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Jesus Among Friends (Luke 22) April 7, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Atonement, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Christ, Communion, Covenant, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, Falling Away, Jesus, Lord's Table, Luke, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Passover, Suffering.
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JESUS AMONG FRIENDS
(Luke 22:1-62)

A couple of weeks ago I asked for questions from the congregation to be written out on a 3” by 5” card. I received a card with the following question, “Is it sinful to “befriend” persons outside the faith or should we see this “opportunity” as one to bring these people to Christ?”

Now I don’t know what provoked this question but it does address a real problem. As believers in Christ, what should our relationship be to those outside the faith? One of my biggest concerns as pastor is that most of us do not bring many unsaved friends to church. There are many possible reasons for this but one of them could be that we tend to isolate ourselves from sinners.

Jesus, however, was known by his enemies as a friend of sinners (Luke 7:33-34). Was this a just accusation? In this chapter we find Jesus with twelve of his closest friends; men who He chose to follow them. One of those men was a man named Judas.
How did Jesus show friendship to Judas (22:2, 21, 27)?
I. Jesus chose a sinner to be His friend, to be one of the twelve (22:2). Sometimes we forget that Jesus knew all along who would betray Him (John 6:64-71). He chose a friend who he could never help. It is interesting that Jesus knew also that Judas would never believe, Jesus befriended a liar, a traitor, a thief simply because it was God’s will.
This helps us to answer the first part of our question. It is obviously not sinful to befriend a sinner. It also helps us to answer the second part but not directly. We are not just to look at people as “opportunities” but rather we are to live in God’s will and be so full of a passion for Jesus Christ and His gospel that we become the “opportunity” for them to hear the gospel of Christ.
II. Jesus shared His table with a sinner (22:21, 27). It was such a high honor at that time to be invited to eat with someone that to refuse the invitation opened one up to the revenge of slander and defamation. Jesus gave Judas a place of honor.
Judas seemed to be singled out by Jesus for honor and intimacy at this feast (John 13:26). Based on this chapter, it appears that Judas has been given by Jesus, the host of this feast, the place of honor on his left. In addition, Jesus gave Judas the sop. The sop was a piece of bread that was dipped into some type of sauce or mixture. To give the sop to some one was not only a great honor but symbolic of a close friendship. Jesus treated Judas at this festival with the greatest of honor and signs of friendship.
III. Jesus served sinners (22:27). When Jesus washed feet, He washed Judas’ feet also. When Jesus instituted the Communion that we celebrate today, He did not withhold it from Judas but rather served him also. Jesus, the King of Kings, served Judas in whose heart the devil had accomplished an awful work (John 13:2).
What ended the friendship between Judas and Jesus (22:4-6)? There are a lot of theories about Judas’ motivation, money being the most obvious. I think money certainly played a part (John 12:6). There was something deeper though for all of the disciples were tainted by their desire to be important in the kingdom and they certainly could have assumed that great riches would come with the kingdom. What ended the friendship was Judas’ lack of faith in Christ (John 6:64-71). Oh, he certainly began believing but he did not have a faith that would last.

This tells a lot about true faith. True faith that lasts is not dependent on excellent surroundings. Judas heard the Creator of the universe teach truth and wisdom. His faith, however, did not continue to respond. There was an initial response but it was broken easily on the banks of a few coins. What will break your faith?
What was Jesus’ desire for His friends (22:14-30)? He desired that they be a part of His eternal kingdom.
What is the kingdom of which Jesus is speaking?
a. It is a coming kingdom (22:15-19) Last week we saw where Jesus said that the kingdom is in the heart of those who believe but it is also a future eternal kingdom. This coming kingdom must be prepared through suffering (compare v. 15 with 17:22-25). Hebrews 1:8a-10 describes this kingdom through suffering in this way, “But now we do not yet see all things [in submission to Jesus]. But we see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him…in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
b. It is also a new covenant kingdom (22:20). I do not have time to go back to Jeremiah and look at these Old Testament passages but the main characteristic of the new covenant kingdom is heart transformation. Jesus died so that I might be born from above, regenerated in heart, passing from the kingdom of darkness into His eternal light.
c. It is a caring kingdom (22:24-27). Service is more important than authority.
Leroy Eims of the Navigators tells about a man who came to Christ and desired to serve Eims. Because he was young and inexperienced in the faith, there were not a lot of opportunities at the Navigators office for this man to serve. Winter was coming though and the man greatly desired to serve in some way. Leroy Eims gave him the task of shoveling the walkway to the office building. The man was very zealous in this service. In fact he was so zealous, Eims quipped, that not a snowflake hit the walkway the whole winter long. Eims said that such valuable service could not go unrewarded and they brought him into the office to train for service within the Navigators organization. The young man cared enough to serve.
How do we show friendship to Christ (22:28)? We show friendship to Christ by continuing with Him even in His trials. Can we do that? Absolutely, Jesus said, take up My cross and follow Me.
“They tried my Lord and Master with no one to defend.
Within the halls of Pilate He stood without a friend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, my life for Him I’ll spend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, until my years shall end.

The world may turn against Him, I’ll love Him to the end,
And while on earth I’m living, My Lord shall have a friend.

I’ll do what He may bid me; I’ll go where He may send;
I’ll try each flying moment to prove that I’m His friend.

To all who need a Savior, my friend I recommend;
Because He brought salvation is why I am His friend.”
Sometimes, however, even the most loyal of us fail Jesus when He needs us most. Peter is a true example and Jesus knew Peter would fail. Yet He showed friendship to Peter anyway. How did Jesus show friendship to Peter (22:31-34)? He warned him, He prayed for Him to endure in the faith, He gave him a positive hope for the future, and He was honest in telling Peter what he did not want to hear.
Let us return to our question about befriending sinners. Here is a good plan to follow them. We must warn them. Only a friend will warn someone of the dangers of hell. We must pray for them to come to faith. We cannot argue them into the faith. We need God’s help to bring them to faith. We need to give them hope, let them know that there is a purpose for them in this life and the life to come. Finally, we need to be honest even if they do not want to hear the gospel. It is possible to antagonize people but if you are a real friend who lives out a real faith in Christ, you will figure out how to give them the gospel of Christ.
As we come to the close of our service, we come to the time when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. How does the Lord’s Table or communion show our friendship with Christ and with each other (22:19, 26)? It shows our friendship with Christ according to verse 19 by remembering what He did for us. It shows our friendship with each other in that each one of us comes together to the table. We are all equal in Christ’s kingdom. It is interesting that the only people unworthy of this bread and juice are those who considered themselves above others (1 Corinthians 11). Today, I want us to take a few moments and ask ourselves, not if we’ve sinned but if there is anyone here today who we consider ourselves superior to. Think through the rows of seats. If you find anyone who you feel you are above, would you not repent of that ungodliness now and humble yourself before God in silent prayer?

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Guaranteeing Christian Success July 26, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Eternal Security, Falling Away, Judgment, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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Guaranteeing Christian Success
(2 Peter 1:5-11)

Since I will only be your pastor for about a month more, it is appropriate that we are going through 2 Peter during this time. As we will see in more detail next week, 2 Peter was Peter’s last message to the Jewish congregations for whom he felt responsible. Next week we will look at the main theme of his final message but this week we want to look at one of the main goals that Peter hoped to accomplish, that is the goal of guaranteeing Christian success. That has been one of my goals during the past years and one which I want to again emphasize, not as a recounting of the past but rather as an encouragement for the future. God stills wants each of you to be successful Christians.

Before I dive into the message I want to define for you, based on 2 Peter, what Christian success is. Christian success is living a life in which our faith is shown to be mature and worthy of an entrance into the presence of God. We will look later at the Scriptural basis for this definition but I want you now to engrave in your mind this condensed definition: Christian success is a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven.

A. The foundation of Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) are the promises through which we are partakers of the divine nature (verses 4b-5a). We have a glorious future ahead of us. Last week we did not look specifically from the Scriptures at these promises but it is important that we do so today, since they are the foundation for everything else that we will speak about. Second Peter 3:13 describes for us this promise, there will be “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This follows the destruction of the present heavens and earth and is the eternal state in which God’s people will live with Him for all eternity. It is eternal life lived in the righteousness of God. This is the reason why we need to live as successful Christians here on earth.

I was speaking with someone this past week about the early church in Jerusalem and the significance in their lives of their awareness that Christ could come at any time. They made the point that it is not surprising that they generously sold their property and shared the proceeds with the poor in their church. It is easy to be generous when you are convinced that you do not really need the money anyway.

In the same way, looking forward to our home in heaven is a prime motivation for living a successful Christian life. This is the foundation that we desire to build upon.

B. The daily provision for Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) involves the building of Christian character (verses 5-7). What we have listed here by Peter are the spiritual vitamins that we need to supplement our faith. “These things” as they are called guarantee Christian success. Before we look at what they produce, let us go down the list and understand what “these things”, these spiritual vitamins are.

Virtue – This word means moral excellence. In 1 Peter 2:9 it is translated “praises.” It is what we proclaim about God. “He is the rock, His work is perfect, and all His ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Verse 3 of our present chapter points out that it is by God’s virtue, by His holiness, by His righteousness that we are called to salvation and we need in our faith to live consistent with the moral excellence of God. That will make our faith mature.

Knowledge – We have not yet fully attained to the moral excellence of God, in part, because we lack a full knowledge of God. That is why Peter commands in 2 Peter 3:18 to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This involves knowing the Scriptures. Peter refers to the importance of proper knowledge of the Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:15-17.

Self-Control – A person who says I have faith but has no self-control has at best a weak faith. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. I mention that to remind us that these supplements to our faith are not produced by our own ability but rather through the working of God in our lives. Self-control is the discipline of the athlete aiming for the gold medal. He is disciplined in his preparations, disciplined in his food, disciplined in his sleep, disciplined in his relationships, disciplined in competition, disciplined after the competition. Paul describes self-control in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (that is, self-controlled) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

Perseverance – Peter describes this specifically for us in 1 Peter 2:20. James said that this was characteristic of Job’s suffering, he was patient. One might say that perseverance is self-control under duress. It is one thing to exercise self-control when everything is going well. It is something else to practice it when the world seems to be falling in on you.

Godliness – This is piety, reverence toward God. It is the outward exercise of religion that reveals the faith you have in God and the full knowledge that you have of God. We use the word as Peter uses the word virtue but the idea here is different. It describes my attitude towards God. We tend to shun this word, piety. We connect it with being strait-laced and without freedom, with rules and legalism. We connect it with being unpopular, which by the way, is absolutely correct. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that those who desire to live godly (pious) in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. What God wants to make out of us will not naturally make us acceptable to the world. There will be a price to pay. A pious attitude towards God does not come naturally. Verse 3 tells us that piety or godliness comes to us through the power of God.

Brotherly Kindness (brotherly love) and Love (“agape“ love) – Sometimes we talk as if this type of love is inferior to “agape” love but that is not the picture of the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:22 indicates that “agape” love follows brotherly love while 1 Thessalonians 4:9 indicate that brotherly love arises out of “agape” love. Jesus Himself used the two terms synonymously when asking Peter if he loved Him. What is the difference? Brotherly specializes on our relationships to other believers. “Agape” love expands itself to all others. One involves loving your brother, the other includes loving your enemy. Both are vitamin supplements to our faith.

1. When we supplement our faith with these things, what will happen? An abundant daily provision of these spiritual vitamin supplements produces fruitfulness in the knowledge of Christ (verse 8). Now I use the word, daily because it is a good way to describe diligence. I have found that I learn better when I learn everyday than when I cram for a test. I lose weight and get fit when I daily exercise. My relationships with those whom I contact daily are much different than with those with whom I have contact yearly or monthly or even weekly.

Again, near the end of the book, we find a description of what a fruitful, mature Christian is. Second Peter 3:14 says we need to “be diligent” when He comes “to be found by Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” That is a Christian who has supplemented His faith with holy vitamins. Remember though, this is not a self-improvement regimen but rather a response of faith to our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2. A lack of daily provision produces spiritual sickness (verse 9). What happens if I do not develop moral excellence in my life? What if I do not apply myself to knowing Christ through His word in my life? What if I do not practice self-control and patience and piety? What if I do not love my neighbors and do not love my enemies? So what? Verse 9 describes a terrible spiritual illness. It is an extreme near-sightedness, so extreme that one would be considered legally blind. He cannot see. Sadder still is what happens when one cannot see. He or she sometimes forget what things looked like, in this example, whether one has been forgiven or not.

Whatever you may believe about verses 10-11, verse 9 makes one thing clear. This is a spiritual disaster. This is someone who obviously knows the truth and has professed the truth but has not lived the truth and becomes blind to any effect that the truth may have had on him. This is a horrifying thing.

3. A diligent daily provision guarantees an eternal provision (verses 10-11). This is where the passage gets especially difficult. There are basically two possible interpretations.

First, if you do not do these things, you will lose your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

Second, if you do not do these things, then there is no proof of your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

There is a third option but it really does not fit in this epistle. If you do not do these things, then you are a poor excuse for a Christian who will lose reward. Now the Bible teaches that believers can lose rewards but that is not what is being talked about in 2 Peter. Look at 2 Peter 2:20-22. Peter seems to be talking about the same type of people as in chapters 1 and 3. People who had the truth of the gospel and could lose it. Peter says that these people are worse off than they were before they were saved. Now if option three were possible then that would mean that losing reward as a believer in heaven is worse than being unsaved and condemned to hell. That does not seem very likely to me.

Now I am convinced that option one is not correct. When God saves someone, He saves them forever and He gives them eternal life. Obviously, though this book teaches apostasy is possible. Peter believed that most of his hearers were believers (see 2 Peter 1:12) but he recognized that some were in danger of turning from their faith. I do not believe, however, that he believed that a true believer could lose his salvation.

My reason for this is found in chapter 2, verses 5-9. Peter uses two examples of people who were believers, who were rescued from immediate wrath by the hand of God. The first was Noah. Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. Ezekiel and the book of Hebrews make it clear that he was delivered by his righteousness. Noah was not perfect. Later in life he committed the sin of drunkenness and there were consequences for that but he remains in biblical history an example of righteousness.

The second person was Lot. In contrast to Noah, Lot is no one’s model of how a Christian should live yet Peter called him a righteous man. Three times, in fact, he does so, as if Peter realized that his example was open to attack. Lot, however, is an example of how that God knows how to deliver the godly (one of the attributes of a Christian character) from tribulation while at the same time reserving the unjust for the day of judgment. If anyone should have lost his salvation, Lot should have but God recognized Lot as a true believer and delivered him from judgment. Lot is a very strong argument for the eternal security of a believer.

That does not mean though that a believer is allowed to live carnally in this world. That is not Peter’s argument at all. Peter is teaching the second option, that is, if you do not do these things, these works, then there is no proof of your salvation. There is then a real danger that your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast. There is a real danger that you will be easily deceived by the false prophets that are always present and that you will reject the truth of Christ and be doomed. That was the concern of Peter. Believers who do not supplement their faith with good works may not be true believers and they need to be reminded of some things and in that reminding, they will be stirred up by the knowledge of Christ through which the transforming power presents or bestows to us all things necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

That was Peter’s passion for his people. That is my passion also for you. That is the passion of every pastor for his people. Warren Wiersbe tells of “…John Welsh, the son-in-law of the famous [Scottish reformer] John Knox. Welsh often left his bed in the middle of the night, wrapped himself in a warm plaid, and interceded for the people of his parish. When his wife would beg him to go back to sleep, he would say, ‘I have the souls of three thousand [in the village of Anwoth] to answer for and I know not how it is with many of them.’”

With heads bowed and eyes closed, the invitation is two-fold this morning. Are you a believer? Is Christ your Savior? Are you trusting him alone for salvation? Peter says that salvation is only possible through faith in Christ. Do you truly know who Jesus is? God who became man and lived in righteousness in this world and died demonstrating the love and righteousness of God in that He atoned for your sin. He lives today waiting for you to trust Him for salvation. Will you not trust Him today?

The second part of this invitation is for believers. Are you putting your faith into practice? Are you supplementing your faith with the things listed by Peter? Through these things come stability and steadfastness in faith. Where do you need to strengthen you faith? In knowledge of the Word, in self-control, in brotherly love? Begin today. Do not wait. Do not drift. Strengthen your faith through your daily life so that when Christ comes He will find you walking worthy of Him.

Next week: Sermon title and text: If I Could Only Preach One Sermon… 2 Peter 2:12-19

“If We Learn Anything from History…” A sermon from Psalm 78 May 31, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Falling Away, History, OT Preaching, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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IF WE LEARN ANYTHING FROM HISTORY… (Psalm 78:12-39)
It seems to be a cliché. It has been repeated so often. “If we learn anything from history, it is that we learn nothing from history.” The purpose of this psalm, however, is that every generation should learn from the history of God’s people in the wilderness. The beginning of the psalm tells us generally that we need to learn that God made a covenant with His people and confirmed it through many miraculous works. Yet the very people who saw those works rebelled out of fear against God. What then can we really learn from that generation? One of the lessons that we can learn is that rebellion against God’s covenant demands will not hinder His mercy.
Seeing the works of God does not prevent rebellion (verses 12-20). Now it should. That is the whole purpose of this psalm. The remembrance of the works of God should prevent rebellion and bring people to repentance. So often, however, it does not. This is something that our Lord Jesus the Christ taught on quite often. The religious leaders of His day saw the mighty works that Jesus did yet rebelled against His Messiahship. That is actually what lay at the heart of the unforgivable sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. They saw the works of God yet rebelled against the works of God. Even the common people who followed Him and saw the works that He did were no better. Jesus said about the people of the towns where he performed most of his recorded miracles that if those miracles had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, those towns would have repented.
Awareness of the works of God often precedes a fuller revelation of God (verses 12-16). Notice that many of the works of God preceded the covenant, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the official establishment of Israel as God’s chosen nation. These verses relate five different miracles or sets of miracles that God performed for them beforehand: (1) He sent the ten plagues upon Egypt (compare verse 12 with verses 43-51 or Exodus 7-12), (2) He parted the Red Sea (compare verse 13 with Exodus 14), (3) He led them by a cloud during the daytime and by a fire during the night (compare verse 14 with Exodus 13:21-22), and (4) He supplied them rivers of water out of the rocks in the desert (compare verses 15-16 with Exodus 17:1-7), which by the way was the second time in the matter of weeks that God has miraculously supplied this new nation with water.
“But…” They saw all of these miracles and yet continued to complain the whole way. They complained against Moses while in Egypt (Exodus 5), they complained against him when it looked like they had been led by the cloud and fire into a dead end at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-12), and they complained both times before God miraculously provided water (Exodus 15:24 and 17:2-4, 7).
Rebellion against God sometimes escalates after reception of a fuller revelation, in this case, after they had received the covenant (compare verses 17-20 with the incident in Numbers 11, the incident in Exodus 16 is a separate incident). Asaph says that this rebellion against God was greater than what had happened earlier. They had during the period of a year seen many mighty miracles. They had complained much but now they went beyond complaining. They tempted God. They had tempted God before but this time they were making demands of God according to their own fancy. Look at Numbers 11:4-6, “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’” Asaph adds in verses 19-20 an interpretation to their words. This is the testing of unbelief. They saw with their eyes but when God did not meet with their expectations, they began to complain and rebel and turn against God.
How many of us have complained in unbelief? It is possible to complain in belief. It is possible to question, even to doubt, but in that doubt continue to have confidence in God and His word. This is not what happened here. These people have begun the process of rejecting God. He has made them His people but they have decided that God is not good, that God does not know what is best for His people. If God cannot provide them what they want then they will complain about His provision for their needs.
This is often where we see the reality of faith or the heart of unbelief revealed. When God does not meet our expectations, do we continue to trust Him? Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That is the difference between faith and unbelief. Where will you stand when the tough times come.
Rebellion while seeing God’s works results in judgment (verses 21-33).
God’s anger results in judgment (compare verses 21 with Numbers 11:1-3) but that did not stop the complaining (Numbers 11:10). Why? Because they did not believe (compare verse 22 with Jude 1:5).
It is important that we understand the problem, not only so that we can understand the consequences but also the solution. The writer of Hebrews 3:12-13 warns us to look among ourselves as a church and warn one another of unbelief. There may be those among us who are in danger of seeing the works of God through the teaching and the testimony of this and falling away. If they do, it will be because they have a heart of unbelief but we are not helpless. We need to warn them daily. It does not matter if they think we are a pain. It is of no consequence if they hate to see us coming. Their eternal destiny is at stake. Do you understand that this is one of the reasons the church exists? We are not to take it lightly when people seem to be drifting away. Code red goes into affect when we find a heart of unbelief among us. We call, we teach, we plead, we visit, daily. Why do you think that the verse about “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” is in the book of Hebrews? We have a responsibility toward each other that involves more than keeping programs going. We have a responsibility to encourage one another to stay in the faith for we never know when there might be someone among us who has a heart of unbelief.
Still, God’s merciful provision did not stop (verses 23-25). He continued to supply but unbelief refuses to be satisfied with God’s blessing but rather refuses to trust that God knows best and starts complaining.
God’s concessions to humankind’s cravings can result in further judgment (verses 26-29). God once again gave them meat. He had done this before at the time that He had first given them manna almost a year before (Exodus 16:13) but this time God outdid Himself. Numbers 11:31 says that so many quail were driven in by the winds from the seas to the south and the east that as far as you could walk in one day in every direction there were quail a cubit deep, that is three feet deep on the ground. God said, “I am going to give you so much quail that after a month you will be sick of it” (Numbers 11:19-20). The least that one gathered of the quail was somewhere between sixty and seventy bushels (Numbers 11:32).
The worst, however, was not the overabundance (Psalm 78:30-31). Those who had craved meat, they cooked it and took a bite and before they finished chewing, before they could swallow, God began to strike them down dead with a plague. Asaph characterizes those who God struck down as those who craved meat and those who were the stoutest and strongest in Israel. God struck at the heart of the rebellion.
In spite of this, people with a knowledge of God continue to rebel (Psalm 78:32-33). We have come full circle from verses 9-11. Why did the Exodus generation die in the wilderness? Unbelief. The sin of lusting after the food of Egypt was serious but it was actually just a symptom, a symptom of unbelief.
Young person, the world is so enticing to you. You may be just waiting for the time when you can get away from mom and dad and away from the church and embrace the cucumbers of this world. If there is no pull against that lust, which we all experience, which every believer fights against, if there is nothing in you that says, “No, I am going to obey God.” Then let me speak very openly with you, you have a heart of unbelief and you need to be saved through faith in Christ before God says it is too late.
Your rebellion is not too much for the mercy of God to overcome (Psalm 78:34-39).
Even when people appear to turn to God, they may still have a heart of unbelief (Psalm 78:34-37). Notice that even when these people turned back to God, they were still plagued with a heart of unbelief. That generation continued for forty years in their unfaithfulness. Even when they changed their mind and decided to obey God’s original command, God said, “No, do not go! It is too late;” but they went anyway. They would say, “God, we are going to obey you now;” but they never did. They lied to God and perhaps even to their own selves.
God’s mercy abounds despite the weakness and sinfulness of humankind (Psalm 78:38-39).
Ephesian 2:4 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy…” Now what does it mean when it says that God was merciful to these people and forgave their sin. It is here that we understand that Asaph is speaking of the nation of Israel. Once, God said to Moses, I am going to destroy this people and start over with you. But He did not. Why? Because of the covenant He had made with this people.
Is that not the way it is with us. We promise God that we will do better but we often do not. But God is rich in mercy and because of His covenant, His new covenant through Jesus Christ, there is remission of sins, there is forgiveness.

Jesus, the most superior revelation of God (last in the series on the Word of God) September 2, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Falling Away, Hebrews, Jesus, Religion.
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JESUS, THE WORD

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

We finish today our series on the doctrine of the Word of God. The Word of God can be summed up in one person. Jesus Christ, the Word. Jesus is called the Word in John 1 and Revelation 19:13. Jesus was not sent with a word from God but was sent into the world as the Word of God. This is one of those concepts for which we do not have an adequate word in English to express but we can understand it better through the beginning chapters of the book of Hebrews and we can also understand what it means to you and to me personally.

TO WHOM IS JESUS PRESENTED AS “THE WORD”?

There were some to which the letter was written that the author was not certain whether they were saved or not. Sometimes we look at people’s lives and we find it hard to determine if they have trusted Christ. This book was written for such people.

Another characteristic of these people is that many were disillusioned with Christianity. Some of you are disillusioned with Christianity or at least with the church. You feel you are not being fed, your needs are not being adequately met, your spiritual experience is not full enough. That is what these people were going through.  You are drifting away. Some of you been drifting long for a long time. You have been drift so long that you and others wonder about your salvation.

There are, however, some of you who have just started drifting. Your focus is not on Christ. This book says, “Turn back to Jesus and anchor yourself in Him. If you drift away, there is no escape for you.”

THE PROBLEM…

Ligon Duncan puts it this way, “The author of Hebrews says, ‘Look, if you thought that you tried Jesus, and He wasn’t satisfying, you never knew Jesus. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to point you right back to Jesus again and ask you to be reintroduced to Him. Because once you know Christ, there is nothing beyond that that you need. There is no more that you need to tack onto the Lord Jesus Christ.’” (from his introductory sermon to the book of Hebrews).

INTRODUCING JESUS

The Position of Christ was Obtained for Our Sakes (1:2-8, 10). Jesus has not always held the same position in God’s kingdom.

He began as God (verse 3a). Actually Jesus did not have a beginning. He is God. He is Jehovah. He is the beginning as well as the end. He is the reflection of the Light that is in the world. He is the spitting image of God the Father because He is God the Son.

He continued as the Creator (compare verse 3b with verse 10). We are also told how He created the world, by the word of His power. It is with that same power that He maintains the world and when the world is burned to dust and ashes, He will remain.

He became man to purge or purify us from our sin (verse 3c). This is what we celebrate during the Lord’s Table. Jesus came and became man to purify us. He said, “This is my blood, the new covenant, which was given for the remission of sins.” Christ came not to be an example but to solve the sin problem. In solving the sin problem, however, He made Himself the greatest example that their could ever be.

He inherited the universe because of His death, resurrection, and ascension (verses 2, 4-8). When Christ became man, He set aside His inheritance and came and earned it. He died to save man and ultimately the universe from sin. He rose to subject sin and death and hell to His will. He ascended to take His place on the throne with His Father, waiting for the day when He returns to claim for His own what is His.

HIS CHARACTER 

The Person of Christ is the Motivation of His Work for Us (1:9; 1:3). Why would Jesus do such a thing? Because of who He is. We sang last Sunday night the song, “Above All”. I love that song because it emphasizes the price that He paid to ransom me from sin but His ultimate motivation was not me but came out of His own character. He saved me from sin, not because of who I was but because of who He is.

His Person is revealed by His attitudes (1:9). Jesus is a very black and white thinker. He loves what is good and hates lawlessness. His attitude towards everything and everyone: you, me, our neighbor, everything is wrapped up in His love of righteousness and His hatred of evil. If He had not hated evil, totally and completely, there would be no reason for Him to die. But there He was. He desired to lift up goodness and destroy wickedness.

His Person is revealed by His actions (1:3cd, 2:1-3a).

Jesus being the Word and bringing cleansing to those who trust Him is an essential in understanding who He really is. If Jesus had not paid the price on the cross, we would never have understood His holiness nor His mercy. Romans 5:8 says that God commended, proved His love in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.

Cleansing is limited to those who trust in Christ. We were unclean before God because of our sin. That was my situation and that is the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse us from our sin. That is how that Jesus gives purges and purifies us.

TRULY KNOWING JESUS WILL KEEP YOU FROM DRIFTING AWAY 

The Promises of Christ are the Anchor that Keeps us from Drifting Away (1:1-2a, 2:3-4).

The promises of Christ are better than the prophets in material and in manner (1:1-2a). That was a long time ago but now we have a current message from a current messenger, Jesus Christ. That is why this book is so precious. We can hear from Jesus daily. We can meet with Him. We can learn from Him.

They are better than the law given through angels because of the material and of the manner in which they were given (2:1-4). When God gave the law through Moses, we find that angels were also somehow involved in the giving of that law. That is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to. Jesus’ message is more direct, it is more stable. It cannot be improved upon.

They are better because they have been confirmed by eyewitnesses and miracles (2:3-4). We spoke about this two months ago.  We can have confidence because of the eyewitness and miraculous confirming testimony from those times.

They are better because they bring salvation (2:3). The law could never save but Jesus can and does.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR 

Young people, during this next year you are going to face all kinds of challenges to your faith. Some of those challenges will be people: friends, teachers, parents, classmates who like you and classmates who do not. Some of those challenges will come out of the new situations in which you find yourself. Some of you are entering high school, other of you are looking to the near future when you will be out of high school. Some of you are entering middle school and at the beginning stages of puberty. In all of these and other new situations, your faith will be challenged spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in some other way. You need to understand that Jesus is God’s Word to you. Tim Keller put it this way, “…the gospel [of Jesus Christ] is not just the ABC[s] of the faith, it is the A to Z.”

You need to anchor your being to Jesus Christ. You need to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way to purpose in this life and in the life to come. If you are not sure, then you come to me and I and others in the congregation will make it a priority to teach you about Jesus Christ. If you are sure, then you need sometime in the next week to tell those with whom you go to school, “I am a Christian! I am a follower of Christ!” You do not need to preach them a sermon. Just saying you are a Christian will scare some of them half to death. You need though to anchor yourself to Jesus Christ and tell those with whom you have daily contact that you are a follower of Christ. Then you need to invite them to youth group or to Sunday morning church. Stand for Jesus. You will get questions. We will help you with those questions. Be convinced in your mind though that there is no one but Jesus Christ worthy of your devotion and follow Him openly and publicly.

John MacArthur: “I will never forget a particular lady who came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. She said, ‘I need help.’ And I said, ‘I guess you do.’ She said, ‘Please, I’m desperate.’ So I presented the claims of Christ to her. Then I said, ‘Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?’ She said yes, so she prayed and evidently invited Christ into her life. I said, ‘Now, I want you to do something. Do you have your book with all your contacts?’ She said she did. I said, ‘Let’s light a match to it and burn it.’ She looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘If you want to live for Jesus Christ, and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and met Him as your Savior, then you need to prove it.’ She said to me, ‘That book is worth a lot of money. I don’t want to burn it.’ She put it back in her purse and looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?’ Then she left.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

“GIVE THE MORE EARNEST HEED…LEST YOU DRIFT AWAY”.

Again from John MacArthur: “Explorer William Edward Perry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean. At one point they endeavored to move further north, so they charted their location by the stars and began a difficult and treacherous march north. They walked hour upon hour, and finally, totally exhausted, they stopped. They took their bearings and discovered that they were farther south than they were when they started! They then realized that they had been walking on an ice floe that was travelling south faster than they were walking north. I wonder how many people think their good deeds, their merits, and their religiosity is taking them to God when in fact they’re on an ice floe taking them away from God faster than their own efforts are taking them any closer. They will wake one day to find, like William Perry’s crew did, that they’re in the midst of a disaster.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

If Jesus is the Word, as He is, a word requires a listening ear. The phrase, more earnest heed indicates a response. In this verse, the response is anchoring your soul to the Word of God, to Jesus Christ, the Faithful and True Word.

One thing about a promise. You must believe it and respond appropriately. If you neglect the promise, if you are careless about it, as it says in verse 3, there is no escape for you. The cleansing that He offers is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, our Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself can provide cleansing. He did this by Himself without any help from man or angel. Anchor your soul in Him.