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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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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):
Net wt. 7 lbs. 10 oz.
and on the back:
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!

A sermon on practical Christian living from Colossians 3 November 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare.
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How to be Heavenly-Minded and Still be of Earthly Good
Colossians 3:1-17

Have you ever heard the phrase, “His head is in the clouds”? If you have, then you know this is not a compliment. It means that someone is impractical and does not know how to live practically in this world. Another way of saying this is that someone “is so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.” I have been asked by believers, if it is possible to be too focused on heaven. Now that may be code for how do I live for Christ without being obvious. That, of course, is impossible. There is, however, a legitimate concern that we all should have. How should my spiritual reality positively affect my life here on earth?

We saw last week that the keeping of rules and regulations does not necessarily mean that one is living a spiritual reality, that is, that one is heavenly minded. Instead it may mean that one is living an earthly, fleshly reality with religious trappings. Obeying the rules and regulations of a religious group, even one that is true to the Scriptures as we are here at Grace Bible Church does not make us heavenly-minded anymore than wearing a Stetson would make us Texans.

I. You see, in order to be heavenly-minded, we must have an eternal perspective that becomes visible only out of our position in Christ (vs. 1-4). No doubt, you realize that your physical position determines what you can see. Back in August, I flew into Detroit from Philadelphia. My flight was delayed and I ended up flying fairly late at night. I had a window seat on the right side of the plane. As we flew south of Cleveland, I saw the most amazing sight. We were flying south of a huge thunderstorm that was over Lake Erie. You could not hear the thunder but you could see the clouds filled with lightning. If we had been flying through that thunderstorm, it might well have been a terrifying experience but because from where I was sitting, there was no turbulence the thunderstorm not only was not terrifying to me but gave me a sense of confidence that the person or persons who determined the route that we were flying were highly competent. You see, your physical position affects your perspective physically as well as psychologically. Spiritually this is also true. The reality of our relationship to Christ is what gives us an eternal perspective and allows us to be heavenly-minded.

a. Our present reality is connected to the resurrection and ascension of Christ (vs. 1-3). We talked about our present reality last week. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, it is as though we died with Him (after all, it is our sin that put Him to death), were buried with Him, and rose again with Him. This, of course, is what baptism symbolizes. “We are buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life through Christ Jesus.” In that statement there is a commitment that is described with two words in Colossians 1:1-2.

1. The first word, in verse one, is “seek.” Jesus said according to Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Since I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, I am committed to seeking those things that are associated with Christ, specifically with a Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God. You see, Jesus is ruler of this universe and my life is to be given to seeking those things that are associated with His eternal reign. His kingdom has priority, His righteousness has priority. That is one reason why I am a part of a church, because it is through His church, His people that His kingdom is advanced.

2. There is another word, actually a phrase, found in verse two, “set your mind.” That is, exercise your mind. Think on heavenly things, taking great interest in them. Think on God’s Word with the intention to obey it. Why? The reason is this, you are dead to sin and resurrected with Christ. Although outwardly you may look no different than before your salvation, your reality is different and you need to think about the things that belong to your new reality. A believer in Christ who is raised in Christ Jesus and yet is focused on this world is trying to live a fantasy, trying to exist in a spiritual “Land of Make-Believe.”

b. Our future reality is connected to the return of Christ (vs. 4, 6).
 Although we may at the present look no different physically than the unbeliever, there is coming a day, according to verse 4 when we will appear with Jesus Christ in glory. 1 John 3:2 puts it this way, “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When Christ returns, our present reality will be unleashed and we shall, as believers in Christ, enjoy the glory for which God saved, the glory which we will share with Jesus Christ, the one who saved us from our sin.

 Let me remind you of the alternative in verse 6, “…the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” When Christ returns, it will be a time of glory for believers but for those who have not put their faith in Christ, it will be a time of angry judgment. God is not unemotional when He judges men for their sin anymore than He is dispassionate when He glorifies His children for all eternity. God hates sin and He will judge each man’s sin either through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or through His endless wrath on the sinner.

II. Now this is our spiritual reality. The past two chapters have been largely given to describing how that we through faith in Christ are dead to sin, buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life in Christ Jesus, serving our heavenly King Jesus and His heavenly kingdom, looking forward to the day of His coming when we will be glorified with Him for all eternity. What, however, does that mean for us practically? When we go to work or to school tomorrow, when we go home this afternoon, when the stresses and temptations of this world start to press down on us, how do we remain heavenly-minded? The answer is this: to be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually and mentally execute the members of our fleshly being (vs. 5-7).

a. Our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself (vs. 5). The first four items in this list deal with sexual sins. Certainly this is a problem in our society. The problem begins, however, not on the TV or the computer but begins in our sinful flesh. Paul says, take drastic action. This takes constant and conscious effort. It means not watching certain forms of entertainment. It means not spending time with certain people. It means putting your computer in a place where everyone has access so that you cannot hide any sin in which you may be tempted to indulge. It means learning to dress in a way that is not an invitation to the evil thoughts and intentions of others. It means memorizing Scripture and praying much and studying much Scripture and, if your married, focusing on your spouse more intensively. Why go to such lengths? Because our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself.

Now the first four items may not be a temptation for you but there are few of us who do not look at others and long for what they have. That is what covetousness is. Paul says, “That is idolatry.” When I look at what others have and long for it instead of longing for the heavenly things of Christ, I am no better than the tribesman who sacrifices to a rock or a tree. I am an idolator.

b. As we have seen, the satisfaction of the fleshly being is one of the reasons for God’s anger with unbelieving men (vs. 6). Why then would I want to engage in behaviors which make God angry?

c. We are capable in our new life in Christ, our resurrected life, of rejecting our old life (compare vs. 3-4 to vs. 5a & 7). That does not mean it is easy. That is why Paul uses the word “execute”, that is, “put to death” your sinful flesh. It takes drastic action but in Christ it is possible.

III. To be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually clothe ourselves according to our spiritual reality (vs. 8-17). Paul talks here of our earlier “dead” life and compares it to our new “resurrected” life as two suits of clothes. Only one of those is appropriate to our spiritual reality. If the clothes make the man, then we need to pay attention to what we should and should not wear spiritually.

a. Our spiritual reality is a new man (vs. 9b-11). In these verses, Paul describes a spiritual exchange. When I go to the store, I make an exchange. Let’s say that I take a can of beans off the shelves, take it to the cashier who tells me how much the item costs, and then give the cashier some money. Once that exchange takes place, that can of beans is mine. The store cannot say put it back on the shelves. I have a receipt that shows that I exchanged a certain amount of money for that can of beans. The money now belongs to the store owners and the can of beans is mine. When we put our faith in Christ, we exchange our old man and his destructive behaviors (verse 9b) and the destructive words that come out of his mouth (verse 11a) for a new man constantly renewed in the knowledge of God (vs. 10) and unified with the body of Christ (vs. 11b).

b. Our old man is characterized by destructive behavioral sins (vs. 8-9a). Look at this list of sins. They are all verbal and they are all against mankind. Even the “blasphemy” here is not talking about using God’s name in vain but rather “blaspheming,” that is, slandering other people. Paul is saying, the heavenly-minded person will take those things off and put them away.

c. Our new man, however, is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 12-17). Not every fruit of the Spirit is listed here in these verses but most of them are, specifically those fruit that deal with the words of our mouth and the relationships we have with other believers. If I could summarize these verses and the commands in them, I would say it this way, “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!” Let me repeat that. It is so important. “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!”

1. According to verses 12-15, believers are to forgive with the type of forgiveness and under the same conditions with which Christ has forgiven us. Let me illustrate using the first part of verse 13. Paul says there are ways in which we put on the characteristics of verse 12. Endure one another and forgive one another. To endure means to put up with, not to say anything, let it go, it isn’t important, forget about it. Most of us are willing to do that up to a certain point. We will put up with anything except… Most of you have said something like that and it may be that whatever you fill the blank with is an indication of what condition you are not like Jesus Christ. Forgiving, however, goes a step further. It involves action, it involves confrontation, it involves saying something but it also involves showing mercy, giving someone forgiveness that they do not deserve, it involves putting someone else’s needs before your own, it involves being a peacemaker, it involves pain, it involves tears of grief. That is, by the way, how Jesus assuages the wrath of God, by providing through His death, forgiveness. An act on confronting sin and its penalty head on but showing mercy to the sinner who needs peace with God. It cost Christ (1:24). He suffered much but that was the price necessary for my salvation and forgiveness and He paid it thankfully. In the same way that is the price I must pay if I am going to be heavenly-minded and of earthly good and use to the cause of Christ.

2. In verses 16-17, Paul sums up how this is possible. By the knowledge of Christ that makes us, as a body, focused on Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17a says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Commit yourself to saying this verse everyday this week to yourself. Write on the back of the outline insert during the week, ways in which you have a choice between doing or saying something in the name of the Lord Jesus and following the ways of the body of sin.

What is your future? Is it glory or wrath? Is it forgiveness or damnation? Is it the old man or the new man? Jesus is the way to glory and forgiveness. Will you trust Him as your Lord and Savior today?

Boldness and Humility in Spiritual Warfare (2 Corinthians 10) February 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Boldness, Humililty, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Warfare.
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(2 Corinthians 10:1-16)

INTRODUCTION: I remember the first time that I lost sleep because of the ministry. I felt like we had been dropped into the middle of a boiling pot of water with no way out. I had no answers. In fact, the situation over which I lost sleep that night continued for over two years and I never had any answers. I remember how that first night, my wife and I talked over the situation and talked over the situation and how that I looked into the pitch dark of our bedroom with not a sound stirring in the rural area where we lived at the time wondering, fretting, asking God what to do and not getting any advice from Him that I found useful.

It is good to know that others have been where we were at that night and not only survived but were victorious in their battle against Satan. We are going to look at one of those victors in battle, the Apostle Paul, for the next few weeks. I trust that his example will serve for each one of us as a wake up call to what serving Christ means.

There are many aspects to spiritual warfare but I would like for us to look at the attitudes that are necessary for successful spiritual warfare: boldness and humility.

I. Boldness is necessary to assault spiritual disobedience (verses 2-6). Perhaps this goes without saying but boldness is a necessary attitude of warfare of any kind. Paul is careful, however, to define the battle so that we can understand the reason for his boldness.

A. The battle is not personal (verses 2-3). Notice, I did not say physical or mental or emotional. There are definitely physical elements to spiritual warfare. In 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul mentions his arrival in Macedonia, an area north and east of Achaia, the province where Corinth was located. He makes it clear that he was totally affected by the spiritual warfare in which he found himself. It seems likely that, at the time this verse talks about, Paul was clinically depressed. He was in a rough state of affairs.

We tend to view those who take medicine for depression as second-class Christians. Now I am sure that there are times when medicine would be unnecessary if people dealt with their spiritual needs properly. Let us not forget, though, that there is no shame in being troubled and there is also no shame in being physically affected by those troubles. James reminds us that Elijah was a man subject to the same troubles that we are. Our Lord Himself went through extreme physical and emotional weakness so that He might sympathize with our weakness.

This battle then is physical and emotional as well as spiritual but it is not personal. For that reason, spiritual victory is not dependent on an outward show of boldness.

Paul had a few enemies in Corinth who were accusing him, among other things, of being a wimp. They said, “Sure, he can write a mean letter but when he shows up, we will just walk all over him.” Paul admits in verse one that there is some truth to this accusation. He has a tendency to be strong with the pen and weak in presence. Paul says, however, that does not matter. This battle is not about me. It is not about my style, my abilities, or my methods.

If ever there was a lesson we need to learn, it is this one. How many times have we heard people say, if we could just get the right music style, the right atmosphere in the church service, we could see things happen. These things are important but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could just have some miracles for people to see or a powerful preacher or an excellent training program, then we could move our community for God. All of these things are fine and have there place but they do not win spiritual battles. Others say, if we could learn to pray like David Brainerd, sing like the Wesleys, preach like Luther, serve like Mother Teresa, organize like Billy Graham, and survey like Bill Hybels, we could have revival, we could win spiritual battles. Revival, however, does not depend on us, it does not depend on our methods, nor does it depend on our style of ministry. Spiritual warfare is not personal.

B. What is this spiritual warfare of which Paul speaks? This war is a spiritual assault with the Christ’s gospel against the stronghold’s of disobedience, the unbeliever and his or her way of thinking (verses 4-6).

In these verses, Paul mentions the goal of our battle (verses 4b-5), tearing down spiritual strongholds and bringing others to Christ. He does not, however, mention what our weapons might be. He simply says (in verse 4a) that our weapons are mighty in God. Paul is not saying that his weapons are superior but rather that his God is superior. Our weapons are mighty in God. Whatever the form that our earthly weapons may take, they are mighty in God (see Mark 14:36). In other words, spiritual warfare is dependent on God. Our warfare is only possible, our weapons are only effective if God is the might behind them. When we pray, if we are effective, it is of God. When we preach and teach, if we are effective, it is of God.

This is basic but we stray too easily from this truth. Paul said, my effectiveness is not dependent on me but on Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). George Morrison once preached, “Men who do their best always do more, though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true; be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness to God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.” We cannot evaluate our usefulness by the response of the world to our personality. Only God can evaluate our usefulness.

II. The second attitude that Paul found necessary seems to be the opposite of boldness. It is humility. Humility, however, is necessary to edify the body of Christ (verses 7-11).

A. Edification is for one’s own army not the enemy (verses 7-9). It is through edification that we are able to as an army rather than as individuals attack the spiritual stronghold’s. That is in some way or another, one of the main themes of almost all of Paul’s epistles. Jesus put it this way, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”

Paul intended to spiritually assault those teachings and those teachers who were preaching a false gospel. Paul speaks in verse 6 of punishing, literally, of taking vengeance on those who preach a different gospel. For those, however, who are Christ’s, that is, those who put their faith and trust in Christ, his goal is different. He is not interested in their destruction (verse 8b), he is not interested in pulling down their defenses. That is reserved for the enemy. Paul’s goal for his fellow-believers is not pulling down but building up.

In this Paul is following the example of Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 describes these characteristics in Jesus Christ, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus did not find it shameful to reach out to us as sinners but rather humbled Himself, made Himself lowly in order to save us. Paul says, my ministry is modeled after Christ. I am not ashamed to humble myself nor am I ashamed to boast. My goal is you edification.

B. God gives us authority to edify with humility one another (verses 8-11). “Why, Paul, do you humble yourself this way? You are an apostle! Why allow these people to treat you this way?” Paul might would answer, because my authority as an apostle is to build up the body and not to pull it down.

It would be easy for us to say at this point, “Sure, that is good for Paul but I have no authority, I have no responsibility, I have no ability to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ!” Let us see what the Scripture says.

Twice in Romans 14-15, Paul commands believers to get along with their brothers in the area of doubtful things so that we might edify one another.

Four times in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says let edification be the determining factor as to whether you use your spiritual gift or not. If your spiritual gift does not build believers up, then leave it at home.

Three times in Ephesians, Paul points out that the purpose of the church, of this church, and how we relate to one another, is that we might edify one another. You and I as believers are commanded to edify one another and this edification is necessary if we are going to grow in Christ. It is not just for the pastor or the teachers or the advisory board or the adults but everyone of us is responsible to build one another up in Christ.

III. Now boldness and humility come from the same source, the ministry of Christ’s gospel (verse 12-18, especially verses 17-18).

A. These spiritual traits do not come from our moral example (verse 12). This is really a repetition of what Paul wrote earlier but Paul wants to remind them that he is not his own standard. He is held to the standard of God. Those who spend their time setting themselves up as spiritual standards are fools. Certainly Paul set himself up as an example but not in the same way as these false teachers did. He said it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The danger of keeping rules is not that you may be too strict. The danger of setting yourself up as a moral example and standard is not that you might not reach your own standard. The danger of setting yourself up is that by doing so you miss the truth. Why do good, moral people go to hell? Because they do not understand that Jesus Christ is the standard. They are looking for ways to outweigh what is bad in their life. Jesus has an empty scale on the bad side of the scale. But when we make Christ our source of righteousness we have the source we need for boldness and humility in spiritual warfare (verses 14-15a). Why could Paul boast? He had the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).

B. The goal of our boldness and humility, of pulling down the enemy and building up the brethren is the expansion of Christ’s gospel (verses 13-16).

You might ask, if Paul has all this boldness and humility from God, why does he keep laboring with these Corinthian believers. Are they not more trouble than they are worth? Paul would answer, “No, they are part of the goal, the boundaries, the sphere of work that God has set up for me.”

The goal of the body of Christ’s faithfulness, that is, Christian growth is the expansion of the gospel. Verse 15 shows us how this should work.

Opportunities are lost when we do not grow in faithfulness to Christ. Paul had been forced to give so much time to issues in Corinth he had not been able to enter some open doors. In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, he describes how the necessity of sending Titus to Corinth combined with his own emotional state prevented him from entering the open door in Troas. Even Paul could not go it alone but needed the aid and assistance of the body of Christ to be effective in the ministry of the gospel.

That may seem like a contradiction. Are we not dependent on God and not on man? The answer is yes. Let us not forget though that one of the main tools God uses is His church. We are His army responsible to pull down strongholds of disobedience. We are His body responsible to build one another up in mutual growth in Christ.

NEXT WEEK: THE FACE OF THE ENEMY (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

Links, some very serious, one lighthearted link for Floridians August 8, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Atheism, Book Reviews, Character, Depravity, Judgment Seat of Christ, Links, Religion, Satan, Sin, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.

Pornography:  a very important and uncomfortable subject.


Also a book review from Tim Challies. If challenging atheism is your cup of tea, then this book might make you real happy. http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/book-review-the-dawkins-delusion.php


For our snowbirds:  http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2007/08/05/162-the-united-states-of-florida/ 


How to know if God is revealing Himself (From Sermon Series on God’s Word) August 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Bible, Depravity, Deuteronomy, Eternal Security, False Doctrine, False Teachers, First John, Gospel, Hell, Holy Spirit, Jehovah's Witnesses, OT Preaching, Perserverance, Prophets, Satan, Sermons, Spiritual Warfare, Truth.


1 John 4:1-6 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22 

Lying spirits exist and we are to test the spirits (verse 1). Now God has given us the final word but God has chosen to allow competition, to allow false spirits to speak their false doctrine through false prophets, to allow the lie to coexist on this earth with the truth.

It is not always easy to discern the false from the true. Just as counterfeit money is meant to be spent, false doctrine is intended by Satan to be believed and that means he must make it believable to the human mind and appealing to the human heart.  That is why it is of eternal importance that we look into God’s Word and find out how to determine the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


There are two passages in the Old Testament law in the book of Deuteronomy that discuss testing the spirits who claim to speak the truth. Now, it is easy to say that the Law was for then and not for today, for example in the law against eating pork which is also in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 14:8). We understand though that the law is more than the Ten Commandments and when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law He meant all of it, not just the moral code but also the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law. Not only that but as we saw about a month ago, “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So how do we apply the Old Testament tests? By finding and investigating the timeless principles that apply to the subject of testing the spirits as taught in 1 John. (Ideas in this paragraph with thanks to Paul Lamey of Huntsville, AL.)

Test #1 –

If one part of the prophecy is proven untrue or inaccurate, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

“Here’s a Help Wanted ad you may find interesting: Spokesman needed for international firm. No experience necessary, no education required. Must be between 20-85 years old. Full- or part-time…Will meet often with the CEO who will instruct brief you on what to say to the public. Important that you be able to move in all circles of society–from the highest to the lowest. Good vocabulary a must, ability to speak in colorful images a big plus…Unlimited opportunity for advancement…Must be willing to endure ridicule, persecution, slander, and occasional beatings. This job carries only one significant negative aspect: Make one mistake and you will be stoned to death….That ad describes the biblical role of the prophet…The test for a biblical prophet was 100% accuracy. Make one mistake and you would be stoned to death…(T)he Jews had a well-defined procedure for stoning. The victim was stripped naked, with hands bound, paraded out of town and placed on a scaffold nine feet high. The first official witness pushed the victim off the scaffold. The second witness dropped a large stone on his head and chest. Bystanders then pelted the dying man with the stones. The corpse was then buried in a special place along with the stone that inflicted the fatal blow. No mourning ceremony was permitted. False prophets had to be stoned. The Law commanded it…(P)rophecy was not a growth industry in the ancient Israel. It was a risky way to make a living. Today prophecy (and messages from God) is big business–and not nearly so risky.” (Thanks to Ray Pritchard)

(In fact, you can make the New York Times Best-Seller List and become a fixture there.)


Not only does a prophet sent from God speak the truth with 100% accuracy but he knows that his message is 100% accurate and does not try to hide that fact. When someone says that they have a vision or dream or message from God and they temper their claim with the possibility of human fallibility then I know that I need not be afraid of that person. God does not speak to every subject but to every subject that He speaks, He speaks authoritatively and without error.

Test #2 –

If the prophecy leads away from the truth, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

Actually, this whole chapter deals with the seriousness of following anyone who would lead us away from the truth. In verses 6-10, if a family member attempts to lead away from the true and living God, they were to be stoned. In verses 11-18, if Israel heard that one of their cities had turned from following God, they were to go against it and destroy it with all its inhabitants, all its livestock, and to destroy everything in it. They were not to take anything for plunder. Obviously, we are not to apply the extreme measures that are commanded to the Israelites but we are to take this seriously.


How do we recognize the spirits (verses 2-6)? In other words, how does this apply today?

The Spirit of truth identifies…

…Jesus as God and man (verse 2). Any person or any group that denies that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man is not of God. The Bible is very clear. One of the reasons that we have started studying together the book of Colossians in the adult and junior high and junior aged Sunday School classes is the vital importance of this doctrine. If Jesus is not God then Christianity is a lie and if Jesus is not man then Christianity is a lie and the Bible is a lie. I do not have a problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to celebrate birthdays. That is not an eternal issue. I do not have a problem with their refusal to salute the American flag. That is not an eternal issue. I do not even have a problem with their refusal to take blood transfusions. I think they are wrong and that it is an unfortunate belief but that belief will not send them to the lake of fire. I do have a problem though with their refusal to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God, not a god, but Jehovah God Himself. That is why I fight for the Virgin Birth. If Jesus was not Virgin Born, He was not God. That is why I fight for the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. If He did not rise bodily from the dead then there is doubt that He was really man. He was and is both. That is also why it is so important that we hold to the Bible as given by God without error. If the Bible is in error in any area, then how can we trust what it says about Jesus Christ and the message in verse 2 about Jesus Christ is only to be found in the Bible?


The Spirit also identifies the redemptive work of Christ as sufficient for eternal salvation (verses 9-10). I understand that John is not addressing this directly but it is addressed in other places in the Scriptures: the first half of the books of Romans, the epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, the book of Hebrews. I am saying that it does matter what we believe about Christ’s saving work.

The word “propitiation” here means to appease God. We are sinners, we deserve the eternal punishment of the lake of fire but Jesus Christ came and died to appease His Father. That is the good news that we are to believe. If you believe that salvation comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone, you are in the trap of the spirit of error. If you believe by being good you can satisfy God, then you believe the spirit of antichrist. If you believe that trusting Christ and being baptized to wash away your sins, then you are trusting a ritual. Paul said in Galatians of such rituals that they make the crucifixion of Christ of no effect. Either Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was sufficient or it is not. If you believe the Church provides you appeasement before God, you are trusting the doctrine of the world. If you believe that the Lord’s Table which we partook of earlier in this service will impart God’s saving grace into your life, then you are trusting the doctrine of a false spirit. It is through Jesus Christ alone.

Acts 5:12 says that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. He does not need my help, He does not need your help, and he does not need the help of any ritual, good deeds, or organization. He is capable through His death alone of saving us and according to these verses, He does this because He loves us.

The Spirit of error… (verse 3-5).

…contradicts in some way the Spirit of truth (verse 3a).

Why?  Because the spirit of error is of this world (verses 3b-5). This is not a new phenomenon (verse 3b). Since time began, Satan has been lying to humankind. Although it is true that as we get closer to the end, evil men will get worse and worse, it is a matter of degree and not of quality. The quality of the counterfeit is always bad. Some are more effective in their deception than others but counterfeits are always a lie.


Believers in Christ have protection within them from false prophets (verse 4). In 1 John 2:18-27 we find specifically what he means by this verse. Some have asked me, what happens if I quit believing in Jesus Christ. According to these verses that will not and cannot happen. If you quit believing in Christ it is because you never truly believed in Him. I am not talking about doubts. I am not talking about those who give up in frustration and quit trying to live for Christ. I am talking about those and the text is talking about those who teach the truth and then turn their backs on it and attempt to drag others with them on their path. That is what John is addressing here. We, however, are protected. We are protected because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We are protected because we have the truth in us.

The world has no protection from the false prophets because they think just like them (verse 5). This is an awful thing to think about but the Bible plainly teaches that the natural mind follows after the lie of Satan. The lie appears in all kinds of forms but every form is deadly. Which will kill you a bullet through the heart or a knife through the heart? So it is with the lie of Satan. There is no hope unless they are awakened by the Holy Spirit and believe the truth of the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ.


When someone clearly sees and rejects the truth we know that they are not of God (verse 6). If you are here this morning, you have heard the truth. Did you understand it? If you understood it, have you accepted it or rejected it? If you have accepted it, how are you going to react when you hear the lie? That is our invitation this morning.

Ways God Reveals Himself (A Sunday Morning Sermon from Psalm 19) July 15, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Creation, Depravity, General Revelation, Inspiration, Praise, Prayer, Promises of God, Psalms, Repentance, Sermons, Special Revelation, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation, Truth.


PSALM 19:1-14

The last few weeks we have looked at the Word of God and in each case we found that the truth of the Word of God was confirmed in some way or another. In 2 Timothy 3 we discovered that the truth of the Word of God is confirmed by those who teach it to us, especially by the way that they live it out before us. In 2 Peter 1 we saw that the transformation that the Word of God makes in our lives confirms the truth of the Word of God as well as the many eyewitness accounts of the New Testament period confirm the truth of the Word of God. This week we are going to look at two ways that God reveals Himself and again. The first, like others that we have seen in previous weeks, will be a confirmation of the truth of the second.


God reveals Himself through creation (verses 1-6).

No one escapes this revelation. In these six beautiful verses we have a wonderful description of revelation through creation. Those who teach us the Word of God may fail and falter and lose our confidence. Our own lives may become so squandered in sin that we forget that we were forgiven of our own sins. The historians may rewrite history so as to try to discredit the eyewitness accounts of Peter, Paul, James, John and hundreds of other. They cannot, however, blot out the sun.

“During the French revolution Jean Bon St. Andre, the Vendean revolutionist, said to a peasant, ‘I will have all your steeples pulled down, that you may no longer have any object by which you may be reminded of your old superstitions.’ ‘But,’ replied the peasant, ‘you cannot help leaving us the stars.’ John Bate’s ‘Cyclopaedia of Moral and Religious Truths,’ 1865. (found in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David”)

Those who believe that the universe around us is the result of some cosmic accident cannot deny that it is a glorious and wondrous accident. It is the glory of the heavens and the earth on which we live that helps us to have a foretaste of the glory of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

“When you go out into the woods or on to the beach at look at the beauty of creation, what do you go to see? Do you go to see the glory of God? It is to little purpose to view the beauty of creation, to wonder at the marvels of the universe, if we do not seek, if we do not see not God’s glory there.” (A knock off of a quote from Isaac Watts, D.D., 1674-1748.)


The message of the heavens is not subtle. Listen to the following translation written by Henry Craik in 1860,

” The heavens are telling the glory of God,

The firmament displaying the work of his hands;

Day unto day wells forth speech,

Night unto night breatheth out knowledge.” (found in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David)

The message of the heavens is blatantly clear. There is nowhere on earth from which man can escape that message because the heavens are the blackboard from which God instructs men in the knowledge of His glory.

The heavens are also the stage from which we see the wonder of God called the sun. The sun rising in the morning and streaking across the sky is described as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber. This was ancient custom back before chivalry and knighthood became so common. Although the bride was very important and she was also decked out in her finest, she was the one who did the waiting. For the groom there was none of this popping out from the side room and humbly standing to the side and waiting for the main event, the entrance of the beautiful bridegroom. No, she was the one who looked forward to her husband bursting onto the scene in all of his glory and majesty, dazzling the guests with a great feast, and then sweeping her off into a sunset of bliss.


David also says that the sun is like a strong man who rejoices in the race. Some of you know Caulin Mortensen. Almost two years ago, Pat Whalen and I took our Sunday School Class and a group of their friends to a corn maze. Caulin is a good example of the joy that a runner feels when running a race. There were six kids so Pat and I divided the kids into two groups and we set out going through the maze looking for the hidden stations that were in the maze. We had agreed to meet up with one another at the halfway station. Pat had Caulin in his group. From the moment we entered the maze Caulin burst ahead of his group and from then on he determined the pace and the path. As the paths of the two groups would cross we would usually hear Caulin running first, then we would see him, and then we would hear Pat calling out for him to wait up. At the half way point, Pat and I traded groups. Caulin was still running. He was still determining the pace and the path. By the end of the day, Pat and I were worn out and some of the kids were dragging also but Caulin was still running. He had a great time. He was rejoicing in the run. Nothing slowed him down. That is the picture of the sun in the heaven.


When we look at the heavens we are filled with wonder but our response of wonder is insufficient.

During VBS we told the story of Jackson, a blind Navajo Indian boy, whose parents took him to medical doctors and called medicine men to try to heal him. Nothing worked. One day in despair Jackson stumbled out of the house and walked out into the desert until he could walk no further. As he sat there on a rock he began to think of what he had heard about God from the traveling missionary who had come to his village. He began to pray, asking for God to reveal Himself. At that moment, a loud clap of thunder shook the sky around him. Jackson was thankful that God had answered his prayer. The kids enjoyed the story. We were careful though to make sure that the kids understood that such an event cannot save a person. The power of the storm, the glory of the sun, the beauty of the flower displays the character of God but it is insufficient to cure the sickness of the soul, to calm the fears of the heart, to forgive the sins of our lives. For those answers we must turn to God’s Word.


God reveals Himself and reveals us through His Word (verses 7-14). Teachers are important but God’s Word provides life revealing knowledge. Eyewitness accounts of miracles confirm God’s Word but the Word itself makes the difference, not the miracles. Even Satan can produce miracles but only God can produce life revealing and life changing truth. Science can establish that some things are true, logic can prove that some things are true, our feelings and our instincts can sense that some things are true but only God’s Word is in its character, in its essence, in its entirety true and truth and without error.

Because God’s Word is a complete revelation of Him and of ourselves it changes what creation cannot change, the human heart (verses 7-11). “The universe is cursed, [just as we are] and the universe groans under the burden of this curse (Rom 8:19-22)…The earth is longing for something, the apostle Paul tells us, longing for a Man, the Lord Jesus, who unseats the dragon despot of this present darkness. The earth is groaning for us, “for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19). That’s why gospel proclamation is the most farsighted form of environmental activism. The earth is [ultimately] delivered when [we] her rulers are raised from the death curse, when all things once again are under {our} feet, in Christ.” (henryinstitute.org, Russell Moore’s commentary “Blood, Gore, and Global Warming” July 9, 2007)


The change that comes from God’s Word is inward (verses 7-8).

It converts the soul. Only the Word of God can transform a man or a woman who is spiritually dead and make them alive. That is why positive thinking does not work. Dead souls cannot think positively. They are helpless until the Word of God enters their heart and converts, restores, revives them, allows them to pass from death unto life.

It makes wise the simple. Only the Word of God can renew the mind. Even as believers, our minds are influenced by the world of sin but God’s Word can transform the way we think. Without the Word of God, we are incapable of thinking as we should. God’s Word teaches us not just what to believe but how to think.

It rejoices the heart. Only the Word of God can bring true joy. Now there are other things that can bring joy into your life but they are things that do not last. If you want to have joy when trouble is surrounding you, you need the Word of God.

It enlightens the eyes. In this phrase David sums up the revival of the soul, the opening of the mind, and the filling of the heart. With the Word of God one begins to see spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. That is the inward change that comes from God’s Word.


The change that comes from God’s Word is of eternal value (verses 9-10). My wife will tell you that I am a recovering addict. 🙂 I was addicted to the morning paper. When we got married and lived in our first apartment and did not have two pennies to rub together, I took out a newspaper subscription. When we were three and a half years on the road raising support to go to Austria, one of the first things I did many mornings was go to the gas station a buy a morning paper. When we moved to Munich, Germany for language school and I could barely read, I had to have my paper, even if it had to be in German. In Austria and in Berlin the morning paper was part of my daily routine. That morning paper though became of the biggest obstacles to having a consistent walk with God as I should. One of the biggest struggles that I eventually had to get over was that what I was investing so much time and money in was not of eternal value. That enjoyment, that pleasure, which I am sure I would still enjoy, which I’m sure would still bring some profit into my life, is of no eternal value. John Piper once said, “It’s like the child who chooses the penny over the dime because it’s bigger.” What is the penny on which you are holding tightly? What is taking your time and energy and perhaps even money and is diverting you from the one book that is of eternal value – God’s Word?


My response of repentance and faith in God’s Word is sufficient (verses 11-14). Remember, repentance is not a listing of my sins. Rather it is viewing my sin as God sees it and turning to Him as the only relief from my sin. David, of course, did not know, did not understand that Christ was going to come and die for his sin but he knew that only in God was there mercy and pardon to be found for sin and protection from the evil of secret and presumptuous sin.


God’s Word keeps us from sin (verses 11-13). Usually we focus on verses 11, 12, and the first part of verse 13 when looking at these verses but I want us to see what happens when through God’s Word we are kept from sin. We become blameless. Over the last year, we have had a lot of conversations about the meaning of this word. Certainly, there are a number of different usages of this word in Scripture, some of which I have preached on recently (See https://roberttalley.wordpress.com/2007/07/15/the-meaning-of-the-word-blameless-in-the-new-testament/). The word here means “to be made complete”. It is clarified in the next phrase “…and I shall be made innocent of great transgression.”

Spurgeon put it this way, “All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God. But there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The fact is, that while all transgression is a greatly grievous sinful thing, yet there are some transgressions which have a deeper shade of blackness, and a more double scarlet-dyed hue of criminality than others.” (from “Presumptuous Sins” http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0135.htm).

That is what David wants to be kept from. The blameless man, the complete man is not one who never commits sin but one who is so immersed in the Word of God that he is kept from those great transgressions that bring shame on himself, on his God, and on his fellow believers.


God’s Word changes my words and my thoughts (verse 14). There are a number of ways to evaluate whether God’s Word is doing the work it is supposed to do. Two are mentioned in this last verse. When I catch myself being hateful or negative in my language, when I find that my thoughts are consumed with the things of this world, then I know that God’s Word is not having free course in my life, I am not allowing it to have the effect that God intends for it to have.

INVITATION: Believer, it is time you evaluate yourself. Is God’s Word changing you? If not then let the prayer in this psalm be your prayer and turn to the Word of God for food. You say, I do not know how. We can help you. We can show you how to feed yourself from God’s Word.

If you have not trusted Christ as Savior, your soul needs converted. You need to be revived, to pass from death unto life. The Word of God shows you how. The Bible says that through faith in Christ’s death on the cross, your sin debt can be paid and you can be forgiven. You cannot work to be converted. You cannot work to be saved. It is only through faith in Christ. Will you trust Him today?

Revelation 6 (Questions concerning the first six seals) July 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Antichrist, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, Famine, Hades, Hell, Judgment, Persecution, Repentance, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, War, Zechariah.

Update:  answers are in italics 

Revelation 6 (compare the four horsemen with Zechariah 6:1-6)

The four horsemen are an allusion to Zechariah 6:1-6 and 1:7-17. What is the main purpose of using the symbol of four horses of varying colors?  It seems to correspond with the emphasis of Zechariah 6 that is also made in other ways in Revelation 6. This emphasis is that the things that coming by way of these horsemen will affect the whole world and not just certain regions.

There are generally two popular interpretations of the first rider on the white horse:  that it is the antichrist and that it is Jesus Christ. What are the arguments for one or the other interpretation? Which of these interpretations is easiest to support from the book of Revelation itself? Depending on your interpretation of the first rider, what purpose does this horse serve internationally?  There are a lot of different arguments put forth but I will mention the two that seem to me to carry the most weight because they arise more from the text and are less determined by the system of interpretation one may already have. 1) The white horse rider being Christ is best supported by the fact that Jesus is pictured in Revelation 19 as coming in victory on a white horse. If this horse is Christ, then it is consistent with the theme presented often in the Revelation, i.e., that Jesus will overcome the forces of Satan. In fact, the sixth seal seems to tell about that event. 2) The white horse rider being anti-Christ is best supported by the fact that the other three horses have a negative impact on the world. If this rider is the anti-Christ it gives credence to a one world government or the domination of the world by the beast. 

If the red horse is war, where will this war take place?  No place on the earth will be untouched.

What conditions in the world are described by the third horse and the voice from the midst of the four living creatures?  Inflation and famine for the poor but the rich may not be affected.

We are told directly who the fourth rider is. What will happen during the time of his working on the earth? Has there ever been a time when one fourth of the people on the earth were destroyed?  The day of the Lord, which seems to be what this chapter is beginning to describe will be a time of much death by all sorts of means.

What prophetic events are the fifth seal looking forward to (7:9-14; 13:14; 14:13; and 17:6 with contexts)?  Revenge on the persecutors of God’s people including but not limited to “the beast” and “Mystery Babylon”.

What prophetic events are the sixth seal looking forward to (Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2; Matthew 24:7; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30 with contexts)?  The day of the LORD.

Question from last night’s Bible study. What is your answer? June 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Depravity, Satan, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
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Rather than give you the context of the question (the study was on Buddhism), I’ll throw it out and you give me your answers in the comment section.

Can Satan put evil thoughts in our minds or do they come from within our own evil hearts?

A follow-up question might be, if he can, how does he accomplish this?

Have fun giving your opinion!

The Church at Smyrna (answers) May 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Hell, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Seven Churches of Revelation, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering.
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We did not get to the church at Pergamos but I felt we really got a good picture of the suffering that the church of Smyrna endured, the reasons for that suffering, and the encouragement that John/Jesus gave them. 

The answers are in italics. There was some great discussion last night and  we spent a good bit of time discussing the second death which is not reflected in the notes below. We will be coming back to that when we look at Revelation 19 but the short answer is that the second death is the lake of fire and not Hades or Hell.

There were also a number of great insights made on the tree of life and how to interpret that phrase both literally and symbolically.

  1. In the message to Ephesus, Christ’s relationship to the local church is emphasized (see especially verses 1, 4-5). What is the emphasis of the message to the church at Smyrna (verses 8, 10c-11)? Victory over death (not just victory over persecution).
  2. Compare the Spirit’s message to Ephesus in verse 7 to that of Smyrna in verse 11. What is John/Jesus trying to do with these final words of encouragement to those who overcome? He is trying to encourage them in specific areas that are or should be of great concern to them. The tree of life in Paradise is the place where man can have unbroken fellowship with God. Escaping the second death is the fate of those in Christ who is the one who was dead and lives again. Is the tree of life a literal tree in Paradise or is this a symbol? I believe it is most likely literal based on other passages of Scripture. Can it be both? In this case, whether it is literal or not does not affect the meaning of the passage. If John/Jesus is using the literal tree of life in Genesis as a symbol or if there really is still a literal tree of life, the meaning of the passage is the same. See also Revelation 22:2,14 and Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24. What does this teach us about reading symbolism? Is it intended to hide a meaning that we are clever enough to understand or is it intended to be obvious and through its obviousness impact our understanding of the passage? Symbolism is normally intended to have an obvious meaning rather than a hidden meaning.
  3. Compare the situation in Smyrna described in verse 9 and the situation in Ephesus described in verses 3-4. How are their situations similar? Both are suffering persecution. How are their situations different? The persecution in Smyrna appears to be more intense or deadly than that in Ephesus. Whose physical condition is worse? Whose spiritual condition is worse? Smyrna had very poor physical circumstances but Ephesus which had comparatively better physical circumstances, had a very serious spiritual problem.
  4. Is it likely that the Jews described in verse 9 were ethnic Jews (Compare with John 8:38-45)? Yes. Some think this could be talking about false believers but it is likely that these are ethnic Jews who were involved in the persecution of the Christians.
  5. What is the near and eternal future of the church at Smyrna (verse 10)? A short period of imprisonment and death but they will come out victorious.
  6. The word “tested” in verses 2 and 10 are the same Greek word. How are they used differently? What is the result of the testing in both cases? In Ephesus the false prophets are being tested. In Smyrna the believers themselves are being tested. In both cases the test reveals whether they are genuine or not.
  7. What is the implication of the term “ten days”? It is a short time period (we do not know if it was a literal ten day period or not). This is meant to be a word of encouragement to the believers.
  8. There are two words for crown: one implies royal dignity or kingly authority while the other implies victory in a struggle. Which word would you guess John is using in verse 10 (see also James 1:12)? Victory in a struggle.

Freedom from Slavery (Romans 6:15-23) May 27, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Memorial Day, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Warfare.
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We have memorized the first two verses of Romans 6. I would like us to read together the first three verses of this great chapter. As you are turning to Romans 6, I would like to illustrate visually what it means to be baptized into His death. As you can see, I have a glass of water here and I have a toothpick with a paper clip attached. My question for you to think about as we quote and/or read these verses is this. If I immerse the toothpick in water, will the paper clip get wet?

  1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

  2. Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

  3. Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  


The death of Christ is essential to our spiritual freedom. Jesus Christ as an example without His death for our sin is absolutely worthless. Why? Because we were slaves of sin. Verse 17-18 describes the process of being baptized into Christ Jesus’ death.

17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart (that is, faith) that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

At the end of this chapter, Paul sums up his argument with these words:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How is it that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus? Through faith in His death on the cross as being the only path to freedom from the slavery of sin.


This illustration is not meant just to paint us a pretty picture but to show us how we are to live as believers in Jesus Christ. Just as Paul used this figure of baptism to illustrate death to continued sin and resurrection to newness of life in Christ Jesus, he now uses in verses 15-23 a new illustration, the figure of…


There are two questions in this chapter. You should now be very familiar with the first. It is found in verse one. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?“ This question asks about the possibility of the believer living in habitual sin. Verse fifteen, however, deals with a different question, the question of occasional sin. In verse 14 Paul points out that we are not under law but under grace. He anticipates the reaction to this statement. “Certainly God’s grace will excuse that. After all, it is not like it is a habit. It is one of those things that just happens. God will forgive me. It is not so bad as all that.” The answer is the same in verse 15 as in verse 2. Certainly not! (One can almost hear Paul say, “Duh-uh!). God is opposed to all sin. Those who feel that habitual adultery is somehow worse than the occasional wandering eye can clearly see that God’s answer to both is, “No! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are free! Do not dare use God’s grace as an excuse for even the tiniest sin!”


This freedom from the slavery of sin is dependent on the obedience or loyalty of faith (verses 15-18). Loyalty to Christ will not permit occasional crossing over to the other side to Satan’s line. (A. T. Robertson)”

Tomorrow as we celebrate Memorial Day, we will be celebrating those who died because they were loyal to their country. We will be celebrating the memory of those who submitted themselves to armed service because they believed that it was essential to the continuing liberty of their country and of themselves as free men. Military service is in a very real way a type of slavery. A slavery that is dependent on obedience and loyalty. Spiritual service is also a type of slavery and it is also dependent on obedience and loyalty.


If you are a slave to sin, you feel freedom to sin. According to verse 20, we see that loyalty to sin will not permit crossing over to the side of Christ. One the other hand, if you are a slave to obedience, you have righteousness, the freedom to do right. It is true that in Romans 7 (which we will have to leave for some future period) there is a division of the will within the believer. This is actually where we get the picture of the two natures. The spiritual reality is this, that every person is either unsaved and enslaved in the sense that he is loyal to sin and not to righteousness or he is saved and enslaved in that he is loyal to righteousness and not to sin.

In this passage we find out to where these two freedoms lead. Let us begin with the negative.


Freedom from righteousness leads to a life of slavery to sin. This life is described in verses 19-23. Last week, I mentioned that being a believer and not using the righteousness of Christ to resist sin was like riding a bicycle without using the brakes. Afterwards I was asked, “To where does running our spiritual bicycle into a tree lead?” These verses not only describe the life of the sinner but the consequences in the life of the believer if he ignores the spiritual brakes with which God has provided him.

Uncleanness (verse 19). Jesus used this term once in Matthew 23:27 when He said that the Pharisee’s were like beautiful tombs and mausoleums filled with dead men’s bones and uncleanness. Ephesians 4:17,19 makes it clear that we choose this slavery to sin that leads to uncleanness. Paul writes, “…the Gentiles (speaking of unbelievers)… have given themselves over… to work all uncleanness…” Look in Romans 1:24-25. What Paul is saying here is that because they gave themselves up to uncleanness, God freely lets them go. In fact, he says that uncleanness is what God allows to take over the lives of those who do not acknowledge Him as God.

Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19). Jesus will say to those who claimed to work in His name, “Depart from me you workers of lawlessness. I never knew you.” We think of lawlessness as being in the gutter and the ghetto. Jesus, however, sees the lawlessness of the heart. Lawlessness is any thought, word, or action that violates the law. I may or may not be aware of the law.


Notice where lawlessness leads – to more lawlessness. This may be a strong statement but it seems that individual sins never stand alone. They build on each other. I cannot think of one sin in my life that has been committed separately from all other sin. I have sinned in anger, in blowing my top. It is usually quite unexpected. Afterwards though I am able to look at what led up to that explosion and see a number of different thoughts and actions and attitudes that led up and built up to lawlessness. Sins do not occur in isolation.

Shameful behavior (verse 21). Sin is the type of behavior that leads to feelings of shame. Notice, Paul does not say that they felt ashamed of their behavior at the time they were doing evil but rather they felt ashamed of their past behavior because now they knew better. It is the believer who feels ashamed of his past behavior. The unbeliever often knows no better. That is the terrible thing about slavery to sin and to the fruit of uncleanness and to lawlessness built upon lawlessness and to the daily allotment of death. You might think you are having a good time, that you are doing the right thing, that this is the way to go but you are dying every second just a little bit more and a little bit more and you do not even know it. Think of those whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Inside of them death reigns. Think of those to whom Jesus said depart from me you workers of iniquity. They were among those who performed miracles in God’s name but they were servants of sin plagued by death.


The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23). There are two things we need to understand about the picture described here.

First, Paul is not saying if you sin, your wages are death. He is saying, if you serve sin, if sin is your master, if your loyalty is to sin; then the fruit is uncleanness and lawlessness and the wages that sin will pay you for your uncleanness and lawlessness is death. Sin, your master, pays your wages and sin pays in only one currency – death!

Secondly, the payment is daily. The wages here are not the wages that one receives at the end of a work period. These wages are the daily allotment paid for a soldier’s rations. In other words, if you are not in Christ, you are surviving or subsisting on death. It is true that the end of sin is death but there is a daily payment of death handed out on the way down. That is what the unbeliever is surviving on.

There is an article taken from the Booneville Banner, Booneville, Mississippi, in the July 11, 1912 issue of their newspaper and written by a Rev. Robert J. Burdette, a Union Soldier. In it he writes about being on burying detail after the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi, “We found a dead Confederate soldier lying on his back… He was one of the Rogers’ Texans…I covered his face with a slouch hat and took off the haversack slung to his neck, that it might not swing as we carried him…

“Empty, isn’t it?” asked the soldier working with me.

I put my hand in it and drew forth a handful of roasted acorns; I showed them to my comrade. “That’s all,” I said.

“And he has been fighting like a tiger for two days on that forage,” he commented. We gazed at the face of the dead soldier with new feelings. By and by he said:

“I hate this war and the things that caused it. I was taught to hate slavery before I was taught to hate sin. I love the Union as I love my mother-better. I think that this is the wickedest war that was ever waged in modern times. But this, and he took some of the acorns from my hand-“this is what I call patriotism.”

“Comrade,” I said, “I am going to send these home to the Peoria Transcript. I want them to tell the editor this war won’t be ended until there is a total failure of the acorn crop. I want the folks at home to know what manner of men they and we are fighting.”…

“I was more and more devoted to the Union as the war went on. But I never questioned the sincerity of the men in the Confederacy again. I realized how dearly a man must love his own section who would fight for it on parched acorns…”

The acorns, the rations, the wages of sin causes the man who lives on them to fight with great loyalty against righteousness.


Just as freedom from sin leads to the fruit of uncleanness and of lawlessness upon lawlessness which leads to sins wages – death, freedom from sin leads to holiness and to the gift of God – eternal life (verses 19b-23).

The fruit is holiness or sanctification (verses 19 and 22). Often it is said that when we trust Christ we are freed from the penalty of sin and are now being freed from the power of sin and someday will be freed from the presence of sin. These verses teach that I am already freed from the power of sin and that is why I am holy and consecrated before God. 1Th 4:7 says, “…God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” Just like a tree is planted and bears fruit, that holiness, that sanctification is lived out as I continue to present the members of my body to my master, the God of righteousness. Although my holiness was established in the past and continues in the present, it will ultimately be perfectly completed when I am with Christ Jesus. That is holiness ending in eternal life.

The gift of God – eternal life (verses 22-23). Eternal life is not only dependent on God saving me from the lake of fire (justification, if I may use this term in a non-technical way) but also from sin’s power (sanctification). Eternal life comes not only from forgiveness but also through God’s holiness.

Notice the contrast with the wages of sin. If you serve sin, you receive subsistence wages. If you serve God, if you are his slave, you receive gifts. That is not normal slavery but that is perfect slavery. You receive blessings and gifts not because you work but because you are a slave.


Whose slave are you? You are either a slave of righteousness, of God, or a slave to sin. You may become a slave of righteousness, not by being righteous but by accepting the free gift of God – eternal life – through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Look again at verses 17-18.

17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart (that is, faith) that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. You have heard the truth. Will you obey it in faith? When I was growing up, I used to hear camp meeting preachers ask people if they would junk their church membership and turn to Jesus, if they would junk their good works and turn to Jesus. As we have seen, you can be religious and be a slave to sin and until you junk that religion you will never turn to Christ alone in faith. Whatever it is, moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, junk it…and turn to Jesus!

If you are a slave of righteousness, why do you present your members to the enemy? You are free from sin, why do you submit to the enemy. Turn to Christ for help. Present your members to Christ. Do it now and continue to do it day after day until Jesus comes to take us unto Him.