The Savior You Need

jesus

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare this article.

If you were asked, “What kind of savior do you want?”  How would you reply?  Some would question whether they need a savior at all.  Many people assume they’re good enough to deserve a place in heaven or deny that heaven exists at all.

Biblically, we know that is nonsense.  No one is good enough, because God’s standard is perfection and none of us can live up to that.  We all need a savior as human nature alone keeps us out of heaven.

In an article entitled, “Why do I need a Savior?” Eric Segalini compared human nature with the famous literary character Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.  After a disturbing dream, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote feverishly for days to complete the book.  Segalini sees the dual nature of the title character as illustrating the dual nature of every human being.

Dr. Jekyll is a symbol of the polite, public side of most people while Mr. Hyde is the private side that we want to “hide” from others.  You recall that the story revolves around the good doctor’s experiments leading to a formula that split his personality and transformed him physically.

Eventually, the brutal Mr. Hyde committed murder.  His evil alter ego showed up at bad times and fought Dr. Jekyll for dominance.  It was Hyde that murdered, but Jekyll was no less guilty.  The two personalities shared the guilt, and that’s how we can show everyone needs a Savior without having to open our Bible.  Every person with enough sense to be honest must concede to having their own Mr. Hyde.

Segalini concludes: “Instead of leaving us to the harsh demands of justice, Jesus stepped in on our behalf. He extended both justice and mercy. He offered to be our Savior.

“If we come to Jesus in surrender, sick by our sin and certain of justice’s demands, He will take our place.

“In exchange for our sin, Jesus gives us love, gives us hope, gives us Himself.

“Things didn’t end well for Jekyll, by the way. He kept thinking he had Hyde under control, but they both wound up dead.

“The good Dr. Jekyll disappeared first.

“Jekyll and Hyde’s case is not as strange as the novel’s title suggests. The problem isn’t out there; the problem is me.

“I know what I need, like it or not. I need a Savior.

“Because my dark side lurks. And so does yours.”

(https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god/why-i-need-a-savior.html)

We learned Wednesday night at our Study of Proverbs that the “foolish” or ungodly person is self-deceived.  They have rejected God on the basis of the mistaken belief that they are OK all on their own.  This is a difficult deception to dislodge.  Once the problem of sin becomes personal, the search for the Savior can rightly begin.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs. 4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

V. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.

V. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.

V. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.

V. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.

V. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.

V. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!

V. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

V. 7 = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM = Self-condemned people will lost.

V. 8 = ALPHA AND OMEGA, FIRST AND LAST (v. 17)

V. 8 = THE ALMIGHTY = Jesus has all power.

V. 13 = “LIKE A SON OF MAN” = Jesus is divinely empowered.

V. 13 = DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.

V. 13 = WITH A GOLDEN SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.

V. 14 = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW = Jesus has a purity of spirit.

V. 14 = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE = He judges fairly.

V. 15 = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.

V. 15 = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.

V. 16 = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.

NEW

V. 16 = OUT OF HIS MOUTH CAME A SHARP DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.

A SHARP DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD is a biblical symbol of judgment. Hebrews 4:12 is the example of how the word of God cuts through the externals and reveals a person’s true self: FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND ACTIVE. SHARPER THAN ANY DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD, IT PENETRATES EVEN TO DIVIDING SOUL AND SPIRIT, JOINTS AND MARROW; IT JUDGES THE THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES OF THE HEART.  As words come out of a person’s MOUTH, this is an obvious symbol of Jesus’ pronouncing judgment.

V. 16 = HIS FACE WAS LIKE THE SUN SHINING IN ALL ITS BRILLIANCE.

This reminds us of the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration (see Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9), where we read THERE HE WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM.  HIS FACE SHONE LIKE THE SUN, AND HIS CLOTHES BECAME AS WHITE AS THE LIGHT.  In the Bible, the presence of God is often described as a brilliant light and is called the “glory” of God.  Artists have illustrated this brilliance by painting a halo around the head of Jesus.

The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a Savior.

V. 5 = HIM WHO LOVES US AND HAS FREED US FROM OUR SINS BY HIS BLOOD.

LOVE is something easily claimed; it is proven by sacrifice for the beloved.  That’s why John’s claim Jesus loves us is paired with the greatest evidence; His self-sacrifice for us.  Jesus demonstrated His love by freeing us from slavery to our sin nature and from the penalty for our sins.  His death on the cross did it.

In the Old Testament, blood sacrifice was the God-given means to forgive sin. As Paul explained in HBS 9:22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of there is no forgiveness.”  When Jesus came, God did not just drop that system.  He accepted Jesus’ blood as the final and perfect sacrifice, satisfying forever the demand for blood. In 1 John 1:7 it is written, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

V. 7 = EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM, EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM.

This is borrowed from Zechariah 12:10: THEY WILL LOOK ON ME, THE ONE THEY HAVE PIERCED.  This verse tells us two things about the Second Coming.  One, everyone will see Jesus at the same time.  This is possible because He is God and is present everywhere at once.  Two, to people who reject Him, it will be a sudden reversal of what they expected.  This will be as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:37-38 and Luke 17:27; “People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.”

It’s natural to expect things to continue in the way we’re used to – some people can be quite insistent on it – but people of faith are supposed to know better.  Jesus’ Second Coming will bring about the completed work of God and with it, a complete change to life and the world as we know it.

V. 18 = THE LIVING ONE: “I WAS DEAD AND BEHOLD I AM ALIVE FOR EVER AND EVER!”

His death on the cross is not the end of Jesus’ story.  He does not remain dead, but is alive; THE LIVING ONE.  This expression is used of God the Father, enthroned in Revelation 4:10 and 10:6.  We have identical descriptions of God the Father and God the Son, showing they are as one.  Jesus was not defeated by death; He lives and defeated death: THE LAST ENEMY TO BE DEFEATED IS DEATH. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

V. 18 = “I HOLD T KEYS OF DEATH & HADES.”

Biblically, KEYS are a symbol of authority.  In Matthew 16:19 Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus holds two keys.  One is the key to DEATH.  The One who has authority over DEATH has the authority to give life.  The other is the key to HADES.  This Greek word refers to a place where the spirits of the dead reside until the Second Coming.  It is equivalent to the Hebrew word sheol; it is not a place of torment; it is just a kind of residence or holding area.  This is consistent between Jewish beliefs and Greek mythology.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

          Another way to approach the self-reliant person is to invite them to think about what they have based their self-view on.  A person’s self-worth is likely based on these five areas:

  1. Approval from others.
  2. Appearance.
  3. Achievement.
  4. Your character.
  5. Your faith.

The first three items on that list are material, worldly, and temporary.  Character takes some time to form and good character takes the Holy Spirit and some effort on our part to achieve, but can still be subject to compromise and change.  It’s only the fifth   item that is unchanging and reliable.

Here’s a new thought: what we believe about Jesus Christ is the only good basis for what we believe about ourselves.  It is ironic, but a faithful focus on Jesus is the surest foundation for our self-image.

Here in Revelation 1, we have seen the divine side of Jesus emphasized.  We have had our hope in Him renewed by focusing on the Second Coming.  When we center our life on the person of Jesus, we will be less invested in what others think of us, how we appear to them, what worldly achievements we have piled up, and even our own personal growth.  What should be most determinative of who we are is who Jesus is.  When we seek to duplicate Jesus in what we say and do, one of the beneficial effects is that we find freedom from worries about anything this world says about us.  The truth sets us free!

 

Resources:

The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leon Morris

Advertisements

Superman or Son of Man?

superjc

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.

The comic book character Superman turned 80 on April 18th last year.  Did anybody celebrate?  Imagine the effect if he used his “super breath” to blow out the candles!

Twelve years ago the movie “Superman Returns” had a line in it that got me thinking about the subject of Superman and Jesus.  From the first time I heard it, it sounded like a paraphrase from the Bible and it offended me to hear it used that way.

The line is spoken by Sir Anthony Hopkins, voicing Superman’s father, Jor-El.  As Superman orbited the earth, we hear Jor-El say, “They are a good people, Kal-el, or they want to be.  But they need someone to lead them, to show them the way.  That is why I have sent you to them, my only son.”

The director of this picture, Bryan Singer, is quoted as saying, “Superman is the Jesus Christ of superheroes.”  This is evidence of many intentional parallels between Superman and Jesus as a means of making the comic character more popular.

Ironically, the character of Superman was created by two Jewish boys, Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster.  A compelling argument can be made that Superman was created as a counter-point to the growing threat of Nazi Germany in 1938.  I’ve read that Superman was modeled after Moses and seems designed to counter the Nazi ideal of an ubermensch, a member of the Master Race.

Superman may have started out being modeled on Moses, but there’s no doubt his handlers have turned a New Testament corner since then.  I have compiled a list of parallels between Jesus and Superman.  There’s too much evidence there to explain it in any way other than a deliberate attempt by those who’ve handled the character for EIGHTY YEARS to wrap Jesus in blue tights and a red cape.  It may be shrewd marketing, but I don’t like it and between the two – Superman and the Savior – there’s no question who’s real and who’s more powerful.

In order to deepen our understanding of Jesus, we’re going to use this occasion to take a look at Him in a slightly different light – the supernatural portrayal of Jesus in Revelation.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

Verses four and eight = HIM WHO IS, AND WHO WAS, AND WHO IS TO COME.  This expression of praise is offered by the FOUR LIVING CREATURES to God the Father, seated on His throne in Revelation 4:8.  It refers to the present, past, and future – all three tenses of time – as a way of saying God is eternal.  As God, the Son of God existed before His birth in this world, He lived in a particular era of human history, and He will come again to this world to complete His victory.

Verse four = He is enthroned.  He is KING OF KINGS in 1 Timothy 6:15.  That same title is used in Revelation 17:14 and 19:16.  This title is a way of saying Jesus has the right to rule over all creation and that His authority and power have no limits.

Verse five = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS.  Palm 89:37 refers to the moon as a FAITHFUL WITNESS God set in the sky.  It is a dependable predictor of tides and is regular in its phases.  Revelation 2:13 refers to Antipas as a FAITHFUL WITNESS.  In John 14:6, Jesus referred to Himself as THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.

Taken together, this is a way of saying as the moon is dependable and predictable in its appearance and effects, Jesus can be trusted to tell the truth about God the Father.  In fact, theologians refer to Jesus as the “Personal Revelation” of God.  In His words and deeds Jesus taught and demonstrated God’s begin and His character.

Verse five = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD.  Throughout the Bible, the FIRSTBORN always gets special treatment and the “first fruits” are the most special part of the harvest, offered to God in gratitude.  Paul applied this to Jesus’ resurrection in Colossians 1:18; AND HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH; HE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE FIRSTBORN FROM AMONG THE DEAD, SO THAT IN EVERYTHING HE MIGHT HAVE THE SUPREMACY.  In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul similarly described Jesus as the FIRSTFRUITS of the dead.  All this reminds us that Jesus has led the way into eternal life.  Our resurrection will be like His; if we want to know more about our life after death, we need to study His.

Verse five = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.   THE KINGS OF THE EARTH is an expression is found four more times in the Revelation (6:15; 17:2; 17:18; 18:3), each time denoting the rulers of worldly kingdoms that have allied themselves to resist God.  The fact that Jesus is RULER over them is not meant to imply that He is responsible for their bad behavior, only that His rule is complete.  Though THE KINGS OF THE EARTH oppose Jesus, it is a futile gesture; His power is irresistible.

To His disciples enduring persecution, this is welcome news.  Though the KINGS of this world seem to hold power, God is in charge; He will sustain His people.

Verse six = He has MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER.  KINGDOM = Because Jesus Christ is RULER over all, He is able to make us part of His KINGDOM.  We are called out of earthly “kingdoms” to be obedient to Jesus’ will first and foremost.

PRIESTS = Way back in Exodus 19:6, Moses told the people that God’s will was to make them a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.   This promise is mentioned again in Revelation 5:10, virtually word-for-word. This promise is unusual because only rarely in the history of God’s people have priests also been kings.  But that’s part of the point – when Jesus comes again, the world will be set back in the order God intended.  The New Testament makes it plain that all believers are PRIESTS and no longer need another human being to intercede between us and God

The purpose of all this is plainly spelled out: TO SERVE our GOD AND FATHER.  We do not rule on our own authority or serve as priests on our own will.  Instead, God delegates this power to us so that we can serve Him.

Verse six = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER! This verse reads like a hymn of praise.  It is repeated as such in Revelation 19:1.  It is here to remind us that the focus of true service is never on self, but is always, only on God.  He deserves the GLORY and alone possesses the POWER.

Verse seven = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS.  In Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27 Jesus predicted that at the end of this age, the world would see Him appear in the CLOUDS with great glory and power.  Psalm 68:4 locates God in the clouds, a symbol of His rule over the Earth; SING TO GOD, SING IN PRAISE OF HIS NAME, EXTOL HIM WHO RIDES ON THE CLOUDS; REJOICE BEFORE HIM – HIS NAME IS THE LORD.  (see also Psalm 104:3).  In Ezekiel 30:3, the prophet linked the appearance of CLOUDS with THE DAY OF THE LORD, which is the Old Testament’s way of referring to the events related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  In the book of Exodus, God directed His people on their travels with a PILLAR OF CLOUD during the daylight hours and by means of a pillar of fire at night (13:21-22).  In the DNL 7 vision the Son of Man came from the CLOUDS and is clearly God; this also predicts how Jesus will appear to us. At the end of the Gospel of Luke and the beginning of the book of Acts, we are told that Jesus left His disciples and returned to heaven, disappearing among the clouds.  Angels standing nearby promised that He would return the way He’s left: among the CLOUDS (Acts 1:9-11).

This expression looks ahead to the day when this promise is kept: Jesus’ Second Coming.  It is reassuring to know this will happen; it can happen any time.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

We’re so entrenched in the “Gentle Shepherd” version of Jesus that we’re troubled by John’s depiction of Jesus.  It’s as if we expect the Second Coming to arrive as a gentle tap on the shoulder, followed by an apology for disturbing us.  It’s ludicrous that we should expect the sudden appearance of Jesus as conquering king to be meek and mild, accompanied by a gentle swell of violin music.

The end of the universe as we know it will be with a bang, not a whimper.  John’s vision of the ultimate triumph of Christ should mobilize us to action, not bore us into a little nap!

This is important because Jesus’ Second Advent will occur without any warning other than what we’ve been given, so preparedness is the issue here.  Are you ready?  Are you helping others become ready?

Readiness comes after accepting God’s gracious offer of salvation.  It is doing the daily work of prayer, study of Scripture, and loving one another.  We demonstrate our eagerness for heaven by making earth as much like heaven as we can.

Resources:

Message #1172

Zondervan Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce

The Studious Type

Please read John 5:36-40 & 2 Timothy 2:14-19 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare this article.

In a Dec. 16, 2018 article in The Jerusalem Post, Yafit Ovadia reported that a digitized time capsule will be on board an unmanned spacecraft when it is launched to the Moon this spring.  The time capsule will contain Israel’s Declaration of Independence, a traveler’s prayer “Tefilat Haderech,” the Bible, the Israeli flag, maps of the State of Israel, the national anthem, a photograph of Ilan Ramon (Israel’s pioneer astronaut who died on the Space Shuttle Columbia), and pictures drawn by Israeli children. The spacecraft will be carried by into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, making Israel the fourth country after the US, the USSR and China to attempt a lunar landing mission.

Israel will spend $95 million to put the unmanned lander on the moon, which is a bargain compared to NASA’s Apollo 11, which cost the US close to $9.9 billion in 1969.  80% of the funding was raised from private donors.

<https://www.jpost.com/Jpost-Tech/Business-and-Innovation/Space-IL-to-launch-first-spacecraft-to-the-moon-574579?utm_source=bg&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&gt;

I hope and pray the project is successful so afterwards I can say, “They can put a Bible on the moon; you can open one and read it!” There’s a great potential for sermons and exhortations to get people into t word of God!

Before we get started, let me clarify one thing.  We refer to Jesus as the Word of God (capital “W”) because He is the personal revelation of God to us.  In Jesus’ words & deeds we learn all we need to know to b saved.

We refer to the Bible as the word of God (small case “w”) to distinguish the specific revelation of God, the words on the page.   It may be a little confusing otherwise.  So I hope you can follow this: we must have the Word of God in our heart before we can truly understand and use the word of God.  A life-changing study of the Bible begins with a life that has already been changed by Jesus.

BIBLE or “BALONEY?”

(Which of the statements below are actually found in the Bible and which originate elsewhere?)

  1. “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
  2. “To the woman he said, ‘Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
  3. “I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.”
  4. “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.”
  5. “Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you.”
  6. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.”
  7. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
  8. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.”
  9. “A wise king winnows out the wicked; he drives the threshing wheel over them.”

Jesus Christ is the Word of God we must know first.

  1. We don’t study the Bible to earn salvation (John 5:36-40).

CONTEXT: These verses are part of Jesus’ rebuke of JEWS who faulted Him for working a miracle on the Sabbath, as is spelled out in verse sixteen; SO, BECAUSE JESUS WAS DOING THESE THINGS ON THE SABBATH, THE JEWS PERSECUTED HIM.  In this portion of His reply Jesus revealed who He really was, attempting to persuade them that He had the authority to act in ways their version of the Law prohibited.  (Maybe you could say He pulled rank on them!)  He attempted to show them that He was their Messiah, the one whose coming had been foretold in the Scriptures they studied.  Toward the end he concluded, “YOU DON’T BELIEVE T ONE HE SENT” (v. 38).

COMMENT: Studying the Scriptures will not, by itself, make anyone right with God.

In verses 36-40 Jesus appealed to the witness of Scripture because they held the Scripture in high regard.  However, the problem was they had misused the Scriptures to justify their prejudice and excuse their sin.  They were good students in the sense that they DILIGENTLY studied God’s word.  Jesus gave them that compliment.           Unfortunately, they approached the Scriptures with a closed mind and a bad motive: “YOU THINK THAT BY THEM YOU POSSESS ETERNAL LIFE.”  In other words, they sought to master the word of God intellectually and morally and thereby earn or deserve eternal life.  They sought to provide for themselves a place in heaven.

This thinking is identified in one of their own authoritative writings, “The Sayings of the Fathers.”  Here are two examples:

“He who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired for himself life in the world to come.” (2:8)

“Great is the law for it gives to those who practice it life in this world and in the world to come.” (6:7)

The end result was self-condemnation.  Jesus said, “THESE ARE THE SCRIPTURES THAT TESTIFY ABOUT ME, YET YOU REFUSE TO COME TO ME TO HAVE LIFE” (vs. 39-40).  We’d like to think this sort of thing never happens in the Church, but it does.  People can study the Book without ever knowing the Author.  Of course, they will never get it right and will not enter heaven, but they may gain enough proficiency to fool themselves and/or fool others.  People search the bible for evidence supporting their theology, when the process is supposed to work the opposite way.

William Barclay warned, “[The Jewish religious leaders] did not humbly learn a theology from scripture; they used scripture to defend a theology which they themselves had produced.  There is still a danger we should use the Bible to prove our beliefs and not to test them.”

  1. We study the Bible to show we’ve received salvation (2 Timothy 2:14-19).

CONTEXT: Because he was a pastor, Paul challenged Timothy to hold himself to a higher standard, including biblical literacy.  Timothy’s best defense against false teachers, busybodies and other trouble-makers in the church is to know God’s word and hold fast to it.

COMMENT: Every follower of Jesus needs to increase their understanding and use of the Bible.  There is no other way except to study it.

Paul wrote that Timothy was to PRESENT himself to the church as a leader who met three important qualifications.

APPROVED.  The word literally meant “has passed the test.” It was used to refer to building materials that were inspected and worthy: it was a metal object refined by fire, a stone cut to the mason’s specifications.

WHO DOES NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED.  Like the materials he uses, the builder’s craftsmanship is also evaluated and deemed worthy.

WHO CORRECTLY HANDLES THE WORD OF TRUTH.  The phrase CORRECTLY HANDLES pictures a farmer handling a plow, making a straight furrow or a builder whose wall is plumb or road straight.  This is a WORKMAN who faithfully studies the word of God in order to understand it truthfully, apply it rightly, and teach it in a way that makes genuine disciples of Jesus.

What is the difference between Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s?  Only a difference of focus; both talk about diligent study of the word.  Jesus approved only one use of the Bible; to receive salvation, not to create it.  He condemned self-righteousness.  Paul called Pastor Timothy to handle Scripture with extra care.  Timothy would not earn salvation by taking this care, but he would show others how to be saved by teaching Scripture in this way.  Taken together, these teachings commend the diligent study of God’s word, but only if you first know who Jesus Christ are and have accepted His gracious salvation by faith.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God we must know first.

          Though many of the Jewish religious leaders were excellent students of the Bible (most of them had memorized the Old Testament in its entirety!), Jesus condemned their failure to see the truth.  In order to know the truth, we must become more familiar with what God has revealed through daily study and practice.  To illustrate that fact, I now offer you the answers to the “Bible vs. Baloney” quiz.  Number one is a quote from Benjamin Franklin and number five is a quote attributed to Buddha.  If anyone says they can be found in the Bible, they’re feeding you baloney.  How did you do?

Doubt is not the great enemy of faith; self-sufficiency or self-righteousness is.  People who have doubts are testing their faith.  They possess at least the humility to confess they don’t have all the answers and are working to try to better understand.

People who think they have it figured out are self-deceived.  They know the words and actions that give an appearance of godliness, but because they have sought to achieve it on their own, they do not have life in Christ.

Because salvation is by grace, no self-reliant person will ever have it.  Being proud of one’s big brain or big heart prohibits a person from putting their trust in Christ.  William Barclay commented on this passage, “The function of the Bible is not to give life, but to point us to the One who can.”

Our attitude needs to be the same as the Apostle Peter.  On an occasion when many of His followers left Him, Jesus asked the twelve if they’d be leaving too.  Peter’s reply is instructive; he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life?”

Peter’s reply shows us two things we need to practice:

One; refuse to compromise on the word of God.  One of the core doctrines of our faith is that the Bible is the revelation of God.  We don’t have to argue with people who think they know better, but we must stubbornly insist on the Bible as the authoritative rule of faith and practice.

Two; refuse to quit on the Word of God capital “W,” Jesus Christ.  He is the single source of eternal life.  That is an unpopular notion among people who have self-made religion but not Christianity.  Again, we don’t have to argue with anybody but we must not surrender this truth.

I realize not everyone is “bookish,” but there is no substitute for studying and applying God’s word to realize spiritual maturity.

 

RESOURCES:

Sermon #1302

The Daily Study Bible Series, William Barclay

The Zondervan Bible Commentary

Searching for the Perfect Gift

Gift

Jesus encouraged people to seek God and find Him.

Please read Matthew 7:7-12 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.

Last Christmas a little boy did not get what he wanted.  He decided to negotiate with Santa and wrote the following:

“Deer Santa, I am riting this on the day after X-mas and I am very sad.  I only received 1 of the 2 presents I asked for.  Sense you ate my cookies I will asoom that my missing gift was a miss take.  I will give you 1 week too fix this.  Jeremy.” (Spelling errors are his.)

His parents saw this as an opportunity to teach their son a lesson and composed a very professional-looking “reply” from Santa: “Dear Jeremy, I’m sorry you are disappointed with your presents.  You asked for two very expensive presents and Santa can only do so much.  You need to learn to be grateful for what you have, not upset about what you don’t.  If you continue to complain I will have no choice but to add you to the naughty list next year.  Santa.”

Jeremy fired back with another note to Santa: “Deer Fatty, your threats don’t scare me.  I played your game and you did not deliver.  This is not O.K.  I will give you 1 week and then you will pay.  Jeremy.  P.S. I don’t know why you care that it is expensive when you have elf slaves to make things for you.  I think you are naughty for having slaves.”

What would you do next?  Jeremy’s parents decided another reply from Santa was needed: “Dear Jeremy, You are being a very bad little boy.  Because you cannot be happy with what you have, I have talked to your parents and told them to take away your Wii U.  Now you have nothing.  Once you learn to be grateful, perhaps you can have it back.  I am very disappointed in you, Jeremy.  You will need to be an extra good boy this year if you want to make it back on the nice list.  Santa.”

Jeremy is one unforgiving kid.  He wrote a third letter; “Deer Santa, I do not like that stunt you pulled with my parents.  You are on my naughty list.  Be afraid.  You look slow and easy to kill.  Enjoy your cookys next year because the will be poison.  I hope you die.  Jeremy.”  (Emphasis his.)

(You can see these notes for yourself at https://thoughtcatalog.com/callie-byrnes/2017/12/this-boy-didnt-get-everything-he-wanted-for-christmas-so-he-decided-to-get-back-at-santa-with-these-hilarious-letters/.)

I wonder what Jeremy’s Christmas will be like this year?!!  This is a sad and ridiculous example of how disappointment can overtake a person’s better judgment, resulting in toxic words and deeds.

Sadly, sometimes people have this kind of feeling toward God when His answers to their prayers don’t match up.  I know a very intelligent man who remains an unbeliever because his childhood prayers were not answered as he wanted.

Today, we hope to encourage you to pray by proving, with Jesus’ own words, that prayers to God are always heard, always answered, and always make a difference, even if the difference is limited to our own attitude.

  1. Be encouraged: God hears & answers seekers (7-8)

Three verbs appear twice: ASK, SEEK, KNOCK.  There is an ascending level of commitment/ involvement.  Each requires more of you.  The verbs are repeated for emphasis and to model persistence in prayer.

The tense of the verbs is called “infinitive,” which describes a constant, ongoing activity.  We are to keep on asking, never cease seeking, and keep on knocking on heaven’s gate.    Persevere in prayer until you receive a clear answer from God or He changes your mind.

As God knows what I need better than I do, and as He will do what He wills, why should I pray?  There are at least four excellent reasons to PRAY CONTINUALLY, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says.

The first is the most obvious: God commands prayer.  Be obedient and pray.

The second is that God designed prayer for our sake, not His.  Let’s be clear; God is not waiting for any of us to pray to “activate” His will.  He does not depend on us for anything.  Instead, He commands prayer because communication is key to all relationships and loving communication promotes loving relationships.  God commands prayer to deepen our spiritual maturity.

James 1:5-8 gives specifics on what our attitude should be when praying: IF ANY OF YOU LACKS WISDOM, HE SHOULD ASK GOD, WHO GIVES GENEROUSLY TO ALL WITHOUT FINDING FAULT, AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO HIM.  BUT WHEN HE ASKS, HE MUST BELIEVE AND NOT DOUBT, BECAUSE HE WHO DOUBTS IS LIKE A WAVE OF THE SEA, BLOWN AND TOSSED BY THE WIND.  THAT MAN SHOULD NOT THINK HE WILL RECEIVE ANYTHING FROM THE LORD; HE IS A DOUBLE-MINDED MAN, UNSTABLE IN ALL THAT HE DOES.

Third, we should pray because Jesus’ promises regarding prayer are unconditional.  For example, in this passage EVERYONE’s prayer is answered.  When people talk about “unanswered prayer” they really mean is “God said ‘no’ or ‘wait,’ or said ‘yes’ to something they didn’t want.”

Fourth, the Bible clearly promises that prayer changes things; it has an effect on our world.  As James 5:16b says, THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN IS POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE.

  1. Be encouraged: God’s answer is always what’s best for you (9-11).

More than any earthly parent, God knows our needs.  He will not tease or do evil to us.  Nor is He a child-centered parent who will indulge our wants.  Jesus used humor to make this point:

BREAD versus STONE = Some loaves of bread are baked so hard they become stone-like, some stones take on an appearance similar to bread.

FISH versus SNAKE = Both fishes and snakes have scales, some snakes swim and eels look like snakes.

The point is, if our earthly parents (YOU WHO ARE EVIL) can be trusted to tell the difference and not give us something bad, we can trust God (who is good) to do even better.

Whether God’s answer is what we want or not is not important; it is not the basis for evaluating prayer.  Rest assured God’s answers are always GOOD GIFTS.  Our theology of prayer is not to be centered on us.  God’s answer to prayer reflects His nature and His will.  It is never about our sincerity, posture, gesture, or choice of words.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is false.  Prayer is designed by God to be humbling and focused on Him, because self-focus is hardly ever healthy or helpful.

Full disclosure: it gripes me when people preach negatively about prayer: “Don’t do this or that.”  They reveal their ignorance of Scripture and the true purpose of prayer.  The best prayers are like tears: they flow from a heart overrun with either happiness or sorrow.  Prayer is the inner self expressing itself to God; every other consideration is secondary at best.

  1. Be encouraged: life with God is simple (12).

There is a big difference between simple and easy.  Following Jesus is not easy in the sense that it is a lifelong commitment to change and growth; hardships will be faced, expectations raised, persecution endured.

But living for God is not complicated.  Jesus reduced our ethical life to two commands, both to love, and one simple rule on how to treat others: just the way we want to be treated.

In guiding people’s behavior, you can take two approaches.  The Legalistic approach is to try to anticipate every kind of wrongdoing and write a law to cover it.  Congress is an example of this approach of multiplying the rules.

The Principled approach is to advocate for what is good by setting forth principles.  Everything else is evil.  As an example of reducing the rules is our work on constitution review.  One of our goals is to streamline the current constitution.

The Golden Rule – like the board game “Othello” – “takes a moment to learn, a lifetime to master.”  Using this rule requires us to embrace the principle of the preciousness of others.  Paul explained this principle: Philippians 2:3 = DO NOTHING OUT OF SELFISH AMBITION OR VAIN CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY CONSIDER OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELF.  See also Romans 13:10 = LOVE DOES NO HARM TO ITS NEIGHBOR.  THEREFORE LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW.

We will always learn new ways and be confronted with new situation in which we can apply this principle, because Jesus said we were to apply it IN EVERTYTHING.  Motivation to use the Golden Rule is also quite simple: it comes from a love for self.  To the degree that we have a healthy self-image and take care of ourselves, it makes it easier for us to treat others in the same way. It may sound backward to say it this way, but a sensitivity to others is founded on knowledge of self; particularly what makes me feel loved.

Interestingly, a variation of the Golden Rule appears in all the world’s major religions.  However, Jesus is the only one who expressed the principle positively.  All others said it negatively; “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”  In this, Jesus sets an example of positivity that we should seek to follow.  His positive version embraces both sides of goodness: it is actively doing good works as well as avoiding evil ones.  Jesus’ version can be applied more broadly.

  1. How to help another seeker find God.

A = Active Listening (withhold your own opinions, suspend judgment for the moment).

B = Begin Where You Meet Them (match the need(s) they express with biblical teaching & church ministry).

C = Consider Their Experience (avoid using terms or making references that they don’t know).

D = Develop Your Own Story (stress points of your own experience common to all and/or similar to theirs).

E = Engage in Dialogue (your goal should be to do about half the talking and half the listening).

F = Find a Time to Continue the Conversation (initial encounters should be brief, later ones lengthier).

G = Get to an Application (an invitation to church is the place to start, invite a decision as the Spirit leads you).

Jesus encouraged people to seek God and find Him.

Earlier in Matthew’s version of these teachings, Jesus taught His disciples to avoid praying out of a hypocritical motive (to earn the praise of others).  In this section, He clarified what our motive for prayer should be.  Then He told us how to live out the godly life that goes into our prayers.

Teaching about our relationship with God and our relationships with one another should go hand in hand, because people who love God will love others.  The Bible teaches a lack of love for neighbor betrays a false love for God.

This is one reason I felt lead to express some “ABCs” of how we can have conversations about God even when we have just met the other person.  We do all we can on Sundays and Wednesdays to present the word of God truthfully and compellingly.  But the living out of that word is something we all must do as much outside the church walls as we do within.

During this season, many of us will spend more time out in the public than we normally do, as we search for Christmas gifts.  (After all, you don’t want to let Jeremy down again!!)  Part of our ambition for the remaining days before the Christmas Holy Day must be to use these public moments to tell others about Jesus.  It is wise for us to make best use of the public’s general affinity for Christmas to make Jesus Christ more widely known.

The first step is to not be in such a hurry.  Linger in public places, make time for conversations.  Then start some!  Make an invitation to church.  We will have Christmas Eve at 6 pm.  Do someone an act of kindness and explain why you did it.  Start somewhere!

 

RESOURCES:

Sermon #929

The Story of God Commentary: Sermon on the Mount, Scot McKnight

What’s it Worth to You?

time is money

Please read Philippians 3:7-11 in your Bible before answering this question: “What’s it Worth to You?”

A pastor went to the hospital to visit a lady named Maggy, who was in the last stages of her life because of cancer.  She was heavily medicated and unresponsive, so he went to support her family, who was taking it hard.

When he got there, he was surprised to see the youngest daughter, Kimmy, putting lotion on her mother’s body, starting at her feet. The pastor recognized it as an expensive lotion and guessed it was more than she could afford.

As he walked in, Kimmy smiled and made him promise not to tell her children. Her kids gave it to her for Mother’s Day, since, in their words, “you never do anything for yourself, Mom.” As Kimmy put it on her mother, she remained unresponsive.

But this is the nature of a self-sacrificial love.  God knows and sees these acts. They are not unnoticed, but are precious and valuable in His sight. Acts like these put others first. They point us to Him.

https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-nickolas-kooi-stories-service-100035?+ref=TextIllustrationSerps

We live and die to attain eternal life.

  1. Spiritual maturity requires self-sacrifice.

We are blessed to have a number of biblical examples of heroic sacrifice.

“Father Abraham’s” sacrifice is dramatically recounted in Genesis 22.  As we learned recently-concluded study in the Wednesday morning Bible study group, God had promised to make Abraham into a great nation.  However, at age 100, he had no children.  So when Isaac, the son of promise, was born it seemed at last God’s promises had been fulfilled.  Try to imagine how devastated Abraham must have felt when God demanded Abraham sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham is credited as a hero of faith because he acted immediately and in complete obedience.  God spared Isaac’s life and fulfilled every promise.

John the Baptist’s act of self–sacrifice is recounted in John 3:30 where he makes one of the greatest but most brief statements of faith.  When one of his disciples complained that Jesus and His disciples were getting all the baptisms and attention, John replied, “HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS.”  John knew his role and he knew his place.  He selflessly sacrificed the spotlight to the One he had come to proclaim.

Remembered as “the Doubter,” Thomas showed courage, when Jesus could not be persuaded to stay away from Jerusalem where danger threatened.  In John 11:16, Thomas said to the other eleven disciples, “LET US ALSO GO, THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM.”  I grant you that Thomas’ courage faltered in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There he abandoned Jesus at the moment of His arrest.  But here and years later, Thomas was ready to sacrifice his life for Jesus

In John 13:37 Simon Peter is recorded as saying, “LORD, WHY CAN’T I FOLLOW YOU NOW?  I WILL LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR YOU.” I grant you that Peter’s courage deserted him a few hours later when he three times denied even knowing Jesus.  Tradition tells us that years later, Peter refused to share His Lord’s form of death and asked to be crucified upside down.

Whether our sacrifices are heroic or mundane, we move from self-centeredness to self-sacrifice as we mature spiritually. Paul demonstrated great self-sacrifice in his attitude toward worldly things (7-8).  WHATEVER WAS TO MY PROFIT I NOW CONSIDER LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.  I CONSIDER EVERYTHING A LOSS COMPARED TO THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD.  The words PROFIT and LOSS are key in vs. 7+8.

In vs. 4-6 Paul listed his reasons to have CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH.  – He recites his religious history as if it were important in order to prove that it isn’t.  He’s effectively saying, “If there was ever anyone who deserved salvation by satisfying the Law, I’d be the guy.”  His religious achievements and circumstances were the things others might see as “profiting” Paul.

In contrast, the word LOSS sums up the stuff Paul gave up in order to have faith in Christ instead.  The word PROFIT is actually in the plural form in the original language: “profits.”  But the word LOSS is singular.  It’s as if Paul dumped all his achievements and advantages into a single trash can and declared them together a LOSS.  In order to achieve his goals, Paul had to dump the junk that kept him from Jesus.

Paul was clearly thinking about Jesus when he wrote, FOR WHOSE SAKE I HAVE LOST ALL THINGS (8).  This statement elaborates on verse seven, explaining that Paul made this essential sacrifice for Jesus’ sake.  As he explained in 1 Corinthians 13:3, self-sacrifice not done in love is worthless.  Paul is establishing his sacrifice as worthwhile

The phrase I CONSIDER THEM RUBBISH (8) is a stronger condemnation than LOSS.  The word RUBBISH is a polite translation; the literal translation of Paul’s choice of Greek words is “dung.”  I was amused to see one commentary placed a picture of an outdoor latrine in the city of Philippi next to this verse.  A picture is worth a thousand words and conveys emotion pretty well too.

  1. Paul’s life goals evidence spiritual maturity.

Goal #1 = KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD (8).

Biblically, KNOWING is not just “book smarts,” but includes knowledge gained by experience.  Paul’s goal was to know Jesus by living with Him.  Daily living is supposed to be ongoing experiences of God at work in our lives, personal experiences of His presence.

Goal #2 = Receive true righteousness by FAITH (9).

True righteousness is both salvation and the godly lifestyle that goes with it.  It is not something we create ourselves or by keeping the Old Testament Law, it is something we receive from God by faith.

Paul’s desire was to be FOUND in Christ.  It is as if he is picturing Judgment Day and declares here his hope that his name will appear in the Book of Life, the list of those who are genuinely God’s people.

Goal #3 = Know the power of His RESURRECTION (10).

Jesus conquered death through the power of God the Father.  His Resurrection is the most important display of divine power.  This is not only a historic event, however, it is a power for living every day.

Goal #4 = THE FELLOWSHIP OF SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH (10).

I don’t often see t word FELLOWSHIP combined with suffering and DEATH.  This is another way of saying that Paul desired to FOUND in Christ.  Shared experiences (good and bad) are a form of FELLOWSHIP that can bond people together.  This is also true of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Without actually dying on a cross, how can we become like Jesus IN HIS DEATH?  In our living, we demonstrate the sacrificial purpose of Jesus’ death to help others find eternal life too.

Goal #5 = SOMEHOW, TO ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD (11).

The word SOMEHOW seems to imply Paul felt some uncertainty about whether he was saved or not.  My guess is he’s saying, “I can’t save myself, but SOMEHOW God can.”  Paul refers to the promise of eternal life as THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.  Notice that is a singular event.

We live and die to attain eternal life.

          The Church in America has, for the last sixty years, become more about self-improve-ment than self-sacrifice.  We’ve gone from being crucified with Christ and dying to self, to settling for a “spiritual makeover.”  We are content with an appearance of godliness but miss t power because we won’t pay t price.

What is the price?  Jesus said, “IF ANYONE WOULD COME AFTER ME, HE MUST DENY HEIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW ME.  FOR WHOEVER WANTS TO SAVE HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT, BUT WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR ME WILL SAVE IT.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

The question this morning is not whether or not you want to go to heaven: the question is, “What’s it worth to you to get there?”  A paradox of faith is that we cannot earn or buy our way into heaven and yet, it requires the sacrifice of everything, giving even life itself over to God and His direction.

Did Paul achieve these goals?  Not in this life, of course.  These goals are aimed at heaven, not the horizon.  As Paul wrote in verse twelve, NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY OBTAINED ALL THIS, OR HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE PERFECT, BUT I PRESS ON TO TAKE HOLD OF THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST JESUS TOOK HOLD OF ME.  In this life, God calls us to PRESS ON, even though we know the fulfillment of these goals lie beyond the reach of our earthly years.  We are to continue to obey, continue to grow, continue to mature as the years roll on.  This life is precious and not to be wasted on self-centeredness.  Instead, we are to spend our days investing in eternity by means of the sacrifices we make in love and in the name of Jesus Christ.

Unsaved and Showing It

Please read Titus 3:1-15 in your Bible.   This is the second of three messages on this chapter.

We are saved in order to do good works.

Being a father and being gifted with an exceptional sense of humor, I was naturally interested when I saw an internet article on funniest Dad Jokes.  Before we get to today’s message, I’d like to share a small part of this feast of funny.

Dad complained of tooth pain. When asked if he’d made an appointment to see the dentist, he replied, “Yes, at tooth-thirty!”

“You hear about the guy who invented Lifesavers? They say he made a mint.”

When the cashier at the grocery store asked if he would like the milk in a bag dad replied, “No, just leave it in the carton!”

While watching commercials, dad said aloud, “Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water?”  The family knew better than to answer, so dad continued, “Because he was a little horse!”

During a serious conversation of family history one dad said, “I used to have a job at a calendar factory but they fired me because I took a couple of days off.”

My kids can tell you I enjoy comparing dreams.  On a similar occasion one dad said, “I had a dream that I was a muffler last night. I woke up exhausted!”

Dad was trying to help Junior with his math homework and said, “You know, 5/4 of people admit that they’re bad with fractions.”

And finally, dads like to joke by conjuring up their own fake news.  For example, “Did you hear the news? FedEx and UPS are merging. They’re going to go by the name Fed-Up from now on.’”

I admit there were a few groaners there.  My plan is to offer a light-hearted example of how we can make life difficult for one another.  I wanted to start this way because the subject matter of today’s message is deadly serious.

Someone said at a recent Bible study, “You don’t hear preachers talk about sin much anymore.”  Today sin is going to be our exclusive subject.  As we begin, all I ask is that each of use this biblical truth first as a mirror to our own souls, and only after truthful introspection, turn our gaze to the lives of others.

REVIEW:

  1. How we get saved.

NEW:

  1. How unsaved folk act.

We’ve been saved from these behaviors.  AT ONE TIME WE TOO WERE…Paul contrasted the believer’s “BC” (“Before Christ”) personality with his “WC” (“With Christ”) personality after being saved.  Sometimes we need to restore our perspective by taking a look backward to see how far we’ve come.

The vice of foolishness (3).  In the Bible, a fool is someone who displays their ungodliness in antisocial, unwise, and self-destructive behavior.  Rejecting God, such people lack the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom we need to discern good and evil and the motive to choose the good.  In Ephesians 4:18 we see the cause of foolishness: They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them to the hardening of their hearts.

Disobedience (3) is a vice.  Being under the influence of their sin nature, such a person disobeys God’s will for them.  Disobedience is sin.  Sin is open rebellion against God; the penalty is death.

While the other eight vices listed here might be concealed for a time, disobedience is impossible to hide very long.  People can be overtly – even defiantly – disobedient, proud of themselves or covertly disobedient, covering it up by making excuses for their misbehavior.

Being thoroughly DECEIVED (3) about the truth of God is a vice.  Only believers have the Holy Spirit and the wisdom he provides. Without the Spirit, a person cannot truly understand the word of God or do His will.  This is the IGNORANCE of which we read in Ephesians  4:18.

It is a vice to be ENSLAVED BY ALL KINDS OF PASSIONS AND PLEASURES (3).  Without the Spirit to reform their thoughts and affections, a person is bound to be attracted to things that stimulate them, but are bad for them.  For example, worldly things are never satisfying; they merely increase our appetite for something new.  (See Romans 1.)  This is ironic, because we naturally think being able to do whatever you want is freedom.  The truth is, it is slavery to one’s own PASSIONS and PLEASURES and to those who sell them.  It’s like an addict enslaved to his addiction.

MALICE (3) is one of the more obvious vices.  This word centers on the emotions that motivate people to do evil.  It reveals a soul that has no empathy or sympathy; no consideration of the effect of their actions on others.

ENVY (3) can also be translated as “jealousy.”  It is the vice of valuing things more highly than people.

WARPED (11) can also translated as “perverted.”  This vice is being exercised when a person is a twister of words and misuses their influence to bend others to their will to do evil. Thus, the word WARPED is a condemnation of their character and thinking.

The word SINFUL (11) sounds like a combination of all vices wrapped together.  It describes the orientation of a disobedient and disrespectful life wasted SINFUL decisions, defying God.

Not content to be evil alone, SINFUL people seek to influence others to join them.  Evil naturally seeks to replicate itself (“misery loves company), but is more intentional in the DIVISIVE PERSON mentioned in verse ten.

Such purveyors of vice are SELF-CONDEMNED (11).  Attitudes are manifest in actions and eventually even the most carefully-crafted façade will fall.  Evil actions betray an evil heart.  However, a DIVISIVE PERSON may be so convincing they’ve fooled themselves.  Sincerity is a virtue until a person is sincerely wrong.  This is another reason for the occasional rebuke; the person may not see the error and danger of their ways.

This passage condemns stubbornness and close-mindedness that is unwilling to even consider that they may be wrong or need to change.  The ninth vice is important to our understanding of the justice of God.  In His judgment, God condemns people who are already SELF-CONDEMNED.  Given freedom to choose, they are responsible for their own condemnation by the choices they made.

The passage describes two effects of evil behaviors.  There are surely others, but these are given to aid our discernment.

The first is BEING HATED AND HATING ONE ANOTHER (3).  The phrase BEING HATED is translated from the Greek word stugetoi, which sounds a lot like our English word “stooge,” but there’s no known connection between the two.  This word refers to a person so degraded by evil that others can’t bear to be around them.

The phrase HATING ONE ANOTHER indicates an aspect of sin nature; while people still enslaved to it may congregate and even cooperate, that only happens when their self-interests happen to coincide.  Even then, they distrust and dislike one another.  True relationships are impossible for such people.

The second is more damning: THESE ARE UNPROFITABLE AND USELESS (9).   Contrary to the benefits of virtues described in verse eight, these vices are worthless and harmful.  It helps to remember that righteous behavior and true belief is good for us, body and soul.  God calls us to Him because He is the ultimate good.  It’s also good to recognize that biblically, enlightened self-interest (i.e., a desire to earn heavenly rewards) is a legitimate motive if other reasons to do good temporarily fail to move us.

We are saved in order to do good works.

In summing up the list of vices, the Zondervan Bible Commentary wrote, “But man’s depravity proves no obstacle to God.”  (P. 1524.)  That is the good news this morning.  While it is painful and bewildering that people WANT to act this way, we can be encouraged to know that the worst evil people can do is no challenge at all to God’s will to make good arise and triumph.  We must trust God and join Him in bringing about the most loving outcome in every situation.

St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

Whenever we read lists of sins in the Bible, it may be our natural inclination to think of “Old So-and-so” instead of self.  That is definitely not our first step.

Remember the example of Jesus’ disciples at the last supper.  When Jesus announced there was a betrayer among them, all of them asked, “Lord, is it I?”  Eleven of them knew they had no plans to betray Jesus and yet they asked the question.

That’s humility, folks.  It’s resisting our natural urge to resort to defensiveness and allowing God to shine the light of the word into the parts of our lives that we prefer to keep shrouded in darkness.

Let us ask, “Is it I, Lord?”

PREVIEW:

  1. How saved folk act.

Saved and Showing It (1 of 3)

Please read Titus 3:1-15 in your preferred Bible.  I’ve used the NIV this week.

We are saved to do good works.

Salvation is by grace.  It is not earned. The devotional magazine Our Daily Bread gave this definition of grace; GRACE IS EVERYTHING FOR NOTHING TO THOSE WHO DON’T DESERVE ANYTHING.

(Our Daily Bread, Sept.-Nov. 1997, page for October 31, retrieved from http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/2873/a-definition/ on 1/12/18.)
“A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII.  One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

“A tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper refused to drop the charges.

“‘It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.’ the man told the mayor. ‘She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.’

“LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said ‘I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions; ten dollars or ten days in jail.’  But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and said: ‘Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.’

“The following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

(Brennan Manning, The Ragmuffin Gospel, Multnomah, 1990, pp. 91-2, retrieved from http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/2891/mayor-laguardia/ on 1/12/18.)
1. How we get saved.

Paul reveals four reasons God had for reasons for saving us.

The first is KINDNESS (verse four).  Historically speaking, salvation started in the mind of God.  He acted first to save us.  We saw this truth previously in Titus 2:11 =THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED THAT OFFERS SALVATION TO ALL PEOPLE.

God hates sin but He loves sinners and works to bring all of us to salvation.  In Romans 5:8 it is written, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

KINDNESS is this attitude manifest in good deeds.  It bestows forgiveness and blesses others.

The second reason is God’s great LOVE (verse four).  This is God’s prime motive and the prime aspect of His character.  All other aspects of His personality are expressions of His LOVE.  Love is an unconditional state or attitude and action that seeks the spiritual maturity of the beloved.  That is God’s character and how God has acted toward us.

This is not one of the usual three words for LOVE in the NT.  This is the Gk word philanthropia, which meant “love for humanity.”  It appears only in this verse.  This is LOVE directed at the welfare of others, especially supporting people in need.

A third reason is God’s MERCY (5).  Because we are unable – on our own – to meet God’s standard of righteousness, MERCY is an absolute necessity; otherwise we have no hope.  MERCY makes a way for people who have no way of their own.  God decided to show us MERCY; we did not deserve it.  God’s MERCY is the standard for our treatment of one another; as we pray every Sunday and Wednesday, “forgive us as we forgive others.”

The fourth reason isn’t really a reason but a clarification that merit is NOT a reason: God did NOT save us BECAUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAVE DONE (verse five).  We are not saved BY good works; we are saved FOR good works.  In Isaiah 64:6 the prophet wrote that the most righteous things we do based on our own strength are like FILTHY RAGS; worthless.  Personal merit is simply not a factor at this stage.  We do not understand the grace of God if we believe we can earn salvation by good deeds or if we believe we can lose salvation by doing evil.

Through Paul, the Holy Spirit reveals not only why God saved us, but also how God saved us.

The first of these three salvation acts is THE WASHING OF REBIRTH (verse five).  The literal meaning of the Greek word for WASHING is “bathing.”  This implies a total cleansing; the whole person is made free from the dirty guilty mark of sin.

REBIRTH refers to Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus in John 3; a person must be “born again” to be saved.  It is a restart to life, an opportunity to live right.  Baptism by immersion is the way we enact this WASHING, demonstrating outwardly that this inward change has happened.

The WASHING refers to the moment of salvation, the time we genuinely receive Jesus as Savior, the RENEWAL to the life-long process of sanctification, where the Spirit helps us become more like Jesus.

Another means of salvation is the RENEWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (verse five).  God does not expect us to find out all this on our own.  He sends the Holy Spirit to unsaved folk to direct them to the truth and bring them to a point of decision.  I would say the term “Filling of the Spirit” is equivalent to RENEWAL.

A third thing God did to save us was that He JUSTIFIED us BY HIS GRACE (verse seven).  GRACE is undeserved favor as we learned last week.  It come from God’s LOVE and is expressed in His MERCY to us.  The word JUSTIFIED refers to our legal standing.  God graciously removes the judgment of death that we deserve.  When God justified us He declared us to be righteous because the righteousness of Jesus covers our sin.  He also makes us His children by the “legality” of adoption: HEIRS OF THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE (see Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5).

Our part is simply having faith: Trusting GOD (verse eight) that all His promises will be fulfilled in our experience.

Finally, Paul elaborated two things that salvation has done for us.

First, in recognition of authentic faith POURED OUT the Holy Spirit GENEROUSLY (verse six).  Notice the Holy Spirit works on us in both our “BC” (Before Christ) and “WC” (With Christ) states.  In our “BC” state the Spirit brings conviction of the guilt of sin and guides us to believers who will witness the truth to us.  In our “WC” state the Spirit provides understanding of the word of God, strength to perform the will of God and Gifts to enable us to work together to see the Fruits of the Spirit manifest in each believer.

GENEROUSLY can also be translated “richly.”  The point is that God gives us all we need to succeed in our spiritual life.  Failure can’t be blamed on Him.  Notice that all three members of the Trinity are mentioned in this passage and all three have a role to play in our salvation.

Second, as already observed, God saved us so WE MIGHT BECOME HEIRS HAVING THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE (verse seven). Obviously, this looks to the future; it is a HOPE.  But our status as HEIRS is in the present moment.  So our faith looks ahead to a glorious future but also confers on us the privileges and responsibilities of being part of God’s family.

We are saved to do good works.

There was a beautiful summer day when a Baptist church had scheduled baptisms down by the riverside.  A drunk stumbled on to the Sunday afternoon service and proceeded to make a pest of himself.
The minister turned to the drunk and said, “Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?”      The drunk noticed the preacher for the first time and said, “Yessir, I sure am.”
The pastor motioned him to come into the river and then the minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asked.
“No, I didn’t!” gasped the drunk.
The preacher dunked him again, this time for quite a bit longer.  Bringing him up, the preacher said, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?”
“No, I did not Preacher.”
In disgust, the preacher baptized him a third time holding the man under for a bit longer still.  When he brought him out of the water, he inquired, “Have you found Jesus this time?”

The drunk spat out a bit of river water and said, “If it’s all the same to you, preacher, I’d like to quit lookin’!”

(Adapted from  https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-jeff-strite-humor-baptism-2578?+ref=TextIllustrationDetails, retrieved on 1/12/18.)

PREVIEW:

  1. How unsaved folk act.
  2. How saved folk act.