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Great Book About the Story of Reality February 6, 2017

Posted by roberttalley in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Creation, Death of Christ, Evangelism, God the Father, Jesus, Resurrection, Uncategorized.
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Koukl, Gregory. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

The length of the subtitle should not be scary. Koukl’s relating of the Story (capitalization his) of reality is a concise, but engaging presentation of the metanarrative of Christiantiy. This books serves as an apology for Christianity, an overview of basic theology, and a passionate evangelistic message. In just less than 200 pages the reader will find a clear and convincing telling of the Story.

The Story is in presented in five parts with an introduction. The idea of story is consistent throughout the book but it is not strictly delivered in a traditional story format. It is more accurate to say that the book is a discussion of the Story. In fact, the device of capitalizing “story” is effective in reminding the reader that even when Koukl dives into apologetic, theological, or philosophical issues, they are all related to the great Christian metanarrative, the Story.

In the “Introduction” the author begins by asking the question “What is Christianity?” He wants the reader to know from the beginning that he is discussing pictures of reality, that is, worldviews. For Koukl each worldview is like a puzzle that people attempt to fit into reality, the better the pieces fit both together and into reality, the more accurate the worldview picture is likely to be. Each worldview is like a map or story but can be misunderstood. Before presenting the Story (the map, the puzzle), Koukl warns that there is a problem that presents itself in the Story to both believers and unbelievers, the problem of evil. Because of that problem, many infer that an important aspect of the Story, God, must not exist, otherwise the problem would not exist.

The five parts of the story are clearly delineated: God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. Yet in the presentation of the first part of the Story (God) it becomes clear that there are competing stories: “matter-ism” and “mind-ism”. These two stories are, however, limited. In these two stories the problem of evil cannot exist, that is, there is no place for the existence of evil in the puzzle of reality. This section is an effective apologetic for the Christian worldview against these two competing worldviews for a world with which something is clearly wrong just does not fit into their story and yet everyone seems to recognize that something is clearly wrong with this world. These two stories, however, will not allow it.

When discussing man, Koukl keeps the fact that something is wrong with the world before the reader, but introduces two other ideas: (1) that there is something special about man and (2) that man is broken. Other stories have explanations for this but these explanations fall short. It is at this point that the Story begins to feel like a story rather than an adept apologetic argument. Koukl presents the Fall, though the story of the Fall itself brings up several objections for which another short but deft apologetic section is offered.

This the basic tactic of the book: reveal basic problems that must be addressed before telling some portion of the Story, tell the Story (Jesus, death, resurrection), and answer objections that are raised by the telling of the story. As he nears the end, he reminds his reader of the beginning of the journey to ensure that the reader has not forgotten important aspects of the Story or the answers to significant problems raised by the story that were previously addressed. Koukl weaves effectively what he has told before and how it relates to what he is telling at that moment.

After bringing the Story to a successful conclusion, Koukl tells the story once again through just a few pages in the “Epilogue”, but this time as a passionate evangelistic message. This evangelistic epilogue does an excellent job turning this an apologetic worldview book into an invitation to “accept your pardon now, while you can, and turn and follow Jesus” (page 177). For this reason, this reviewer highly recommends this book as an evangelistic tool though it would certainly be of profit for most Christians as well, especially those who do not understand the real world ramifications of the story. Notes with scripture references are in the back making the book less intimidating for those who might be put off by an “academic” look, however, even Koukl’s notes are often quite engaging. Additionally, his use of stories within the telling of the Story is inviting.

Readers (and users, hopefully) of his 2009 book Tactics will recognize his two part method of asking key questions and revealing false assumptions throughout this newer book. This newest book is highly recommended as a tool for both apologetic and evangelistic purposes.

Knowing Jesus August 14, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Christ, Deity of Christ, Humanity of Christ, Jesus.
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KNOWING JESUS
Acts 26

This week we will be teaching on the theme “Knowing Jesus” in our Five Day Club program. We will be telling the children who Jesus is and how they can know him.

There are, however, many today who say we cannot know much about Jesus. There is almost no one of reputation who claims that Jesus never existed but there are many who feel that we cannot know much about him. PBS, the History Channel, the major television networks and other major media outlets hold to this position. When you watch their specials on Jesus and early Christianity they hold to the position that a small sect developed a life of Christ based on what they already believed and through clever propagandizing and eliminating evidence of opposition they were able to establish themselves as the true followers of Jesus Christ.

Now this is theory but that doesn’t disturb the major media outlets. For them the Bible holds no real historical value and one speculation is as good as another when you feel there are no facts.

What I want to do this morning, however, is show, based on Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, who Jesus is. Paul’s testimony is important because he is considered by non-conservatives to be the most reliable witness we have of Jesus Christ. Luke records for us his defense before Agrippa and in that defense we see three important aspects of Jesus’ life that are corroborated in his earliest writings and which are foundational for what we believe and what we will be teaching the children during this next week.

A. As Jesus of Nazareth he was raised from the dead for our hope (verses 6-9). In this statement we see that Jesus was human, was humiliated, and was exalted and that in His exaltation we have hope of exaltation also in eternity. Paul saw this as being the fulfillment of the promises of God in the Old Testament.

Now why should we believe Paul? The reason is this. Paul at one time persecuted the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This time of persecution, however, was brief because Paul became a believer in Christ anywhere from a year to four years after Jesus rose from the dead. Paul had plenty of time to confront eyewitnesses of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. This did not happen decades later but just a few years. He not only had the opportunity to confront Jesus’ followers but he worked for those who had caused the Romans to crucify Jesus. So it is clear that Paul’s testimony of Jesus of Nazareth as really a man who lived, was really crucified, was really buried, and who was exalted in that He really was raised from the dead; should be serious considered because of the nearness in time and proximity by Paul to the participants in the event.

Paul describes this resurrection as his hope but not just his hope but the hope of his nation and the hope of all men. If Jesus be not raised, then there is no hope for you and there is no hope for this world.

B. As the Lord, Jesus demands that we turn to him by faith (verses 14-18). Now we need to determine what Paul was talking about here. When he heard the voice from heaven, he replied, who are you, Lord? The word “Lord” had three uses in those days. One was in reference to a governing authority. On the road to Damascus there were no ruling authorities present. The word was also a common word of respect, much like our word “Sir.” That is perhaps possible but after being knocked off your horse to the ground by a blinding light the third possibility is more likely. Paul was not saying, “Who are you, Sir?” but rather “Who are you, God?” Paul, no doubt, already had a suspicion who he was talking to. The voice had said, “You are persecuting me, why?” The reason was very clear. Beginning from Pentecost the disciples had been preaching that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus is God, and that apart from Him there is no salvation. Paul knew the message but now he was confronted with a choice: believe or not believe that Jesus is the one and only true God.

C. As our Christ, Jesus fulfills for us all that God intends with us (verses 19-23). Paul reminded Agrippa again of the promises of the Old Testament. The promised Messiah has come. Will you, King Agrippa, bow before Him as your Messiah, the one who will bring you to God, the one who will save you from your sin? You know what God has said through His prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled those promises. I know you believe the prophets. Will you become a Christian? Agrippa answered, “You’ve almost convinced me, I’m almost persuaded.”

“In 1871 Reverend Brundage expounded upon this sad story in Acts, and then ended his Sunday Morning sermon with the words “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost” (Accessed at http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/almost-persuaded,-the-song-and-the-story.html on August 9, 2012).

P. P. Bliss heard that sermon and was so impressed he wrote the following verses for a song, “‘Almost persuaded,” Now to believe; ‘Almost persuaded,” Christ to receive; Seems now some soul to say, ‘Go, Spirit, go Thy way, some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call’”
‘Almost persuaded,” Harvest is past; ‘Almost persuaded,” Doom comes at last; ‘Almost’ cannot avail; ‘Almost’ is but to fail, Sad, sad that bitter wail, ‘Almost, but lost.’”

D. When we recognize Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Christ, we become a true Christian (verse 28). Agrippa recognized what it means to be a true Christian. It is not enough to believe in the man Jesus of Nazareth. He must be recognized as Lord and Christ, that is, as God and Savior. The only who we should worship and the only one who can meet our deepest need, salvation from sin, death, Satan, and hell.

1. The result is that we turn from serving darkness to serving light. No man can serve two masters. You can live in both darkness and light. This week as we minister to these children, as we tell them the story of Jesus, we will be showing them the light. On Thursday the theme will be Jesus is the Light of the World. Do you believe that? Have you been praying for children to turn from darkness to light?

“Members of a Russian sect found living in an underground bunker with some 20 children, many of whom have never seen the sun, have been charged with child abuse. Authorities said the Islamist cult had existed for nearly a decade without natural light or heating in their subterranean dwelling. The expansive man-made cave was discovered underneath a brick building on the outskirts of the central city of Kazan…Deputy prosecutor Irina Petrova told journalists the bunker’s rooms were like ‘cells,’ lacking sunlight and ventilation. ‘According to the agency for control of public facilities, there are eight levels of rooms, where not only children but adults live as well,” she said…Many of the cult’s children, aged between 18 months and 17 years old, were born underground and had never seen daylight until officials sent them for health checks.”
I understand that this is an extreme example of a spiritual truth but that is exactly what we are trying to do. Jesus has left us here as the light of the world. It is our task this week to help bring boys and girls and their families from darkness into the light of life, Jesus Christ.
2. The result is that we have confidence before God and man. Paul is bold here. Why? He need not fear death because His master, Jesus Christ, has cheated death. He need not fear the authorities for he serves the God of the universe. He need not fear disaster for he serves the Christ who came to save the world from the greatest disaster, the disaster of sin and death and darkness.

If you have been persuaded to follow Christ, are you doing all you can to get others to the light, Jesus Christ? If not, then pray tell me, with what are you as a Christian wasting your time. Introduce people to Jesus.

Next week: Faith or Foolishness (Acts 27)

The Shroud of Turin December 28, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Archaeology, Christ, Death of Christ, Easter, Gary Habermas, Jesus, Resurrection, Shroud of Turin.
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Check out the article from Friday and the evangelical perspective on the Shroud of Turin.

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/12/23/122311-news-shroud-of-turin/

The essay can be found at http://www.garyhabermas/articles. It is also available at http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/lts_fac_pubs/27/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Paying Attention to Jesus the Revelator March 14, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Christ, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, God the Father, Imminency, Jesus, Judgment, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Prophecy, Religion, Resurrection, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Sermons.
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WHY PAY ATTENTION TO JESUS?
Revelation 1:1-18

The word “keep” in verse 3 carries the connotation of “paying attention with the intention to obey.” It is God’s intention that we keep the word of this prophecy and to the one who gives this prophecy. Sometimes it does not matter who the messenger is. When we listen to the news, it really does not matter who is reading the news. We may like the one we are listening to and they may make us feel better about the news but for the most part it matters little except for entertainment purposes whether I get my news from Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric.

It is different though when what we receive is a prophecy, that is, a direct word from God. There are many today who claim to have received direct words from God. We see them on our TVs, hear them on our radios, and see their books in the CBD catalogue. Should we pay attention to them? I do not; for none of them to my knowledge claim perfect inspiration and many of them preach one form or another of false doctrine. We are commanded to try the spirits whether they be of God.

Next week we will specifically look at why we should pay attention to His revelation. This week I want us to understand what is in it for us. That may seem a little backwards but this is the way it is presented in the book and so that is the order that we will follow.

This book begins by stating that God gave Jesus this revelation for the profit of His servants. Now many of us here this morning claim to be the servants of God, that is, the children of God, so this book is intended for us. Why do we need this book and why should we pay attention to the one who gives it to us?

A. Because God gave Him what we need to know for the future (1:1, 3b). The future is very important. Many of you will go to work because of the future. You will do schoolwork because of the future. Wars are fought so that nations can determine the future. Investments are made in the future. Roads and bridges are built for future use. Even history is often studied so that we can better understand the future.

Now God knows the future. Some of the future we need to know. We do not need to know details for the most part. In fact, God rarely gives us much detail. We do not know who the Antichrist is, we do not know the date of the Lord’s coming, we do not know if the multiple earthquakes that have recently occurred are signs of His immediate coming, and we do not know exactly how the world will look when Christ comes. Any details we have are either sketchy or incomplete. But there are some things we need to know about the future.

1. The coming of the Lord is imminent (verses 1 and 3b). He could come at any time. Two thousand years ago, the Lord could have come at anytime. That is still true today.

Now there are several attitudes that we can take about this.

a. We can be fatalistic about his coming. “If He comes He comes…” Now I do not think that very many people are truly fatalistic. Either they believe He is coming or they do not but this is a possible attitude one could take.

b. Most do not believe He is coming. They may not openly doubt it but they obviously do not believe otherwise they would be ready. Revelation 3:1-3 describes a church that did not believe He was coming. Jesus said that he would surprise them like a thief. Jesus taught quite often about this when He was on the earth. One of the last sermons He preached had as His main point that those who are not ready will be destroyed (Matthew 24:36-13). One of the illustrations He used was of a servant who was made ruler over his master’s house. He said to himself, “The master is delaying his coming.” He begins then to beat his fellow servants and to lead a life of partying. When the master suddenly returns the man will be cut in two.

c. There is though a third attitude. Being ready! How do you know you are ready? Romans 13:8,11-14 tells us how, “Owe no one anything except to love one another… and do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness…Let us walk properly…not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Luke also tells us in chapter 12 of his gospel how that those who live for the things of this world will not be ready. In other words, only the disciple who is willing to live for heaven and not for this world will be ready when Jesus comes.

2. We not only need to know that the Lord could come at any moment but we need to understand that He is coming as the Almighty (verses 7-8). When He comes every eye will see Him and recognize who He is. Those who crucified Him as prophesied in Zechariah 12 will see Him. Now you might think that those who crucified Jesus are already dead. Zechariah 12:10 makes it clear that John is talking about the Jew here in this passage. They will not be the only ones to see Him. All the tribes of the earth will see Him and mourn. Why? Because the Almighty has come to judge His enemies. It is possible to mourn in repentance (which is the caase in Zechariah) but the context of Revelation indicates that the peoples of the earth will mourn when they realize that the Lord is coming to judge them (Revelation 6:12-17). On that day, every news station will show the Almighty. Facebook and Twitter updates will mourn the coming of the Almighty. The nations will rise against Him but will not be able to stand because He is the Almighty.

Now why do we need to know that He is coming as the Almighty? Because right now it looks like Christ is losing. The world is becoming more anti-Christ every day. He seems to be losing ground but when He comes we will be able to give thanks (Revelation 11:15-18) because He has returned and restored His rule over this earth. That is the day that we long for according to Romans 8. This world of sin and sinners is oppressive to the believer in Christ but when Christ returns, the sinner will be destroyed and sin will be put in check. Only the Almighty God can accomplish such a feat.

B. The reason we need to know about the future is that there is blessing in paying attention to Jesus and His revelation about the future (1:3). This blessing is not in stock tips or oil futures. This blessing is a spiritual blessing.

1. To be blessed means to be saved (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Seven times in the book of Revelation, a blessing is pronounced on those who are believers in Christ. The word we read in our Bibles as “saved” Martin Luther often translated as “blessed” because He understood that to be truly blessed of God meant much more than houses and lands and nice families. God blesses the unsaved also with such things. To be blessed of God, however, means to be saved, to be redeemed by the Lamb. Sometimes this word is translated “happy.” That is not a bad translation, for one who lives eternally in the presence of God will be happy and the one in hell will not. To be blessed though is more than an emotional reality, it is a spiritual reality. Look at Revelation 20:4-6. What a contrast? Those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus are blessed because they are free from the second death. It is certainly not a happy occasion to be beheaded. Those who might sympathetically be looking on might say, “What a waste!” But they are blessed. They are saved from the second death, from the wrath to come.

2. To keep the word means to have an active faith (1:3; 22:14; compare with 1 John 3:23). You see, to keep a prophecy means that there is something that should be done in response to that prophecy. Revelation 22:14 makes it clear that those who do His commandments will have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. Now does this mean that we can work our way into heaven? Absolutely not. James put it this way, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, true faith will live a certain way. First John 3:23 tells us exactly what the commandments of Christ are, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” So this blessing means more than to believe that Jesus is God. It demands becoming a disciple of Christ, an active faith that determines not only to trust Christ but to obey Him.

It is clear that Jesus can demand an active faith from me and I need to hear His word with active faith. The blessing of God is promised to me if I keep His word, if I have an active faith. An active faith will be ready for His coming. That is the point of the last phrase in verse 3. He is coming. Are you ready?

“A lady, who heard Whitefield, in Scotland, preach upon the words, “And the door was shut,” being placed near two dashing young men, but at a considerable distance from the pulpit, witnessed their mirth; and overheard one say, in a low tone, to the other, “Well, what if the door be shut? Another will open.” Thus they turned off the solemnity of the text. ‘Mr. Whitefield had not proceeded far when he said, “It is possible there may be some careless, trifling person here today, who may ward off the force of this impressive subject by lightly thinking, ‘What matter if the door be shut? Another will open.’” The two young men were paralyzed, and looked at each other. Mr. Whitefield proceeded: “Yes; another will open. And I will tell you what door it will be: it will be the door of the bottomless pit!-the door of hell!-the door which conceals from the eyes of angels the horrors of damnation!”

Jesus could come today. Are you ready? Is your faith active? Do you have faith in Christ at all? Trust Him today and live for Him, forsaking this world and all others for the one who loves you and died to wash you from your sin.

Next Week: The Son of Man

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

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

WHAT THE NEW KING BRINGS
Isaiah 9:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Sermon on “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” December 6, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Isaiah, Jesus, Longfellow, Peace, Religion, Sermons, World Peace.
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This week on “Eternally Significant”
Tuesday: Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas”
Wednesday: Why Sport’s Commentators Condemn Tiger

THE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE ON EARTH
Isaiah 11:1-16

INTRODUCTION: One of the most obscure prophetic references of the New Testament is found in Matthew 2:23, where he writes of Joseph bringing his family back from exile in Egypt to the city of Nazareth. Matthew writes, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” He is referring to this first verse of Isaiah 11. The word “branch” is the Hebrew word, “netser”, which means a sprout or a shoot. Matthew was trying to emphasize the humble beginnings of Jesus.

A. The twig or sprout symbolizes for us the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ (verses 1-9). Compare verse 1 with Isaiah 53:2-3 to see another description of the humble beginning of Jesus Christ. In that chapter we see that Jesus was despised so that He could make peace with God for us. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could come to God. Why then did it have to be Jesus? Why could it not have been some other descendant of the royal line that provides the peace Isaiah describes in this chapter? What makes Jesus different from the other descendants of Jesse? Isaiah goes on to tell us in this chapter (Isaiah 11).

1. He has the Spirit of God continually on Him (verse 2). Now Jesus, as far as we know, was not born with the Spirit of God upon Him. He was God who became man but when it came time to begin His ministry, He went to be baptized publicly by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and rested on Him, anointing Him as the Messiah. I do not understand how God the Spirit who is one with God the Son can do that but that is what happened. The reason it happened was to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Sent One, the Christ of God. (That is why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was such a serious crime, an unpardonable sin. The underlying foundation of that sin was a total rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and of the proof of the Holy Spirit in His life.) When Peter first preached the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles in Acts 10:38, he pointed out that this anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and the works that followed were what set Him apart from every other man. These works by the Holy Spirit proved His Messiahship.

Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus is identified as having the seven Spirits of God. This is a reference to verse 2 of our text. Here is proof again that this not just another royal descendant but that this little sprout of which Isaiah writes, this little shoot is the Holy One of God, the Messiah.

2. Not only does He have the Spirit of God continually on Him but also He judges righteously and faithfully (verses 3-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ judges so righteously and so faithfully that His name is called in Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In other words, this is not some unknowable, untouchable King who will rule the earth but a Lord who becomes righteousness for His people. We are unrighteous and unfaithful by nature but He changes that for those who believe in Him. He comes as the gentle, loving healer and counselor of men and He comes also as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He comes as the hope of this world, the Prince of Peace, and as the Man that men cannot forget. Most precious of all to me though is that He comes as the LORD our righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

As we continue to look at Isaiah’s description of Jesus as the righteous and faithful judge, we see, in the middle of verse four, another of those transitions that take us from the past when Jesus came, meek but Spirit-filled ministering to those who are weak, into the future, when He establishes His kingdom on this earth. There is a change and this change is identified by the destruction of Christ’s earthly enemy.

Who is His enemy? Of course, all those who reject Him, the earth, but the end of verse four singles out a particular person. He is called “the wicked” or “the Wicked One”.

“…(W)ho is this individual here called the ‘Wicked One’?… The apostle Paul quotes this very scripture in 2 Thess. 2:8: ‘And then shall that Wicked One be revealed'”; (Jennings). This is directly talking about the Antichrist. This little sprout, this little shoot is different because of the character and the power of His justice. He will judge His enemy, the Wicked One.

3. He brings peace to all of creation (verses 6-9). These are amazing verses. Could this literally happen? Could the predator and its prey become playmates? Is it possible that we need never fear danger to our children from the wildlife around us? According to Hosea 2:18 God will make it possible. “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.”

That passage as well as Ezekiel 34:25 teach us that God will make a covenant with the animals of nature that will make the world safe for His people, Israel. When God makes peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, it will be world peace. Both nuclear bombs and rabies will be eliminated. There will be no more need for satellites to watch other nations and no need for protection from wild animals. How will it happen? This sprout, this shoot, will make it happen.

B. Isaiah not only presents Jesus as a sprout but also as “the root of Jesse.” This shows us the eternal establishment of peace on earth through Jesus Christ, who was of the house and lineage of David (Compare Revelation 5:5-6 and 22:16 with verses 10-16 to see that these verses are talking about Jesus Christ). Yes, Jesus started as a sprout, as a shoot coming up out of the decaying stump of the royal house of David but He will take root, He will become a tree. When He does, a new day will dawn on the earth. Verse 10 uses the phrase “in that day.” Verse 11 states, “It shall come to pass in that day…” The question now is this. What will happen that will reveal Jesus in His power and His glory?

1. He will rescue His people, Israel (verses 11-16). The beginning of verse 11 shows that God will bring Israel for the second time into the land. The first was when he called them out of Egypt. They are in the land now but Christ has not yet called them there. They still have not accepted Christ as their Messiah. There is coming a day, though, when they will accept Christ as their personal and national Savior. That is the second time that God is talking about in this verse. This little sprout, this little shoot that was despised and rejected in Isaiah 53 will come back in strength and in power and will rescue His people Israel.

Notice that the root of Jesse brings change to the landscape of the Middle East (verses 14-16). I am not talking about the political landscape although that will also be true. Christ is going to change the geological landscape of the Middle East when He returns. I do not understand exactly why or how but it will be another proof to the nations of who He is. He is no longer the little sprout, the shoot but a mighty, all-powerful root, which changes the landscape of the world if it should suit His purposes.

2. Not only will He rescue His people Israel but He will be worshiped by the Gentiles (verses 10 and 12). Verse 10 says they will seek Him. Romans 15:12 translates this phrase, “In Him the Gentiles will hope.”

Let me clarify what a Gentile is for our young people. Before Christ came, God divided the world into two groups: his people, the Jews and the rest, the Gentiles. When Christ came and died He tore down the ethnic dividing wall and took from the Jews and from the Gentiles and made a new people, the Church. This is what is meant by “the Gentiles will hope.” We have hope in and through Jesus Christ. We were not Jews. We were not of His people but God made a way of hope for us through Jesus Christ. He sent a little sprout, a little shoot to die for us and become the root on which we can stand and draw strength.

The Gentiles will not only seek Him but they will also rally to Him (verse 12). The wicked are destroyed, the Jews are restored but there are those who are not Jews who have turned to Christ. He was a despised, overlooked sprout but now He is the rally flag for all who serve Christ both now and in the future and forevermore. At that time peace on earth will be complete.

“Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. Confederate Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard fired the opening salvos of the American Civil War on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident in the library of Craigie House on July 10th. The day before the accident, Fanny Longfellow recorded in her journal: ‘We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight.’ After trimming some of seven year old Edith’s beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny’s dress– immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry’s study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances– severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. (Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.)”
“The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote, ‘How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.’ A year after the incident, he wrote, ‘I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.’ Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.’ Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. (Charles did not die but it was a serious wound.) (T)he Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” We have part of this poem in our hymnbook. We call it, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Christmas Bells
1. I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

2. And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

3. Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

4. Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

5. And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

6. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

If you are a believer, you have peace with God. Do you have the peace of God? Philippians tells us in 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing but in prayer and thanksgiving let your request be make known unto God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Christmas can be a troubling time. We saw in Longfellow’s the difficulties sorrow brings. Eighteen years later he wrote in a poem that he still suffered from sorrow. In your sorrow, in your troubles, in your worries and difficulties you can have peace. The peace of God. He began as a little sprout, a little shoot in Nazareth but He can be a root of strength and nourishment in your life. Go to Him, throw yourself on Him for strength and insight and direction and help in the time of need.

This peace on earth, good-will to men began as a little sprout, a little shoot. It still is not fully grown. Christ is yet to be revealed as the Root. That will happen when He returns. Yes, hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men. The thunder of our weapons drown the sound of peace on earth, good-will to men. But God is not dead, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Wrong shall fail and right shall prevail with peace on earth, good-will to men.

How is it possible to have this peace? According to Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is only possible through faith in Him. He died for you, so you could have peace with God.

Will you trust Him today? Will you let Christ make your peace with God for you by becoming your righteousness.

The Hope of Christmas (A Sermon for First Advent from Isaiah 8:1-22) November 29, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Christmas, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Isaiah, Jesus, Messiah, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Virgin Birth.
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THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS
Isaiah 8:1-22

INTRODUCTION: This advent season we are looking at “Christmas According to Isaiah”. Chapters 7-11 of the book of Isaiah all come from the same time period of Isaiah’s ministry. It is about 700 years before Jesus Christ would be born. Ahaz, king of Judah is looking to Assyria for help against his two enemies to the north: (1) his relatives, the northern kingdom of Israel and (2) their ally, Syria. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz and to Judah is depend on God not man for help. You will be judged, in fact, God will use your ally, Assyria, to judge you. However, God will not forsake His people. There is hope but only for those of His people who turn to God.

This is the hope of Christmas. These are tough days for many but there is hope for a glorious future for those who turn to Christ.

I. God confirms this hope through a child (vs. 1-4). Now this is not the first sign that is given to Ahaz and the people of Judah. In Isaiah 7:13-17, Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refuses. God, however, through Isaiah gives him a sign anyway. It is the sign of a child. We know that this prophecy is referred to in Matthew as the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. However, as is not uncommon in Old Testament prophecy, there is a double fulfillment: a near fulfillment and a far off fulfillment. The fulfillment through the virgin born Christ is still at this time 700 years in the future but God also gave another child, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, to be born and the purpose of His birth was to confirm the prophecy and to confirm the hope that would be connected to that prophecy.

a. How the prophecy concerning the child is given is described in verses 1-2. Now there are several important things that we need to notice.

i. First, this prophecy was intended to be public. It was written on a large scroll so that it could be easily and readily read. Witnesses were named who would be able at the fulfillment of the prophecy to confirm that the prophecy had been given before the fulfillment.

It is very important to God that people have good reason to believe His message of hope. When God speaks of hope, He speaks of a certainty, a guarantee. If you purchased something this past Black Friday, you undoubtedly saved your receipts. If you decide to return an item, the receipt tells you whether your hope of getting your money back is a wish or a certainty. In the same way, God gave the sign of this child as a confirmation, an assurance that He would not forsake His people but would save them in the end.

Is this not one reason why the virgin birth of Christ is important? That Christ was born of a virgin confirms for us that we have hope in eternity. If it were to be proven that Jesus was not the far future fulfillment of this prophecy, then our hope in Him would be based on the lies of Matthew and Luke. He was, however, born of a virgin. Both Matthew and Luke point to verifiable eyewitnesses who could verify that Jesus truly was born of a virgin.

Once I spoke with an evangelical pastor who felt that it did not really matter if Jesus was born of a virgin. What was important was that one believes in Jesus. Why then did God give the prophecy? Faith in Christ must be based on the certainty that Jesus alone fits the prophecy of the Scriptures. Anything less is like going to the store without a receipt and wishing for an exchange.

ii. Let’s look now at the prophecy (verses 3-4). Isaiah and his wife, the prophetess, would have a son named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. His name was actually the prophecy: “hurry to the loot, swift to the prey.” (verses 3-4). According to the prophecy, before this baby would speak his first words, the meaning of his name would come to pass.

b. The prophecy concerning the child is fulfilled. The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 16:9, “So the king of Assyria heeded [Ahaz’s call for help]; for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it, carried its people captive to Kir, and killed Rezin.” Chapter 17 then describes the fall of Israel to the Assyrians.

II. So what is the message of hope that is found in this prophecy? It is this, “God protects His people even in judgment” (vs. 5-10).

a. This judgment comes because of lack of faith in God (vs. 5-7). The northern kingdom depended on man rather than God as represented by their rejection of the waters of Shiloah and because of their rejection, the Assyrians came like a flood and wiped out their armies and took their people captive.

b. Mercy, however, is available to God’s people (verse 8a). We see this in that the flood of judgment would not overwhelm them but rather come up to their neck. This is exactly what happened. The Assyrians who defeated Syria and Israel were not able to overcome Judah. Judah suffered much because of the Assyrians but God delivered Judah from destruction.

c. Why? Because God is with them (verses 8b-10). Isaiah reminds them in these verses that Immanuel, “God with us,” will deliver them from their enemies. Because God is with His people, they can have hope. Their future, even in the day of judgment, is certain and victorious because “God is with us.”

“No wonder when John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused from his sleep long [enough] to open his eyes and exclaim, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Then he closed his eyes and died” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Overcoming Loneliness”).

III. With this message of hope, God warns of the danger of rejecting His confirmed Word (vs. 11-15).

a. He tells Isaiah, “Do not fear those who reject Me” (vs. 11-12).

“Isaiah’s message must have seemed crazy: ‘Don’t fear the mighty army you see arrayed against you. Though they have far more soldiers, you have something they don’t. You have Immanuel on your side.’” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Are You Prepared to Suffer for Christ?“). For that reason, many accused Isaiah and other prophets of the LORD of collusion with the enemy. This is similar to what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:28 when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

b. “Do not fear those who reject Me but rather fear the One who is to be hallowed (vs. 13-14a).” To hallow God is to set Him above all others. No one can veto His Word. He is the LORD and there is none else.

c. Destruction is the end of His rejecters (v. 14b-15). It is not just that those who reject God, who reject Christ, will stumble and be offended. The picture in these verses is that they will be destroyed by the very one they stumbled over. The one who they found so offensive will be their judge.

IV. God gives hope only to those who trust His Word (vs. 16-22), that is, believe in His confirming signs. In those days it concerned Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz but today the sign in whom we must believe is the virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. The apostle Paul in Romans 9:33 took part of verse 14 and another portion from Isaiah to make this very point, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”*

a. Our hope is confirmed by His works (vs. 16-18). The signs that God gives confirm His word and give us the ability to wait, to hope. The difficult part of the certain hope of the Christian is the waiting. The first verse of one of the carols we sang today, written by John Wesley’s brother, Charles, describes very well the difficulty of waiting, of hoping.

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Isaiah and his two sons (Shear-Jashub is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3 and means “the remnant shall return”) were signs of hope in their day but men had to wait 700 years before Immanuel was born. Immanuel, God with us, Jesus lived and died and rose again and returned to His Father’s side at the right hand of the throne of God 2000 years ago and we wait, we hope, we sing…

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now (can you not hear the longing in this carol?) Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

That is the hope of Christmas!

b. Our insight, our ability to see the truth, to wait, to hope is conditioned by faith in His Word (vs. 19-22).

There were those who offered an alternative to God’s Word, God’s law, God’s signs. They said, “Go to those who can speak with the dead and find out what God is doing!”

As in those days, many “In our relativistic age… are offended by any suggestion that there is only one way of salvation. But that is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words must be taken at face value. We have no right to water them down. Sometimes people speak of Jesus as if he were some kind of great moral teacher. The people who say that generally don’t like John 14:6. It doesn’t fit the concept of a great moral teacher. If Jesus isn’t the way, the truth, and the life–if there really is another way to the Father–then Jesus isn’t a great moral teacher. He’s either the most self-deceived man in all history or he is a liar. In either case, he’s not a great teacher. You can’t pick and choose with Jesus. Either take what he says at face value or reject him altogether. Those are the only two choices you have.” (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon “Stumbling Stone or Cornerstone?“).

That is what Isaiah is saying in this prophecy. Believe God and His Word and you will know the truth. You will not be plunged deeper and deeper into darkness but will be enlightened and will have hope even in a dark world.

CONCLUSION: Our Future is Absolutely Certain.
 There are many fulfilled prophecies related to Jesus Christ in Isaiah (that Jesus will be born of a virgin), in Micah (that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), in the Psalms (that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead), in Daniel and Hosea and elsewhere. When we look at those prophecies we know that we can expect that our hope for the future will also be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

INVITATION: Would you bow your heads and close your eyes for a few moments? This is good news. Perhaps you have heard this good news before, perhaps many times. Is it not time that you believed it? Is it not time for you to say, I am going to trust Christ alone as my salvation. Would you do that today? Would anyone like to do that at this moment?

Perhaps you are here and you are interested but are not yet ready to make a commitment to Christ but would like me to pray for you today, that God would help you to know the truth. My prayer for you is nothing magical but the God who hears and answers prayer wants to bring you to Himself. If you would like prayer today, would you raise your hand?

If you raised your hand, you need to talk to someone you can trust. I would be glad to speak with you. There are others who would be glad to speak with you. Perhaps you would like to speak to the person you came with and ask them to show you how to trust Christ as Savior. Do it today!

Maybe you have a lot of questions. We can help you to get connected with someone who will take the time to meet with you weekly and answer your questions. Please let us know today, if we can help you in this way.

(Thanks to Ray Pritchard for the quotations from his sermons.)

If I could only preach one sermon… (from 2 Peter 1:12-19) August 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Jesus, Rapture, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Second Peter, Sermons.
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If I Could Only Preach One Sermon…
2 Peter 1:12-19

George Whitefield preached over 18,000 sermons during his life. While traveling through Exeter, New Hampshire on September 29, 1770 he was asked to preach on the village green. After praying for strength to preach one more sermon, he managed to preach for two hours on “Faith and Works.” After supper as a guest, Whitefield preached one more sermon to a group gathered at that home. At 2 a.m. he awoke, talking about his desire for strength to preach again the next day. Four or five hours later, he died in his sickbed.

Whitefield did not waste his last time preaching current events or moral improvement but rather dealt with a subject with eternal ramifications. We find much the same situation here with Peter. He knows that the time of his departure from this earth was at hand (verses 14-15). Today, we will see what subject Peter felt was so important that he devoted to it his last “sermon” (if you will allow me to use that term).

A. Peter wanted to “preach a sermon” that makes a life-changing difference (verses 12-15). He did not want to “preach a sermon” to be remembered by but rather a subject that would change those who remembered it.

1. The subject of this “sermon” will change the way you live your life (verse 12a). Peter has told them that if they live life in a certain way it would make them spiritually fruitful and would prove the reality of their faith and would be worthy of entrance into heaven. In verse 4 he has already made it clear that a change has to take place for this to happen. Everything must change. The heart, the lifestyle, the destiny of a person all can be changed by the subject that Peter will soon announce.

2. The subject of this “sermon” is already known to you but he wants to remind you of life-changing, eternal truth (verses 12b-15).

He calls it a present truth. This is not something new-fangled. It has been known for many years now. His listeners are not new to this truth but he dared not neglect reminding them of it. This truth is vital for the believer. It must be remembered and when remembered it will stir up, that is, wake up the believer to live the lifestyle that is worthy of entrance into heaven (see also 2 Peter 3:1).

Also these believers are established in this truth. They were not wobbly. Now this may seem strange to preach to strong Christians that they need to live in such a way as to prove their faith but it reveals to us something of the danger of assuming that someone is steadfast in the faith. Not just new believers, not just young believers, not just struggling believers but all believers need this truth so that they will remain set and fixed in the faith and in the lifestyle of our faith.

B. Peter wanted to “preach a sermon” that confirms Jesus as the Son of God (verses 16-18).

1. This is what Peter had preached before (verse 16).

He had proclaimed the power of Christ. Verse 3 tells us specifically what Peter means by the power of Christ. It is divine power, power from God, in fact, it is the power of God. A power that gives to men and women all that they need to walk the lifestyle that Peter describes as characteristic of the called ones of God. It is Jesus that enables us to live worthy of entrance into heaven and it is the importance of His power that is the theme of Peter’s last sermon.

He had proclaimed also the coming of Christ. Now this could be talking about the first coming of Christ but it is more likely referring to the second coming of Christ. Second Peter 3:3-14 indicates that some who had heard the truth and perhaps had even professed the truth of Christ’s coming were rejecting it. Thirty-five years ago (more or less) Jesus ascended to heaven, promising to return. Where is He now? He’s not coming back. Like the children of Israel, who within forty days began to doubt that Moses would return, these scoffers have no patience with God or His ways. Why? According to verse 3b, they walk according to their own lusts.

Now you may ask what difference does this doctrine make? Verses 11 and 14 make it pretty clear. Those who believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ will live differently than those who do not. The scoffer walks according to his own lusts but the believer in the Lord’s coming has a holy, godly, peaceable, and blameless walk in this word. It is not only important that we have the power to walk worthy of Christ, it is also important that we be ready when Christ comes.

There is another reason why these two doctrines are important. They are the majesty of Christ. His power is the power of a divine king and when He returns, He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords.

2. With this majesty is how the Father identified Him (verse 17). Verses 17-18 speak of the Mount of Transfiguration experience that is recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain and God showed Jesus Christ in glory and honor as the divine Son of God, the King of glory. Now there are other times when God identified Jesus as the Son of God. He did so at Jesus’ baptism. John 12:28-29 tells of another occasion where God glorified Jesus Christ. Only on this occasion though did the Father identify Jesus with the honor and glory with which He will appear when He comes to receive His own to Himself and to judge those who rebel against Him. This is likely why Peter chose this particular occasion. It made the exact point that Peter wanted these believers to grasp. He is powerful enough to help you to walk worthy of entrance into heaven and He is coming back, be ready!

3. This is confirmed by our eyewitness testimony (verse 18). Peter is not talking about something he heard. This not some legend or cunningly devised fable. He saw Jesus in His majesty with His own eyes. He walked up the mountain with Jesus, He climbed back down after the transfiguration was over. He had seen Jesus in His earthly body and had seen Him in His glorified body. He knew what He was talking about. The power of God to change my lifestyle and the promise of Christ to return are based on fact. I can pray with confidence for strength to live holy because His power to give that strength has already been demonstrated. I can look forward to His coming, not because of the signs of the times being all around me but simply because He promised to come in majesty and His coming majesty has already been revealed to mankind through eyewitness testimony. I find it interesting that the only sign of the last days that Peter even brings up is that of scoffers and false prophets and he brings them up not to indicate that Jesus will soon return but rather points out that we should not be surprised when scoffers and false prophets appear. After all, Jesus will return.

C. As perhaps you can now see, Peter‘s message was a prophetic message but it was not an impractical reading of tea leaves but rather a message that demands obedience (verses 19). Negatively, this word means beware. Positively it means to pay attention, listen. Hear my word and then act appropriately! Peter intends for them to obey verses 5-7 because of the eyewitness confirmation of the Father’s identification of Jesus as the Son of God. Hear the truth and obey it!

1. It demands obedience because it is true. Peter says that the prophetic word was confirmed, that is, by eyewitness testimony and the testimony of the Father. All of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah are true in Jesus Christ and we know this because of what God did to identify Jesus before men as the Son of God and because hundreds, if not thousands of eyewitnesses, both followers and enemies, attest to the truth of the facts as they happened. God said it through the prophets, confirmed it on this earth multiple times, and eyewitnesses confirmed both the testimony of the prophets and of the Father.

2. It demands obedience because it dispels spiritual darkness. Peter has already mentioned in verse 4 that men’s hearts are doomed. Here he points out that they are also dark. Faith in God’s truth dispels darkness like a morning star in the dawn. Men grope spiritually in darkness but the power and the coming of King Jesus brings light to those who believe and obey.

When I was a kid, we used to listen to a camp meeting preacher and revivalist by the name of Sammy Allen. Sammy Allen would get down from the platform and preach at the front of the aisle and he would look you dead in the eye and ask, “Are you listening? Are you listening?”

Are you listening this morning? I am not asking if you can hear me or if you understand me. Are you going to take heed to the Word of God and live according to the power of Christ, living ready and looking forward to His coming for you.