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First in a series from Isaiah January 30, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Covenant, Forgiveness, Hope, Isaiah, Mercy, Promises of God, Prophecy, Righteousness.
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HOPE IN DISASTER
Isaiah 54

Introduction: One of the key principles in understanding the Bible is to recognize that it is not written to us but rather for us. Understanding that principle is why we don’t build a tent for animal sacrifices after reading the book of Leviticus. Most people want instant understanding of the Bible and don’t work to understand to whom and for what purpose it was written.

That does not mean that God’s Word was not given with future people in mind. The last half of the book of Isaiah is an excellent example of a book written with a future people in mind. Isaiah predicted that Babylon would take the Jews into captivity. Jerusalem along with the Temple would be destroyed and the people would be taken captive to a land with no hope of ever seeing their homeland again. They would have questions that Isaiah addresses. “Has God failed? Is He really as great as the law and the psalms and the prophets had proclaimed? Were His promises to Abraham and Moses and David in vain? Had their sin been too much even for God?”

Over the past few years we have seen serious economic problems. Although America has been a promised land to many for hundreds of years, many are fearful today, predicting the demise of America. What should we as Christians do as we look down the barrel of the gun of possible economic, moral, and political disaster? How can we prepare ourselves and how should we live when that disaster strikes?

A. When disaster strikes, turn to God’s promises (verses 9-10). David Jeremiah tells of some words written on the wall of a cave where a young Jewish girl in the Warsaw ghetto of Poland was hiding from the Nazis.
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

Job put it this way, “Even if He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” When disaster strikes, we turn to God’s promises.

1. His covenant is as dependable as a rainbow (vs. 9). We think of the rainbow as being a promise that God will not destroy the world with water again. Verse 9 points out that every promise of God is dependable. As a kid there was a song we used to sing that ended like this, “When it looks like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the cloud.” The skeptic looks at the laws of nature and declares there is no God but we look at nature and understand there must be a God who holds this all together, who holds His children in His hand.

2. His kindness is everlasting (vs. 10). In Isaiah 43:2-4 the Lord says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you… I am the LORD your God…and I have loved you.” Jeremiah in Lamentations describes the death and destruction, the hunger and nakedness that these people endured when Jerusalem was taken. They recognized that God had allowed this judgment. In chapter 3:21-23, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Those are not the words of someone for whom it is going well but rather for those who are in deep despair. His kindness is everlasting.

B. When disaster strikes, hope in abundance from God (verses 1-3). “But we are in captivity! Our homes are destroyed! Our children are dead! We have no where to turn!” Isaiah reminds them that God will bless them abundantly. Paul in prison in Philippi put it this way, “My God will supply all my need through His riches in Christ Jesus.” What disaster do you see ahead? It is not forever. There is abundant blessing to be found in Jesus Christ. Hope in Him and in His riches.

Our problem comes when we try to dictate to God how His blessings should appear. We expect financial security, a healthy body, freedom from tragedy. Those are all wonderful things but none of them indicate God’s abundant blessings. His blessings are found in an eternal abundance. “Lay not treasures up for yourself on this earth where moth and rust corrupts but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.”

C. When disaster strikes, depend on a restored relationship (verses 4-8). The picture here is of a woman who is forsaken because of her wickedness and is then received again to a loving husband (Read verses 7-8).

John Oswalt in his commentary on this chapter relates the story of an old man in a hospital, on his deathbed, wondering if the next life will be as bitter as the one he has just lived. In comes his daughter. Her life has also been hard but “out of her eyes shine eagerness, humor, hope, and love.” He says to her, “I know what you want to say to me, and you might as well save your breath. It’s too late.”
“But Dad, it’s never too late! Look what Christ has done for me! I was in the gutter, drinking myself to death…But he saw something in me to love! Everybody else said I was no good, and he told them to ‘shut up.’”
The old man replies, “…you don’t know what I’ve done. I was a preacher! … If your God is so good and loving, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I’m too far gone.”
His daughter demands, “Daddy, you look at me! Nobody is too far gone for Jesus Christ! … He died for Hitler! Do you think you’re worse than Hitler? No, you’re just like Hitler, too proud to get down on your face and ask God to forgive you. He will forgive you, Daddy! He will!”
“The old man turned his head to look at his grown daughter…he saw what was undeniably true-she was being transformed from the inside out…hesitantly, he reached his hand out from under the sheet and took hers. In the next moments … [he] confessed his sins… and disgrace became the welcoming embrace of the world’s Maker…”

D. When disaster strikes, trust in His deliverance from your enemies (verses 11-17). What danger is it that you fear? Turn in trust to the hand of God through Christ.

1. This is the heritage God will protect (verses 13, 17). What do you have that will last? People have been discussing this week what Joe Paterno’s legacy will be. In a hundred years few will remember him. Accumulate wealth. Those to whom you leave it may waste it. A heritage that will last is only to be found in Christ.

2. This is the righteousness we have in Christ (verses 14-17). Hebrews calls this the Sabbath rest we have in Christ. The angels proclaimed it as peace on earth, good will to men. When disaster comes, when the bankbook is empty, when cancer grips your body, when tragedy rains on your family, remember in Jesus Christ there is rest and peace. All is right in Him.

“There is nothing more God needs to do for his ‘covenant of peace’ to be ours forever” (Oswalt). Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us that Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. Will you enter this new covenant that Jesus made for you on the cross? Will you turn to Him? Saved and unsaved alike, believer and unbeliever alike, turn to Him today!

Next week: An Invitation in Disastrous Times – Isaiah 55

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Last in the Series on Baptism January 24, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Death of Christ, Discipleship, Resurrection, Romans, Sanctification, Sin, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Power, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
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A COMMITMENT TO SPIRITUAL LIFE (Romans 6)

In “Beyond Cigars: Modern ways to announce your baby‘s birth” on babycenter.com, Angela Navarrete writes, “When you were born, your dad might have announced your arrival by handing out cigars…Today’s dads have come up with more creative ways to announce their new progeny…If you want to hand out something more substantial than a card, go for edible birth announcements. Online, you can order personalized candy bar wrappers with your baby’s name and statistics. (The newly wrapped bars look) just like normal candy bars, but the label (reads something like this):
RYAN PATRICK GALLANT
Net wt. 7 lbs. 10 oz.
and on the back:
VITAL STATISTICS
Baked: May 21, 1998
Serving Size: 19.5 inches

Baptism is God’s choice of heavenly birth announcements. When I was baptized, God was announcing to the world, “He’s mine! He’s mine! He’s mine!” Baptism is a very meaningful symbol because I am announcing to the world, I am a new creature. I am different. I have died to sin.

A. Baptism illustrates that we have died to sin (verses 1-4a). To be baptized into the body of Christ is to be baptized into the death of Christ (compare with Galatians 3:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14). [The scriptural development of the doctrine of baptism is (1) John’s baptism as a symbol of discipleship, (2) Pentecostal baptism accompanied by the reception of the Spirit, (3) Paul’s baptism into the body of Christ, and (4) baptism in this passage and in Colossians 2:11-15 as identification with the death of Christ.]

a. This is not present tense—”I am dying to sin!”—That is reformation. A slave does not need reformation but liberation. A man in sin does not need an overhaul, he needs a new engine!
b. Neither is this future tense—”We will die to sin”—Otherwise, something might happen that would prevent me from dying to sin. I am not looking forward to the day when I mature to the point where I no longer sin. Neither am I looking for an experience that will make me so holy that I cannot sin anymore. I am looking back to an experience that has already happened.
c. Notice also that we are not commanded—”Die to sin!” That is our problem. We cannot die to sin. We are incapable of keeping that command until we are connected by faith with Christ’s death. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me. And the life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
d. Finally, it is not an exhortation—”You should die to sin.” Why? Because you are already dead to sin, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and the only hope for salvation and eternal life.
e. This is a simple past tense—”You died to sin.” The simple truth is that if you are a believer, you have already died to sin. It’s a past event, an accomplished fact. What is a Christian? Someone who has died to sin.

In his book 40 Days, Alton Gansky relates this story: “Harry Houdini made a name for himself by escaping from every imaginable confinement — from straightjackets to multiple pairs of handcuffs clamped to his arms. He boasted that no jail cell could hold him. Time and again, he would be locked in a cell only to reappear minutes later.
It worked every time — but one. He accepted another invitation to demonstrate his skill. He entered the cell, wearing his street clothes, and the jail cell door shut. Once alone, he pulled a thin but strong piece of metal from his belt and began working the lock. But something was wrong. No matter how hard Houdini worked, he couldn’t unlock the lock. For two hours he applied skill and experience to the lock but failed time and time again. Two hours later he gave up in frustration.
The problem? The cell had never been locked. Houdini worked himself to near exhaustion trying to achieve what could be accomplished by simply pushing the door open. The only place the door was locked was in his mind.”

B. Baptism illustrates that we are raised to new life in Christ Jesus (verses 4b-11).
1. We walk in newness of life (verse 4b). What Jesus did on that cross makes possible this newness of life reality. He died for your sin so that you might die to sin. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

2. To unite with Him in death is to unite with Him in resurrection (verses 5-11). Physical newness of life begins with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins with death (6:2-4a). Not everyone agrees that humanity begins with conception. That is the whole issue between the pro-life and pro-choice advocates. One thing, however, that everyone can agree on is that something marvelous, something amazing, something beyond our understanding begins at the moment of conception. There is a combining of DNA that is unlike anyone who ever existed before. We are talking about a physical newness of life beginning with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins much, much differently. Spiritual newness of life begins with death.

This concept of death producing life may seem somewhat strange to you. Consider what Jesus, Himself, in John 12:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” In other words, there is no spiritual life possible apart from the physical death of Christ. He died to produce life.

C. Our spiritual relationship with Jesus takes away all excuses for sin (verses 13-23).
1. We as believers decide who to fear and serve (verses 13-21). We can successfully resist the empty and deceitful promises of the world because we are no longer captive to our sinful body. We were captive to our sinful body. We are still in our body which is susceptible to sin but we are no longer slaves to sin unless we decide to enslave ourselves.

“…(Being dead to sin is) like watching a lion roar at the zoo. You may get a thrill from listening to the lion roar in his cage. But as long as the lion is behind bars, you’re safe. The lion can roar all it wants but it can’t do anything to you unless you do something (foolish) like crawl into the cage. Then you have problems. Sin is like a roaring lion. As long as you understand that the power of sin is broken, sin cannot dominate your life unless you choose to let it dominate your life” (Ray Pritchard).

Freedom from righteousness leads to… (verses 19-23).
– Uncleanness (verse 19).
– Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19).
– Shameful behavior (verse 21).
– The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23).

2. The result of freedom in Christ and from sin and from the law is two-fold: holiness and eternal life (verses 22-23). These two are not two separate results but different aspects of the working of God in our life.

You see, when we receive eternal life through Christ, it is not talking just about never ending life. We now have eternal life. My old spiritual deadness exists no more. It no longer has a hold on me. I do not have to live according to my former sinful flesh but now through Christ have spiritual life that enables me to fight against all the evil influences around me. That is one of the reasons that the symbol of baptism is so important. It is a powerful statement of a new reality.

Let me explain that one of the things that you are doing when you are baptized is making a statement about yourself. You are saying, “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Now don’t misunderstand. You are not saying you are sinless in your everyday life. None of us can in reality make that statement but every believer in Christ can say, I do not have to sin because I have put my faith in Christ and I am now a new creature.

INVITATION: Have you died to sin? Not are you trying to. Not do you want to. Have you put your faith in Christ and died to sin and become in Christ a new creature, walking now in newness of life? Have you been born again? Just as a baby cannot conceive and birth itself, you cannot spiritually birth yourself. Jesus has provided salvation for you through His death, burial, and resurrection. You must simply accept it by faith in Him, in the working of God. God did this for you. Will you accept His work in your life? Will you trust what He has done to save you from sin?

If you have died to sin, if you have put your faith in Christ, are you in or out of the lion’s cage? Only a fool would get in a lion’s cage. Only a fool would trust Christ and then let sin rule over him or her. Get out of the cage!

Baptism Series: Part 2 January 17, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Discipleship, Great Commission, Matthew, Trinity.
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THE COMMAND JESUS DIDN’T OBEY
Matthew 28:16-20

John 4:1-2 tells us that the Pharisees heard that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist was. The writer of the gospel clarifies that Jesus actually was not baptizing anyone personally but rather that his disciples were the ones baptizing new disciples. In fact, we have no knowledge of Jesus ever baptizing anyone with water.

It is interesting then that the last command of Christ recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, the Great Commission, includes baptizing new disciples. The actual command is to make disciples of all nations as we go throughout the world and there are two parts to fulfilling that command: baptizing and teaching Christ’s commandments. Since this last command of Christ includes baptism, we need to look more closely at this command.

A. Jesus commands us as His disciples to baptize other disciples (verses 19-20).

1. To become a disciple is a public profession. That is what Romans 10:9-10 teaches us. To believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord God as proven by His resurrection from the dead is to be accompanied by a confession with the mouth. The picture here is of someone at the time of baptism confessing that Jesus is their Savior, their Lord, and their God.

2. To be a disciple is an eternal commitment (verse 20). Stanley Grenz calls baptism and the Lord’s Supper commitment acts. Jesus makes it clear that this commitment into which we enter with Christ is an eternal commitment. It is not limited by our location, the time in which we live, or even the state of our being, that is, whether we are dead or alive. Of course, this commitment although we enter into it is not dependent on our strength or ability to keep it.

Often those who come to Christ are not ostracized by their unsaved family and friends until they take the step of baptism. Why? Because the unsaved recognize the commitment that is being made to Christ. We knew a family once who were saved for two or three years before they were baptized. They shared a house with the man’s mother. Although there were discussions and questions about their new faith in Christ, they were unprepared for the ostracism they experienced when they were baptized. For months the mother, who lived on the first floor, refused to communicate with her son and his family, who lived on the second and third floors. The reason was simple, they had taken a true step of commitment, baptism.

B. Jesus commands us as His worshipers to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (verses 18-20). Certainly it would be impossible to explain the Trinity. To explain God fully would be impossible. Yet this verse helps us to understand the significance of God for our lives. We are to be baptized in His name, that is, we recognize that each person of the Trinity is God, to be worshipped and to be obeyed.

1. We recognize the God of Israel as the God of the nations (verse 19). Deuteronomy commands “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This verse confirms that there is one God at the same time emphasizing that He is not just for Israel to follow, to worship, and to obey but for each man and woman in the world. While not all will believe in His name and be baptized in His name, He alone is God, there is no other.

2. We recognize the universal authority of His Son (verse 18). God became man when He was born of a virgin, but at His resurrection and ascension He revealed that He had been exalted to the position of authority as the Divine Messiah of God.

“Jesus is Lord!” may be the earliest doctrinal statement of the church. When we are baptized, we are proclaiming our allegiance to Jesus as Lord. When an immigrant is naturalized in this country, they are not asked if they have kept all the laws of this country perfectly. That might be impossible. We do ask them, however, to proclaim their allegiance to the United States of America, that is, to submit to our lordship. The difference is this; there are some areas of our lives in which our government is not Lord. With Christ it is different. He is Lord of all!

3. We recognize the eternal union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit (verse 20). Shortly after this commandment was given, Jesus ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. “The ascension [however] did not inaugurate the absence of Jesus. On the contrary, in accordance with [this commandment/promise], this event made possible the continuing presence of the risen Lord with his people everywhere, a presence mediated by the Holy Spirit” (Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz, page 355, edition from 2000).

Has anyone ever said that you are filled with the Holy Spirit? When you are baptized with water you are testifying to the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within you and that you are going to serve God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I read a piece recently written about one of our ladies by her daughter. She wrote that her mom was filled with the Holy Spirit and then she listed the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. When you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are recognizing a union with Christ through the Holy Spirit that is life transforming.

C. Baptism identifies us with God, with Christ, His people, and His commandments. Baptism is a rich ritual full of meaning. That is why we do it publicly. Through we submit ourselves to God, we proclaim Christ to the world, we enter into the fellowship of God’s people (Acts 2:38ff), and begin a life of obedient discipleship of Christ.

Are you a disciple? Have you forsaken all to follow Christ? That is both the prerequisite to baptism as well as the lesson taught through baptism. Will you become a disciple today? He died on the cross for you so that you might take up your cross and follow Him. Will you commit yourself to Him today? Yes, it is an eternal commitment but He will make sure that the commitment is never broken by uniting you to Himself and to His body through the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.

Next week: A Commitment to Spiritual Life – Romans 6

MLK Day January 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Martin Luther King.
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Will publish the weekly sermon tomorrow. Here is something to read about MLK.

EVALUATION OF KING’S LIFE AND WORK

“King must be seen as a leader who solved a technical problem…by clothing a national resistance movement in the disarmingly appealing garb of love, forgiveness, and passive resistance” (1). This problem was the difficulty of how a powerless, ethnic minority could publicly accomplish change and receive concessions from the dominant majority without provoking a likely suicidal crackdown on the minority by the majority.

Although some gains had been made through the Supreme Court’s ruling on desegregation in the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling and through congressional legislation in the 1950’s, legal action through the courts and Congress had slowed down (2). King argued for and led peaceful, mass action. This is not to say that he rejected governmental action. He worked at times effectively with the NAACP and was directly helped at crucial points in the civil rights struggle by their ability to work the legal system. However, his experience with the legal and governmental system of his day, led him eventually to a less optimistic expectation of both systems (3).

King’s prophetic view of the black church was a linchpin in his method of social activism. After his assassination, the American black church did not continue to follow his lead. Some retreated into the reactionary traditionalism that had characterized the black church before King came onto the scene. Others shifted by the 1990’s from protest into politics or (especially as mega-churches) into the prosperity gospel. The prophetic emphasis of King’s theology, however, was largely lost (4).

Black liberationists have, however, followed in King’s footsteps in expanding their horizons beyond black issues, especially as they have come into contact and understanding of other liberationist theologies (5). While it is by no means certain that this is the direction that King would have gone had he not died so young, the black liberationists as represented by James Cone have focused on liberation for the black race as opposed to King who had a dream of righteousness for all the races (6).

King’s principles of non-violence have been attributed to a Hegelian mix of the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi. While this is admittedly true, they are not equal partners in the mix. Black cultural Christianity is the foundational vehicle by which non-violence was brought into the battle for civil rights. It was his position as a Baptist pastor that gave him the opportunity to set that vehicle into motion.

As a liberal King cannot be considered faithful to any semblance of a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, however, the principles of the Scripture which he accepted were the principles by which he led the civil rights movement. While the Scriptures and other forces and influences were key to his theology, all of them were subordinate to the black church of his cultural experience. Rejecting what he saw as fundamentalism in the black church as well as (according to Cone) a partial rejection of the pessimism of Niebuhr’s neo-orthodoxy (7), King took what he understood to be the “…profound truths behind the legends and myths of the Bible” and apply them to the methods and goals of his movement (8).

King early integrated the methods of Mahatma Gandhi into his movement, but the foundation for his methods was the ecclesiological structure and culture of the American black Protestant church. “King turned the Negro’s rooted faith in the church to social and political account by melding the image of Gandhi and the image of the Negro preacher and by overlaying all with Negro songs and symbols that bypassed created centers and exploded in the will of the Negro psyche” (9).

1. Lerone Bennett, Jr., What Manner of Man, (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., 1964), 61.
2. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), 926-927.
3. David J. Garrow “The Intellectual Development of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 40 no 4 (1986), 15.
4. Lewis V. Baldwin, “Revisioning the Church,” Theology Today 65 (2008), 32.
5. Stanley J. Grenz and Olson, Roger E., Twentieth Century Theology, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 203.
6. Grenz and Olson, Twentieth Century Theology, 206-208.
7. James H. Cone, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Black Theology-Black Church, http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jan1984/v40-4-article3.htm (accessed 25 July 2011).
8. David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross, Perennial Classics edition. (New York: Perennial, 2004), 37.
Bennett, What Manner of Man, 72.

Part One: Sermon Series on Baptism January 9, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Judgment, Luke, Repentance.
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DID YOU MEET THE CONDITIONS?
Luke 3:1-22

The next few weeks we want to look at the subject of baptism. This is often a controversial subject so I think I should begin by explaining the purpose behind this sermon series.

1. Several have expressed the desire to be baptized and it is important for their sake and for yours that we look at the Bible and remind ourselves of the Bible’s teaching concerning the subject.
2. Baptism is the way in which people are initiated publicly into the faith. This is perhaps the common denominator between all of the various views concerning baptism. It is a public initiation rite. It says something important about the person being baptized.
3. Baptism is supposed to be meaningful. Even those who do not believe that baptism is necessary today admit that there is a significant meaning behind baptism. The various groups may not agree exactly on what that meaning is but that it is meaningful is certain.

Today we want to look at the baptism of John and understand how baptism functioned in his day. We will also be able to make comparisons to our day because in both John’s day and in our day, baptism functions as a public initiation into the faith and carries great meaning.

I. God’s message to us is a last days’ message (verses 3-9, 15-18). As John was baptizing, the multitudes came to him to be baptized and John spoke very bluntly to them. He told them, God has a message for you. Have you met the conditions demanded for initiation into the kingdom of God (verse 7-8)?

Because we fear salvation by works we tend to deemphasize baptism but works of repentance are biblical. In some pagan cultures, people gather their idols and other articles of superstition and burn them when they turn to Christ. “In America, the house itself may become one’s god. It is hardly appropriate to burn one’s house” (David Hesselgrave in Planting Churches Cross-Culturally). Yet, repentance, though it is an inward attitude, it reveals itself in our actions.

A. This message seems harsh but we need to remember that this is only a part of the message. This message from God is a message of forgiveness (vs. 3-6, 16-17). John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins confirming Isaiah’s prophecy that all flesh shall see the kingdom of God. John was preaching that time was at hand. Those Jews who understood and believed the Old Testament knew that in the last days, when the Messiah comes, God will save His people from their sin and the nations will see that salvation and many of them will turn to God.

B. This message, however, is not only a message of forgiveness and salvation but also a message of judgment (vs. 7-9, 17-18). These people were preparing themselves for the end of the world. They obviously hadn’t heard of the Mayans prediction concerning 2012. John’s response was not, “You’re too early!” No, it is, “Are you ready? Have you met the conditions? Are you prepared for the day of judgment?”

II. What are those conditions? God’s message for the last days demands a change of allegiance, that is, repentance (verses 8-14).

A. Allegiance to nationality, ethnicity, and even religious faith hinders repentance (vs. 8-9). That doesn’t mean those things are wrong. These people were born into their nation and born into their faith but they needed to give their allegiance to God not to their nation, their race, their religious identification, and especially, as we will see, to themselves.

B. Our works prove our allegiance (verse 8). How do you determine where someone’s allegiances lie? By how they act, by what they do. It is told that Spurgeon was walking down a street in London when a man who was drunk and leaning on a lamppost yelled out to him, “Hey, Mr. Spurgeon, do you remember me?” Spurgeon replied, “No, why should I?” The man said, “Because I’m one of your converts.” Spurgeon replied, “Well, you must be one of mine; you’re certainly not one of the Lord’s.”

a. Work #1: Compassion for the needy (vs. 10-11). John is applying the Old Testament to these people. Jesus put it later this way, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We understand that God has that same expectation of us.

b. Work #2: Contentment with our lot (vs. 12-14). John did not tell the tax collectors or the soldiers to quit working for the government but rather to be content with the blessings they have from God. Again, this is what God expects of us. We are to be content with whatever avenue of blessing the Lord gives us and not to take advantage of others so that we might have more.

(Contentment comes from trust) LeRoy Eims was talking to a young lady in San Francisco. He asked her about her relationship to God. She said, “Well, I’ve always had this terrible fear that He might send me off to Africa as a missionary.” As they continued to talk he asked her about her workplace. He asked her if she went out with the men who hung around there. She said, “No…they are a bunch of creeps and I just don’t feel secure when I’m with them.” He then asked, “If you were to meet a guy who really loved you … [would you feel secure around him]? Do you think he could be trusted?” Of course, she said, yes. In the same way, we can be content and secure in Christ. Like a farmer who irrigates his crops, “God is always upstream, discerning our needs,…and arranging things for our good” (from What Every Christian Should Know About Growing).

c. Work #3: Care not to abuse our power (vs. 14). This is one of those things that I was blessed not to know anything about as I was growing up but the older I get the more I see that when we get power that is not held accountable by others, we tend to abuse those under us.

C. Our baptism is a declaration of our allegiance, that is, our repentance (verses 3, 7). It is a declaration that we love others as ourselves because God loves us as Himself. It is a declaration that we trust Him to give us what we need in the way of blessings and in the way of opportunity to receive blessings in this life. It is a declaration that we are accountable to God for any and all authority which we might have.

That is what baptism is. It is a declaration that my life is different. No more will I live for myself. I have given myself to God.

III. How is this accomplished in our lives? If we are to declare a changed life we must have a changed life. How is that to be? John tells us plainly that God’s message and the fulfillment of that message depends on Christ (verses 15-22).

A. Forgiveness through the Spirit (vs. 3-6, 16-17). We tend to forget that the prediction of the Old Testament is that the Messiah would come and His people would be transformed through Him spiritually. They would be given a fleshy heart instead of a heart of stone. They would be endowed, anointed, have poured out on them, the Holy Spirit. That blessing, however, came through Jesus Christ. These people lived in expectation of that promise.

B. Judgment by His authority (vs. 7-9, 17-18). Just as Jesus brought forgiveness through the Holy Spirit working in those who follow Him, He also brings judgment to those who have a different allegiance.

Where is your allegiance? Have you met the conditions for baptism? Have you repented of your sinful ways and turned to Christ alone for forgiveness and filling with the Holy Spirit? You can meet those conditions today. Turn to Him for salvation and escape from the wrath to come. The kingdom of God is at hand. The predictions of the Mayans will most certainly not happen but Christ may come today. Repent today of your sin.

If you have been baptized, are you living up to your declaration? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Are you content with what God has blessed you with? Do you use the responsibilities God gives you wisely with consideration for those under your authority? If not, today is the day to make that right.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper on New Year’s Day January 2, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Communion, First Corinthians.
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Had a great service yesterday. This is the devotional I brought.

THE LORD’S SUPPER
1 Corinthians 11:18-34

The importance of the Lord’s Supper is sometimes lost in how we celebrate it. Often it does not feel like a celebration. The atmosphere is too somber. We sometimes act as if “the point of the meal is to screw up one’s face and try to feel sorry for Jesus. This is often accompanied by a psychological attempt to meditate on the physical pain of Jesus’ sufferings-an emphasis that is markedly understated in the biblical text itself” (Russell Moore, contributor to Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, 33).

A focus on the physical pain of Jesus does not seem to be the focus of the celebration described by Paul, although it is mentioned. There are two aspects of the celebration emphasized by him.

I. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of our family relationship (verses 18-22 and 27-34). Sometimes I am asked if I go to individuals, for example, to shut-ins and serve the Lord’s Supper. I don’t, not because it is wrong, but because it then ceases to function as a family event. These people, though, did not act as a family. They understood that they were supposed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together as a family and they did gather together. Unfortunately, they did so in a very dysfunctional way. In fact, their lack of hospitality brought shame on those who were less fortunate in the congregation.

A. Lack of hospitality within the church shows that we despise the church (verses 18-22). In Corinth the “have’s” sat separately from the “have not’s” and acted generally as if they were better than them. I wish I could say we never acted that way but many of us know better. How often have we as individuals acted like we were better than someone else in this church? That is not the way God wants us to act.

B. Lack of hospitality within the church is unworthy of the love our Lord has shown to us (verses 27-30). “Jesus, what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.” Remember the thief on the cross. To die on the cross was a shameful death. In the earliest days such a death had been reserved for slaves. To die on a cross was to be “despised by the world.” Jesus, however, did not despise the thief but loved Him and took Him to paradise to be with Him forever.

C. Lack of hospitality within the church will be judged by the Lord (verses 30-34). Our Lord Jesus takes this seriously. In Corinth, some were afflicted with sickness because of their pride towards their fellow believers. Others were killed by our Lord Jesus in judgment for their sin. To my knowledge we have not suffered in this way and yet I ask myself if some of our difficulties can be attributed to our lack of love for each other. God has, however, been merciful to us. We must learn to love every person in our church family with the love He has shown us, a love that does not despise the other but rather exalts the other.

II. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not only an expression of our relationship as a church family but it is also an expression of the importance of our Lord’s death (verses 23-26).

A. He ought to be remembered by us (verses 23-25). This week I caught a portion of the NPR broadcast, “Talk of the Nation.” They were asking the question, “What persons passed away in 2011 that we ought to remember?” One man called in and mentioned the “Champaign Lady” from the “Lawrence Welk Show.” The daughter of the man who invented the Nordic Track and told about her dad. An acquaintance of a nun who was important in the early days of anti-nuclear protests also called in. These people all did important things in the field in which they worked. None of them, however, have done anything comparable to what Jesus did. His body was broken for us. He shed His blood for us. He established a new covenant between God and man for us. He ought to be remembered by us.

B. He ought also to be proclaimed by us (verse 26). Russell Moore says that the Lord’s Supper should “be characterized by more celebrative singing and even laughter, than the rest of the service. The congregation would be taught to understand that the Supper is a victory lap-announcing the triumph of Christ over the powers of sin, death, and Satan” (Moore, 33).

The third verse of “At Calvary” says, “Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus ev’rything, Now I gladly own Him as my King, Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, There my burdened soul found liberty-At Calvary!”

2011 in review January 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Uncategorized.
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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.