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The Hope of Christmas (A Sermon for First Advent from Isaiah 8:1-22) November 29, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Messiah, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Virgin Birth.
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Isaiah 8:1-22

INTRODUCTION: This advent season we are looking at “Christmas According to Isaiah”. Chapters 7-11 of the book of Isaiah all come from the same time period of Isaiah’s ministry. It is about 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born. Ahaz, king of Judah is looking to Assyria for help against his two enemies to the north: (1) his relatives, the northern kingdom of Israel and (2) their ally, Syria. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz and to Judah is depend on God not man for help. You will be judged, in fact, God will use your ally, Assyria, to judge you. However, God will not forsake His people. There is hope but only for those of His people who turn to God.

This is the hope of Christmas. These are tough days for many but there is hope for a glorious future for those who turn to Christ.

I. God confirms this hope through a child (vs. 1-4). Now this is not the first sign that is given to Ahaz and the people of Judah. In Isaiah 7:13-17, Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refuses. God, however, through Isaiah gives him a sign anyway. It is the sign of a child. We know that this prophecy is referred to in Matthew as the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. However, as is not uncommon in Old Testament prophecy, there is a double fulfillment: a near fulfillment and a far off fulfillment. The fulfillment through the virgin born Christ is still at this time 700 years in the future but God also gave another child, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, to be born and the purpose of His birth was to confirm the prophecy and to confirm the hope that would be connected to that prophecy.

a. How the prophecy concerning the child is given is described in verses 1-2. Now there are several important things that we need to notice.

i. First, this prophecy was intended to be public. It was written on a large scroll so that it could be easily and readily read. Witnesses were named who would be able at the fulfillment of the prophecy to confirm that the prophecy had been given before the fulfillment.

It is very important to God that people have good reason to believe His message of hope. When God speaks of hope, He speaks of a certainty, a guarantee. If you purchased something this past Black Friday, you undoubtedly saved your receipts. If you decide to return an item, the receipt tells you whether your hope of getting your money back is a wish or a certainty. In the same way, God gave the sign of this child as a confirmation, an assurance that He would not forsake His people but would save them in the end.

Is this not one reason why the virgin birth of Christ is important? That Christ was born of a virgin confirms for us that we have hope in eternity. If it were to be proven that Jesus was not the far future fulfillment of this prophecy, then our hope in Him would be based on the lies of Matthew and Luke. He was, however, born of a virgin. Both Matthew and Luke point to verifiable eyewitnesses who could verify that Jesus truly was born of a virgin.

Once I spoke with an evangelical pastor who felt that it did not really matter if Jesus was born of a virgin. What was important was that one believes in Jesus. Why then did God give the prophecy? Faith in Christ must be based on the certainty that Jesus alone fits the prophecy of the Scriptures. Anything less is like going to the store without a receipt and wishing for an exchange.

ii. Let’s look now at the prophecy (verses 3-4). Isaiah and his wife, the prophetess, would have a son named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. His name was actually the prophecy: “hurry to the loot, swift to the prey.” (verses 3-4). According to the prophecy, before this baby would speak his first words, the meaning of his name would come to pass.

b. The prophecy concerning the child is fulfilled. The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 16:9, “So the king of Assyria heeded [Ahaz’s call for help]; for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it, carried its people captive to Kir, and killed Rezin.” Chapter 17 then describes the fall of Israel to the Assyrians.

II. So what is the message of hope that is found in this prophecy? It is this, “God protects His people even in judgment” (vs. 5-10).

a. This judgment comes because of lack of faith in God (vs. 5-7). The northern kingdom depended on man rather than God as represented by their rejection of the waters of Shiloah and because of their rejection, the Assyrians came like a flood and wiped out their armies and took their people captive.

b. Mercy, however, is available to God’s people (verse 8a). We see this in that the flood of judgment would not overwhelm them but rather come up to their neck. This is exactly what happened. The Assyrians who defeated Syria and Israel were not able to overcome Judah. Judah suffered much because of the Assyrians but God delivered Judah from destruction.

c. Why? Because God is with them (verses 8b-10). Isaiah reminds them in these verses that Immanuel, “God with us,” will deliver them from their enemies. Because God is with His people, they can have hope. Their future, even in the day of judgment, is certain and victorious because “God is with us.”

“No wonder when John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused from his sleep long [enough] to open his eyes and exclaim, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Then he closed his eyes and died” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Overcoming Loneliness”).

III. With this message of hope, God warns of the danger of rejecting His confirmed Word (vs. 11-15).

a. He tells Isaiah, “Do not fear those who reject Me” (vs. 11-12).

“Isaiah’s message must have seemed crazy: ‘Don’t fear the mighty army you see arrayed against you. Though they have far more soldiers, you have something they don’t. You have Immanuel on your side.’” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Are You Prepared to Suffer for Christ?“). For that reason, many accused Isaiah and other prophets of the LORD of collusion with the enemy. This is similar to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:28 when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

b. “Do not fear those who reject Me but rather fear the One who is to be hallowed (vs. 13-14a).” To hallow God is to set Him above all others. No one can veto His Word. He is the LORD and there is none else.

c. Destruction is the end of His rejecters (v. 14b-15). It is not just that those who reject God, who reject Christ, will stumble and be offended. The picture in these verses is that they will be destroyed by the very one they stumbled over. The one who they found so offensive will be their judge.

IV. God gives hope only to those who trust His Word (vs. 16-22), that is, believe in His confirming signs. In those days it concerned Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz but today the sign in whom we must believe is the virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. The apostle Paul in Romans 9:33 took part of verse 14 and another portion from Isaiah to make this very point, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”*

a. Our hope is confirmed by His works (vs. 16-18). The signs that God gives confirm His word and give us the ability to wait, to hope. The difficult part of the certain hope of the Christian is the waiting. The first verse of one of the carols we sang today, written by John Wesley’s brother, Charles, describes very well the difficulty of waiting, of hoping.

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Isaiah and his two sons (Shear-Jashub is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3 and means “the remnant shall return”) were signs of hope in their day but men had to wait 700 years before Immanuel was born. Immanuel, God with us, Jesus lived and died and rose again and returned to His Father’s side at the right hand of the throne of God 2000 years ago and we wait, we hope, we sing…

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now (can you not hear the longing in this carol?) Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

That is the hope of Christmas!

b. Our insight, our ability to see the truth, to wait, to hope is conditioned by faith in His Word (vs. 19-22).

There were those who offered an alternative to God’s Word, God’s law, God’s signs. They said, “Go to those who can speak with the dead and find out what God is doing!”

As in those days, many “In our relativistic age… are offended by any suggestion that there is only one way of salvation. But that is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words must be taken at face value. We have no right to water them down. Sometimes people speak of Jesus as if he were some kind of great moral teacher. The people who say that generally don’t like John 14:6. It doesn’t fit the concept of a great moral teacher. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth, and the life–if there really is another way to the Father–then Jesus isn’t a great moral teacher. He’s either the most self-deceived man in all history or he is a liar. In either case, he’s not a great teacher. You can’t pick and choose with Jesus. Either take what he says at face value or reject him altogether. Those are the only two choices you have.” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Stumbling Stone or Cornerstone?“).

That is what Isaiah is saying in this prophecy. Believe God and His Word and you will know the truth. You will not be plunged deeper and deeper into darkness but will be enlightened and will have hope even in a dark world.

CONCLUSION: Our Future is Absolutely Certain.
 There are many fulfilled prophecies related to Jesus Christ in Isaiah (that Jesus will be born of a virgin), in Micah (that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), in the Psalms (that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead), in Daniel and Hosea and elsewhere. When we look at those prophecies we know that we can expect that our hope for the future will also be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

INVITATION: Would you bow your heads and close your eyes for a few moments? This is good news. Perhaps you have heard this good news before, perhaps many times. Is it not time that you believed it? Is it not time for you to say, I am going to trust Christ alone as my salvation. Would you do that today? Would anyone like to do that at this moment?

Perhaps you are here and you are interested but are not yet ready to make a commitment to Christ but would like me to pray for you today, that God would help you to know the truth. My prayer for you is nothing magical but the God who hears and answers prayer wants to bring you to Himself. If you would like prayer today, would you raise your hand?

If you raised your hand, you need to talk to someone you can trust. I would be glad to speak with you. There are others who would be glad to speak with you. Perhaps you would like to speak to the person you came with and ask them to show you how to trust Christ as Savior. Do it today!

Maybe you have a lot of questions. We can help you to get connected with someone who will take the time to meet with you weekly and answer your questions. Please let us know today, if we can help you in this way.

(Thanks to Ray Pritchard for the quotations from his sermons.)


Is the economic downturn Osteen’s fault? (a link to an article in The Atlantic) November 25, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Joel Osteen, Materialism, Prosperity Gospel, Religion.
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An interesting take on the prosperity gospel.

Sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday (The Key to Thanksgiving) November 22, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Leprosy, Luke, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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Luke 17:1-19

INTRODUCTION: What is the key to thanksgiving? Is it comparing yourself to others and realizing how much more you have than they? If it is, then we should be the most thankful country in the world but I am afraid we are not much more thankful, if at all, than the rest of the world.

In this passage we understand through contrast the key to thanksgiving. First, however, I want us to focus on two things in this passage that should have evoked thanksgiving in those who were healed but apparently did not, that is, we want to see from this passage what is not the key to thanksgiving.

I. The key to thanksgiving is not the meeting of a desperate need (verses 12-13).

a. There have always been people with desperate needs (verse 12).
These lepers came, no doubt, from various walks of life. We know that one was a Samaritan. The Samaritans and the Jews were archenemies. They hated everything for which the other stood. These lepers, however, all desperately needed help. Sometimes misery and pain overcome racial and religious prejudice. Not always but sometimes.

In 2 Kings 7:3 we find that the four Israelite lepers who were trapped between the city of Samaria and the Syrian army decided to go over to the enemy. This is what they said, “Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.”

Certainly, to be a leper was a desperate situation. Verse 12 says they stood afar off. This was normal for lepers. They were not allowed to come near other people. Verse 13 says they lifted up their voices. Trench tells us, “All who have studied this terrible disease tell us that an almost total failure of voice is one of the symptoms which accompany it.” Yet they did what they could to get the Master’s attention.

b. A characteristic of desperate people is they often recognize and are ready for a solution to their problem (verse 13).

Of course, there are those who do not recognize that they have a problem. For more than 20 years, it is said, Professor Edwin Keaty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, used to start his classes by writing on a blackboard two numbers, the numbers 2 and 4. And then he would ask his audience, “What’s the solution?” One student would shout out, “6” and another student would shout out, “2” and another student would shout out, “8” and Professor Keaty would shake his head and he would say, “Gentlemen, unless you know what the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer.” These lepers recognized their problem and were ready to find the answer.

Notice how they addressed Jesus, “Master,” that is, an overseer or superintendent. This was a term of respect. They recognized He had authority from God but at least for nine of them, that recognition did not result in thanksgiving. “(T)he number of those who pray is greater than the number of those who praise” (Spurgeon).

For years, Martin Luther recognized his need but it drove him to hate God rather than to thanksgiving. Part of the problem was Martin Luther did not understand God’s provision to meet his need. I will never forget visiting Rome and entering the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Our guide explained to us what we were seeing – the Holy Staircase. Supposedly, the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena, had sent the staircase from Jerusalem to Rome. The steps are said to be the actual steps that Jesus climbed the day of His crucifixion. We watched as pilgrims climbed up the steps. Although the staircase has a different location now than it did in 1510 when Martin Luther climbed the staircase on his knees, the ritual remains today the same. Climb the holy steps on your knees, saying the Lord’s Prayer on each step. With each step and with each prayer comes nine years less time in purgatory. However, when Martin Luther did so, the Holy Spirit already was sowing the seeds of conviction in the young monk’s heart when, according to his later testimony, reaching the top, he stood up, thinking, “Who knows if it’s true?”

Luther knew he had a great spiritual need. He realized eventually from God’s Word that climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual do nothing for the soul. In his case, instead of becoming thankful he became hateful toward a God who would set up such an impossible standard. But then in God’s Word, he discovered Jesus Christ.

II. The key to thanksgiving is not the recognition of need and it is also not simply doing what you are told, that is, obedience (verses 14, 17-18).

a. Obeying the Lord’s command is commendable and effective (verses 14).

This is illustrated for us in verses 7-10. Obedience in the sense of doing our duty is nothing to brag about. It is, however, commendable and brings about good things. Faithfulness to the task is simply what is expected. It is foundational to effectiveness but in the end, God wants more than our obedience. He wants something that takes us beyond where obedience can take us.

b. Thanksgiving goes beyond obedience to the law (verses 17-18).

I don’t know how many steps they took. I doubt that it could have been too many; otherwise, the one leper might not have been able to find Jesus. Jesus would not necessarily have tarried long at the village. Neither could it have been too few, otherwise the other nine would have found it simple to return and thank the one who had healed them. Just as there are more who pray than praise, “…there are more who receive benefits than ever give praise for them … (and) more (who) obey ritual than ever obey Christ” (Spurgeon). We don’t know why these men who had such a great need met did not turn back to thank Jesus. There could have been various reasons and I’m sure they all justified those reasons in their minds if they ever even thought of turning back to thank Jesus for what He had done…

If the key to thanksgiving is not recognition of need nor obedience, what is it then?

III. The key to thanksgiving is submissive discipleship (verses 15-19).

a. The desire of the submissive disciple is to glorify God (compare verses 15 and 18).

How do you glorify God? In this situation, the man glorified God with a loud voice. Here is a man who because of his disease has possibly not hollered for months. Now he comes back with excitement in his voice. He’s having what they used to call in the Southern camp meetings, a shoutin’ fit. He could have sung a Psalm but he probably didn’t know any. The Samaritans didn’t believe in the Psalms but only in the first five books of Moses. What exactly he shouted out, the Bible does not give specifics, except to say that he glorified God.

I would like you to look at the following verse in Luke 14:10. This verse illustrates what it means to glorify someone. “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” This leper wanted to put God at the head of the table and He recognized that Jesus as the Messiah was the direct representative from God. Those other fellows looked to the priest or to the temple but this man, a Samaritan, somehow knew that He needed to go to Jesus in order to give God glory, in order to put God at the head of the table.

Do you want to be thankful this thanksgiving? Lift Jesus higher, put Him at the head table in your life. He is trustworthy. Would you trust Him today?

b. The proof of discipleship is a faith that enables the disciple to do the impossible (compare verses 14 and 19 with verses 3-4).

In verses 3-5, Luke discusses the impossibility of forgiving others. It is only possible (verse 6) through faith. Think of the similarly impossible things that this Samaritan leper did because of his faith.

• He obeyed the command to show himself to the high priest. Just to go to Jerusalem to the temple where the priest was, was a renunciation of everything that this man had been brought up to believe. He was taught to worship God on Mount Gerizim which overlooked Shechem, the first place where Abraham had built an altar to God (Genesis 12:6-7). Now, this man by heading to Jerusalem was at least in action acknowledging what Jesus had taught the Samaritan woman in John 4, “Salvation is of the Jews.”

• This leper, however, came back and glorified God. He recognized that Jesus was of God and came back to thank Him, even though Jesus was a Jew and Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes misery and pain overcome racial and religious prejudice but faith in Christ overcomes the racial and religious prejudices that even misery and pain cannot overcome.

Luke, the writer of this gospel uses this story to emphasize a point that he makes repeatedly in this gospel. This man, even though he was a Samaritan and not a Jew, had a faith that the others did not have. True, the nine had faith. When Jesus commanded them to go to the priest, although they also were not yet healed, they went. This obviously took some type of faith. “…(T)here are more that believe than there are that praise…There faith was about the leprosy and, according to their faith, so it was unto them… (Spurgeon)” but there was a difference in the faith of the tenth man. This phrase “made well” or “saved” can refer to either physical or spiritual healing. This man had a spiritual healing that the others did not experience. His faith made him thankful. True faith goes further than asking for help. True faith results in glorifying God, in thanksgiving to God.

We find this pattern repeated several times in the gospels. Someone asks Jesus for mercy and He recognizes that in their request, faith is active. Faith isn’t active in everyone who prays for help. James 4:1-3 describes a group of people who even when they prayed, received nothing because true faith was not active in their prayers, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” You may ask, “How do you know that these people had an inactive faith?” When you look back at chapter 2:14-18, you can see how we know. These same people are being spoken to in that passage.

14 ¶ What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe––and tremble!
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

You see, the first nine had faith but their works were limited to going to the priest in obedience to Christ’s command. The tenth man showed his faith by his works.

You might ask, Robert, what does it mean to have faith in Christ? It is simple, turn away from anything and everything and turn to Jesus Christ, who died for your sin. You are so spiritually sick that you are as good as dead. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. Trust Him and only Him and learn the true key to thanksgiving.

Jesus’ teaching about thanksgiving (A Thanksgiving Sermon) November 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Luke, Religion, Sermons, Sovereignty, Thanksgiving.

Luke 10:17-23

INTRODUCTION: If you were God, for what blessings would you want people to be MOST thankful? Would you want them to be thankful for their material possessions? for their families? perhaps for the talents and the opportunities that you have given them? or the country in which they have their heritage? For what would you prefer that people be thankful? Of course, God wants us to be thankful in everything and does not limit our thankfulness but it is interesting that Jesus tried to give some perspective to the disciples’ thanksgiving here in Luke 10.

I. Jesus taught that joy in and thanksgiving for our spiritual inheritance is superior to thanksgiving for our spiritual gifts (verses 17-20).

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus sent out seventy men who, in addition to the twelve, were willing to meet the qualifications for discipleship outlined in Luke 9:57-62: (1) live for heavenly things; (2) recognize the urgency and priority of the call to discipleship; and (3) maintain their focus only on the things of Christ. These seventy men were sent out to preach (Luke 9:60), i.e. announce or declare the kingdom of God. They were to go before Him (verse 1), proclaiming the gospel of the Christ (verses 9 and 11). In addition, He granted them the spiritual gift of healing (verse 9). When they returned to Jesus, they reported that they had been able to exceed expectations. Not only had they proclaimed the gospel and healed people in the villages that had accepted the gospel, they reported that they had been able to exercise the spiritual gift of exorcism, that is, the casting out of demons (verse 17). This was unexpected and it was no doubt exhilarating. It filled them with joy to be able to perform such a mighty miracle.

a. They are not, however, to rejoice in this spiritual gift that God has given them. Jesus, after acknowledging that this ability and protection to overcome Satan’s forces came directly from Him (verses 18-19), told them that thanksgiving is to be rooted in our heavenly citizenship and not in our spiritual success and/or abilities. In other words, first and foremost of importance is not the performance of confirming works but rather your entrance into the kingdom of heaven through faith in the gospel of Christ.

This is the answer to the world’s preoccupation with doing something rather than being according to Henry Blackaby, “A time will come when the doing will be called for, but we cannot skip the relationship. The relationship with God must come first.””

Chuck Swindoll writes about an old survey, “In 1953, a senior class in Houston, Texas was asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ Several said: ‘Make a million bucks.’ Other answers included, ‘…play professional football’, ‘own my own race car and win the Indy 500’, ‘rob Chase Manhattan Bank and escape to Fiji’, ‘finish medical school and have a practice in Honolulu’, ‘marry a rich movie star and live in Beverly Hills’, ‘sing at the Met’, and the infamous ‘live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.’ The problem however is not how they answered the question but the question they were asked. Instead of what do you want to do, they should have been asked about what they want to be.” That was the emphasis of Jesus in His response to the seventy.

b. We receive heavenly citizenship through faith in the gospel of Christ (verses 8-12). There is a lot of emphasis in the church today on spiritual gifts and not just in the charismatic churches. It is a misplaced emphasis. We need more of an emphasis on faith in the gospel of Christ.

Many people seem to think that spiritual gifts and works make us acceptable to God. Matthew 7:22-23 explains why spiritual gifts and works do not make you a child of God. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

John 1:12 tells us how to become a child of God, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

So Jesus contrasts the joy of spiritual gifts with the joy of the spiritual inheritance. Now most of us have never cast out demons or performed miraculous healings. Our spiritual gifts may be more mundane but the principle applies just the same. Look down in verses 38-42, where the distracted exercise of a mundane spiritual gift is contrasted with choosing to hear Christ’s words.

The story of Mary and Martha at first appears to be just tacked on to this chapter but when one realizes the lessons found earlier in Luke, it certainly makes sense. Jesus came into a village that apparently received Him, specifically in the house of Martha. Jesus practiced here exactly what He had commanded the seventy in verses 5-8. Martha, however, did not choose to rejoice in her salvation as Mary did but rather to fret and fuss over the preparations of the meal for Jesus Christ.

It is not that Martha did not receive Christ or that the seventy did not believe Christ that Jesus is responding to but rather they are focusing on the wrong thing: the seventy on the spiritual gift of exorcism, Martha on the spiritual gift of service. Jesus is bringing them back to a focus on Himself.

II. Jesus was thankful that His Father revealed the truth of the gospel to those who had no advantage in themselves (verses 21-24).

Christ’s thankfulness and joy in verse 21 refers not just to the reception of the villages and towns of the gospel of Christ but also to the faith of the seventy that produced such discipleship as that which they have just shown. The reason for His joy over the disadvantaged disciple is the disciples’ faith in the gospel of the kingdom.

It could be that Jesus is using a bit of sarcasm when talking about the wise and prudent. One of those wise and prudent men is introduced in verse 25. He was a lawyer, that is, a scribe who was an expert in the law of God. Jesus recognized his expertise when he answered correctly in verse 27, how to inherit eternal life. Yet this man had a spiritual blind spot which is revealed in verse 29 when he asked the self-justifying question, “And who is my neighbor?” This man understood the law, he even understood the spiritual character of the kingdom of God but he knew that he was lacking.

These seventy, however, were neither experts nor teachers. They were, however, men of great faith. Look at what Jesus demanded of them in 10:57-62. Only men of faith would forsake their homes, their families, and their social obligations to tell total strangers that the Messiah is coming. Some villages rejected them and they went on to another. Other villages accepted them. Why? Because God had revealed to them Jesus Christ and they had believed and now were telling others about Him.

a. This knowledge is not found by religious skill or religious intelligence (verses 21-24). Luther, in the last sermon he ever preached, describes the religiously skilled and religiously intelligent as those who try to put the bridle on the wrong end of the horse. Now I do not know a lot about horses but I suspect that will not work!

This lawyer had religious skill. He was a trained scribe. He had religious intelligence. Not only had he hand-copied the Old Testament many times, he had advanced to the place where he had understood its message but when the fulfillment of that message came on the stage, he did not recognize Him.

b. This knowledge comes only through Jesus Christ (verse 22). Verse 22 may be a bit confusing but if you read it carefully, it is clear that there is only one way to come to the Father, that is, to God, through Jesus Christ. Verse 21 reminds us that God found it good to give those without religious skill and training and intelligence an advantage through their knowledge of and faith through Jesus Christ.

i. He helps the helpless. Matthew records in a parallel passage how that Jesus does this. Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all you who are heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls.” The ignorant Galilean fisherman, the women who were looked down upon, the tax collectors and sinners who gladly heard Jesus, these people came to Jesus while the lawyers and the scribes and the Pharisees and the priests stood and looked down their noses at the One who would have gladly saved them from their sin, if only they would have received Him.

Look at the next chapter, Luke 11:52. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” These men had all the advantages but rather than accept Christ with the faith of the helpless they rejected Christ and hindered others who would have trusted Christ, if not for their confidence in the religious lawyers, scribes, and teachers.

ii. He teaches the ignorant. How? Verse 23-24 tells us how. He shows them who He is. It is one thing to teach, “I am the Messiah.” It is quite another to prove it through Messianic works like healing, exorcism, and resurrections. I think that is why Romans 5:8 is one of my favorite verses. It says that God showed His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” His death on the cross teaches through showing and proving His love for us. The question is this. Will you believe?

There is a Persian proverb that says, “He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child; teach him.” God wants to teach you, not shun you. Turn to Christ today. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…and you will find rest for your souls.”

If Jesus Were to Come on Thanksgiving Day (a sermon) November 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Eschatology, Luke, Martin Luther, Materialism, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day…
Luke 18:1-30

In Luke 17:20, Jesus is asked when the kingdom of God would come. He makes the point that the coming of the kingdom of God is more than simply the date on which the Messiah will establish His throne in Jerusalem. He says, “…the kingdom of God is within you” (verse 21).

This does not mean that there is not a specific day when Jesus will return to this earth to rule this earth. The Scriptures teach that there is such a day. Look at Luke 17:24-25. Jesus clearly looked forward to a day when He would set up His kingdom on this earth although first He must be rejected and crucified.

As he continues to teach on what we call the Second Coming of Christ, He makes a statement in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” This is what we call a rhetorical question. Jesus is not trying to find out the answer but rather is telling His listeners, that when He returns to this earth to set up the kingdom, He will find a world without faith. It is true that there will be a few saved people on this earth scattered among the nations and that much of what is left of the nation of Israel will at that time accept Christ as Messiah but for the most part, the world will be without faith in Christ.

What is interesting is that Jesus describes for us some of the people on the earth who will be without faith. It is not at all what we might expect. In fact, some of those people will be religious people, people who thank God for the blessings of their life. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, we need to realize that if Jesus Christ comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find many people around the table, thankful to God for His blessings but without true faith. Put another way…

…He will find the self-righteous saying grace.

a. They will have the trappings of righteousness but not the reality (verses 11-12). They will be like this Pharisee. They will thank God for being born in America and not in some poverty-stricken, heathen nation. They will thank God for who they are but will not recognize their own spiritual poverty because they have the trappings of righteousness. They will be evangelicals and Mormons and Catholics and Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses who are convinced that they are doing all the right things. In their heart they will exalt themselves. After all, they do right. They are not extortioners or unjust or adulterers. They sacrifice and give regularly to the church and to charitable organizations. They serve the poor on Thanksgiving Day. In their heart, they are convinced that they are pretty good but if Jesus comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find no faith in them.

b. Why? Because real righteousness is found in a faith that produces a humble plea for mercy (verses 13-14).

For years, Martin Luther recognized his need of salvation but Martin Luther did not understand God’s provision to meet his need. Luther punished himself physically and spiritually in his attempt to earn eternal life. Years after he understood that salvation is by grace through faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ alone, Luther wrote these words:

In devil’s dungeon chained I lay the pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day in which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life and sin had made me crazy.
Then was the Father troubled sore to see me ever languish.
The everlasting Pity swore to save me from my anguish.

Luther knew he had a great spiritual need. He realized eventually from God’s Word that climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual do nothing for the soul. Luther quit climbing those steps and started trusting Christ.

Not only would Christ on Thanksgiving Day find the self-righteous saying grace but He will find the self-sufficient exalting themselves (verses 14-17).

a. The point of Jesus inviting the little children to come to Him is not that Jesus loves little children, although, He certainly does. The point of the incident is explained for us in verse 17. No man will be able to enter the kingdom on his own (verse 17). Those who feel themselves self-sufficient will not have faith in Christ when He comes.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that is totally dependent on God (verses 15-16). Our text in verse 15 says infants. Someone suggested that toddlers might also be pictured her because Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me…” Now what is Jesus trying to say about faith? He is not saying that faith can exist without knowledge, that you need to be as ignorant as a baby, in order to be saved; but rather that you need to be as spiritually dependent as an infant in order to be saved. Those who depend on anything or anyone other than or in addition to Christ for salvation will not be saved.

Recently, we had Kim Hecht with us and she was asked about those in Croatia who were a part of a religious organization that is not evangelical but does believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of humankind. I appreciated her answer. Even though those people have great interest in the study of God’s Word and even accept many of the trappings of evangelicalism, they continue to depend on their church and their good works for salvation in addition to Jesus Christ. They do not depend on Christ as an infant but rather hang on to their church and their good works.

There is a third section here where Jesus describes those who are religious but do not have true faith. If Jesus were to come on Thanksgiving Day, He would not only find the self-righteous and the self-sufficient but also He would find those absorbed in this world without faith. They will be sorrowful, after all, they will be under the judgment of God but they will be without faith (verses 18-30).

This ruler understood the problem. He was an expert in the law. He practiced the Ten Commandments and had done so all of his life. It appears that his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is sincere. We see, though, that earthly attachments are a huge hurdle to eternal life, that is, entrance into the kingdom of God (verses 22b-26).

A. Jesus demanded a one time act – repentance, specifically, repentance revealed by the act of selling all his possessions and distributing the proceeds to the poor. This man’s earthly attachments were so great that he could find no way to bring himself to performing this one act.

B. Jesus also demanded discipleship. The action of selling and distributing was only an outward sign and revealed that this pure, honest, honorable man loved the abundance of this life more than the abundance of eternal life. It seems that the young man could never bring himself to admit that his money did not matter. He could never find a way to cut himself off from the things of this world.

Patrick Morley once said that there are two ways to find out what is important to a man. Where does a man spend any discretionary money he might have and how does he use any free time he might have. That is how you find out what a man loves.

a. The hold that this world has on people is why that without God’s work in their hearts, they will never be able to enter the kingdom (verse 18-27, especially verse 27). Only God can change our attachments (verses 27). You cannot do this on your own. You must turn to Christ. Only He can help you. Only he can reveal to you the value of the heavenly treasures, of the heavenly kingdom, of eternal life.

Now, not everyone is hindered by money and houses and land. Some are hindered by family (verse 29). If your treasure is in your family then you are no different than this young man. If the abundance of your riches is your parents or siblings or spouse or children, you cannot truly serve God. For some of you that is a tough decision. God, however, can change your heart.

I meet very few people who admit that it is hard to choose between Christ and the wealth of this world. I do, however, often meet people who have trouble between choosing family or Christ. I have been asked, “How do I do this?”

1. Meet your rightful biblical obligations to family members. The Bible is clear as to how a man is to relate to his wife and children. It is clear who is to have priority in his life.

2. Ask yourself this question. Is my relationship to this family member hindering my relationship to Christ? The answer is usually not to break the relationship but to begin to take those steps that show where your loyalty truly is. 1 Peter 3:1-17 is a great passage to study and to digest to help you to understand your relationship to that person.

3. Make your commitment of discipleship to Christ and follow it daily. Pray daily. Read your Bible daily. Have frequent contact with God’s people. The toughest commitments are always taken just one slow step at a time. Do not lose heart. Your reward in this life and in the life to come is eternal life.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that results in true discipleship (verses 28-30). Moral accomplishments are insufficient.

This man was sexually pure. This man was not guilty of murder. This man had never stolen. He had never lied about anyone. He honored his father and mother.

Jesus listened. He did not interrupt the young man with arguments and try to convince him that he was a sinner and born in iniquity. He made a very simple statement. You lack one thing. You cannot inherit eternal life until you become my disciple.

In describing the self-righteous, the self-sufficient, the self-exalting types that we have been looking at in today’s Scripture, Frank Turk once wrote, “I was watching my son’s basketball game a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the “recreational” league where the kids really haven’t ever played on a court before with rules or a ref. And on the other team was this really aggressive kid who simply wanted to put the ball in the net. It was clear to me he had played football before because every time he got the ball, he tucked the ball under, ducked his head, and rolled into the crowd of boys in the key like a fullback.
And in this kid’s case, it was actually kinda funny – he obviously didn’t know any better. He was playing by the wrong rules, and he had no clue what the right rules where. But if that same thing happened in a High School game, or even in the next age bracket up, it wouldn’t hardly be that funny – because those kids know better, and they prove it in all kinds of ways.” (from Frank Turk’s Pyromaniac post, “The Talking Stain” February 13, 2008;

This is the case with this young ruler. He knows the rules and proves it by his life but that one point which he is unwilling to obey is what will keep him from inheriting eternal life, from entering the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to follow Christ, to have faith in Him? Turn away from what you love and turn to Jesus Christ, who died for your sin. You can become his disciple but he demands total allegiance, total commitment. Ultimately it is not about you. It is about Christ. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. Follow Him and Him alone.

Note: Some of the material of this sermon is reworked material from this one that I preached in February 2008, “The Impossibility of Reaching America with the Gospel.”

November at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan November 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Events, Grace Bible Church, Thanksgiving.
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Adult Sunday School – two classes are being offered: (1) Sickness, Healing, and the Bible, and (2) Reaching the World as A Church (Biblical Evangelism).

November 8 – Sunday Morning Sermon from Luke 18:1-30, “If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day”

November 15 – Operation Christmas Child’s “Parade of Shoeboxes”

November 15 – Thanksgiving Great Night Service at 6 p.m. with refreshments afterwards. Come and thank the Lord with us on this special evening.

November 18 – First of three sessions for teens and preteens on “The Church, Baptism, and Why we Believe What we Believe.” Wednesday evening from 7:15-8:00 p.m.

November 25 – No Wednesday service on Thanksgiving Eve.

A sermon on practical Christian living from Colossians 3 November 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare.
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How to be Heavenly-Minded and Still be of Earthly Good
Colossians 3:1-17

Have you ever heard the phrase, “His head is in the clouds”? If you have, then you know this is not a compliment. It means that someone is impractical and does not know how to live practically in this world. Another way of saying this is that someone “is so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.” I have been asked by believers, if it is possible to be too focused on heaven. Now that may be code for how do I live for Christ without being obvious. That, of course, is impossible. There is, however, a legitimate concern that we all should have. How should my spiritual reality positively affect my life here on earth?

We saw last week that the keeping of rules and regulations does not necessarily mean that one is living a spiritual reality, that is, that one is heavenly minded. Instead it may mean that one is living an earthly, fleshly reality with religious trappings. Obeying the rules and regulations of a religious group, even one that is true to the Scriptures as we are here at Grace Bible Church does not make us heavenly-minded anymore than wearing a Stetson would make us Texans.

I. You see, in order to be heavenly-minded, we must have an eternal perspective that becomes visible only out of our position in Christ (vs. 1-4). No doubt, you realize that your physical position determines what you can see. Back in August, I flew into Detroit from Philadelphia. My flight was delayed and I ended up flying fairly late at night. I had a window seat on the right side of the plane. As we flew south of Cleveland, I saw the most amazing sight. We were flying south of a huge thunderstorm that was over Lake Erie. You could not hear the thunder but you could see the clouds filled with lightning. If we had been flying through that thunderstorm, it might well have been a terrifying experience but because from where I was sitting, there was no turbulence the thunderstorm not only was not terrifying to me but gave me a sense of confidence that the person or persons who determined the route that we were flying were highly competent. You see, your physical position affects your perspective physically as well as psychologically. Spiritually this is also true. The reality of our relationship to Christ is what gives us an eternal perspective and allows us to be heavenly-minded.

a. Our present reality is connected to the resurrection and ascension of Christ (vs. 1-3). We talked about our present reality last week. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, it is as though we died with Him (after all, it is our sin that put Him to death), were buried with Him, and rose again with Him. This, of course, is what baptism symbolizes. “We are buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life through Christ Jesus.” In that statement there is a commitment that is described with two words in Colossians 1:1-2.

1. The first word, in verse one, is “seek.” Jesus said according to Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Since I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, I am committed to seeking those things that are associated with Christ, specifically with a Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God. You see, Jesus is ruler of this universe and my life is to be given to seeking those things that are associated with His eternal reign. His kingdom has priority, His righteousness has priority. That is one reason why I am a part of a church, because it is through His church, His people that His kingdom is advanced.

2. There is another word, actually a phrase, found in verse two, “set your mind.” That is, exercise your mind. Think on heavenly things, taking great interest in them. Think on God’s Word with the intention to obey it. Why? The reason is this, you are dead to sin and resurrected with Christ. Although outwardly you may look no different than before your salvation, your reality is different and you need to think about the things that belong to your new reality. A believer in Christ who is raised in Christ Jesus and yet is focused on this world is trying to live a fantasy, trying to exist in a spiritual “Land of Make-Believe.”

b. Our future reality is connected to the return of Christ (vs. 4, 6).
 Although we may at the present look no different physically than the unbeliever, there is coming a day, according to verse 4 when we will appear with Jesus Christ in glory. 1 John 3:2 puts it this way, “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When Christ returns, our present reality will be unleashed and we shall, as believers in Christ, enjoy the glory for which God saved, the glory which we will share with Jesus Christ, the one who saved us from our sin.

 Let me remind you of the alternative in verse 6, “…the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” When Christ returns, it will be a time of glory for believers but for those who have not put their faith in Christ, it will be a time of angry judgment. God is not unemotional when He judges men for their sin anymore than He is dispassionate when He glorifies His children for all eternity. God hates sin and He will judge each man’s sin either through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or through His endless wrath on the sinner.

II. Now this is our spiritual reality. The past two chapters have been largely given to describing how that we through faith in Christ are dead to sin, buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life in Christ Jesus, serving our heavenly King Jesus and His heavenly kingdom, looking forward to the day of His coming when we will be glorified with Him for all eternity. What, however, does that mean for us practically? When we go to work or to school tomorrow, when we go home this afternoon, when the stresses and temptations of this world start to press down on us, how do we remain heavenly-minded? The answer is this: to be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually and mentally execute the members of our fleshly being (vs. 5-7).

a. Our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself (vs. 5). The first four items in this list deal with sexual sins. Certainly this is a problem in our society. The problem begins, however, not on the TV or the computer but begins in our sinful flesh. Paul says, take drastic action. This takes constant and conscious effort. It means not watching certain forms of entertainment. It means not spending time with certain people. It means putting your computer in a place where everyone has access so that you cannot hide any sin in which you may be tempted to indulge. It means learning to dress in a way that is not an invitation to the evil thoughts and intentions of others. It means memorizing Scripture and praying much and studying much Scripture and, if your married, focusing on your spouse more intensively. Why go to such lengths? Because our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself.

Now the first four items may not be a temptation for you but there are few of us who do not look at others and long for what they have. That is what covetousness is. Paul says, “That is idolatry.” When I look at what others have and long for it instead of longing for the heavenly things of Christ, I am no better than the tribesman who sacrifices to a rock or a tree. I am an idolator.

b. As we have seen, the satisfaction of the fleshly being is one of the reasons for God’s anger with unbelieving men (vs. 6). Why then would I want to engage in behaviors which make God angry?

c. We are capable in our new life in Christ, our resurrected life, of rejecting our old life (compare vs. 3-4 to vs. 5a & 7). That does not mean it is easy. That is why Paul uses the word “execute”, that is, “put to death” your sinful flesh. It takes drastic action but in Christ it is possible.

III. To be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually clothe ourselves according to our spiritual reality (vs. 8-17). Paul talks here of our earlier “dead” life and compares it to our new “resurrected” life as two suits of clothes. Only one of those is appropriate to our spiritual reality. If the clothes make the man, then we need to pay attention to what we should and should not wear spiritually.

a. Our spiritual reality is a new man (vs. 9b-11). In these verses, Paul describes a spiritual exchange. When I go to the store, I make an exchange. Let’s say that I take a can of beans off the shelves, take it to the cashier who tells me how much the item costs, and then give the cashier some money. Once that exchange takes place, that can of beans is mine. The store cannot say put it back on the shelves. I have a receipt that shows that I exchanged a certain amount of money for that can of beans. The money now belongs to the store owners and the can of beans is mine. When we put our faith in Christ, we exchange our old man and his destructive behaviors (verse 9b) and the destructive words that come out of his mouth (verse 11a) for a new man constantly renewed in the knowledge of God (vs. 10) and unified with the body of Christ (vs. 11b).

b. Our old man is characterized by destructive behavioral sins (vs. 8-9a). Look at this list of sins. They are all verbal and they are all against mankind. Even the “blasphemy” here is not talking about using God’s name in vain but rather “blaspheming,” that is, slandering other people. Paul is saying, the heavenly-minded person will take those things off and put them away.

c. Our new man, however, is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 12-17). Not every fruit of the Spirit is listed here in these verses but most of them are, specifically those fruit that deal with the words of our mouth and the relationships we have with other believers. If I could summarize these verses and the commands in them, I would say it this way, “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!” Let me repeat that. It is so important. “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!”

1. According to verses 12-15, believers are to forgive with the type of forgiveness and under the same conditions with which Christ has forgiven us. Let me illustrate using the first part of verse 13. Paul says there are ways in which we put on the characteristics of verse 12. Endure one another and forgive one another. To endure means to put up with, not to say anything, let it go, it isn’t important, forget about it. Most of us are willing to do that up to a certain point. We will put up with anything except… Most of you have said something like that and it may be that whatever you fill the blank with is an indication of what condition you are not like Jesus Christ. Forgiving, however, goes a step further. It involves action, it involves confrontation, it involves saying something but it also involves showing mercy, giving someone forgiveness that they do not deserve, it involves putting someone else’s needs before your own, it involves being a peacemaker, it involves pain, it involves tears of grief. That is, by the way, how Jesus assuages the wrath of God, by providing through His death, forgiveness. An act on confronting sin and its penalty head on but showing mercy to the sinner who needs peace with God. It cost Christ (1:24). He suffered much but that was the price necessary for my salvation and forgiveness and He paid it thankfully. In the same way that is the price I must pay if I am going to be heavenly-minded and of earthly good and use to the cause of Christ.

2. In verses 16-17, Paul sums up how this is possible. By the knowledge of Christ that makes us, as a body, focused on Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17a says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Commit yourself to saying this verse everyday this week to yourself. Write on the back of the outline insert during the week, ways in which you have a choice between doing or saying something in the name of the Lord Jesus and following the ways of the body of sin.

What is your future? Is it glory or wrath? Is it forgiveness or damnation? Is it the old man or the new man? Jesus is the way to glory and forgiveness. Will you trust Him as your Lord and Savior today?