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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: The Curse and the Blessings of the Cross

If Jesus Were to Come on Thanksgiving Day (a sermon) November 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Eschatology, Luke, Martin Luther, Materialism, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day…
Luke 18:1-30

In Luke 17:20, Jesus is asked when the kingdom of God would come. He makes the point that the coming of the kingdom of God is more than simply the date on which the Messiah will establish His throne in Jerusalem. He says, “…the kingdom of God is within you” (verse 21).

This does not mean that there is not a specific day when Jesus will return to this earth to rule this earth. The Scriptures teach that there is such a day. Look at Luke 17:24-25. Jesus clearly looked forward to a day when He would set up His kingdom on this earth although first He must be rejected and crucified.

As he continues to teach on what we call the Second Coming of Christ, He makes a statement in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” This is what we call a rhetorical question. Jesus is not trying to find out the answer but rather is telling His listeners, that when He returns to this earth to set up the kingdom, He will find a world without faith. It is true that there will be a few saved people on this earth scattered among the nations and that much of what is left of the nation of Israel will at that time accept Christ as Messiah but for the most part, the world will be without faith in Christ.

What is interesting is that Jesus describes for us some of the people on the earth who will be without faith. It is not at all what we might expect. In fact, some of those people will be religious people, people who thank God for the blessings of their life. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, we need to realize that if Jesus Christ comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find many people around the table, thankful to God for His blessings but without true faith. Put another way…

…He will find the self-righteous saying grace.

a. They will have the trappings of righteousness but not the reality (verses 11-12). They will be like this Pharisee. They will thank God for being born in America and not in some poverty-stricken, heathen nation. They will thank God for who they are but will not recognize their own spiritual poverty because they have the trappings of righteousness. They will be evangelicals and Mormons and Catholics and Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses who are convinced that they are doing all the right things. In their heart they will exalt themselves. After all, they do right. They are not extortioners or unjust or adulterers. They sacrifice and give regularly to the church and to charitable organizations. They serve the poor on Thanksgiving Day. In their heart, they are convinced that they are pretty good but if Jesus comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find no faith in them.

b. Why? Because real righteousness is found in a faith that produces a humble plea for mercy (verses 13-14).

For years, Martin Luther recognized his need of salvation but Martin Luther did not understand God’s provision to meet his need. Luther punished himself physically and spiritually in his attempt to earn eternal life. Years after he understood that salvation is by grace through faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ alone, Luther wrote these words:

In devil’s dungeon chained I lay the pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day in which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life and sin had made me crazy.
Then was the Father troubled sore to see me ever languish.
The everlasting Pity swore to save me from my anguish.

Luther knew he had a great spiritual need. He realized eventually from God’s Word that climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual do nothing for the soul. Luther quit climbing those steps and started trusting Christ.

Not only would Christ on Thanksgiving Day find the self-righteous saying grace but He will find the self-sufficient exalting themselves (verses 14-17).

a. The point of Jesus inviting the little children to come to Him is not that Jesus loves little children, although, He certainly does. The point of the incident is explained for us in verse 17. No man will be able to enter the kingdom on his own (verse 17). Those who feel themselves self-sufficient will not have faith in Christ when He comes.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that is totally dependent on God (verses 15-16). Our text in verse 15 says infants. Someone suggested that toddlers might also be pictured her because Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me…” Now what is Jesus trying to say about faith? He is not saying that faith can exist without knowledge, that you need to be as ignorant as a baby, in order to be saved; but rather that you need to be as spiritually dependent as an infant in order to be saved. Those who depend on anything or anyone other than or in addition to Christ for salvation will not be saved.

Recently, we had Kim Hecht with us and she was asked about those in Croatia who were a part of a religious organization that is not evangelical but does believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of humankind. I appreciated her answer. Even though those people have great interest in the study of God’s Word and even accept many of the trappings of evangelicalism, they continue to depend on their church and their good works for salvation in addition to Jesus Christ. They do not depend on Christ as an infant but rather hang on to their church and their good works.

There is a third section here where Jesus describes those who are religious but do not have true faith. If Jesus were to come on Thanksgiving Day, He would not only find the self-righteous and the self-sufficient but also He would find those absorbed in this world without faith. They will be sorrowful, after all, they will be under the judgment of God but they will be without faith (verses 18-30).

This ruler understood the problem. He was an expert in the law. He practiced the Ten Commandments and had done so all of his life. It appears that his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is sincere. We see, though, that earthly attachments are a huge hurdle to eternal life, that is, entrance into the kingdom of God (verses 22b-26).

A. Jesus demanded a one time act – repentance, specifically, repentance revealed by the act of selling all his possessions and distributing the proceeds to the poor. This man’s earthly attachments were so great that he could find no way to bring himself to performing this one act.

B. Jesus also demanded discipleship. The action of selling and distributing was only an outward sign and revealed that this pure, honest, honorable man loved the abundance of this life more than the abundance of eternal life. It seems that the young man could never bring himself to admit that his money did not matter. He could never find a way to cut himself off from the things of this world.

Patrick Morley once said that there are two ways to find out what is important to a man. Where does a man spend any discretionary money he might have and how does he use any free time he might have. That is how you find out what a man loves.

a. The hold that this world has on people is why that without God’s work in their hearts, they will never be able to enter the kingdom (verse 18-27, especially verse 27). Only God can change our attachments (verses 27). You cannot do this on your own. You must turn to Christ. Only He can help you. Only he can reveal to you the value of the heavenly treasures, of the heavenly kingdom, of eternal life.

Now, not everyone is hindered by money and houses and land. Some are hindered by family (verse 29). If your treasure is in your family then you are no different than this young man. If the abundance of your riches is your parents or siblings or spouse or children, you cannot truly serve God. For some of you that is a tough decision. God, however, can change your heart.

I meet very few people who admit that it is hard to choose between Christ and the wealth of this world. I do, however, often meet people who have trouble between choosing family or Christ. I have been asked, “How do I do this?”

1. Meet your rightful biblical obligations to family members. The Bible is clear as to how a man is to relate to his wife and children. It is clear who is to have priority in his life.

2. Ask yourself this question. Is my relationship to this family member hindering my relationship to Christ? The answer is usually not to break the relationship but to begin to take those steps that show where your loyalty truly is. 1 Peter 3:1-17 is a great passage to study and to digest to help you to understand your relationship to that person.

3. Make your commitment of discipleship to Christ and follow it daily. Pray daily. Read your Bible daily. Have frequent contact with God’s people. The toughest commitments are always taken just one slow step at a time. Do not lose heart. Your reward in this life and in the life to come is eternal life.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that results in true discipleship (verses 28-30). Moral accomplishments are insufficient.

This man was sexually pure. This man was not guilty of murder. This man had never stolen. He had never lied about anyone. He honored his father and mother.

Jesus listened. He did not interrupt the young man with arguments and try to convince him that he was a sinner and born in iniquity. He made a very simple statement. You lack one thing. You cannot inherit eternal life until you become my disciple.

In describing the self-righteous, the self-sufficient, the self-exalting types that we have been looking at in today’s Scripture, Frank Turk once wrote, “I was watching my son’s basketball game a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the “recreational” league where the kids really haven’t ever played on a court before with rules or a ref. And on the other team was this really aggressive kid who simply wanted to put the ball in the net. It was clear to me he had played football before because every time he got the ball, he tucked the ball under, ducked his head, and rolled into the crowd of boys in the key like a fullback.
And in this kid’s case, it was actually kinda funny – he obviously didn’t know any better. He was playing by the wrong rules, and he had no clue what the right rules where. But if that same thing happened in a High School game, or even in the next age bracket up, it wouldn’t hardly be that funny – because those kids know better, and they prove it in all kinds of ways.” (from Frank Turk’s Pyromaniac post, “The Talking Stain” February 13, 2008;
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/02/talking-stain.html).

This is the case with this young ruler. He knows the rules and proves it by his life but that one point which he is unwilling to obey is what will keep him from inheriting eternal life, from entering the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to follow Christ, to have faith in Him? Turn away from what you love and turn to Jesus Christ, who died for your sin. You can become his disciple but he demands total allegiance, total commitment. Ultimately it is not about you. It is about Christ. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. Follow Him and Him alone.

Note: Some of the material of this sermon is reworked material from this one that I preached in February 2008, “The Impossibility of Reaching America with the Gospel.”

What are you celebrating? October 30, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Church History, Martin Luther, Reformation, Religion.
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I try to pretend for the most part that Halloween does not exist. Of course, the hardest day to do that is Halloween day itself. Fortunately, that event is also an important historical date. It is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.

Here are ten facts about Luther that I am celebrating today.
1. Luther was almost 34 years of age (his birthday was November 10) when he posted his theses on the church door. He still had 28 years of ministry ahead of him.
2. His rediscovery and his formulation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. If that was all he had done, he would be considered a great man.
3. His stand for loyalty to Scriptures. This is actually why he came to the point where he rejected the Church’s teaching of salvation by works and law and accepted the Bible’s teaching of salvation by Christ alone.
4. His boldness to stand against his opponents and for the truth of the Word of God. The “Here I stand…” statement is full of moral courage.
5. Wittenburg – It is a beautiful little town in which the university was seated that helped Luther propagate the truth.
6. The political leaders who protected Luther. I celebrate a God who can work political wills to his ways.
7. The influence of Luther on other reformers including Calvin, Zwingli, Menno Simons, etc.
8. That God could use such a flawed man to change the world for His glory. Luther’s flaws are well known but like David he was a man after God’s own heart.
9. The importance of the books of Psalms, Romans, and Galatians as seen through the transformation Luther underwent through his study and teaching of those books in the years before he posted the Ninety-Five Theses.
10. He is part of my historical and spiritual heritage. I am glad to identify myself with him (and that, though I am not and have never been Lutheran).

Link to the Second Annual Reformation Day Symposium October 31, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Links, Martin Luther, Reformation, Religion.
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Lots of good stuff here.

Reformation Day Symposium Entry October 31, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Martin Luther, Reformation, Religion.
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Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. 1950. Reprint, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1978.             

Roland Bainton, a specialist in Reformation history was the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University. Among his various books on the Reformation, he leaves us with a portrait of one of the most central figures of the Reformation, Martin Luther.            

 In the reprint’s new preface entitled “Here I Stand – After a Quarter of a Century”, Bainton reveals two themes that consistently referred to in his book. The first, one that is not unexpected, is that Martin Luther would, as the author defines it, “…defy Church and State in the name of reason and of conscience” (xiii). The second theme, though involves Luther’s willingness “…after taking a stand… afterward to consider it again” (xiii). Based on these two themes, Bainton attempts to paint a fuller picture of the man, Martin Luther.            

Bainton also reminds us that the context, both religious and otherwise, in which he first wrote this book in 1950 changed significantly. These changes have affected especially how Martin Luther was viewed by Catholics. Although Martin Luther is still a controversial figure, there is a more rational view of the man and his times in the United States due to the sociological and religious changes of the American landscape during the first three quarters of the twentieth century. In order to help one keep up with the new literature concerning Luther, Bainton includes references to the bibliographical literature concerning Luther that was current at the time. This is in addition to the original and extensive bibliography of English, German, and French works given at the end of the book.           

Occasionally during the book the author refers to misconceptions of fact or of opinion about Luther and his times but rarely points out from where these misconceptions come. When he does point this out, it is most often tied into the history of that time and how people of the Reformation time period viewed Luther or how the events may have played themselves out. The most striking example of this comes from the very title of Bainton’s book itself, “Here I Stand”. The well known ending sentence to Luther’s defense at the Edict of Worms, which begins with these three words, was added by the earliest printed version of that defense. Bainton sympathetically surmises, “The words, though not recorded on the spot, may nevertheless be genuine, because the listeners at the moment may have been too moved to write” (144).           

“Here I Stand” may be divided into two parts. Chapters 1-12 are generally chronological covering the events of Luther’s life from his birth until his return to Wittenberg after a year exile at Wartburg. Bainton points out, “Externally speaking, Luther had reached the turning point of his career” (166). The remaining chapters, chapters 13-22, deal with the time period after Wartburg. They are somewhat chronological but focus more on specific topics that are of importance in evaluating Luther’s effectiveness in “providing a new pattern of Church, state, and society, a new constitution for the Church, a new liturgy, and a new Scripture in the vernacular” (166).            

The first thirteen chapters supply the background for the following chapters. They introduce the times and culture of Germany and of the Catholic Church as well as the formation of Martin Luther as a reformer. Bainton begins with the various influences and events that caused Luther to make the vow that resulted in becoming an Augustinian monk. He then shows how that the various influences in his monastery and as university professor played a part in Luther’s evangelical experience. Chapters 4-12 are given to the four years from 1517-1521 beginning with the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses and ending with Luther’s return to Wittenberg in a Europe revolutionized by the events set in motion by his theses. These events include the Leipzig Debate over indulgences, the Papal Bull against Luther, the Diet and Edict of Worms, and the translation of the New Testament into Greek as well as other writings from Luther during this time period.           

While chapters 13-22 refer to various events in Luther’s life after 1521, the main emphasis is how Luther’s teachings and other activities shaped or, in some cases, did not shape the Lutheran, German, and Western landscape. This is presented not only through the ideas which Luther tried to implement (chapters 13-14) but also in comparison and contrast with other leading persons and groups contemporary with Luther (chapters 15-16). This section ends with a chapter on how Luther came to marry, his wife’s influence on him, and how his example of matrimony affected the society of Germany during the next centuries. According to Bainton, Luther “…did more than any other person to determine the tone of German domestic relations for the next four centuries” (233).           

The second section of Bainton’s book continues in chapters 18-20 with a summation of Luther’s later organizational, literary, and ministerial work activities and how these activities resulted in the formation of the Lutheran church. The final two chapters evaluate respectively Luther’s emotional and spiritual struggles which continued throughout his life and the several controversies which are most often used to bring Luther’s greatness into question. This greatness the author affirms to be shown in Luther’s influence on Germany and on organized Christianity, but above all in the outcome of Luther’s own personal spiritual struggles through his faith in Christ alone.           

One of the strengths of this book is the numerous extended quotations from Luther’s original works and letters as well as from those of his contemporaries, including his enemies. Almost no part of Luther’s life is left untouched. Along these same lines are a number of illustrations of contemporary woodcuts and cartoons from that era. These illustrations with explanation help to explain the various viewpoints of the era. Although Bainton certainly interprets Luther’s life and era in this book, his support for his interpretation comes from evidence from that era rather than from a review of how others have looked at that evidence.           

In addition to the strong support from Reformation era writings and illustrations, the author is candid in evaluating a life with which he is obviously sympathetic. He does not excuse Luther’s faults but does attempt to interpret Luther according to the times. He shows how that Luther’s tendency for hyperbole at times caused him unnecessary difficulties in debates and that his conservatism in carrying out his reforms at times limited how far he was able to reform the Church.            

Bainton admits that he had not always been sympathetic to Luther. “In the twenties I was outraged because [Luther] came, albeit slowly, to condone the death penalty for Anabaptists” (xiii). The author, however, came to identify Luther’s inner struggles for faith with his own and to admire his subject for his courage to stand for his principles.            

This book is helpful in giving a fuller understanding of Luther’s theology, the stages of development through which it went, and the influences upon that theology. Although Luther is perhaps best known for his doctrine of justification by faith alone, according to Bainton, this is only one part of the great theme of Luther’s life. “The God of Luther …. The All Terrible is the All Merciful too…. But how shall we know this? In Christ, only in Christ” (302). He traces this throughout Luther’s life from his early struggles in the monastery through his conversion experience into his later years when he again suffered periods of great depression. He also illustrates this passion of Luther’s theology through a discussion of Luther’s pulpit ministry, exemplified by excerpt from a sermon from Luther’s favorite sermon subject, the incarnation of Jesus Christ.           

In a pastoral ministry, the value of this book is in helping to evaluate one’s theology. There are many things that Luther taught or believed that are difficult to understand because the culture in which we live is much different than that of Luther. This book helps one to understand what he believed and how he came to believe those things and how he applied his beliefs to the various aspects of life. Whether one agrees with Luther or not, it is possible through the presentation in this book to take his developing and developed faith and fine tune our own theology following his example of dependence on the Scriptures and to his hard won single minded devotion to the crucified and risen Christ. For Luther this was more than theology but the light from God by which he guided his life.           

Practically, it is often that a preacher or writer desires to use an illustration from the life of a great person. There are many of these from Luther’s life that are highly usable and sometimes even overused. This book enables one to understand the context from which the illustrative ministry is drawn and enables the preacher to more accurately and more effectively use an illustration, understanding how it may best be applied.  

The greatest value of this book is the fuller understanding of the life of Luther. Much is known about him but as with many great figures in history, people tend to have a shadowy outline of the man or woman but not a true understanding of his life and times. In this way, Bainton has made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the facts. Although his work is over a half century old, those who study Luther, both detractors and sympathizers, will continue to be able to take Bainton’s biography and support their argument with facts.

Thoughts while preparing tomorrow’s study on Psalm 5 September 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in David, Joy, Martin Luther, Psalms, Religion, Spurgeon.
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 From Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David” Ver. 12. As with a shield. Luther, when making his way into the presence of Cardinal Cajetan, who had summoned him to answer for his heretical opinions at Augsburg, was asked by one of the Cardinal’s minions, where he should find a shelter, if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert him? “Under the shield of heaven!” was the reply. The silenced minion turned round, and went his way.

In verse 11 there are three different words translated with a form of the word joy. They mean “gladness”, “a joyful shout”, and a “victorious exulting joy”. This was David’s reality. I’m afraid we know little of the type of joy he experienced.

How God Reveals Himself in Affliction and His Word August 26, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Martin Luther, Psalms, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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THE GOOD BOOK

PSALM 119:65-72

Martin Luther is reported once to have said something to this effect, that he would not live in Heaven without the Word of God; and with it he could get along just fine in hell. He would certainly agreed with those who call the Bible, “the Good Book”. This is also the message of the acrostic poem that we are looking at today, “God’s Book is a Good Book.” What is it that makes the Bible a “Good Book”?

The Bible is a good book because it teaches a good God’s good dealings with humankind (verses 65, 68).

GOD IS GOOD! GOD IS IN CONTROL 

We received a prayer letter this week from Steve and Becky Diem, missionaries going to Resistencia, Argentina who we support financially and prayerfully. I would like to read two paragraphs written by Becky in which she tells about God’s working in their lives:

“A friend of mine has been trying to have kids for about five years, and her husband isn’t saved. We went out to eat…We were talking about God’s control and plans for our lives. I felt like the Lord wanted me to challenge my friend to give her situations to the Lord. I asked, ‘Have you given it to the Lord yet?’ To make a long story short, her husband has been doing a(n evangelistic) Bible study with us for the past month, and she is two months pregnant. God is good! God is in control!”

“I have been complaining about our small car for the past couple of months; it is very cramped on weekends with all the gear that goes along with two kids and deputation things. I started asking for a van from Steve. He said, ‘Why don’t you pray about it?’ I shared at a ladies tea how God had blessed Steve with an MP3 player that he had been praying for. I told Steve to start praying for a mini van. Yesterday we got an email from someone, and they gave us a mini van. God is good! God is in control!”

Update: Another excerpt from the same letter.

It is wonderful to know that God is good and that He is in control. It is wonderful to see God answer prayer. My wife and I have been where Steve and Becky are at and we can attest to how that the Lord works in the hearts and lives of his children, so that they may accomplish the work which He has for them to do.

WHOSE DEFINITION OF GOOD?

I want us today though to think about who is writing this in verse 65 – King David. Can it be said that God dealt well with David, according to man’s idea? This is the same David who hid for weeks on end in caves because King Saul had put a price on his head. Saul hatred for David was so great that an entire town was destroyed because the priest in the town fed David and his men. His friendship with Jonathan was broken off because of the hatred of Jonathan’s father for David. David ended up hiding with Israel’s enemies but because of fear, he pretended to go mad so that the Philistines would not kill him. He experienced an attempted coup twice during his reign, both times led by one of his sons and drawing after him some of his most trusted advisors. At least three times, because of David’s sin, people died through the judgment of God. How can this man write that God had dealt well with him. The answer is in verse 65. God dealt well with David because God acted according to His Word. As he writes in verse 68, “God is good and He does good and because He is good and does good, whatever He promises, whatever He warns, whatever He determines to do, it will be good. God’s character is not different than that of His Word. He never deals differently than His Word reveals. Good deals with everyone on the same basis – His Word.

BECOMING GOOD LIKE GOD 

The more I learn and apply God’s Word, the more like Him I will become (verse 68). David does not just want to memorize and recite God’s Word. He wants to learn it and live by it and become good just as God is good. He does not want a “crisis relationship” with God but a daily relationship with God (adapted from Wiersbe). He wants to take on the character of God and the only way to do that is to become trained in the Word of God.

Warren Wiersbe writes in his book, Why Us?, “Now, we must be careful how we use the Bible when we are going though trials. Unless we are reading God’s Word regularly, listening daily to His voice, we aren’t likely to hear Him say much when the roof caves in on us.”

The Bible is a good book because believing it will teach you good discernment (verses 66, 69-72). The word rendered “judgment,” properly signifies taste. One of the keys of tasting is confidence. I was reading this week an article about a man who had to pass a test in order to become a judge at an espresso making contest in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was interesting to find out that some of the champion espresso makers sometimes could not pass the taste test to become a judge at the very competition that they had won. The article gave several tips for passing the test. (It did not say what you should do after drinking all that coffee.) The most important tip that was repeated over and over is you must have confidence in your discernment.

FAILING THE THE SPIRITUAL TASTE TEST 

Spiritually, this is also true. You must have know and have confidence in the Word of God if you are going to develop spiritual discernment. Why is it that some people chase after the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen? They do not have confidence in God’s Word when it says, “Lay not treasures for yourself on this earth but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.” Why is it that some gauge their spiritual well being by how they feel? Perhaps because they do not trust God’s Word when it says, “If our hearts condemn us God is greater than our heart.” Why is it that church leader after church leader falls into sin? Because we are not confident that God’s Word can be trusted when it says, “Pride goes before a fall.” I could go on and on.

If you have confidence in God’s Word, you will learn to discern between the profit of physical benefit and spiritual benefit. You will learn that the beneficial result of the Word of God in your life is to be preferred to the prosperity of the wicked (#Ps 119:69-72).

In reading a part of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm to Miss Westbrook, who died, she said, “Stop, sir, I never said so much to you before—I never could; but now I can say, ‘The word of thy mouth, is dearer to me, than thousands of gold and silver.’ What can gold and silver do for me by now?” —George Redford, in “Memoirs of the late Rev. John Cooke”, 1828

If you believe God’s Word you will develop spiritual discernment. If you do not, then you will end up chasing rainbows and fighting windmills and investing your life in things that will not satisfy.

A GOOD BOOK FOR BAD TIMES 

The Bible is a good book because it will teach you how to react to adverse circumstances/affliction (verses 67, 69-71).

Sometimes you will learn to turn from sin through affliction (verse 67). “Whipping will not turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure corrective.” In the Psalmist’s case affliction worked an immediate, lasting, inward change towards God. When that happens in your life and in my life, God’s Word will give us an anchor that will keep us from drifting back into our sin. We all know of people showed up and committed or recommitted themselves when things got bad but they did not stick around. I know that every circumstance is different but what often happens is that those who have disappeared did not anchor themselves to the Word of God that was given to establish them and to make them strong.

You learn how to deal with your enemy and the injustice of this world through the Word of God (verses 69-70). We find this so difficult. We look at those who are obviously not doing what they should. Sometimes they make our lives miserable. If you do not have the perspective on the world that God gives you in His Word, you will start mouthing complaints like “It’s not fair!” You will be open to the temptations of this world. That urge to get even with that jerk will grow until you either lash out at that person or so internalize your hatred that it destroys you from the inside out. God’s Word, though, teaches how to react to those people and to those circumstances. You might object that it is two hard. Certainly, for us alone, we cannot do it but we must submit to God’s will in His Word and the Spirit’s working in our hearts. We must learn to say with Augustine, “Let the word of the Lord come, let it come; and if we had six hundred necks, we would submit them all to his dictates.” —Augustine.

GOOD OUT OF BAD 

You learn that God always intends good to come out of your suffering. Now God’s Word is a lot more realistic about what is good than the descriptions of the world that we prefer. The right guy gets the right girl and they have a few ups and downs but at the end everyone lives happily ever after until death do us part. No life long suffering because of the sins of youth. No unexplainable physical suffering. No mother’s who dreams for a child remain unfulfilled although through no fault of their own. Miraculously healings and answers to prayer are a daily occurrence. In our Christian fantasy world the real issues that people cry themselves to sleep over every night seem so easy to solve. Of course, it is wonderful when such things happen but God’s Word deals with the reality of life. It deals with the hum-drum as well as the exciting. It talks about people who suffer as well as those have their life go as planned. The Word of God is for those who never receive any relief from their suffering as those who seem to never suffer even though they live wicked lives.

Sometimes when bad things happen we say, “I know the LORD wants to teach me something but I am not sure what.” This verse 71 is an answer to that question. God lets affliction come into my life so I can learn His Word so that I can learn Him and become more like Him.

(John Piper on this subject)

Warren Wiersbe also tells in his book, Why Us?, about a couple in a church where he pastored. “Years before…their little boy had contracted a brain disease that left him an invalid. He spent his entire life in bed, unable to speak, read, or use his hands creatively. When (Wiersbe) first visited in the home, the boy had become a man; but he was still lying in bed, wearing diapers, and he needed to have someone with him constantly.

“‘Pastor, don’t feel sorry for us because of Kenny,’ his parents (said). ‘People think he’s a burden, but to us, he’s a blessing from God. We’ve learned so much about God’s grace in taking care of Kenny’”

Whatever you may be going through (and it does not matter whether humanly speaking it is big or small) God wants to teach you to trust His Word, to trust His character, to become more like Him.

QUESTIONS

Believer, have you learned these three lessons? Have you learned that God is good and does good, not just in David’s life but in your life and in mine and He deals with you well, in a good manner, according to His Word?

Do you have confidence in your spiritual judgment? You can, if you know and are following God’s Word.

Is God’s Word governing the way you react during the tough times of life? Get in God’s Word.

What we have talked about today is how God deals with humankind. He wants to deal with you if you are not a believer in the same manner. He wants you, through thick and thin to learn of Him.

You need simply to trust Jesus Christ and Him alone. He is the only one who can rescue from sin, He and no one else. He died and was buried and rose again to rescue you. Won’t you turn to Him today?

A FINAL WORD FOR THE TROUBLED 

Are you in trouble? One thing both believers and unbelievers share in common is trouble. We all have it in one form or another. We tend to compare our troubles to each other. That is not very helpful. Turn to God, not to get you out of trouble but to give you the forgiveness you need to become His child and the stability you need to glorify Him both inside and outside of any trouble that you might experience.

How to understand God’s Word August 25, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, John Bunyan, Martin Luther, Prayer, Psalms, Religion, Suffering.
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Read Psalm 119:71 in connection with these thoughts from John Piper. They concern John Bunyan and Martin Luther. In it you will find Luther’s three rules for understanding the Bible:  prayer, meditation, and… 🙂

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/1999/1122_Luther_Bunyan_Bible_and_Pain/