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Part One: Sermon Series on Baptism January 9, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Judgment, Luke, Repentance.
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DID YOU MEET THE CONDITIONS?
Luke 3:1-22

The next few weeks we want to look at the subject of baptism. This is often a controversial subject so I think I should begin by explaining the purpose behind this sermon series.

1. Several have expressed the desire to be baptized and it is important for their sake and for yours that we look at the Bible and remind ourselves of the Bible’s teaching concerning the subject.
2. Baptism is the way in which people are initiated publicly into the faith. This is perhaps the common denominator between all of the various views concerning baptism. It is a public initiation rite. It says something important about the person being baptized.
3. Baptism is supposed to be meaningful. Even those who do not believe that baptism is necessary today admit that there is a significant meaning behind baptism. The various groups may not agree exactly on what that meaning is but that it is meaningful is certain.

Today we want to look at the baptism of John and understand how baptism functioned in his day. We will also be able to make comparisons to our day because in both John’s day and in our day, baptism functions as a public initiation into the faith and carries great meaning.

I. God’s message to us is a last days’ message (verses 3-9, 15-18). As John was baptizing, the multitudes came to him to be baptized and John spoke very bluntly to them. He told them, God has a message for you. Have you met the conditions demanded for initiation into the kingdom of God (verse 7-8)?

Because we fear salvation by works we tend to deemphasize baptism but works of repentance are biblical. In some pagan cultures, people gather their idols and other articles of superstition and burn them when they turn to Christ. “In America, the house itself may become one’s god. It is hardly appropriate to burn one’s house” (David Hesselgrave in Planting Churches Cross-Culturally). Yet, repentance, though it is an inward attitude, it reveals itself in our actions.

A. This message seems harsh but we need to remember that this is only a part of the message. This message from God is a message of forgiveness (vs. 3-6, 16-17). John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins confirming Isaiah’s prophecy that all flesh shall see the kingdom of God. John was preaching that time was at hand. Those Jews who understood and believed the Old Testament knew that in the last days, when the Messiah comes, God will save His people from their sin and the nations will see that salvation and many of them will turn to God.

B. This message, however, is not only a message of forgiveness and salvation but also a message of judgment (vs. 7-9, 17-18). These people were preparing themselves for the end of the world. They obviously hadn’t heard of the Mayans prediction concerning 2012. John’s response was not, “You’re too early!” No, it is, “Are you ready? Have you met the conditions? Are you prepared for the day of judgment?”

II. What are those conditions? God’s message for the last days demands a change of allegiance, that is, repentance (verses 8-14).

A. Allegiance to nationality, ethnicity, and even religious faith hinders repentance (vs. 8-9). That doesn’t mean those things are wrong. These people were born into their nation and born into their faith but they needed to give their allegiance to God not to their nation, their race, their religious identification, and especially, as we will see, to themselves.

B. Our works prove our allegiance (verse 8). How do you determine where someone’s allegiances lie? By how they act, by what they do. It is told that Spurgeon was walking down a street in London when a man who was drunk and leaning on a lamppost yelled out to him, “Hey, Mr. Spurgeon, do you remember me?” Spurgeon replied, “No, why should I?” The man said, “Because I’m one of your converts.” Spurgeon replied, “Well, you must be one of mine; you’re certainly not one of the Lord’s.”

a. Work #1: Compassion for the needy (vs. 10-11). John is applying the Old Testament to these people. Jesus put it later this way, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We understand that God has that same expectation of us.

b. Work #2: Contentment with our lot (vs. 12-14). John did not tell the tax collectors or the soldiers to quit working for the government but rather to be content with the blessings they have from God. Again, this is what God expects of us. We are to be content with whatever avenue of blessing the Lord gives us and not to take advantage of others so that we might have more.

(Contentment comes from trust) LeRoy Eims was talking to a young lady in San Francisco. He asked her about her relationship to God. She said, “Well, I’ve always had this terrible fear that He might send me off to Africa as a missionary.” As they continued to talk he asked her about her workplace. He asked her if she went out with the men who hung around there. She said, “No…they are a bunch of creeps and I just don’t feel secure when I’m with them.” He then asked, “If you were to meet a guy who really loved you … [would you feel secure around him]? Do you think he could be trusted?” Of course, she said, yes. In the same way, we can be content and secure in Christ. Like a farmer who irrigates his crops, “God is always upstream, discerning our needs,…and arranging things for our good” (from What Every Christian Should Know About Growing).

c. Work #3: Care not to abuse our power (vs. 14). This is one of those things that I was blessed not to know anything about as I was growing up but the older I get the more I see that when we get power that is not held accountable by others, we tend to abuse those under us.

C. Our baptism is a declaration of our allegiance, that is, our repentance (verses 3, 7). It is a declaration that we love others as ourselves because God loves us as Himself. It is a declaration that we trust Him to give us what we need in the way of blessings and in the way of opportunity to receive blessings in this life. It is a declaration that we are accountable to God for any and all authority which we might have.

That is what baptism is. It is a declaration that my life is different. No more will I live for myself. I have given myself to God.

III. How is this accomplished in our lives? If we are to declare a changed life we must have a changed life. How is that to be? John tells us plainly that God’s message and the fulfillment of that message depends on Christ (verses 15-22).

A. Forgiveness through the Spirit (vs. 3-6, 16-17). We tend to forget that the prediction of the Old Testament is that the Messiah would come and His people would be transformed through Him spiritually. They would be given a fleshy heart instead of a heart of stone. They would be endowed, anointed, have poured out on them, the Holy Spirit. That blessing, however, came through Jesus Christ. These people lived in expectation of that promise.

B. Judgment by His authority (vs. 7-9, 17-18). Just as Jesus brought forgiveness through the Holy Spirit working in those who follow Him, He also brings judgment to those who have a different allegiance.

Where is your allegiance? Have you met the conditions for baptism? Have you repented of your sinful ways and turned to Christ alone for forgiveness and filling with the Holy Spirit? You can meet those conditions today. Turn to Him for salvation and escape from the wrath to come. The kingdom of God is at hand. The predictions of the Mayans will most certainly not happen but Christ may come today. Repent today of your sin.

If you have been baptized, are you living up to your declaration? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Are you content with what God has blessed you with? Do you use the responsibilities God gives you wisely with consideration for those under your authority? If not, today is the day to make that right.

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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

Evaluating a Generation February 15, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Contentment, Depravity, Family, Humililty, Hypocrisy, Judgment, Materialism, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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EVALUATING A GENERATION
Proverbs 30:10-17

Agur recognized that without dependence on God’s Word (verse 5) he was not only without answers to some of the most important questions of life (verses 2-4) but also that he was defenseless against temptation (verses 7-9). Although Agur prayed for God to protect him from temptation, he did not pray for God to isolate himself from temptation. What he did do, however, is look at the world around him and note those things about the world system of which he did not want to be a part.

Now we should evaluate the generation in which we live, the world system which is all around us but we should not stop there. When we look at the world, when we look at our generation, we must first evaluate ourselves. You see, the world is corrupt, the world sins, a generation becomes evil for the very same reason that we are susceptible to temptation. Our sinful flesh is corrupt and we sin. For that reason, we will evaluate our own hearts first before we look at the generations around us.

A. We can evaluate ourselves by how we treat those above us and below us (verses 9-10, 17). The importance of impartiality in our personal relationships cannot be overemphasized. James 2 says that we are to be impartial as God is impartial and that how we treat those above us and below us is an indication of the reality or the lack of reality to our faith in Christ. “All men are created equal” is not an American concept but rather a heavenly one.

In verse 10 we have a man who is slandering a slave. The slave is defenseless. The master will believe the other free man, not the slave. The slave will be punished unjustly. We all agree that this is unjust but how many times have we bullied someone, slandered someone, or laughed at someone who we feel is inferior to us. This is sin. The Bible points this out repeatedly and yet we continue to do it. Why? We have allowed our desire for importance to follow the way of the world around us.

One of the worst things about this type of sin is its contagiousness. Hans Finzel in his book on leadership, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Makes” puts it this way, “[It] can become like a chain reaction. The boss barks orders to the employee. The employee goes home and barks orders at his spouse. The spouse barks orders at the children. The children kick the dog, and the dog chases the neighborhood cat! (page 25)” It is the way of this generation.

a. Mistreatment, however, of those below us will not go unpunished (verse 9). The slave who is slandered as he goes to the whipping post curses the man who slandered him. There is nothing more that the slave can do. It appears that the free man will truly go free. Agur says, “You will be found guilty.” By whom? God Himself.

I know that it appears that we get off free but we should not forget that we will be repaid according to the deeds we have done in our body. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will repay.

b. Disrespect for those above us will not go unpunished (verses 10, 17). Now specifically Agur is talking about children and their parents. This is so important that it was a part of the original Ten Commandments. It was the first commandment with a promised blessing. A child who knows this and disrespects their parents is described for us in verse 6. They are adding their own viewpoint to God’s Word. They will be exposed by God for what they are. Verse 17, describes for us more specifically the price they will pay for their disrespect. The eye that mocks, that despises, that disobeys the one in authority over them will be picked out by the birds and eaten. The picture here is of someone who is already dead and the ravens and the vultures, birds that primarily eat carrion, will feast on those who turn their back on God’s commandment and disobey their parents. Now this may not be fulfilled literally in your life but there will be a price paid by the one who disrespects authority.

Now it is easy for us as parents to stand up and shout, “Amen!” Are we any better? Do we show respect for those over us? Do we mock our boss at work or the policeman on the street? During the past year I have been greatly embarrassed by believers with whom I am personally acquainted who have taken great liberties in making fun of our President. The believer who makes mock at our President through watermelon jokes is not exempt from verse 17. I do not know how God will act but He will not tolerate such evil from us.

B. Not only can we evaluate ourselves by the way we treat those above us and below us, we can evaluate ourselves by our self-righteousness. Verse 12 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.” If ever there was a definition of self-righteousness, this is it. This is where religion and worldliness meet and breed sin. This where self-deception reaches its most dangerous.

When Jesus attacked the self-righteous, religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He called them hypocrites not because they were pretending to be pure when they really were not but because they were truly convinced that they were pure although they were actually full of filth.

Now self-righteousness is a hard thing to evaluate. By its very nature, it avoids self-detection. There are, however, some attitudes and actions that might indicate you are self-righteous:

1. The self-righteous exalt themselves in external religious duties (Luke 18:11-12).
2. The self-righteous seek to justify their own sin (Luke 10:25-29).
3. The self-righteous are more interested in what man thinks of them than in what God thinks of them (Luke 16:113-15).
4. The self-righteous seek God’s righteousness through their own goodness rather than through faith in Christ (Romans 9:31-10:4; Proverbs 20:6, 9).
5. The self-righteous condemn the righteousness of others (Matthew 10:10-12; Luke 7:39).
6. The self-righteous despise and slander others (Luke 18:9-11; Proverbs 30:10).
7. The self-righteous walk in their own way (Isaiah 65:2-5; Proverbs 21:2; 30:6).

Self-righteousness is also contagious. In Luke 11:46 and 52, Jesus said to the self-righteous lawyers of religion, “…you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Will the self-righteous escape the awful justice described in verse 17? No, Jesus said to those same self-righteous lawyers, “…‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).

C. We can evaluate ourselves by our arrogance. Verse 13, “There is a generation-oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” Certainly, this is an extension of the previous verse. The emphasis here is on their pride rather than their self-deception.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 begs believers to “…present [their] bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God…and [to] not be conformed to this world…” Is pride and arrogance an indication that someone is worldly? Absolutely! Paul commands the same believers in the next verse “…not to think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought to think, but to think soberly…” Pride and arrogance are characteristic of worldliness. We, however, are not of this world and should think soberly, that is, in our right mind. At the end of Proverbs 30 in verse 32, Agur states this similarly but in a negative manner, “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself…put your hand on your mouth.” Now foolishness is not only an unwise type of thinking but in it is a sinful type of thinking. When I am arrogant and proud, I am foolish and sinful.

Many of us have quoted and almost all of us have heard Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Commonly, we soft-pedal the emphasis of this verse. We use this verse to mean that embarrassment will follow the proud person. That is not the emphasis of this proverb. Solomon is speaking of judgment. The proud will be judged. Our pride, our arrogance, our self-righteousness will not escape. We will be judged accordingly.

D. Finally, we can evaluate ourselves by the selfish destruction caused by our insatiable greed (verses 14-16). It is easy to read this and say, “Well, that isn’t me!” Are you sure? Let me ask the question this way, “What are you willing to do to get ahead?” “Who are you willing to hurt, so that you might reach your goals?” Certainly, economic greed is in view here but there are many other types of greed. Do you care more for your interests, your ways, and your ideals or do you care for others?

a. You see, greed does not care who it hurts (verse 14). James 4:1-4 describes the worldly attitude of those who in their greed for their own pleasure, for more money or power or prestige. They war and fight, they murder and covet, they are friends of the world and enemies of God.

b. Greed is never satisfied (verses 15-16). Agur uses five examples to show us the emptiness of greed and the futility of discontentment. The blood-sucking leech drinks and drinks and drinks. It does not concern itself for the health of its victim. It wants what it wants. It is never satisfied.

Then there is the grave. Death never fills its quote. It never takes a holiday. The grave never says, “I have enough.” It is never satisfied.

Then there is the barren womb. Some of you ladies know exactly what is being described here. The woman who cannot have a child will go to extreme lengths to have one. We have whole industries built on the yearning of women to bear or to have a child. Hannah’s husband said to his wife, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” The Bible does not tell us how she answered but what it does tell us is that she went to God and began to bargain with Him for a son. The answer apparently was, “No.”

Then there is the earth that is not satisfied with water. The earth needs rain every planting season in order to produce crops? If we have abundant rain this year and no rain next year, the rain of this year will not satisfy the need of the earth for water. It will become in one year without rain barren and desertlike.

Finally, there is fire. There are three things that a fire needs to burn: heat, air, and fuel. The thing about fuel is this. The fire never says, “I’ve got enough.” It is insatiable.

Is that a picture of your life? Are you driven by greed? Are you driven by your ego? Are you driven by the acclaim and recognition of men? If so, then you are an enemy of God and His enemies will be destroyed and left for the birds to pick over. That is the judgment of God against this generation and against every generation that follows the way of this world.

What then should we do? If you are believer, then obey James command in James 4:7-10, submit yourself to God. Humble yourself before your Lord. If you have not trusted Christ, the answer is found in Romans 5:8-10, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You need to confess that you are God’s enemy, deserving of damnation, and you need to trust Christ as the only way to make things right between you and God.

Guaranteeing Christian Success July 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God Wakes Up… Psalm 78:40-72 June 7, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Judgment, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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WHEN GOD WAKES UP (Psalm 78:40-72)
THEME: God’s Purposes in the Lives of Sinful Men are Eternal.
The idea for the title of this sermon is found in verse 65. This portion of Psalm 78 portrays a God who has forsaken His people. They have rebelled against Him, generation after generation. Finally, God says, you are on your own. After a long period in which it seems that God has forsaken His people, God wakes up. Not literally, we know that God does not sleep. He is always aware. Verse 65 says that God’s sudden action was as if God had just woken up. The next phrase makes it even more vivid. God’s sudden action is like a drunken giant, a man of war, roaring in wrath against His enemies.
These are images that we are too refined today to use but I want us to keep them in mind. God will accomplish His purposes and when it becomes evident that God is accomplishing His purposes in the lives of His people it will be with overwhelming power and might.
God shows both wrathful judgment and loving mercy in His dealings with men (verses 40-64). Before we look at the verses, we need to remind ourselves that God’s wrath and God’s mercy are always tied together. When God put Adam and Eve out of the garden, doomed to death; He promised that Eve would have a seed that would destroy the power of the evil one. When God destroyed the world with water, one man found grace in God’s eyes and eight people, Noah and his extended family, were saved in the ark. We see this truth set forth in the following verses.
His judgment serves the purpose of redeeming His people from the enemy’s enslavement (verses 40-51). Notice what Asaph writes (verse 42), “He redeemed them (Israel) from the enemy.” Specifically, God ransomed or redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Now how did God do this? Did He give Pharaoh great riches in exchange for His people? Did He allow Pharaoh to conquer other nations and extend His political power as a ransom for Israel’s release? Now, the price Pharaoh had to pay was a terrible price. It was the price of judgment.
These judgment are described for us in verses 43-51. God began by turning the great Nile River and all the streams flowing into it into blood. As a result, the fish in the rivers died and the river stank. Exodus 7:18 says that the Egyptians would grow weary of drinking blood polluted by dead fish but Exodus 7:22-23 tells us that Pharaoh’s heart was not moved. The ransom price of judgment was not yet high enough.
Then God began to send other judgments. He sent a plague of frogs. This had to be a miracle because all the tadpoles had just died. Pharaoh began to bargain with God, “Pray to God to take the frogs away and I will let the people go.” But when suddenly the frogs died, Pharaoh changed His mind (Exodus 8:14-15).
When God sent the swarms of flies, Pharaoh came to the bargaining table again (Exodus 8:24-29), “Can’t you sacrifice to God in Egypt?” Moses said, “Nope.” “Well then, go but don’t go far.” Moses prayed to God, God took the flies away, and Pharaoh backed off of His offer again.
God sent hail and fire and frost to destroy the crops and the cattle left in the field. Pharaoh said, “I have sinned,” but when the hail stopped, he sinned even more by refusing to let God’s people go (Exodus 9:27-34).
Eventually, Pharaoh drove Moses out of his presence but when God brought locusts on the land, he begged for Moses to come and said, “I have sinned,” but when the locusts were gone, so was Pharaoh’s repentance and he did not let God’s people go (Exodus 10:11-20).
During all this time, there were four other plagues that God sent on Egypt and other ways in which Pharaoh tried to bargain but then God put His final offer on the table, the death angel, killing the firstborn of every house and in every stable in Egypt (Exodus 12:29) except for those who obeyed the command of God in putting the blood on the doorpost. Pharaoh said, there is no reason more to bargain. You may go. That is how God redeemed, ransomed, Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The price paid for God’s people was God’s wrath on Egypt.
His care serves the purpose of establishing His eternal possession (verses 52-55). These people were slaves. Why would God show such concern for them. Asaph writes that God guided them like a shepherd guides his sheep, protecting them from all danger, even to the point of destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. Why? That God has show great judgment on Egypt and great love to Israel. Why?
I can imagine Asaph, the first time he sings this psalm before the people. He tells them that they are going to learn something life transforming. He reminds them of past rebellion against God. He reminds them of God’s mercy and judgment down through history. Then he takes his cymbals and gives a mighty clang and declares, “And He brought them to His holy border.” Then he looks around at the mountain on which the tabernacle sits and on which he is leading God’s people in their service before them and clangs the cymbal again and shouts, “This mountain which His right hand had acquired.” This is where God has chosen to meet with man. This is where God has place His name. This is the center of the universe. This is God’s home on earth forever. This land is God’s land and He has given it to us and established us in it. Can you imagine that? What a song service!
God’s purposes involve more than just judgment and mercy. God wants to dwell among men in glory. He accomplishes that purpose through His care for His people.
His temporary rejection of His people serves the purpose of calling them to repentance (verses 56-64). “Yet…” It seems that God’s purposes are frustrated. All the things that the first generation in the wilderness had done, they did also. They were like a deceitful bow. God’s aim was dead on but they missed the mark every time. Even their worship, their submission to God was polluted by their tendency to go their own way, going to high places instead of to the tabernacle to worship, taking images and saying this is Jehovah-God (verse 58). Even some began to worship other gods according to the book of Judges. Finally, God said, I have had enough. You are on your own.
So God in His anger forsook them. We have this recorded in the early chapters of 1 Samuel. The Philistines were coming against Israel. The leaders decided that if they had the ark of the covenant with them, they would win the battle. After all, that was the presence of God among men. When they went into battle, not only were they defeated but the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons were killed, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. When news came back, the shock of the ark’s capture caused Eli to fall of his seat and because of his weight, in falling broke his neck and died. The youth of the nation were destroyed in that battle. A generation of young men and young women bore the brunt of God’s wrath, just as happened with that first generation in Egypt.
The picture of what happened though is best told in verse 64. Suddenly, the ark was gone and the adult priests were dead. One of them, Phinehas, had a wife who was bearing a baby into the world as the word came of Israel’s defeat, the ark’s capture, and her husband’s death. She bore her son and named him, Ichabod, meaning “the glory has departed.” God has forsaken us, she recognized. There is no glory more in Israel. What an awful name. What an important reminder. When God forsakes man, there is no glory.
But then God woke up…
Now, God’s inactivity is simply the precursor of unrestrained intervention (verses 65-72).
His judgment is again decisive in its purpose (verses 65-66). The Philistines, after winning their mighty battle brought the ark into Ashdod, into the temple of their god, Dagon. The next morning, Dagon, the statute god, was face down, bowed in submission, in worship, of the unseen God of Israel. The set Dagon up and the next morning, not only was he bowed before the ark but his head and palms were broken off. Outside of the temple, God struck the men with burning tumors of some type, perhaps some type of debilitating hemmhroid. Everywhere they moved the ark, the plague of burning tumors followed. God brought them down in His anger toward them.
His choices are eternal in their purpose (verses 67-69). Shortly afterward, God made a choice. The leading tribe had always been Ephraim. It had been the biggest and strongest and most centrally located of all the tribes. It had received the birthright of the firstborn from Joseph. The house of God, Bethel was in their land. The tabernacle of Shiloh had also been in Ephraim. God said, I have picked out somewhere better, Jerusalem. The mountain there is where my name will become great and will be established forever. There is just one problem. Jerusalem is not even under Israelite control. The Jebusites live there and the mountain fortress city is strong. What will God do?
His servant will accomplish His purposes (verses 70-72).
Asaph has taken the people through a long history lesson. They know these stories. Now they know what it is that God is doing. God chose David. David brought the glory of God, the ark of the covenant back to Israel. David led his people with righteous wisdom. David put God back on the pedestal, where He belongs. Asaph is saying, “God knows what He is doing and He is doing it right! Set your hope in God, get your strength from Him! He will do as He has promised.”
Do you hope, do you get your strength from a merciful God. Yes, He is a God of judgment and yes, He is to be feared but for those whose faith is in God, there is hope in the purposes of God to redeem His people. He would redeem you also, if you will trust Him. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that there is One God and One Mediator between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” You do not need to bargain like Pharaoh did. Trust Christ today!
Next week’s sermon: LESSONS FROM CREATION: WHO GOD IS AND WHY IT MATTERS (Romans 1:16-25)

Is Suicide an Unpardonable Sin? December 18, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Forgiveness, Judgment, Links, Suicide.
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Is suicide an unpardonable sin?

http://mysite.verizon.net/wepreachchrist/2008.12.01_arch.html#1228511414628

Armageddon and the Millenium October 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Judgment, Millenial Kingdom, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ.
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    Answers from Revelation 19:17-21 and 20

  • What is the end of the participants in the battle of Armageddon (19:17-21)?
  • Christ and His army is victorious. The Beast (Anti-Christ) and the False Prophet are thrown alive into the lake of fire. Their armies and allies’ armies are destroyed totally. None is left alive.

  • What in Revelation 20:1-3 indicates that the thousand year millenium is still in the future?
  •  There is no demonstrable time in history of any duration since the fall during which Satan has been bound.

  • What do we learn about those who are faithful to Christ at the end of the tribulation/beginning of the millenium (20:4-6)?
  • They will be resurrected and will reign with Christ throughout the millenium.

  • What is implied by verses 7-10 about the time after the millenium and Ezekiel 38-39?
  • The nations of the earth will come and Christ and His people but will utterly be destroyed.

  • What do verses 11-15 tell us about the final judgment?
  • The unsaved will be resurrected, judged according to their works, and thrown to suffer forever in the lake of fire.

    A Look at the Millenium and the Last Judgment (Revelation 20) October 18, 2007

    Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Judgment, Millenial Kingdom, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Throne of God.
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    1.  

        Questions from Revelation 19:17-21

    2. What is the end of the participants in the battle of Armageddon (19:17-21)?
    3. What in Revelation 20:1-3 indicates that the thousand year millenium is still in the future?
    4. What do we learn about those who are faithful to Christ at the end of the tribulation/beginning of the millenium (20:4-6)?
    5. What is implied by verses 7-10 about the millenium and Ezekiel 38-30?
    6. What do verses 11-15 tell us about the final judgment?

    Just a couple of more weeks in Revelation October 16, 2007

    Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Babylon, Eschatology, Judgment, Materialism, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Seven Churches of Revelation.
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      Answers from Revelation 18 and part of 19

  • Who might be the messenger in 18:1?
  • Although it is not clearly said, some feel this could be Jesus Christ.

  • What is the message to the churches in verses 2-9? How does this message apply to us today? How will it apply during the end time events?
  • Do not take part in the sins of “Babylon”. The sins listed in this chapter are tied in to materialism which is probably, for Americans at least, the most dangerous sin that we face today. During the endtimes there will be the added danger of aligning one’s self with the Beast (Antichrist).

  • Why is Babylon beloved by the nations of the earth according to verses 10-19?
  • She brings prosperity to the world.

  • Why specifically is Babylon being judged (18:20-19:4)?
  • Her persecution of God’s people.

  • What is the next event after the destruction of Babylon (19:5-10)? Who is the central figure of the marriage supper (verses 9-10)?
  • The marriage supper of the Lamb (the coming of Christ for His people) is the next event after Armageddon. One could say it actually occurs in conjunction with Armageddon. Christ is the central figure of the marriage supper.

  • What is the significance of the white horses (verses 11, 14)?
  • White horses are a symbol of victory in war.

  • What do we learn about Jesus Christ in verses 11-16?
  • He is the judge of the earth. He is above all in holiness and authority.

    Closing in on the End (Questions for Revelaton 18-19) October 10, 2007

    Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Babylon, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Jesus, Judgment, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ.
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    1.  

        Questions from Revelation 18 and 19

    2. Who might be the messenger in 18:1?
    3. What is the message to the churches in verses 2-9? How does this message apply to us today? How will it apply during the end time events?
    4. Why is Babylon beloved by the nations of the earth according to verses 10-19?
    5. Why specifically is Babylon being judged (18:20-19:4)?
    6. What is the next event after the destruction of Babylon (19:5-10)? Who is the central figure of the marriage supper (verses 9-10)?
    7. What is the significance of the white horses (verses 11, 14)?
    8. What do we learn about Jesus Christ in verses 11-16?
    9. What is the end of the participants in the battle of Armageddon (17-21)?