Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

"Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seems to have." Luke 8:18

I read about a lady who had a hearing problem. One day she and her husband were driving from Tennessee to Little Rock, Arkansas. They were pulled over by a state trooper who asked if the husband knew how fast he was driving.

The wife asked, "What did he say?"

The husband replied, "HE ASKED IF I KNEW THAT I WAS SPEEDING."

Looking at the driver’s license the trooper said, "I see you’re not from around here."

The husband said, "No, we are from Memphis."

The wife again asked, "What did you say?"

The husband told her, "I SAID, WE ARE FROM MEMPHIS."

The state trooper then commented, "You know, the meanest woman I ever met was from Memphis."

The wife again asked, "What did he say?"

The husband replied, "HE SAYS HE THINKS HE KNOWS YOU!"

How many of you think that you are good listeners? They tell us women tend to be better listeners than men are. Husbands are notorious for being poor listeners. We are all familiar with the scene of a husband reading the newspaper while his wife is trying to talk. His response is "Yes, dear. Uh-huh. Mmmm. Is that so?" But we all know he’s not really listening. Suddenly she pulls down the paper and says, "Have you heard a word I’ve said?"

Two men were talking one day. One of them said, "My wife talks to herself a lot." His friend answered, "Mine does, too, but she doesn’t know it. She thinks I’m listening."

Too often, we feel that we are listening what God is saying to us but we really hear only what we want to hear.

God desires to speak to us. He desires to reveal His will to us, and to be actively involved in leading us. Jesus declares that He came to reveal the truth and not to hide it. The warning Christ gives in is in reference to hearing that truth and what you do with it after having heard it. How you listen and what you do with it will determine what you receive.

Someone said it’s the Law of Use: "Use It or Lose It." How can you expect to keep your powers of hearing when you never want to listen? That God should have time for you, you seem to take as much for granted as that you cannot have time for Him.

Proverbs 8:34 "Blessed is the man that hears me..."

Four Types of Hearers

1. Care-Less Hearers –

Luke 8:12 "Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and
takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved."

The message goes in one ear and out the other. They could care less what they hear. It is possible for us to hear with our physical ears and not hear with our ears of understanding.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt got tired of smiling that big smile and saying the usual things at all those White House receptions. So, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was paying attention to what he was saying. As each person came up to him with extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." People would automatically respond with comments such as "How lovely!" or "Just continue with your great work!" Nobody listened to what he was saying, except one foreign diplomat. When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," the diplomat responded softly, "I’m sure she had it coming to her."

Matthew 13:13 "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."

There are those who make the mistake to imagine that by simply hearing first one preacher and then another they can derive benefit to their souls! Such hearing profits little.

You can go from banquet room to banquet room, and the sight of the tables of food will never relieve your hunger.

What matters is not to just hear but to have and hold the truth personally and inwardly. If you don’t see to this, you will die in your sins, even if ten thousand voices direct you to the way of salvation or even if you’re able to recite the bible.

Charles Spurgeon said:"It is a tragedy that the bulk of hearers are hearers only, and are no more likely to go to heaven than the pews they sit on in the churches across this land."

2.Superficial Hearers –

Luke 8:13 "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation (testing) fall away."

He hears, believes and receives the Word of God in respect to forgiveness and redemption – but fails to clearly hear what the word declares concerning the Lord’s call to discipleship. They fail to count the cost, to consider the extent of the commitment, self-denial, sacrifice to which the Lord calls His disciples. They never apply themselves to gain a fuller or deeper knowledge of Christ, to discern His will, to become rooted and grounded in the Word of God.

Matthew 24:12 "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of
many shall wax cold."

Neil Postman in "Amusing Ourselves to Death", Christianity Today, Vol. 38, No. 10 – "I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether."

John 12:25-26 "He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor."

Matthew 16:24-26 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

3. Carnal Hearers

Luke 8:14 "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection."

This person receives the Word and honestly tries to live for Christ. He joins in church activities and professes Christ in his daily walk. The problem is that he is unwilling to sever himself from the world. He lives a double life trying to live for Christ while living for the world. He brings forth fruit but his fruit never matures.Christians who compromise can never evangelize the world.

James 4:4 "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."

Dwight L Moody said: – "There are very few who in their hearts do not believe in God, but what they will not do is give Him exclusive right of way... They are not ready to promise full allegiance to God alone. Many a professing Christian is a stumbling block because his worship is divided. On Sunday, he worships God; on weekdays, God has little or no place in his thoughts."

I John 2:15 "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

4. Sincere Hearers –

Luke 8:15 "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."

At the beginning of his reign, King Solomon prayed one superior gift from God. Not wealth, not long life, but something far more valuable--he asked for "an understanding heart," which translated a hearing heart.

1 Kings 3:9 "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?"

He asked, we say, for wisdom. But the genius of wisdom ... is the ability to open a room in one’s heart for the talk.

John 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:"

John 8:31-32 "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Those who are closest to Christ are those who hear and obey –

Luke 8:21 "And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it."

They hear and do! The deepest relationship is not determined by blood, but by hearts and minds meshed together. The person closest to God is the person who obeys God and takes His Word seriously.

John 14:21, 23 "He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him... 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."
1 John 2:24 "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father."

In our passage, this morning, Jesus says that when we hear the word, we become accountable. If we hear the Word and make good use of it, we shall benefit from it and the opportunity for greater knowledge and grace will come. If we hear the Word and do not make good use of it, we will not only not benefit from the Word we hear but will lose out on the blessings we now enjoy. We will go spiritually backwards rather than forwards.

How to Hear.

This morning, I am going to discuss with you how we should properly hear the Word if we want to derive spiritual benefits from it and pave the way for greater blessings.

  • With Longing

1 Peter 2:2 "like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation."

The Apostle says that we need to hunger for the Word of God as a baby hungers for milk. A healthy baby instinctively hungers for milk and demands it often. If that baby does not feed on milk, it will quickly become malnourished. Its development will be diminished. The little one will eventually die.

  • With Faith
Hebrews 4:2 "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard."

The writer of Hebrews is talking about the Israelites whom God delivered from Egyptian slavery. He brought them into the desert of Sinai and gave them His word. They received the good news that if they trust and obey God’s Word, they will be given the ‘promised land.’ On the other hand, they were told that if they should fail to trust and obey, they would never get to their desired destination.

The writer says that we are now in a similar situation. God has delivered us from the kingdom of Satan and slavery to sin. He has given us His Word. We have received in that Word the good news that if we trust and obey, we will reach the spiritual ‘promise land’ - heaven. On the other hand, we have been told that should we fail to trust and obey, we will never reach heaven.
We need to realize that hearing the Word or reading the Word will not profit us in our lives unless we believe what we hear or read. That is, we will derive no advantages or blessings from the Word unless we place our complete trust and confidence in it.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that
when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the
word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its
work in you who believe."

The Word works on our hearts and minds and lives only if we believe what it says. It will not bring any blessings into our lives unless it is received with faith. Faith says - ‘I believe what I am hearing to be true and because I believe it to be true I will begin to act on it.’

Ezekiel 33:30-32 "But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ’Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them."

Proverbs 16:20 "He who gives attention to the word shall find good, And blessed
is he who trusts in the Lord."

  • With Humility

After receiving the Word with faith, the next most important way in which we must hear the Word is with humility.

James 1:21 "In humility receive the word…which is able to save your souls."

It takes humility to accept a message which says that you are a no good sinner. It takes humility to openly receive a message that says that you need to be told how to live your life. It takes humility to accept counsel which tells you that you got to change your attitudes, your ways of thinking, your speech and your behavior.

Proverbs 11:2 "With the humble is wisdom."

Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he
who listens to counsel."

The truth is: if you are not teachable, you are not saveable. In order to be saved, you must be humble. Humility begins by being willing to accept the instruction, the correction and reproofs found in the Word and to apply them to our lives.

Proverbs 10:17 "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who
forsakes reproof goes astray."
  • With Love For The Truth

This day was predicted by the Spirit of God.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth."
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them
that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be
saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should
believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had
pleasure in unrighteousness."

Paul says that if we do not love the truth and seek it at all costs, but turn to those who teach a false Christianity because we take pleasure in wickedness, God will send upon us a deluding influence that will cause us to believe in false teachings and practices. If we reject the truth, God will see to it that we will have access to falsehood and cause us to accept it to our own destruction. That is one reason why we need to hear the Word with an intense love of the truth. No matter what the truth may be or what it might demand of us, we should value it above all else.

Proverbs 23:23 "Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding."
  • With Study

Acts 17:11 "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so."

The Apostle Paul came to preach the Gospel to these Jews. Thus, the people were taught by the most famous apostle and theologian of the early church, and the human author of at least 13 New Testament books. Yet, they searched the Scriptures when Paul taught, to see if his teaching was truly Biblical! They would not accept Paul’s word at face value, but wanted to know if these things were so. Its not that they were skeptics or cynics. It says they "received the word with great eagerness." They had open hearts….but, they also had clear minds. In their eagerness, they were not careless to accept anything that just sounded good. They were diligent to make sure that they would not receive anything that was not consistent with the Scriptures….not just with some Scriptures but with all of the Scriptures.

  • Implant the Word

James 1:21 "In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."

James says, "Receive the word implanted." What does he mean? James is telling us to do everything we can to allow the message to sink deeply into our hearts and minds.

How many of you can remember the subject and chief points of the sermon that was delivered, last Sunday? When we hear a lesson or a sermon, we need to make an effort to implant into our brains. A powerful lesson or sermon is worthless unless we implant it into our brains.

Why is it so important to implant it into our brains? If we do not implant it, it will do us no good in the days ahead. We will not be able to apply it to our circumstances in the future unless we can draw it out of our hearts and minds.

James says "receive the word implanted" and then goes on to say "prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." The fact is: if you don’t implant the Word, you won’t be doers of the Word.

Let me give you a couple tips on how you can help yourself "receive the word implanted":

  1. Write down the sermon’s chief points and Scripture references and meditate on them throughout the week.
  2. Come up with one or two ways you are going to apply the principles learned and follow through with them. No method is better in implanting the Word than putting the Word into action as soon as possible.

Psalms 119:11 "Thy word I have treasured in my heart."

Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom."

Revelation 21:17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

Can you hear me now?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Love is a Wonderful Thing

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
Genesis 24:1-9

Before I start this message let me share a story about Valentine’s day:

Valentine, the priest who Valentine’s Day is named for, was martyred for the great and godly institution of marriage. The emperor of Rome at the time, Claudius, passed a law banning marriages. His reason was simple. Men would not volunteer to join his Roman army with wives and girlfriends to leave behind. Valentine knew that God instituted the family and His will included great marriages. So, he kept on performing marriage ceremonies – but secretly. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, while listening for soldiers on the steps outside.
One night, he did hear footsteps. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.

Valentine tried to stay cheerful while imprisoned, and many young people came to the jail to visit him—actually performing ceremonies while imprisoned. The jailer’s daughter would often visit Valentine in his cell, and they sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies.

On the day, Valentine was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, "Love from your Valentine." That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D.

Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken.
And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.
And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.
And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go.
And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.
And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.
And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.
And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men.
And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.
And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south country.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.
For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. Genesis 24:51-67

Abraham was dying. Before he did, he wanted to find a bride for his son Isaac. He sent a servant to his homeland to find this bride. The servant did what he was sent to do, and God demonstrated to the servant that Rebekah was the one. For Rebekah, her encounter with Abraham’s servant came down to one important question, "Wilt thou go with this man?" She said, "I will go," and this response changed her life forever!

From our spiritual viewpoint, everything boils down to the very same question.

In this story:

  • Abraham is a picture of God the Father.
  • The Servant represents the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebekah represents the church, or those saved by grace.
  • Isaac is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God the Father has sent His Holy Spirit into this world to call out a bride for Jesus Christ. Like Abraham’s servant, the Holy Spirit does not promote Himself, but He talks about Jesus and calls lost people to come to Him for salvation.

When a man falls under conviction and the Holy Spirit reveals Christ in his heart, he is brought face to face with the greatest question man will ever encounter! "Wilt thou go with this man?" How you answer that question determines where you spend your eternity.

The story is an earthly picture with a heavenly meaning. Abraham (God the Father) sent Eliezer (the Holy Spirit) to get Rebekah (the church) as a bride for his only begotten son Isaac (Christ). She must leave her attachment to her brother Laban’s home (the world) to go to Isaac.

Rebekah compared to the Church (the Christians)

  1. Both are Gentile brides.
  2. Both are called by the servant (the Holy Spirit).
  3. Both received gifts from the servant (salvation).
  4. Both had to decide to leave and go.

Laban compared the world and Satan

  1. A bride is called from both.
  2. Both try to detain the bride.
  3. Both are concerned with the material not spiritual.
  4. The bride must leave both to go to a husband. "Leave all to gain all."

Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. Rebekah had to give up home, family and friends to gain all the riches of Isaac.

Isaac compared to Christ

  1. 1. Both had a supernatural birth.
  2. 2. Both were the objects of their father’s love.
  3. 3. Both were rich in their inheritance.
  4. 4. Both were Hebrews married to Gentile brides.

The servant compared to the Holy Spirit

  1. Both are sent.
  2. Both give gifts to the bride.
  3. Both teach about the son.
  4. Both call the bride to go to the husband.

Some matters were clear to Rebekah as they made the trip to the bridegroom:

  • Isaac is a man of mystery. The name of this man is not even revealed to Rebekah, but for over 500 miles the servant talked about him, and Rebekah learned about him. The Spirit of God will teach us all about Him as we journey toward home. The Spirit is in the teaching business. John 16:13-14: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
  • Isaac is a man of means. Everything Abraham owns is in the hand of the son. He is well able to care for his bride!
  • Isaac is a man of matrimony. The whole purpose of the journey was to find Isaac a bride! He was not teasing her… leading her on… playing hard to get. He wanted it known from the beginning that he was looking to marry! God is not interested in an on-again-off-again relationship. He’ll not participate in a one-night stand. He does not get involved in meaningless courtships. He’s made his intentions known from the beginning: He's looking for a bride!

Some matters were concealed from Rebekah:

  • The unknown about the trip was concealed from her. She did not know what lay between where she was and where he was. There are many unknowns along the way, but the servant has all the necessary resources to make the journey successful. She probably had many questions about the journey, about the destination, about the man Isaac. She might have even wondered along the way if the roughness of the journey was worth it.
  • The unknown about her reception was concealed from her. She may have wondered, "When he sees me, what will he think of me? Will I be accepted? Will I be loved? If he is all that I have been told, he may not be too impressed with me!" All her fears were in vain! "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her." You need not wonder whether Jesus will have you or not. If you will come to Him, He will never turn you away. If you are already saved, you need not fear His rejection at the end of the journey.
  • The unknown about her reward was concealed. What was in it for Rebekah? Was this offer for real? Rebekah got a new father, a new family, a new faith, a new fortune, and a new future. But above all she got a husband that would love her always! Rebekah got more than she could have ever imagined when she got Isaac. The world, the flesh, and the devil will try to tell the believer that there is no payoff in serving God, but the rewards for coming to Jesus are without number and without limit! I Corinthians 2:9: "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." We may not know very much about a relationship with Jesus but if we accept Him by faith we will receive more than we can think.

Rebekah had to be willing...

  • She was willing to choose. Even though she did not know all there was to know about Isaac, she knew that she wanted to be with him. She didn’t have all the information, but she had enough to choose her husband by faith. He sounded just like the man she wanted to be married to. Salvation boils down to you wanting Him more than you want anything else in life. Being saved means coming to a place where you are willing to choose Jesus over your sins, Heaven over Hell, God over Satan. Salvation is about you reaching a place where you want to be free more than you want to be bound! Salvation is faith in Jesus Christ alone. Rebekah determined, "I want him more than anything I have here. I will go!" Salvation comes down to you being willing to make Him your choice, after He has made you His choice. Don’t allow anything to stand between you and your soul’s salvation! Nothing you can name in this world or in the world to come is more valuable than being saved!
  • She was willing to change. Rebekah esteemed Isaac as being more valuable than anything else in her life. She was willing to turn her back on everything to go be with him. She was willing to live in a new place, in a new way, under new management. This is the essence of salvation. It is a total life change, because it is a new life. You cannot change yourself, but until you are willing to let God change you, you can never be saved! II Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
  • She was willing to commit. Rebekah was willing to commit the rest of her life to being Isaac’s wife. She was willing to give her all to him!

Salvation is not about mere profession; it is about total commitment! Salvation is a radical commitment to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of your life, with no reservations. Salvation comes when a lost sinner is convicted of his sins and is drawn to Christ. Belief is a total commitment to a new life.

Rebekah made her decision to go to Isaac. As a result, she was loved, blessed and lived a happy, joyous life. It all happened because she said, "I will go!" when she heard the question, "Will you go with this man?"

What about you? In your heart, you are hearing that same question asked today, "Wilt thou go with this man?" Will you? Will you go with Jesus? If you will come to Jesus, He will save you and change your life forever. You and you alone can decide what you will do with Jesus!

Jesus is standing at your heart’s door.
Standing and knocking, He’s knocked before;
This is the question we face once more:
What will you do with Jesus?

At your sad heart He is knocking still,
Longing to enter your soul to thrill;
You must accept or reject His will:
What will you do with Jesus?

Oh, will you leave Him alone outside?
Or, will you choose Him whate’er betide?
This is the question you must decide:
What will you do with Jesus?

What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Someday your heart will be asking:
What will He do with me?
(Author Unknown)

Charles Wesley wrote the words that I think sum up how we should feel about Jesus:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down!
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion;
Pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Why would you not want to go with Him?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Blessings of Redemption

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Epheisans 1: 1-14

Our text today reveals to us the tremendous blessings that God has provided and made available to Christians. In verse 7 Paul declares that we have been redeemed through the blood of Christ. He begins his letter to the Ephesians rejoicing in the blessing of redemption.

Beacon Bible Exposition says: "'Blessed' is a priceless word in the scripture and it defies full definition. It has been suggested that this word may carry in itself the central theme of all the Bible. 'Blessed' bears the idea of 'speaking well or eulogizing.'" In effect, the apostle is saying literally, "Let’s eulogize God, or let’s speak well of our God."

There are three thoughts I want to leave with you today about this scripture:

1. Redemption.

Ephesians 1:7-- "In Him we have redemption."

The word 'redemption' is a commercial term borrowed from the marketplace where human beings were offered for sale to the highest bidder. Condemned to a miserable existence, these slaves were powerless to escape. Sometimes they were sold from one owner to another. But they were in bondage. Their only hope was redemption, an uncommon process whereby they were purchased in order to be set free. A master who bought them could set them free.

Scripture uses the tragedy of slavery to illustrate our human predicament. Without God’s intervention, we are all hopelessly enslaved to self and sin. We are forced to live in bondage to sin and Satan. Enslaved by sin and guilt, we are unable to liberate ourselves.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 7:14 -25

The idea of "redemption" is a bit of a stretch for us to really understand today.

It is the idea of being set free, of being bought back out of slavery or prison, and restored. We have absolutely no idea what it means to be enslaved – to be stripped of any personal rights, dignity, or freedom. To become property of another – no longer human but merely a thing to be used, abused, or neglected entirely at the whim of someone else who "owns" you.

We can’t imagine what it means to literally have shackles on our ankles, which limit our ability to move farther than the short chain might allow. We have heard about slavery, but in general it is probably so far removed from our own experience that it is difficult for us to grasp the complete helplessness and despair. To know that there is not a single thing we can do for ourselves to change our situation.

A few weeks ago I watched the movie Roots and the one goal of the slaves was FREEDOM. But the more they wanted freedom the harder it became for them to find.

If you can imagine what it means to be enslaved – if you can sense a bit of the horror and helplessness – then we can start to understand what redemption is. It is the idea of someone, in this case a perfect stranger, appearing out of nowhere and paying the debt, assuming the responsibility, in fact exchanging places with you and I in the shackles. Being redeemed means that someone from the outside has come to us in our helplessness and set us free.

Jesus said, "...everyone who sins is a slave to sin." (John 8:34) Sin traps us and holds us, rendering us powerless to escape its clutches. Consequently, try as hard as we might, we are unable to overcome our sin. It might be lust, uncontrollable anger, drugs, pornography, envy, covetousness, lying, materialism, destructive behavior, harmful attitudes, or whatever. In our natural, unsaved state we are at the mercy of sin; powerless against it. In spite of the fact that sin ruins relationships, wrecks lives and brings untold pain, misery and regret we can’t seem to overcome it. Our only hope is Christ who can redeem us, setting us free from sin’s penalty and its power in our daily lives.

Describing what God has done for us, Paul says in verse 7, "…in Christ we have redemption through His blood."

Even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

Christ offers to set us free from bondage to sin through the ransom price of his blood.

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Hebrews 9:22
Through faith in Christ we are delivered form the guilt of our past sin. But that is only part of what it means to be ransomed. Our present and future are affected, as we are no longer held captive by the power of sin. Delivered by Christ we are saved from our old lifestyle and introduced to a new and better way of life.

Redemption literally means deliverance as a result of the payment of ransom. This implies emancipation from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin.

Look at the pattern in the scriptures:

I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. John 8:34

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Romans 7:14

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. Galatians 3:13

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36
We now see how God could carry out His choice to have a people who are holy and without blame, adopted as sons unto Him, when all He had to work with were "sinners." Through the death of Jesus and the shedding of His blood, God was just to "redeem" or "deliver" sinners from the bondage of sin! There is another way to express what God has done to make it possible for us to be "holy and blameless in His sight," and that is, through His Son.

It was almost 1:00 in the morning when the phone rang. Dr. Leo Winters, the highly acclaimed Chicago surgeon, was abruptly awakened. There had been an accident and his skilled hands were needed for immediate surgery. The quickest route happened to be through a rather tough area, but with time being a critical factor, it was worth the risk. At one of the stop lights his door was yanked open by a man with a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt.

"I got to have your car!" the man screamed, pulling him from his seat. Winters tried to explain the gravity of the situation but the man would not listen.

When the doctor was finally able to get a taxi to the hospital, over an hour had elapsed. It was too late. The patient had passed away 30 minutes earlier. The nurse told him that the father of the victim had gone to the chapel wondering why the doctor never came.

Dr. Winters walked hurriedly to the chapel and when he entered he saw the man in a gray hat and dirty flannel shirt. It was the father of his patient. Tragically, he had pushed from his life the one who could save his son.

If the Son sets you free, you shall be free, indeed. John 8:36

Redeemed by the blood of Christ we are set free from the power of sin. Sin need no longer have the hold on us that it once did. Through the power of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit we are able to say "no" to sin. We are thus ransomed or delivered to live our lives on a higher plane. You don’t have to live your life held captive by the sins that mess up your life. Jesus Christ came to earth "to give his life a ransom for many." We all need the deliverance He offers simply because we all know the pain and regret that results from our enslavement to sin.

Sin looks attractive, compelling and pleasing but it turns out to be such a horrible quagmire that it costs the life of Christ to lift us out. In our text Paul rejoices in the incredible blessings that come with redemption. He was so grateful that the Lord Jesus had released him from his past life of enslavement to sin, setting him free to live his life on a higher plane.

Paul emphasizes the blessings of redemption but also the blessing of:

2. Forgiveness.

In verse seven Paul calls our attention to the blessing of forgiveness. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."

"If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior."

Forgiveness is one of the blessings of redemption.

At last the last supper Jesus said, "This is my blood... which was shed for the forgiveness of sins..." Forgiveness absolves us from the punishment of sin which we deserve. Every one of our sins can be covered by the death of Christ.

1 John 1:9 declares that "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us..." God has promised that He will "forgive our iniquity and remember our sin no more." In Christ we can be delivered from the guilt of our past. It means that he does not exact payment for sins committed. Our responsibility for it ceases. The guilt of it is no longer ours.

But thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. Isaiah 38:17

Matthew Henry’s commentary said: "When God pardons sin he casts it behind his back, as not designing to look upon it with an eye of justice and jealousy. He remembers it no more. The pardon does not make the sin not to have been, but not to be punished as it deserves. When we cast our sins behind our back, and take no care to repent of them, God sets them before his face, and is ready to reckon for them; but when we set them before our face in true repentance, as David did when His sin was ever before Him. God casts them behind his back."

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:9-12

The last thought this morning is the blessing of...

3. Grace

Redemption and forgiveness, Paul says, are "in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished upon us..." (Ephesians 1:7-8, NIV)

These "riches of His grace" are all the wonderful things that He gives to us and does for us. Things that we, as sinners, don’t deserve. God’s grace is His unmerited favor. He gives us what we, as sinners, could never earn. The Greek word that Paul uses for grace is a word that was used when someone was ushered into the presence of royalty. Through God’s grace in Christ the door has been opened for us to enter into the presence of God, finding forgiveness and fellowship in spite of our sinful pasts. When that door was opened we found grace, not ridicule or rejection but sheer, unmerited grace. When we come to Christ with a sense of need and a spirit of repentance, God redeems us and pours out His grace upon us. He blesses us in countless life-changing ways. Grace is the result of redemption and it is demonstrated to sinner through God’s blessings.

He blesses us by saving us from the just penalty of our sins. He blesses us by giving us victory over the power of sin in our daily living. He blesses us by providing for us in countless and often miraculous ways.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

The blessings of God’s grace were especially evident in the life of one young man. He was raised in a Christian home for several years until his parents died. Orphaned and living with relatives he was mistreated, abused, and ridiculed. Unable to bear the abuse he, though still a boy, fled and joined the Royal Navy.

From there his life went downhill as he became a drunkard and a brawler. Deserting the Royal Navy he joined up with a slave trader. His life continued to disintegrate and spiral out of control.

One day he stole the ships whiskey and got so drunk that he fell overboard. He was so close to drowning that one of his shipmates literally harpooned him and brought him back on board. Consequently he had a huge scar in his side for the rest of his life.

Finally, one day during a storm he began to reflect upon some Bible verses his parents had taught him before they died. He reached out to Jesus and his life was redeemed; he was forgiven.

But God’s grace didn’t end with his salvation. This, wandering, brawling man drastically changed as he experienced victory over the power of sin. He became, as scripture says, "a new creation in Christ." This young man was none other than John Newton who wrote that wonderful old song that we often sing and love "Amazing Grace."

I want us to do something that I have never asked before . I want us to sing two verses from two songs in closing: Amazing Grace and Redeemed. I want us to really think about what we are singing. If you are in the bondage of sin, I want you to know that you can be delivered! We still have a redeemer! Amen.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Redeemed--how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!
Redeemed thro' His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.
Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell!
I know that the light of his presence
With me doth continually dwell.
Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child, and forever, I am.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008