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Great Book About the Story of Reality February 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Easter Sermon 2012 April 9, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Easter, Ezekiel, Power of God, Resurrection.
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CAN THESE BONES LIVE?
Ezekiel 37:1-14

Easter is the celebration of the miraculous. You might say, so is Christmas; and you would be right. Easter, however, differs from Christmas in several significant ways, for example, with Easter we celebrate God’s victory over death. The virgin birth has a very important place in the life of Jesus Christ but it would have little or no meaning if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In this vision that Ezekiel saw we have a good example of the impossible situation that death presents to us. In verses 1-2 we find that he is in an open valley surrounded by bones and these bones were very dry. They have been there a long time. There is no life in them at all. There is nothing in them from which one can find a spark of life and ignite.

God asks Ezekiel a question, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel looked at these dry, dusty, brittle, fragmented bones and said, “O LORD God, You know.” Ezekiel recognized that this was an impossible situation.

1. Our most impossible situations need the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit (verse 14). Now this vision has to do with the regathering of the nation of Israel and the spiritual transformation of that nation. After the vision has been explained, God tells Ezekiel how he intends to accomplish the impossible, through the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit.

a. Jesus was raised by this same power, the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not resuscitated. No man who suffered crucifixion and died after six hours on the cross would be able to survive. We have records of people who were taken off of crosses before they died but even these people soon died from their suffering. The cross may have been a slow death but there was no death more certain. Jesus did not revive because of the coolness of the tomb. He was wrapped in linen with up to one hundred pounds of spices. There is no way that he could have been resuscitated. The power of God was necessary to raise Jesus from the dead.

Romans 1:4 tells us why, so that we might know that He is the Son of God. “During the years following the French Revolution, there was a great turning away from the Christian religion. A certain man named La Revilliere concocted a new religion which he thought was far superior to Christianity, but had trouble convincing others to follow him. Seeking help, he went to the great diplomat Charles de Talleyrand for advice. His advice was simple. “To ensure success for your new religion, all you need to do is have yourself crucified and then rise from the dead on the third day” (borrowed from Ray Pritchard, keepbelieving.com).

b. We also receive life only through the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:11). The earlier verses of Romans 8 talk about this present life as lived by the Holy Spirit but there is coming a day when the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. How can I be confident that I will rise again? Because Jesus rose again and I will be raised by that same power.

“When Benjamin Franklin was 23 years old, he wrote an epitaph for himself. Though it was never actually used when he died many years later, the epitaph reflects deep spiritual truth:
The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer(Like the Cover of an Old Book Its Contents torn Out And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding) Lies Here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be Lost; For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More In a New and More Elegant Edition Revised and Corrected By the Author” borrowed from Ray Pritchard at keepbelieving.com).

c. Any truly impossible situation we face demands the power of the Spirit, the power of the resurrection. In Romans 8 Paul is discussing the problem of sin in the Christian. He points out that this problem is no problem for the power that conquered death. We can be victorious over sin through the same power that made Jesus victorious over death.

2. Our most impossible situations need the transforming power of the Spirit. Ezekiel describes how this happened in his vision. Can you imagine such power that makes dry bones to hear God’s Word, to come together, to form muscle and flesh, to breath, to stand at attention as an army? That is a transformation.

a. Jesus was transformed at the resurrection through being exalted as man to the throne of God. Not only was he transformed positionally but Jesus also received a glorified body. His resurrection was physical not spiritual. This body not only is capable of going through walls and appearing (teleporting) if you will to wherever he wants to be, this body is capable of enduring the presence of God, where Jesus Himself is at this moment.

b. We are not resuscitated by the Spirit either but rather are born anew by the Spirit. We will also receive a glorified body like that of Christ when we are raised from the dead but I want to remind you that to be born anew begins now, before death. Jesus said to Nicodemus, you must be born again.

c. Our most impossible situations do not need tweaking but rather transformation.

“In 1501 a 26-year-old sculptor named Michelangelo was offered a considerable sum of money to produce something worthwhile from that enormous block of marble called “the giant.” As he began his work, he saw a major flaw near the bottom that had stymied other sculptors, including (it is said) Leonardo da Vinci. He decided to turn that part of the stone into a broken tree stump that would support the right leg. The rest he worked on for four years until he had produced the incomparable “David.” Today the seventeen-foot-tall statue stands on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence where people come from around the world to view it. More than a masterpiece, it is one of the greatest works of art ever produced. It has been said that there is no statue more perfect.”

“How did he do it? Here is the answer in his own words: ‘In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it’” (borrowed again from Ray Pritchard; see his website at keepbelieving.com, I’ve borrowed his illustrations but his sermons are good also). In other words, “I chiseled away everything that did not look like David.

The resurrection of Christ is about hope but it is also about transforming power. What does God want you to be that you cannot be?

Last in the Series on Baptism January 24, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Death of Christ, Discipleship, Resurrection, Romans, Sanctification, Sin, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Power, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
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A COMMITMENT TO SPIRITUAL LIFE (Romans 6)

In “Beyond Cigars: Modern ways to announce your baby‘s birth” on babycenter.com, Angela Navarrete writes, “When you were born, your dad might have announced your arrival by handing out cigars…Today’s dads have come up with more creative ways to announce their new progeny…If you want to hand out something more substantial than a card, go for edible birth announcements. Online, you can order personalized candy bar wrappers with your baby’s name and statistics. (The newly wrapped bars look) just like normal candy bars, but the label (reads something like this):
RYAN PATRICK GALLANT
Net wt. 7 lbs. 10 oz.
and on the back:
VITAL STATISTICS
Baked: May 21, 1998
Serving Size: 19.5 inches

Baptism is God’s choice of heavenly birth announcements. When I was baptized, God was announcing to the world, “He’s mine! He’s mine! He’s mine!” Baptism is a very meaningful symbol because I am announcing to the world, I am a new creature. I am different. I have died to sin.

A. Baptism illustrates that we have died to sin (verses 1-4a). To be baptized into the body of Christ is to be baptized into the death of Christ (compare with Galatians 3:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14). [The scriptural development of the doctrine of baptism is (1) John’s baptism as a symbol of discipleship, (2) Pentecostal baptism accompanied by the reception of the Spirit, (3) Paul’s baptism into the body of Christ, and (4) baptism in this passage and in Colossians 2:11-15 as identification with the death of Christ.]

a. This is not present tense—”I am dying to sin!”—That is reformation. A slave does not need reformation but liberation. A man in sin does not need an overhaul, he needs a new engine!
b. Neither is this future tense—”We will die to sin”—Otherwise, something might happen that would prevent me from dying to sin. I am not looking forward to the day when I mature to the point where I no longer sin. Neither am I looking for an experience that will make me so holy that I cannot sin anymore. I am looking back to an experience that has already happened.
c. Notice also that we are not commanded—”Die to sin!” That is our problem. We cannot die to sin. We are incapable of keeping that command until we are connected by faith with Christ’s death. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me. And the life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
d. Finally, it is not an exhortation—”You should die to sin.” Why? Because you are already dead to sin, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and the only hope for salvation and eternal life.
e. This is a simple past tense—”You died to sin.” The simple truth is that if you are a believer, you have already died to sin. It’s a past event, an accomplished fact. What is a Christian? Someone who has died to sin.

In his book 40 Days, Alton Gansky relates this story: “Harry Houdini made a name for himself by escaping from every imaginable confinement — from straightjackets to multiple pairs of handcuffs clamped to his arms. He boasted that no jail cell could hold him. Time and again, he would be locked in a cell only to reappear minutes later.
It worked every time — but one. He accepted another invitation to demonstrate his skill. He entered the cell, wearing his street clothes, and the jail cell door shut. Once alone, he pulled a thin but strong piece of metal from his belt and began working the lock. But something was wrong. No matter how hard Houdini worked, he couldn’t unlock the lock. For two hours he applied skill and experience to the lock but failed time and time again. Two hours later he gave up in frustration.
The problem? The cell had never been locked. Houdini worked himself to near exhaustion trying to achieve what could be accomplished by simply pushing the door open. The only place the door was locked was in his mind.”

B. Baptism illustrates that we are raised to new life in Christ Jesus (verses 4b-11).
1. We walk in newness of life (verse 4b). What Jesus did on that cross makes possible this newness of life reality. He died for your sin so that you might die to sin. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

2. To unite with Him in death is to unite with Him in resurrection (verses 5-11). Physical newness of life begins with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins with death (6:2-4a). Not everyone agrees that humanity begins with conception. That is the whole issue between the pro-life and pro-choice advocates. One thing, however, that everyone can agree on is that something marvelous, something amazing, something beyond our understanding begins at the moment of conception. There is a combining of DNA that is unlike anyone who ever existed before. We are talking about a physical newness of life beginning with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins much, much differently. Spiritual newness of life begins with death.

This concept of death producing life may seem somewhat strange to you. Consider what Jesus, Himself, in John 12:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” In other words, there is no spiritual life possible apart from the physical death of Christ. He died to produce life.

C. Our spiritual relationship with Jesus takes away all excuses for sin (verses 13-23).
1. We as believers decide who to fear and serve (verses 13-21). We can successfully resist the empty and deceitful promises of the world because we are no longer captive to our sinful body. We were captive to our sinful body. We are still in our body which is susceptible to sin but we are no longer slaves to sin unless we decide to enslave ourselves.

“…(Being dead to sin is) like watching a lion roar at the zoo. You may get a thrill from listening to the lion roar in his cage. But as long as the lion is behind bars, you’re safe. The lion can roar all it wants but it can’t do anything to you unless you do something (foolish) like crawl into the cage. Then you have problems. Sin is like a roaring lion. As long as you understand that the power of sin is broken, sin cannot dominate your life unless you choose to let it dominate your life” (Ray Pritchard).

Freedom from righteousness leads to… (verses 19-23).
– Uncleanness (verse 19).
– Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19).
– Shameful behavior (verse 21).
– The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23).

2. The result of freedom in Christ and from sin and from the law is two-fold: holiness and eternal life (verses 22-23). These two are not two separate results but different aspects of the working of God in our life.

You see, when we receive eternal life through Christ, it is not talking just about never ending life. We now have eternal life. My old spiritual deadness exists no more. It no longer has a hold on me. I do not have to live according to my former sinful flesh but now through Christ have spiritual life that enables me to fight against all the evil influences around me. That is one of the reasons that the symbol of baptism is so important. It is a powerful statement of a new reality.

Let me explain that one of the things that you are doing when you are baptized is making a statement about yourself. You are saying, “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Now don’t misunderstand. You are not saying you are sinless in your everyday life. None of us can in reality make that statement but every believer in Christ can say, I do not have to sin because I have put my faith in Christ and I am now a new creature.

INVITATION: Have you died to sin? Not are you trying to. Not do you want to. Have you put your faith in Christ and died to sin and become in Christ a new creature, walking now in newness of life? Have you been born again? Just as a baby cannot conceive and birth itself, you cannot spiritually birth yourself. Jesus has provided salvation for you through His death, burial, and resurrection. You must simply accept it by faith in Him, in the working of God. God did this for you. Will you accept His work in your life? Will you trust what He has done to save you from sin?

If you have died to sin, if you have put your faith in Christ, are you in or out of the lion’s cage? Only a fool would get in a lion’s cage. Only a fool would trust Christ and then let sin rule over him or her. Get out of the cage!

The Shroud of Turin December 28, 2011

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

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

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

Easter Sermon 2010 April 21, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Easter, Religion, Resurrection, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Sermons, Seven Churches of Revelation.
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WHO WAS DEAD AND CAME TO LIFE
Revelation 2:8-11

Sometimes we know part of the story, but not all of it. FamilyLife magazine, February, 1995 tells “…the story of a grandfather who wanted to know how much his four-year-old granddaughter knew about the Easter story. When he saw little Julie playing in the backyard with her friends, he asked them, “Who knows why we celebrate Easter every year?” One of Julie’s friends chirped up first: “Oh, that’s when you go to the mall and sit on the big bunny rabbit’s lap and tell him what you want in your Easter basket.” Her second friend’s answer was no better: “No, no, no! It’s when you get a tree and hang eggs on it—and you wake up on Sunday and there are presents underneath it.”
At that point Grandpa interrupted and gently said, “That’s a good guess, but it’s not quite right. Julie, do you know why we celebrate Easter?” Julie nodded her head. “It’s when Jesus was crucified. He died, and His disciples put his body in the grave. They rolled a big stone in front of the opening. And the guards went to sleep. On the third day, there was a big earthquake and the stone rolled away.”
Hearing all that, Grandpa was really encouraged that Julie knew so much of the Easter story. Then she continued, “When the earthquake happened, the entire town came out by the grave. And if Jesus came out and saw his shadow, they knew there would be six more weeks of winter!”
Young Julie knew a lot about Easter but she had misunderstood a key element. Because she had misunderstood, Easter’s meaning was changed. I believe most of us understand the key element of Easter. He who was dead came to life. It is the message of the resurrected Christ. That message changed everything. When Christ rose from the dead, He changed our view of death, He changed our view of this life, and He changed our view of the life to come.

These changes, however, are not just changes of understanding but are practical changes that affect the way that live. Jesus to the church of Smyrna applies His resurrection to the lives of the believers there in this passage.
I. The resurrected Christ has changed our view of death (vs. 8). Now there were resurrections before in the Old Testament as well as during the life of Christ but the resurrection of Christ is different. He never died again. He lives today after two thousand years. Because of His resurrection, we view death differently.

a. We view death from the outside (vs. 8a). It is hard for us to comprehend death. Milton Mayer once wrote in an essay “On Death”, “Death is the one idea that has no history. We do not know what to say about death because we do not know what to think about it, and we do not know what to think about it because we do not know what it is.”

The very name Smyrna reminds us that we do not know how to deal with death. The city was named for a substance, myrrh, used as a perfume as well as for anointing a dead body before burial. Burial practices around the world reflect this difficulty of dealing with death. Boettner writes in his book, “Immortality”, that in Greenland a deceased child was provided at burial with a dog to act as its guide in the hereafter. Religion seeks a purpose in death. Some promise a rebirth, others a happy future. Modern man has given up and concluded that death is simply the end and has no purpose.

b. Jesus, however, reveals to us a view of death from eternity (vs. 8b). He is the First and the Last. This title comes from the book of Isaiah where Yahweh tells His people that He is God and there is no one like Him. Isaiah 44:6b-7 says,
“I am the First and I am the Last;
Besides Me there is no God.
And who can proclaim as I do?
Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me,
Since I appointed the ancient people.
And the things that are coming and shall come,
Let them show these to them.
Do not fear, nor be afraid;
Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?”
You see, He existed before death and will exist after death has ceased. He is the one who allows death to exist and He allows death to exist because it fits into His eternal purpose. To adapt a saying from St. Augustine, “God judges it better to bring life out of death than to suffer no death to exist.”

That does not mean that we always understand His purpose. That is the point Isaiah is making. No one, no god, devil, man, or angel can set in order for the First and the Last the events of time or eternity and we certainly cannot discover the purpose of death. That had to be revealed to us through Jesus Christ, the First and Last.

c. Jesus Christ, the First and Last, however, is not a puppeteer playing with us, pulling our strings, very much in control but outside the play. No, He views death from the inside (vs. 8c). All men, Christians included must stop at the gate of death and say, “I do not know…” We can define and describe love, hate, exhilaration, and despair but we do not know from personal experience what it means to die. Jesus Christ, however, knows what it means to die. He knows what it means to suffer our fate. He knows what it means because He experienced it. He plays by the rules that He set for us. He took the medicine that each of us is scheduled to take.

“Joseph Damien was a missionary in the nineteenth century who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii…One morning before he was to lead them in their daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation. Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more boiling water on the same spot. No feeling whatsoever. Damien immediately knew what had happened. As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line. He normally began every sermon with, ‘My fellow believers,’ But this morning he began with, ‘My fellow lepers.’”

Without the death of Christ, I could not know the love of God for me. So now I have a different view of death. I still do not know it by experience but I understand now its purpose in revealing God’s love to me.

II. The resurrected Christ has changed our view of life on earth (vs. 9-10).

a. For us life is about this world (vs. 9). It does not matter whether you are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, selfish or giving, surrounded by friends or isolated in loneliness, our life is about this world. These people were no different. Jesus said, I know your works, I know how you go about your daily life, I know your tribulations, I know the things that you are facing in the world, I know your poverty, how that you have lost jobs and family because of your faith in me, I know your present circumstances. I know about your enemies, people who claim to believe in me but are children of the devil. I know what they have planned for you, I know how long your trials are going to last, I know your future. But do not fear. Jesus addressed their present circumstances and their future danger. He did not call them to put on heavenly sunglasses and forget about the glare of this world.

b. What He did do is put this life in perspective for them. This life is about winning eternal life through lasting faith in Christ (vs. 10). That is why He was able to say, “Do not fear!” Jesus did not say, “I am going to deliver you out of your trouble.” Sometimes he does deliver us but often He does not because life is not about living without troubles and trials, without sorrow and pain. Life for the believer is about a constant faith, an enduring faith in Christ. That is why the Bible warns against a faith that does not last. The faith that does not last is not a real faith and will result in destruction. So my life is not about church or family or country or career or hobbies or friends or health or about myself. My life is to be about a constant display of my faith in Christ. Because He lives, I can live with a purpose, I can live the life of faith in Him, confident that when I die, I will receive the victor’s crown of eternal life.

III. That is what I mean when I say that the resurrected Christ has changed our view of life after death (vs. 10-11). In Christ, I have a new life, a resurrected life.

a. The resurrected life is victorious (vs. 10). One of the characters in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” Mr. Valiant-for-Truth was summoned home to the Celestial City. “He called his friends and told them of it. Then, said he, ‘I am going to my Father’s; and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am…My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me, that I have fought His battles who now will be my rewarder.’…many accompanied him to the river side into which as he went he said, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ And as he went down deeper, he said, ‘Grave, where is thy victory?’ So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”

“…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

b. Resurrected life is protected from the second death (vs. 11). Our text says, shall not be hurt. This word is found in the New Testament, primarily in the book of Revelation. The second death is described for us in Revelation 20. It is the lake of fire, the place of damnation. But the believer in Christ is protected. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

I may die physically but the resurrected Christ, the one who was dead and came to life promises to protect me from the second death. I may suffer now in some way or another but my hope for the future is the healing leaves of the tree of life, not the eternal hurt inflicted by the second death.
What is your view of death? Do you see in it God’s love for you in that He died for you?
What is your view of life? Do you see in it the opportunity to exercise constant faith in Christ?
What is your view of the life to come? Do you see victory and rest from your labors here?
If not, you can. You can begin today your walk of faith in Christ. You can begin today to experience God’s love. You can begin today to live for eternity. The resurrected Christ has made this possible. Trust Him today!

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

An Easter Prophecy from the Psalms (Easter Sermon 2009) April 12, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in David, Easter, Jesus, Psalms, Religion, Resurrection, Sermons.
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WHERE WAS JESUS? (Psalm 16)

Where Was Jesus After His Death? Did Jesus Really Die and Rise From the Dead?

Often I am asked questions about what happens after death. Not because I have actually been dead. I cannot speak from experience. The Bible, however, does give us answers. When one dies they are either with God or in a place of torment, depending on whether they had faith in Christ. The Bible, however, does not always speak so specifically. It often, both in the Old and New Testament speaks simply of the place of the dead. That is what we have here in this psalm.

This is important because twice after that Jesus had risen from the dead and returned to His Father, His disciples used this psalm to show that David had prophesied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What this psalm is prophesying is not that Jesus went to Hell during the period between His crucifixion and revelation. In fact, Jesus tells the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus fully expected in death to be with God His Father.

What this psalm prophecies and what Jesus’ disciples taught is that Jesus was truly dead. His death was not faked. Someone else did not replace Him in the tomb. Neither did he simply pass out and through the coolness of the tomb revive and push the giant rock out from in front of his grave and go out of the tomb. Jesus truly was dead. His Spirit was with God but His body was without question, dead.

In this prophetic psalm we can see why this important.

I. The answer to this question determines whether we can trust God to preserve us from danger (verse 1). Although the exact danger is not specified in this psalm, it clearly involves the danger of death and likely involves the loss of the throne of David. To us, who see political change every eight years and frequently more often that does not seem to be a big deal but the throne of David was different. God had promised that the Messiah would come through David’s seed on the throne of Israel. For David and his throne to be overthrown would mean that God is weak and cannot keep His promises. It would mean that there is no hope in this world for the future, that humankind is doomed to the death and destruction that we are constantly bringing on ourselves and each other.

If, however, God’s guarantee goes beyond even death, then who can stand against it. What power on earth can conquer death? None. But if God guarantees that even in death, His promises and His protection are sure, there is no better guarantee than that.

Remember, before David there had never been a resurrection from the dead. There were legends and myths but no verifiable resurrections. David was confident though that the protective power of God reached even beyond the grave. That is total protection.

Today we understand that David was prophesying of Jesus Christ. Today we now know that total protection is available only in Jesus Christ. Only He can deliver from death, sin, and the lake of fire. This protection is available though because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Dr. David Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa: “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why did you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, It’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive. Which one would you ask for directions?’” We hear a great deal these days about which religion is the right religion. How do you know which religion has the truth? Here’s a simple way to answer that question. Find the religion whose founder rose from the dead. That’s the one you need to follow. (from Ray Pritchard’s sermon, “A Tale of Two Men”;

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2005-03-27-A-Tale-of-Two-Men/)

 

 


II. Was Jesus really dead? Did He really rise from the dead? The answer to this question is not only important because it guarantees total protection but also because it determines who God will keep from danger (verses 2-4).
A. God delights in the saints who God has made good (verses 2-3, 4b). This total protection is not available to everyone. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not good news to everyone but rather to a specific group of people. This psalm tells us who these people are:
These people are made good by God. We are not talking about innate goodness or that everyone has a little goodness in them. The Bible makes it clear that there is none good. If you look back just two psalms to Psalm 14:1-3 we see this same David’s evaluation, of mankind, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” David recognizes that any goodness that He might have must come from God.
Where then does goodness come from? By becoming a saint. You do not become a saint by doing good but rather become good by being a saint. Now the “saint” simply means one who is made holy, someone who is set apart by God to a unique position. In other words, we do not make ourselves to become saints, neither can someone or some organization make us saints. That right is reserved by God alone.
So, if goodness comes from God alone and sainthood comes from God alone, how do we put ourselves in a position to receive this goodness and this sainthood? Do not forget, this question is very important. The answer to this question determines who receives total protection from God in this life and in the life to come. The answer is illustrated for us in the last half of verse four. Those who God protects from death, those whom God promises resurrection and eternal life, those who God makes good, those who God makes saints are those who commit themselves to the one true and living God.
We live in a day when people believe that it does not matter what god you serve as long as it works for you. If it makes you feel better in this world then it must be okay. We might exclude those who commit terrorism for their faith from this all encompassing umbrella but that is clearly illogical. To them, what they are doing is moral and for us to condemn them is to set ourselves up a gods, determining right and wrong. Who are we to take such a lofty position.
In fact, to make ourselves, whether individually or as a society as the final arbiter or judge of good and evil is to forsake the God of the Bible and serve another. God says, follow me and no one else, not even, especially not even yourself.
Jesus Christ made it clear that He is the God of the Old Testament when He proclaimed Himself the Son of God, when He referred to Himself as the LORD. It is faith in Him that makes us good, that makes us saints, that guarantees total protection from death, sin, and the lake of fire.
Multiple sorrows or wounds are for those serving another god (verse 4a). This is the only negative phrase in this psalm but how horrible of a phrase it is. One sin, following another god, not lying, not murder, following another god; but the consequences are painful, sorrowful, multiplied, and by implication in this chapter, eternal.
God’s working in the saints results in good (verses 5-11). The last half of this psalm expresses David’s confidence in God. There are at least three reasons why David has confidence in God.
1. The saint has an abundant inheritance (verse 5-6). We have already mentioned the importance of David’s inheritance. Through his seed comes the promised Messiah. When Jesus Christ was crucified, they put a sign over His head that truthfully said, “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.” Christianity goes beyond forgiveness of sin but makes the saint an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. His abundant eternal inheritance from His Father is ours also through faith in Him, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. Everything over which Jesus has authority, we share in that authority in Him.
2. The saint has God’s personal care (verses 7-8). Again, David speaks of His personal faith in God and speaks of the assurance that God’s presence never leaves him. God is personally interested in David’s situation. Why? Remember verse 3? God delights in His saints. This is not a promise that there are no hard times. David’s life itself is evidence that this world can be a tough place but David was confident that God would never forsake him nor leave him.
3. The saint has an everlasting hope (verses 9-11). Our hope is eternal. This is the message of Easter. Not even death can destroy our hope because the one in whom we hope, Jesus Christ, conquered death through the power of His Father.
In verse 7 David blesses God for His counsel and instruction in the midst of His troubles. You may bless God also today. Turn to Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God and He will give you counsel, He will instruct you in the ways of righteousness and He will do it according to the last word in this psalm, “forevermore.”
IN TWO WEEKS: Proverbs 4:1-14 – From Father to Father to Son

Isaiah 53 (The Suffering Servant) – A Passion Sermon March 29, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Atonement, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, Isaiah, Jesus, Religion, Resurrection, Sermons.
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JESUS, THE SUFFERING SERVANT (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

The LORD God wants your attention on the Glorious Deeds of His Servant, Jesus Christ. Again, it is important to identify who this Servant is.

1. As in Isaiah 42, the Servant here must be the Messiah. In Isaiah, sometimes the nation of Israel is called God’s Servant. In at least one place Isaiah himself is referred to as the servant of God but in verses 4-6, we find that the Servant has the sin of others laid on Him. Israel as God’s chosen people is not responsible to deal with our sin problem but the Messiah is. Isaiah also was not responsible to deal with the sin problem of his people but the Messiah is.

2.Since it is clear that this passage is talking about the Messiah, it remains to us to determine if Jesus fulfills this prophecy, is he the Suffering Servant, the Messiah. There are a number of prophecies in this passage and we will look at some of them this morning but I want to call your attention to Acts 8:30-35. Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch that this passage among others is talking about Jesus, the Suffering Servant, the Messiah.

I. Jesus, the Servant is honored by God because He acted wisely (52:13). This verse is an introduction to the details that are to follow. God wants us to pay attention to His Servant because He has acted wisely. He wants us to know what those actions are and He wants us see that His Servant is honored, is glorified by God based on the wise actions described later in these verses. As we read the following verses, the actions Jesus undertook may see foolish to us. It may seem like a huge mistake. God’s evaluation is different. God says, this plan of action that My Servant has undertook is a wise plan of action and I will honored Him accordingly.

II. Not everyone, however, honors Jesus, the Suffering Servant. The next verse indicates that Jesus, the Servant is not honored by men (52:14-53:3).

A. His life ended in shocking humiliation (52:14-15). Isaiah begins here with the end of the life of Christ. Here is a man whose disfigurement is astonishing. Now why would the disfigurement of a man be so shocking. Have we not all seen people whose bodies or faces are so ravaged by disease or disaster that we have been astonished? But to see God’s honored Servant so disfigured is shocking. To this day, many do not believe that God could have had a hand in the crucifixion. They prefer to think that Jesus had a different end in mind than His shameful death. That God would allow such a thing to happen is shocking.

It is like water being splashed in your face. The nations and their rulers when confronted with the humiliation of Christ are shocked, even repulsed by the horribleness of the crucifixion of the Suffering Servant of God.

B. His life began in unbelievable humility (53:1-3). Before He died in humiliation, He must first be born in humility. Again, hardly anyone can believe the message. That the Servant of God should be born into a poor, humble family, that God should come into the world in the weakness of infancy, that He should live and walk on this earth for thirty years in insignificance and that even when He begins His work there are no military victories won. Immediately after His crucifixion, the best that one might could say was that He simply was a fad for a year or so, who, when the fad was over, did not simply fade away but died, hated, betrayed, and forsaken. The life of Christ, even in the midst of the miracles He performed and the teachings He expounded, never rose above the life of a simple man surrounded by other simple men. So we see that Jesus, the suffering Servant is honored by God but not by man. His humility and humiliation is not honorable in the eyes of humankind but rather is despised by them, by us.

III. Yet, Jesus, the Servant was unjustly executed for the crimes of humankind (53:4-9), for the crimes of those who despised Him. This we recognize. There are few who would say that Jesus deserved the death He died. It is hard for people to recognize is that He died for their sins.

This passage explains to us what it means for Jesus to die for our sins. Verses 5-6 makes it clear that Jesus died for criminals. Our criminality is described in verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” We want to do, what we want to do; and what we want to do is criminal. “But He was wounded for our transgressions.”

So what? What does that accomplish? What good is it that Jesus died? Verse 5 tells us that our peace, our well-being, was accomplished through His bearing of our punishment. We are healed by the death of Christ.

Now it is important to understand what this means. There are those who teach that Jesus died so that we should be delivered from physical poverty and troubles and sickness. They turn to these verses to teach this. If, however, we look at the context, the picture is much different. It is the picture of a criminal, who is condemned but another takes his punishment. This peace, this well-being is not a two car garage and a freezer full of steaks. It is the release from the penalty of death. That is the well-being, the peace that the Suffering Servant provides. This healing is not the healing of our physical illnesses but rather the release from certain death through His death. The word “healed” means to be restored to its proper condition. Medically this meaning is obvious but it is also used when Elijah repaired the altar. He restored the altar to its proper condition. His successor, Elisha, later performed a miracle. The water in a certain city was unsuitable for drinking and unsuitable for irrigating. The properties of the water were poisonous. Elisha took a bowl of salt, tossed it into the source of the water, and “healed” the water, that is, restored the water to its proper condition. The psalms speak of healing of the soul and healing of the broken-heart. What Isaiah is speaking of here is the restoration of a condemned criminal. The criminal by the death of the Suffering Servant is taken off of death role and given his freedom. That is a healing that surpasses all medical healings.

Verses 7-9 describe in detail the death and burial of the Suffering Servant.

First, we find that He suffered silently. He did not try to defend Himself but rather submitted Himself to the death of a criminal. Matthew tells us three times that Jesus kept silent at the accusations made against Him, He answered not one word. Mark, Luke, and John also mention the silence of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:23 say that Jesus, “…when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Jesus, fulfilled the prophecies in verse 7 regarding the Suffering Servant.

Then, verse 8 tells us that He was killed. The Muslims may say that Jesus did not die but that another took His place but all the eyewitnesses are certain, without any doubt, that Jesus is the one who died on that cross. The soldier, who came to break His legs, so that He might die more quickly, found Him dead (and on finding that, took a spear and drove it into the side of Jesus Christ). Jesus’ died as predicted by this prophecy in verse 8.

The beginning of verse 9 tells us that Jesus died with the wicked. Between two criminals, Jesus died. Was He guilty of anything? No, but he died with the wicked as prophesied 700 years earlier by Isaiah.

The middle of the verse reminds us that He was buried with the rich. Joseph or Arimathea, a wealthy man, begged the body of Jesus from Pilate and took it and buried the body in his own tomb, the tomb of a rich man. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the Suffering Servant being executed for our behalf, freeing us, healing us from condemnation.

IV. These are the actions, for which Jesus is honored. Jesus, the Suffering Servant is honored by God because He atoned for our crimes (53:10-12).

A. God honors Jesus with long life (53:10). The implications of the resurrection are not dealt with in this passage but Isaiah predicted that this Suffering Servant, who died for us criminals and was buried in the tomb of a rich man would see His seed. Now Jesus never married. How is it that He can see His seed? He must rise again from the dead and see men and women turn to Him for salvation. Those who trust Christ become the sons of God, by believing in His name. This is an honor that only God can offer. Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world, if He would only bow down to Him. He did not, however, and could not offer life. God honored Jesus with life, God raised Him from the dead.

B. God honors Jesus with a portion among the great (53:12). What portion did Jesus get? Hebrews 1 tells us exactly. It tells us that Jesus, “…when He had by Himself purged us from our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels has He said at any time, ‘You are my Son, this day have I begotten You…” Do you understand that Jesus does not sit on the right hand of God because He Himself is God but because He is being honored for dying on our behalf for our criminal acts. He atoned for our crimes and for that wise action, God has honored Jesus Christ in our behalf.

When Philip preached this passage to Philip, he asked about being baptized. Philip’s reply was simply this, do you believe? Do you believe that you are a criminal before God, deserving of death but that He was executed on your behalf and that through Him you can have spiritual healing, that is, be freed from the penalty of God? The eunuch answered, “Yes.” Philip then baptized Him as a testimony of His faith in Christ. This message is worthless to you if you do not believe it and follow Christ. Will you believe today?

NEXT WEEK: Zechariah 9:9-17 – The Coming King