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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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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.

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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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: The Curse and the Blessings of the Cross

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.

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.

Lessons from Creation: (Part 1) What does creation teach us about God? June 14, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Creation, General Revelation, Gospel, Religion, Romans, Sermons.
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ROMANS 1:16-25
INTRODUCTION: This is the first in a three part series of lessons from creation. In our VBS this year, we are emphasizing the creation and other wonderful works of God. In connection, I would like for us to look in the Scriptures and find out what creation teaches us about God, about humankind, and about our future. Today, we will, using the Word of God, find out what creation teaches us about God.
Who Is God (Romans 1:16-20a)?
He is the Powerful God (compare verse 16 with verse 20a). If there is anything that creation reveals, it is that there is a mighty power at work in the universe. The creationist, the evolutionist, the New Age adherent, the superstitious animist, the agnostic, all would agree that the power that created this universe and that maintains this universe is a power beyond our ability, a power beyond our knowledge, a power beyond our duplication. The best that man can do is harness that power. We cannot create it. We can extract energy out of oil, from the sun, even from the atom but we cannot create any of those things. That is beyond our power. And that power is eternal. We cannot discover the beginning of it, nor see the end of it. That is why creation reveals the Godhead. We see the power of creation and understand that this could not just happen. There must be a god or gods who brought all this into being.
I understand that evolutionary theory claims that chance brought all of this about but they have yet to show how. They have theories and they have puzzle pieces but they have yet to produce an evolution. It is beyond their ability, it is beyond observable knowledge, and it is beyond duplication. Their very standard, that of observable knowledge does not produce a case of evolution but rather a universe of such immensity and complexity that one must consider that there is some type of intelligent designer.
Yet that is as far as observable phenomena can bring us. We can see God’s power and capability through creation but not His character and purposes. In order to see more than just the eternal power and Godhead, we need the gospel of Christ. The gospel of Christ shows us that God is Righteousness (verse 17). When you look at the universe, there seems to be no righteousness.
This week we watched a relatively recent movie based on the book, “Charlotte’s Web.” The young girl in the film, seeing her father about to put the runty pig out of its misery says, “It’s not fair.” This universe does not appear just. It does not appear right. It does not appear righteous. Runty pigs are born. Stars die. Species die out. The universe does not reveal the righteousness of God. That is only revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and only when one believes that gospel (see also Romans 3:21-26; 5:17-21; and 10:1-11).
He is the Judge (verses 18-19). Although the word “judge” is not used in these verses, this is exactly what is being described in these verses. That men are unrighteous is clear. We have fallen short of the righteousness of God and we deserve a just wrath on our own righteousness. The reason this wrath is just is because we have not sinned ignorant of God but rather with our eyes wide open.
You see, humankind has suppressed the truth by our own unrighteousness (verses 18b-20). From the time of creation, the power of God has been observable, the eternal Godhead has been deducible but humankind has suppressed the truth of the power of God and the truth that there is a God who is above anything that we could possibly imagine (See also Deuteronomy 4:19 and Job 31:26-28).
Why Does It Matter (Romans 1:20b-25)?
It matters because our knowledge of God removes any excuse from judgment (Romans 1:20b-21.) Humankind has refused to glorify God and to thank God for His gifts and glory even though we recognize Him in creation (verse 21). When we stand before God, if we have never heard of Him, if we have never heard of Jesus Christ, we cannot say we didn’t know. God will say, “You saw my power in creation, you saw through creation that I am God but you suppressed this truth in your unrighteousness and served yourself and other gods and even your own desires rather than serve me. You are without excuse!” God does not have to reveal Himself to us but when He does, and He does that in creation, it leaves us without excuse. You folks who go hunting and you folks who enjoy the beautiful lake that we have here, when you sit there enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, if you see that beauty and do not recognize God’s eternal power and Godhead through that creation, you will stand before Him without excuse.
It also matters because of the results: thanklessness (verses 21-25).
Through thanklessness, humankind became self-deceived, blind fools (verses 21b-22). Someone one said, “When you look truth in the eye and call it a lie, although it is still truth, you will still deny”. The human race is in denial. Humankind has a permanent case of denial, of self-deception, of purposely living in darkness thinking that they are living in the light.
When I was a kid, we use to play hide-and-seek at night in our house with my dad. Bathrooms and the living area were off limits. There was a long hallway with five bedrooms off of it. My dad would be it. We would all go and hide with all the lights cut off. My dad was great for coming in so quietly that you didn’t know he was there and then by listening he would hear where you were at and slowly quietly make his way to where you were. You would think he would be in the other end of the building when he would reach out and grab you and scare you witless. You thought you knew where he was. You thought you knew how the game was going done but you were just speculating and you were caught. That is what the world is doing spiritually.
Humankind began to serve, that is glorify and thank, the creature rather than the Creator (verses 23 & 25). Certainly this refers to idol worship and the making of gods. Praying to a human, whether living or dead would also be included. The word “serve” in verse 25 is always used in connection with some sort of religious act. It may sacrifices. It may be fasting. Most often it refers to prayer. When you pray to a statute or a person or a shrine or a cross or to a pastor or to a saint or to a ritual or to a church, you have changed the image of God from the creator to what was created. Why do people do this? Because they do not want to glorify God, put Him at the head of the table and they are not thankful, do not appreciate the one who created them. They deceive themselves and turn to worshiping something besides the true and living God.
God allowed their sin to follow its natural course (verse 24). God was not standing around helpless in all this. He allowed them to follow the desires of their hearts. He gave them up. What did He give them up to? Immorality.
Now verse 26 talks about the progression to homosexuality and verses 28-32 list twenty-one sins that characterize those who do not recognize the eternal power and Godhead. We as an evangelical community oppose gay marriage and all forms of homosexuality because God has set strict standards of intimate behavior: one man married to one woman until death do part but we need to recognize that uncleanness is the first major step away from God. Adulterous affairs, pornography, an intimate relationship of any kind outside of marriage, no fault divorce and easy remarriage, lustful thoughts, obsession with immorality in our reading material and in our TV shows, all of these things are included in the first major step away from God.
“Why (are these things) singled out as the first major step away from God? The answer is not hard to find. Sex is closely related to the human spirit. The way you conduct yourself sexually is a good barometer of what’s going on in your heart (Ray Pritchard).” Paul tells us that this is the natural progression of our depraved hearts.
If we were to continue in this passage, which for the sake of time we will not, we would see the progression in verse 26 to open homosexuality and in verses 28-32, twenty-one sins that characterize us at our worst. If you look at that list, you’ll probably find one of your favorite sins listed there.
Finally, It matters who God is because there is good news in the midst of man’s desperate situation (1:16-17).
The good news reveals salvation from wrath (verse 16a). The fact that Jesus came and died for our sins and rose again from the dead, that is the good news, the gospel. When I go to the ATM machine and take out money, I try to always get a receipt. I’m not trying to get economic theory or bank advertising or ideas on how to save money. I get the receipt because I want some documented facts. That is what the good news is, what the gospel is. The documented facts about Jesus Christ.
The good news reveals the power of God (verse 16b). It is wonderful that creation reveals the power of God but so much more wonderful to see the power of God to salvation through faith in the gospel of Christ. Faith that Jesus died for our sins according the Scriptures and that He was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures is a powerful and life-giving faith. Dr. Lee Roberson use to call it “Gospel Dynamite” because the facts are so powerful, so explosive that they can save a person from the slavery of sin, from the condemnation of hell, and from eternal separation from God and all that is good.
The good news reveals that power is unleashed by faith in God’s righteousness (verses 16c-17). If you keep the Ten Commandments, the power of the gospel to save remains unlit. Being self-righteous hinders the power of God but faith in God’s righteousness unleashes that power.
INVITATION: Remember those Indiana Jones’ movies. It seems that someone was always putting their faith in the wrong person in those movies. I suppose that was the way they made those movies interesting. Everyone was suspect, no one was dependable. There are a myriad of options out there in which you can put your faith. God has revealed to us that the answer is by faith in Jesus Christ.
Are you willing to accept the gospel of Christ? If you haven’t received Christ as Savior, if have not put your faith in Him alone for salvation, why don’t you do it today. He died for you, He bore your reproach, your sin, on the cross; He rose from the dead for you to prove that He is both man and God and that He is able to save you for all eternity; He lives for you today also, if you will turn to Him. If you want to trust Christ today or you have questions about how to be saved, will you meet our counselors at the back of the auditorium and they will show you from the Bible how to be saved.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread – How Best to Declare the Glorious Works of God October 12, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Exodus, Gospel, Religion, Sermons.
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A couple of weeks ago, we set out a vision that has as its purpose the declaration of the glorious works of God to this community. We have discussed some of the things that we can do and should do. I would like for us to once again remind ourselves of the need to declare the glorious works of God and then to show how that best can be done.

The glorious works of God are best declared regularly (verses 5-7, 9-10).

Regular remembrance underlines the importance of God’s works (verses 5-7).

Links to two sermons from Acts 18 October 20, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Gospel, Links, Religion, Sermons.
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Here are two sermons that cover Acts 18 and touch on the lives of Aquila and Priscilla. They are both by Ray Stedman.

The Cross in Corinth

Halfway Christians

What really matters… October 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism, Gospel, Jesus, Religion, Sermons.


    Acts 9:26-40 (with verses 4-6, 12, 25)


We do not know a lot about Philip. We have the opportunity in Scriptures to look at some people’s lives over a period of time and we get a feel for what type of person they are. In the case of Barnabas, who we talked about last week, we get a feel from the Bible for the type of person he was. We see him at high points and low points in his life. He is identified in the Scriptures by his character. He was the type of person who you called on when you needed help.


The Bible, however, identifies Philip differently. Not that he was not a man of good character. Acts 6:3 tells us that he along with six other men were “…of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” Like Barnabas, Philip was typical of the believers presented in the book of Acts. What Philip is known by, however, is the message he proclaimed, the good news of the gospel of Christ.


Circumstances vary and these were unusual circumstances in which Philip found himself (verses 29-30a).  The context indicates that Philip was a man on the run (verses 1-5). He was having unusual success in the city of Samaria. His success was so great that the apostles came to see what was going on (verses 5-8 and 14-17). In fact, God uses the events in the city of Samaria to confirm the promise that Jesus made in Acts 1:8. “And you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” 

But then God took Philip out of place of record breaking, ground breaking success and put him on a lonely road in the desert. Why? Because the message was not to stop with Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria. The message was to go to the ends of the world, even to Ethiopia which in the New Testament times was the area we now know as the Sudan.

The constant, though, even in unusual circumstances for proclaiming the message of God is basing your message on the Word of God and on the proper understanding of the Word of God (verse 30b).

In the book of Acts, there are a lot of unusual things that happen. You have speaking in tongues, casting out of demons, healings of various sorts. There is persecution and there are times of protection during persecution. The gospel is preached to the Jews, the people of God, and it is preached to the Gentile “dogs”. It is preached to the priests in Jerusalem and to the philosophers in Athens and even in the capital city of the world, Rome. The common denominator though, no matter where it is preached, to whom it is preached, or in what circumstances it is preached is that the message is from God’s Word.


In this passage we find a man of importance in the kingdom of what is then called Ethiopia, who has been to Jerusalem to worship and is now returning home. The Jerusalem he has just come from is deserted of Christians. They are all except for the twelve apostles scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria but the gospel for the moment is not to be found openly in Jerusalem.

This man also had something very expensive in his possession. Likely, he had just purchased it while worshiping in Jerusalem. He had a scroll of the book of Isaiah. Philip hears him reading the scroll. He recognizes the passage and he hollers out, “Hey, I know that passage! You understand what you’re reading!” Now this man had been to the temple and was reading the Word of God but one thing he lacked, understanding.


You must understand the message of the Word of God if you are ever going to be transformed by that message. There are no exceptions. In Acts 8, 9, and 10 we find men from three different stations in life who hearts knew the Word of God. We find in this chapter this Ethiopian. We find in the next chapter, Saul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees who needed to understand the truth of the Word of God. Finally, in chapter 10 we find a Roman centurion, a man who worshiped God but needed the message of the Word of God explained to him before he would be able to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. All three of them knew something of the Scriptures but had yet to understand that they spoke of Jesus Christ.

This brings me to another fact about the Word of God. God uses people to guide other people to his Word (verse 31). It is true that the Holy Spirit was given to guide us into truth and yet he acts through men and women of God. God intends for his people to guide others out of spiritual darkness and ignorance into the light. That is one reason for emphasizing the gospel over and over and over each week in our worship service. We need to be reminded what it is that men must know in order to come out of darkness. We need to focus on what is absolutely essential in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what did Philip do to bring the Ethiopian to an understanding of the Word of God? He preached Jesus Christ to Him! Philip’s Message was Anchored in the Person of Christ.


Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Jesus Christ (verse 34-35). It is not about the Ten Commandments. It is not about keeping the rules. It is about Jesus Christ. These things have their place. In fact, they help us to understand our need for Jesus Christ because we cannot keep the law of God. They help us to see the true character and person of Christ because He in His life here on earth kept the law perfectly.

Obviously, the Ethiopian knew something about the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew about some of the rules of Judaism, he had after all come from south of Egypt, the frontiers of Africa to worship at the designated place of worship, Jerusalem, but he did not know Jesus Christ.

Because this man did not know of Jesus Christ, it was hard for him to understand this passage in Isaiah. Is the prophet writing about himself? Is he writing about some other man? Philip was able to explain to him that the man of whom Isaiah had written was known and had been revealed, Jesus Christ.


Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as the crucified God/man (verses 32-33). This passage in Isaiah 53 is about death:  an unfair death, a humiliating death, a death endured in silence. No objection is raised against the injustice by the victim. He has no lawyer, no one to plead His case. There is no protest against the humiliation. No cry against his persecutors. Why? This is no doubt the question in the Ethiopian’s mind. Philip had an answer. I think it might have sounded like this, “You’ve quit reading too early. Look at this! 

    8b For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked––But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 ¶ Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.’ (Isaiah 53:8b-11)

Philip preached Jesus to the man. He told them of His death. Of His burial in a rich man’s grave. Of His resurrection. Of His ascension into heaven. Of faith in Christ for salvation from sins.


Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as King (compare verse 12 with verses 36-38). That is the significance of baptism. When one allowed himself to baptized, people understood that they were committing themselves to total allegiance to the message of the baptizer. I have not said a lot about baptism in several months and I need to return to this subject. If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ and you refuse to allow yourself to be baptized, your faith is suspect. I am not saying that you are not saved, that I cannot know. I do know, however, that Christ demands total allegiance from those who claim to follow Him and in that day and in this day, the first step of showing total allegiance to Christ is baptism.

The Ethiopian knew something about baptism. Baptism was a common practice among the various sects of the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew if Christ was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that he demanded total allegiance, it would be necessary for him to allow himself to be baptized to show his allegiance to Christ.

Remember he served the Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. These women were “…portrayed as ‘powerful figures, enormously fat, covered with jewels and ornament and elaborate fringed and tasseled robes. Their huge frames tower over their diminutive foes, whom they are shown grasping brutally by the hair with one hand and to whom they deal the coup de grace with the other.’” At least one of these women had been reported by their Roman enemies as at the head of her army as they won a victory against the Roman army of Caesar Augustus. This man knew what it was to serve royalty directly, totally, and he was ready. [This paragraph from:  Yamauchi, Edwin M. “Acts 8:26-40: Why the Ethiopian Eunuch Was Not from Ethiopia” from Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis ed. Bock, Darrell L. and Fanning, Buist M. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books 2006. (364).]

Jesus is saying through His Word that He is all that really matters. He is the only one to whom allegiance is due. It is not only that Jesus died for sin but He lives today so that you may have the privilege to serve Him. Put your faith in Christ for salvation and surrender yourself to His will.

The Last of the Terrible Parables: The Flusher August 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Suffering, Terrible Parables.
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I believe all the “Terrible Parables” by Carolyn Houghton are now posted. Most of them are on the Verizon blog (see blogroll) but this and the last one posted are here because Verizon won’t let me edit my blog anymore. I’ve got to contact customer service but am quite busy at the moment.

The Terrible Parable of the “Flusher”


Diary Entry from 1968: Bryan, age 18 months and Jeff, age 4, were in a nice, warm, soaky bath when Bryan suddenly grabbed the drain lever. Jeff — horror dripping from his voice–gasped, “Oh, Mommy! Bryan’s gonna flush it!”How many times have you been in a warm, soaky, relaxing tub of life when some idiot reached for the drain lever to flush your happiness down the tubes? It’s happened to me several times. As a Christian through faith in Christ, I know God has a plan for my life. How can these flushings be in His plan for me if He is my loving heavenly Father?The Bible says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 Oh. God is different from man. He thinks differently and acts differently (and given today’s messed up humanity, that’s a REAL blessing!) He’s also “one of a kind.” This theory that “God is in everything, therefore everything and everyone is God” is not something people have picked up from the Bible. Cause that’s not in there. What IS in there is: “For I am God and there is NO OTHER; I am God and there is NONE like Me.” Isaiah 46:9Now, if God acts, thinks, and IS different from man, and if He has a plan for my life, why doesn’t He give me sunshine and happiness instead of flushings? What kind of a Father IS He anyway?

Surprisingly, He’s a lot like our earthly fathers. Tell me something…did your father always make life easy for you when you were a child? Did you have to go to school when you really wanted to stay home and watch TV? Did he make you learn how to clean out the car as well as let you drive it? Did you ever get your canoe paddled when you wouldn’t stop fighting with your brothers and sisters? Did you have to get a part-time job to earn spending money when you got older? It would have been a whole lot easier to turn a faucet attached to your dad’s wallet and watch money pour out into your hands. After all, you were a good kid. Some of the things your Dad made you do were pretty hard! And certainly not much fun. You deserved GOOD things!

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? You wouldn’t have learned anything by doing nothing! You’d have been useless. Now you have turned into a WONDERFUL person by going through hard things in your childhood! (But I’ll check with you about this, just to be sure I haven’t made a mistake here.)

The same holds true in the spiritual realm. If God never made us go through some difficulties, we wouldn’t learn diddly! We’d never grow up spiritually to be good Christians careful to do good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10. Kindly note that we are his “WORKmanship.” It takes a lot of God’s WORK to get us whipped into shape. You think you’re EASY for God to raise!!!??? I’m betting you aren’t any easier to raise than I am. And I don’t like to brag, but I’m QUITE the handful for Him!

And I’ll try to break this next part to you easy….He’s not NEAR done raising you yet. Okay, okay, He’s not done with me yet either. But He does have a goal in mind for both of us. “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...” Romans 8:29 A rather lofty goal He has set for us, isn’t it?

Now answer me something else. Did your Dad make the neighbor kids go to school? Get a job? Help around your house? Paddle their canoes when they were nasty little brats? Never! Why should he? They weren’t his.

Same with God. If someone isn’t His child yet by faith (as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born …of GodJohn 1:12, 13) they aren’t HIS to raise yet. So if your life has been all peaches and cream with no problems to overcome or rise above, don’t get cocky! You might not BE God’s child yet. If that’s your case, I’d look into it if I were you!

God doesn’t raise us JUST with discipline and hard times, of course. The Bible also says that He is a wonderful gift giver. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights….” James 1:17 He’s a really well-rounded Father!

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 28. He’s given me some wonderful sunshiny gifts since I’ve been His child and he’s also given me some pretty hard flushings – some of which I’ve failed; some of which I’ve learned and grown from. I know I’m in for more gifts and many more flushings of my happiness during the rest of my life. But since I know the flushings will be for my own growth and learning, I’m going to do my best to make Him proud of the way I’ll handle those times.

But keep a towel handy for me, will you? I HATE to drip dry.

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

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


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

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

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


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

Test #1 –

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

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

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


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

Test #2 –

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

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


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

The Spirit of truth identifies…

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


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

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

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

The Spirit of error… (verse 3-5).

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

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


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

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


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