Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dirty Shoes

My alarm went off–
It was Sunday again.
I was sleepy and tired,
It was my one day to sleep in.

But the guilt I would feel
The rest of the day
Would have been too much,
So I’d go. I’d pray.

I showered and shaved,
I adjusted my suit and tie,
I got there and sat
In a pew just in time.

Bowing my head in prayer
Before I closed my eyes,
I saw the shoe of the man next to me
Was touching my own. I sighed.

With plenty of room on either side,
I thought, "Why must our soles touch?"
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine,
But it didn’t bother him much.

A prayer began: "Our Father" someone said,
I thought, "This man with the shoes has no pride.
They’re dusty, worn, scratched end to end,
Even worse, there are holes on the side!"

"Thank You for blessings," the prayer went on.
The shoe man said a quite "Amen."
I tried to focus on the prayer,
but my thoughts were on his shoes again.

Aren’t we supposed to look our best
When walking through that door?
"Well, this certainly isn’t it." I thought,
Glancing toward the floor.

Then the prayer was ended
And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud,
Sounding proud as he sang.

His voice lifted the rafters,
His hands were raised high,
The Lord could surely hear
The shoe man’s voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering
And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached
Into his pockets so deep.

I tried to see what was pulled out,
What the shoe man put in,
Then I heard a soft "clink"
As when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me
To tears, and that’s no lie
It was the same for the shoe man,
For tears fell from his eyes.

At the end of the service,
As is the custom here,
We must greet new visitors
And show them all good cheer.

But I felt moved somehow
And wanted to meet shoe man
So after the closing prayer,
I reached over and shook his hand.

He was old and his skin was dark,
And his hair was truly a mess
But I thanked him for coming,
For being our guest.

He said, "My name's Charlie,
I’m glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eves
But he had a large, wide grin.

"Let me explain," he said,
Wiping tears from his eyes.
"I’ve been coming here for months,
And you’re the first to say ‘Hi.’"

"I know that my appearance
Is not like all the rest,
But I really do try
To always look my best."

"I always clean and polish my shoes
Before my very long walk
But by the time I get here,
They’re dirty and dusty, like chalk."

My heart filled with pain and
I swallowed to hide my tears
As he continued to apologize
For daring to sit so near.

He said, "When I get here,
I know I must look a sight.
But I thought if I could touch you,
Then maybe our souls might unite."

I was silent for a moment
Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison.
I spoke from my heart, not my head.

"Oh, you’ve touched me," I said,
"And taught me, in part,
That the best of any man
Is what is found in his heart."

The rest, I thought,
This shoe man will never know...
Like just how thankful I really am
That his dirty old shoe touched my soul...

--Author Unknown

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making God Smile

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, "Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, 'On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."' And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them." Numbers 6:22-27

Look at the words, "The Lord make his face shine upon thee." The psalmist used the same expression...

Make thy face to shine upon thy servant & teach me thy statutes. Psalm 119:135.

The word shine in the Hebrew is the same as gleam or smile. To have the smile of God should be the sole purpose of our lives, so our most important task should be to discover how our lives can be pleasing to Him.

To prove what is acceptable unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:10.

This morning I want us to look at the life of Noah for an example of a life that gives God pleasure and that puts a smile upon His face. Go with me to the 6th chapter of Genesis. As you know, this is the story of the flood and how God used one man to save the world. In Noah’s day, the entire world had become morally bankrupt. Everyone lived for their own pleasure, not for God. (That sounds like the world we live in.) God couldn’t find anyone on earth interested in pleasing Him, so He was grieved and regretted making man. He became so disgusted with the whole human race that He considered wiping it out. But there was one man who made God smile!

Noah found grace (well-favored) in the eyes of God. Genesis 6:8

God said, "This guy brings Me pleasure. He is well pleasing to Me."

From Noah’s life we are going to learn five acts of worship that will make God smile.

1. God smiles when we love him supremely.

Noah loved God more that anything else in the world, even when no one else did.

Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9.

Noah consistently followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with Him. This is what God wants most from us: a close relationship that is pleasing to Him. God does not want to be just a God that is distant, one that we can’t love or one that we are afraid of, but rather a God who is very near.

Jesus answered and said unto him, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:32

Notice the words "Make our abode with him." This is talking about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The greatest objective of our lives should be learning to love God and to understand that He loves us. Nothing else in life is more important that these two facts.

Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37-38

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my JOY might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
John 15:9-11

God is looking for people to live like these scriptures. Let me ask this question. Are you that kind of person like Noah? Does God find pleasure in you?

2. God smiles when we trust him completely.

The second reason Noah pleased God was that he trusted God, even when it didn’t make sense.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Hebrews 11:7

Let's sum this up: One day God comes to Noah and says, "I’m disappointed in the human race. In the entire world, no one but you thinks about me. But Noah, when I look at you, I start smiling. I’m pleased with your life, so I’m going to flood the world and start over with your family. I want you to build a giant ship that will save you and your family..."

Let me stop right here and say that it was Noah’s faith that saved His family. That tells me that our faith in God is important in the saving of our families.

I want to point out three problems that could have caused Noah to doubt.

  1. Noah had never seen rain. Prior to the flood God irrigated the earth from the ground up.
  2. Noah lived hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Even if He could build the Ark, how would he get to the water?
  3. There was a small problem of rounding up all the animals and then the care of them.

But Noah didn’t complain or make excuses. He trusted God completely, and started to build, and that made God smile. Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows that is best for your life. It means that you expect Him to keep his promises, to help with the impossible problems and with everyday things.

The Lord taketh pleasure [smiles] in them that fear him, in those that hope [trust] in his mercy. Psalm 147:11

It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. He faced many discouraging days. (We will, too.) With no sign of rain year after year, he was ruthlessly criticized as a crazy man who thinks God speaks to him. I think Noah’s children were often embarrassed by the giant ship being built by their father. Yet Noah kept on trusting God and what God had told Him.

Trusting God is an act of worship. Just as parents are pleased when children trust their love and wisdom, your faith makes God smile. The Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

3. God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly.

Everything had to be done just as God prescribed it. God gave Noah detailed instructions as to the ark and to the animals.

The ship was to be 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high. With one door and one window! Now I think Noah had many suggestion as to what was needed.

Mother Noah may have said: "It’d dark in here and I need more light! Build more windows in this thing."

The fire department may have said, "This boat isn’t up to the standards of the fire code. It needs another door for another exit."

Lots of things could have been suggested to Noah but Noah knew what God said.

Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. Genesis 6:6.

He was doing things by the book. He was doing things the way God wanted them done. He didn’t have to pray about it. He just obeyed! He didn’t procrastinate. He just obeyed God! He knew that God didn’t owe Him an explanation. He just obeyed! He made God smile!

Let me share some things about obedience.

  • Instant obedience will teach you more about God than lifetime of Bible study.
  • Obedience unlocks understanding.
  • Partial obedience is in fact disobedience.
  • Any act of obedience is an act of worship.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Psalm 119:33.

Jesus gave a simple statement.

"If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15.

This kind of love will make God smile!

4. God smiles when we praise and give Him thanks continually.

Few things feel better than receiving praise and appreciation.

My mother-in-law was one of the best when it came to giving praise to others. She could get more done than anyone because she gave lots of praise. When she was talking to you, you were the best at doing whatever it was that she wanted done. She had found that praise was a great tool.

Noah’s life brought pleasure to God because he lived with a heart of praise and thanksgiving. His first act after the flood was to give God praise.

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Genesis 8:20.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we don’t offer animal sacrifices as Noah did. Instead we are told to offer God a sacrifice of praise.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13:15.

An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God for what he is doing for us. When we make God smile, our own hearts are filled with joy. Worship works both ways. We enjoy what God has done for us and when we express that enjoyment to God, it brings Him great joy!

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5

5. God smiles when we use our abilities for Him.

"And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it." Genesis 6:15-16.

God never gives us something to do that He does not give us the ability to do.

My father-in-law was a wonderful wood carver. God gave Him great ability to be able to use knives to make something out of a block of wood. Now I believe that God gave him that ability. On the other hand, if I tried to carve something out of the same wood I would make a nice pile of wood shavings!

Noah had a job to do and I know that He had never built a boat before because there was no need for one where he lived. But God said build and He gave Noah not only the blue print but the ability too built it.

Matthew 25 tells about a man who traveled into a far country but before he left he called his servants and delivered unto them his goods. To one he gave five talents and to another he gave two and to another he gave one. And the Bible said he gave each according to his several ability.
Now the two servants, one with five and the other with two talents tripled and doubled their talents. But the one dug in the earth and hid his one talent. The reward went to the two that used their talents but the other was cast out for not using what he had for the Master.

If we use the abilities that God give us we well hear the words, "Well done."

This story is a picture that Jesus gave to His followers:

"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, 'Whither I go, ye cannot come;' so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:33-35.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Matthew 28:19-20

The whole message of Jesus is a message of His great love for the world. So the church has a great duty with all the God-given ability that we have, to share that truth of His great love with the world. The point I am making is that even though we may not have abilities in many things in life I believe that God gives everyone the ability to love.

In I Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the spiritual gifts. He says in verse 31 that we should covet earnestly the best gifts. Then he says, "Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way," and begins that great love chapter.

What makes God smile in your life?

There is scripture from the Message Bible that I thinks fits here.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering.

This will make God face shine upon you.

Make Me a Blessing

Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad.
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.

Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive.
Others will trust Him if only you prove
true ev’ry moment you live.

Give as ‘twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you.
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

Make me a blessing;
make me a blessing.
Out of my life may Jesus shine.
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray.
Make me a blessing to someone today.

This kind of life will make God smile!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rendering to the Lord

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. --Psalm 116:12-14

As we approach Thanksgiving this year my heart and mind have been thinking about all the blessings that God has given me and my family. I asked myself, "How could I show the Lord how much I appreciate His blessings?" While thinking about this, I was reading this Psalm and saw that the Psalmist had the same question. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?"

I want us to look at this question this morning in light of Thanksgiving time.

Let's look first at the benefits the Lord gives to everyone. It would be impossible for me to cover all the blessings of God for my life this morning so I want to share with you just three blessings that I think cover them all.

1. The planning that God had for me.

I was not an accident and neither were you!

Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb. --Isaiah 44:2

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being un-perfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! --Psalm 139:15-17

Have you ever thought about why you were ever born? Well, there is one answer and one answer only for that question! God created you so that He could love you! He wants to express His love to you. This is a great benefit from God to me.

2. The purpose of God for me.

Rick Warren said in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life that "We discover purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ." Then He gives five great benefits of living a purpose driven life. I want to give them to you.

  1. Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. "Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning."
  2. Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. "It defines what you do and what you don’t do."
  3. Knowing your purpose focuses your life. "It concentrates your effort and energy on what’s important. You become effective by being selective."
  4. Knowing your purpose motivates your life. Nothing energizes like a clear purpose. George Bernard Shaw wrote: "This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one ; self being a force of nature instead of a feverish , selfish little clot of ailments and grievance, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."
  5. Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity. One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final, before you enter eternity.

From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial question.

  1. What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?
  2. What did you do with what I gave you?

3. The promises that God has given me.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." --I Corinthians 2:9-12

The promises include every day blessings, but more than that, they include things of eternal value. Every promise that God gives leads to eternal life.

What shall I render unto the Lord for all these benefits?

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits [treatments], even the God of our salvation. --Psalm 68:19

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits [treatments]: --Psalm 103:2

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits [bestowments] toward me? --Psalm 116:12

It is interesting to me that in Psalms 68 and 103 the word benefits means treatments and in our scripture lesson in Psalm 116:12 it means bestowments.

  • Treatment: To act or behave in a specified manner toward.
  • Bestowment: To present as a gift.

I think we could easily say that God does both for His children, that is, He treats us with His love and bestows His love upon us.

The Psalmist, in116, gives three things that he would do to render unto God for all He has done for Him.

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. --Psalm 116:13

The Jews sometimes had a cup of blessing, at their meals, which the master of the family drank first with thanksgiving to God and then all at the table would drink also, giving God thanks.

At the close of His life on earth , God offered Jesus a cup. But what was in His cup? A cup of sorrow, a cup of suffering, a cup of pain, a cup of death.

Then said Jesus unto Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" --John 18:11

And he saith unto them,
"Ye shall drink indeed of my cup." --Matthew 20:23

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying,
"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." --Matthew 26:39

He took the cup of death so we could have the cup of life. We need to accept this cup of blessing from the Lord.

In this cup of Psalm 116 we find everything we need to get to heaven. Let me name a few:

  • Divine Love
  • Atonement
  • Justification
  • Regeneration
  • Pardon
  • Adoption
  • The Holy Spirit

The Psalmist asked himself a question, "What shall I give to the Lord for His gift to me?" He answered it first by saying "I will take up His cup of salvation." I think he was saying, "I will not only take up the cup but I will make it my life!"

I will pay my vows to the Lord. --Psalm 116:14

He says the same thing in verse 18. The Psalmist is saying, "I will make a conscience effort to make good what I have promised the Lord." God keeps His promises towards us and we should keep our towards Him!

When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. --Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

God takes His promises to us very seriously and we should take our vows to Him seriously. Not just a fox hole promise.

I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. --Psalm 116:17

Those whose hearts are truly thankful will express their gratitude in thank-offerings. We must first give of ourselves.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. --Romans 12:1-2

The Psalmist gives this very thought when in 116:16 he says twice "I am your servant." He promised that he would serve the Lord, not only by saying thank you but by giving himself to the Lord's work.

The Psalmist tells where He will do this.

I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord. --Psalm 116:18-19

The question is: "What shall I render unto the Lord, for all His benefits toward me?" We need to ask that question this Thanksgiving!

I want to close with the words that Charles Wesley wrote:

Oh, for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels thy blood
so freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great redeemer’s throne,
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone.

Oh, for a lowly, contrite heart,
believing, true, and clean,
which neither life nor death can part,
from Him that dwells within!

A heart in every thought renewed,
and full of love divine;

perfect and right and pure and good:

A copy, Lord, of Thine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. --Romans 1:15-17

The theme of the book of Romans is the righteousness of God. The purpose of the book of Romans is to declare that true righteousness is a free gift to men.

In the apostle’s day many of God’s people found this hard to believe; for them righteousness was a work to be performed under the law, a meritorious achievement. We will make a mistake if we assume that such legalism is dead.

Someone said, "The legalist is a self-made man; and legalism is the attempt to run our own lives and earn our own salvation - that is to be good without God."

Paul takes up this theme and He shows the utter failure of man to produce His own righteousness. The gospel (good news) that Paul was writing about was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This morning I want us to look at this gospel from Paul’s perspective.

The Gospel is not only a statement of principles, but a record of facts.

This gospel is the gospel of God (verse 1). This gospel is about Jesus the son of God (verse 3).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -- John 3:16

This fact tells us what it cost the Father and what it cost the Son for this great salvation. It cost the Father His Son. It cost Jesus His life.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: --Romans 5:6-12

Facts in this scripture:

  • God loved us...
  • ...while we were yet sinners.
  • We are justified by His blood.
  • We are saved from wrath.
  • We are saved by His life.

If you want to understand His death you must understand who it was that died and who it was he died for. The mere fact that Jesus , a young Nazarene, was executed is no more a gospel than the other two who were executed with Him. But here the Son of God died...

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: --I Corinthians 15:3-4

We need to understand that Jesus didn’t have to died for us but He took our place on the cross to pay our debt for our sin.

If the scripture stopped with the statement ‘"Christ died" then we could say that His death was a was a beautiful example of heroism of a teacher. But explanation goes on, "And that He was buried..." Why that statement here? Because it guarantees the fact of His death and it’s bearing on the evidences of His resurrection. "He rose the third day."

Christ died, He was buried, and He rose! Without the these three facts we have no salvation.

The Gospel is the power of God at work.

And declared to be the Son of God with power. --Romans 1:4

P.T. Forsyth said: "This is not a statement, nor a doctrine nor a scheme nor a promise. It is an act of power, an act of redemption, an eternal act of God in Christ."

The Gospel is the power of God. This does not say that the gospel has power but that the gospel is power. The gospel itself is God’s unique, incomparable power at work. God is the source of our salvation and he saves through the power centered around the work on the cross of Jesus.

"There is power in the blood of Jesus to make the vilest sinner whole.
Power to take the guilt and condemnation from the weary sin-sick soul."

The Christian message is a graphic portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion. This message received by faith brings Justification and a release of God’s Spirit in our lives.

The gospel, therefore brings salvation.

  • Salvation means deliverance from sin and wrath.
  • Salvation has its beginnings in conviction of sin.
  • Salvation occurs at the moment of saving faith.
  • Salvation brings Justification (pardon, acceptance).
  • Salvation brings regeneration (new life in the Spirit).
  • Salvation brings sanctification (purity of heart).
  • Salvation can only come to pass by confession of our sins!

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. --Romans 10:1-10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. --I John 1:9

The Gospel brings salvation.

For therein(in salvation) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: --Romans 1:17

Salvation means "deliverance." Deliverance from what? Wrath or punishment of God for sinning...

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; --Romans 1:18

When we read the rest of Romans 1 and chapter 2 we find a whole list of things that brings the wrath of God on sinners.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. --Romans 1:19

We need to understand that we are held accountable for what we know about sin. Read verses 20-32. Reaction of God’s knowledge about sin is the cause of the wrath of God. Wrath is the judgment of the Holy One upon sin in every form.

A.M. Hunter said: "Wrath is His holy love reacting against evil."

The Wrath of God is a reality. But we need to understand that God's wrath isn’t hate. Hate opposes love; God’s wrath is the form love takes with those who oppose it. Hate seeks to destroy; God’s wrath seeks to forgives.

Salvation brings deliverance from the wrath of God. So we have to choose to live for God or live in sin.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. --Romans 6:12-18

Those who choose to live in sin (for God gives them that choice) will find that they will face the wrath of God waiting for them

C..S. Lewis wrote these words: "The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved."

The final retribution of hell is to be abandoned forever to ourselves because of our choices.

D.H. Lawrence wrote:
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,
But it is a much more fearful thing to fall out of them.
And still man can break away, and fall from the hands of God into self alone,
down the Godless plunge of the abyss."

Let me share a story with you in closing.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.

The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don ' t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn' t much. I ' m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this." The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.

"Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It ' s a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice angrily. "We didn ' t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued.

"The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10. Let ' s see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn ' t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!" A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry. The auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: "The son, the son, who'll take the son?" Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.

For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. Whosoever believeth shall have eternal life. That's love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

How Bright Is Your Light?

How many of you like it when we change time? I wish they would set it and leave it alone!

Now it will be getting dark at 5:00 pm. But I guess we could be like those in Alaska where it’s dark most of the 24 hours this time of year.

This week I got to thinking about light and how it applies to our spiritual life. So I looked again at Matthew 5 and read what Jesus said. "You are the light of the world."

Jesus said this during His ‘greatest of all time sermon’ there on that hillside…to the disciples. Now, you’ve never seen a more common group of guys, by the world’s standards, than this group. So ordinary, and extremely unimportant, humanly speaking, of course. When Jesus said they were the light of the world, it was in spite of the fact that it was the Greeks who were known world-wide for their superior knowledge, architecture, art, and philosophy. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates had already given their teachings centuries before Jesus told this unassuming group of men that they were the light of the world!

And Jesus is saying that to all His followers, even us. It makes me want to lift up my head and realize what a grand and glorious thing it is to be a Christian and a child of the King! We live in a darkened world, and we were left here to disseminate light into the darkness!

Light is miraculous. It’s almost impossible to define light… it’s a mystery.

Webster’s Dictionary will tell you that ‘light is that which makes it possible to see.’ Thanks so much!

A footnote in my Bible says, "We are to be reflectors of the knowledge of God and His salvation."

The Bible says that God is light.

  • Intellectually that means the knowledge of God is light.
  • Morally that means the holiness of God is light.
  • Physically that mean the glory of God is light.

When Jesus says that we are the light of the world, it means God has deposited His nature inside of us, and we are to let it out. It’s in there! It just needs to be allowed to shine forth. The Bible says that Jesus is the light of the world and when we receive Him into our heart through salvation then we become a part of Him and His Light.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. --John 8:12
So, Christ is in us, and we aren’t really, in and of ourselves, the light, but the light is in us! That tells me that as long as I am in the world, I am the light of Jesus in the world if I follow Him.

The Power of the Light

Like moths to a flame, this world is drawn to the light. It’s hard to resist. It’s part of man’s nature to seek out truth and fill the God shaped void in his heart. Now many people love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil…but many are seeking the truth. Will they see your light, set on a hill?

Here’s how it happened. Man started in the light, for God is light, but chose to sin, and sin plunged him into darkness.

Humanism says the opposite, that man starts in darkness, but is getting better and better, and closer and closer to the light. We know better. Sinful mankind is in darkness, but we are to be the light of the world, showing them the way out.

So, God loves man so much, and wants to help people in darkness to see His light, so He deposited the light in 3 places…

  1. The scriptures. Psalm 119:105. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." But not everyone will see the light in the Bible.
  2. The Savior Jesus came as the light of the world. But many rejected Him. And then He left.
  3. Christians.
Like fireflies across your yard in the evening, Christians are to shine as the lights in this world. The first Bible some people in your life will ever read will be the Bible of your life. The first sermon they will ever hear will be a sermon you give by your actions as professing Christian!

"You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day
by the deeds that you do, by the words that you say
men read what you’re writing, whether faithless or true
Hey, what is the gospel according to you?"

The only way they will get to know Jesus as the true light is through us.

Our lives are to reflect the mind and will of God!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. -- 1 Peter 2:9

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth. --Ephesians 5:8-9

The light will expose that which is not truth! This is why Jesus tells us to follow Him, and why we are told to be holy, and why we are told to do His will and obey His commandments. We are the only Jesus that people will see. They will base their thoughts about Jesus by the way that we conduct ourselves, or what kind of light we reflect. If we understand that we are reflected light, then it helps us to see why we need to conduct ourselves as Christ’s followers.

Also the further that we get away from the source of light, the dimmer our reflection will be. Understanding that we are reflected light should help us to understand why we need to diligently work to stay near to Jesus.

The Position of Light

"A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."
The Christian is not to be ashamed of their confession. It is the duty of the church to stand out, not for prominence sake but for the spreading of the gospel, for light into a dark world. Jesus proceeded here to show his hearers why they were given the opportunity to hear and participate of the Gospel. It was not because of their place of birth, or because of the way that they looked! God was blessing them with the gospel so that they could be a blessing to others. We are not to waste our light. It is to shine brightly for all to see!

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. -- Phillipians 2:14-16

The Radiance of Light

How does the light radiate? The light is radiated through our example, or our good works. People want to see a sermon before they listen to one.

As newsman Clarence W. Hall followed American troops through the war in 1945, he and his jeep driver came upon a small town that stood out as a beautiful example of a Christian community. He wrote, "We had seen other villages... down at the heels and despairing; by contrast, this one shone like a diamond in a dung heap. Everywhere we were greeted by smiles and dignified bows. Proudly the old men showed us their spotless homes, their terraced fields... their storehouses and granaries, their prized sugar mill."

Hall said that he saw no jails and no drunkenness, and that divorce was unknown in this village. He was told that an American missionary had come there some 30 years earlier. While he was in the village, he had led two elderly townspeople to Christ and left them with a Japanese Bible. These new believers studied the Scriptures and started leading their fellow villagers to Jesus. Hall’s jeep driver said he was amazed at the difference between this village and the others around it.

He remarked, "So this is what comes out of only a Bible and a couple of old guys who wanted to live like Jesus."

What the Light is to Shine Toward

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

The proper motive to influence us to let our light shine is not simply that we may be seen, but that our heavenly Father may be glorified. Our light should be a light that is reflected from Jesus, back to Jesus. People need to know that we do what we do for the glory of God! If the last point was not added, then it would seem that we are to be self-serving, self-glorifying, but our works are not to our own credit, but for God.

I came across a story that I think showed this scripture to me a very real way . It showed me how important my Christian life is to others and how important this church is in this community. I want to share it with you in closing.

Many years ago there was a little village on a rocky seacoast, where storms often battered and seas were ever treacherous. Many ships were driven onto the rocks by the storms, and the lives of many sailors were lost because of the raging seas.

One day the people decided among themselves that they should establish a lighthouse and life saving station on a little peninsula on the coast, to warn ships away from the rocks and to save the lives of those who were cast into the icy waters. They approached the government and began to secure the necessary funds for their project. Soon they set forth and built a tower, and set a beacon in it; they organized a lookout system; and they bought boats and learned how to man them; and soon they were in business. The business of saving lives!

Soon the effects of what they were doing became known far and wide. Fewer ships went on the rocks; and when such a tragedy did occur, and the alarm was sounded, the people risked their own lives to rescue those who had been cast into the raging, icy waters. Within a few short years, people came from great distance to study their lighthouse, and to use it as a model.

One day someone suggested that, since they all spent so much time at the lighthouse that they should gather there occasionally and enjoy good fellowship. And soon they began to get together (at first infrequently, and then more often) at the lighthouse. In fact, many people began to build their homes near the lighthouse. Then when the lookout sounded the alarm, they were there, ready to go out.

Next, it was decided that if they were going to spend so much time there, they must make the place more comfortable. So arrangements were made to heat the lighthouse. The gray walls were painted a brilliant white. Some of the walls were paneled; rugs were put on the floors to disguise the bare concrete; a fine kitchen was installed with a handsome stove; and generally speaking the lighthouse became a nice place to spend your time waiting for the alarm to be sounded. Everything about the lighthouse was made comfortable and nice. The lighthouse soon became the center of life in the little town that grew up around it.

One night a fierce storm blew in, as storms had blown in for years. Many ships were tossed on the jagged rocks, and the men at the lighthouse spent long hours picking sailors from the bitter cold icy waters and taking them to the lighthouse, where they were fed and provided with dry clothing. This had happened many times over the years, but this time, after the storm subsided and the sailors had all left the lighthouse, there were some men who were angry. It seems the storm had made them leave the comfort of the lighthouse, and go out into the wet, dangerous seas; and they got cold; very cold. The sailors, when they were delivered to the lighthouse, soiled the carpets. The kitchen was a mess, not to mention the stove. After a brief meeting it was first decided that sailors, when they were brought to the lighthouse, should be taken to the basement, not to the nice upper areas.

Some time later, another storm blew in; and about one half of the men went out in the boats, and again picked sailors from the frigid waters. This time the ship, which had broken apart on the rocks, was from another nation; and the men who manned her spoke another language, and even worse were of a different color. After this storm, a few more men joined those who refused to enter the sea. They decided that men like these did not belong in the lighthouse at all; some said they felt that the lighthouses’ job was not supposed to be saving sailors from other lands, because they were so much different. There were those, too, who objected to leaving the comfort of the lighthouse to go out into the storm. These men petitioned the government and they also agreed. So, finally, it was decided that the beacon would be kept lit, but the rescue work would be discontinued.

A small group disagreed, however, and went down the coast, a short distance, and started a new lighthouse. This small group decided that they should establish the biggest life saving station on the little peninsula, and so they did. Every day they warned ships and sometimes attempted to save lives from the icy water. Fame of the new lighthouse grew and the lighthouse back up the bay eventually turned out its beacon.

Some people say the beacon can still be seen today in you and I. Oh yes, they also say the small group running the new lighthouse were those once rescued from the raging seas.

We as God’s people all have a choice to make with regards to our rescue work. We can choose to allow our lives to become comfortable and we can find ourselves very content.

And often times we may find that we have turned out our beacon of hope for one another. Or perhaps, I hope and pray that we find ourselves lighting and saving the path of others both in our words and deeds.

Let me ask this question this morning? If the whole world turned dark and the only light that would shine would be every Christian, how much light would you be or how bright would this church be?

"You are the light of the world!"