is yours a growing faith? If not the reason may be the same as the little boy who fell out of bed. When asked why he said, “I don’t know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.”

Have you stayed too close to where you got into the Christian faith? We are exhorted in God’s Word:

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

“As new born babes (we are to) desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow…” (I Peter 2:2).

Are you growing in your faith walk with Christ? Pick a time in the not-to-distant past. One, two, or three years ago. Now, inventory yourself related to these questions:

How does my prayer life compare now to then?

Has my systematic giving to the cause of Christ changed?

“The Living Bible” translation of Deuteronomy 14: 23 sets God’s standard and explains why He set it: “The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives.”

Consider the act of giving. First, you write the date on the check. That reminds you that you are a time bound creature with a limited amount of time in which to act.

Next, you write the name of the recipient. When giving to God you use a pseudonym for God, the name of His church.

Here is where the challenge comes. You now write the amount. At this moment you are more than a person with a checkbook in hand. You are a Moses with a rod in your hand. Will you yield it to God. You are a David selecting a stone for your sling. You are a little child with a sack lunch Jesus needs to feed 5,000. You are a Simon Peter with one foot in the boat and one on the water. Will you step out by faith?

When you make an entry on that check you are not just entering an amount to be given you are acknowledging God as the owner of everything.

In the left hand lower corner of the check you now enter what it is for. Perhaps it is to help child grow spiritually. Maybe, it is to help reach the lost. It might be to pay operating expenses that the church might continue to operate. It might be for an expression of thanks for what the church has done for you and your family. In that lower left
hand corner might note it is to benefit you. Giving it shows you have cut yet another cord that binds you to the things of this world.

Are you growing in your faith? Don’t stay too close to where you got in.

Has your loyalty to the bride of Christ, the local church, improved?

Faith is the basis of life. Some persons think it is a sign of weakness. It is rather an indication of strength. Thomas Edison said he never conducted an experiment that did not begin with faith.

Have you ever driven on one of America’s freeways in a major metropolitan area at peak driving time? You have faith.

Have you ever gone shopping when there is a mall-wide sale? You have faith.

Have you ever gone on a date, taken a mate, driven in the rain, flown on a plane, bought or sold an item on credit? You have faith.

Have you ever eaten in a fast-food outlet where you don’t even know the cook, see its preparation, or know its source? You have faith.

Have you ever gone through a bank drive- through, teller window where they have that smoked glass behind which you can see only blurred images and put your pay check in a pneumatic tube that sucked it out of sight? You have faith.

Have you ever gone to a doctor you didn’t know, been given a prescription you couldn’t read, taken it to a pharmacist you couldn’t see, and taken the medicine provided? You have faith.

Faith is merely confidence in God’s character.

In our uncertain times stabilizing faith is needed. An uncertain economy and an international crisis coupled with all your personal challenges makes a strong faith all the more important.

Faith gives us the courage to face the present with confidence, and the future with expectancy.

Compacted in the 27th Psalm are found sequential steps involved in developing a strong faith. Let’s dig them out like a miner who has just struck a major pay-load vein or rich ore. Each is essential to the other and none are possible without the first.

I. SALVATION “The Lord is my light and my salvation, Whom shall I fear?” (Verse 1)

“The Lord” is a reference to Jesus Christ. For us it is a clear prophetic reference to Immanuel, God with us. It identifies the virgin born, sinless God incarnate who shed His blood for our sins on Calvary. Whose substitutionary work was honored by God the Father Who granted Him a victorious resurrection and valedictory ascension back into heaven.

The Scripture says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved…” (Acts 16:31).

It is further asserted: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life…” (John 3:36).

As a young professor at Oxford in England, C.S. Lewis was an outstanding author and one of the greatest literary geniuses in literary criticism in the world. By any standard he was an outstanding scholar. He was also an atheist.

That is, he was until he went to Tinturn Abbey, immortalized by the great poet William Wordsworth. The Abbey stands on the banks of the river Wye. The walls are in tact, but it has no roof, windows or floor. The floor is a carpet of green grass growing as it can only in Britain.

The genius, C. S. Lewis said it was there in Tinturn Abbey one day with the sunlight falling through the arches onto the green grass he experienced inexpressible joy and “All of a sudden I found the essence of the universe in Jesus Christ.” Is Jesus the center of your universe?

Ephesians 2: 8 – 10 gives the steps regarding forgiveness and salvation. It is God’s grace that initiates the act to which we respond by faith. It is not of works.

Even in spite of this clear insight from God’s Word there are those who want to try to work and deserve their salvation. It can’t be done. Let me illustrate.

Suppose a person were to go to Washington D.C. and become captivated by the impressive Washington Monument which is made of marble from Georgia. Assume that this wealthy visitor were to ask a government representative about buying the monument. The rep would instantly state that it couldn’t be done. Why? For three reasons. One, it is not for sale. Two, you don’t have enough resources to purchase it, if it were for sale. Three, as a citizen it is already yours for the taking.

Those who would seek to work and earn their salvation need to realize the same. Salvation isn’t for sale. If it were, none of us could do enough good works to earn it. Likewise, it is already ours for the taking.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He removed every charge the Father had against us and every claim Satan made of us. Salvation is available to all who by faith trust Christ.

Salvation is actually a person. Note, “The Lord is my salvation.” Can you insert that personal pronoun “my.”

“The Lord is the strength of my life…” (Vs. 1b)

This has to do with eternal security. All stability in time has to do with security in eternity.

Once a person enters into union with Christ as Savior they are in eternal union with Him and nothing can get them out of that union. Don’t take my word for this important principle. God has said it. (READ: Romans 8: 1 & 38, 39).

One might draw a wrong conclusion from this correct principle and say, “If I have a lock on heaven, that is, it’s a sure thing, then I can do anything I want.” Such a person overlooks the principle of the loving discipline given by our gracious God to His disobedient children in time as described in Hebrews 12: 6.

The correct conclusion to be reached regarding eternal security is that if I am heaven bound but God has left me here, there must be a purpose in me being here. Life thus takes on meaning.

My strength is not in myself but “the Lord.” According to Jude 24 He is able to keep me “from falling and will present me faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”

II. STUDY “One thing have I desired of the Lord” (Vs.4)

The house of the Lord to which he made reference was the tabernacle. People in that era could not read. Therefore, the Lord devised symbols to teach them great doctrinal truths. Every item in the house of the Lord, the tabernacle, symbolized some great truth. Today we can read; and the Lord teaches us these truths through His written Word, the Bible.

His “desire” is comparable to our hunger for a better understanding of God’s Word. This requires study.

The expression “To behold the beauty of the Lord” means to meditate on His graciousness. To meditate on means to fill your mind with the thoughts of God’s grace.

The Psalmist then says he wants to “inquire in His temple.” The word “inquire” meant to investigate. It is a further reference to searching God’s Word.

If you want faith to face today’s tests, you must study God’s Word.

III. SECURITY “In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion” (Vs. 5)

The “pavilion” was the outer court in the tabernacle. To enter it was to have the potential of what was ahead. For our application it is analogous of the promises of God. The expression “In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion” is comparable to saying, “The Word of God comforts me.”

To say he wanted to “dwell in the house of the Lord” (vs. 4) was the same as our saying, “I want to study God’s Word.”

The tabernacle was built in an era when few people could read. Therefore, symbols were used to communicate great truths. In front of our worship center is a lovely fountain. It is a composite of several symbols intended to communicate certain truths. In the outer court of the tabernacle were several very special items used to communicate some basic principles we read of in the Bible. The items in the “house of the Lord” taught them basic doctrines.

There was one door indicating there was one way to God. We now know that to be Christ.

There was a veil between the holy of holies and the court. The holy of holies symbolized the place God dwelt. The court where human beings gathered. This speaks of the incarnation of Christ, the God/man.

The golden altar was where incense was burned signifying prayer going up to God. It’s primary purpose was to depict the intercessory work to be done by Christ. It was an encouragement to prayer.

The brazen altar was the place of sacrifice. Every Old Testament sacrifice was intended to depict the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.

The mercy seat silently spoke of the propitiation by Christ. There is a big theological term, propitiation. It meant to satisfy the standards of God and thereby make peace between God and man. When there was a lack of rain native Americans did a rain dance. It was suppose to be a propitiation that appeased the gods and result in rain. In old Tarzan movies when native tribes were in trouble they would sacrifice a chicken or goat, or something. Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the earth to serve as our propitiation. He made peace between us and our God.

To develop faith for our hour of crisis memorize His Word.

“The battle is the Lord’s” (I Sam. 17: 47).

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

Further reason is given for casting your cares on Him in I Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”

IV. SPIRIT GUIDANCE “The Lord is my Light” (Vs. 1)

Christ is our illuminating source. He indwells the believer in the person of His Holy Spirit. Thus our stability is within us. It is not dependent upon externals. Money is an external. Friends are admirable externals.

Many people try to find their stability in externals. For these reasons their emotions ride a roller coaster with more ups and downs than the Georgia Mind Bender.

Verses 2, 3 and 6 refer to suffering caused by people.

Verses 7 and 9 inform us there are sufferings caused by discipline.

Verse 10 speaks of suffering caused by loved ones.

Verse 12 notes even another form of suffering. It is verbal abuse.

I Peter 1:7 (READ)

What can be done with our misfortunes?



Have you ever been where the Psalmist was when he wrote: “I would have lost heart…”? This means I would have fallen apart, I couldn’t otherwise cope. The thing that stabilized him was preoccupation with the Lord not circumstances.

“When you said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, will I seek’ … I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27: 8, 13).

Keep focused on Christ. Make Him your standard.

“Wait” translates the Hebrew KIWAH. It is a word that draws a picture for us. It describes starting with one thread and weaving a rope. Every experience with the Lord is a thread in the tie that binds you closer to Him.

Land of the Pilgrims Pride 7/2/00

Ezra 8:21, 22

Jesus Christ had a band of loyalists who lovingly followed and served Him. Unfortunately there were others who were detractors, defectors, and disloyal. It has always been true. It is today. In love He appeals for repentance and renewal. He desires for His followers to enjoy “abundant life.”

Not only is this true among individuals but with churches also. There is a such a need in a broad segment of America and American churches. At one point in history He achieved this through a band of devotees known as Pilgrims. This very day we have sung of the land that was the “Pilgrims Pride.”

In the early 1600s the church in England had become corrupt. They were absorbed in doctrinal error, encumbered with ceremony, bound by tradition, and consequently spiritually anemic. Two groups sought spiritual renewal.

One wanted to bring about reform by staying in the church and purifying it from within. Seeing their efforts to be futile they left England for the new world. They are known as Puritans.

A second group saw the church as beyond renewal and withdrew. In and around the region of Scrooby they were bullied, hounded, imprisoned on trumped up charges, and driven underground. They left England and settled in Holland where they enjoyed religious freedom. Unfortunately they lost most of their physical possessions in their quest for religious freedom. Their jobs in Holland were menial requiring 15 hour work days. Their children suffered because of materialism in their adopted homeland.

They heard of the new land called America and determined it to be the place God was guiding them.

After 12 years in Holland, driven by great hope and inward zeal, they resolved to come to America for a specific purpose. That purpose was “to propagate and advance the gospel of the kingdom of Christ,” wrote William Bradford, their governor for 35 years.

They were not without one last major temptation. Satan uses one of his post attractive allures. Sir Walter Raleigh had returned from South America with stories of gold and great riches. They resolved to follow the goal set before them by the Lord and not the gold promised by Sir Walter Raleigh.

In 1620 they set sail for America on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. Soon after setting sail the Speedwell developed problems and the two ships returned to England. There all passengers boarded the Mayflower. Among the 104 on the Mayflower were 16 men, 11 women, and 14 children known as Pilgrims. Others who were on board that were not believers were known as “Strangers.”

What they were to endure required great faith to tolerate. Think of these conditions when you are next inconvenienced. These 104 persons were crowded below deck in a space the size of a volleyball court for over 6 weeks. The stench of an foul bilge, a diet of dried peas, dried pork, and dried fish made for poor appetites. Sea sick, virtually starving, and storm tossed they braved their conditions to achieve their purpose. They did it because of the Christian faith. They believed God had a plan for America and if He did the Dark Prince of this planet could not circumvent it. Likewise, they had faith in His care for them and desired to serve Him. Even in their deprived state they joyfully endured.

In addition to the misery suffered because of their physical condition, they had to endure the taunts of the tormenting crew and antagonistic Strangers.

Several of the crew mocked them unmercifully. The self-appointed leader of this group so despised the Pilgrims for their faith he gloated over their seasickness and delighted in telling them how much he looked forward to feeding their bodies to the fish. Death was a common shipmate among landlubbers.

At the height of this taunting this crewman came down with a fever and died in a single day. No other person contracted the mysterious fever. It was he who was buried at sea not the Pilgrims.

For nearly three months they endured praying all the while. They considered their adversity a call to further repentance and personal spiritual purity. They questioned God. Their question was not the “why” so often heard today. When things are less than ideal we complain to God and in a whiny voice ask, “Why me God?” Yes, they questioned and we should learn to ask their questions. Not “why” but “how.”

“Now that this has happened to me God HOW can you use it in my life?”

Our second question should be one they also asked.

“God what would you like to do in my life because of this?”

They came to America because they wanted to be “light bearers.” They wanted to create a society that would be equivalent to “a city set on a hill” to show forth God’s glory. They spoke of themselves as the stones out of which the Lord might build a new Jerusalem. They had a spiritual purpose in their lives and it gave them meaning.

Their ambition was to settle in northern Virginia, but the many storms they endured blew them off course.

November 9, 1620 the cry was heard, “Land Ho.”

They had begun their journey by kneeling on the dock at Delftshaven to ask God’s blessings: they ended it on the sand of Cape Cod, kneeling to thank Him for His blessings.

A scouting party returned to the ship having found a large iron pot of 36 ears of corn. This was their first taste of the staple that would save the lives of many.

God had not immuned them from adversity but He had blessed them in it and strengthened them because of it.

Their crossing was complete but their journey was not over. They had come ashore near Cape Cod. Finding this an unsuitable place they sailed further to what is known as Provincetown. Realizing their London charter did not extend as far north as Cape Cod, they concluded they were under no authority. Anchored off shore and on November 21, 1620, they drafted what is known as The Mayflower Compact. It was the covenant by which they were to be governed. It was the first such covenant of settlers on these shored. It contained principles our Founding Fathers would later incorporate in our nation’s Constitution. It contained the principle of “natural law” which is so despised today by liberal legal minds. It is a reference to the Creator of all natural law. It spoke of “just and equal laws,” that
is, equal justice under law. Meaning no person is above the law. It opens with these lines:

“In the name of God, amen. Having undertaken
for the glory of God, and advancement of the
Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first
colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”

They settled in a good harbor and called the place Plymouth because that was the name of the last town they left in their home land.

The gentle snow that began to fall did not hint of the devastation and death winter was to bring. Nearly half their number did not survive their first winter. In 1621, 35 more Pilgrims arrived and in 1623, 90 others. The drought that had gripped the land left their greeting party looking like skeletons clad in rage. Yet, they prevailed because they had purpose.

Six weeks of hell on an ill-lighted, rolling, pitching, stinking inferno stirred their emotions. Rather than complain they confessed. It brought to the surface unconfessed sins in their lives. Sins such as self-pity, anger, bitterness, vindictiveness, jealousy, and despair. An instant replay of those sins might make some today mindful of them in their lives:

Self-pity, anger, bitterness, vindictiveness, jealousy, and despair. If any of them are in your life confess and repent of them.

Throughout their voyage regardless of how grim their plight they prayed themselves through their despair and into peace and thanksgiving.

Mercy they sought and mercy they found. They found it because they sought it. Their adversity motivated them to evaluate their lives and confess their sins. Will our gratitude for God’s blessings stimulate us to do the same? Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? If so it is blocking God’s best for your life. As individuals and a nation corporate confession and cleansing is needed. We appropriately pray: “God bless America.” He has. We would do well now to pray: “God cleanse America.” He will.

In addition to our sins of spousal and child abuse, sexual immorality, promiscuity, pornography, and a legion of other outward sins the same ones confessed by the Pilgrims need to be confessed.

Aboard the Mayflower on July 21, Pastor John Robinson preached from Ezra 8: 21, 22:

“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river
Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before God,
to seek from Him the right way for us and our little
ones and all our possessions….The hand of the Lord
is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His
power and His wrath are against all those who
forsake Him.”

In that message is contained the confession of John Robinson which might well be acknowledged by many of us:
“Had not the truth been in my heart as a
burning fire shut up in my bones I had suffered
(would have let) the light of God to have been put
out on mine own unthankful heart by other men’s

Do you need to confess and beg His mercy?

It was Jesus who was the Pilgrims pride.

Time came for the Mayflower to return to England. Captain Jones, fearing for the lives of the Pilgrims to return with the ship. For good cause the offer was tempting. Only four couples that arrived still had one another. Many had lost children. Yet, not one returned. Amidst their dying something had been born because of their shared love for Christ. It was a willingness to suffer together for a cause bigger than they.