2003 Sermons

How to Be Victorious in Spiritual Warfare 9/14/03

Ephesians 6:10-17

JESUS CHRIST, “the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3: 8).

The work Satan has been doing from the dawn of creation is described in this same verse: “…the devil sinned from the beginning.”

In the wilderness after His baptism, Jesus met Satan one on one and won. In that wilderness confrontation the devil attacked Christ at the three most vulnerable points we human beings have. In each instance Christ applied Scripture and gained the victory.

Throughout His life on earth, these two supernatural superpowers met time and again and in each instance Christ emerged the victor.

Their last confrontation was on Calvary’s cross. There it appeared Satan finally body-slammed Christ and won the ultimate victory as symbolized by the tomb in which the lifeless body of Christ lay. Christ was indeed down — but decidedly not out. In the resurrection He conquered sin, death, and the devil.

Summarily, Colossians 1: 13, 14 says: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin.” Thus, we share Christ’s victory.

For a number of years we lived on the West Bank in New Orleans. Near our home was a massive earthen rampart. It was part of the defense line in the battle of New Orleans. Here the rag-tag army of pirates and pioneers under the command of Andrew Jackson met the formidable British forces that had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. A horrendous battle followed with Jackson’s forces victorious.

What wasn’t known in New Orleans that day was the war was over – the British had already surrendered. Communication in that day was so limited the word had not arrived in the Crescent City and the battle was enjoined.

Spiritually we find ourselves in that same posture today. Christ has won the spiritual war. We, however, remain to engage in the mopping-up action. As the forces of Jackson fought like the outcome of the war depended on them, so we must “fight the good fight.”

Every believer is perpetually engaged in spiritual warfare. As in time of war there are war zones and contested zones where the battle isn’t raging at the moment. I saw a graphic example of this in Lebanon where a bloody civil war raged for years. On our landing approach to the Beirut airport our flight pattern took us in over downtown Beirut where buildings could be seen smoldering and vehicles bombed out and burning in the streets. Our flight pattern continued over other sections of the city, one of which was a golf course on which persons were playing. The two areas were close enough so that when we landed we could see the golf course and hear the guns downtown.

Some were literally struggling for their lives at that moment being in the war zone while others seemed uninvolved. Even those that appeared detached would find the time they would be involved in the heat of battle.

That depicts the Christian experience. There are times various ones of us are in the spiritual war zone and other times there is a lull in the action. Does it ever seem to you your lulls are too few and far between?

This spiritual warfare isn’t World War I style where opposing armies wear easily identifiable uniforms and occupy well-marked battle lines in trenches. It is more the Vietnam guerilla warfare type where confusion as to who the enemy is prevails. For that reason God, in His wisdom, helps us identify our enemy in our text: Ephesians 3: 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood….” That is, our real enemy isn’t human beings.

Our real enemy isn’t the people who adhere to counter-Christian concepts. We have a tendency to center in on them and fail to realize that they have lost the battle against the real one we are contesting — the devil.

Our real enemy isn’t one another as believers, though sometimes we act as though we are. As a student of history there is an account that helps me keep this fact in focus.

On July 29, 1588, Philip II of Spain sent his Invincible Armada, consisting of over 100 warships, against the greatly out manned British fleet just off the coast of the French port of Gravelines.

The commanding British admiral walked on deck of his flagship just before the battle and found two of his junior officers engaged in a heated quarrel. He grabbed both of then by the nape of the neck and forcing their faces seaward toward the approaching Spanish Armada forcefully said: “Gentlemen, there is your enemy.”

By means of our text our Lord would direct our attention to our true enemy, our adversary, the devil.

There are certain roles most of us encounter as children growing up. Remember the bully? How about the tattletale? Well, was there one in your class who enjoyed starting arguments or fights and then stepped aside and watch the fight? That is the devil. In many instances he knows he isn’t going to be fought against because he diverts attention from himself and causes us to select the wrong enemy instead of him.

Our text says we are engaged in spiritual warfare. The forces of evil are organized for this conflict. Note – – –

A. “PRINCIPALITIES,” translates the Greek term “ARCHON.” The title emerged in the time of Pericles. It was a reference to the most powerful leader in the land. Satan of course is the Commanding Officer. He has organized his demonic horde for spiritual warfare. An archon is the equivalent of a field general in charge of a certain operation. Principalities are very powerful and authoritative demons.

B. “THE RULERS OF DARKNESS OF THIS AGE,” translates the Greek word “KOSMOKRATOR.” The word comes from a combination of two words. KOSMOS meaning world or universe, and KRATOR meaning ruler. Literally, “world rulers of darkness.” These are the devil’s special forces. They are assigned to work on world rulers and important people in society.

C. “SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES,” actually means “the spirits of evil in the heavenlies.” This is that massive horde of demons that still work on all of us. This is the rank and file of demons that perpetually attack believers. They are Satan’s foot soldiers.

Their primary assignment is to work in the field of religion.

Confusing the issue is the fact Satan often masquerades as an angel of light. His demonic horde is also comprised of masters of deceit. They even have the capacity of performing “signs and wonders.”

Christ encountered one of these deceivers in the Gadarenean demoniac who had the capacity to speak. Such a demon is called an EGGASTRIMUTHOS demon, which means a ventriloquist demon.

How then are we mere mortals to combat this awesome force?

When Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned our text in Ephesians 6, he was in prison. Perhaps he was glancing up at a Roman guard and observing various parts of his uniform as he described our defense. Roman praetorian guards personified the power of Rome.
God’s instruction is:
Take it up – all of it.
Put it on = all of it.
Keep it on = all of it.

The waist is a vital and vulnerable mid-section of the torso. The Roman soldiers wore a wide leather belt not unlike those worn by weight lifters. It was to support and strengthen abdominal muscles in time of battle.

This belt was also utilitarian. Attached were loops, hooks, and rings which held such items as a length of rope, a sword, a mace, a sack carrying food and other functional items. Being around the waist made these items immediately available.

The Greek word translated “truth” is ALETHEIA. It signifies that which lies at the base; the real essence of the matter. It is a reference to doctrine. A knowledge of doctrine is essential to survival in spiritual warfare.

If we are going to confront the devil, “the father of all lies,” we must do it with the truth.

If you were going into combat had you rather have a T-shirt or body armor, had you rather be riding in a golf cart or an armored tank? So in spiritual combat we need the best protection.

The breastplate of the Roman soldier covered only his shoulders and vital organs. It didn’t cover the arms as that later worn by British knights. The arms were free for protection and productivity.

“Righteousness” means meeting God’s standard and being right with God. It means being able to relate to God and having access to Him. Our righteousness must be alien righteousness. Alien, simply means “someone else, someone very different.” It means someone alien to me transfers His righteousness to me. That one is Christ. The righteousness referred to here is the righteousness of Christ. Our righteousness is referred to as “filthy rags.” Rags make poor armor.

The Greek word DIKAIOSUNE, here translated “righteousness,” in old English was translated “rightwiseness.” The spelling conveys the meaning. It meant to be right with God the Father by having the righteousness of Christ applied to your account.

His righteousness must be imputed to us. This is a term meaning credited to our account. When we commit to Him His righteousness is transferred to us. It becomes our righteousness.

Once His righteousness is imputed to you His righteous character begins to be imparted to you. That is, His character begins to become part of your character. You grow in grace.

In “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien the character Frodo has a mithril coat that provides powerful protection. More than once it saves his life. In addition to providing protection it is light and lovely. Frodo’s coat is so valuable that it is worth all the wealth of the entire shire, the region where he lives. Frodo could never have made such a coat nor could he have purchased it. Someone else made it. He received it as a gift. So it is with the breastplate of righteousness.

In Greek mythology Achilles had a foot problem. He had a body that could not be injured. As an infant he was dipped by his mother in the river Styx in an attempt to make him immortal. However, Thetis held her baby by the heel and that part of his body was not touched by the magic water.

Achilles grew into a mighty warrior. He defeated his most fierce enemies at Troy, even the mighty Hector. No weapon could harm him. Paris, Prince of Troy, shot a poisoned arrow into the air. It struck Achilles in his one vulnerable spot, his heel, and killed him.

Many Christians loose spiritual battles because they have a foot problem. Satan exploits their weakness.

The type sandal worn by a Roman soldier was known as a “caligula.” It was very much like our modern sandals with the exception that it had iron cleats not unlike a track shoe. It enabled the soldier to be sure-footed. The soldier could be on the offensive by moving quickly without fear of falling.

Believers are to be on the offensive if we expect to win in our spiritual warfare. Our offense is “the gospel of peace.”

To have your feet shod with the gospel of peace means to be ready to stand firm and fight Satan. It even means to move into enemy territory and take it for Christ.

Put on the combat boots of peace and wage peace. Fight the enemy, not one another. Satan loves to stir up disputes among God’s people. A dispute here, a little grudge there, a little gossip there and by his wiles Satan wins the victory over the church.

Faith is our shield against the fiery darts of the devil. This depicts believers as under attack. Faith is our shield.

The fiery darts are from “the wicked one.” This translates the Greek HO PONEROS meaning a specific adversary, the devil.

Satan fires flaming arrows of doubt, dispute, temptation, and confusion. Faith shields against all of Satan’s arrows. Faith is the ability to apply what we believe instantly in order to repel every doubt Satan attempts to use.

Certain characteristics of salvation are depicted by the Roman helmet. I saw one of these exquisitely crafted helmets in a Roman museum. Some characteristics associated with salvation:

-It was lined with leather. The first reference to animal skins being used as clothing related to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin. The lamb was slain, pictorial of the ultimate slaying of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

-The helmet was made of brass, a strong metal affording protection. Christ secures and protects our salvation.

-On top of the helmet was a small crown emblematic of the authority of Rome. The Christian is crowned with the crown of righteousness provided by Christ.

-The helmet had a chin strap to hold it secure. Christ is our security.

When Rome set out on world conquests they used long awkward swords and lost most battles. They then changed to a short two- edged sword called a “machaira.” By engaging in close-up hand to hand combat they conquered vast regions.

“The sword of the spirit” is in the genitive case meaning “the sword from the Spirit.” “The Word of God” is the sword.

G. PRAYER (VS. 18).
No believer is ever successful in spiritual warfare who does not have a vibrant prayer life. It is our means of reporting to our Commander and receiving orders from Him.

Our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ are worthy examples in prayer. They begin each day at 4:30 a.m. in prayer. Every Friday night they pray from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. For months one lady showed up with her husband’s shoes. He was not a Christian and she came to pray for his salvation. She brought his shoes each time saying, “Someday he will be here.” After more than a year he came to know Christ and now prays with her every Friday night.

In Papua, New Guinea they have a uniformed patrol. They wear badges stating: “Prayer and Peace.” Whenever a community is having trouble, instead of sending in the police, they send in the “Prayer and Peace Patrol” to pray for the troubled area. It’s working.

Let’s not fail to utilize the resource of prayer.

Join the Search for the Groom’s Bride

Genesis 24

Jesus Christ is depicted as “the Bridegroom” in Scripture. Those who come to Him in faith are complementarity called “the bride of Christ.”

Many historical Old Testament narrative are also beautiful illustrations of New Testament truths. One such is recorded in Genesis 24. It is the story of Abraham sending his faithful servant to find a bride for his son, Isaac. It is a true story of Old Testament era romance and an illustration of New Testament evangelism. Evangelism is every Christian’s job. In light of so many doing so little we need to pray:
“Set us afire, Lord. Stir us we pray.
While the world perishes we go our way.
Purposeless, passionless, day by day.
Set us afire, Lord. Stir us we pray.”

The late evangelist, Dr. Nettleton, ask as of himself a question we should each pose to our self. “What will I wish I had done with my life thousands of years hence?”

Dr. Lyman Beecher on his death bed gave insight into what should be our priority when asked, “…what is the greatest thing of all? He replied, “It is not theology, it is not controversy; it is to save souls.”

Based on this truth we should place our selves at the disposal of our Master saying, “Master, make me, with all my handicaps and disabilities, a fisher of men.” His response would surely once more be: “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.”

“I” the subject does the work of the verb, “will make,” on the object, “you.”

One of the most complimentary depictions of a person coming to Christ is that of a groom receiving his bride.

“…that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead” (Romans 7:4).

A dramatic parallel of this is found in the story of Abraham sending his faithful servant, Eliezer, to find a bride for Isaac.

A. Born of other parents he resided in the house of Abraham.

He the servant of Abraham he was as though adopted. Soul-winners must themselves be born again in the Master’s household.

B. His entire life he was yielded to the service of the one he represented. Is yours.

Our modern “What’s in it for me” mentality has caused us to loose our perspective of what is our responsibility?

Occult groups sit around reading the writings of their “master,” committing them to memory, meditating on them and trying at great personal cost to comply with them.

We laugh at Moonies standing in the rain selling roses. When was the last time you went visiting in the rain to share Christ with a lost person?

Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ,” was responsible for personally leading and training people to lead souls to Christ. He died recently. He chose to have three words on the tombstone some day to be shared with his wife: “SLAVES FOR CHRIST.”

A. Abraham revealed his purpose for him. He was to find a bride for Isaac. “…take a wife for my son Isaac” (Vs. 4c).

Our beloved Lord has given us an assignment.

B. He was given specific instructions as to where to go.

“You shall go to my country and to my kindred, (Vs. 4b).

He was also told where not to go. “You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (Vs. 3).

His journey to his defined destination took him north through the Jordan Valley, past Damascus, around the fertile crescent, into “the eye of the East,” until at last crossing the Euphrates he reached his destination. He wasn’t deterred.

C. He was robbed of all honor and freed of all responsibility. An enabling angel preceded him.

The Holy Spirit is the equivalent of the angel who precedes every witness. The Archbishop of Canterbury said years ago, “A successful witnessing experience is sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the result to God.” This robs you of all honor and frees you from all responsibility.

A. He proposed an alternate plan: “Let Isaac go” (Vs. 5b).

B. He did not underestimate the difficulty. He knew what glory there was in store for the bride but he knew she didn’t know. It was up to him to convince her of the advantage of responding to the groom. He was simply responsible for delivering the message.

C. He depended on the angel but did not cut the nerve of his own responsibility.

D. He subordinated his own interests and comfort to those of his Master.

A. He prayed (vss. 12, 13)

B. He proposed a plan to determine he was acting properly. He predetermined he would ask certain questions. As women came to the well he would ask for a drink of water. The one who offered it to him and additionally offered to draw water for his camel would be the one. Rebekah did so. He had ten camels and each camel could drink five gallons of water.

C. He did not use undue pressure (Vss. 57, 58)
He presented the simple truths and left the response to Rebekah. His mission was fulfilled now the decision was hers.

D. He delivered his message simply and clearly (Vss. 34 – 38)

[Show people how to mark their Bible for the Roman Road.]

First, Rebekah learned of Isaac. The servant could have told her of Isaacs trip to Mount Moriah, that he was the heir of all things of the father, that actually every mile of the road they would travel was his.

Next, she longed for Isaac. The more she learned of Isaac the more she longed for him. We must disciple new believers to increase their longing for Christ.

Ultimately, she started looking for Isaac. She learned her groom would be coming for her. “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” (Vs. 65).

“Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!” (Matthew 25: 6)

Where Does Love Come From? 10/26/03

I Timothy 1:5

JESUS CHRIST said, “…love one another…”

He also said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…”

Some years later one of His immature young followers wrote to give insight as to the fountain head of love. As a refreshing fountain has to have a source so must love. Our text uses that principle to illustrate the origin of love in a life. The illustrative fountain has three heads:

Once while flying out of Cairo I was impressed by a large dark area in that vast expanse of sandy desert. As we neared it I could tell it was vegetation. Upon inquiring, I learned the government had drilled for oil and had simply dug a very expensive water well. The water was conserved and used to irrigate this region of about one square mile in size. All they did was let the water be dispersed over the dry sand and vegetation sprung up. For centuries the seed had been collecting needing only water to grow. Perhaps the best seeds of love are yet to spring up in your life.

We live in a spiritually dry and thirsty world needing love. You can be that fountain of love. I beg you, don’t be a mirage.

The meaning of the word “love” needs to be established before considering its source. AGAPE is the Greek word translated love. It speaks of full loyalty to God and boundless good will to people. The Greeks had various words for love. PHILEO was one used for brotherly love. Combine it as a prefix to ANTHROPOS, the word for man and you have the word philanthropy, meaning the love of mankind. PHILEO combined with SOPIAS the Greek word for knowledge and you have the word philosophy, the love of knowledge. Combined with the Greek word for city, POLIS and you have Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

There was the Greek word EROS which spoke of physical or sensual love.

At the time of the New Testament there was no Greek word adequate to express the love of God. They took a little used word that appears only four times in classical Greek writings and gave it a new meaning, AGAPE. It is the selfless self-giving love of God. There is nothing physical or sensual about it. Love as used in this regard means to desire and devise the best for others.

Love for God prompts us to let go of whatever we are holding to and latching on to God. Let go and latch on. There is no good in holding on to anything in time of a storm if it isn’t tied down. In the storms of life the only real and sure anchor is Jesus Christ. To love Him means to let go of the unanchored objects offered by the world and latching on to Him.

Some of you I am reminding, others are perhaps gaining this perspective for the first time. A baby isn’t born knowing how to love. It is born with the capacity to love but learns to love or hate by the way the parent relates to it. Perhaps you were deprived of one or both parents who didn’t show you proper love as an infant and loving is difficult for you. There is good news. Along comes the Heavenly Father to show us love and thereby teach us to love.

“We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4: 19).

Once we love Him and know how He loves us we are well on our way to knowing how to love one another. He loves us with all of our faults, frailties, and failures. How are we to love others? As He loved us.

Only in America has love become so mixed up. Only in America have so many things become so mixed up. ONLY IN AMERICA – – – – –
Can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in America … are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.

Only in America … do people order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a diet coke.

Only in America … do banks leave both doors open and chain the pen to the desk.

Only in America … do they put brail lettering on drive-in bank windows.

Only in America … do we leave expensive cars parked in the driveway and leave useless things and junk in boxes in the garage.

Only in America … do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won’t miss a call from someone we don’t want to talk to in the first place….

Only in America … do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America … do we use the word “politics” to describe the process so well: “Poli” in Latin means “many” and “ticks” means blood-sucking creatures…”

Only in America … do we use the word “love” when we mean “lust.”

Satan subtly wants to divert our love if not deceive us into not loving. In the intriguing “Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis Satan gives his servant Wormwood advice on how to reduce the effectiveness of Christian love. He suggests dividing a persons life into concentric circles. The inner circle represents a person’s will. Next is the intellect. Last is one’s fantasies. It is “out there” he suggests keeping a person’s love. The deceiver says to his disciple:
“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.”

In other words, it is easy to talk about loving people in other countries or different locales than we. That does little good. In doing so the deceiver channels our love into lakes of unfulfillment.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor…”

Three characteristics of the foundation of love are mentioned. Explore this triad:

I. A PURE HEART (present motives)
HEART in the Hebrew language was used in the O.T. because there is not a word for mind or brain. To understand a word in the Hebrew it is proper to define it in association with words with which it is linked.

PURE comes from the word KATHAROS meaning clean as opposed to dirty. The word was used for separating the chaff and dirt from the wheat.

A “pure heart” belongs only to the person made right by the right relationship with Christ. Such a heart can then manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which involves love.

Psalms 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.” In this verse heart and thoughts are linked.

Satan subtly suggests sin is a better alternative than love for the Lord as the path to the good life. The wages of sin can be quite good in today’s competitive market, but there are no benefits and retirement is pure hell.

Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceedeth evil thoughts…” Thus, from Hebrew and Greek it is seen that heart and thoughts are equated. Therefore, Timothy is appealing for followers of Christ to have pure thoughts, the right motives.

This is needed for:
“Out of the heart are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).

“Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh upon the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

God alone cleanses the heart (Psalms 51: 10, 11).

PURE means not double minded. It was a word used to describe purging an army of all potential traitors. It described milk with no water added to dilute it.

If there is bacteria in a substance it will grow. If there is yeast in bread it will multiply. If there is impurity of thought in a life, it will grow. The mind must be cleansed. It must be cleansed from self-centeredness if it is to have love for Christ.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Literally, He said HAPPY are the pure in heart. You will never find happiness apart from having an undivided mind, that is, God controlled thoughts. Only a pure heart produces love for Christ.

Sir Galahad said, “My strength is the strength of ten because my heart is pure.”

II. A CLEAR CONSCIENCE (past action)
Huck Finn said, “Sometimes a fellow’s conscience takes up more room than all the rest of his insides.”

Sir Arthur Doyle, author of “Sherlock Holmes, sent a telegram to ten acquaintances anonymously reading: “All is discovered. Fell at once.” All ten left town at once. A guilty conscience torments.

The assistant principle picks up the intercom, clears his voice, and your automatically pick up your books and start for his office.

You are riding down the road and hear a siren. You automatically slow down and reach for your drivers license.

Your wife in the next room answers the phone: “Hello. He did what? Who told you?” You are climbing the wall. Conscience strikes again.

The Greek word used in our text and translated “conscience” is SUNEIDESIS. It literally means “a knowing within.” How what is known within is programmed is the critical issue. To have a good conscience it must be programmed by God’s value standard, the Bible.

Our English word CONSCIENCE comes from the Latin CON-SCIENTA, meaning joint knowledge or co-knowledge, knowing together with. A conscience is a poor guide unless it knows the Word of God.

Hearts not informed and influenced by the Word of God can become insensitive. We are seeing this increasingly in America. An illustration of it comes from the Japanese conquest of China. Christians were herded into trenches, bound and put on their knees. Youth were forced to watch initially as soldiers shot them. The youthful response was one of abhorrence. Next the students were forced to do the shooting. Eventually students were forced to enter the trenches and complete the act with knives. They were then highly rewarded and bragged upon. Soon they began to relish the task in order to obtain the rewards.

In America youth watch violence while enjoying their favorite treats of candy, popcorn, and preferred beverage. Their conscience is dulled and has become insensitive. Then we wonder why there is so much violence by youth who seem to feel nothing. They have a conscience seared by a hot iron. A cauterized conscience is a non- feeling conscience. Once they enact violence and are shocked back into reality they have to live with the incubus of their act.

A clear conscience is one:
A. Guided by God’s special revelation as a norm.
B. Makes wise judgements and issues instructions which are obeyed.
C. Produces “Godly sorrow which works repentance unto salvation” (II Cor. 7:10).
D. Not only condemns the bad but commends the good. Hence the result is faith.

A guilt conscience motivated Swietzer to go to Africa and Bunyan to write “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

After all Paul had done how could he have a clear conscience? Verses 12-15 explain. The same principle applies today. In I Timothy 1: 12 – 15 Paul bursts into joyous celebration over what Christ had done in his life. His story is that if Christ could change him Christ can change anyone. Jesus Christ is the personification of the Christian gospel. The essence of a Christian witness is telling others what a change Christ has made in your life. Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor of the followers of Christ, and a man of aggressive violence who enjoyed unleashing pain on others. He was a bad dude.

Even the best listeners have a tendency to fade out occasionally in following a thought. Fine tune your mind in order to retain what now comes.

In verse 13 Paul makes what appears to be a statement that conflicts with the idea of grace. He says, “I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly.”

Superficially that makes it appear ignorance was the basis of his forgiveness. That is never true.

In listening to persons give testimonies sometimes it appears they are glorifying their sinful past. Often this leaves the impression that the only way to have a good testimony is to go live a life of debauchery and drug abuse and then “get converted.” Not so.

What Paul was saying in this statement of his ignorance was there is nothing chic, cool, or glamorous about living in sin. As a matter of fact doing so is grounded in unbelief and is utterly stupid. Sin is always the product of conscious refusal to obey God. It is always the mark of ignorance.

How can a person with a carnally complicated and corrupt past gain a clear conscience? By having a cleansed life. How is it possible? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Simple isn’t it? Yes, but not costless.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6).

III. A GENUINE FAITH (projected goals)
GENUINE means without hypocrisy. Are you living on a pretend faith? Faith produces works. Faith is consistently expressive. Is your faith a mirage?

The test of your faith is does it prompt obedient action? If what you call faith doesn’t, it isn’t faith its froth. It is a religious front that is a fake.

There are some very special times that can be used to demonstrate faith. Use the difficult times in life as occasions to demonstrate your faith in the living Lord. Instead of complaining and whining use those difficult moments as meaningful times to exhibit your faith and thereby prove His faithfulness.

John Wesley was making his way to Georgia from England aboard the ship “Simmonds” in 1735. He watched in total amazement as a community of Moravian passengers continued to worship God and sing in the midst of a violent Atlantic storm as if nothing were happening. Wesley marveled at that kind of faith. It motivated him to ask God to help him develop that kind of faith for the big storms of life. If people see that kind of faith in you they too will be motivated to place their faith in our Lord.

In love our Lord has discretely established faith as the means by which we obtain life’s greatest blessings and numerous other valuable ones. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is the positive means by which we respond to the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

There are some things that we might like but can’t obtain on our own. For example, if there were a cube of pure gold measuring 13″ X 13″ offered to you would you accept it. If you were told that for it to be yours all you would have to do is come pick it up personally and take it with you, would you do it? A thirteen inch cube of pure gold! Would you like it? It is yours if you simply take it. Most persons would love to have such a quantity of gold. Regardless of how badly you would like it you could not meet the requirement for obtaining it. You could not pick it up for it would weigh one ton. You couldn’t meet the standard of picking it up.

For you to pick up the gift of salvation God has made it possible for the “whosoever” of John 3: 16. All that is necessary is faith in Christ.

It can never be spelled out too simply or too frequently. There are four basics we do well to learn.

Use the personal pronoun “I” to refer to yourself and repeat within yourself the following:
1. I am not God.
2. God is God.
3. I sin when I get #1 and #2 reversed.
4. Jesus Christ came to help me get #1 and #2 in proper order and to forgive me of #3.

When we, by faith, put those four in proper perspective we are in position to obtain the wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

You will never truly live until you have established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When you have you shall never die.

God Is Calling With a Message for You 10/26/03

James 4: 7-10

JESUS CHRIST, the resurrected Lord of new life, said to the church in Philadelphia, in ancient Greece, that which is applicable to our church today: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…” (Revelation 3:8).

Together, we the redeemed of the Lord who constitute the membership of this fellowship are called “the church”. What is applicable to the church is related to the individual.

First, a word about us. Then a word about you. For how you respond affects all of us, the church.

The Lord is swinging wide the door of opportunity for us to take bold dramatic steps of ministry and service. In His wisdom He is choosing to challenge our faith. In His love He is granting us an opportunity to think big and act bold. No person can shut the door. We can with cowering and timid spirit fail to go through it. Our negative nature can cause us to question and quibble. We alone can cause what the Lord has in mind to fail. We are often our own worst enemies.

God is setting before this church an open door of opportunity. Months ago this church prayed and sought God’s will in selecting a Pastor Search Team. Thus, this process was begun in prayer. It should be concluded that the Lord composed this team in answer to the prayers of all who sought His will.

For months they have prayed, researched, traveled, and interviewed many people seeking God’s will. This church assigned them the task of finding the person they believe to be His minister for this hour. In light of their prayerful search it is reasonable to conclude they have found the will of the Father in this process. For a ?? person team to reach unanimity is a miracle in itself. They now in one accord with great enthusiasm are ready to recommend the person they are convinced is God’s man to lead this beloved church.

If you believe in prayer you have to trust the process and product.

Opportunity will be provided for persons to meet him and his wife and hear him.

The church on September 17 by unanimous vote gave the Pastor Search Team the authority to set the date and time for a special conference to hear and vote on their recommendation. That decision has been entrusted to them and they have exercised there responsibility to the church by setting the date and time.

I want to appeal to every member to focus on what we are doing and not become divided by how we do it. It is being done by the responsible group in the way they are responsible for doing it. Opinions might well differ on how it should be done. Let’s support those responsible for the decision and their decision.

If we are going to be ready to consider moving as a body through the open door we need to be ready spiritually.

James 4: 7-10 lists some steps of preparation we each need to take. Therefore, now comes the practical personal part of this new year’s challenge.

To be ready to go through the open door of opportunity there must be:

A. First, positively. You must “Submit yourselves therefore to God.”

This calls for a conscious willful action on your behalf. It requires you making a choice. Some persons arrogantly refuse to submit themselves. Each of us must respond to the self asked question: “Whom shall I serve, God or myself? Shall I make it my chief concern to do the will of my Heavenly Father, or shall I demand and assert my own way?”

It is said that when Aaron Burr, one of the most controversial personalities in early American life, reached the age of 21, he squarely faced the issue of whom to serve. Resolutely he decided to turn his back on the God of his fathers. As a disgraced murderer, tried for treason and executed his body was laid to rest at the foot of the grave of his grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was one of the most revered clergy/statesman of his era. The graves of the two illustrate the difference between one who seeks first the kingdom of God and who chooses slavery to self.

B. Second, negatively. “Resist the devil…”
The devil and his allies, the world and the flesh, have designed and do desire your spiritual destruction.

Resist the devil: Through prayer, Bible study, Regular public worship, Association with friends who are committed Christians

A. “Cleanse your hands” = outward actions

B. “Purify your hearts” = inward attitudes.
Medical science had not progressed in that day. A common concept was that blood carried in it ideas. They became conscious thoughts when the blood flowed through the brain. It was known that the heart pumped the blood. Therefore, it was thought that the heart was the point of origin of all creative thoughts. Hence, an appeal to cleanse the heart was a directive to change the thought pattern. Don’t let your mind dwell on evil ideas. Purify your thoughts by driving out the wrong concepts and ideas with Bible oriented ideas.

A critical negative spirit needs to be purified. If you are going to think the Christ thoughts the mind must be purified of negativism.

A study shows that for every one negative input eleven positive inputs are necessary to counteract it.

There is a new book entitled “The Theory of Twenty-One.” The author shows as a result of research that out of every 21 people, 20 think negatively about everything. Only one is a positive person.

In another book by a different author entitled “Hide-N-Seek”, persons are urged to inventory their 16 closest relatives. Be objective who among them was negative and who are positive. Most persons will conclude they were reared in a negative environment.

Pray to be the “one” among 21.

III. CONTRIBUTION “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep…” (v. 9)
These are 3 evidences of repentance. Don’t waste your pain. Let it be used of the Lord to draw you to Him.

Kuhino Diamond

IV. COVENANT “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord”(Vs 10)
The word “covenant” means an agreement or testimony. Actually, our Bible is divided into a new and old testament, literally, new and old covenants. A covenant is an agreement. Therefore, agree with the Lord that you are going to “humble yourself.”

It can result in a new beginning. “The Land of Beginning Again” by Louise Fletcher Tarkington:
So I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all out mistakes and all our heartaches,
And all our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old cost at the door
And never put on again.

A renewed covenant will result in guidance.

King George VI of England during World War II made the following words vital in his new year’s address: “I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year – ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'”

The Lord will guide persons who made a covenant with Him.

Again I say this calls for a willful personal commitment from you. You are called on to make a choice.

George Beverly Shea, a name well known in Christian music, had to make such a decision as a young man. He was offered a significant secular recording contract and a major media job. During the time he was wrestling with this decision the Lord used his Godly mother to help make the decision. She copies 2 verses of Scripture and placed them on the piano. Shea came in and found them and sat for a time meditating on them. Slowly his fingers began to wander across the keyboard as ever so gradually his commitment as expressed in his newly emerging song beloved by millions. He wrote and sang:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-scared hand.
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Beverly Shea made a covenant with God. He decided to follow Jesus and that decision has influenced every other decision he has made.

Make your decision today. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow” (Proverbs 27).

God has set before us an open door in ’01. No person can shut it. You can refuse to go through it, however. Likewise, you can choose to go through it.

Happiness: The By-Product of a Job Well Done 9/24/03

John 17: 1 – 19

JESUS CHRIST gathered with His disciples in Gethsemane for His last teaching session. The garden was near by the temple area. Here, Christ prayed the high priestly prayer just before His personal sacrifice was to be made.

The N.T. records 13 specific instances of Jesus praying. (John records three: 11:41, 42; 12:27, 28; 17).

He prayed a prayer of CONFIRMATION (11:41, 42) requesting the resurrection of Lazarus. The purpose was stated “that they might believe.”

He prayed a prayer of COMPLIANCE (12:27, 28) first in agony requesting that the “cup” be removed from Him. He knew the pending pain of desertion, betrayal, and crucifixion and in His flesh was repelled by it. In the spirit He prayed a prayer of submission, “Father, glorify Your name.”

He prayed a prayer of CONSECRATION (17) asking the Father to sanctify you. Jesus Christ prayed for YOU.

When you pray, pray to God. Most persons are more preoccupied with what they are praying for rather than the one to whom they are praying.

When Ethelred the Saxon King of NORTHUMBERLAND invaded Wales in 1010 A.D. he saw a group of pious persons kneeling in prayer. He asked who they were and what they were doing. When informed that they were harmless Christians praying for their land, he ordered them executed exclaiming: “They are my most powerful foes.”

His supreme delight was the Father’s glory. Jesus glorified the Father by doing the work He sent Him to do, John 1:14. We are to glorify Him in the same way. “As my Father hath sent me…” (Vs. 18). To God, glory means character. To man, it means prominence, prestige, preeminence and praise.

Jesus glorified the Father by revealing His character. We glorify Jesus when we show by our conduct and conversation His character.

Jesus was a living embodiment of Colossians 3:32.

Jesus now wants the Father to glorify Him as He was before creation in order that His glory might be manifested through us.

His character was even more misunderstood.
Christ revealed His true character.

Jesus said, “I am glorified in them” (Vs. 10).

Believers are given to Christ by the Father.
Believers give Christ glory by serving the Father.

1. Joy (Vs. 13). Jesus prayed, “…that they might have My joy fulfilled in them.” His joy was not the result of a perfect world full of embracing and caring friends. It was shown in the midst of a bunch of dull, groveling, critical, blood thirsty brutes.

Scripture says “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If so, how strong are you? Does His joy show through you? Joy is a magnet that draws people to the likeness of Christ in you.

In a heavy rain recently I realized I was hearing something. It was a bird singing. Amid that storm he was still singing. The storm didn’t disrupt what was happening in his little bird heart. Some Christians manifesting little or no joy give excuses. They say, “I know we are suppose to have joy, BUT you just don’t understand….” I don’t have to understand. Get that conjunction out of your system. You have to understand joy is within you and often a counterpoint to conditions around you. If it is shown amid adversity it is as distinctive as that bird singing in the rain.

Take a bottle half full of water and shake it up. There is turmoil in it. Shake a full bottle and there is no turmoil. The reason one is tranquil is because it is full and no outside motion influences what is inside. When your life is spirit filled there is joy.

2. A warning (Vs. 14). If you are a follower of Christ you are an alien in this world. Jesus was hated by secular minded people. Note how you are described as being “not of this world.” To bear His name marks you as an alien in this world. This can provoke trouble for you in a spiritually hostile world.

1. For unity, “that they may be one as We are” (Vs. 11).

Church members need to realize their attitudes and actions either contribute to or take away from a united congregation. Jesus depicts us as fulfilling His joy by a display of unity.

Jesus did not pray for us to have units, but to be a unit. Where there are clicks, where there is competition, exclusiveness, division, and disunity the prayer of Christ is frustrated.

The unity spoken of by Christ comes from our Holy Father. For there to be unity there has to be one point of unity. If every believer is fine turned to the Father they are of one mind, His mind.

There is strength in unity. The weakest most attenuate thread, when woven with others of like capacity makes a strong cord.

A single drop of water alone is a weak and powerless thing. But an infinite number of drops united by the force of attraction will form a stream, and many stream combine to form a river and together they flow into the ocean whose pounding waves defy the power of man.

Divide the mighty torrents that flow over Niagra Falls and it is but a gentle falling rain. United they could quench the fires of a hundred volcanos like Vesuvius.

The church divided is an insipid unproductive assembly of individuals. Combined it is a mighty force for our Lord.

2. Christ wants His followers to be commitment to Truth. He said, “I have given them the words which you have given Me” (Vs. 8). We are stewards of His word.

Most of our problems result from us basing our choices on unreliable authorities, such as:
Culture: “Everybody’s doing it.”
Tradition: “We’ve always done it that way.”
Reason: “It seems logical.”
Emotion: “It just feels right.”

All these have one common flaw. They come from us and not the Lord.

3. Christ prayed for our protection, “…that you should keep them from the evil one” (Vs. 15). Thank you Jesus! The Lord God Himself is the sentinel to stand guard over your life. Within His will is peace and success. He has a perfect will that we should seek. Often disobedience results in His permissive will coming into play. He often permissively permits us to enact our will.

We should pray, “Dear God, we want none of your permissive will. We want only your perfect will.”

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (Vs. 17).

Sanctify, HAGIAZEIN, came from the adjective HAGIOS, which means separated – dedicated. A thing or person that is hagios is different from the ordinary.

To sanctify does not mean to get rid of sin and become sinlessly perfect. If it did, Christ would not have sanctified Himself (vs. 19), because He had no sin. It means set aside for a specific use. Every believer is.

In regeneration, God sees the believer in Christ.

In sanctification, the world sees Christ in the believer.

The believer is to be doubly sanctified:
“In the truth” as they are set aside from the world.

“For the truth” as they go into the world with the truth.

We believers are to: He deserted His eternal character in order to enable us to have His earthly character.

Jesus showed character that glorified the Father by:
1. CULMINATING HIS WORK – “The hour is come…”

2. COMPLETING HIS WORK – “I have finished…”

3. CERTIFYING HIS WORK – “That they might know thee…” Not just have knowledge of Him, but KNOW him – experience intimacy with the Father.

4. CONFIRMING HIS WORK – The individual’s enjoyment of eternal life is a living confirmation of His work. Eternal life is a term that speaks of more than duration. It refers principally of quality of life. It is the life of God’s believers experience here and now, such as, joy, peace and quality of life which are characteristic of the Father.

Jesus arrived with the supernatural nature and acquired the natural through physical birth.

We arrive with the natural nature and acquire the supernatural through spiritual re-birth.

When God clothed Himself in human form, He enabled us to see His glory (character).

His prayer for His disciples involves submission and is based on obedience. He prayed for His own. Who were they? They were sleepy-headed, doubting, quizzical persons. Jesus showed He had faith in God and in people.

Vs. 6 – “I have shown… (manifested “thy name…”). He was not referring to what the Father is called, but what He is like. “If my people…called by my name…” His nature. Jehovah’s name was unknown and/or unspoken.