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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jesus Among Friends (Luke 22) April 7, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Atonement, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Christ, Communion, Covenant, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, Falling Away, Jesus, Lord's Table, Luke, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Passover, Suffering.
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JESUS AMONG FRIENDS
(Luke 22:1-62)

A couple of weeks ago I asked for questions from the congregation to be written out on a 3” by 5” card. I received a card with the following question, “Is it sinful to “befriend” persons outside the faith or should we see this “opportunity” as one to bring these people to Christ?”

Now I don’t know what provoked this question but it does address a real problem. As believers in Christ, what should our relationship be to those outside the faith? One of my biggest concerns as pastor is that most of us do not bring many unsaved friends to church. There are many possible reasons for this but one of them could be that we tend to isolate ourselves from sinners.

Jesus, however, was known by his enemies as a friend of sinners (Luke 7:33-34). Was this a just accusation? In this chapter we find Jesus with twelve of his closest friends; men who He chose to follow them. One of those men was a man named Judas.
How did Jesus show friendship to Judas (22:2, 21, 27)?
I. Jesus chose a sinner to be His friend, to be one of the twelve (22:2). Sometimes we forget that Jesus knew all along who would betray Him (John 6:64-71). He chose a friend who he could never help. It is interesting that Jesus knew also that Judas would never believe, Jesus befriended a liar, a traitor, a thief simply because it was God’s will.
This helps us to answer the first part of our question. It is obviously not sinful to befriend a sinner. It also helps us to answer the second part but not directly. We are not just to look at people as “opportunities” but rather we are to live in God’s will and be so full of a passion for Jesus Christ and His gospel that we become the “opportunity” for them to hear the gospel of Christ.
II. Jesus shared His table with a sinner (22:21, 27). It was such a high honor at that time to be invited to eat with someone that to refuse the invitation opened one up to the revenge of slander and defamation. Jesus gave Judas a place of honor.
Judas seemed to be singled out by Jesus for honor and intimacy at this feast (John 13:26). Based on this chapter, it appears that Judas has been given by Jesus, the host of this feast, the place of honor on his left. In addition, Jesus gave Judas the sop. The sop was a piece of bread that was dipped into some type of sauce or mixture. To give the sop to some one was not only a great honor but symbolic of a close friendship. Jesus treated Judas at this festival with the greatest of honor and signs of friendship.
III. Jesus served sinners (22:27). When Jesus washed feet, He washed Judas’ feet also. When Jesus instituted the Communion that we celebrate today, He did not withhold it from Judas but rather served him also. Jesus, the King of Kings, served Judas in whose heart the devil had accomplished an awful work (John 13:2).
What ended the friendship between Judas and Jesus (22:4-6)? There are a lot of theories about Judas’ motivation, money being the most obvious. I think money certainly played a part (John 12:6). There was something deeper though for all of the disciples were tainted by their desire to be important in the kingdom and they certainly could have assumed that great riches would come with the kingdom. What ended the friendship was Judas’ lack of faith in Christ (John 6:64-71). Oh, he certainly began believing but he did not have a faith that would last.

This tells a lot about true faith. True faith that lasts is not dependent on excellent surroundings. Judas heard the Creator of the universe teach truth and wisdom. His faith, however, did not continue to respond. There was an initial response but it was broken easily on the banks of a few coins. What will break your faith?
What was Jesus’ desire for His friends (22:14-30)? He desired that they be a part of His eternal kingdom.
What is the kingdom of which Jesus is speaking?
a. It is a coming kingdom (22:15-19) Last week we saw where Jesus said that the kingdom is in the heart of those who believe but it is also a future eternal kingdom. This coming kingdom must be prepared through suffering (compare v. 15 with 17:22-25). Hebrews 1:8a-10 describes this kingdom through suffering in this way, “But now we do not yet see all things [in submission to Jesus]. But we see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him…in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
b. It is also a new covenant kingdom (22:20). I do not have time to go back to Jeremiah and look at these Old Testament passages but the main characteristic of the new covenant kingdom is heart transformation. Jesus died so that I might be born from above, regenerated in heart, passing from the kingdom of darkness into His eternal light.
c. It is a caring kingdom (22:24-27). Service is more important than authority.
Leroy Eims of the Navigators tells about a man who came to Christ and desired to serve Eims. Because he was young and inexperienced in the faith, there were not a lot of opportunities at the Navigators office for this man to serve. Winter was coming though and the man greatly desired to serve in some way. Leroy Eims gave him the task of shoveling the walkway to the office building. The man was very zealous in this service. In fact he was so zealous, Eims quipped, that not a snowflake hit the walkway the whole winter long. Eims said that such valuable service could not go unrewarded and they brought him into the office to train for service within the Navigators organization. The young man cared enough to serve.
How do we show friendship to Christ (22:28)? We show friendship to Christ by continuing with Him even in His trials. Can we do that? Absolutely, Jesus said, take up My cross and follow Me.
“They tried my Lord and Master with no one to defend.
Within the halls of Pilate He stood without a friend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, my life for Him I’ll spend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, until my years shall end.

The world may turn against Him, I’ll love Him to the end,
And while on earth I’m living, My Lord shall have a friend.

I’ll do what He may bid me; I’ll go where He may send;
I’ll try each flying moment to prove that I’m His friend.

To all who need a Savior, my friend I recommend;
Because He brought salvation is why I am His friend.”
Sometimes, however, even the most loyal of us fail Jesus when He needs us most. Peter is a true example and Jesus knew Peter would fail. Yet He showed friendship to Peter anyway. How did Jesus show friendship to Peter (22:31-34)? He warned him, He prayed for Him to endure in the faith, He gave him a positive hope for the future, and He was honest in telling Peter what he did not want to hear.
Let us return to our question about befriending sinners. Here is a good plan to follow them. We must warn them. Only a friend will warn someone of the dangers of hell. We must pray for them to come to faith. We cannot argue them into the faith. We need God’s help to bring them to faith. We need to give them hope, let them know that there is a purpose for them in this life and the life to come. Finally, we need to be honest even if they do not want to hear the gospel. It is possible to antagonize people but if you are a real friend who lives out a real faith in Christ, you will figure out how to give them the gospel of Christ.
As we come to the close of our service, we come to the time when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. How does the Lord’s Table or communion show our friendship with Christ and with each other (22:19, 26)? It shows our friendship with Christ according to verse 19 by remembering what He did for us. It shows our friendship with each other in that each one of us comes together to the table. We are all equal in Christ’s kingdom. It is interesting that the only people unworthy of this bread and juice are those who considered themselves above others (1 Corinthians 11). Today, I want us to take a few moments and ask ourselves, not if we’ve sinned but if there is anyone here today who we consider ourselves superior to. Think through the rows of seats. If you find anyone who you feel you are above, would you not repent of that ungodliness now and humble yourself before God in silent prayer?

Paying Attention to Jesus the Revelator March 14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: The Son of Man

Going Beyond Saying “Merry Christmas” December 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Christ, Christmas, Evangelism, Messiah, Religion.
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The controversy during the past few years over stores not allowing their employees to wish their customers a “Merry Christmas” has evolved into a political speech issue in the minds of many on both sides of the issue. There is a campaign now that enlists churches to become promotional centers for saying Merry Christmas. This may be a good thing. I am not yet certain. I am afraid though that it is actually a commentary on our failure to present Christ.

Our pastors’ sermons against Santa Claus are sometimes stronger than our sermons presenting Christ.

Our members’ condemnation of the commercialization of a Christian holy day is weak in comparison to our fervor in laying up treasures and gifts for ourselves here on this earth.

Our families’ reservation of the holidays and Holy Days for themselves bears witness of our hesitancy to leave father and mother for Christ.

We rejoice more in the sentimentality of the season than in having our name written in heaven.

So what should we do? We should say more than “Merry Christmas.” These are pleasant words and there are occasions when circumstances or time allow nothing more to be said. We should, however, tell people about the Christ. Most people do not know what the title means. They do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. They need to hear. We need to tell them.

Read the Christmas story from Matthew or Luke and emphasize the gospel elements of the Christmas story. Let people know that it is more to you than a tale but that Christ’s birth began the life of the One Man who could and did change history through His life, death, and resurrection.

Find those Christmas carols that tell the gospel and talk about them with people. Anything by Charles Wesley is good. He packs his carols full with the gospel. “Joy to the World” is especially good. “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” also. Tell people what it means that Christ was born to give men second birth or what the curse was that “Joy to the World” speaks about.

Talk about the Christ of Christmas. People need to respond to him and they need to know that. Let “Merry Christmas” be more than a greeting and more than a political statement of your religious and free speech freedoms. Make it an opportunity to tell the good news of Christ to your friends and neighbors and enlist them as disciples of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is the hope of Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If 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 does creation teach us about humankind (Psalm 8)? June 28, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Creation, Hebrews, Jesus, Messiah, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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Lessons From Creation: What Is Man?
(Psalm 8)

THEME: Humankind is the Key Created Element in the Eternal Majesty of God

Introduction: This is a psalm of praise. When someone approaches royalty, they might say, “His Excellency” or “Your Majesty.” This is exactly what this psalm does. David prays to God but He does not say, “My Father” but rather in total submission to God bows before God and worships “His Excellency”, “His Majesty”, “the LORD his Lord.”

I. In his praise of the majestic Lord God, David beautifully points out that the key created element of God’s eternal glory is humankind. This psalm asks and answers the question, “How is it majestic Lord, that you are glorified in the weakness of humankind (verses 1-8)?”
A. You are already universally glorious (verse 1).
1. You, that is, your name, is excellent, is majestic in all the world around us (verse 1a). When God separated the waters on the earth from the sky with a word and gathered the waters into oceans so that dry land would appear, He showed His lordship over the earth. When with a word He caused grass and trees, savannahs and rain forests, gardens and prairies, with that one word He showed His excellency in all the earth. When with a word He put fish in the oceans and birds in the trees and animals on the land, God displayed His majesty and glory.
2. Lord, not only are you majestic in all the world around us but you are glorified in the created universe (verse 1b). Your glory, your majesty, your authority, your beauty is above and beyond the heavens. This universe of ours is beyond measuring, beyond comprehension but God is greater than this universe. It is His created domain to rule and to reign over.
B. God created mankind to create greater glory for Himself. This psalm asks the question, “God, do you need humankind to create greater glory for yourself (verses 2-8)?” Let’s think about this. If God had stopped with the creation of land animals on the sixth day of creation, would this universe be glorious? Absolutely! Would He still reign over His domain? Of course, but God’s creation went beyond creative power and glory but rather centered around humankind. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation.
For example, when God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation, for what purpose were they created? To give light to the earth. This is God’s perspective of the universe. It was all created for this seemingly small and insignificant ball of land and water.
For two hundred years, we have been taught differently. We have been taught that our sun is an insignificant star (“rather ordinary” according to Gary Edward Schnittjer in “The Torah Story”) “located in a remote area of the rather unexceptional Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of such galaxies.”# Schnittjer quotes one of the lead characters of the 1997 movie to illustrate this point, “If human beings are the only life in the vast universe, then it sure is a waste of space.” This psalm says just the opposite. It is the existence of human beings that give purpose to this universe in that they enhance the glory of God.
1. Silencing God’s enemies enhances His glory. (verse 2).
a. Strength out of weakness silences His enemies (verse 2a). Jesus quotes this verse on the first Palm Sunday when the learned religious rulers of His day wanted the “Hosannah’s” of the children silenced. In the context, David is speaking of humankind in general and the nation of Israel in particular. God has enemies and His enemies are powerful. Satan controls the rulers of this earth. He is called in Ephesians the prince of the power of the air. He is a mighty force. Now God could easily defeat Him with one word but He chooses instead the words of the weak. That is why Satan hates humankind and desires to deceive humankind, because He understands that God will defeat Him through the praise of our lips.
b. The illustration of ordaining strength from babies (verse 2b). When God cursed Eve for her part in their disobedience, He promised her that through her seed, that is, through a man, that Satan would be defeated. How was Satan’s mouth stopped in the book of Job? Through the integrity of one man. How were the Philistines brought to their knees? Through a young boy with a sling whose strength was not his own but the LORD’s. How were the God-hating Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars of this world shown the glory of God? Through weak men made strong by the everlasting arm of God.
2. This is why God gives priority to humankind over the heavenly bodies (verses 3-8). God enemies are defeated through humankinds weakness. An observer would say that we are insignificant in comparison to the universe. It appears obvious yet God gives priority to us over the sun, moon, and stars. He gives us a glory that is above all creation.
a. Humankind’s earthly glory is the result of God’s care for us (verses 4-8). God does not pay attention to the heavenly bodies nor does He concern Himself with the animals and plants except as they relate to humankind. God could have saved the dinosaurs from extinction but He did not. He could have through His power saved hundreds of species of plants and animals from extinction but has not. Why? Because they are not the focus of His plans. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation which is why we find Him caring so diligently for humankind and specifically for His people.
i. Is humankind worth remembering (verse 4a)?
ii. Is humankind worth tending to (verse 4b)?
iii. The assumed answer is “No”. “What is man that you remember him?” Mark Twain spoke for the modern man when he answered this question by saying that we are robots who simply go through life doing what we must do because we are in some way programmed to do that thing. Some, like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and New Age adherents try to give us significance by proclaiming us to be gods or godlike in some way. The answer of David is this. When I look at God’s handiwork in the sky, there seems to be no significance in man to justify God’s dealings with him.
b. Humankind’s earthly glory comes from God’s gift to humankind of dominion over creation (verses 5-8).
i. You have made him a little lower than the angels (verse 5a). The angels are higher than us in rank. They are greater than us in power but only we have been given dominion over the earth.
ii. You have crowned him with glory and honor (verse 5b). I suppose it is not bad to be an angel. God created the angels for a great and glorious purpose but without the existence of man, one has to ask one’s self if the angels serve a significant purpose without man. Angels can sin but they will never be forgiven. Angels can do great things but they are never indwelt by the Spirit of God. I think it is likely that even the creation of the angels was directly connected with God’s plans for humankind. They are simply powerful and exalted tools, created as part of God’s redemptive purpose for humankind.
iii. You have given him dominion over your creation (verse 6a). When God created the heavens and the earth, He did not turn it over to an angel or a group of angels but rather to Adam and Eve. Physically and spiritually limited, God gave to them the dominion over the earth and the care of the garden of Eden. An angel was sent to block entrance to the garden and the tree of life to the very people who had been responsible for its welfare. What a glorious privilege they were given.
iv. You have put all animals under his feet (verses 6b-8). God could have named the animals but He gave that job to Adam. God could have tamed the animals but He left that for Adam and his descendants to do. “Under his feet”, however, goes much further than naming and taming animals. First, animals are just one example from creation of those things being subject to man. Secondly, this is the phrase used when one has defeated his enemies and they are submissive to him. Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of Christ’s victory over death. In the same way that death is submissive to Christ, creation is submissive to mankind.
v. We have not done very well with our responsibility. From Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden to the submission of the heathen to creation; from the unwise uses of our earth to the wicked uses with which man uses creation; in all of these things, we have shown that our sinful nature prevents us from ruling over the earth in wisdom.
II. God’s name is glorified through humankind in the person of Christ (verse 9). One man – Jesus Christ fulfills the expectation of God’s gifts (Hebrews 2:7).
A. His name is glorified despite humankind’s unworthiness. We have proven unworthy but God is worthy. Revelation 5:8-13 describes how the Lamb of God, the seed promised to Eve, the one made a little lower than the angels, when He had by Himself purged us from our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Father, so that all things would be under His feet (See Hebrews 1 and 2 also).
B. His name is glorified despite humankind’s abuse of His gifts. When Jesus was born of a virgin, He became one of those babes and sucklings referred to in verse 2. The world could not realize that the baby born in Bethlehem would be able to fulfill the expectations of God for the human race. Through Him God’s enemies are put to silence. Satan and His demons, death, sin, and hell are all defeated through Jesus Christ. Romans 5 shows us that Jesus Christ is the superior man, much more superior to Adam who gave us death through sin. Jesus, however, gave us righteousness through death, His death.

God created you for His greater glory. Every man, woman, boy, and girl sitting here today was the focal point of God’s creation. He has given us dominion over the earth. We, however, have failed and continue to fail and will continue to fail. There is a man though who descended from heaven to be born of a virgin, to live as a man, to die as a man, to bodily rise from the dead as a man, to ascend into heaven as a man, the Son of Man, the Son of God, God Himself. God’s glory is enhanced through Christ’s redemption of sinful man. He will save you when you put your faith in Him. Do it today!

“Lord, Where Are You Going?” A sermon appropriate for Ascension Day January 18, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Ascension, Body of Christ, John's Gospel, Messiah, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Sermons.
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“LORD, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

John 13:31-38

It is a cool spring night. The fall before during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus openly proclaimed that He was going away (John 7:33). Now this was a strange statement for someone who claimed to be the Messiah, for someone who is going to overthrow the Roman oppressors and sit on the throne of David. John 7:35-36 tells us how that they speculated that Jesus would go out among the Jews dispersed throughout the Roman empire and begin to teach the heathen.

The disciples were not much better. When Jesus again said, I am going away, Peter’s question was simple, “Lord, where are you going?”

I. Jesus had said, “I am going to be glorified” (verses 31-32).

A. Jesus glorified the Father in His crucifixion (verse 31b-32a). Just a few days before in John 12:27-33, Jesus explained that through His death, the Father would be glorified. We sometimes sing a song to the effect that we were in the mind of Christ when He died on the cross but ultimately Jesus Christ died so that the Father would be glorified. God hates sin and, as we heard last week in Sunday School, God hates sinners but He sent His Son to die for those sinners so that He might be glorified. What most honors God, more than all the acts of creation or judgment or benevolence put together is that His Son came to die that sinners might be made righteous. That is how that Jesus glorified the Father and, I might add, that is also the beginning of the glorification of Jesus, the Son of God by the Father (John 17:1-4).

B. As wonderful as the glory of the cross is, that is not the main point that Jesus is making here when He says, “I am going away.” It is a necessary part of His future glory but this glory is beyond the cross, beyond even the resurrection. The Father glorified the Son in His ascension into heaven, that is, in His exaltation to the throne of God. (verses 31a and 31b).

Peter did not really understand what Jesus was talking about and that is why he asked, “Lord, where are you going?” Fifty days later, Peter made it very clear that he understood what it was that Jesus meant. In Acts 2:33-36, Peter explains in detail how that the Father glorified Jesus Christ.

C. This double glorification is necessary for our eternal salvation (John 17:1-5 and 1 Peter 1:17-21).

II. Jesus is going soon and will not be found or followed (verses 32b-33, 36-37). The word “seek” here is an important word. It means more than wondering where something is at and looking around to see if you can find it. Desire is implied here. You see, as Wesley put it in the Christmas carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” Jesus is the “Desire of the nations.” He is the Messiah. Even those who rejected Him, who crucified Him, they also desired Him, they also sought Him, but they did not recognize Him as the one for whom they were seeking.

A. This statement had immediate emotional impact (verses 36-37, John 14:1). It caused Peter to ask questions. It troubled them. The one whom they had sought, whom they had desired, had come. He had called them and they had followed Him. They recognized Him as the Messiah. They knew that He was the Sent One, the Son of God. And now He is going and refuses to tell them where He is going. This was very hard for them to accept. In fact, Peter says, Lord, you can take me. I’ll go. If it cost me my life, I will go. These are questions of deep, troubled emotion. This is not an intellectual exercise.

B. This statement had eternal implications (Compare John 8:21 with John 13:36). This is where the main difference between the rulers of the Jews and the disciples is to be found. Jesus told both groups that they would seek Him, that they would desire Him. The rulers of the Jews, He said, would seek Him, that is, would seek the Messiah, but that they would die in their sin and would not be able to come to where Jesus is. The disciples also would seek Jesus and would not at first be able to follow Jesus Christ but they would in the future be able to follow. Why? Because they recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Sent One, the Son of God.

III. Jesus has left us with an important command to obey while He is gone (John 13:34-35, 37-38).

A. This command is new…

…in that it had not been obeyed (Compare verses 34-35 with 1 John 2:7-11). The command to love your neighbor, to love your brother is part of the key command of the Old Testament law – Leviticus 19:18. but it had been ignored. When Jesus came along and He began to preach and practice love for one another, it was received as radical and new, not because it was not known but because it was not often previously practiced and in the religious leadership of that day was hardly practiced at all.

B. Obedience to this commandment is modeled for us by Jesus Christ (verse 34b). This command is not only new because it had not been obeyed previously but also because it had finally the perfect model, Jesus Christ. Now we already have earlier in this chapter an illustration of this love through the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus Christ (see especially verses 14-15). We understand that to love one another demands that we submit ourselves as slaves to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is, however, another point about the washing of their feet that illustrates for us how we are to love each other. Not only does it involve humbling ourselves before one another but also involves honoring the one who we are serving. Not everyone had their feet washed in that day. No one ever washed a slave’s feet. He washed feet but there was no one to wash his. The washing of feet was reserved for the honored guests of the house. In other words, if I am going to love you as Christ has loved me, not only must I humble myself to the servant’s position but I must also exalt you to the honored position.

Almost every time when I preach a strong sermon on the necessity of loving one another, not just in this church, but throughout my ministry, someone asks me how? Again, we know what it means to love one another, to humble ourselves and to exalt one another. What we do not recognize is how to do this. A few minutes after Jesus spoke to words of John 13:34, He returned to this theme in John 15:12. John 15:9-10 tells us how we can love one another as Jesus loves us. We must abide in His love as He abides in the Father’s love. John 15:5 points out that unless we abide in Christ, we are powerless. That includes especially our love for one another. Are there practical things that you can do? Yes. Ephesians 4 gives us a whole list of practical ways to love one another. It begins though with Christ enabling us. Without Christ’s help, we cannot love one another and to the extent that I do not love my brother and sister in Christ is the proof that I am not abiding in Christ as I should.

C. To ignore this commandment is to set ourselves up for a spiritual trap (Compare verses 37-38 with John 21:15-17). Peter is an excellent example of someone who followed Christ but had problems loving his brothers, his fellow disciples. We find in John 13 that he still must learn to obey this commandment. Is He a believer? Yes. Is he abiding in Christ as he should? Absolutely not. Here is a man who is more concerned about proving his loyalty and his usefulness to Christ than exalting his fellow disciples above himself. Peter paid a price for his powerlessness to love. He fell into the trap of Satan. He denied Christ. Not once. Not twice but rather three times.

When you look at John 21:15-17 and remember the events and the words of both Peter and Jesus in the upper room, we find that Jesus visited one last time this theme of love for Christ and for His people before He ascended to heaven.

“Peter,” he said. “Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord! I love you.”

“Peter, if you love me, follow my example, feed my sheep. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends. Peter, give your life for my sheep, for your brethren. If you do that, then people will know that you are my disciple.

Peter was willing to show his loyalty through death. Jesus wanted to world to see Peter’s loyalty through his life, specifically, through his love for his fellow believers.

In 1 Peter 2:22, after that Jesus described the glorification of Jesus Christ by the Father, Peter follows Jesus pattern and commands the believers to love one another. Peter learned his lesson well. Although it took a little time, he came to the point where he understood the connection between his salvation and his relationship to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Have you understood that connection and how are you putting it in practice?

NEXT WEEK: “LORD, HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?” from John 14:1-7

Recognizing Jesus (Old Testament Prophecies of Christ Death and Resurrection) February 25, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Luke, Messiah, Promises of God, Prophets, Religion, Sermons.
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RECOGNIZING JESUS

Luke 18:31-34

 

INTRODUCTION: This week while preparing for this sermon, I read again of Phillips Brooks, the well-known rector of Trinity Episcopal Church at Copley Square in Boston. Brooks is most famous as the author of the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Phillips Brooks emphasized the coming and the life of Christ but not the death, burial, and resurrection. He was limited in his recognition of who Jesus is.

 

Later this week, I heard an interview of Bart Ehrmann, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has a new book coming out with the thesis that the Bible has no answer to suffering in this world. As a young man, Bart Ehrmann had been an evangelical Christian and had even taught at the seminary level but he became disillusioned with Christianity and would now label himself an agnostic. From the interview, it was obvious that the man knew a lot about the Bible and about Jesus Christ but it was also just as obvious that he was limited in his recognition of who Jesus is.

 

As I continued thinking this week, I began to think of Robert Schuller, a man who has given his life to preaching a positive outlook on life. Yet, as influential as Robert Schuller has been, he is another in a long line of men who have preached or taught about Jesus but who by their own testimony are limited in the recognition of who Jesus is.

 

It is good to believe that the coming of Jesus as the Son of Man is a wonderful miracle of God but that alone is not enough.

As we mentioned the last couple of Sunday nights, Luke wrote his gospel so that people might know, that is, recognize who Jesus is. He probably gives us the most complete picture of Jesus that we have. He emphasizes in His gospel especially in the first two chapters that Jesus is the Messiah, God who become man through the virgin Mary as was prophesied in Isaiah 11 and in other places.

He goes on in chapter 4 and tells how that Jesus claimed that His life was lived for the purpose of preaching the gospel and doing good as was prophesied in Isaiah 60. Luke then describes this “gospel do-gooding” ministry throughout most of the rest of the book.

 

All of these things are important and all of them are wonderful but as Luke continues his narrative in chapter 9, Jesus asks the disciples point blank, who do you think I am. Peter, confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. At that point, Jesus reveals for the first time that He is going to be killed by the leaders of Israel and then afterwards, resurrected. In that same chapter he begins His final journey to Jerusalem. The passage we have read today is close to the end of that final journey. On the way, Jesus again has several times either directly said or intimated that He is going to die. This third time he tells them plainly and with more detail but they still do not understand. In fact it is not until the last chapter of Luke, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we find the disciples finally understanding the significance of Jesus has told them. In Luke 24 we find Jesus speaking to His disciples about this very event that we are reading about now.

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise {NU–Text reads written, that the Christ should suffer and rise.} from the dead the third day,

 

What the disciples did not understand until after the fact is that the suffering and the resurrection of Christ are the completion of the miracle. It was important for them and it is important for you and I to recognize that Christ’s suffering and resurrection were necessary and that the necessity of these events caused God to plan them and to tell about them hundreds of years before they were to happen. Let us look at some of these events that were so necessary, that God predicted them in the Old Testament.

He will be delivered to the Gentiles (Psalm 2:1-2). Earlier Jesus had told them that He would be killed by the rulers of the Jews but this is the first time that it was revealed to them that the Gentiles would also play a part in the death of the Messiah.

 

 

 

 

In Psalm 2, which talks about the setting on the throne of the King of Israel, David wrote, “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed.” In Acts 4:25-28, we find that the disciples came to the place where they understood what Jesus had been trying to tell them, they know recognized Christ completely and fully and how that God had sent Jesus into the world to be the Messiah but also to be delivered to the Gentiles.

HE WILL BE MOCKED AND INSULTED AND SPIT UPON (Psalm 22:6-8; 69:1-12; Isaiah 50:6b, 53:3).

We read about some of this in our responsive reading today from Isaiah 53 but I want us to look at Psalm 22, especially verses 6-8, “6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8 “He trusted {Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read hoped; Targum reads praised.} in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

In Matthew’s account, those mocking Christ as He hung on the cross actually say these words while they are making fun of Him.

 

Luke describes these events in just a few verses but they are powerful ones. Luke 23:35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine,

37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: {NU–Text omits written and in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.} THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, {NU–Text reads Are You not the Christ?} save Yourself and us.”

You see it was necessary that Jesus’ death be a death of shame and derision. It was God’s plan and Jesus knew exactly what He was stepping into when He began that final journey to Jerusalem.

 

 

 

They will scourge and kill Him (Psalm 22:15; Isaiah 50:6a; Daniel 9:26). Again, there are a number of Old Testament passages we could turn to. We could look again at Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53 both of which mention His suffering and His murder but I want us to think of Daniel 9:26a. “And after the sixty–two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” God reveals to Daniel events near and far but the most important event that He reveals to Him does not even take a whole verse. Messiah, the Savior of Israel, the Hope of all nations, will be cut off, will be killed. It has to be that way. God has spoken it.

And the third day He will rise again (Psalm 16:8-11 quoted by Peter in Acts 2). The first sermon preached on the day of Pentecost takes Psalm 16:8-11 and preaches the resurrected Christ. He does not demand for the rulers to produce a body and prove that Jesus is dead. He takes the Word of God and says, “Look! This is what God was talking about through David.”

Acts 2:29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

30 “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, {NU–Text omits according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ and completes the verse with He would seat one on his throne.}

31 “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.

32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

 

These events that happened to Jesus were necessary and it was necessary that they be fulfilled in detail because it was the plan of God.

 

THE PROPHECIES OF THE SUFFERING AND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST ARE THE ASSURANCE OF THAT MIRACLE. IT IS IMPORTANT TO PROVE THE CHRIST’S SUFFERING AND RESURRECTION WERE NO ACCIDENT.

There are those who argue that what happened to Jesus was some accident that God failed to prevent but the prophecies of the Old Testament assure us that God knew exactly what He was doing.

 

 

Now we find the disciples not recognizing the truth. Even after his resurrection. The reason according to Jesus is that they did not know the Scriptures. Luke 24:23 “When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.

24 “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

26 “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

 

Spurgeon once said, “Brethren, a want of familiarity with the Word of God is very often the seed-plot of our doubts! Half our fears arise from neglect of the Bible.” (Spurgeon in “Folly of Unbelief”, a sermon on Luke 24:40).

 

As I studied for this message, a set of verses came to my mind that remain dear to my heart. They are found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In the early years of my faith, I struggled. I found it hard to believe that I could really be saved, otherwise, why would I continue to fall into sin. People would try help me with different truths of the Scripture, try to bolster my faith so that I would not doubt. One day, as a nineteen year old, I was sitting listening to these four verses being taught. I understood that salvation is this simple. God said that salvation is based solely on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. God planned it that way. God predicted that way. God performed it that way. My responsibility is to believe God. That was a life changing event for me.

 

What difference does this make? When you go to the doctor and find out that you have cancer, you need to know that the same God who predicted and planned the death and resurrection of His Son has you in His hand also.

 

When you fall prey to that sin that plagues your life, you need to know that the God of the ages planned a way for that sin to be paid for and that He planned a sacrifice that was sufficient for that sin which horrifies you and at the same time tempts you.

 

When you read in God’s Word the necessity of staying in a marriage even though you want out, you can take confidence in those commands because you know how that God keeps His Word.

 

When you pray, you can pray boldly according to God’s will because you know that His will cannot be broken and will be fulfilled to the most minute detail.

 

When your friends and family fail to keep their promises, you can turn to the one whose promises over the hundreds and thousands of years remain faithful.

 

CLOSING: Four travelers, not very well acquainted with the cross-road over which they were journeying, began to lookout for a finger-post. Soon after this, one of them cried out, “I think I can see one yonder in the distance”; and “I believe that I can see it too, about half-a-mile off,” rejoined another; and “I am almost certain that I can see it,” added a third, “it stand up higher than the hedges.” “Well, well,” said the fourth, “You may be right or you may be wrong; but we had better make the best of our way to it, for while we keep at such a distance, whether it be a finger-post or not, it will be of little use to us.” by George Mogridge from Spurgeon’s “My Sermon Notes, Volume II.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that some of you are plagued with doubts. You wonder if you are really saved. You wonder if God is really good. You wonder if what God says could really be true. The proof is Jesus Christ. God sent Him to die and live again so that we may believe Him. He is the one who shows us the Father. He is the one who gives us access to God. What we need to do is recognize Jesus as the answer to our doubts and the salvation from our sins.

More Sermon Links to Matthew 1:1-17 as well as a recent sermon on Christ’s Messiahship December 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Matthew, Messiah, Religion, Sermons.
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Audio (both streaming and downloadable) from Steve Weaver. The same sermon in text. Steve makes the statement that this is one of the most important texts of the Bible.

Steve has been preaching through Matthew for a year now. His most recent sermon begins with comments on John Hagee’s most recent book.