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My Help Comes from the LORD October 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Psalms, Shepherd.
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THE CAVALRY IS COMING
Psalms 121

“Six thousand men under the command of General French were detailed by [the Confederate general] Hood to take the [supply post of Altoona Pass, Georgia protected by fifteen hundred under General Corse of Illinois]. The works were completely surrounded and summoned to surrender. Corse refused and a sharp fight commenced. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill…At this moment an officer caught sight of a white signal flag far away across the valley, twenty miles distant upon the top of Kennesaw Mountain. The signal was answered, and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: ‘Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman.’ Cheers went up…and under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded more than half the men in the fort…they held the fort for three hours until the advance guard of Sherman’s army came up [and] French was obliged to retreat” (from Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories).

A. There are often times when we need help. Remember that your help comes from the Creator of the universe (verses 1-2). These people on their way to the temple, perhaps from outside of Jerusalem had begun in Psalm 120 by calling to each other expressing confidence that God would answer their prayer. They recognized that they were surrounded by trouble and that they needed help. They looked at the hills that surrounded Jerusalem and recognized that the God who created those hills was their helper.

1. Hills were often associated with gods. When you read of high places in the Bible it is often associated with local gods. It was in such places that sacrifices were made and these places were often associated with idolatry.

2. A great God makes a little hill great. “Persons who travel to Israel are often disappointed to find that Jerusalem is not located on the highest mountain in the area…In the ancient world mountains were considered to be the homes of the gods. So Mount Olympus [for example]…was felt to be an especially holy place. Here God is saying that there is really only one ‘holy mountain,’ the place where he, the sole Creator of the universe, has chosen to place his name” (from John Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah).

B. Remember that He watches over you all the time (verses 3-6). Sometimes I ask myself if I really believe this. Sometimes I act as if God is out to lunch, that he is asleep.

1. There is, however, evil all around us in the form of temptation and persecution. It does not matter whether it is day or night, sun or shadow, heat or cold, there is in this world all matters of danger and we need to be aware that we desperately need the Lord watching over us.

2. He never leaves you or forsakes you. “Around the year 1870 the song ‘O How I Love Jesus’ was new and very popular. It seemed that wherever folks sang, you would be sure to hear it at least once in a service – sometimes several times. At the time, [Philip] Bliss was compiling his first Sunday School songbook which he entitled ‘The Charm.’ Because of its popularity, Mr. Bliss wanted very much to use [the song] but when he wrote the owner of the copyright, he was refused permission to use it, for the owner felt it would hurt the sale of his own books…In the days that followed, Mr. Bliss often thought of the incident and then one day the thought suddenly dawned upon him. ‘It is important that I love Jesus, but it is a greater and a more wonderful truth that He loves me!’… When he came to the breakfast table he said, ‘Lucy, the Lord gave me a new song early this morning and here’s how it goes, ‘I am so glad that the Father in Heaven tells of His love in the book he has given…’” (told by George C. Stebbins to Al Smith, Treasury of Hymn Histories).

C. Remember that He not only handles our day-to-day and material lives but also that which is more important, the eternal and our spiritual lives (verses 7-8).

It is interesting that our shepherd provides for us in a dry and thirsty land spiritually. Philip Keller in his classic, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, writes, “It is not generally recognized that many of the great sheep countries of the world are dry, semi-arid areas. Most breeds of sheep flourish best in this sort of terrain…But in those same regions it is neither natural nor common to find green pastures…Green pasture [do] not just happen by chance…Green pastures were the result of clearing rough, rocky land; of tearing out brush and roots and stumps; of deep and planting special grains and legumes; of irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops of forage that would feed the flocks…green pastures are essential to success with sheep…”

The word we live in is a dry and thirsty land. It is lacking in truly spiritual nourishment. Wherever you turn there is nothing spiritually or eternally satisfying in this world. We need the green grass of heaven here on earth. How do we get it? We can’t. We need help when in danger. We need eternity when in this temporary land. Did you come looking for something eternal this morning or did you come looking for an emotional or religious fix? That will not satisfy. You need to turn to the one who will never leave you or forsake you and depend on Him for the spiritual and eternal help you need. He may or may not bless you physically and temporally in this world. That will depend on His will. All, however, who trust in Him will be helped, kept, and preserved in this world and into the next one forever.

Next in series: Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122)

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What We Share In Christ September 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Faith, Gospel, Hypocrisy, Reward, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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WHAT WE SHARE WITH EACH OTHER
2 Timothy 1:3-12

One of the biggest misconceptions of our modern society is that we have to feel good about each other in order to have true community or, to use a biblical word, true fellowship. As often happens, we get the cart before the horse. We often compare the church to a family. Yet we would never say that it is good mutual feelings that form a family. We recognize that love for one another is characteristic of a good family but we also recognize that a dysfunctional family is still a family.

Perhaps I can explain it this way. When our children are conceived or adopted they become a part of our family, not because they feel good about life or about the faces that greet them when they come into the world but because they are conceived into or adopted into a family. At that moment they begin to share everything with their family. In the same way, the moment one is born again they begin to share with other believers. Today we want to look at some of those things we share with one another as members of the Body of Christ gathered together at Grace Bible Church.

A. We share with each other a genuine faith in Christ (verses 3-7). The word genuine means without hypocrisy, without pretending. Faith is either genuine or it is not. Genuine faith might be strong; it might be weak but it does not pretend.

1. Our genuine faith is characterized by a pure conscience (verses 3-5). In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes those without a pure conscience. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. They say I have faith but they live differently.

“Major Osipovich, an air force pilot for the former USSR, planned to give a talk at his children’s school about peace. But he would need time off during the day to give his talk, so he volunteered for night duty…Soon the Soviet pilot was caught in a series of blunders and misinformation. In the end, Major Osipovich followed orders and shot down [an] unidentified aircraft. The actions of an air force major preparing to talk about peace plunged 240 passengers to their deaths and sparked an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off” (Leadership, Summer 1994). We may say we have faith but our actions demonstrate whether our faith is real or not.

Those without genuine faith are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 2:2-4). If, however you have a genuine faith, the power of God will help you to love others rather than yourself or money or pleasure. If you have genuine faith you will live humbly, in submission to and thankful for authority. If you have genuine faith you will find a way to forgive and control your temper and your tongue.

2. Our genuine faith is characterized by a powerful spirit (verses 6-7). A genuine faith does not fear because it is confident in Christ. A genuine faith produces power in the form of love for others and for God. A genuine faith protects your mind from the deception of the devil.

B. We share with and in Christ the sufferings of the gospel (verses 8-11). Paul writes Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Suffering with Christ is not optional.

1. It is our calling (verses 8-9a). Christ has enlisted us as soldiers. Soldiers suffer. They don’t take breaks during battle. At Petersburg, Virginia the Union soldiers had dug a 500 foot tunnel to a chamber under the Confederate army. In this chamber explosives were placed in preparation for a surprise attack. When the explosion was set off there were immediately 278 casualties and a huge crater formed where the Confederate soldiers had been posted. Four Union divisions were to attack immediately after the explosion to take advantage of the confusion and to hopefully bring the war to an end. The first division belonged to Brigadier General James H. Ledlie but Ledlie was not with his troops. “He was immured in a bombproof [nearly a quarter-mile away], swigging away at a bottle of rum… joined [by another of the four divisions’ commanders, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero]…It…cost Burnside 3828 men, nearly half of them captured or missing” in great part because two commanders took a break during the battle (based on Shelby Foote’s account of the battle in Volume III, The Civil War: A Narrative).

2. It is our privilege according to His purpose and grace (verses 9b-10a). Before time began God purposed to give us grace through Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, that grace and love were revealed to the world. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We have done nothing to deserve this calling but called we are nonetheless. We will suffer but it is a privilege that will be rewarded throughout all eternity.

3. It is our necessity (verses 10b-11). It is one thing to be called. It is another to fulfill that calling. Paul says, “God has appointed me to suffer for the gospel but I can do nothing else.”

C. We share with and in Christ a glorious certainty (verse 12). Only the soldier who fights receives the glory of the soldier. Only the athlete who competes wins the gold medal. Only the farmer who sows, reaps a harvest. The hymn Paul quotes from in 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

“Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, writes in Life magazine about…Poppa…We had just moved to Holliswood, New York…it had some land around it, even trees. One in particular was a great blue spruce that must have been 40 feet tall. Less than a week after we moved in, there was a terrible storm. We came home from the store that night to find the spruce pulled almost totally from the ground and flung forward, its mighty nose bent in the asphalt of the street…We stood in the street, looking down at the tree. ‘Okay, we gonna push ‘im up!’ [Poppa said]. ‘What are you talking about, Poppa? The roots are out of the ground!’ ‘Shut up, we gonna push ‘im up, he’s gonna grow again.’ …So we followed him into the house and we got what rope there was and we tied the rope around the tip of the tree that lay in the asphalt, and he stood up by the house, with me pulling on the rope and Frankie in the street in the rain, helping to push up the great blue spruce. In no time at all, we had it standing up straight again! With the rain still falling, Poppa dug away at the place where the roots were, making a muddy hole wider and wider as the tree sank lower and lower toward security. Then we shoveled mud over the roots and moved boulders to the base to keep the tree in place. Poppa drove stakes in the ground, tied rope from the trunk to the stakes and maybe two hours later looked at the spruce, the crippled spruce made straight by ropes, and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s gonna grow again…’ If you were to drive past that house today, you would see the great, straight blue spruce, maybe 65 feet tall, pointing up to the heavens, pretending it never had its nose in the asphalt” (Leadership, Winter 1993).

This is what we share in Christ. We share in a genuine faith in Him, a faith that produces suffering here on earth and a glorious reward in eternity. We will reign with Him in His kingdom here on earth. We will celebrate with Him the great Passover, when He for the first time drinks of the fruit of the vine with those of us who have put our faith in Him and have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light.

The Value of Faith August 20, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Faith.
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FAITH AND FOOLISHNESS
Acts 27

In Decision Making by the Book Haddon Robinson tells about a time when in Colorado he was speaking to a young lady at Denver Seminary about her seeking God’s as to whether she should go skiing. He writes, “I asked her how she expected to determine God’s will on the matter…she said, ‘Well, I put out a fleece. If my daddy sends me some money, then I’ll know that skiing is something God wants me to do…I haven’t asked him for any money lately, and I figure if he sends me money I’ll know God wants me to go skiing.’ … ‘Look,’ I asked her, ‘if you’re really going to put out a fleece, why not a good one? …Why don’t you pray that the president will send you a letter, and in that letter there will be a check that will give you enough to go skiing? And if you’re really going to follow Gideon’s example to the limit, pray that you get a second letter and a check from Britain’s prime minister the next day…That’s the type of miraculous sign that Gideon wanted from God…he was asking for two miracles, and he got them both!’”

We want to live by faith but sometimes in our attempts to live by faith we fall into foolishness. In this chapter we see clearly the difference between Paul, a man who lived by faith and a group of men who lived by foolishness.

A. We all have faith in something (verses 2, 4, 7). The sailors and soldiers in these verses put their faith in the natural protection that staying close to the shore provided. It is not that they are risk adverse but at that time prudence outweighed risk in their decisions. They were confident that they were safer staying close to shore.

Christians should not be risk adverse. In fact, to be a true Christian by definition is a risk. To believe in someone who we have never seen but not just to believe in that person but to love that person and to rejoice in the belief that what he has promised we will receive is seen as a great risk in this day. We would rather depend on money than God’s promises. We would rather depend on our political philosophy than God’s providence. We would rather depend on our educational systems than on taking up our cross and following Christ. Why? Because our faith is in something or someone besides Christ.

B. Faith, no matter where or in whom it is placed, does not guarantee us an easy life (verse 8). This verse is talking about the coasts but it applies even to our faith in Christ. Faith, whatever it is in, does not guarantee an easy life. In fact, it is the difficult times that prove whether your faith is real or not. Real faith does not falter. It is when you experience pain that your faith is tested. It is when you are offended that the reality of your faith reveals itself. It is tested like gold in the fire.

C. We all make mistakes in our decisions no matter where our faith is placed (verses 9-20). Leith Anderson in Leadership that Works tells how that his father was a successful pastor for over three decades outside of New York City in New Jersey. He later served briefly in Florida where he was not able to duplicate his success. “What was different? Frankly, it’s hard to say…No leader may ever assume that what works will in one place will work well in another. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. had traded places in history, we probably never would have heard of either of them.” Even if your faith is in the right place, even if your confidence is in Christ, you may make a mistake.

1. Sometimes our desires override our faith (verses 13-14). These men left the safety of the coast because they desired strongly to get to Rome and suddenly the wind seemed to cooperate. They are thinking, yes, ride the wave. The circumstances changed to fit their desires and so they set off. Unfortunately, for them the circumstances drastically changed again.

2. Sometimes our decisions result in hopelessness (verses 14-20). These men made a decision. It seemed like a reasonable decision at the time but it quickly became a disastrous decision. There is no hope. They will die because they made the wrong decision.

D. When our faith is in God we can have confidence even in the face of hopelessness (verses 21-26). Edwin “Bull” Sumner, called “the Bull of the Wood” because of the loudness of his voice “assembled his corps on the north bank [of a river], near the two bridges he had built [for an emergency crossing into battle], Foaming water had buckled them; torn from their pilings, awash knee-deep in the center, they seemed about to go with the flood. When the order to support…arrived and the tall white-haired old man started his soldiers across, an engineer officer protested that the condition of the bridges made a crossing not only unsafe, but impossible. ‘Impossible?’ Sumner roared. ‘Sir, I tell you I can cross! I am ordered!’”

This was the attitude Paul had. For over two years God had allowed him to remain imprisoned for this purpose, to preach the gospel in Rome. Paul had been ordered. God would deliver him to fulfill that order.

E. We should allow through the open expression of our faith to inspire hope in others (verses 27-44). Kent Hughes in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome tells of going through a period of hopelessness in which he expressed his desperation to his wife. He asked her, “‘What am I to do?’” She said, “‘I don’t know what you’re going to do. But for right now, for tonight, hang on to my faith. Because I believe. I believe that God is good. I believe that He loves us and is going to work through this experience. So hang on to my faith. I have enough for both of us.’”

Many today are looking at hopeless situations. Maybe you blame the decisions of others. Maybe you blame your own decision. Maybe you blame the change in circumstances. Maybe you blame a combination of factors. Maybe you even blame God for your hopeless situation. If, however, you are following Christ then the situation may look hopeless but God will bring you exactly where you need to be. Hang on to your faith. Hang on to your faith.

Next week: Being in God’s Will (Acts 28)

Steps to Buying a Church (An Apology for the Church) June 4, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Faith, Gospel, Grace Bible Church, Leadership, Local Church, Paul's Life, Redemption, Religion, Sermons.
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STEPS TO BUYING A CHURCH
Acts 20

Every once in awhile a letter with listings comes across my desk from a realty company, that specializes in selling church buildings. I normally glance over it and then file it away in the garbage can. The church we are talking about buying today, however, is not a church building but rather the congregation of Grace Bible Church in Delta Township, Michigan.

A. Christ paid the down payment for us with his blood (verses 21-28). There are two ways mentioned in Scripture in which we find that Christ has purchased believers in Him. The first is mentioned in Ephesians 1:13-14. There it talks about the Holy Spirit being the down payment to us as believers. One day we will receive our inheritance, the glory of God but right now we have the Holy Spirit of God guaranteeing that when Christ comes, what He has purchased will be in His possession.

1. The second way in which we find that Christ has purchased believers is found here in Acts 20:28. Christ purchased Grace Bible Church with His blood (verse 28). Perhaps you did not see the words “Grace Bible Church” in the text; so let me explain why it is that I do. Paul is talking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He anticipates possibly never seeing them again, so this is a farewell message. He commands them to pay attention to their own spiritual well-being as well as that of the church(es) in Ephesus. They have this position because the Holy Spirit set them over the church of God as shepherds. What church is Paul talking about? The church in Ephesus. What is so important about the church in Ephesus? Christ purchased it with his blood.

Ephesus, however, is not the only church Christ purchased with his blood. There is a church in Delta Township. For over seventy-five years this church has been a witness to Christ. Sometimes a great witness, sometimes not. There have been and there probably still are goats among the sheep or tares among the wheat, perhaps even wolves among the sheep but it is still His church for He has bought it with His blood.

That is why I only baptize people who are joining Grace Bible Church. If baptism is the step that identifies one with Christ and with His body then the believer needs when possible to be baptized by water, by initiation, into the local body of Christ which He has purchased with His blood (sometimes as in the case with the Ethiopian eunuch it is not possible).

2. Our signature is on the contract (verse 21). He has made the purchase, He gives the guarantee through the Holy Spirit but it is not a hostile takeover. We are also involved in this transaction. Through repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. Note that Paul does not emphasize repentance from sin. You see it is possible to turn from sin without turning to God. It is not, however, possible to turn to God without turning from sin. We hear the message of our sinfulness and of Christ’s paying of the purchase price on the cross and we either turn to Jesus for salvation from sin or we reject it and continue on our way to the lake of fire.

B. We invest ourselves into God’s church (verses 18-20, 28-35). Paul puts it this way in verse 24, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself.” Paul had this attitude, if the church is worth the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then it is worth my life also. You can invest yourself in morality, in family values, in political justice, in hard work, in caring for the needy, in all that is good and great in this country and if you have not invested yourself into God’s church, you have wasted your life.

Some wonder why I have given so much time to our teenagers. It is simple. They are the generation to which I will give over the leadership of this church. The twenty and thirty-something’s are not here. God, however, has given us a great gift and rather than crying because of what we do not have, let us invest in what we do. We cannot bury our treasure in the ground so that we don’t lose it. Even if we have only one gold coin to invest, it was given to us to invest, wholly, totally, with great risk, but with the hope of a rich return.

In Wheaton, Illinois there was “in front of a house that had a square marble stone with a brass marker in its front yard…On the marker were these words: On This Spot in 1897 Nothing Happened” (from Hans Finzel’s The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make). Let’s not be like that! Let’s invest ourselves in something worthwhile.

1. We choose to concentrate ourselves on God’s people and not on ourselves (verses 33-35). As in Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul mentions that we have an eternal inheritance through Jesus Christ. This inheritance is referred to by him in 1 Corinthians as a building of gold, silver, and precious stones. Paul says, I don’t want your gold and silver, I want to labor so that you will be vessels of gold and silver pleasing to the Lord. I don’t want nice clothes from you but to teach you how to put off the old clothes of unrighteousness and to put on the new clothes of a life that is honoring to God. I don’t want you to provide for my necessities but rather to allow me to strengthen you in your weakness. Paul concentrated himself on God’s people.

2. We choose to risk ourselves totally, getting the message to people (verses 18-20). There are many groups that are willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. We celebrated last week the men and women who were willing to die for their country. Our sacrifice for Christ and His people, however, is to get the message of the gospel to the people. He says I kept back nothing from you, which was helpful (verse 20). I have testified to the gospel of the grace of God (verse 24). I have preached to you the kingdom of God (verse 25). I have declared to you the whole counsel of God (verse 27). This message is worth dying for, it is worth risking ourselves totally so that everyone both in the church and out of the church can have it and understand it.

3. We protect our investment by the wise use of our personnel and time (verses 28-31). The church’s best people are called to watch over the flock. Why? Because the flock is who reaches the city. The church in Jerusalem was most effective in getting out the gospel when the congregation left town and the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. One possible reason why we are not as effective as we could be in reaching the community is that we have gotten the cart before the horse. It is not the pastor that reaches the community but the church that does. If the church does not do it, then how will it get done in any sort of spiritual way?

Allow me to give you a modern example: “Four couples are meeting for a Bible study on a weeknight. They have been getting together for about four months, since three of them had been converted to Christ. One of the laymen in the church has been leading the study…As they launch into their lesson, the phone rings. ‘Is Joe there? Joe is one of the four-month-old Christians. ‘Yes, but he’s busy right now…’ The voice is desperate, ‘Please! I’ve got to talk with him.’ …Joe picks up the phone and listens. ‘OK,’ he says, ‘I’ll come right over.’ Joe comes back to his Bible study group and explains. His business partner wants him to come over and help him. There’s been a marital fight, and the man’s wife is walking out on him…Joe feels he should go and do what he can.
The leader of the study group [agrees]…The Bible study turns into a prayer meeting… [Joe leads] both husband and wife to Christ… [and continues] leading them in a study of the Scriptures. The leader, in turn, had begun to spend a little extra time with Joe to answer some of his questions now that he and his wife were leading new Christians in a study of the Word of God” (from Leroy Eims’ The Lost Art of Disciple Making).

It will also cost us our time. Three years night and day is a long time. That is a lot of prayers. That is a lot of late nights talking and teaching. Paul obviously was used to that grind. In Troas he spoke so long that a fellow went to sleep and fell out the window necessitating a resuscitation ministry by Paul. If we give five hours a week to serving the Lord, his people, and this community we feel like we have given much. Don’t, however, ask yourself if you are giving enough time. Ask am I giving my all.

He paid the price for us. Spurgeon tells how Roman noblemen whose city was surrounded by their enemies the Carthaginians showed confidence in their success in that they bought the land on which their enemies were encamped. When Jesus died for Grace Bible Church, when He paid the price for us, He was confident that what He bought, He would possess. We can also, because of His confidence invest with great confidence in what He purchased with his blood.

Jacob Wrestling with God May 29, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Genesis, Jacob, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
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WRESTLING WITH GOD
Genesis 32:22-32

In the evangelical tradition there has long been an emphasis on a “crisis experience.” Sometimes it has been considered crucial to a true salvation experience and often people have a crisis experience when they get saved. In 1865 a fanatical infidel, who had written a book on infidelity, “…was persuaded to attend an old-fashioned camp-meeting. The preacher challenged the people…to give Jesus Christ a fair trial. When he asked for those to come forward who were willing to make the test, [the infidel] went…While riding home, he got down on his knees in the woods and fought the battle out-and Jesus Christ won. [B. H.] Carroll’s life was transformed, and his great gifts were dedicated to Christ.”

Sometimes this crisis experience comes to someone who is already a believer but is plagued by doubts. “[G. Campbell Morgan] went through an eclipse of his faith. In desperation, he locked all his books in a cupboard, secured a new Bible, and began to read it…The result? ‘That Bible found me!’” (both examples are from Warren Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

It should be noted that not everyone has crisis experiences and certainly not every crisis experience comes at the same time in one’s life or in the same way. In Jacob’s life his crisis experience came in a moment of great fear, his brother Esau was coming to meet him, the same brother from whom he had stolen his father’s blessing, the same Esau who had promised twenty years earlier to kill Jacob as soon as his father was dead. Jacob has now taken a step toward reconciliation (32:3-5). The messengers come back with this message, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (verse 6). Jacob fears now for his life. He divides his company into two groups so that at least some of them might survive and he prays to God for help but he still is fearful. He sends presents ahead to Esau, hoping to appease his anger but he still is fearful. That night he has a crisis experience, he wrestles with God.

A. Like Jacob, even though we have faith in Christ, we still might find ourselves wrestling with God. To have a crisis experience, to be fearful or depressed or doubtful, there is no shame in having a crisis experience.

1. Wrestling with God may happen when you know God’s will but do not know what you at that moment should do (32:1-23). Jacob had been walking with God for twenty years. He had been taken advantage of by his uncle Laban. During those twenty years he had been humbled by God. He tries to do what’s right by reconciling to his brother. And now four hundred men are coming, fully capable of destroying Jacob and all with which God had blessed him. Jacob knew in general that he was in God’s will but he did not know at that moment what he should do. Have you ever been there?

2. Wrestling with God happens when you want God’s will in your life no matter what the cost may be (32:24-32). People who don’t want God’s will done, do not wrestle with God. It wasn’t until Jonah was in the whale that he was willing to do God’s will. We find him wrestling with God in chapter 2 not in chapter 1. There he is simply running.

One of the best examples of someone wrestling with God is our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew God’s will. He may have not known every detail of what would happen during the next twenty-four hours but he knew that he was on his way to die. Yet he was willing to pay the price. The cost was great. The cost was terrifying to Jesus. Jesus faced death with the same emotions that many a man before and afterward faced death with but he was willing to pray the price.

Are you willing to pay the price?

B. When we wrestle with others, we must have God’s help to be blessed (32:26-29). God points out; Jacob has not only prevailed in his wrestling with God but also in his wrestling with men, particularly Esau and Laban. One thing is clear. Jacob prevailed with men because of God’s blessing and not because of his ability or wisdom. Why? Because he was part of God’s royal entourage.

1. We have a position as believers in Christ in a royal family (32:28). That’s what makes the cost worth it. Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” God’s blessing is based not on me but on my position in Him.

2. We know from where our help must come (32:29). Will we depend on Him?

“In 1929 [W. E. Sangster] moved to Liverpool (England) where… he pastored [and filled] two churches…[He] went through a deep spiritual crisis…After his father’s death, [his son] found a handwritten ‘spiritual analysis’ buried in the bottom drawer of the desk…It was the record of [a] spiritual conflict…It begins, ‘I am a minister of God and yet my private life is a failure in these ways…’ Then he listed eight areas of defeat. He concluded: ‘I have lost peace…I have lost joy…. I have lost taste for my work….I feel a failure.’ What was the answer? ‘Pray. Pray. Pray. Strive after holiness like an athlete prepares for a race. The secret is in prayer’” (Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

Are you wrestling with God today? Do you want to do God’s will and don’t know how? Tell it to Jesus. You don’t have to wrestle alone. Paul wrote to several churches including in Rome and Colosse and asked those people to wrestle with him. Jacob wrestled alone but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let us wrestle with you.

Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning March 12, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Adultery, Confession, David, Depravity, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Repentance, Second Samuel, Sermons, Sin.
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Seeking God’s Favor After Sinning
2 Samuel 12 with Psalms 51 and 32

David was entrusted with God’s people. In His disobedience to God, He betrayed God’s people. What we sometimes forget is the awful cost of betrayal. There is an emotional cost. When you read John’s Gospel carefully, it seems that a huge part of the emotional turmoil exhibited in the Garden of Gethsemane had to do with his knowledge of the betrayal of Judas.

Many of you today feel betrayed. Some of you have so often felt betrayed that you have deep scars on your soul. If you have been betrayed, then understand this sermon touches on those events in which you were betrayed.

There is, however, hope and healing. The path to hope and healing, however, is not an easy path. I do not want to mislead you and tell you that this one sermon will answer all your questions and solve all your problems. What I desire is that we begin our path through the valley of the shadow of death together. It will not be easy. In fact, our path begins with the destruction left behind by sin.

I. Sin is destructive (2 Samuel 12). It starves the malnourished and leaves the helpless unprotected. Sin is like a whirlpool pulling all those close by under the water. Sin leaves its victims with no where to turn. Sin, like Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking who He may devour. Yes, sin is destructive eternally in the lake of fire but it is also destructive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in this life, right now.

a. One of the reasons sin is so destructive is that when I sin, I do not care about others (2 Samuel 12:1-6). You see sin is manipulative, coercive, controlling, and predatory. Look at David’s sin. David in this case did not care who he harmed.

That is the point of Nathan’s parable. Nathan did not even address the lies David told and the murder David ordered. He simply points out that the sinner, in this case, David, did not care about the welfare of others. He did not care about his kingdom, he did not care about his family, and he did not care about his army. All he cared about was self.

Let me at this point say something very important. When I say these things, I know what I am talking about. I am an experienced sinner. I wish that I could tell you that I would never sin against you but my forty-six years have taught me this much. I sin when I am selfish. Sometimes my sin is acceptable to those around me and sometimes it is not but it is always selfish.

Sin destroys trust because sin uses trust as a weapon. When trust is destroyed, it is then that people begin to lose hope. Without trust, how can you hope in friends, family, and church? Without trust, how can you feel safe? Without trust, how can you hope in justice? Would you trust David as your king, your husband, your father, your commander in chief? No. Yet you need those in whom you can trust. What do you do? Perhaps the one damaged by sin withdraws into a world they feel they can control. Maybe they put up an impenetrable front through which no one can break through. Or perhaps they simply walk away when trust is demanded.

But when I sin, I do not care about that.

b. When I sin, I show a lack of contentment with God’s blessings (2 Samuel 12:7-8). This is the second point of the parable of Nathan but this point is so important that Nathan explicitly emphasizes it.

“In Our Daily Bread, Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat.
“Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” the rich man asked.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.

Again, I speak from experience. When I sin, it is often because I am not content with what God has given me. I want more. I am not convinced that what I have is enough. I am not convinced that the resources, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, that God has given me are sufficient. It is in that moment that my heart becomes fertile ground for sin.

c. When I sin, I despise the wisdom of God and His Word (2 Samuel 12:9-10). I will refer to this when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. It is important for you and me as believers to realize that when we sin, it is because we despise God’s wisdom. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that He is God and we are not. When I sin as a believer, it is usually because I feel I know better than God does.

II. But repentance is possible (Psalm 51). The consequences of David’s sin were long-lasting. A daughter abused. A son murdered. Another son, Absalom leads a rebellion against his father in which not only is he killed but thousands of others die in a civil war. Those were some of the special consequences God visited on David and Israel. Yet there was repentance on David’s part and this repentance resulted in God’s blessing on God’s people.

a. No excuses are allowed (Psalm 51:1-6). David made it clear where his sin came from. He was born a sinner. Environmental factors played no role. He was the source of his own sin. That is why he begged for mercy. He could not wipe away the consequences. Neither could he eliminate an already done deed. He needed God to intervene. For God to intervene, David realized that there could be no excuses.

It is essential that we be honest with ourselves. We must acknowledge the destructiveness of our sin. It is only when we are honest with ourselves that we can truly repent.

b. A return to dependence on God’s mercy is demanded (Psalm 51:7-12). There used to be a saying, “The Devil is no friend of grace.” We forget so easily that healing is only to be found in God’s grace and mercy. We, each of us, are in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are defenseless against Satan, against the world, and most of all, against our own evil flesh unless we depend on God’s grace.

c. Repentance unlike penance focuses on loving God and others (Psalm 51:13-17).

One of the big dangers is that one admits to guilt but there is not change. Repentance demands a change. David repentance drives him away from his selfishness. John the Baptist tried to explain this when he preached on repentance in Luke 3:7-14. Penance simply says I am guilty and I will start doing good works. Repentance says, there is no excuse, I am sinful to the core but I will throw myself own God’s mercy and begin to live as He commands, “To love the Lord my God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself.”

d. Repentance of the individual brings healing to the congregation (Psalm 51:18-19). You see, each one of us is negatively affected by the sin of the other. That is clear. First Corinthians 12:26 says, “…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” This psalm also makes it clear that true repentance in one of us, positively affects each one of us. Last week, Dale preached on forgiveness from Matthew 18:21-35. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus warns against the consequences of sin in verses 1-10. Yet there is hope in verses 11-14. Jesus wants to save the lost, protect the weak, revive those without hope, and nourish the starving. He does that regardless of whether the offender repents or not.

But what about the sinner? Not every sinner repents and Jesus threatens that one with punishment. But if he repents, Jesus will not cast him out and according to Matthew 18:15, we have gained a brother. It is of profit to each of you when I repent of my sin. How? Because then we are viewed as acceptable before God.

What is your sin? It is destructive to yourself and to all those around you. You need to quit making excuses and repent. You may need help being honest with yourself. You may need help on the road of repentance. God’s mercy is available and we extend our hand to help you.

I have spoken primarily to believers who have already trusted Christ. If you have not trusted Christ, you need to recognize that He paid the penalty for your sin on the cross. He died for you. You need to be honest also. You need to admit that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. You need the mercy available through faith in Christ. Will you trust him today?

Isaiah 9: What the New King Brings (A Christmas Sermon) December 20, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Faith, Gospel, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Joy, Light, Matthew, Millenial Kingdom, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week:
Tuesday: Links concerning the Manhattan Compact
Wednesday: Thoughts concerning the Manhattan Compact
Sunday: Beginning a new series on the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.

WHAT THE NEW KING BRINGS
Isaiah 9:1-7

INTRODUCTION: This week when we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will be celebrating the birthday of a king. The past three weeks we have looked at the prophecies of Isaiah about His coming to the earth as the baby in Bethlehem as well as His future coming to rule and reign on the earth. Today I want to again look at Isaiah and again look at what Jesus brought with Him at the first Christmas and what He will bring to this earth in the future.

A. The New King Brings Light to Those in Darkness (9:1-2).

1. There is hope in Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5). Matthew 4:12-25 records the fulfillment of this prophecy that Christ would begin His ministry in Galilee. The King brings light to those in darkness beginning – not in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life; nor in Rome, the political capital of the Roman Empire; neither in Alexandria, the intellectual giant of Egypt; and not even in Athens, the home of Greek philosophy. It is in Galilee, specifically the city of Capernaum and the surrounding area in which the King brings light to men in darkness. It is not a center of importance. Does He ignore the others? No, but in Galilee is where He begins and He expands His light throughout a dark world.

Jesus being the Light of the World and bringing light to humankind is a very important part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:76-79, Zacharias sang at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. He ended his song with, “You, my son are going to be the prophet of the Highest and you are going to prepare the way for the Messiah, the one who is going to rise like the sun in the east and bring mercy to the Jewish people, the one who is going “…(t)o give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

I am glad that light is not limited to the Jews. Repeatedly in Isaiah we have seen that He brings light to all humankind. Simeon, when Jesus was just eight days old in Luke 2:32, identifies Jesus as “(a) light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles, because they did not know the God of Israel, lived in the land of the shadow of death. They lived there because they rejected the truth of God (Romans 1). They lived there because they have spiritually, even when going through tough times, shaken their fist in God’s face. They were in total darkness.

That was my situation and that was the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. The reality of eternal death, although certain, is not yet accomplished for you hearing this message this morning. Someone has already been executed for our sin. It is Jesus, the King and the Bringer of Light. It is through faith (John 1:4-8) in His death and resurrection that He proclaims light to the human race which is sitting in the shadow of death (Acts 26:22-23).

B. The New King Also Brings Joy to Those Oppressed (9:3-4). It is in these verses that we see not only the first coming of Christ as a man but also His second, future coming as the Prince of Peace. They are melded so closely to each other that one can hardly recognize where one begins and the other ends. That is so, even though there are at least 2000 years between the two comings.

1. What kind of joy does the King bring (9:3)?

The King brings multiplied and increased joy, exceeding joy. That is what Mary sang as she carried her Savior in her womb, “My spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Savior.” Even before He was born, the King brought exceeding joy. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds tidings of great joy. The wise men saw the star and had exceedingly great joy.

This joy is multiplied and increased because it has been a long time coming. It is the joy of the harvest. The farmer plants in the spring. He works and waters the field through all kinds of weather. Heat and cold, sunshine and rain, all through the spring and summer and fall he works and waits and then the harvest comes. That is the type of rejoicing in this passage. Since Adam, humankind had been waiting for Jesus to be born. That is one reason why He was received with great joy. It has been two thousand years since Jesus returned to His Father’s throne. When He returns to earth again, it will again be a time of great joy for those who trust in Him.

This joy is also multiplied and increased because it is the joy that comes with victory. When the King comes He brings victory over His enemies and over the enemies of His oppressed people. In that there is great joy.

2. What kind of oppression does the King relieve (9:4)? This fourth verse refers to Gideon in the book of Judges. The Midianites were a great host of raiders, who would come and destroy the crops and plunder the Israelites and murder and wreak havoc. That is the type of oppression the Israelites were suffering. They labored, they worked hard, and they planted. As soon as they planted the Midianites came and destroyed the crops. The people started hiding food. One of those hiding food was a young man named Gideon. God told Gideon, “I want you to take an army.” Gideon did. God told Gideon, “Reduce your army to 300 men.” Gideon did. God told Gideon to attack at night with three companies surrounding the camp, to blow their trumpets in their right hand, to break the pitchers concealing torches in their left hands, and to cry out, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” The Midianites woke up to the sound, saw the lights, panicked, and began to kill each other in the confusion. It was the largest case of friendly fire in history and God is the one who caused it. He is the one who delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemy. The resulting joy is the joy that only the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords can bring.

C. Finally, The New King not only Brings Light and Joy but He brings Eternal Peace (9:5-7). Verse 5 describes for us how complete this peace will be. The market for army boots and uniforms will be depleted. There will be no use for them because through His victory the King brings peace.

1. This King’s Name is Wonderful Counselor — Isaiah clarifies what he means in 25:1 and 29:14. Isaiah 29:14a says, “Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder…” This King does things that no other can do. His works are past finding out. They are too great for us. When I think that the ruler of the universe came to die for me so that I might have light and joy and peace, it is too marvelous, too wonderful for me to understand. This King, Jesus Christ, is Wonderful.

2. This King’s Name is Counselor — It may be that “wonderful” and “counselor” are intended to be one name. Either way, the point is this. He has the wisdom to make and carry out a perfect plan of peace. If you return to Isaiah 29:14b, you will see why God felt that He had to intervene in His people’s affairs, “…For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Before the creation of the universe, Christ had a perfect peace plan for this earth. That’s why we can turn to Him. “…Christ is a Counsellor to us and with us, because we can consult with him, and he… counsel(s) and advise(s) us as to the right way and the path of peace.” (Spurgeon)

3. This King’s Name is not only Wonderful Counselor but also the Mighty God — He makes the plans work because He is God. Yes, He became man and was tempted as you and I but as God He also came. If you are weak, go to Him for strength to carry out what He wants you to do. He is the Mighty God.

4. This King’s Name is also the Everlasting Father (or Father of Eternity) — His plans are good because He cares like a father and because they are eternal. Only an eternal God can guarantee eternal peace. If you are scared, depend on Him. If you are worried, turn to Him. He will never leave you holding the bag. In fact, He’ll hold the bag for you and stick around to see what you might be facing.

5. Finally, this King’s Name is the Prince of Peace — His plans are focused on peace. If you are disturbed, He has you in His sights and is unconcerned because He has you and all around you in His grip.

*In the past, His coming made peace with God
*In the present, right now, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when they put their faith in Christ and the Prince of Peace comes to live within them.
*In the future, His second coming will usher in an eternal kingdom of peace.

INVITATION: “The most important part of our verse (9:6) is the first three words….…‘For to us’. The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us, (to you). A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.”
“God has a Christmas gift for you……..not wrapped in bright paper and fancy ribbon, but in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…….It is the gift of His Son. It is for you. The gift is still there. It must be personally received.”
“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look in the Father’s Face and tell Him you have received his Christmas gift. Have you done that?” (Pritchard)

One thing about a gift, you can only give something once. You can only receive a gift once. So it is with the salvation of God. When you turn to Christ in faith and receive the gift of salvation, you never have to ask again. That gift is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, the Eternal Father, the Father of eternity can give an eternal gift. You may not have been enjoying the gift as you should but it is still yours. Perhaps you’ve received the gift of eternal life. That is a Christmas gift that you can never receive again but you can take it off the shelf and enjoy it not only every Christmas but every day for the rest of eternity. Christ wants you to enjoy the light and the joy and the peace that He has provided for you. If you haven’t been living for Him as you should, then tell Him as we pray that you are sorry. He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Turn to Him and start living for Him today.

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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THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS
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.)

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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THE KEY TO THANKSGIVING
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.

How would Peter define what a Christian is (2 Peter 1:1-4)? July 19, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Faith, Jesus, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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What is a Christian Anyway (2 Peter 1:1-4)?

When we were missionaries in Germany, we were brought in contact with a group of asylum seekers from an Islamic country. A few were sincere seekers after the truth but many wanted to convert to Christianity so that they might start a new life in a new country. In order to do this, they needed to convince immigration officials that they were truly Christian. They would come to us with lists of questions concerning the religious holidays of Christianity. Others sought baptism as a way of becoming officially Christians. It did not take long for most of them to realize that we were not going to be much help to them and they fell away. They fell away because they did not understand what it means to be a Christian.

What we are asking today is not how one becomes a Christian, although we will also be looking at that. Nor are we discussing what a Christian looks like and does in his everyday life. We will be looking at that question next week. Asked another way the question is this, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

A Christian is one who belongs to Christ. When Peter begins this letter, he identifies himself by name and makes it clear that he is a Christian, that is, that he belongs to Christ. How does he do this?

First, he says, “I am a bondslave of Christ.” A Christian is a slave belonging to Christ. We are His slaves (verse 1a). Romans 6 explains how that we were in bondage to sin but that through the death and resurrection of Christ we become slaves of righteousness. This means that we now do what Christ wants us to do. In 1 Peter 2:13-16, Peter explains how that works in a specific situation. There was the temptation for believers to refuse to submit to the government because Jesus was their king. Peter makes it clear that our slavery to Christ’s will compels us to obey the government. In other words, a slave of Jesus Christ is one who does the will of Jesus Christ. Peter states clearly that he does that will of God, not his will and not the will of any man but rather the will of God.

Secondly, Peter claims to be a servant. He uses the word apostle, that is, a sent messenger. The word “bondslave” makes it clear that Peter does the will of Christ. The word “apostle” tells us what Christ’s will actually is, to go with a message from Christ. In the same way, we are Christ’s servants (verse 1a). We do not all hold the office of an apostle but we are all sent messengers.

We have heard this morning from Susan Blodgett about her missionary work on the college campus and her recent missionary trip to the Dominican Republic. We support her financially. We pray for her. We rejoice in the work that God has given her and the part in the work which we have. We are no different than her, however. We are also bondslaves and as bondslaves we are responsible to do the will of God and the will of God is that we witness, that we serve as messengers of the gospel of Christ. That is our commission as servants. That is our task as slaves. In John 20:21, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” We are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, according to the book of Acts, for the purpose of being witnesses throughout the whole earth. In Matthew 28, Jesus said all authority is given to me. For that reason, “therefore” go and teach, that is, make disciples. We are sent out with a message under the authority of our master to follow the model of our master empowered by the Spirit of our master. That is what a Christian is. He or she is a messenger, an apostle.

We are His called ones (verses 1b, 3b). This is referred to in verse 1 through the word “obtain.” It is the word used when they cast lots letting God determine their course of action. Peter says here, “Every Christian is a Christian because of God’s determination.” Peter is an apostle who walked with Jesus Christ who was given the honor of leading the church at Jerusalem but his faith is exactly like our faith. Our faith is equal to his in value and in honor. And He obtained His faith like we obtained ours, by the grace of God.
This faith is also obtained by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:24-26 explains what this means, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What both Paul and Peter are saying is this, although one is a Christian by grace, it is a free gift, it was not free. Jesus Christ died, demonstrating the righteousness of God through His execution for sins, making it possible to obtain salvation by faith in Jesus. In other words, if one says he believes in Jesus but refuses to believe that Jesus is the only means of salvation, that person is not a Christian. He may speak of Jesus as His Savior but without faith in His death for my sins, He is not my Savior but rather my judge.

This is the description of the calling that we find in the last part of verse 3. Five times in 1 Peter it is written that believers are called but today I only want to call your attention to one of those passages, 1 Peter 2:9-10. Peter writes that we are called out of darkness into His marvelous light so that we might obtain mercy. Christians are called ones. We are called to faith by mercy and grace through the righteous, the just death of the Son of God. Just and righteous not because He got what He deserved but just and righteous because He got what I deserved.

Since we are called with such a merciful calling, it is no wonder that we should submit ourselves to slavery in the will of God, to service in telling the message of His mercy and righteousness in His death on the cross.

This calling, this slavery, this servant hood is great and marvelous but a Christian is much, oh so much much more, than just belonging to Christ. A Christian belongs to a body, the body of Christ.

We are called to a common faith through knowledge of Jesus Christ (verses 1-3). We have already seen that our faith is the same faith as Peter’s faith both in value and honor. The phrase “with us” may seem small but it underlines that our calling is not just an individual calling but a calling of a people. Look again at 1 Peter 2:9. God does not call Robert Talley to be a Christian. Now He worked in my life as an individual and He saved me individually but He called us to a common faith through Jesus Christ. Perhaps verse 5 can explain this concept better. We are his building. Many individual stones but one building.

We are called by a unique Savior (verses 1b and 3b). The body of Christ is inseparable from its Head. It has no sustainability without its Head. We have already seen that we are called together into one body through His righteous death. We are also called by His glory and virtue.

His glory according to 1 Peter 1:11, 21 is what happened after his death, His glorious, bodily resurrection and His even more glorious ascension to heaven to sit in authority on the right hand of God. There is none like Him. His glory is like that of no other.

His virtue is also like none other. Again in 1 Peter 1 we have a description of His virtue. Verse 19 describes Him as a lamb without blemish and without spot. There was nothing inappropriate much less sinful about Him. He truly is like no other.

It is the uniqueness of Christ that is our common bond. He lived like no other man, He suffered like no other man, He was glorified as no other man. He is our head. As we saw last Wednesday night from Ephesians 4:1, 4 the knowledge of our calling by this unique Christ is the foundation for part in the body of Christ and to not commit ourselves to other believers is unworthy of our calling in this unique Christ.

We are called based on great promises (verse 4a). These promises have great value. They are precious. These promises make it possible for us to be partakers of the divine nature. You see, belonging to Christ, being a Christian is more than going to heaven, it is more than being forgiven, I along with every other believer become a partaker of God’s divine nature. That is what it means to belong to the body of Christ. We share a common faith based on our knowledge of a unique Savior but we share more. We share much more. We share His nature. Christ being are head is not just getting corporate strength and direction from Him. His nature is our nature. How is that possible? The beginning of verse 3 tells us how. By His divine power. How is it that we have God’s nature? How is it that we can be one body in Christ? By His divine power through the knowledge of Him.

This is why you should integrate yourself fully into the body of Christ as practiced within a local church. If you are a believer in Christ and do not identify with a body of believers, do not integrate yourself fully with them, bear grudges against them, you are denying the common bond that we already have. Could you imagine a building where the stones are constantly pulling away from each other or pushing each other away? You know that such a building would collapse. Yet many believers claim to be Christians but refuse to commit themselves both formally and informally to other believers. As we saw in the book of James this morning in Sunday School, such a refusal to commit to other believers ultimately brings our Christianity into question.

A Christian belongs to a new world order (verse 4b). Being a Christian, belonging to Christ, belonging to His body is radically different. It is described in Scriptures as a separate reality.

Our old nature is corrupt, that is, doomed to destruction. The next chapter of 2 Peter describes this corruption in more detail. It is not a pretty picture (2 Peter 2:12-19). They are like rabid animals hunted down so that they might be destroyed (verse 12). The lust of the human nature is like rabies. It drives the animal to its own destruction. The animal no more fears that which can harm it. It is doomed.

But our new nature is divine. Could you imagine an animal, mad with rabies, doomed to death and dangerous to all with whom it comes in contact and then through the divine power that comes through the knowledge of Christ and through faith in Christ escapes the destructive disease and becomes not just a healthy animal but a partaker in the nature of God? It is beyond my comprehension but that is what a Christian is.

He belongs to Christ now.
He belongs to the body of Christ now.
He belongs to a new world order, a new realm of reality.

Do you belong to Christ? If you do, then you are a Christian. You belong to His body, you belong to a new world order. Do you live like it? There is nothing stranger than person who is not rabid acting as if he was. Do you walk worthy of your calling in Christ? Have you integrated yourself with the body or do you live the spiritual life of a lone wolf?

Perhaps you do not belong to Christ. The knowledge of Christ and the faith in Him produced by that knowledge will immediately make you a member of His body and a partaker of His divine nature. Will you trust Him today? Your choice is between two types of slavery. The slavery of corruption and destruction described in 2 Peter 2:12-17 or the slavery of righteousness through the death of Christ. Trust Him today!