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Thanksgiving and Prosperity November 27, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Prosperity Gospel, Psalms, Thanksgiving.
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Psalm 30

From Max Lucado’s When God Whispers Your Name: “We push back from the Thanksgiving table and pat our round bellies. ‘I’m satisfied,’ we declare. But look at us a few hours later, back in the kitchen picking the meat from the bone…

As a child we say, ‘If only I were a teenager.’ As a teen we say, ‘If only I were an adult.’ As an adult, ‘If only I were married.’ As a spouse, ‘If only I had kids.’ As a parent, ‘If only my kids were grown.’ In an empty house, ‘If only the kids would visit.’ As a retiree in the rocking chair with stiff joints and fading sight, ‘If only I were a child again.’”

God blesses us and yet we are not content. This psalm, however, describes a man who was not only content but thought he was self-sufficient. This man is David. We will see though that God brought him low and then lifted him up and that through being brought low and lifted up he learned thanksgiving.

A. God has lifted us up out of certain doom (verses 1-5). “Lifted up” here is the word used for drawing water out of a well. David found himself at the bottom of the well surrounded by enemies. He could not rescue himself and there was no one there to help him.

The plight of each individual is much the same. It does not matter whether you are king or beggar, preacher or prostitute. Each of us is doomed. We are surrounded by our enemies: sin, death, hell, Satan, the ungodly world in which we live, fear, doubt, suffering of many kinds, and darkness, which is ignorance of all that is godly as well as separation from God. That is the list of those with whom we are sharing the bottom of our well.

Then Jesus came…

a. He came to deliver us from death. Hebrews 2:14-17 says, “…He Himself … [became human], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage…that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

b. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

c. He will deliver us from this evil world. “Our Lord Jesus Christ…gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Galatians 1:3-5).

B. God prospered us and then left us to our own devices (verses 6-7). Patrick Morley tells how that he “grew proud, not in [open] arrogance, but in subtly looking down on others, commending [himself] for superior accomplishment. One day God decided to get [his] attention…He put the business on its back. It was the best education and the most spiritually rewarding time of [his] life.”

The same thing happened to David. He had killed Goliath and had become a great military leader. He had fought overwhelming odds and won repeatedly. He had become a skilled manager of men. God prospered him and then allowed him to fall prey to his own success. We do not know the exact occasion but God began to multiply David’s enemies. David needed to be driven back to the understanding that he needed God.

As Anne Ortlund in My Sacrifice, His Fire wrote, “…I discovered that God’s leash wasn’t too tight-my heart was too proud! I thought I ‘deserved’ more; my self-image had greater expectations, and that attitude was the very grease on which I slid into self-pity, discontent, ungratefulness, misery.”

C. We committed ourselves to His worship (verses 8-10). Does God need us to worship Him? No, He is the Almighty whether we recognize it or not. You see, the purpose of worship is evangelistic. If what we do in here does not make a difference out there, then what we have done in here is not worship. For too many Christians, the church service is a spiritual comfort food.

Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, in an interview years ago said, “I worship…when I realize I’ve been trusting in my own abilities, not the sovereignty and goodness of God. When I put my affections off the other things I’ve been trusting in – which is why I’m anxious – and put them on God…the truth will affect my emotions – and my will.”

D. God gives us joy so that we might glorify Him (verses 11-12a). God has not blessed us because we deserve it. God has not blessed us because we value religious freedom. God has not blessed us because we are democratic. God has not blessed us because we send missionaries. God has not blessed us because we tithe. God has not blessed us because we support Israel. God has not blessed us because we oppose abortion. God has blessed us for this reason alone, “So that we might glorify Him before others.”

“A man was standing behind a woman at the check-out counter of a local grocery store. He was well-dressed and his facial expression was quite stern. The woman glanced back at him a time or two as she finished unloading her basket. Finally, unable to restrain herself any long, she asked the serious-looking gentleman, ‘Excuse me, but do you happen to be a minister?’ ‘No, I’m not,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just been sick for a couple of weeks.’” (from Chuck Swindoll in Living Above the Level of Mediocrity).

E. Let us glorify Him in thanksgiving this week (verses 12b). God has saved you from a horrible pit. He has washed you from your sin. He has convicted you of your pride and brought you to salvation. You are committed to following Him. He has given you joy unspeakable and full of God. This thanksgiving, let people know from what God has saved, that you are committed to Him and nothing or no one else, and that you rejoice in Him.

Next week: “Preparing for the Dawn” Luke 1:67-80

Sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday (The Key to Thanksgiving) November 22, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Leprosy, Luke, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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Luke 17:1-19

INTRODUCTION: What is the key to thanksgiving? Is it comparing yourself to others and realizing how much more you have than they? If it is, then we should be the most thankful country in the world but I am afraid we are not much more thankful, if at all, than the rest of the world.

In this passage we understand through contrast the key to thanksgiving. First, however, I want us to focus on two things in this passage that should have evoked thanksgiving in those who were healed but apparently did not, that is, we want to see from this passage what is not the key to thanksgiving.

I. The key to thanksgiving is not the meeting of a desperate need (verses 12-13).

a. There have always been people with desperate needs (verse 12).
These lepers came, no doubt, from various walks of life. We know that one was a Samaritan. The Samaritans and the Jews were archenemies. They hated everything for which the other stood. These lepers, however, all desperately needed help. Sometimes misery and pain overcome racial and religious prejudice. Not always but sometimes.

In 2 Kings 7:3 we find that the four Israelite lepers who were trapped between the city of Samaria and the Syrian army decided to go over to the enemy. This is what they said, “Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.”

Certainly, to be a leper was a desperate situation. Verse 12 says they stood afar off. This was normal for lepers. They were not allowed to come near other people. Verse 13 says they lifted up their voices. Trench tells us, “All who have studied this terrible disease tell us that an almost total failure of voice is one of the symptoms which accompany it.” Yet they did what they could to get the Master’s attention.

b. A characteristic of desperate people is they often recognize and are ready for a solution to their problem (verse 13).

Of course, there are those who do not recognize that they have a problem. For more than 20 years, it is said, Professor Edwin Keaty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, used to start his classes by writing on a blackboard two numbers, the numbers 2 and 4. And then he would ask his audience, “What’s the solution?” One student would shout out, “6” and another student would shout out, “2” and another student would shout out, “8” and Professor Keaty would shake his head and he would say, “Gentlemen, unless you know what the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer.” These lepers recognized their problem and were ready to find the answer.

Notice how they addressed Jesus, “Master,” that is, an overseer or superintendent. This was a term of respect. They recognized He had authority from God but at least for nine of them, that recognition did not result in thanksgiving. “(T)he number of those who pray is greater than the number of those who praise” (Spurgeon).

For years, Martin Luther recognized his need but it drove him to hate God rather than to thanksgiving. Part of the problem was Martin Luther did not understand God’s provision to meet his need. I will never forget visiting Rome and entering the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Our guide explained to us what we were seeing – the Holy Staircase. Supposedly, the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena, had sent the staircase from Jerusalem to Rome. The steps are said to be the actual steps that Jesus climbed the day of His crucifixion. We watched as pilgrims climbed up the steps. Although the staircase has a different location now than it did in 1510 when Martin Luther climbed the staircase on his knees, the ritual remains today the same. Climb the holy steps on your knees, saying the Lord’s Prayer on each step. With each step and with each prayer comes nine years less time in purgatory. However, when Martin Luther did so, the Holy Spirit already was sowing the seeds of conviction in the young monk’s heart when, according to his later testimony, reaching the top, he stood up, thinking, “Who knows if it’s true?”

Luther knew he had a great spiritual need. He realized eventually from God’s Word that climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual do nothing for the soul. In his case, instead of becoming thankful he became hateful toward a God who would set up such an impossible standard. But then in God’s Word, he discovered Jesus Christ.

II. The key to thanksgiving is not the recognition of need and it is also not simply doing what you are told, that is, obedience (verses 14, 17-18).

a. Obeying the Lord’s command is commendable and effective (verses 14).

This is illustrated for us in verses 7-10. Obedience in the sense of doing our duty is nothing to brag about. It is, however, commendable and brings about good things. Faithfulness to the task is simply what is expected. It is foundational to effectiveness but in the end, God wants more than our obedience. He wants something that takes us beyond where obedience can take us.

b. Thanksgiving goes beyond obedience to the law (verses 17-18).

I don’t know how many steps they took. I doubt that it could have been too many; otherwise, the one leper might not have been able to find Jesus. Jesus would not necessarily have tarried long at the village. Neither could it have been too few, otherwise the other nine would have found it simple to return and thank the one who had healed them. Just as there are more who pray than praise, “…there are more who receive benefits than ever give praise for them … (and) more (who) obey ritual than ever obey Christ” (Spurgeon). We don’t know why these men who had such a great need met did not turn back to thank Jesus. There could have been various reasons and I’m sure they all justified those reasons in their minds if they ever even thought of turning back to thank Jesus for what He had done…

If the key to thanksgiving is not recognition of need nor obedience, what is it then?

III. The key to thanksgiving is submissive discipleship (verses 15-19).

a. The desire of the submissive disciple is to glorify God (compare verses 15 and 18).

How do you glorify God? In this situation, the man glorified God with a loud voice. Here is a man who because of his disease has possibly not hollered for months. Now he comes back with excitement in his voice. He’s having what they used to call in the Southern camp meetings, a shoutin’ fit. He could have sung a Psalm but he probably didn’t know any. The Samaritans didn’t believe in the Psalms but only in the first five books of Moses. What exactly he shouted out, the Bible does not give specifics, except to say that he glorified God.

I would like you to look at the following verse in Luke 14:10. This verse illustrates what it means to glorify someone. “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” This leper wanted to put God at the head of the table and He recognized that Jesus as the Messiah was the direct representative from God. Those other fellows looked to the priest or to the temple but this man, a Samaritan, somehow knew that He needed to go to Jesus in order to give God glory, in order to put God at the head of the table.

Do you want to be thankful this thanksgiving? Lift Jesus higher, put Him at the head table in your life. He is trustworthy. Would you trust Him today?

b. The proof of discipleship is a faith that enables the disciple to do the impossible (compare verses 14 and 19 with verses 3-4).

In verses 3-5, Luke discusses the impossibility of forgiving others. It is only possible (verse 6) through faith. Think of the similarly impossible things that this Samaritan leper did because of his faith.

• He obeyed the command to show himself to the high priest. Just to go to Jerusalem to the temple where the priest was, was a renunciation of everything that this man had been brought up to believe. He was taught to worship God on Mount Gerizim which overlooked Shechem, the first place where Abraham had built an altar to God (Genesis 12:6-7). Now, this man by heading to Jerusalem was at least in action acknowledging what Jesus had taught the Samaritan woman in John 4, “Salvation is of the Jews.”

• This leper, however, came back and glorified God. He recognized that Jesus was of God and came back to thank Him, even though Jesus was a Jew and Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes misery and pain overcome racial and religious prejudice but faith in Christ overcomes the racial and religious prejudices that even misery and pain cannot overcome.

Luke, the writer of this gospel uses this story to emphasize a point that he makes repeatedly in this gospel. This man, even though he was a Samaritan and not a Jew, had a faith that the others did not have. True, the nine had faith. When Jesus commanded them to go to the priest, although they also were not yet healed, they went. This obviously took some type of faith. “…(T)here are more that believe than there are that praise…There faith was about the leprosy and, according to their faith, so it was unto them… (Spurgeon)” but there was a difference in the faith of the tenth man. This phrase “made well” or “saved” can refer to either physical or spiritual healing. This man had a spiritual healing that the others did not experience. His faith made him thankful. True faith goes further than asking for help. True faith results in glorifying God, in thanksgiving to God.

We find this pattern repeated several times in the gospels. Someone asks Jesus for mercy and He recognizes that in their request, faith is active. Faith isn’t active in everyone who prays for help. James 4:1-3 describes a group of people who even when they prayed, received nothing because true faith was not active in their prayers, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” You may ask, “How do you know that these people had an inactive faith?” When you look back at chapter 2:14-18, you can see how we know. These same people are being spoken to in that passage.

14 ¶ What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe––and tremble!
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

You see, the first nine had faith but their works were limited to going to the priest in obedience to Christ’s command. The tenth man showed his faith by his works.

You might ask, Robert, what does it mean to have faith in Christ? It is simple, turn away from anything and everything and turn to Jesus Christ, who died for your sin. You are so spiritually sick that you are as good as dead. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. Trust Him and only Him and learn the true key to thanksgiving.

Jesus’ teaching about thanksgiving (A Thanksgiving Sermon) November 15, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Luke, Religion, Sermons, Sovereignty, Thanksgiving.

Luke 10:17-23

INTRODUCTION: If you were God, for what blessings would you want people to be MOST thankful? Would you want them to be thankful for their material possessions? for their families? perhaps for the talents and the opportunities that you have given them? or the country in which they have their heritage? For what would you prefer that people be thankful? Of course, God wants us to be thankful in everything and does not limit our thankfulness but it is interesting that Jesus tried to give some perspective to the disciples’ thanksgiving here in Luke 10.

I. Jesus taught that joy in and thanksgiving for our spiritual inheritance is superior to thanksgiving for our spiritual gifts (verses 17-20).

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus sent out seventy men who, in addition to the twelve, were willing to meet the qualifications for discipleship outlined in Luke 9:57-62: (1) live for heavenly things; (2) recognize the urgency and priority of the call to discipleship; and (3) maintain their focus only on the things of Christ. These seventy men were sent out to preach (Luke 9:60), i.e. announce or declare the kingdom of God. They were to go before Him (verse 1), proclaiming the gospel of the Christ (verses 9 and 11). In addition, He granted them the spiritual gift of healing (verse 9). When they returned to Jesus, they reported that they had been able to exceed expectations. Not only had they proclaimed the gospel and healed people in the villages that had accepted the gospel, they reported that they had been able to exercise the spiritual gift of exorcism, that is, the casting out of demons (verse 17). This was unexpected and it was no doubt exhilarating. It filled them with joy to be able to perform such a mighty miracle.

a. They are not, however, to rejoice in this spiritual gift that God has given them. Jesus, after acknowledging that this ability and protection to overcome Satan’s forces came directly from Him (verses 18-19), told them that thanksgiving is to be rooted in our heavenly citizenship and not in our spiritual success and/or abilities. In other words, first and foremost of importance is not the performance of confirming works but rather your entrance into the kingdom of heaven through faith in the gospel of Christ.

This is the answer to the world’s preoccupation with doing something rather than being according to Henry Blackaby, “A time will come when the doing will be called for, but we cannot skip the relationship. The relationship with God must come first.””

Chuck Swindoll writes about an old survey, “In 1953, a senior class in Houston, Texas was asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ Several said: ‘Make a million bucks.’ Other answers included, ‘…play professional football’, ‘own my own race car and win the Indy 500’, ‘rob Chase Manhattan Bank and escape to Fiji’, ‘finish medical school and have a practice in Honolulu’, ‘marry a rich movie star and live in Beverly Hills’, ‘sing at the Met’, and the infamous ‘live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.’ The problem however is not how they answered the question but the question they were asked. Instead of what do you want to do, they should have been asked about what they want to be.” That was the emphasis of Jesus in His response to the seventy.

b. We receive heavenly citizenship through faith in the gospel of Christ (verses 8-12). There is a lot of emphasis in the church today on spiritual gifts and not just in the charismatic churches. It is a misplaced emphasis. We need more of an emphasis on faith in the gospel of Christ.

Many people seem to think that spiritual gifts and works make us acceptable to God. Matthew 7:22-23 explains why spiritual gifts and works do not make you a child of God. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

John 1:12 tells us how to become a child of God, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

So Jesus contrasts the joy of spiritual gifts with the joy of the spiritual inheritance. Now most of us have never cast out demons or performed miraculous healings. Our spiritual gifts may be more mundane but the principle applies just the same. Look down in verses 38-42, where the distracted exercise of a mundane spiritual gift is contrasted with choosing to hear Christ’s words.

The story of Mary and Martha at first appears to be just tacked on to this chapter but when one realizes the lessons found earlier in Luke, it certainly makes sense. Jesus came into a village that apparently received Him, specifically in the house of Martha. Jesus practiced here exactly what He had commanded the seventy in verses 5-8. Martha, however, did not choose to rejoice in her salvation as Mary did but rather to fret and fuss over the preparations of the meal for Jesus Christ.

It is not that Martha did not receive Christ or that the seventy did not believe Christ that Jesus is responding to but rather they are focusing on the wrong thing: the seventy on the spiritual gift of exorcism, Martha on the spiritual gift of service. Jesus is bringing them back to a focus on Himself.

II. Jesus was thankful that His Father revealed the truth of the gospel to those who had no advantage in themselves (verses 21-24).

Christ’s thankfulness and joy in verse 21 refers not just to the reception of the villages and towns of the gospel of Christ but also to the faith of the seventy that produced such discipleship as that which they have just shown. The reason for His joy over the disadvantaged disciple is the disciples’ faith in the gospel of the kingdom.

It could be that Jesus is using a bit of sarcasm when talking about the wise and prudent. One of those wise and prudent men is introduced in verse 25. He was a lawyer, that is, a scribe who was an expert in the law of God. Jesus recognized his expertise when he answered correctly in verse 27, how to inherit eternal life. Yet this man had a spiritual blind spot which is revealed in verse 29 when he asked the self-justifying question, “And who is my neighbor?” This man understood the law, he even understood the spiritual character of the kingdom of God but he knew that he was lacking.

These seventy, however, were neither experts nor teachers. They were, however, men of great faith. Look at what Jesus demanded of them in 10:57-62. Only men of faith would forsake their homes, their families, and their social obligations to tell total strangers that the Messiah is coming. Some villages rejected them and they went on to another. Other villages accepted them. Why? Because God had revealed to them Jesus Christ and they had believed and now were telling others about Him.

a. This knowledge is not found by religious skill or religious intelligence (verses 21-24). Luther, in the last sermon he ever preached, describes the religiously skilled and religiously intelligent as those who try to put the bridle on the wrong end of the horse. Now I do not know a lot about horses but I suspect that will not work!

This lawyer had religious skill. He was a trained scribe. He had religious intelligence. Not only had he hand-copied the Old Testament many times, he had advanced to the place where he had understood its message but when the fulfillment of that message came on the stage, he did not recognize Him.

b. This knowledge comes only through Jesus Christ (verse 22). Verse 22 may be a bit confusing but if you read it carefully, it is clear that there is only one way to come to the Father, that is, to God, through Jesus Christ. Verse 21 reminds us that God found it good to give those without religious skill and training and intelligence an advantage through their knowledge of and faith through Jesus Christ.

i. He helps the helpless. Matthew records in a parallel passage how that Jesus does this. Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all you who are heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls.” The ignorant Galilean fisherman, the women who were looked down upon, the tax collectors and sinners who gladly heard Jesus, these people came to Jesus while the lawyers and the scribes and the Pharisees and the priests stood and looked down their noses at the One who would have gladly saved them from their sin, if only they would have received Him.

Look at the next chapter, Luke 11:52. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” These men had all the advantages but rather than accept Christ with the faith of the helpless they rejected Christ and hindered others who would have trusted Christ, if not for their confidence in the religious lawyers, scribes, and teachers.

ii. He teaches the ignorant. How? Verse 23-24 tells us how. He shows them who He is. It is one thing to teach, “I am the Messiah.” It is quite another to prove it through Messianic works like healing, exorcism, and resurrections. I think that is why Romans 5:8 is one of my favorite verses. It says that God showed His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” His death on the cross teaches through showing and proving His love for us. The question is this. Will you believe?

There is a Persian proverb that says, “He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child; teach him.” God wants to teach you, not shun you. Turn to Christ today. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…and you will find rest for your souls.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

…He will find the self-righteous saying grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan November 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Events, Grace Bible Church, Thanksgiving.
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Adult Sunday School – two classes are being offered: (1) Sickness, Healing, and the Bible, and (2) Reaching the World as A Church (Biblical Evangelism).

November 8 – Sunday Morning Sermon from Luke 18:1-30, “If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day”

November 15 – Operation Christmas Child’s “Parade of Shoeboxes”

November 15 – Thanksgiving Great Night Service at 6 p.m. with refreshments afterwards. Come and thank the Lord with us on this special evening.

November 18 – First of three sessions for teens and preteens on “The Church, Baptism, and Why we Believe What we Believe.” Wednesday evening from 7:15-8:00 p.m.

November 25 – No Wednesday service on Thanksgiving Eve.

Thanksgiving Sermon (Thanksgiving in Everything) November 23, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Professor John Grassmick of Dallas Seminary has called the sixteen short commands found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 “16 exercises for body building.” Ray Pritchard calls them “Christian Aerobics.” What we want to do this morning is look at a few of these and understand what it is that God has commanded us to do that builds us up spiritually, that make us spiritually fit.

Since it is the thanksgiving season, we are going to focus on the last eight, which are centered around the command to be thankful and on how that these things are God’s will for our lives.

God’s will affects how we spend our time (verses 16-17). In other words, God wants us to spend our time developing certain spiritual habits.

We are to spend our time rejoicing (verse 16). This is a command that touches two areas of our life: how we feel and when we feel it. We are to make it a habit of our life to rejoice. This verse and none of these verses imply that we 24-7 are to be doing something but all of these commands are intended to be habits that we are to integrate into our lives. Now this is very important. I do not always feel like rejoicing but I am commanded to make it a habit of my life to rejoice. I am glad though that I am not alone in this. Paul tells in 2 Corinthians 6:4, 10a how that habitually rejoicing even during extended sorrow is not only possible but it is also a characteristic of someone who ministers to others.

How do you make rejoicing a habit? First, of all you need something to rejoice in. Twice Jesus commanded his disciples to rejoice and he told them why they should rejoice.

In Luke 10:20 we find that Jesus wants us to be thankful for who we are and not for any spiritual gift that we may have. Jesus sent out seventy men to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come to earth. These men are able to exceed expectations. In verse 9 when Jesus sent them out, he commanded them to heal the sick. When they return in verse 17 to report to Jesus on their work they are rejoicing because they have not only been able to preach and heal but they have been given power to cast out demons. They are not, however, to rejoice in this but rather that their name is written in heaven (verse 20).

In other words, first and foremost of importance is not your spiritual gifts but rather your spiritual relationship to God. The problem in this world is that most people don’t know how to become a child of God. The do not understand that they must receive Christ. They must accept as the word of God the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

After you have become a child of God, there is a second reason why you can rejoice. Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:12 that we should rejoice because even when we are persecuted, we can look forward to a great reward in heaven. Our rejoicing is based on heavenly things not on earthly things.

Now after you know what it is that you should be rejoicing in, how do you make that a daily and a nightly habit? The answer is in verses 17-18a…

We are to spend our time praying and thanking God (verse 17-18a). Now this is not a new concept to us. In Philippians 4:4-7, a few months ago we saw that focusing on prayer and thanksgiving will produce a life that habitually rejoices in God. In this case we see that one good habit produces another. If you want to rejoice, habitual prayer and thanksgiving will produce the habit of rejoicing. You see praying without ceasing does not mean always having the spirit and attitude of prayer. I think we should always have the spirit and attitude of prayer. That is very commendable but the command here is pray habitually – pray repeatedly and often. In Romans 1:9 Paul tells the Romans, I pray for you without ceasing. Certainly, Paul does not mean, “I do not pray for anyone else” but rather, I pray for you often, over and over again I pray for you.

Prayer and thanksgiving are spiritual habits and they are the most basic of spiritual habits. It is easy for us to make excuses to neglect these spiritual habits but if we do we will be spiritually weak. For years I made the excuse that I really did not need to have a specific time of prayer because I prayed all through the day and was always in a spirit of prayer. When, however, God began to work in my life and teach me to pray, it was then that I first realized how spiritually flabby I was. I dressed well spiritually and thought that I covered up my weakness well but God was not fooled and those who knew me best were not fooled. I needed, just as you need, as time of spiritual prayer and thanksgiving.

God’s will affects how we make our decisions (verses 19-20). It is possible for us to be in the habit of making wrong decisions. God wants us to break that habit. Verses 19-20 tells us how to break the habit of making wrong decisions spiritually.

We are to listen to the Spirit (verse 19). Now your outline has the phrase, “walk in the Spirit.” This is certainly part of breaking the habit of making wrong decisions spiritually but as we look at the verse, we realize that we are looking at something more basic than living the spiritual life. We are talking about listening to the Spirit. We are talking about being sensitive to what God is wanting to do in our lives. You see, the Spirit of God is always working and He wants to change us, to shape us, to transform us into spiritually strong believers but He cannot do it if we are not willing to listen. When I coached junior high basketball in Germany, I had a number of fellows of various skill levels who played for me. There were times when a player would begin exhibiting a bad habit in their play. During practice I would spend extra time with them, trying to show them what they needed to do, giving them extra practice to break those bad habits and instill new ones. Sometimes a kid would decide that he did not want to do what I said. He would hear what I would say but he would not listen and every time that happened the kid not only persisted in his bad habit but eventually ended up sitting on the bench because of the danger of that bad habit costing us the game. In the same way it is necessary that we listen to the Spirit of God. How do we do this?

By obeying God’s revealed will in His Word (verse 20). The text says do not despise prophecies. There actually two possibilities for meaning in this command. It could mean do not despise the spiritual gift of prophecy. However, based on the surrounding commandments, I believe the second possible meaning fits much better in the context. Do not despise the Word of God. Remember, most of the New Testament had not been written. These people lived in a day when prophecy was both common and necessary because the New Testament had hardly been begun much less completed. Paul wanted them to realize that they were responsible to obey prophecy.

Now what is prophecy. Prophecy in the Bible is not foretelling the future although it might include that. It is also not simply preaching and explaining the word of God. Prophecy is God’s will revealed to a human who then tells others what God has said. Now the last chapter of Revelation indicates that there is no more prophecy. God has closed for now the giving of His Word to others. But we have in the Old and New Testaments God’s revealed will and if you are going to be spiritually fit, you must read and endeavor to understand God’s Word. If prayer is the treadmill of spiritual exercise, God’s Word is the spiritual diet plan that God has given us to guarantee that we will be spiritually nourished. Both are equally necessary.

God’s will affects how we evaluate our environment (verses 21-22). We do not live carelessly (verse 21a). Now this grows out of the first two areas of spiritual training. When one is in the game it is necessary for the player to understand the situation he is in, to evaluate what should be done. These three commands tell us that we need to establish not only good practice habits but also good game habits.

Stay awake during the game. There is no time to rest. Now the word actually means to look at something that is genuine and probably refers back to these prophecies that are supposedly from God and the fact that these people need to carefully evaluate what is true and what is not. We need to do the same. We need to be very careful and evaluate everyone who claims to speak for God, to hear from God, or to explain what is in the Word of God, evaluate whether what they say is true.

When you find something that works, that is, truth, use it, apply it! Put your mark on it. People need to know that you live by God’s Word and not by your own wisdom or the wisdom of some man but by the Word of God.

When you find something that is false, that is evil, let it alone. Paul said in 2 Corinthians that we need to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Pay attention to what you read and listen to and watch and participate in and when you find evil, let it go, leave it alone.

This is an important part of our basic regimen of living God’s will. It especially, however, impacts how we give thanks (verse 18). “In everything” implies during every situation, with every difficult decision, and within the most evil of environments we can be thankful. Why? Because God is good to us. We do not deserve to be able to rejoice. We do not deserve to be able to pray to God. We do not deserve the Holy Spirit living within us, working in our lives. We do not deserve the will of God revealed to us through the Word of God. We do not deserve the privilege of discerning between what is right and wrong. But God has given us all of these spiritual blessings and we can in respect to every situation and in every circumstance and at all times be thankful to God.

Let me remind you again of the basis of all this, becoming a child of God, a son of God. That is you must trust Christ as your Savior as the only way to be saved from your sin. Without Christ you cannot rejoice because your future is bleak. Your prayers and thanksgiving, no matter how sincere cannot deepen a relationship that you do not have. You cannot listen to the Spirit of God because He does not live within you. You cannot respond to God’s Word properly because you are already in rebellion against God’s Word because you have not accepted Christ as Savior. And you cannot properly evaluate spiritual things because you are spiritually dead. In other words, you cannot exercise spiritually until you are living spiritually. You must be born again!

Next Week: Genesis 3:14-15; THE FIRST MENTION OF CHRISTMAS

Another Thanksgiving Sermon: Thankful for Receptive Hearts November 9, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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(1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 we learned that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were thankful for the transformed lives of the believers in Thessalonica. Paul emphasizes in 1:4 that the reason for their thanksgiving and the reason for the transformation was the knowledge that God was the one who had set the events in motion necessary for this transformation. We also saw the part that the lives of these three men played in making their message believable. Today we want to look a little closer at the Thessalonians themselves and how that they came to the place, as stated in 1:10, where they turned to God from idols. In other words, what happens in the heart of a person when they trust Christ and how is it that we can be thankful when someone’s heart is receptive to the word?

We can be united in our thanksgiving for the work of God’s word in the lives of others if we are active in proclaiming that word (verse 13). One obviously cannot be thankful for what one does not have. The farmer cannot be thankful for a bountiful harvest if he never plants a seed. In the same way, you cannot be thankful for receptive hearts if you have not planted the word.

We will decide next year whether to build a parsonage or not. The purpose of building this parsonage is that we might more effectively use our church building to reach boys and girls and men and women in the Castleton area with the gospel of Christ. We want to improve both evangelism and the training that is necessary to win others to Christ and train them in God’s word and work. In the years to come, our thanksgiving should not be for a parsonage but rather for those receptive hearts which we have reached because of the building of the parsonage. It is kind of like buying a tractor. The farmer who puts more emphasis on his tractor than on his harvest has his priorities wrong. His priority must be and always must be the harvest. That is what makes him a farmer.

For that reason, I want us to think about the harvest a bit. What is it that we want to see God do in the lives of the people of Castleton and the surrounding area.

We want them to hear the word. There are two words that could be translated “received” in this verse. This first one talks about hearing. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, we see Paul using this word in the same way. The Thessalonians received the message from Paul. In Romans 10, Paul puts it this way, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God and how shall they hear without a preacher…” If people are not willing to even listen, they will not have the opportunity to believe.

We not only want people to hear the word but we desire that they receive, that is, welcomed the word that they hear as from God. They recognized it as authoritative. Not just to be believed but also obeyed. It is not to be corrected but rather followed.

In the immediate context of these verse, the contents of the “word” is not elaborated. We know, as we saw last week from Acts 17, that the message concerned Jesus Christ. Paul in relation to this same message explains in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 both what the “word” is and also the significant difference between hearing and believing. The “word” is the death of Christ for my sins in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead. That is what one must both hear and welcome.

Anytime I approach this subject it is with fear and trembling but it is important for everyone of us to understand that there are those who are hear the word but do not welcome. Paul terms this in 1 Corinthians 15:2 as having believed in vain. Fortunately, he also tells us how to identify whether we have believed in vain or not. Those who truly welcome the word of the gospel are those who hold fast. Jesus used this same illustration in the parable of the sower. He tells about four different kinds of soil but only one bears fruit because it kept, that is, held fast what it had heard. All of the soils heard. Three of them even assented to the truth but only one welcomed it as the word of God and that was evident by the fruit which was produced.

The word has worked in our hearts. There is no energy crisis when it comes to the word of God, that is, the message of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is powerful, that is, it works with energy. In third grade science we learned that energy produces work. Something happens that is obvious and visual. You see the thanksgiving of these men was based on the hearing and the welcoming of the word and then the word itself working in the lives of these believers.

What was this work for which both these men and the believers in Christ could be thankful and which also united them. It was the endurance of suffering. These believers were united in their suffering for Christ (verse 14-16).

Their backgrounds were different (verse 14). The churches in Judea were made up mainly of Jews persecuted by the religious system of their day. The church in Thessalonica was a mixed group including according to 1:10 former idolators. They were persecuted also by both the Jewish establishment as well as the political rulers in their city. They were in a thriving metropolis while the Judean churches were scattered by persecution into a large region. There were reasons why they should not get along…

…but their Savior was the same (verses 14-15). 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 describes for us what it looks like when the word is received. One of the characteristics of receiving the word is that it is so precious that one is willing to suffer as a result. These people, however, not only regarded Jesus Christ as precious and valuable but they received him with joy and with changed lives. Notice a couple of phrases that describe for us the relationship of these people to Jesus.

Verse 14 points out that they were in Christ Jesus. When people trust Christ as Savior something significant happens. We become a part of Christ. He becomes everything to us. I am not talking about our attitude toward Him but rather our position in Him. He are no longer a part of this world but rather have our portion in Jesus Christ.

Verse 15 points out a second significant word. Jesus is Lord. Our unity in Christ is only apparent when He is Lord of our lives. When He is the one who determines our priorities and our lifestyle, when He is the one who determines our choices in life, then we have a unity with other believers who also obey the same master.

Let us not forget though that the forces of Satan are united (verses 15-16, 18). Now they may not be united politically or socially or financially or even religiously but they are united against the Lordship of Christ in their lives and will do whatever God allows to destroy those who welcome the word of God. To believe the gospel of Christ, implies that you are willing to accept the opposition that comes with that faith as well as willing to accept the damnation of those who oppose Christ.

Finally, we should notice that these people were not only united in thanksgiving and in suffering but Paul looked forward to the day when they would be united in Christ’s presence (verse 17-20).

Being united with those we have led to Christ is part of our hope. (This is illustrated for us by Paul’s comparison to the trio’s ministry among the Thessalonians as maternal in 2:7-8.)

New Thanksgiving Series from the Thessalonian Epistles (Thanksgiving Sermon on Transformed Lives) November 2, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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(1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12)

Paul and Silas and Timothy had spent only three weeks ministering in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-2). The impact of their message was so great that they were accused of turning the world upside down. The message they preached had transformed lives. Paul, writing on behalf of Silas and Timothy, is thankful for this transformation.

When we gather together during this time of year, there are five things for which most believers express thanksgiving. We are thankful for family, for good health, for material well-being, for political liberty, and even for the salvation which Christ was provided for us. How many of us are thankful for the transformation that is taking place in the lives of those with whom we come in contact? How many of us are even aware of any transformation taking place?

The Transformation in Thessalonica was the reason that these men were thankful. Something happened that even weeks after it happened, continued to fill their heart with thanksgiving.

As we look at this trio’s ministry in Thessalonica, we find that this transformation was a result of those listening to the gospel of Christ being persuaded of its truth (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5 with Acts 17:2-4a). They were persuaded because they saw this team’s example. In those three short weeks they examined their lives and saw that this message these men were preaching was a transforming message.

§ It was a transforming message because the power of the message was in the preachers. There is a sense in which the message itself was transformed. It was no longer a message of words but now it was a message of power, capable, able to transform. We quote the verse sometimes that my word will not return to me void. We forget though that God is talking through Isaiah about His promises to His people. He is not talking about evangelism. It does make a difference whether we believe and live the truth which we preach. When we do, God’s word is powerful to transformation. When we live an untransformed life, the gospel appears weak and incapable.

§ It was a transforming message because the Holy Spirit worked through the preaching. You see, the Holy Spirit is the means by which the gospel takes root in hearts. He is the one who takes the word and takes it through the mind into the inner being of man.

§ It was a transforming message because it was persuasive and assuring. The persuasion was complete, it was not temporary, it built confidence and assurance. That is why it resulted in a transformation of the Thessalonians.

We also find that this transformation resulted in a spiritual union with Paul and his team of missionary believers. They were joined or added to Paul and Silas (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6a with Acts 17:4b).

§ Paul points out that they knew what kind of men they were (1:5b). The Thessalonians knew what manner of men the three were. They were transformed men. They followed these transformed men and they themselves were transformed by the gospel of Christ.

§ They themselves became examples to others (1:7-10). They proclaimed the gospel and those who heard it began to tell others until soon around town, it was known the these three men were preaching a transforming gospel (1:8b-9a).

This transformation was confirmed by the opposition which arose against those who had been transformed. Not everyone was persuaded of the truth of the gospel and those who were not persuaded became envious and began to cause trouble (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6b with Acts 17:5-9). Because Paul did not spend a long time with them, he wrote an epistle. He had not had time to disciple them. He had not had time to explain to them everything that he knew. He wanted to encourage them in the midst of continued persecution That is one of the main reasons why he wrote 1 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5). In order to encourage them, he wrote to them and said, We are thankful for you all. This was not, however, simply a self esteem builder. Paul said, we continually, without ceasing, give thanks for you. In other words, it was the habit of this team of men be to thankful for the Thessalonians.

§ There was, however, specific times, when they especially were busy thanking God for these transformed individuals. Paul writes, “When we pray for you, we thank God concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 1:2b). These three missionaries prayed (the middle voice participle hear emphasizes those who were thanking God in a way that the next two participles do not). That is the focus of this phrase, these three men prayed for these people. The text implies that they prayed together at specific times and during those times they focused in prayer on the Thessalonians. They practiced corporate prayer.

I know that a lot of people do not like corporate prayer. It makes them uncomfortable. It is too intimate. It is too up close and personal. These men, however, are an example to us. One of the points of the first two chapters of this letter is that men and women like these are the type of people who make the gospel alive with their lives. People who pray for others and with others, thanking God for what He is doing in their lives, are the type of people God uses in His transformation work. They are the type of people whose message is powerful. They are the type of people whose message comes through the means of the Holy Spirit. They are the type of people whose message gives confidence and assurance to the hearts of their hearers.

§ When we remember the transformation that took place in your lives, we thank God for you (1 Thessalonians 1:3). When the time of prayer was over, they did not forget these people. They continued to be thankful for them in their thoughts. There is a significant difference in conscious thanksgiving and thankful thinking. Conscious thanksgiving puts all other things aside and says this is the time for important business. Thankful thinking is multitasking thanksgiving. Now there are some things that just do not fit well in a multitasking world and a time of thanksgiving is one of those things. But our thanksgiving for transformed lives does not have to be limited to those conscious, focused moments. In fact, this is where the reality of thanksgiving is proven. As important as times of prayer are, prayer can be faked. Jesus pointed that out Himself. Only you can know if you are truly thankful when God does a transforming work in the life of someone else. What is it that was constantly in the thoughts of these three men?

1. They remembered what faith had worked in the Thessalonians (“work of faith”). I find it difficult to imagine those three weeks in Thessalonica. Not only had Paul and Silas and Timothy demonstrated to the Thessalonians the quality of their salvation through their lives but the Thessalonians themselves had been so obviously transformed by their faith in Christ that it had made a permanent impression on their thoughts.

2. They remembered what burdens love had brought upon the Thessalonians (“labor of love”). Now faith had accomplished a transformation in the lives of the Thessalonians. Love, though, is a harder taskmaster than faith. Their love cost them. It caused them trouble. It brought on them persecution and separation from loved ones. In those few short weeks, these men had seen what kind of trouble and heartache love for Christ and love for His people had brought into their lives. Look back again at Acts 17.

3. They remembered what the Thessalonians hope in Christ had enabled them to endure (“patience of hope in Jesus Christ”). The Thessalonians had learned that the end was coming and they were looking forward to that day when they would stand before God their Father with all the trials that their love for Christ had brought into their life in the past and their future wholly wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. It was that hope that enabled to endure the trials that their love had caused.

§ Because we know that God has chosen you to work within your heart (1 Thessalonians 1:4). They knew that this transformation was a God thing. Yes, they had been effective tools but God was the one who had loved them and God was the one who had elected them for this transformation. You see, the emphasis here of the word “election” is not just on the ultimate destination of these believers but also on the transformation that has taken place within them.

Obviously, the reason behind their thankfulness for the transformation of the Thessalonians lay with their passion for the gospel. Do you have a passion for the gospel? If you do, it will change you, your life, and the way that you view and interact with others. Look at the cross, recognize what Christ did for you on that cross, and let yourself be transformed.

A Thanksgiving Sermon (Why Three Jewish Thanksgiving Festivals) October 26, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Leviticus, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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Although I have not been able to verify this with 100% certainty, it appears that the Jewish culture that was established by Moses in the wilderness is the only culture to have multiple harvest festivals within the year. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was held in early spring in conjunction with the Passover and celebrated among other things the barley harvest. Then fifty days later in late spring the wheat harvest was celebrated by the Feast of Weeks (the Feast on which we are focusing this morning). Finally, at the end of the fall the Feast of Tabernacles was held to celebrate the final harvest before the winter begins.

I want us to understand this morning why God through Moses established three thanksgiving feasts. As far as we are concerned, a thanksgiving festival at the end of the year, like our American Thanksgiving seems to be sufficient. There is not a clamor for another time to give thanks among us, irregardless of our religiosity. Certainly, here in Vermont it would be possible to have a thanksgiving feast in late winter when the sugaring season starts. We could also have one, say in July when the various berries are being harvested. But we do not. One thanksgiving feast is enough for us, even for us Christians.

It was not, however, enough for God. Today we want to understand of the thanksgiving feasts and also focus on understanding what God demands from us as believers in Jesus Christ, as illustrated by these thanksgiving feasts.

God wanted the heads of the households to present themselves before him three times a year (Compare verses 18-21 with Exodus 34:22-27). These three times had several things in common. They were intended to celebrate a harvest. They were also intended as a time of free will offering to God based on how God had blessed them.

Psalm 84 illustrates for us the attitude that these people were to have when they came before God.

1 ¶ To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!

2 My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young––Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You. Selah

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.

7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.

8 ¶ O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

9 O God, behold our shield, And look upon the face of Your anointed.

10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

As you can see, these three times of presentation before the Lord were intended to be times to be anticipated and intended to be times when faith in God was expressed in a special way. Remember, these men were not allowed to enter the tabernacle or the temple. The reason that these times were exciting, was because they had the opportunity to sacrifice together to their God. The particular feast that we are looking at this morning is the Feast of Weeks. There are three types of animal sacrifices that were associated with this feast that help us to understand what it means to present yourself before God.

The first offering mentioned is the burnt offering (verse 18) with which they would consecrate themselves before God. This is a general sacrifice for the purpose of dedicating yourself or something to God. It was most often offered with a grain offering and a drink offering. It was intended to be a sweet aroma to the LORD. This offering reminds us that true thanksgiving goes hand in hand with dedication to God, with submission to His will. Psalm 116:16-17 says, “O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD.” It is one thing to be grateful, it is quite another to submit yourself to the one who has shown you kindness. When someone shows a kindness toward me, I appreciate it. I say, “Thank you.” Perhaps I will even seek a way to return the favor. This goes much deeper though. This is someone who recognizes God’s kindness toward them as well as His Lordship over them and they submit themselves to God. If your thanksgiving to God is not characterized by submission and dedication to God, then you are not thankful in the way that God demands.

Then there is the sin offering, given to make atonement for sin (verse 19a). There is a sense in which that all the sacrifices were a recognition of one’s own sin and provision for forgiveness but the sin offerings were sacrifices specifically offered so that one might have forgiveness of sin. This is the primary picture that we have in the New Testament, that of the sacrifice that Christ paid for our sin on the cross. He died as the sacrifice for my sin. He is my sin offering. Ps 107:17-22, “(17) Fools, because of their transgressions and because of their iniquities were afflicted. (19) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble and He saved them out of their distresses. (22) Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.” Someone who refuses to acknowledge their sinfulness and God’s provision of forgiveness cannot be thankful because they have not received God’s blessing. They may have a good harvest. They may have the blessings of the earth. All that does is condemn them because, according to Romans 1, they take from the one who created them and then worship another, descending into all manners of sin and evildoing. It is essential, for a man to truly be thankful, to deal with his sin problem, otherwise, he cannot present himself before God. Otherwise, God will refuse him and cast him out.

Finally, there is the peace offering, give in order to thank God for His blessings (two loaves of leavened bread with a peace offering, verses 19b-20). The peace offering in the Old Testament was not for forgiveness of sin, nor was it as a sacrifice of commitment to God, but rather a sacrifice that signified a close relationship with God that is going well. It was often given in answer to prayer or as a payment of a special vow that had been given to God. The emphasis of the peace offering was thanksgiving to God. God wants us to come before Him, not only as submissive servants and not only as sinners in need of forgiveness but also as His friends, His children, His body, His people and the sheep of His pasture. That is the peace offering. All three of these offerings were demanded of the one who would present himself before God.

God continually wants to be the priority in the lives of His people (Leviticus 23:15-17, 22). God could have said, “Once a year is enough. I know your heart. I know if you are truly consecrated, truly forgiven, and truly thankful.” Instead God says, “I know you. I know how easily you get distracted from your devotion to me. I know how quickly you fall into sin. I understand how easily you come to depend upon yourselves. Come to me and let me remind you of the priority I should have in your life. This is illustrated in a number of ways but I want to mention just two.

Both the special (unleavened) and the commonplace (leaven) of our lives belongs to God (Compare verse 17 with verse 6). There is the mistaken idea that leaven in the Bible always speaks of sin. Obviously, from this verse, that is not true. During the time of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, leaven was taken out of the houses in order to remind the people how that God had delivered them in haste from the land of Egypt. At the Feast of Weeks, God orders something quite different. He says, this time celebrate with leaven. The special unique things in our lives come from God and the ordinary, mundane things do also. Those things to which we hold great significance and which mean much to us belong to God as well as those little things that everyone has and we put little value on, God has given them to us also and those things belong to Him. There is nothing in your life that does not belong to God. We should live that way.

When God is a priority in our lives, others will be blessed as a result (verse 22). When everything we have belongs to God, then we will have no problem sharing with others because what we have belongs to Him. That is the purpose of the gleaning of the fields by the orphans and the widows and the stranger. This applies though to much more than what we own and earn. It applies to our strength. My strength belongs to God for me to do His will. My time belongs to God to invest in Him and in His work. My children, both earthly and spiritual, belong to God for me to bring them in fellowship with Him. Tonight we will remind ourselves again that children are a blessing from the Lord and that we, not just as parents, but as a church have a responsibility to give our best to the children in our church and in our community and around the world. Why have none of our men volunteered to pray for our Awana program? I hope it is because I have not communicated it well. I trust that it is not because God is not a priority in our lives. If you regularly attend this church, you should be here tonight, if for no other, to remind yourself that you show the priority of God in your life by how much of your time and money and strength and interest you invest in those for whom Christ died.

INVITATION: Let us present ourselves before God this morning. Are you thankful for His blessings great and small? Are you thankful for answered prayer? Are you thankful for the promises that God has kept on your behalf? Have you given Him your life as His submissive servant? Are you consecrated, dedicated, committed to making God a priority in your life no matter what the cost may be? If not, present yourself before Him now, confess your sin, and make the changes that He is demanding in your heart at this moment.

There are some of you who cannot present yourself before God because your sins have not been paid for. God demands payment for sin and Jesus Christ died to provide that payment. Someone has to pay. For you there are only two choices: Jesus Christ on the cross or yourself in hell. Which will it be? Will you trust Christ for salvation. There is no other way. You cannot be good enough. You cannot be perfect and that is God’s standard. Jesus Christ lived perfect and died perfect so that He could be the perfect sin offering for you. Will you accept Him in faith today?


Thanksgiving Sermon from Ezra 9 and 10 November 25, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Confession, Ezra, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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Ezra 10:6-14

INTRODUCTION: As we leave the Thanksgiving season, we want to look back one more time at the word “thanksgiving.” The word that often is translated in the Old Testament as “thanksgiving” or “praise” is found in verses 1 and 11 of Ezra 10. It is translated, however, in these cases with the word “confession.” “At first glance these meanings appear unrelated” (Vine). What is the relationship between confession and thanksgiving?



I knew a fellow once who believed very strongly in confession. This man had a horrible temper. He treated his family badly. He had a filthy mouth talking about things that even today you would not hear on television. He hated the church. He often made fun of Christians. He was a what one might call a working drunk. Every night though, according to his own testimony, before he went to bed, he would confess his sins to God, settle his account, so to speak, and make sure that he was covered by God.

Obviously, he is an extreme case but I am afraid that he is not that much different from most of us. We think of confession as a listing of sins, “…a moralistic, autobiographical catalogue of sins– infractions of a legal code…” (Vine), and in return for that listing of sins we get some sort of favor from God. We look at it as filling out a job application for God and we had better make sure we list our whole criminal record, otherwise God will find out and will get us in some way or the other. As we look at this word more closely, I trust that you will understand more fully what confession truly is, and how that we might integrate it into our lives in the way that God intended for us.


The concept “confession” can be described by the phrase “to say the same thing as another, i.e., to agree with” (Strongs #3670). This may involve a confession of sin but there are a number of other things that can be confessed and not all confession is to God.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” We find a similar statement in Luke 12:8, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” This is not a confession of sin but a confession of relationship between those who believe and Christ himself.

In Acts 23:8, we find that the Pharisees confessed the resurrection even though many of them did not confess Jesus Christ. In other words, they believed something and agreed with that doctrine.

In fact, only 5 out 41 times is confession in the New Testament related to sin and four of those times are the confession of sin publicly. Although it is not wrong to confess your sins privately before God in your prayer life, you do not find that done very much in the New Testament. The only time I am aware of is in the Lord’s Prayer when Christ teaches that we should ask for forgiveness of sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Sin is taken very seriously but what is normally emphasized is repentance and not the listing of our sins.

God wants a lot more than a simple listing of our bad deeds. He desires repentance, a change of mind and direction, and confession, an agreement with him about our sin. I’m afraid that what we usually call confession is that we in our hearts plead “no contest” rather than plead “guilty” to our sin and we hope that because of that the judge will somehow let us off for good behavior.


Spurgeon put it this way in his sermon “CONFESSION OF SIN ILLUSTRATED– PSA. 32:5”. “…I would remind you that thousands of those who call themselves “miserable sinners” in our public services, if they were called to plead before the bar of God would have the effrontery to say “Not Guilty.” They might not use the words, very probably they would use terms, having the opposite meaning, but their heart-plea would be, “not guilty.”…We have heard of a woman who readily allowed that she was a sinner; “O yes, sir, we are all sinners…” But when the visitor sat down and opened the book, and pointing to the commandment, said, “Have you ever had any other God save the Lord?” She did not how that she ever had. “Had she ever taken God’s name in vain?” “O dear no, sir, I never did anything so wicked.” Each precept was explained, and she very positively claimed that she had not broken it. She had not violated the Sabbath; she had not killed anybody; she had not committed adultery; she had not borne false witness, or coveted anything; she was altogether, in detail, innocent, though in the gross she was quite willing to say as other people, “Oh, yes! I am a sinner, of course, sir, we are all sinners!” which, being interpreted, means, “I am ready to say anything you like to put into my mouth, but I do not believe a syllable of it.” The inward speech of the unconverted man is, “I am not guilty.” Ask the unhumbled transgressor, “Art thou worthy of God’s wrath?” and his proud heart replies, “I am not.” “Art thou worthy to be cast away for ever from God’s presence on account of sin?” and the unbroken, uncontrite soul replies, “I am not. I am no thief, nor adulterer, nor extortioner; I have not sinned as yon publican has done. I thank God that I am not as other men are,” Man pleads Not Guilty, and yet all the while within his heart, so proud and boastful, there may readily be discerned abundant evidence of abounding sin. The leprosy is white upon his unclean brow, and yet the man claims to be sound and whole. If there were no other evidence against us, the very pride which boasts of innocence would be sufficient to convict us of sin, and will be so when we are taught right reason by the Holy Spirit.” (from Spurgeon’s Encyclopedia of Sermons)


You are probably now asking yourself, what then does confession have to do with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a confession that what God is doing is the best and only way. True confession of sin and true thanksgiving both recognize the same thing. God’s way is the best and only way. His perspective is the only accurate perspective. Look at Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks <3670> to His name.” Those two words translated “giving thanks” are the word “confession.” True thanksgiving is agreeing with God about who He is and what He is done. That is why we can give thanks during the difficult times, because we agree with God that what He is doing, no matter what it may be and no matter how little we may understand what He is doing, it must be right and just and good.


Ezra 10 begins in verse one with Ezra weeping and confessing. We find the content of his confession in the previous chapter, Ezra 9:5-15. Let’s look at what Ezra was agreeing with God about, what He was confessing.

He was confessing, agreeing to, the guilt of himself and his people (verses 6-7a, see also verses 10-15). None of us sin in isolation. Ezra identified himself with his people. He knew that he was not guilty of the exact sin to which he was confessing but that is not the point of confession. Confession is agreeing with God about sin and your sin.

He was also confessing, agreeing to, the justness of the judgment of God (verses 7b-8a and 13-14). Notice that Ezra in his prayer did not directly ask for anything. There is no petition, only confession. He does not even ask for mercy. He does not say to God, “Look how sad I am, look at how repentant I am, how great my sense of sin is.” He does not expect mercy because of his show of repentance. What Ezra is doing here is drawing close to God by seeing himself and his people from God’s perspective and doing what he can to bring his people with him to see that same perspective.

Finally, he was confessing, agreeing to, the cause of their good fortune, God’s relationship to His people (verses 8-9 and 15). This is a relationship of mercy, a relationship of covenant, a relationship of justice, where God determines how things should be and it is our responsibility to step in time. It is our part to conform, to agree, to confess, to submit ourselves to God. In that sense, confession is the highest form of worship. We are agreeing with God, with who He is, and with what He does.


Hope (verse 2). True confession does not result in depression. True confession does not result in discouragement. Why? Because true confession is not just a confession of sin and guilt but a confession of the character of God. There is hope to be found in the character of God.

Spurgeon said once that a lesson we need to learn about confession is that “the fact of sinnership is no need to despair.” Now the reason there is hope is not because of the guilty plea. A true confession of sin can be boiled down to one word, “Guilty!” Sometimes I have confessed to a wrongdoing and I said, “Guilty, but…!” Why? I’m looking for hope in that second word because there is no hope in the word “guilty”. Agreeing with God about my sinfulness and the justice of my sentence gives me no hope. My only “…hope is in the Lord, who gave Himself for me and paid the price for all my sin on Calvary’s tree.” In other words, a confession to a relationship to God is the only basis for hope. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

Commitment (verse 3). When you agree with God about your sin, about yourself, about Him, about His plan, about His Son, you then come to the place where commitment is demanded from you. The evidence of the reality of your confession is seen when you commit to obedience to Christ and His Word.

Action (verse 4). It is possible to make an outward commitment without following up and doing what you have committed yourself to do. True confession produces hope, it produces commitment, but it also produces action. “The knowledge of sinnership leads to right action” (Spurgeon).


That does not mean that the changes are easy. Some were opposed to the action resulting from this confession (verse 15) and you may have some opposition to acting on your confession to God. Some of the circumstances around the commitment these people made were very difficult (verses 10-13) and we know that later some of the people fell back into the same sin (Nehemiah 13). Ezra and Nehemiah, which may originally have been one book, revisit this theme repeatedly. Nehemiah 1 opens with Nehemiah confessing the sins of his people and the greatness of his God and committing himself to doing whatever God desired him to do and then acting on that commitment.


Recognize that true thanksgiving involves not just being happy for what you have but recognizing the reality of your blessings. We do not deserve one blessing. We are hopeless in this life because of sin but God in His mercy has provided hope for us through Jesus Christ.

Second, if you are a believer, start working on your confession. Find out what God says about your sin and agree with that in your heart. If God says your sin is an abomination to him, think of your sin as an abomination and not as a habit or addiction or quirk or personality trait. But don’t stop there. If God says that He is merciful to you through Jesus Christ believe Him and depend on Him for salvation. If God says that He loves you and will care for you in Christ Jesus, believe Him. If God says that there is no other word from Him except for what He has revealed in this book, then turn to this book and no where else to learn from God. If God says that Jesus Christ is God, not a just a man, but also a man, believe God and do not look for any other information. If God says that you need to confront those who you have offended or who have offended you, do it. Don’t look for an excuse to get out of it. If God says you need to love that person that gets on your nerves in this church, before you two leave this building, give them a word of kindness or encouragement. You say, people will think I am doing it just because you preached on this subject. Isn’t that the point? Is the point of preaching to entertain you or to drive you to God and obedience to Him? Is the point of singing His praises to make your worship enjoyable or are you changed by the songs that you sing? Is the point of giving an offering to support the church or to model the example of your Savior? Are you today because that is what you do on Sunday morning or is your church attendance a result of your confession before God?


If you haven’t trusted Christ as Savior, God wants you to confess also. Romans 10:8-11 says, “…The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” {#De 30:14} (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” {#Isa 28:16}”

You see confession and faith are entwined together. This confession is not just the mouthing of words but the result true faith in Christ. The Bible reveals Christ as the Son of God who came and became man to die for your sin. He rose from the dead and ascended to His Father. If you are to be forgiven of sin, you must agree with God not only about your sin but also that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for your sin is the only hope of salvation. You cannot do this. You must trust Christ to save you.

God sees you as a condemned sinner without hope but God loves you. He sent His Son, Jesus to die for you, to shed His blood for you. Will you trust Him today? Will you confess Him today? He will transform you, He will cleanse you through the blood of Jesus Christ. Believe on Him today.