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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.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation February 7, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Honesty, Materialism, Prayer, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons, Temptation.
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LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Proverbs 30:5-9

In Sunday School, our five year olds are learning what is known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer. They are not yet to this part but eventually they will learn, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The prayer we are looking at today is similar. It is a prayer for protection against temptation.

I do not know if you pray for God to deliver you from temptation but you probably should. If you do, however, pray for protection from temptation, you should know more about this type of praying.

A. Our prayers for protection from temptation should be motivated by our faith in God (verses 5-7). Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “All my life I have been seeking to climb out of the pit of my besetting sins and I cannot do it and I never will unless a hand is let down to draw me up.” He understood that he needed help against sin. Now certainly it is good when someone can help us out of the pit but would it not be better to have someone protect us from falling in the pit in the first place?

Agur recognizes in verse 5 of our text that God is a shield for those who put their trust in Him. Now if God can protect us from death and hell, from sickness and Satan, why should we not trust Him to protect us from temptation?

a. Our prayer of faith for protection from temptation is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom (verses 5b, 8b). Agur requests in verse 8b, “Feed me with the food allotted to me.” He is saying, I do not want any special treatment, nor do I want to go through trials. Just give me what I need and that will be enough. Agur believed that God was good and wise. In his prayer He is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom to give him exactly what he needs.

b. Now why would Agur want to pray that way? – Because the prayer of faith for protection from temptation desires a lifestyle of truth (verse 6-8). Truth is a rare quality and always has been. Since Satan lied to Eve in the garden, mankind has been serving the Father of lies and has been busy deceiving and being deceived. (Proverbs 12:17-22 describe for us the difference between the lifestyle of truth and the lifestyle of destruction.) You see, Agur, wanted the Lord to delight in him and he knew that a life of honesty was necessary to gain the Lord’s delight.

Often, when people are struggling with sin, they pray for protection from temptation. I know that I have. The difference, often, is in the motive. Most of us pray to be protected from temptation because we do not want to suffer the consequences of the sin which we keep committing. There is nothing wrong with fearing the consequences of sin. Agur went beyond that. He wanted to please God and He knew that only a life of honesty could please the Lord.

c. Our prayer for protection from temptation recognizes our inner weaknesses (verses 8-9). He recognized how difficult it is to be honest. Most of us make a habit of being honest except when it appears that honesty just does not pay. The one who prays for protection from temptation recognizes his or her weakness and remembers that the final pain will erase the temporary pleasure.

Paul Harvey told a story (It has been repeated in print several times; I got it from a Charles Swindoll book) that illustrates what happens when you fail to recognize your inner weakness. When an Eskimo wants to kill a wolf, he coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. The he adds another lay and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.

Then the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source and discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh-frozen blood. He licks faster, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Still, he licks the blade harder and harder not noticing the sharp sting of the blade on his tongue. The animal does not recognize that his appetite is being satisfied by his own blood. His inner weakness just craves more until it is too late.

Agur recognized the danger of his own inner weakness and prayed for God to protect Agur from Agur.

B. We can flee the temptations of this world through prayer (verses 8-9). There are a number of things that we can and should do but developing a prayer life that is serious about combating temptation is a vital and essential tool in our arsenal against sin.

When I was growing up, there were certain temptations that were constantly pulling me into the pit. With maturity, looking back, I can see that one of the weapons against sin that I neglected was prayer. I memorized Scripture and confessed my sin often but I did not enlist someone to help me to pray in my struggles against sin. There was also a lack of seriousness in my own prayer life. I only prayed about my sinfulness when I felt guilty. There was not a real recognition of what my inner weakness was.

Agur, however, recognized his inner weaknesses. He knew that honesty had to be put at the top of his priority list. He also knew that his economic condition would make him susceptible to certain sins. Not every disease prospers in the same climate. Tropical diseases are not a big problem in Alaska. The reason we have flu season is because certain conditions are conducive to catching the flu. Sin acts in much the same way.

a. The rich are tempted by sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance (verse 9a). Unfortunately, money and the tangible things that money can buy as well as the security and significance that we feel money can provide are the things by which we evaluate our self-worth. It is how we determine whether our lives are worth living. It is no wonder that those with wealth are susceptible to the sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance.

Patrick Morley relates the following example of this truth. In 1976 the “I Found It” Campaign…saturated communities nationwide…The “I Found It!” bumper stickers were everywhere! People who asked what had been found learned the answer: “New life in Jesus Christ.” Sandy, the local director (in a wealthy Florida coastal town), found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean. In other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested. The farther from the water they went, the greater the interest. The wealthy people lived in the condominiums closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast, lived in the mobile home parks farthest from the water.”

In other words, they do not feel they need new life in Jesus Christ. They have their best life now!

b. The poor are tempted by sins of desperation and hopelessness (verse 9b). Certainly, the truly poor are not susceptible to self-sufficiency. They need help.

If we have learned anything from the crisis in Haiti, it is that desperation will cause people to do the unimaginable. I was listening to NPR radio this week about a mother in Haiti who had born four or five children. A couple of years ago, she gave two of her children away and believes they were taken overseas because she is desperate for a better life for her children.

Agur prays, do not let me be so poor that I steal and profane your name. It is interesting that he does not say, do not let me be poor, I do not want to suffer, I could not stand the shame of poverty. No, his prayer is focused on God.

Believer, do you pray for protection from temptation? Why? Because you want to glorify God? How seriously do you take your inner weakness? Would you be willing for God to give you a different lifestyle if that would make you less susceptible to sin and more honoring to God? As believers we will never be condemned to hell for our sin but that does not mean there are no consequences. Are you like a moth drawn to the light of sin? Get into the Word, memorize Scripture, get you an accountability partner but do not neglect daily pleading to God for help and strength against the weaknesses of your flesh.

If you have never trusted Christ, you need to know that Jesus Christ died for your sin. You can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. Turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness today. Come to me after the service and I or one of our people will take you to a quiet place where you can ask questions and understand from God’s Word how to be saved from your sin. Would you do that today?

With heads bowed and eyes closed, I am going to ask you a question and I want you to think about it. Are you going to take temptation seriously? What are you going to do about it? You need a plan. You need a partner, a believer to help you in your fight against temptation. You need a prayer plan. You need a Scripture memory plan. We can help you with all of those things. We can pray for you and with you. Just let us know.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:10-17 “Evaluating a Generation”

Sermon blog: roberttalley.wordpress.com
Church website: http://www.gracelansing.com
Church email: GraceLans@aol.com

Is the economic downturn Osteen’s fault? (a link to an article in The Atlantic) November 25, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Joel Osteen, Materialism, Prosperity Gospel, Religion.
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An interesting take on the prosperity gospel.

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.”

The Impossibility of Reaching America with the Gospel February 17, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Luke, Materialism, Religion, Sermons.
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Luke 18:18-30

We are in the middle of a long political season. Every politician is promising change of some type. They are promising changes on the political landscape, the economic landscape, the judicial landscape. They are promising solutions to our energy needs and to our healthcare needs. Not one of them, however, is trying to meet the real spiritual need of America. Today we want to understand what that need is, we want to look at a few things that hinder spiritual change, and then we want to see what guarantees the spiritual change that will meet our spiritual need.

THE NEED OF AMERICA IS SPIRITUAL.

Several years ago I told this story about Professor Edwin Keaty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School who for more than 20 years, used to start his classes by writing on a blackboard two numbers, the numbers 2 and 4. And then he would ask his audience, “What’s the solution?” And, one student would shout out, “6” and another student would shout out, “2” and another student would shout out, “8” and Professor Keaty would shake his head and he would say, “Gentlemen, unless you know what the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer.”

WE NEED TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE (verses 18 and 29-30).

This young man knew what the problem was. He was as a ruler among the Jews an expert in the law. He knew the Old Testament. He practiced the ten commandments and had done so all of his life. Some of our witnessing methods might not have worked well on him. He was an upstanding moral man. It also appears that his question is sincere, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

We find that Jesus agrees with this young man that man’s greatest need, especially in the coming age, is eternal life. Jesus, however, further defines eternal life in verses 22-25. Last Sunday evening we talked how that when one reads the gospel of John, one comes to the realization that eternal life is more than just unending existence.

Eternal life is TREASURE IN HEAVEN (verse 22). This word is speaking of more than just something that is of great worth. It is speaking of abundance. Eternal life is more than a life that does not end but it is a life that never runs out of riches.

ETERNAL LIFE IS ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF GOD (verses 24-25). Political power is a tempting tidbit in this world but it is fleeting. No one has found a way to make lasting the great power that comes from political success. There is, however, a kingdom that is in existence now but the king has yet to come and establish His throne on the earth. When he comes, those who have followed him will be elevated with Him, will be glorified with Him, and will rule the universe with Him throughout all eternity. Eternal life is unending in its length, it is unending in its treasures, and it is unending in its authority over the universe.

ETERNAL LIFE IS SALVATION (verse 26). We have a third person in this passage who talks about eternal life. Peter was not learned as the rich young ruler was but he had been walking with Jesus Christ for two years or so and had learned something about eternal life. He had learned that to inherit eternal life one must be saved!

This phrase “saved” can refer to either physical or spiritual healing. Peter had learned from Jesus and now recognized that spiritual healing was necessary for eternal life.

Luke’s first mention of Peter is in chapter 5. After the miracle of catching the fish recorded in that chapter, Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Peter understood that eternal life is not only about the future but that it is also about the past.

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 understand 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.

There are two hindrances to inheriting eternal life, to having our spiritual need met. The first, moral accomplishments, might be surprising to you.

Moral accomplishments ARE INSUFFICIENT TO INHERITING ETERNAL LIFE, TO MEETING OUR SPIRITUAL NEED (verses 18-22a).

This man was sexually pure and had always been so. He had never slipped up. It is interesting that in this case, Jesus did not use his illustration from the Sermon on the Mount where a man by simply lusting after a woman who is not his wife commits adultery with that woman. This man must have been of unusual character.

This man was not guilty of murder. Again, Jesus could have tried to trap him into admitting that he had hated someone and that hate is the same as murder but this is not the direction he took in this case.

This man had never stolen. He was an honest man in his business dealings. Now this is perhaps unusual in a man of great wealth but he was convinced that he had never taken something that was not his.

He had never lied about anyone. Never gossiped. He was not only honest but he treated others with a proper love and respect.

He honored his father and mother. Not just now as an adult but as a youth, he had always honored and respected 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 keep the law, you are an upstanding, model citizen. Morally there is nothing wrong with you but it is not enough. The way you treat your fellow man is exemplary but you cannot inherit eternal life until you take this one last step.

From Frank Turk:  “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.

And this is the case with us: we show that we know enough about God’s law to obey it when we want to, so when we are unwilling to obey God’s law it’s that much worse for us (From Frank Turk’s Pyromaniac post The Talking Stain, February 13, 2008 http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/02/talking-stain.html).

EARTHLY ATTACHMENTS ARE AN INSURMOUNTABLE HURDLE TO INHERITING ETERNAL LIFE (verses 22b-26).

A. The one time act – repentance revealed by the act of selling and distributing to the poor. How important can one action be? If that action reveals something about your faith, then it can be an enormous action. This man’s earthly attachments were so great that he could find no way to bring himself to performing this one act.

B. The continual lifestyle of following Christ – discipleship. The action of selling and distributing was only an outward sign and revealed that this purest, honest, loving 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.

Only God can change our attachments (verses 27-30).

He can do the impossible (verse 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. The title of this sermon, “The Impossibility of Reaching American with the Gospel” is based on this verse. Political power will not change America spiritually. The best it can do is improve the landscape. Oprah and Dr. Phil and their religious counterparts like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer cannot change America spiritually. Their messages are tied to this world. The best they can do is get people to think positively about their current situation. Only the message of Christ spoken and lived in us as Christians can turn America to eternal life. Not our programs. Not the Sunday School and Awana and nursery and youth space that we hope to free up by finding a parsonage or some other solution. Not our fine singing. Those things apart from Christ have no power to change anyone but the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation.

Repentance and discipleship are an essential part of our faith in God (verses 28-30).

It is not surprising that money is the one of the greatest hindrances to discipleship. The things of this world are a trap that tries to pull us down. There are few of us, both wealthy and poor, for whom money is not a spiritual problem. That is why God uses the way we handle money as a gauge to measure whether we are truly disciples. There is no more accurate gauge of my spirituality than how I view money and the things that I can buy and do with money.

 

Patrick Morley once said, there are two ways to find out what is important to a man. This might apply to a woman also. 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.

James 4:1-3 describes a group who claimed to be disciples of Christ, who even when they prayed, received nothing because they did not understand what it means to follow Christ, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

The love of the things of this world does not produce faith but rather hinders faith, stifles faith, kills faith. Christ was demanding from the crowd listening to Him evidence of their faith. Jesus was applying the young man’s question about eternal life even to those who were already following him. Discipleship is about more than growing in Christ. It is a matter of total commitment, total allegiance to Christ. This is how Jesus determined who were truly His disciples. What or who did they love more than him?

Not everyone is hindered by money and houses and land. Some are hindered by family. If your treasure is in your family then you are no different than this young man. If the abundance of your riches are 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 practically.

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. The spouse, then the children, then other family members.

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 you commitment and follow it daily. Pray daily. Read your Bible daily. Have contact if at all possible with God’s people daily. 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.

What does it mean to follow Christ? It is simple, 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. Obviously, he does not demand perfection, otherwise Christ would have welcomed Him with open arms. 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.

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.