SERMON – Mar 17, 2019

Will God Send People To Hell?

 

Our sermon series this month is entitled: “Tough Questions For God”.  And our question this morning is: “Will God Send People To Hell?”   And the answer is: yes.   But you may ask, “Why will some people be sent to hell?”   And the answer is simple, “Because they didn’t choose to go to heaven.”

Have you ever planned a vacation?   The first thing to do is to pick a destination. Somewhere that is the opposite of your everyday life!   Now am I saying the ‘after-life’ is a vacation?   Well yes, I am.  I’ve made my reservation in heaven and compared to this world…it will be paradise!  So if heaven is the opposite of this world…the opposite of worry, pain, suffering, tears, and death… then why aren’t more people making their plans to go there?   That’s the million dollar question.  So, let’s stand and see what the Bible says about that in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The question isn’t “Why would a loving God send people to hell?”  But rather, “Why would anyone choose hell over a loving God?”   Why?  As we just read, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   Did you notice the ending, “there are few who find it.”   To find something…you have to be looking for it.   And most of the people today are too distracted…because only a “few” are looking!

Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)  Jesus is simply telling us “Make a choice.”   “Strive to enter” means to try…to work hard…to keep on struggling to get through that narrow door.   What makes it so hard…our choices!   How we choose to live our lives.

God is very direct about our life choices and their consequences.  The Bible says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

More and more people today  are choosing the “wide gate and broad road” and we know some of them.  They may be our neighbors, friends, family members, and maybe even some sitting in this church.   Beloved, many on that broad road are good folks.  They’re kind to animals and good ole’ boys and girls.  You see, not everyone going to hell is mean and evil.

So, why are some good ones going to hell?   Because they haven’t chosen Jesus as their Savior.

The Bible says,  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Having God as your salvation is a choice.   Living for God is a choice.   Going to heaven or hell is a choice.   And it’s a choice that all of you will make…like it or not…you will choose!

After, I completed basic training in the Air Force, I was assigned to a tech school in Denver, Colorado.  I was 19 years old when I arrived and was assigned a roommate who had been there about a year and was much older than I was.   We got along okay for the first month, but slowly I began to see that his friends were not the type of friends that I would choose.

One day, I unexpectedly walked into our room and there on my bunk were all kinds of drugs.     My roommate was a drug dealer.   For the next few days, he did his best to convince me to stay but the Holy Spirit told me to leave.  I had to make a choice.  I chose to leave – He chose to stay.

Now I know the Bible says we have “all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   And I know that none of us are good enough to go to heaven.   And because of our sins, we all deserve to go to hell.   But I’ve read the book.   And the book says that we don’t have to go to hell.

You see, there’s a small gate and a narrow way that leads to eternal life but only a few find that gate and only a few choose that path.  But that gate is there for a reason.  God put it there.  God built that gate and He built it with two pieces of lumber and 3 nails.   There’s a saying:  1 Cross + 3 Nails = 4 Given.

But God knows people and He knows that most will choose the wide gate and the broad path. God knows that most will reject Him and choose to live their lives their own way.   But God isn’t going to make it easy.   God isn’t going to just “go away”.   We are His creation and like it or not, He knows what’s best for His children.   So, right in the middle of that broad path to hell… God has firmly planted the cross.

A preacher named Adrian Rogers tells a story about a nightclub that was called “The Gates of Hades”.  The story goes that a visitor to the city was looking for this nightclub and they stopped a policeman to ask directions.   Now it just so happened that on that same street was a church called “Calvary Church”.   And when the man asked the policeman for directions to the nightclub, the cop replied: “If you want to get to the Gates of Hades, you’ll have to go past Calvary.”

Folks, the answer to today’s question, “Will God Send People to Hell?” is simple.   If you belong to God…you go with Him to heaven.   And if you belong to Satan…you go with  him to hell.   The Bible is very clear about this.   There’s no discussion…there’s no deal making…the way to eternal life is through His Son, Jesus Christ.   The Bible says in Joshua 24:15, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”   Serve God.  Serve Satan.   It’s a choice…it’s your choice…so choose!

SERMON – Mar 10, 2019

Is Christianity Reasonable?

 

Our sermon series for March is: “Tough Questions For God” and today’s question would be: “Is Christianity Reasonable?”   The answer to that question can be found in a story I read.  It seems a dishonest accounting manager wanted to hire a dishonest assistant.  So, when he asked the first applicant, “What does 2 + 2 =?” and he answered, “4”, the manager let him go.  Then the 2nd applicant replied, “Well, it could be several things…2 + 2 = 4, but so does 3 + 1.”  He didn’t get the job either.

But when he asked the 3rd applicant, “What does 2 + 2 =?” the man got up, closed the door and whispered, “What would you like the answer to be?”   So, this morning I ask, “Is Christianity Reasonable?”  Is it logical?   Can you “hang your hat” on it?  And the answer is: “What would you like the answer to be?”

You see, if Christianity gives you the answers you want…then it IS reasonable.  But in our passage this morning, Paul says that many people don’t like Christianity because it doesn’t give them the answer they want.  Let’s stand and read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The truth.  Can any of us really handle God’s truth?   We certainly can’t always live it and we can’t always speak it but we can handle it, with God’s help.   We read the truth in v 18, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”   And v 23 says, “… we preach Christ crucified: to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks (Gentiles) foolishness…”   To so many today, the cross is a stumbling block…and to many others it’s foolishness.

That would describe Billy Joel, the popular singer’s view of the cross.  He once said, “I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I used to go to mass with my friends, and I viewed the whole business as a lot of very enthralling hocus pocus. There’s a guy… nailed to a cross and dripping blood, and everyone’s blaming themselves for that man’s torment, but I said to myself, ‘Forget it. I had no hand in that evil. I have no original sin. There’s no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this.” 

Billy Joel and others are offended by the message of the cross.  To them it is a stumbling block. But to the believers…the cross isn’t a stumbling block but a stepping stone!     The cross IS the right answer…IF that’s the answer you’re looking for.   But for many, it’s not.   Because they want to be “in charge!”

And to them, even the Bible isn’t the right answer because it says God’s in control.  And the cross isn’t the right answer because it declares that God bought you with a price.   And the truth is if you accept the cross, then you’re surrendering to Jesus Christ.   And a lot of people don’t like that answer.   Many reject God so they can stay in control.  But some will say they believe in God, but they really want a God who’ll change for them.

Many today are like the Jews in v 22, that “request a sign.”   They want God to prove Himself and to do as they want.  Now in His day, Jesus did miracles.   He healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed 1000’s.   And because He met their needs…great crowds followed Him.   Well they did…until He went to the cross.   As long as Jesus was giving them what they wanted…they’d follow Him.   But once He was crucified…they walked away.   The cross wasn’t the answer they were looking for.

Even folks today don’t want suffering and hardship…that’s not what they are looking for.  That’s not the God they want.   They want a God who’ll protect them and make life easier.   But that’s not the ‘message of the cross’.   The cross speaks of suffering, pain, and loss.   It speaks of a world that is unfair and unjust.   The cross declares that life won’t always turn out the way YOU want…but that life will always turn out the way GOD wants.   Jesus said: “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The cross tells us the truth about life and most people just can’t handle that truth!   In this world there will be suffering. There will be pain.  There will be hardships.   But believers can find hope in v 25 which says “… the weakness of God is stronger than men.”   But folks don’t like being thought of as being weak.  They don’t like hearing that they’ve messed up.   You see, they know they have…they just don’t want to hear about it.   So, they tend to reject the ‘message of the cross’ because it says we are all sinners.

In truth, Jesus died for those who have failed, for the weak, for the broken, for the losers of life.  And that’s why the ‘message of the cross’ is so powerful.   Jesus didn’t come for the “healthy”, He came for the sick.   But Satan says don’t be weak…be strong.   Be all you can be!

Trust me, the cross isn’t weak.  It’s all about power.  Just not yours, but God’s.   Verse 18 says “the message of the cross…to us who are being saved is the power of God.”   The cross gives us power that the world can’t accept.   The cross gives us the answer that the world can’t.  The cross IS the answer to overcoming this world, because only through the cross can lives be changed.  And that’s the TRUTH that the lost are seeking and need to hear.

People try every day to take control of their lives.  They try every day to live by their own wisdom. They try every day to live by their own strength.  And every day they fail.  As Christians, we know the answer to changing lives is through the cross.

I asked earlier, “Is Christianity Reasonable?”   Another word for ‘reasonable’ is ‘sensible’.   So again I ask, “Is Christianity Sensible?”   It is to the believer…but not to those that are lost and going to hell.   It makes common sense to us…that only God can change a heart of stone.   Perhaps you know someone who doesn’t believe that.  Someone who sees the cross as foolishness or a stumbling block.   Maybe it’s time to ask them: “How’s life working out for you?”  “Do you believe that if you died today…you’d open your eyes in heaven?”  

But first, you need to ask yourself the same thing!

SERMON – Mar 03, 2019

“Can You Fall So Far That You Can’t Get Up?”

 

A tourist was wondering how deep the ocean was beneath him as he stood on a pier in Galveston, so he walked over a man fishing off the edge and asked him: “If I fall into the water would I drown?”   The old man replied, “Nah. Falling into the water won’t drown you…it’s staying UNDER the water that drowns you.”

Our sermon this morning is “Can You Fall So Far that You Can’t Get Up?”  Or in other words: “Can you mess up your life so badly that you can’t undo it?”  Well, the Bible says, “Yes, you can” and the Bible says, “No, you can’t”.   Confused yet?   You see, the Bible teaches that you can drown in your sin.  But it isn’t the falling into sin that will drown you… it’s the staying under the influence of sin…that will do it!   Let’s stand and read from God’s Word:

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

(William Green Story-Part I)  

A lot of folks today are going to go to hell…simply because they refuse to accept the truth. They don’t want God telling them what to do. This Bible is God’s written truth.  If I disagree with God’s Word, then I have rejected the truth and I have embraced a lie.

If you really want the truth, then God’s Word will give it to you.  But refuse it…and God will let you live a lie. Judas Iscariot was such a man.   A man living a lie. A man who was not only a thief and a liar but the one who betrayed Jesus Christ.   

Judas was a bad man…and he was going to hell.   He’s the perfect example of someone who fell into sin and it drown him.   But would it surprise you if I said that Judas was a very ‘religious’ man.   

He was “in church” all the time.   He heard every one of Jesus’ sermons and saw every miracle Jesus did.  In fact, Judas even preached and did miracles himself. But even though Judas was religious and loved being in church…he didn’t love Jesus…so he betrayed Him.   

And Jesus says: “… whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)   So, if Jesus is the only way into heaven…then it would seem that if He denies you…because you betrayed Him…then your betrayal…will send you to hell.

Well, that was true for Judas…but what about Peter.   He betrayed Jesus…3 times…Judas only once. Mark’s Gospel says that Peter began to curse and swear as he denied knowing Jesus the 3rd time.   But once the rooster crowed and he realized what he’d done…and it crushed him.   But Judas was also crushed. The Bible says that Judas changed his mind, returned the money and hanged himself.

But Peter got forgiveness and Judas did not.   Peter had fallen as far as Judas…so how could he be forgiven?   Well, we read the answer in v 10: “…godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”   

Judas showed sorrow or grief… but it was a worldly kind of grief.   He was sorry for what he did, but he didn’t want to change who he was…so his sorrow…led to his death.   

But Peter showed godly sorrow.   The Bible says, “When he thought about it, he wept.” (Mark 14:72)   Peter didn’t like what he’d done, and he wanted to change who he was…so he repented and ask for forgiveness.   And Peter’s repentance led to his salvation.

But because we live in a world filled with temptations, every Christian will mess up again and again.   And when that happens, the Bible says, “If we CONFESS our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:7)

Let me put it this way, when it rains, our windshield wipers don’t make one swipe and stop, they keep swiping back and forth.  Every time you confess your sins, God’s forgiveness sweeps away the guilt and the shame. God’s mercy is never ending and as long as you surrender and humbly confess your sins…God promises to forgive you.

Beloved, it’s not falling into sin that drowns you…it’s staying IN sin and under its influence that drowns you.  It’s believing Satan’s lie…that God can’t love a bad person like you…or that He won’t forgive you…when you mess up.

(William Green Story – Part II)

Repentance:

  • is a military term.
  • Means to turn 180 degrees.
  • Worldly repentance will only turn 179 degrees.   
  • Satan temptations will turn your head.  Bible says, “For we walk by faith not by sight.”
  • Godly repentance is 180 degrees.

God loves you…even when you mess up!   And He will free you…from ‘that’ sin that has power over you.  He loves you too much to let you drown in the sea of sin.   We’re never so far down that God can’t save us. You’re never so far away that God can’t reach you and lift you up out of sin.   But first…you need to belong to Him.

Are you a part of God’s family?

SERMON – Feb 24, 2019

The Joy of the Cross

Hebrews 12:2

 

In last Sunday’s sermon, the “Joy of Persecution”, we discussed oxymorons, which are words or phrases that contradicts itself…like “joy” and “persecution”.  Well, today’s message, “The Joy of the Cross”, is another oxymoron.   How can there be joy associated with an instrument of death?

As adults, it’s hard for us to make that connection.  To link joy and happiness, with torture, suffering, and agony.  It’s hard for us grown-ups to do that.   But maybe that’s the problem… we’re grown-up.   We’re looking at this through the eyes of experience.   Didn’t Jesus say that we must change and become like a child if we want to enter the kingdom of Heaven?   Children have a unique way of looking at things.   They can make the difficult…seem simple.

I read about a little boy who asked, “Grandpa, how old are you?”   Jokingly, his grandpa said, “Why, I’m not sure.”  To which his grandson replied, “Well, just look in your underwear.   Mine says I’m 4 to 6.”   Let’s stand and read from God’s Word regarding the Joy of the Cross.

“..looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

In Paul’s day…the cross represented the worst way to die…people feared the cross: 

  • First used in 500 BC by Persian King Darius to crucified over 3,000 objectors to his rule.
  • Romans wanted world domination, so they needed a big army and ‘weapon of torture’.

In Galatians 5:11, Paul says the cross is offensive.   Why?  Because it is a reminder of the worst crime man has ever committed.

Beloved, it’s true that Jesus went to the cross reluctantly but also joyfully.  In the garden, His prayer showed reluctance but not unwillingness.   Why was He reluctant?   Because He knew the terrible price, He’d have to pay to purchase our salvation.   And that terrible price wasn’t the pain and suffering of the cross but the separation from His Father…for the first and only time!  

He knew that on the cross all the sins of the world would be placed upon Him and when that happened, His fellowship with His Father would be broken. In that awful moment He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  We can barely imagine the horror of that moment, as God’s Son took upon Himself the death and the Hell…that we deserved.

But He also went to the cross joyfully.   Because He loves us, He knew that the only way we could be saved, was by His sacrifice upon the cross.  We read that “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…”    Now what joy could the cross bring to Christ?   I find there are three “Joys of the Cross”.

First, is the “Joy of Saving Souls”.   Jesus went the cross to experience the joy of saving us from sin…from an eternity with Satan in the Lake of Fire.  

  • We were slaves to sin, and He set us free.
  • We were guilty, and He cleansed us.
  • We were helpless, and He rescued us.
  • We were hopeless, and He gave us life.

Second, is the “Joy of Serving God”.   Let me ask, could Jesus have escaped the cross?   Well, Satan thought so.   That’s why he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would just fall down and worship him.   But Jesus rejects him and reminds the Devil of something that he couldn’t do, which was to “…worship the LORD your God and Him only you shall serve.” 

Satan chose not to worship nor serve God…that’s what go him booted out of Heaven.   He could not do what Jesus was doing.   In truth, when you’re obedient to God’s will…Satan can’t do that!   There’s the power you need to resist temptation, but it’s only found in the midst of serving God.

But Jesus rejected the temptations and went to the cross because there was no other way to save us.   In doing so, He fulfilled God’s plan for His life.   The Bible says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18)

Think about it, Jesus’ first recorded words were as a 12 yr old boy, “Why did you seek Me?   Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) And from the cross, His last words were, “It is finished.”   He had served His Father and had done His will.

Lastly, is the “Joy of Glorifying God”.   Just before His arrest in the garden, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1).   To glorify means to “make known.”  So, Jesus came to the earth to “make known” to everyone exactly who their Heavenly Father really is.  

Jesus wanted to show…that there was another way…a better way…than listening to the lies of Satan.   He wanted everyone to know that the serpent in the Garden of Eden had lied about who His Father really was.   Since the beginning of time, Satan has lied about the nature and character of God…until Jesus came to set the record straight and bring glory to His Father.

In all of Jesus’ ways, He honored God.   Through-out the suffering and pain of the cross…He honored God.   In everyday and in every way…He honored God.    Do we bring glory to God through our hardships?   Through our trials…through our daily lives?  

I heard a story about an old farmer who had lived a long and very sinful life.   But after losing his wife, he accepted Christ.  But his old shameful memories kept haunting him.  He knew God had forgiven him…but Satan kept hounding him…tearing him down…and questioning his salvation.

One day as he was plowing the fields, the old doubts came back…and he’d had enough of Satan and his lies.  Getting off the tractor, he went behind the barn, drove a spike into the wall…went to a briar bush and fashioned a crown of thorns and hung it on the spike.   Then he dropped to his knees and confessed all of sins.   Then he went back to plowing.

From that day on, whenever his guilt returned, he’d go behind the barn, point to the nail and the crown of thorns and shout, “Satan, there are my sins!   They’ve been paid for and I’ve been forgiven!”   This morning, have your sins been forgiven?

SERMON – Feb 17, 2019

The Joy of Persecution

Philippians 3:8-9

The phrase “Joy of Persecution” is an “oxymoron”.   Which is a word or phrase that contradicts itself.   Like “jumbo shrimp”, “pretty ugly” or like asking, “Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?”  It’s a phrase that contradicts itself…like the “Joy of Persecution.”

You see, persecution is usually ‘awful’ and joy is ‘wonderful’.  Yet, persecution can give us joy…when we ‘suffer’ for the ‘right reason’.   Now most everyone doesn’t like to talk about ‘suffering for our faith.’  Why would I want to suffer?   I want life to be easy… stress-free.  But honestly, the Bible says…Christians are going to suffer!   Jesus told us, “In this world you will have tribulations…” (John 16:33)    Let us stand as we read this morning’s text – Philippians 3:8-9:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”

We live in a hostile world.  Just this week, I read how investigators have interview nearly 5,000 children who are victims of sexual abuse or assault in the past 10 years…here in the Longview area.   That’s about 500 children a year and at least 1 child per day who is getting abused.

Across America, we have a movement called “#MeToo” that allows people to speak out about sexual harassment or abuse they have suffered.  That movement has given birth to the “#ChurchToo” movement…where those who have been sexually abused or harassed in churches now have a voice.  I believe abuse and harassment in any form is wrong and if these movements can help expose those who are hurting others, especially in God’s house…then I support them.

But we must be cautious as sin is becoming the focus.   As thousands of abuse stories regarding church leaders are shared…Satan is using this to destroy the credibility of true believers and the Gospel of Christ.   Through this, sin is magnified, and “Christians” are being betrayed as ‘worse than the world.’   In this time of persecution, the body of believers, must be the light of the world.   We must show God’s mercy, use His understanding, and pray for His guidance.

Jesus said, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you….” (John 15:20)   When faced with opposition, today many Christians tend to keep Jesus in their Bibles at home.  It seems that if we speak about Jesus and someone gets offended, then we’re supposed to shut up, so we don’t offend them even more.   But if we do that, then doesn’t that say that we care more about the offended person than we do for Jesus?    More and more Christians today are choosing to silently blend into world…rather than stand up for what they believe.

We read that Paul said, “…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things”.  When Paul was known as Saul, he was a leader in the religious world.  When he talked…people listened.  They invited him to parties and wanted to be his friend.   Now that’s all gone.  The old friends don’t want him around and you can forget the parties…because now he’s a Christian.

Beloved, when you are ‘seriously’ dedicated to Christ, people don’t want you around.   They know you won’t partake in their activities or indulge in their sinful lifestyle.   That’s why Peter wrote: “So they (non-Christians) are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living–and they slander you. (I Peter 4:4)    In other words: when Christ enters your heart, you begin to change, and others are shocked and will talk bad about you.

Now Paul continues by saying…that all of the things he has lost from his ‘past life’ as Saul, he “counts them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…”   In other words, Paul is saying: “I don’t care…if you like me or not!   I’d rather have Jesus love me…than you like me.   I’d rather have Jesus than anything else!” 

So, the question this morning is this: “Would you rather have Jesus than anything else?”  Do you love Jesus that much?   Do you love Him more than your job…more than your hobbies?  More than your family or friends?    Do you love Him enough to “lift Him up” in your life?

Beloved, here’s the truth.   Jesus has many followers…who love His heavenly Kingdom…but few who will bear His Cross.  Jesus has many followers…who desire His comfort…but few who would accept the tribulations.   Many followers love Jesus…until something bad happens.

A true believer knows…that out of tribulation…comes spiritual growth.   It’s been said that, “Today’s Difficulties are Tomorrow’s Testimonies.”   Those who have walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” …knows that in times of tribulation…in times of hardships …that God draws us closer to Him.

Beloved, it’s through difficulties…through hardships, that our faith grows stronger.   Once you have given your heart to Christ…He’ll never leave you…no matter how bad it gets.

In the 1880’s, a revival broke out in Northern India…a part of the country that was very violent.    Despite over 20 missionaries being killed, one missionary from Great Britain finally saw his 1st converts…when a husband and wife and their two children accepted Christ and were baptized.

But soon the tribal leaders decided to make an example of the husband.   So, they took his family and demanded that he deny Christ to set them free.  When he refused, his two children were executed.  Again, he was told to free his wife, he must deny Christ.   But again, he refused.   So, they killed her.  And when he still refused to deny Christ, they killed him.

Witnesses later told the missionary that when asked to deny Christ or see his children murdered, the father said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.” After his children’s deaths, he said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” And after seeing his wife killed, he said, “Though no one is here to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”   And they took his life.

The missionary said that in time…a revival broke out in the village.   Those that had murdered the family had since come to Christ.  The death of that family, their willingness to die for Christ was so astonishing that it has been passed down from generation to generation.  One day an Indian evangelist took the father’s last words and put them to music.

Eventually, American missionaries brought the song back to the states.   It finally ended up with a Canadian song writer by the name of George Beverley Shea, and he made that song the centerpiece of the Billy Graham crusades. We know the song as: “I have decided to follow Jesus.”   And the lyrics say, “I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back. No turning back.”

SERMON – Feb 10, 2019

Joy of Love

John 3:14-16

A soldier received a ‘Dear John’ letter while serving overseas.   Not only did his girlfriend break up with him but she asked for her picture back so she could use it as her engagement photo.   The soldier was heartbroken.  But his buddies came to the rescue. They collected pictures of all the soldier’s girlfriends and placed them in a shoe box and attached a note that read: “Please find your picture and return the rest to me.  I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one was you!”

A picture can say a lot.   Most people carry pictures of loved ones in their wallets or on their phones.   And these pictures are an expression of how much they’re loved.   In the Bible, John 3:16 has always been THE snapshot of how much God loves us.  This morning let’s stand as we honor God with the reading of His Word.

Let me ask you, “How can we learn to love the world… like God loved us?”   This passage not only says that God loves us, but that we NEED that love.   And how we achieve that need is  introduced…in a most unusual way.

Jesus tells Nicodemus in verse 14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”   A Serpent?   A snake lifted up in the wilderness?   Does that really have anything to do with the “Joy of Love”?   Well, it does…just trust me.

You see when Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they rebelled against God.   They were filled with bitterness and complaining. The Bible says they spoke against God and against Moses by saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (Numbers 21:5)

Their constant complaining angered God, so He decided to get their attention.  The Bible says, “Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’  So, Moses prayed for the people.  Then the LORD said, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”   So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” (Numbers 21:6-9)

Jesus was telling Nicodemus that the Children of Israel sinned against God, and their sin brought poison into their lives.   And there are many today…suffering from the bite of Satan.   His venom has damaged and destroyed millions of lives and countless families.  When will we learn that sin is a poison and it will destroy us.  But for those who want to live, is there a cure?

As we read in v 14, Jesus said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”    Upon the cross…Jesus was “lifted up.”   “Lifted up” so that anyone who calls upon Him would be saved from the poisonous sins that controls their lives.

This morning, Jesus is telling you, that the ONLY way to be healed of the sin that is poisoning your life, your family, your relationships, is to lift Him up.   To meet Jesus at the cross… to kneel at His feet and ask for His forgiveness.   Then we need to lift Him up in our lives.   Everyday Jesus should be our top priority.   Everyday we should strive to be more like Him.   Everyday we should be praying and talking to Him.  Everyday we should be reading God’s Word and learning about Him.   Everyday we should be dying to our old selves and being reborn in the likeness of Him!   Everyday!   Everyday!   You will find the “Joy of Love” in Jesus Christ.

In truth, that’s the ONLY way we can love this world…like God loved us.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”   God loved us, so He sent His Son to be lifted up so that we could look upon Him.   To see Him…to be like Him.   But I’m afraid there are a lot of Christians who don’t do that…they don’t “lift Jesus up” for others to see.

I read about a waitress that said some of her worst customers show up after church.   She said they complain about everything, rarely tip, and would often leave notes saying, “You should be in church.”   She said once a preacher’s wife looked at pregnant waitress and noticed no wedding ring, said told her, “You need to get married.”

Now, were they right?  Shouldn’t the waitresses be in church?   Shouldn’t the young pregnant girl be married?   I can’t disagree but I can disagree with their method.   You don’t “lift up” Jesus by putting others down!   God so loved the world that He GAVE His Son.  You’ve got to GIVE them God’s love…Give them His mercy…not sit in judgement.

Just look around, people are hurting.  They need a hand up…have need compassion…they need God’s love.   So how can we “lift up” Jesus to them?   First, Jesus MUST be “lifted up” in your life.   If you’re “lifting Him up” everyday…then you KNOW…He’s the answer.   The answer to pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, anger, addiction, rejection, and anything else Satan has.

Christina was a teenage girl who lived in a village near Rio de Janeiro.   Like most teenagers, she was bored and felt her strict parents were stopping her from enjoying the excitement of the big city.   Then one morning her mother found Christina’s bed empty and she knew where she had gone.   Knowing the dangers of the big city, she packed a bag and headed for the bus station. Along the way, she went to a photograph booth and had several pictures taken of herself.

For many days, she placed her picture all over Rio…but she never found her daughter.  With a broken heart, she headed home.  Months later, Christina slowly walked down the hotel stairs.  She was defeated and worn down…by the life she was living.  Her eyes were tired and filled with pain and fear.  She longed to go home, but she thought it was too late…they’d never take her back.

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked at the lobby mirror and suddenly noticed a small picture of her mother lodged in the corner.  She quickly grabbed the photo and written on the back were these words: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”   Christina packed a bag…and went home.

God has left us the same kind of picture.   A picture of His love on the cross.   And on that picture is this message: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.”

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?