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Spiritual Liberty (Galatians 1:1-9 and 5:1ff) February 27, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Crucifixion, Death of Christ, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Galatians, Gospel, Martin Luther, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Liberty.
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Galatians 1:1-9 with 5:1ff

This letter is one of the most important ever written. Martin Luther’s study of it led him to attempt a reformation of Catholicism. Although unsuccessful in his attempt, it resulted in religious and political changes that transformed Europe and ultimately the world. One might say the political freedom we enjoy today is in part due to changes set in motion by Luther’s study of this little letter.

A. However, spiritual liberty and political liberty are not one and the same. It seems like the political season has been long already but there is much ahead of us and much of it will invoke the terms “liberty” and “freedom.” These are wonderful concepts on which our country was founded. Yet there is a liberty and a freedom that is possible even if one lives in a totalitarian system. Some might say, “Of course, the freedom of the human spirit.” Now the freedom of the human spirit is a wonderful thing but it is limited, as we will see, by the human condition. As with our conscience, as with our knowledge of nature, God has gifted humankind greatly but the curse of the fall has corrupted these gifts of God making them incapable of giving us spiritual liberty and spiritual freedom.

1. Political liberty sees all men as created equal and having the same right to life and liberty. This is a liberty worth fighting for and has often been fought for in our history beginning with the American Revolution right down through the present age.

2. Spiritual liberty also sees all men as equal. They are born equally in bondage to the present evil age (Galatians 1:3-4 and 5:1). This is an equality we would like to overcome. This is what I meant by the human spirit being limited. Occasionally there is someone who seems to be ahead of his time but when we investigate their lives, they are just as much a prisoner of the human condition as the rest of us. They are also in bondage to our sinful condition.

There’s a “legend told of Alexander the Great…It is said that when he was dying at Babylon, Alexander crawled out of his tent on all fours at midnight, intending to drown himself in the Euphrates River. He hoped his body would be lost and that men would then believe that he was, in truth, immortal. But his attempt failed. His wife brought him back to die in his bed…” (from Deliver Us From Evil by Ravi Zacharias).

i. Spiritual liberty comes through deliverance by Jesus Christ (5:1). To be set free from this evil age does not mean to be removed from this world. Neither does it mean to become one with it. Spiritual liberty means to be freed from the impossibility of pleasing God through our own methods. It is not something we work for but rather is granted to us by grace, that is, undeserved. We take hold of the liberty freely offered by faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel.

ii. Spiritual liberty comes through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1:4). One could say that is the gospel. In order for us to be free, Jesus had to be bound in obedience to death.

Jeffrey Ebert of Havertown, PA tells how “when [he] was five years old, before factory-installed seat belts… [his] family was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver…[He] was sitting on [his] mother’s lap when the other car swerved into [them]…[He doesn’t] have any memory of the collision [but does] recall the fear and confusion…as [he] saw [himself] literally covered with blood from head to toe. Then [he] learned that the blood wasn’t [his] but [his] mother’s. In that split second when the two headlights glared into her eyes, she instinctively pulled [him] closer to her chest and curled her body around [his] smaller frame. It was her body that slammed against the dashboard, her head that shattered the windshield. She took the impact of the collision so that he wouldn’t have to… (after extensive surgery, [she] eventually recovered…)” (from Leadership, Summer 1992). She was obedient to death.

B. To seek deliverance from any other source is the rejection of Christ (1:6-7 with 5:1-4). Paul uses the phrase, “turn away…from him” in chapter one. In chapter five he says, “Christ will profit you nothing…you have become estranged from Christ…you have fallen from grace.” This is pretty harsh language. It means that you have no more contact with Christ, in other words, your only hope of salvation, you have walked away from.

If I try by my good works to guarantee my place in heaven, I have walked away from Christ. If I try by baptism or the Lord’s Supper to be saved, I have walked away from Christ. If I try by keeping the law of God Himself to be saved, I have walked away from Jesus. If I try by being a member of a church to be saved, I have walked away from Christ. When I walk away from Christ, then there is no hope for me (5:5).

C. To preach deliverance from another source brings God’s judgment (1:7-9 with 5:7-10). Perhaps you think God is being too strict. Perhaps it should be enough to want to find God. There is, however, no other source of deliverance.

When Aaron built the golden calf, he said to the Israelites, “Behold, the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.” Aaron didn’t deny God’s existence or power; he simply brought in a statute to help them visualize their God. God judged them. When Naaman was told to wash himself in the Jordan, he complained that there were other cleaner rivers in Syria to wash in but if he had ignored God’s way, he would have died a leper. Jesus tells about those who say, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we done mighty works in your name;” but his answer to them was depart from me I never knew you.

Some of these people wanted to practice Old Testament rituals like circumcision but Paul makes it clear that those things do not produce a new creation (6:15). That is only possible through Jesus Christ.

Do you point people to Christ or to moral values? Do you introduce them to Jesus or to a church? “There is no other name given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Where is your faith? In Jesus or in your good works? In Jesus or in your baptism? In Jesus or in your church? If one or the other were taken away from you, which would cause you to fear facing eternity? If you lose contact with Jesus, you have no hope. Are you trusting Him alone today? If not, put your trust in the one who died for you.

Next week: The Curse and the Blessings of the Cross

Last in Isaiah Series February 21, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Uncategorized.
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Isaiah 56:9-57:21

During the past three weeks we have discussed how that God offers hope to those going through disaster, how that He invites those without hope to come to Him, and that this offer is even for those who are outside of the covenant He has made with His people. In other words, we have hope in the midst of the darkness of disaster by coming to God on His terms.

There is another aspect of bringing spiritual light into darkness that we need to remember today. Jesus once told His disciples, “While I am with you I am the light of the world but I am going away and now you are the light of the world.” Unfortunately, those who actually should be the light of the world are spending much of their time groping in darkness.

A. We are blind leaders when we selfishly leave our sheep exposed to danger (56:9-57:2). We look to get ahead of others and really do not care how our actions might affect them. We are in darkness. We are blind leaders. “If the leaders continue to be self-centered and power hungry, the flock entrusted to them will continue to be overtaken by their spiritual enemies” (Oswalt on verse 9).

1. We are off guard (verse 10). Remember the battle of Chancellorsville. The Union troops were settling down getting ready to eat supper and turn in for the night. Suddenly out of the brush through their camp raced rabbits and deer flushed out of their hiding places. Some soldiers took their caps waved them in the air and cheered the running animals. Their cheers stuck in their throats as they look and realized that they were being charged by Stonewall Jackson’s Confederates. No guard had been set. There was nothing to do but run. The Confederate injuries were largely limited to burns that soldiers received as they tried to grab cooking meat out of the pots and pans of the fleeing Union soldiers. The battle was won because the Union army was caught off guard.

2. We are self-interested (verse 11). We are eaten up with greed. According to Charles Swindoll greed reveals itself in four areas. (1) Greed is an excessive motivation to have more money. (2) Greed is an excessive determination to own more things. “We never quite have enough furniture. Or the right furniture.” There is always something, whether big or small that we want. (3) Greed is also an excessive desire to become more famous, to make a name for self. (4) Greed is finally an excessive need to gain more control.

3. We are unaware of the times (56:12-57:2). “Once people said that cars would never replace the horse and carriage. Others said that the light bulb wasn’t really better than the kerosene lamp. Then there are the naysayers who said that movies could never entertain like vaudeville could. On the heels of that negative attitude came the condemnation of television, which people were sure would never supplant radio as the primary source of entertainment” (from Hans Finzel’s Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make).

In the same way these leaders were unaware that their nation was becoming wickeder with every righteous person who passed away. They were so involved with themselves that, as long as they were doing okay, there was no problem.

B. We are blind followers when we submit to that in which there is no hope (57:3-13a). Chuck Swindoll tells about a French artist who read the parable of Jesus about the rich farmer. “It’s one of the few paintings painted on both sides of the canvas. On one side there is this rather portly farmer sitting at his desk. In front of him are several bags bulging with money. Through the window behind him you can see crops glistening in the evening sun; they’re starting to lean over, heavy with grain…sitting on a long shelf above the farmer’s head are more bags of money…He’s got that faraway look in his eye like, ‘What will I do with it now.’

The painter read the story again…He frowned at what he had painted. Dissatisfied, he flipped the canvas over and began the same picture on the other side. Same man, same desk, same window and bumper crops, same little bags of money, same shelf above the man’s head. But this time he painted everything covered with a thin layer of dust. And something else has been added, too. The death angel is standing near with his hand on the man’s shoulder and his lips are pursed as if to be saying, ‘Fool.’”

1. We worship idols (verses 3-10a). It is easy for us to read this without seeing ourselves. We don’t worship rocks and trees. We don’t sacrifice our children to idols. Yet our only real desire is to manipulate power to our own advantage (adapted from Oswalt). We worship that which we think will give us hope. Some of you may have even come to church this morning, hoping by your presence that you can manipulate God to give you what you want.

Are you an idolator? Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:5 remind us that “greed” is “idolatry.” If we can have what we desire, we will be happy. Usually it is tied to something or someone we can see, touch, and enjoy physically. The answer, however, is not self-denial but rather in finding our delight in God’s goals, God’s ways, and God’s desires.

2. We take God’s patience to be unconcerned silence (verses 10b-13a). We forget what He has done for us through Jesus Christ.

C. We are aware followers when we humble ourselves before God (57:13b-21). We, however, trust our own ability. “We can do it!” we say to ourselves. When I talk about humbling ourselves, I don’t want to fall into the trap of advising the “New Christian” to think that self-deprecation is the cure-all for the Christian life. Humbling yourself before God is not forbidding people to clap their hands after a musical number. Humbling yourself before God is not saying wiping a smile off our face. Humbling yourself before God is an awareness of our helplessness and living in dependence on Him for everything.

1. Our problem is not our circumstances (verse 14). “Today America is suffering from a failure of evangelical theology. The 1970s and 1980s were widely recognized as the age of the evangelical. The movement was large enough and influential enough to gain the attention of the national media; leading figures in the movement became forces to be reckoned with. Yet, concurrent with that popular recognition was the hastening moral decay of the nation…To a generation that wanted to “feel good” at all costs, we declared a feel-good religion. All one has to do to gain a heaven of bliss and an earthly life of abundance is to say “yes” to Jesus’ wonderful plan for life. This decision has no necessary bearing on a person’s behavior…We expect to continue in sin…” and we do! (Oswalt on Isaiah 57).

2. Our problem is our helplessness without God (verses 15-21). God says, “You need me, not to fill that void you have now in your heart but rather to avoid eternal turmoil and destruction.”

What is the answer? Humble yourself before God. Humble yourself for salvation, for satisfaction, for forgiveness.

February 15, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Jenison Bible Church, Music, Teenagers.
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Below are some links to the Jenison Bible Youth on YouTube. To view them, copy and paste the URL (web address) into the address bar of your browser. If you hook up with one of the links, the others will be on the YouTube suggestions for you to further view.

They were with us on Sunday night. They did a great job and were a real blessing.

Here I am to Worship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UgQncQF8g8
Victory in Jesus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOZMZTP6IUc&feature=related
In Christ Alone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlEyDxU1hHk&feature=related
Mighty is the Power of the Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mssf69_rCk0&feature=related
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0aIE1RlSkM&feature=related

Third in a Series from Isaiah February 13, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Isaiah, Sermons.
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Isaiah 56:1-8

In chapter 54 God promises hope to those who live in a desperate situation and then in chapter 55 He invites them to come to Him for forgiveness. In these eight verses we see what happens to those who answer the invitation. This is important because not everyone who answers God invitation is transferred immediately into God’s presence. In fact most of us are like Abraham, we are looking for a city not made with hands whose builder and maker is God. So what happens after we accept God’s invitation to come and be forgiven?

A. We accept certain responsibilities when we answer God’s invitation, that is, accepting God’s invitation carries certain responsibilities (verses 1-2).

1. We are responsible to practice God’s justice and righteousness (verse 1). There are two sides of God’s justice and righteousness. The side that we need to look at first is that we as sinners cannot practice God’s justice and righteousness unless God does a work in us. We need to be transformed.

I’m thinking of a man who had no interest in Christ. His wife went to church and took his children to church but he was not interested. He drank way too much. He began to go to Bible studies and hear the Word of God. One Easter Sunday, he heard the message and realized that there was nowhere to go but to Jesus Christ. God put a hunger in that man’s heart for God’s Word. As God continued to work in his heart, he began to drink less and less. One day he was sitting in his living room with a beer in his hand and he said to himself, I don’t want this and I don’t need this. Why did he change his outward behavior? Because God did a work inside of him.

2. We are responsible to practice God’s justice in our actions (verse 2). The specific example given here is the keeping of the Sabbath. The Sabbath, however, could be used improperly. In Isaiah 1:13, God expresses displeasure with the observance of the Sabbath as well as with other ceremonial and sacrificial observances of the law. The reason given (in verse 17) is the propensity for injustice especially toward the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow in Judah. They were observing the Sabbath but not remembering what God had said in the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:15), “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” The ritual observance without remembering and practicing of the meaning of the observance is the sin of Judah (Isaiah 1:17) and the joy of observing the Sabbath will be destroyed by judgment of God (prophesied in Hosea 2:11; recorded in Lamentations 2:6).

B. Accepting God’s invitation gives a family to those who have no family (verses 3-5). In fact, later in Isaiah a blessing is promised to those who both keep justice and the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:1-2). This blessing is specifically extended to the eunuchs (verses 3-5) and the foreigners (verses 6-7) who keep the Sabbath and hold fast to the covenant of the Lord. Although eunuchs and certain foreigners had been forbidden to be a part of the assembly (Deuteronomy 23:1-8), they receive mercy when they enter voluntarily into the covenant of the LORD. Again, in a vivid and direct way, those who might not expect to be a part of God’s everlasting covenant with Israel are invited in with open arms if they fulfill the same conditions of the covenant that Israel also were given beginning in Exodus 19-20.

C. Accepting God’s invitation gives us the opportunity to worship God (verses 6-8). Isaiah emphasizes with the eunuch and with the foreigner that God is interested in reaching out to those who are outside of His family and His kingdom. Israel had a lot of trouble with foreigners. They would find themselves compromising their beliefs, adding other gods to their worship to the true God or they would isolate themselves in uncompromising self-righteousness, believing that they are somehow better than others.

This second trouble is a danger for us also. “A Christian worship service is beginning, and two young men come in who are clearly out of place. Their clothes are outlandish and not very clean. Their hair is lank and long. Their arms are covered with tattoos. They are clearly not of the evangelical subculture. Are they earnestly seeking salvation? Are they believers who have left all to follow Christ? Who knows? Who cares? They don’t belong because they are different from us…They don’t have the right family credentials, so they don’t belong” (Oswalt).

1. Worship begins with commitment to God (verse 6). We live as if being a Christian is really only a matter of birthright, of adoption, and has no real impact on how we live. It may change our ideals, but it does not change the realities. Thus, we see the spectacle in North America of persons claiming to be born-again’ Christians whose ethical lives are no different from those of a lost world” (Oswalt).

We tend build our spiritual lives on cheap materials. Years before any had died in the astronaut program, an astronaut was asked before he launched how he felt. “With a grin, [he] replied, ‘It really makes you think twice in here when you realize everything in this whole project was constructed according to the lowest bid!’” (Charles Swindoll in Living Above the Level of Mediocrity)

2. Worship is expressed through the means God provides (verse 7). The Sabbath in Leviticus 23:1-3 was emphasized as more than a day with no work. It was a holy convocation, that is, a day of assembly. This is the same type of assembly that God commanded Israel to observe in relation to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Compare Exodus 12:16 with Leviticus 23:4-8). Such a day was called together for the purpose of delighting in God (Isaiah 58:13-14).

3. Worship looks forward in confidence and faith (verse 8). There is hope in both the promise of the covenant Leviticus 26:40-45 and in the carrying out of that promise. The removal from the land is temporary and serves a restorative purpose for the land. Ultimately, there is coming a day, as pictured in Ezekiel’s temple description when the Sabbath will again be observed with an understanding of what is holy (Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1-4, 12). This ultimate restoration is also described in Isaiah 65:22-23 as the new heavens and the new earth, when “from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come to worship before [the LORD].”

First John 2:29-3:9 is the New Testament example of the teaching that we see in Isaiah 56. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you standing strong? Or are you like the world? The world believes that doing the right thing outwardly will outweigh or counteract any inner deficiency. The believer realizes we are helpless against our deficiencies and need to abide in Christ.

Next week: The Blind Lead the Blind – Isaiah 56:9-57:2

Second in a series from Isaiah February 6, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Isaiah, Parables of Jesus, Repentance.
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Isaiah 55

In the last chapter, God proclaims hope in the midst of disaster. In this chapter we have an invitation to grab hold of that hope.

A. God invites us to satisfaction (verses 1-5). It should be noted that the invitation goes far beyond physical satisfaction. Notice in verse 3 Isaiah says, “That your soul may live.” In other words, the hope God offers goes beyond physical satisfaction. It involves our whole being.

1. Satisfaction cannot be earned (verses 1-2). Remember that Isaiah is writing to people who have lost homeland and homes, family and friends, dignity and livelihood. God offers forgiveness but only to those who come.

2. Satisfaction does demand a response (verse 3a). “A mother, a son, and a daughter are clinging to the upper branches of a large tree surrounded by raging flood waters. The rescue team in a boat cannot get right up to the tree because of debris, but the distance between the boat and the tree can be jumped with effort. The team in the boat shout[s] with urgency, ‘Jump, jump,’ but the family members are afraid. Finally, summoning up courage, the son jumps and lands safely in the boat. Then the daughter jumps. She falls into the water, but the rescuers are ready and quickly pull her into the boat. Now the rescuers along with the son and daughter plead with the mother, ‘Jump, jump, you can do it! We’’ catch you if you fall short.’…but she is afraid, and as she [hesitates], there is a terrible crack, the tree falls, and she is swept away…” (Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah 55).

3. Satisfaction is found in Jesus (verses 3b-5). God made a covenant with David. This fulfillment, this “witness to the people, [this] leader and commander for the people” is Jesus Christ who came to save His people from their sin, as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.

B. God invites us to take advantage of the opportunity we have now (verses 6-7). Jesus in Luke 14 was sitting at a meal when one of those there said, “Blessed is he who hall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Jesus told how that different ones were invited to a great feast but did not come because they had other things to do. At least, that was their excuse. “Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind…Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those [who made excuses] shall taste my supper.’’

1. God does not promise future opportunity (verse 6). Certainly the door of opportunity to respond to God can be closed by death but sometimes life circumstances can close that door. Sometimes our hearts can be hardened by bitterness or pride or shame. Today is the day to respond to God. If you need to be saved, today is the day to call to God. If you need to become a better disciple, today is the day. If you need to become a better witness, today is the day. If you need to forgive someone, today is the day. Today, today is the day.

2. God demands repentance in exchange for mercy (verses 7-11). Repentance is not self-improvement. Self-improvement is spending money on that which is not bread. Self-improvement is laboring for that which does not satisfy. We need to turn from our sin, from our relationships, from religious institutions and practices, and to the man on the cross who alone has purchased our pardon.

C. God invites us to rejoice (verses 8-13). Specifically, if we come and are satisfied, we will rejoice. Those who have no joy have no satisfaction in Christ.

1. We can rejoice in His ways (verses 8-9). We may not understand them but we can rejoice in them because we know that they are higher. God understands how all this works out and how to work it all out for the best.

2. We can rejoice in His word (verses 10-11). These verses do not mean that if we witness to someone, that guarantees they will be saved, although that is how they are often used. These verses guarantee that if God promises satisfaction and forgiveness, we can count on that satisfaction and forgiveness. Why? So that He will be pleased.

3. We can rejoice in His new world (verse 13). Last week in the Junior Sunday School Class we learned that God created, cursed, and will cure this planet Earth. This world will become new when Jesus returns and all who have trusted Him are eternally united with Him to rule and reign on this earth.

“A banquet table is worse than useless to the person who is either too proud or too ashamed to come and eat from it” (John Oswalt, Isaiah: The NIV Application Commentary, page 602, 2003).

As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Table, are you too proud? When we partake we are proclaiming to the world that we are needy. We need Jesus. We need the water of life to quench our thirst. We need the bread of life to satisfy our hunger. We need the Lamb of God to take away our sin. We need the Holy One of Israel to endow us with splendor. We need Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life to give us eternal life. There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Are you too ashamed? You are a sinner. You are undeserving. You have failed this week, you may be conscious of having failed today. An old camp meeting song goes like this:

“Come ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus, ready, stands to save you full of pity, love, and power.
I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of Christ my Savior, O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify; True belief and true repentance, Every grace that brings you nigh.

Let not conscience, make you linger nor of fitness fondly dream. All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Lost and ruined by the fall; If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all.