SERMON – May 19, 2019

Men Standing Firm

 

Have you ever watched, “This Old House” on tv?  It’s a popular home improvement show that is now in its 40th season.  It’s popular because a team of experts repair older homes.   In one episode, the owners were remodeling an old church into their home. When the crew went down into the basement, they found that the central beam supporting the floor joists was held up by a 1foot block of wood, sitting on a 6-inch concrete block.   And by the way, the old church was in San Francisco…which sits on a major fault line and in an earthquake zone.  It’s easy to see, that those who built this church, failed to build it on a solid foundation.

Our sermon series in May is called “The Church-God’s Master Plan” and I assure you that God is very interested in a solid foundation.  God wants HIS church built HIS way so that it won’t be shaken by a world built on a fault line of sin.   As we continue in the book of Titus, we see where Paul left Titus on the isle of Crete to strengthen a church in the midst of an evil society.   Let’s stand as we read from Titus 1:10-12. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.””

Paul started this church in Crete and when he left he placed Titus in charge.  He tells him in verse 5, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…”   Now, how’s Titus going to do that?   He’s just one man in the midst of a pagan society?   Well, here’s the truth.   God didn’t expect Titus to do this all by himself.

That would have been like building a house supported by a 1foot block of wood, that sits on a 6-inch concrete block…it’ll won’t hold up forever.   God doesn’t intend His church to be built around 1 man or 1 pastor.   Many churches may do this, but that’s not on ‘God’s Master Plan’!

Now, the rest of the verse reveals His Master Plan in building His church.   Paul wrote, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”   In other words: Paul is telling Titus, “You need help.”   Because the strength of any church doesn’t depend upon the man in the pulpit.   It depends on the men who stand beside the man in the pulpit.

So, Paul is telling Titus to get some men to stand with him because there are people in the world that will pull the church down and destroy it.   Some of those men here at JV, are the Deacons.   They are an Elder/Bishop/Deacon all rolled into one.   Their role is to protect this church from false teaching and stand upon and be led by God’s Word.

In the book of Judges, the 2nd chapter, says that as long as Joshua and the leaders were alive, the children of Israel followed God.  But when the righteous men died, the people fell back into their evil ways.   The Bible says, “And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers…” (Judges 2:19)

Now, why did that happen?   Because other men among them didn’t step up.   They said:

  • Let the other guys do it.
  • I’m just too busy.

So, when the good men died, when the moral leaders passed away…there was no one to replace them and evil took over.   So men, here’s the truth.   If you consider Jay Valley your church home and if these are your people, then are you ready to stand up and be involved?   I’m not asking you to become a Deacon.   I’m asking you to be of service in this church.   Many of our men serve but there’s a need for more.   All you have to do…is have a desire to be used by God.

Now, I consider myself an amateur carpenter.  But I wasn’t always able to read a tape measure or operate a saw.   I had a desire to be like my father and his father.   So I began by doing little things in my Dad’s workshop.   Like sweeping the floor, putting up tools, and straightening out nails.  I must have straightened half of the bent nails in the Tarrant county.  But my point is this, I wanted to be involved, so I became my father’s helper.   In God’s blueprint, He needs you to be His helper, to step up and do what you can!

Now, there’s a reason God put men in leadership positions.   And it has a lot to do with the differences between men and women.   Godly women are essential for church growth and a wise leader will ask their opinions.  But when it comes to decision making, God holds the men accountable for what happens in His church.  And His Word proves it.

In Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, who was tempted to eat of the forbidden tree?   It was Eve.   So, shouldn’t she be blamed for the 1st sin?   But in the 5th chapter of Romans, who does God blame for the sin?   It was Adam…not Eve.  Because God held Adam responsible for not stepping up and being a man.   It was Adam who failed!   He could have protected his wife, but he didn’t.   When Godly men are weak then the church is weak.   The truth is, men need strong women in the church and women need strong male leadership.   And here at Jay Valley, we need both or we won’t have a solid foundation.

So, Paul was telling Titus that to build a strong church, he is to look for:

  • Men who are willing to give themselves to God.
  • Men who are willing to stand on God’s Word only.
  • Men who are willing to stand up, serve, and protect God’s kingdom.

Titus couldn’t do it alone.   He needed strong men to stand beside him.   And that’s God’s blueprint for the foundation of strong and safe church in the midst of an evil society.

In ancient Greece, the King of Sparta once bragged about the ‘mighty walls’ of Sparta.  But a visitor looked around and didn’t see any walls, so he asked, ‘where are they?’   The King pointed to the men in his mighty army and said, “There they are!  Those men are the walls of Sparta!”   The King was so confident in his soldiers that when Philip of Macedonia threatened: “If we capture your city, we will burn it to the ground.”   That the King simply replied: “if”.   The King was confidence because he saw each soldier as a brick in a mighty wall.  A wall that would stand against enemy attacks.

And that’s how Jesus sees us.   We are His bricks in a mighty wall that surround and protect His family.  The Bible says, we are “…living stones, built up a spiritual house”. (I Peter 2:5)

This morning, are you allowing God to use you?   Are you serving God and His kingdom?

SERMON – May 12, 2019

The Ministry of Motherhood

 

Have you ever seen a child with freckles?  Well, I read a story about a grandmother who took her freckled faced grandson to the zoo.   As they stood in the face painting line, a little girl turned and said, “You’ve got so many freckles, there’s no place to paint!”   Embarrassed, the little boy dropped his head.   Then his grandmother picked him up and lovingly whispered, “I love your freckles. When I was a little girl, I always wanted freckles.”  She traced his cheek with her finger and said, “You know, freckles are beautiful.”   The boy began to smile, “Really?”  “Of course,”    she said, “Name me something that’s prettier than freckles.”   Her grandson began to trace the outline of her face and he softly whispered, “Wrinkles.”    They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and to that little boy, nothing was more beautiful than his grandmother’s wrinkles.

This morning, I want to look thru the eyes of God at beauty…because God doesn’t look at us the same way others do.   On this Mother’s Day, we’re looking at the women who impress God.  Please join us as we stand and read from Titus 2:1-5: “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things–that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

Paul wrote this letter to Titus who was serving in Crete.   Now, historians tell us that Crete was a wicked city back in the day.   Paul says that “…a  prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” (Titus 1:12)   These people didn’t care about God, only about themselves and their own power and success.   The men were drunkards and lacked self-control.   The women seem to be gossipers and neglected their families.   And everyone disrespected those in authority. And the new believers had to live among them!

When you live in a culture like that, it becomes easy to think like they do and to live like they do.

  • When you’re surrounded by people who tell dirty jokes, it’s hard not to join in.
  • When you spend time with people who curse, it’s hard not to pick up that language.
  • And when you spend time in school or at work with those who cheat to get ahead, it’s hard not to do the same thing.

 

It’s called “Peer Pressure” and we’ve all felt it.   Today, we live in a pagan or unsaved world and if we’re not careful, we’ll be drawn into the pagan way of life.  Especially when we watch the same TV shows and see the same movies and read the same books as they do.  Many of these movies and books tell of lifestyles that are impure and immoral by God’s standard.  And when we saturate ourselves with this worldly way of living, then we tend to forget the importance of living a wholesome life that is pleasing to our Savior.

But one of the most powerful forces for God in this pagan world…is the words and examples of a godly woman.   She can have the same influence as that grandmother did on that freckled face little boy as her words gave him encouragement and strength.   God says in Prov 31:30, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”   I believe the biggest impact on this world is made by mothers.  Most people have never heard of a sculptor named Bartholdi.  He’s best known for a statue that stands in the New York harbor…

the Statue of Liberty.  He was told that the statue had to represent the idea of liberty, respect, love, and acceptance, so he studied the heroes of history looking for a model.   But in the end, he chose…his own mother.

Godly mothers can make a huge impact not only on their children, but on those around them.  By their behavior, they create a safe and stable home for the whole family.  So, in the early church in Crete, God turned to the older women to create a safe and stable environment.  He calls on them to guard the homes and the families of the younger women by training them to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and subject to their husbands.   Why?  So, they’ll not bring shame upon the Word of God.   The women of that congregation were the first line of defense against the influences of that pagan world.   The younger women listened to the older women who took them under their wing to encourage them, lift their spirits and challenge them to be the kinds of wives and mothers that glorified God.   There’s no doubt that godly women are the backbone of a strong church.

Now, I need to clear up a common misconception.   Did you notice the part about women being “obedient or subject to their husbands”?   Often, men make the mistake of thinking the Bible says that submission is a “woman” thing.   It’s not.  It’s a God thing.  According to Ephesians 5:21 ALL Christians are expected to be submissive.  The Bible says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  But do we really understand the biblical term for “submission”?  The English word “submit” comes from a Latin root which means “to let down, reduce, or yield.”  We picture kneeling before a superior or yielding to someone greater and that angers us.   But the N.T. Greek word is hupotasso, which means “to put under or arrange under.”  It’s a military word that refers to lower-ranking soldiers arranging themselves under the orders of higher officers.  So, biblical submission is an acknowledgment of proper order and authority.   And according to Romans 11:36, we’re told that all things are from God, through God, and to God, so He is the highest authority.

Jesus Himself recognized God’s authority and was submissive to it.  In John 5:30, Jesus says, “I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me.”   Jesus’ entire life is an example of submission to His Father, especially His prayer just before His death.  He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  To be a disciple of Christ, we must submit to Christ’s authority, just as He submitted to His Father’s.   After all, a submissive heart is the core of our salvation experience.    And in this early church, God called the older women to teach that truth.   Often, women lose focus and complain that men have too much power.   But the truth is…even though men may have power, women have influence.  As the old saying goes: “Men may wear the pants in the family, but the woman tells him which pair.” 

I read a story about a woman who had 10 children and another on the way.   One day, for some reason, her 3 yr. old son was under her feet everywhere she went.   Every time she turned around; she’d trip over him.  Patiently she’d ask, “Wouldn’t you like to go outside and play?”    But he’d just smile and say, “No, I want to be with you.”   Finally, after stepping on his toes for the 5th time, she began to lose her patience and insisted that he go outside and play with the other children.  But when she saw the tears well up in his eyes, she asked why he was acting this way.   With a face of an angel, he looked up and said, “In Sunday School, my teacher said we should walk in Jesus’ footsteps.  But I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.”   I want to remind all mothers…to cherish the influence you have on others.   You change lives.

SERMON – May 05, 2019

God’s Blueprint For His Church

 

This month, we’ll explore a series of sermons under the heading, “The Church-God’s Master Plan.”   And our first message in this series, is “God’s Blueprint for His Church.”  If you’ve ever watched a house or a business being built, the method of communication between an architect, contractor, or builder is a big piece of paper called a ‘blueprint’.  Now the ‘blueprint’ is a large drawing of how the building is to be constructed.

I read a funny story about two little brothers that decided to build a doghouse.  The older brother, Tommy (who was 8) noticed his little brother, Billy (who was 6) would take out a nail, look at it and either nail it in or throw it over his shoulder.  Finally, Tommy yelled at Billy, “Hey, why are you throwing away half our nails?”  And Billy replied, “The points are on the wrong end.”  Tommy shook his head and being older and wiser by 2 years, he replied, “You dummy, those are for the other side of the doghouse!”   These boys don’t need a blueprint…they got wisdom.

This morning, we’ll turn to Titus for “God’s Blueprint for His Church”.  You see, if you don’t have ‘this’ blueprint, which is approved by the ‘Great Architect’, then you don’t have a church!   Every congregation ‘must’ be constructed using this blueprint…or God won’t approve it.   So what does this blueprint look like?   Well, let see as we stand and read from Titus 2:11-14:  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

Did you notice the first verse; “Grace brings salvation.”  Grace teaches us how to live.   Grace is the blueprint of the church.   And Grace is how you build a church.  It’s Grace that makes a church a church.   And the truth is…without Grace, you don’t have a church.   So, to build a church that God will approve of, we need to understand what is Grace?   Is this the grace you say before a meal?   Of course not.   The best way to understand Grace is to compare it to the Biblical concepts of “Justice and Mercy”.

  • Justice is getting the bad that we deserve. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”  If we died without the Savior and received justice, then we got what we deserved.
  • Mercy is “not” getting the bad that we deserve. We’re spared from “justice” by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Grace is getting the GOOD that we don’t deserve. Not just being spared death but being given Eternal life plus all the blessings that God wants to give us.

Again, Grace is getting the good that we don’t deserve.  And that’s important because today people tend to think of heaven as something they can earn.   If they do enough good stuff, they’ll get in.   But if they don’t…then they’ll go to the other place.

Now, think about it.  If a person can ‘work’ their way into heaven, then God can’t keep them out.   In other words: if salvation could be ‘earned’, then God would be ‘obligated’ to put them in heaven.   But Grace says that can’t happen because we’ve “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”   Have you ever sinned?   Raise your hand if you’ve ever done wrong?   Well, I guess we all deserve to spend eternity in that other place!   If you’re depending on your “righteous acts” to get you into heaven…then you’ll be disappointed on the Judgement Day.   Because the truth is “… all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” to God. (Isaiah 64:6)  Every time we gather as a church we’re reminded of that truth.  You see…we’re all sinners saved by grace and we don’t deserve God’s gift.

I’m here because of God’s grace.  His Word says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)   A church is the only place that exists for the benefit of those who don’t deserve to be there.   Christian comedian Brad Stine said it best:  “The only reason I’m a Christian is because it’s the only religion that would have me.”   The truth of God’s Grace is that He loved us even when we weren’t lovable.   The moment believers forget Grace…the church is trouble.   Grace says Jesus bought you.   He owns you.   And He owns the church.   A church where its people have forgotten that they all belong to Jesus will find itself with serious problems.

I read about a church who split over an argument at a potluck meal when a lady brought a congealed salad made with Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream.   Churches have divided over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium.   Over whether the Lord’s Supper should be served from the front to the back or the back to the front.   Over, the color of the carpet or the pew cushions, or even the color of the roof.   Now, why would believers behave like that…because they’ve forgotten Grace.   They’ve forgotten that Jesus owns the church and owns them.   And so they behave like hypocrites because Grace isn’t part of their church‘s blueprint.

Now that brings us to v12 “(Grace) teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.”   If I’ve been bought by Grace (the blood of Jesus Christ) then Jesus owns me.   And if He owns me, He can tell me how to live.   And the first thing Jesus tells me is to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly lusts.   The Greek here literally means to ‘disown’ evil and worldly desires.

Now, one last thought.  Verse 13 tells us that Grace does all that while we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”.   This is the last part of “God’s Blueprint for His Church” as Grace prepares us for the 2nd Coming of Christ.

Grace not only prepares us morally and mentally for heaven, it also prepares us emotionally.   When Jesus returns, it will be a time of great rejoicing!  Revelation 21:3-4 says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”   Grace declares to us…that this is what we’ve been waiting for.   This is what awaits those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross and followed Christ every day!

Dr. Stowell, former President of Moody Bible Institute, tells about the time he visited a home for mentally handicapped children.  While walking through the halls, he noticed the windows were covered with tiny little hand prints, so he asked about them.  The director said, “The children here love Jesus and they’re so eager for His return that every day they lean against the windows as they look up into the sky.”   Now, that’s how we should be.   God’s grace has prepared us for that very moment.   The moment His Son returns…are you ready?

SERMON – Apr 28, 2019

What Would You Have Me Do For You?

 

A man walks into a dentist’s office and says, “Excuse me, can you help me?  I think I’m a moth.”

The receptionist replied, “You don’t need a dentist, you need a psychiatrist and his office is just down the hall”   The man replied, “Oh, I know…I was headed that way.”  “Then why did you come in here?”  The man looked up and said, “Because the light was on…”

Oh, I know…it’s a dumb joke, but it helps me make my point in the sermon this morning.

  • The man obviously had a problem, he thought he was a moth.
  • He was seeking help, but he got distracted.
  • The light drew him ‘away’ from where he might ‘actually’ get help.

In our passage this morning, we find 2 men who were asking for help and got more than they expected.   Let’s stand and read from Matthew 20:29-34:

Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

Jesus is in the last week of His ministry and His life.  He’s going to Jerusalem where He’ll be betrayed, arrested, and crucified.   The Jewish crowd will call for His blood and cry out to “Crucify Him!”   But this day, the huge crowd lining the streets…love Him.

You see, they’re expecting ‘this’ Messiah to claim His crown, defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its glory.   Well, everyone but 2 blind men, who sit by the road…begging.  And this day, they cry out “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”  And it angers the crowd because this isn’t what “their” Jesus…or “their” Messiah is all about.   He’s too important to be bothered with beggars and people like that.

But Jesus stops and asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”   What an unusual question.    It’s obvious what these men want…they’re beggars.   But that’s ‘not’ what makes this question unusual.   Did you know, this is the only time in the Gospels where Jesus asks someone what they need done?

But you may say…this is Jesus.   Nobody needs to tell Him anything.   He’s God…He knows everything.   Then why ask the question?   Well, it’s obvious.   He didn’t ask it for His benefit.   So, He must have asked it…for ours.

Now, how does the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” benefit us or the crowd?   It’s for sure, the crowd isn’t going to help the blind men.   They actually told them to be quiet.   These guys were nothing but a nuisance, a hindrance, and they might ‘distract’ Jesus from doing His ‘real’ purpose…such as meeting ‘their’ needs and building ‘their’ kingdom.

On this day a “great multitude” followed Jesus but in a few days, when they realize that He isn’t here to “meet their needs and build their kingdom”, they’ll turn their backs on Him and cry out for His blood.   Perhaps, that’s why Jesus didn’t ask the crowd what He could do for them…but instead, He asked the blind men.   Their needs were open and honest.

Now how does this question relate to us?   You see, at times the Church forgets why it’s here.  At times, even Christians forget what Jesus saved them for.  They think their relationship with Him is all about their needs and their agenda.  They’re literally ‘blind’ to their real needs.

Living in this world…it’s very easy to get distracted by the wrong things.   Sort of like the man who thought he was a moth and got distracted by a light bulb.  But we can also be distracted by worldly things…like “success”, “popularity”, or “excitement”.   We must stay grounded in His Word and realize that Christ came not to build up ‘our’ kingdom…but for us to build up His.

Now, I believe Jesus asked this question because it’s ‘the’ question the blind men needed to answer.   You see, after a lifetime of begging…you get ignored a lot.  You’re not even sure if anyone’s paying attention to you.   It’s like you don’t even exist.   Ever been there?

These 2 men were all alone…in a crowd of people.   Then Jesus found them.   He was more concerned about their needs…than the needs of the crowd.  How special is that?   It must have shocked them when Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

I don’t think they expected anything like this.  Maybe a coin or a piece of bread.   But now, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords has personally asked, “What would you like?”   And in His voice they found ‘hope’.   That maybe…just maybe…they could ask for what they desired most.

And with a boldness, born out of desperation, they cry out “Lord, we want our sight.”   And the scripture says, “Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes.  And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.”

Have you ever heard this story before?  Would you believe me if I told you that every Christian here today has lived this story?   At some point in time in each believer’s life, we had needs.   Then we heard about Jesus and felt His presence.   Then as His Spirit drew near, we could feel Him asking, “What would you have Me do for you?”   And from the depths of despair…we cried out, “Lord, I want forgiveness.”   And like the scriptures said, “Jesus takes compassion upon us and He touches our hearts.   And immediately we see the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  And we follow Him!”

These blind men saw themselves before Jesus.  They asked Him to have ‘mercy’ on them.  They’re admitting they have nothing and are broken.  They’re not complaining about their blindness, or saying they ‘deserve’ to be healed or even ‘worthy’ of anything.  You see, they have nothing to offer…nothing that will impress Jesus and truthfully, neither do we.

But we don’t want to show that.  So we put up a front that says, “everything is great.”   Because people won’t accept our brokenness or our needs.  We hide behind walls.  We even put up walls with God, acting like we’re all good.   We’re blind to what He really wants to do.  The Bible says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”  

This morning, Jesus is asking you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”   Will you tell Him the truth…or hide behind your wall?

SERMON – Apr 21, 2019

Are Your Books Balanced?

 

Last year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had a problem balancing their books.  It seems they were off about…$516 billion dollars.  That’s right…with a “B”…billion.   Now you may ask…how did this happen?   Well, the audit said: “Some of the errors were caused by them rounding dollar amounts to the nearest ‘billion,’ instead of rounding to the nearest ‘million.’”   Well, that explains it!   Just round to the nearest ‘million’…you know, if we could round to the nearest million…we could afford all kinds of things.

Now you’re probably wondering what accounting has to do with Easter.   Well, actually Easter is all about accounting.   Romans 14:12 says “… every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”   And Hebrews 4:13 declares “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”   In other words, the day will come when we’ll stand before God and we’ll have to account for how we’ve lived on earth.

Now, when folks think about standing before God, they tend to think in terms of ‘balancing their  books’.  They realize they’ve done some bad things so they hope all of their good things… balance out.   But in truth…can we ever balance our books…between good and evil?

The Bible says “No, we can’t.”  Because we’ve “all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)   So, if you think you’ll get into heaven because you’ve done good deeds…then you’re sadly mistaken.  Because we’ve sinned and fallen short, our books don’t balance.

Now lots of people don’t like talking about their sins…so they try to make themselves look better than they really are.  In the financial world when someone wants to make the books look better than they really are…it’s called ‘Cooking the Books’.  They hide what they’ve done wrong hoping no one will find out.   Usually, ‘cooking the books’ works…until someone who knows what they’re looking for…looks at the books.

So we cook our books…a little bit…to make others think we’re nice people.   But the problem is…we know what we’ve hidden.  And we know that one day we’ll stand before God and He’ll find it.   And that makes us very uncomfortable.

Now many folks think they can outsmart God.   They tell themselves, “If I confess this sin, God might hold it against me…but if I don’t…He might not know it.”  But the Bible says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”   We can’t hide our sins from God…He knows everything about us.

So, I guess…I’m trapped.  I’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  There’s no way God wants me in heaven with all my dirty baggage.  I can’t be good enough to earn my way into heaven.   And that’s what Paul wrote, “…I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do NOT want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

Now, Paul was a great role model for Christians, but he admits that he’s not good enough to earn heaven.   He writes: “Oh! Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)   Well, the only one who can deliver him…Jesus!  Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment, blame) to those who are in Christ Jesus.”   Now, how does that happen?  Well, that’s what Easter is all about.

Easter is about God loving us so much that He balanced our books.  The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)  Easter reminds us that we don’t deserve to go to heaven…but God loves us so much…that He paid the price…for our sins.

Dying on the cross was a terrible experience for Jesus and His final words were, “It is finished.”

What was finished?  One scholar said that that “Archaeologists have repeatedly found the Latin phrase ‘Consummatum Est’ which means: “it is finished”, scrawled across tax receipts that were used in Jesus’ day.”   This showed that the tax amount that was owed…had been “Paid in Full” and they were set free of their debt.

Now, what is April 15th known for?  That’s right…it’s tax day. Wouldn’t be great if someone wrote a check to cover ALL your taxes for ALL time?  They’d be “Paid In Full” for life!   That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross did for us.   Our sins have been PAID IN FULL. The scriptures say you can: “…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11)

God takes the ledger of our life and rips out all the sinful pages. When we’re baptized, all our past is buried in that watery grave and we rise reborn in the image of Christ.  Our books are balanced…and our sinful debt…is PAID IN FULL.

I read about a dream a man once had.   He said: “After living a decent life, my time on earth came to an end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench inside a court house. The doors opened and I was told to come into the courtroom and have a seat at the defense table.  As I looked around, I saw the “prosecutor”, who was an evil looking man.   Then I looked at my lawyer, who had a kind and gentle disposition.   He sure seemed familiar to me.

Just then, the door opened and there appeared the judge and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Him. As He sat down, He said, “Let us begin.”   The prosecutor rose and said, “My name is Satan and I’m here to show you why this man belongs in hell.”  Then he proceeded to tell of all my lies that I had ever told.   The things that I stole and how I’d cheated others in the past.  He told of wicked perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further I sank in my seat. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look at anyone, especially the Judge or my own lawyer.

As upset as I was at Satan, I was equally upset at my lawyer for just sitting and not defending me.  I knew I’d done those things, but I’ve done some good too.  Couldn’t my attorney at least mention my good deeds?   Then Satan closed by saying, “This man belongs in hell.  He’s guilty of all that I have charged and there’s not one person here who can say otherwise.”

Then my lawyer asked if He might approach the bench.  Even though Satan objected, the judge allowed it.  As He walked towards the Judge, I was able to see Him in his full splendor and majesty and I realized who He was…it was Jesus.   He reached the bench and softly said to the Judge, “Hi Dad” and then He turned to address the court.

“Satan was correct.   This man had sinned; I won’t deny that.  And yes, the wages of sin is death and he deserves to be punished.  However, I died on the cross that he might have eternal life.   And the record shows, that this man accepted Me as his Savior…so he is Mine.   His name is written in the Book of Life and no one can take him from Me.  This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.  There’s nothing else that needs to be done. For I’ve done it all.”

The Judge slammed His gavel down and said, “This man is free.  His penalty has already been PAID IN FULL.  Case dismissed.”   I turned to Jesus and asked, “Have You ever lost a case?”   Christ smiled and said, “Everyone that has ever come to Me, who has believed, repented of their sins, confessed Me as their Lord and Savior, and been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, has received the same verdict as you…“PAID IN FULL.””

Now, here’s the truth.  If you haven’t given yourself to Jesus, you’re still under judgment. Your books don’t balance and you have no hope of going to heaven.  Today, you have a choice before you…a choice of life or a choice of death.  I suggest you take ‘life’.  And I suggest you lean on God’s mercy.   I suggest you give your life to Jesus Christ.

SERMON – Apr 14, 2019

Who Am I To You?

 

 

This morning, I’d like to begin by telling you a true story.   On a hot summer day in South Florida, a little boy decided to “cool” off in the swimming hole behind his house.   His mother was watching out the kitchen window as he jumped off the dock and into the water.   Suddenly, something caught her eye.   She saw an alligator heading into the water and towards her son.   In a panic, she ran toward the water…yelling to her son as she ran.   The little boy heard her and began to swim towards his Mom.   But it was too late.  Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.  I’m going to stop the story here and come back to it later.

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus was wanting to prepare His Apostles for the time when He would leave them.   He knew that Satan was lurking around waiting for one of the apostles to jump into the water, so he could attack him.   And he did.   Let’s stand and read the events of Matthew 16:13-23.

“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.  From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.””

The Apostles had heard Jesus’ teachings and preaching.   They saw Him heal the sick, cause the lame to walk, and give the blind their sight.  They witnessed the demons being cast out and saw the dead…restored to life.   But despite all of this…all of these miracles…they still weren’t sure who ‘this’ Jesus really was.   There was no one to compare Him to…that’s true then and now!

They knew He was a great teacher, a healer, a prophet equal to anyone in the Old Testament.  But they had never really talked about WHO Jesus was before now.   So, I think when Jesus asked them who “other people” said He was, He was really giving them a chance to give their opinions.   So, when they admitted that “others” had said he might be:  John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets, I really believe they probably thought that themselves.

Then  Jesus gets to the heart of the matter by asking, “Who do YOU say that I am?”   I bet it got really quiet.   What would you say…if Jesus asked you, “Who am I to you?”   Now was there any doubt, that Peter would be the one to raise his hand and say the first thing that comes to mind?   He replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  

Now that’s the answer Jesus was looking for, so He pats Peter on the back by saying:  “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”.

Peter’s confession was exactly right when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”   That’s the centerpiece of the sinner’s prayer, where the lost say, “Forgive me Father, for I am a sinner.   I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.”

Peter even preached it when he said:  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)   In other words, there is NO salvation to anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus Christ ‘as’ the Son of the Living God.   That’s WHO He is!

Sounds simple…doesn’t it!   So simple that even a child could believe it.   But there are many so called Christians that have denied the basic truth of that confession.  We know that because Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21)   In other words you can play the part and still not have Jesus.   Peter did it.

One minute, Peter confesses that Jesus was “…the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, then the next minute, Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  WOW!  Talk about going from the Penthouse to the Outhouse!   Peter went from Jesus saying, “..blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah” to “Get thee behind me, Satan”.   So what happened?

The truth is, Peter was willing to say the right thing – that Jesus was the Son of God – but he wasn’t willing to follow thru and let Jesus BE the Son of God in his life.  He wasn’t willing to let Jesus be Jesus, and as a result he would have ended up standing in Jesus’ way.

The good confession – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – means nothing if we’re not willing to ACT upon what we say.   That confession is the foundation of our faith.   Now what do we do with a foundation?  We build upon it.

If Jesus is our foundation,  we need to build upon Him.   That means we need to DO something to further His kingdom.   Now, going to church is important.   And praying is important.  And tithing is important.   But building on the foundation of Jesus means doing more than that.   It means I get to help Jesus build His kingdom because I really believe that He “IS” the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

The kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.  Those who reject God’s authority and refuse to submit to Him are not part of the kingdom of God.   That’s why Jesus said in Luke 17:21, “…the kingdom of God is within you.”   For within you lives God…in the form of the Holy Spirit.

And we are to help Him by sharing the kingdom of God, the gospel, the kingdom of Heaven… whatever you want to call it…with others.   It’s not an obligation, it’s an opportunity.   It’s not a punishment, it’s a privilege.   I get to help Jesus build His kingdom by sharing Him with others.   Why?   Because I really believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

To bear that title, “…the Christ, the Son of the Living God” comes with a sacrifice.   We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.   He died upon the cross to pay our way into the kingdom of God.   That’s how much God loves us!

Remember, the little boy who jumped into the water and his Mom saw the gator swimming towards him?  Well, when she reached the dock she grabbed her son’s arms just as the alligator bit down on his legs and a tug-of-war took place.   The gator was stronger but the mother was determined to die rather than let go.   A farmer just happened to be driving by when he heard her screams.   So he grabbed his rifle and shot the alligator.

After many surgeries and weeks in the hospital the little boy survived.   But the gator’s attack left his legs extremely scarred.  A reporter came to interview him and asked if he could see the scars.  After taking pictures, the little boy did something that caught the reporter off guard.  With pride in his voice, when he pulled up his sleeves and said, “The best scars are on my arms. I have these scars because my Mom…wouldn’t let me go.”  On his arms, were deep scratches from where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh…as she hung onto the son that she loved.   Just like a mother who loves her child, so does God love each one of us.   The scars on the hands and feet of His Son, Jesus Christ, remind us…that God won’t let us go either.

Why?

Because He loves you!

Begin your journey to peace. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? It begins with a simple prayer:

“Dear God, I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

Did you pray this prayer?