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Fourth Advent Sermon on December 18, 2012 preached at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan December 19, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Angels, Christmas, Deuteronomy, Incarnation, Jesus, Matthew, Messiah, Prophecy, Virgin Birth.
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Do Not Be Afraid
Matthew 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION: Joseph is the third person involved in the Christmas story who has been told not to be afraid. Earlier Zacharias and Mary were told not to be afraid. Later, the shepherds are also told not to be afraid. In each case the command was connected with the appearance of an angel but in Joseph’s situation the command is connected to a difficult situation that he is facing, what to do about Mary. He has three choices.

I. He could make her a public example (verse 19). This would involve a public accusation and if she was found guilty death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Mary had no rights in the matter. Her pregnancy was proof of her sinfulness. Yet she was his wife. Joseph was a just man who kept the law. She was a criminal.

II. He could put her away privately (verse 19). This would involve divorce papers being given to her in the presence of two witnesses. She could perhaps, in spite of her sullied reputation find a husband. She was young. There was a chance that she would recover. Again, Mary had no choice in the matter. She was at Joseph’s mercy. Mercy is what he intended to show. He could not keep her as wife for then he would have to adopt the child. If the child was a boy, then any further son’s by her would lose any possible inheritance, whether in Nazareth or Bethlehem. As a just man, he took seriously the inheritance law for his oldest son. It was commanded by God. He felt that he had no other choice.

III. He could keep her as his wife (verse 20). This did not occur to him apparently or at least was not considered seriously until the angel told him, “Do not be afraid!”

A. Do not be afraid, she is not a criminal; she is not a sinful woman. She is a virgin. Her son is not from a man but a miracle of God.

B. Do not be afraid. Adopt Him. Give Him the legal inheritance that is His, the throne of David.

C. Do not be afraid. Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin! Jesus means “Savior.”

This is the first of two names given to the child in this passage. The second name was actually given over seven hundred years before Christ was born. The name “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” was prophesied to an ungodly royal ancestor of Joseph’s, Ahaz. This name is mentioned by Matthew as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

These two names have meaning for us also. Jesus is the Savior. He came to save His people from their sin. His people were the Jewish people but He did not come just to save His people. When Jesus as a thirty year old man came into the presence of John the Baptist, a prophet of God, John pointed his disciples to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus Himself once said to the Jews in John 10, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” He was talking about us. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes about Jesus in His death tearing down the wall of partition that existed between Jews and Gentiles for the purpose of saving people out of both groups and integrating them together like a building where the blocks or the bricks interlock to become one.

What is it from which we are saved? There are many things one could be saved from? The name “Savior” comes from a medical word. When a patient recovers from a deadly illness because of the wisdom of the doctor, we say, “The doctor saved him.” When a medicine causes a miracle cure, we say, “The medicine saved her.” When a medic or a first responder’s actions rescue a person from death, we say, “That man saved their life.”

Jesus once said that He came to save the sick. He was speaking figuratively. You see, humankind is sick with sin. Most do not recognize their sickness but every person, born into the world is sick with sin and will die of that sickness unless they have a Savior. The name that Jesus was given to bear here on earth is a reminder that He is the one who came to save.

The second name, Emmanuel, tells us how it is that Jesus can save. He is “God with us.” When Jesus was laid by Mary into the manger, he was no ordinary baby. He was and is still the virgin born Son of God. The name Emmanuel is a sign from God that He Himself has entered the human race.

Ray Pritchard tells this story. “A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, ‘I just can’t believe all that stuff.’

So I asked him, ‘What would it take for you to believe?’

‘I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself,’ he said.

‘My friend, he already has come down,’ I replied. ‘He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don’t believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you'” (from Ray Pritchard in When Did Christmas Begin?).

Savior and Emmanuel: these two names are brought together in a hymn by William Cowper that we rarely sing today. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

“Some 200+ years ago there was a man in England by the name of William Cowper. He is a man who was of nervous disposition. All the biographers talk about that. He struggled with nervous problems, depression. It looks from reading his story that he suffered from what we would call a form of manic depression, given to some great difficulty in his life. At one point in his life, by his own testimony, he was depressed, upset and fearful that he was under the wrath of God. He said, ‘I flung myself into a chair by the window and there saw the Bible on the table by the chair. I opened it up and my eyes fell on Romans 3:25, which says of Christ, ‘Whom God has made a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ William Cowper said, ‘Then and there, I realized what Christ’s blood had accomplished and I realized the effects of his atonement for me. I realized God was willing to justify me and then and there I trusted Jesus Christ and a great burden was lifted from my soul.’ Looking back on that day, William Cowper wrote a hymn several years later that is in our hymnbook today. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…’” (from Ray Pritchard in Propitiation: God’s Not Angry With You).

As we pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Virgin Born Son of God would you not trust Emmanuel, “God with us,” as your Savior from the stains of sin? He promises that He will save you through His blood if you trust Him and Him alone.

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How to know if God is revealing Himself (From Sermon Series on God’s Word) August 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Bible, Depravity, Deuteronomy, Eternal Security, False Doctrine, False Teachers, First John, Gospel, Hell, Holy Spirit, Jehovah's Witnesses, OT Preaching, Perserverance, Prophets, Satan, Sermons, Spiritual Warfare, Truth.
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TRYING THE SPIRITS

1 John 4:1-6 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22 

Lying spirits exist and we are to test the spirits (verse 1). Now God has given us the final word but God has chosen to allow competition, to allow false spirits to speak their false doctrine through false prophets, to allow the lie to coexist on this earth with the truth.

It is not always easy to discern the false from the true. Just as counterfeit money is meant to be spent, false doctrine is intended by Satan to be believed and that means he must make it believable to the human mind and appealing to the human heart.  That is why it is of eternal importance that we look into God’s Word and find out how to determine the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

TESTING SPIRITS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

There are two passages in the Old Testament law in the book of Deuteronomy that discuss testing the spirits who claim to speak the truth. Now, it is easy to say that the Law was for then and not for today, for example in the law against eating pork which is also in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 14:8). We understand though that the law is more than the Ten Commandments and when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law He meant all of it, not just the moral code but also the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law. Not only that but as we saw about a month ago, “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So how do we apply the Old Testament tests? By finding and investigating the timeless principles that apply to the subject of testing the spirits as taught in 1 John. (Ideas in this paragraph with thanks to Paul Lamey of Huntsville, AL.)

Test #1 –

If one part of the prophecy is proven untrue or inaccurate, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

“Here’s a Help Wanted ad you may find interesting: Spokesman needed for international firm. No experience necessary, no education required. Must be between 20-85 years old. Full- or part-time…Will meet often with the CEO who will instruct brief you on what to say to the public. Important that you be able to move in all circles of society–from the highest to the lowest. Good vocabulary a must, ability to speak in colorful images a big plus…Unlimited opportunity for advancement…Must be willing to endure ridicule, persecution, slander, and occasional beatings. This job carries only one significant negative aspect: Make one mistake and you will be stoned to death….That ad describes the biblical role of the prophet…The test for a biblical prophet was 100% accuracy. Make one mistake and you would be stoned to death…(T)he Jews had a well-defined procedure for stoning. The victim was stripped naked, with hands bound, paraded out of town and placed on a scaffold nine feet high. The first official witness pushed the victim off the scaffold. The second witness dropped a large stone on his head and chest. Bystanders then pelted the dying man with the stones. The corpse was then buried in a special place along with the stone that inflicted the fatal blow. No mourning ceremony was permitted. False prophets had to be stoned. The Law commanded it…(P)rophecy was not a growth industry in the ancient Israel. It was a risky way to make a living. Today prophecy (and messages from God) is big business–and not nearly so risky.” (Thanks to Ray Pritchard)

(In fact, you can make the New York Times Best-Seller List and become a fixture there.)

A WORD ABOUT DREAMS AND OTHER MODES OF CLAIMED DIVINE REVELATION 

Not only does a prophet sent from God speak the truth with 100% accuracy but he knows that his message is 100% accurate and does not try to hide that fact. When someone says that they have a vision or dream or message from God and they temper their claim with the possibility of human fallibility then I know that I need not be afraid of that person. God does not speak to every subject but to every subject that He speaks, He speaks authoritatively and without error.

Test #2 –

If the prophecy leads away from the truth, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

Actually, this whole chapter deals with the seriousness of following anyone who would lead us away from the truth. In verses 6-10, if a family member attempts to lead away from the true and living God, they were to be stoned. In verses 11-18, if Israel heard that one of their cities had turned from following God, they were to go against it and destroy it with all its inhabitants, all its livestock, and to destroy everything in it. They were not to take anything for plunder. Obviously, we are not to apply the extreme measures that are commanded to the Israelites but we are to take this seriously.

APPLYING THIS TEST TODAY 

How do we recognize the spirits (verses 2-6)? In other words, how does this apply today?

The Spirit of truth identifies…

…Jesus as God and man (verse 2). Any person or any group that denies that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man is not of God. The Bible is very clear. One of the reasons that we have started studying together the book of Colossians in the adult and junior high and junior aged Sunday School classes is the vital importance of this doctrine. If Jesus is not God then Christianity is a lie and if Jesus is not man then Christianity is a lie and the Bible is a lie. I do not have a problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to celebrate birthdays. That is not an eternal issue. I do not have a problem with their refusal to salute the American flag. That is not an eternal issue. I do not even have a problem with their refusal to take blood transfusions. I think they are wrong and that it is an unfortunate belief but that belief will not send them to the lake of fire. I do have a problem though with their refusal to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God, not a god, but Jehovah God Himself. That is why I fight for the Virgin Birth. If Jesus was not Virgin Born, He was not God. That is why I fight for the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. If He did not rise bodily from the dead then there is doubt that He was really man. He was and is both. That is also why it is so important that we hold to the Bible as given by God without error. If the Bible is in error in any area, then how can we trust what it says about Jesus Christ and the message in verse 2 about Jesus Christ is only to be found in the Bible?

NOT JUST THE PERSON BUT ALSO THE WORK OF CHRIST IS PART OF THE TEST. 

The Spirit also identifies the redemptive work of Christ as sufficient for eternal salvation (verses 9-10). I understand that John is not addressing this directly but it is addressed in other places in the Scriptures: the first half of the books of Romans, the epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, the book of Hebrews. I am saying that it does matter what we believe about Christ’s saving work.

The word “propitiation” here means to appease God. We are sinners, we deserve the eternal punishment of the lake of fire but Jesus Christ came and died to appease His Father. That is the good news that we are to believe. If you believe that salvation comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone, you are in the trap of the spirit of error. If you believe by being good you can satisfy God, then you believe the spirit of antichrist. If you believe that trusting Christ and being baptized to wash away your sins, then you are trusting a ritual. Paul said in Galatians of such rituals that they make the crucifixion of Christ of no effect. Either Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was sufficient or it is not. If you believe the Church provides you appeasement before God, you are trusting the doctrine of the world. If you believe that the Lord’s Table which we partook of earlier in this service will impart God’s saving grace into your life, then you are trusting the doctrine of a false spirit. It is through Jesus Christ alone.

Acts 5:12 says that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. He does not need my help, He does not need your help, and he does not need the help of any ritual, good deeds, or organization. He is capable through His death alone of saving us and according to these verses, He does this because He loves us.

The Spirit of error… (verse 3-5).

…contradicts in some way the Spirit of truth (verse 3a).

Why?  Because the spirit of error is of this world (verses 3b-5). This is not a new phenomenon (verse 3b). Since time began, Satan has been lying to humankind. Although it is true that as we get closer to the end, evil men will get worse and worse, it is a matter of degree and not of quality. The quality of the counterfeit is always bad. Some are more effective in their deception than others but counterfeits are always a lie.

WHAT IF I QUIT BELIEVING? 

Believers in Christ have protection within them from false prophets (verse 4). In 1 John 2:18-27 we find specifically what he means by this verse. Some have asked me, what happens if I quit believing in Jesus Christ. According to these verses that will not and cannot happen. If you quit believing in Christ it is because you never truly believed in Him. I am not talking about doubts. I am not talking about those who give up in frustration and quit trying to live for Christ. I am talking about those and the text is talking about those who teach the truth and then turn their backs on it and attempt to drag others with them on their path. That is what John is addressing here. We, however, are protected. We are protected because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We are protected because we have the truth in us.

The world has no protection from the false prophets because they think just like them (verse 5). This is an awful thing to think about but the Bible plainly teaches that the natural mind follows after the lie of Satan. The lie appears in all kinds of forms but every form is deadly. Which will kill you a bullet through the heart or a knife through the heart? So it is with the lie of Satan. There is no hope unless they are awakened by the Holy Spirit and believe the truth of the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ.

ANSWER THESE THREE QUESTIONS 

When someone clearly sees and rejects the truth we know that they are not of God (verse 6). If you are here this morning, you have heard the truth. Did you understand it? If you understood it, have you accepted it or rejected it? If you have accepted it, how are you going to react when you hear the lie? That is our invitation this morning.

Links to sermons from Deut. 13 and 18 and 1 John 4:1-6 August 3, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Deuteronomy, False Doctrine, False Teachers, First John, Jonathan Edwards, Links, Prophets, Sermons, Truth.
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Not a sermon but a short paragraph to get you started on the importance of Scriptural doctrinal statements.

http://against-heresies.blogspot.com/2007/07/affirmation-of-truth.html

http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/John%27s%20Epistles%201-2-3/05b.htm Sermon by Ligon Duncan

http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/je-marksofhs.htm by Jonathan Edwards

http://www.gracegems.org/Law2/d01.htm by Henry Law

http://www.pbc.org/library/files/html/0161.html by Ray Stedman

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermons/read_sermon.asp?id=553 by Ray Pritchard