Why Do Christians Suffer

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

Transition

I want to share with you today, SEVEN REASONS why God allows us to suffer. There may be more but these are seven that I have seen in scripture and my life.

You may not need this message today but you will need it eventually because life is a series of storms and sooner or later you will find yourself in the midst of a storm.

I. SUFFERING MAKES US SENSITIVE TO THE SUFFERINGS OF OTHERS

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” [2 Cor. 1:4]

Several years ago June [my wife] bought a Nissan Rouge. I had never seen a Rouge until that day; at least I had never noticed one. I had no idea they made such a vehicle. Then as we began driving this little SUV, I started seeing them everywhere. Has that ever happened to you? They were their all along but I didn’t notice them.

The same is true in regard to suffering: we have hurting people all around us and we do not even notice them– until we ourselves are hurt. It takes a person who has had a broken heart to spot a broken heart. Our heavenly Father is a God of tender mercy. Showing mercy is His default setting–He loves to show mercy and you and I have experienced His mercy as a precious gift but we do not know how to show it or share it until we have suffered. Once we suffer, we become sympathetic with others who suffer: we are equipped to give them the same quality of comfort that the LORD has given us.

This is why your ministry will come from your pain and failure more than from you success. It is always easier to relate to others when we understand what they are going through.

II. SUFFERING FORGES FELLOWSHIP

When ‘they’ are troubled, ‘we’ will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Cor. 1:4]

Who are your best friends? Those who have suffered with you.

I am not going to say I completely understand it but I have experienced it many times and I know it is true: when you come along side a family and suffer with them through a crisis; it forges a bond that will never be broken.

Preachers are very human and we make mistakes. I have made more than my share. A very wise man who helped mentor me in my formative years made this statement after the LORD called me to preach: he said, “Jack will never stay at one church more than three years.” After being at one church for more than 30 years, he said to me, “Jack, you made a liar out of me.” He laughed and so did I but I confessed…“You were not wrong in your assessment, it was the grace of God that kept me where I am for so long.” The grace of God and good friends. I would not have made it had it not been for the courage of one man in particular who came to my aid when I was practically defenseless. He put everything on the line to save my ministry and when I thanked him he said, “I didn’t do it just for you, I did it because it was the right thing to do.” It took me a while to put it together but a few years earlier, I had stood with him during a terrible loss and it had forged a bond between us. He was a true friend.

III. SUFFERING ‘CRUSHES’US: TAKING US TO OUR KNEES

“Even when we are weighed down with troubles…” [v.6] We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure. [v.8]

Chuck Swindoll says for every 49 people who can handle failure, there is only one who can handle success. I concur! Failure and suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth. Paul was weighted down with trouble. The word picture in the Greek is of a beast of burden who is crushed beneath the load. Sometimes we get so loaded with the cares of this world, anxieties, stress, burdens, even guilt–we are literally crushed by the weight. SUFFERING crushes us like the grapes in a wine press. It brings us to the end of our resources and to our knees where we cry out for God’s help. We never pray more earnestly than when we suffer.

IV. SUFFERING DECENTRALIZES SELF

“We stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.” [v.9]

Suffering is a crucible, a refiners fire, it burns up the chaff, separates the metal from the alloys, the impurities, the worthless; it purges out the dross. We all know that we are to live dead to self and alive to Christ but knowing and doing are two different things. Suffering can achieve in our lives what nothing else can do. It is a vital part of our sanctification. In order for Jack to decrease and Jesus increase [in my life], suffering is a necessity. I don’t enjoy suffering, I don’t pray for it to come but I do realize that God in His GRACE uses it to burn out the dross and to chip away at everything that is honoring to Christ.

V. SUFFERING DRAWS US CLOSER TO CHRIST

And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us. [v.10]

I don’t want to be redundant, but suffering has a drawing power. Prosperity and success can lead us to drift away from Christ whereas suffering can draw us near. A young child got a new sail boat and carried it to the city park where there was a lake. He put his boat in the water but the wind quickly carried his boat beyond reach. He went to get the help of a teenager standing near by: the teenage picked up a few large rocks and started to through them in the direction of the boat: the little fellow began to beg…“No, no, no, I don’t want you to sink my boat, I want to get it back.” The kid brushed him aside and said, “You have to trust me.” With that he threw one of the large rocks a few feet beyond the boat and the waves from the rock began bringing the boat to shore. After repeating this process several times, the little boy was able to reach and get his boat.

The adversity that we think is going to sink us actually brings us closer to Christ.

VI. SUFFERING FOSTERS DISSATISFACTION WITH THIS WORLD

The Israelite had to suffer bondage and oppression before they had a desire to leave Egypt. A farmer planned to burn a huge brush pile but when he went to burn, he discovered a birds nest in the rotten brush. He carefully moved the nest to another bush and then waited to see what would happen. When he got back to the brush pile a day or two later, the bird had built a new nest in the brush pile. So he pondered: she will not let me move her nest so how am I going to get her to move? Finally, he lined her nest with thorns and she found a new location.

We would get content with life here if there was no suffering. God puts a few thorns in our nest to give us a longing to live elsewhere. The older you get, the more you feel the thorns.

VII. SUFFERING PRODUCES GRATITUDE

Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. [v.11]

I have been in the ministry for 51 years and I have never meet a truly thankful person who had not suffered a great deal. Younger generations seem spoiled and ungrateful. They want, want, want and are never satisfied with what they get…much of this is because they have not suffered. You cannot learn gratitude apart from suffering and you can never enjoy grace until you have gratitude. {Corrie ten Boom, thank God for the fleas}

Betsie and Corrie ten Boom were captured by the Nazi, arrested and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin. Corrie smuggled a small bible into the camp. It became a drawing card and the women began a bible study in the back of the barracks. There constant fear was that the guards would come back, search their bunks and find the bible but they never came into the barracks. One of Betsie favorite verse was…

I Thessalonians 5:18

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When Corrie would fuss about the fleas in the barrack, Betsie would rebuke her. Betsie was small and frail, Corrie was big and robust but Betsie called the shots. Corrie said, “I will not thank God for the fleas.” “Oh yes you will, said Betsie, “you must.” It was a battle but Betsie and Corrie bowed the stiff neck and gave God thanks for the fleas. Betsie’s frail body could not take the horrible conditions and she died in the camp on December 16 1944 but Corrie survived and later shared her story with the world. After the war had ended, she bumped into one of the guards who had been converted and she told him about the bible and the bible study. “Why did you never come into the barracks and check our bunks?” Corrie asked. He replied in a heartbeat, “The fleas.”

Sin Makes Me Sick

Psalm 38

A psalm of David, asking God to remember him.

O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage!
Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me.
Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.
My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins.
I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief.
A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken.
8 I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.

You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.
10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind.
11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.
12 Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me. Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me. All day long they plan their treachery.

13 But I am deaf to all their threats. I am silent before them as one who cannot speak.
14 I choose to hear nothing, and I make no reply.
15 For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God.
16 I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall.”

17 I am on the verge of collapse, facing constant pain.
18 But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.
19 I have many aggressive enemies; they hate me without reason.
20 They repay me evil for good and oppose me for pursuing good.
21 Do not abandon me, O Lord. Do not stand at a distance, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.

Introduction

David wrote four penitential Psalms, 6,32,38 and 51 and 32,38 and 51 deal with the same sin or sins: the adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite. This is a lot for the conscience of one man to bear.

David’s sin made him sick literally and figuratively. His body was sick–he was unhealthy and his soul was sick–he was unhappy and his spirit was sick–he was unholy. Sin can make a man sick and can make a man sick of sin. When the prodigal came to his senses, he changed his mind about sin. In the beginning, he was fond of sin but in the end he realized how foolish is sin was; how utterly stupid.

Lets look at this Psalm briefly and see what sin does…

I. IT BURDENS

Verse 4…My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear.

We human were not created to carry guilt. Guilt can be overwhelming–it can destroy your peace and even drive you crazy. Lady Macbeth was complicit in the murder of king Duncan. The guilt of this murder drove Macbeth to madness and cruelty but it drove his wife to despair and she took her own life. Before here suicide, she is pictured washing her hands repeatedly, trying to remove the blood stains of guilt. Marcus Pontius Pilate was not an aristocrat: he came from the middle class. He wanted very much to impress his emperor Tiberius but three years after the death of Jesus he was recalled to Rome. Then he disappears, vanishes. No one knows what happened to him: one Christian traditions says that he was converted another says he was banished to the Island of Gaul where he went crazy; another tradition says he committed suicide. We don’t know what happened to him: I personally hope that he did get saved but I know this much–guilt can drive you crazy. Guilt can drive you to suicide–Judas is a good example.

Guilt is like the ice that collects and builds up on the wings of jets. You either do something about it or it will bring you down. Some folks repress it and that only makes it worse. The burden will eventually become too heavy to bear. This is a major problem in abortion. Not only does it take the life of the innocent child, eventually it will claim a second life, that of the mother. They were encouraged to suppress the grief and the guilt and it is the worse thing you can do. Eventually, there will be an emotional implosion, a complete melt down like Lady Macbeth or else a hard heart like her husband.

There is only one solution to guilt, give it to Jesus. He is the only remedy to guilt. The world cannot absolve your guilt.

II. SIN KILLS

Romans 6:23 states clearly, “The wages of sin is death.”

God told our first parents…And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

But you may think, “They didn’t die, not physically.” No but they died spiritually which is worse. Then day by day for as long as they lived, they had to observe death in everything around them all because of their rebellion. This included the death of their son Abel.

Mark my word, EVERY TIME WE SIN SOMETHING DIES. It could be an opt, a relationship, a few million brain cells but don’t kid yourself, sin kills. Would you sleep with a deadly viper or rattlesnake

III. SIN SEPARATES

Verse 11…My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.

Social distancing is not new.

Isaiah 59…Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

Conclusion

The devil uses sin to keep us at from God. He knew from the beginning that if he could get our parents to rebel, it would drive a wedge between them and God. Sin creates guilt and guilt causes us to separate ourselves from God. Our first parents hid from God because they felt guilty and ashamed. So he will do what ever it takes to keep you away from God.

During the days of the old South and the plantations comes the story of little boy who lived on the plantation. He was not a slave or a son: his father worked for the master of the estate. The master had a large pond at the back of the mansion and he had some beautiful swans that he enjoyed watching from his tower. He had strict rules about the welfare of these beautiful birds. One was that no rocks could be thrown into the pond. He even had a sign posted: no throwing rocks into pond. This little fellow could stand and late one evening, he gather some rocks and started throwing in the pond. Then he decided he would scare the swans so he threw one in their direction and hit one. It was a fatal blow to the head. He went out immediately and retrieved the body, but there was no life in the bird so he quickly dug a hole in the near by woods and buried the dead bird.

The next day he went through the kitchen to get a snack and the chief caught him by the shirt collar; “these floors need scrubbing,” he said. “But that is not my job,” said the young lad. The cook said, “I was watching you yesterday and I say you kill the Master’s swan, you will do what I say or I will have a talk with the master.” So the boy had to scrub the floors and it was something everyday: he literally became a slave of the cook and he had no time to play. His life became miserable.

Finally, his misery was so great that he climbed the stairs to the Master’s tower. He went in and began his confession. “I broke the rules Master and I killed one of your swans. I know I deserve to be punished and I am ready for whatever you think is right.”

The master said, “I was watching the day you killed my swan, I saw the whole thing from my vantage point right here in the tower.” “Why didn’t you come and get me and have me punished?” Said the boy. “Well,” said the master, I wanted to see how long you would go before confessing and I wanted to teach you a lesson.” “Have you learned from this experience?” Yes, said the kid so what is my punishment?” “I think you have suffered enough but don’t do it again,” said the master. Thank you sir, said the boy and off he went, right straight to the kitchen. The old cook started with his list of chores and the little fellow said, “No, I no longer have to serve you.” “I will tell the master,” said the old devilish cook. “Do as you like said the boy, but I have already told him everything and he has forgiven me.”

Comfort My People

25 “To whom will you compare Me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Introduction

Isaiah is miniature bible with 66 chapters: the first 39 [Old Testament] speak of how Israel got into bondage–the second section 40-66 [27 chapters in NT] speak of hope, deliverance and salvation. This part of Isaiah contains those beautiful chapters about Jesus our suffering Servant.

Listen to the introduction of the second section beginning in Chapter 40 and verse one…

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.”

What You Need To Understand

[1] The Jews in exile were discouraged and questioning God: the captivity had put their faith to the test.

[2] They were questioning God: why did He allow the Babylonians {pagans} to defeat and enslave His own children. Shouldn’t God look out for his children. Were the Babylonian gods [idols] stronger than Israel’s God?

Now lets go back and read it again beginning in verse 25…

25 “To whom will you compare Me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Pay special attention to verse 28…Have you never heard or understood…Do you not know. In other words, Isaiah is asking–Where are you people getting your information–Who have you been listening to? It certainly was not the LORD.

Matter of fact, Isaiah said is chapter 59…

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

That is the introduction: here is the message from the LORD…beginning in verse 28

[1] THE LORD IS THE EVERLASTING GOD

The LORD, probably in small caps, is the sacred name Yahweh. It is the Hebrew word for being and usually translated I AM but it contains every tense of the verb…I AM that I AM or I AM because I AM…I AM since I AM. I AM what I AM…I AM what I have always been or I have always been who I am…I can go on and on. The black preacher said it best…The LORD is, He always has been is and He always will be is. I like the writing on the wall at the church in Decatur…Jesus Is!

God is the eternal, self-existent God who has no beginning and no end. From everlasting to everlasting He is God.

[2] CREATOR OF THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

Isaiah reminds these discouraged Jews that the LORD is the CREATOR of the ends of the earth: He created the stars, marched them out like and army, knows exactly how many there are and knows them by name. How do you compare that to the Babylonians gods who are mere images, created by men and made of wood and metal. They have to be carried when they are moved. They can’t walk, talk, hear or see. They are worthless and impotent.

[3] HE NEVER TIRES OR GROWS WEARY

All human being have limits when it comes to energy and strength. Granted, some are stronger than others, some have more energy like the very young but God’s word reminds us here that even the young can become totally exhausted to the point of fainting.

Where do we get strength when we have no strength? In just a moment, I will answer this question.

[4] HIS UNDERSTANDING CANNOT BE MEASURED

Go back to Isaiah 40:13…Who knows the mind of the LORD…Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?

As I heard a black preacher say, “All this means is you can’t figure God out and when you can’t figure God out, you faith Him out.”

He is in absolute control and He sees both the beginning and the end: He knows exactly how the coronavirus is going to play out and He is the only one who KNOWS so look up.

[5] HE IS THE SOURCE AND SUPPLY OF OUR STRENGTH

Do you need strength? Do you feel tired, spent, worn out, exhausted? Don’t think just about physical exhaustion: how are you doing spiritually? Do you have an exhausted faith? Are you growing weary or afraid that God will not see you through.

When it comes to enduring faith, YOUTH is not an advantage. Those that have walked with the LORD over the years have seen their faith grow, especially during adversity and they, not the young, rely upon God’s strength and not their own. A young man might be tempted to fight this battle in his own strength but he or she will surely fail. As David, the veteran of many battles, said, “THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SALVATION.”

Conclusion

I want to illustrate the truth of the message by making a comparison between a HORSE [majestic creature] and a MOUNTAIN [majestic creation].

Both are majestic but one is far greater than the other. However, it is possible that if you let the HORSE get between you and the mountain, you may not be able to see the mountain for the horse. God is the mountain and this world and its cares is the horse. Back away from the horse until you can see the mountain.

As Isabella Lilias Trotter wrote, Turn you eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.


The Stark Reminder

I. DEATH IS A REALITY TO BE FACED

Hebrews 9:27–It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. John Newton, the man who wrote Amazing Grace said just before he departed this world: I am leaving the land of the dying and going to the land of the living. He was right: everywhere you look in this world you see death. Lou has left this world of death and is now in the land of the living.

II. LIFE IS SHORT

Job said:“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble.

Moses said: Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.

David said: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.  We are merely moving shadows.”

James said: “What is your life? You are a [vapor] mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 

III. RELATIONS MATTER

I was 40 years old before the LORD revealed the truth to me: Relationships are always more valuable than riches. I’ve seen a lot of people put riches first and it leads to misery. John and Lou loved all three of you but now they are gone. If you want to honor them: keep loving each other.

IV. THIS WORLD CAN NOT FULFILL OUR NEEDS

I have lived on this earth for 70 years and I can tell you there is nothing in this world that will give you lasting satisfaction. Not one person under the sound of my voice is perfectly happy or at peace. There are many things that this world and the people in it cannot give you. God created us with needs and our greatest need is HIM. There is a J shaped hole in your inner being that only Jesus can fill.

V. PHYSICAL DEATH IS A PROMOTION

Paul said in Philippians 1:21–For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. I translate the word ‘gain’ promotion…for me to live is Christ and to die is a promotion. Lou got an infinite upgrade. Don’t feel sorry for Lou. Our sorrow and grief should be for ourselves. We don’t know what’s going to happen down here but Lou is safe in the arms of Jesus.

This present crisis and Lou’s departure should help us understand how vital a relationship with Jesus is…He loved you and He died for you.

The Great Contrast

Psalm 36

For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord.

Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all.
In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are.
Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good.
They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. Their actions are never good. They make no attempt to turn from evil.

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is Your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.

You feed them from the abundance of Your own house, letting them drink from Your river of delights.
For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.

10 Pour out Your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts.
11 Don’t let the proud trample me or the wicked push me around.
12 Look! Those who do evil have fallen! They are thrown down, never to rise again.

Introduction

I do love the Psalms and you are probably weary of hearing me say so: I read them and study them daily. They help me in my praise and prayer life but they are also laced with great theology and I am anxious to show you something from Psalm 36. I want you to understand that we could approach this Psalm a hundred different ways and this is only one of many ways to look at this Psalm.

Steven Lawson, who I have heard in person and he was not impressive as a speaker but he is a great writer and I love reading his commentary. I want you to listen to his opening comments on this Psalm.

“There is no limit to the depth that depraved mankind will fall if he/she gives in to evil but no matter how wicked man becomes, God’s goodness is greater, ruling over all to accomplish His purpose.”

What we have is Psalm 36 is a CONTRAST between the utter sinfulness and depravity of man and the infinite goodness and greatness of God. In other words: Man can act really bad but God is infinitely good and His good is infinitely greater than man’s evil. God’s goodness, light the light will overcome man’s evil just as light overcomes darkness. The CROSS is a prime example: At the cross we see man at his worse and God at His best.

RELIGION/HUMANISM attempts to lower our view of God and raise our view of man.

Steven Lawson

This is in complete contradiction of the bible. God is high and exalted and man is a falling creature. Phylis Diller said, “God created man a little lower than the angels and he has been getting lower ever since.” I remind you that all religions are humanistic and that try to put God and man on equal footing–this is error.

There is a infinite gap between Holy God and depraved man, one that only Jesus can bridge.

As I have already stated, there is a lot more in this Psalm but I want you to notice this huge contrast:

Contrast: the state of being strikingly different from something else.

Comparison: the state of likeness or similarity.

You can see the contrast by the use of the pronouns THEY [referring to man] and YOUR [referring to God].

Lets look at the first four verses and highlight the THEY’S…

We have a list of characteristics of the wicked…

[1] They listen to the voice of Sin. Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. Sin guides them.

[2] They have no fear of God at all. They do not fear sins consequences at all.

[3] They are conceited, they cannot see how wicked they really are. They have no understanding of their depravity.

[4] They say is crooked things, deceitful things. In other words, they lie and see nothing wrong with lying.

[5] They refuse to act wisely or do good. They have no intention of doing good. No plan to do good.

[6] They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots. 

[7] They never do good. Their motives are always evil.

[8] They make no attempt to turn from evil.

[two more in verse 12]

[9] They are falling lower and lower. Going down!

[10] They will never rise: destined to fall deeper and deeper.

NOTE

This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Romans ONE.

Romans ONE…

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Notice what Paul says in the next verse…

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires.

What homosexuals and lesbians do is shameful and degrading but the basic problem is REBELLION. Not all who rebel against God get involved in sexual perversion but they do get caught in this downward spiral that is illustrated by sexual perversion. Sexual perversion is not going to have a good outcome but any act of rebellion will sear the conscience and the sooner a man repents the better. Rebellion is a step in the opposite direction of God and the rebel continues to enlarge the gulf; he gets deeper and deeper, farther and farther from God.

Now if this was the end of the Psalm, we would be in trouble but Praise God, it is not. Let’s turn our attention to the other pronoun: You and Yours which refers to God.

[1] Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens.

[2] Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

[3] Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.

[4] Your justice like the ocean depths.

[5] You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.

[6] Your unfailing love is precious!

[7] You care for them from the abundance of Your own house.

[8] You let them drink from Your river of delights.

[9] You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.

[10] Pour out Your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts.

NOTE

One word is found three times among God attributes; it is the Hebrew word Checed, a Hebrew word for GRACE. It is an interesting word that the AV translates it 12 different ways: Mercy [149], kindness [40], lovingkindness [30] but also merciful, favor, good, and goodliness. It is found three times here in verses 5,7, 10. NASB–lovingkindness, NIV- Love, NRSV-Steadfast Love, NET- Loyal Love, REB- Unfailing Love, CSB- Faithful Love. None of them are wrong: it is a broad description of Agape–love from above, divine love which is unmerited and unconditional. It is at the heart of the gospel and the reason I stand before you tonight.

Five Kings In A Cave [R]

INTRODUCTION

When  Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard what Joshua and the Israelites had done to Jericho and Ai and that they had allied with Gibeonites, he sent messengers to several other kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon saying, “Come and help me destroy Gibeon,” because they surrendered to Joshua without a fight and sitting a bad precedent. Adoni-zedek intended to make an example out of Gibeon so that no other cities would join forces with Joshua. So these five Amorite kings combined their armies for a united attack. They moved all their troops into place and attacked Gibeon. The Gibeonites sent word to Joshua that they were under attack and Joshua and his army marched all night  to attack the Amorite kings.

Thing went well for the Israelites and the rout was on. The five kings fled the battle when they saw thing going bad and took refuge in the cave at Mekkedah. One of the Israelites soldiers saw them enter the cave and told Joshua where they were hiding. Joshua instructed some of him men to stop up the entrance of the cave and then resume the battle. When the battle is over, the entire army comes back to the cave and they bring the Kings out for execution.

Canaan is a type in the bible for the victorious Christian life. Jesus said, The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Ultimately, God is saving us from hell and to heaven. In the present God is saving us from sin and self. Sin is powerful because it is rooted in our flesh. These Amorite kings are symbol of the fleshly forces {Pharaoh’s} that seek to dominate us, lord over us, enslave us. We are not to yield to the power of the flesh but walk in the Spirit. We are to be hyper-niki’s, more than conquerors.

Romans 8:1-4

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

What are the dominant forces of the flesh that seek to lord over us? There are more than five but tonight I want to talk about five powerful fleshly kings that will lord over us if we allow it.

THE FIRST KING IS PRIDE

Augustine believed that pride was the root of all sin and that humility is the foundation of all virtue.  He said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

I know this, at the center of Pride and Sin is the unbroken I. I remind you that the first person pronoun [I, My, Me} in Greek is the word ‘ego‘. You are familiar no doubt with the words: Egomaniac, Egotism, Egocentric–all these terms refer to excessive pride.

The Rich Fool

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

I think of the words of Lucifer…the archangel…

I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Quote

Someone has said that pride is the only disease that everyone recognizes except the person who has it.

We need not kid ourselves, it likes to go undetected. What I am saying is that PRIDE is deeply embedded in our flesh and if we are not careful, it will subtly take control of our life. Many people who act humble are in fact very proud. I heard about a man who was given an award for his humility. It was a gold tie pin but they had to take it away from him because he wore it everywhere he went. He was proud of his humility. Those of you my age can remember Mrs. Bertha Smith and the tract she use to refer to again and again…it is called NOT I BUT CHRIST and it focuses on identifying the secret spirit of pride. Let me list a few of the indicators in that tract…

[1] Exalted feeling in view of your success or position.

[2] Spirit of independence.

[3] Love of human praise and a secret fondness to be noticed.

[4] Love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation.

[5] The stirrings of anger or impatience.

[6] A touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when others disapprove.

[7] Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit; an arguing, harsh, sarcastic expression; an unyielding, headstrong disposition; a driving, commanding spirit; a disposition to criticize and pick flaws when set aside and unnoticed; a peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored.

[8] Carnal fear; a man-fearing spirit; a compromising spirit?

[9] A jealous disposition, a secret spirit of envy shut up in your heart.

[10] An unpleasant sensation in view of the success of another.

[11] A disposition to speak of the faults and failings, rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than yourself.

[12] A dishonest, deceitful disposition; the evading and covering of the truth; the covering up of your real faults.

[13] Leaving a better impression of yourself than is strictly true.

[14]False humility; exaggeration; straining the truth.

[15] Lack of faith and trust in God; a disposition to worry and complain in the midst of pain, poverty, or at the dispensations of Divine Providence; an over anxious feeling whether everything will come out all right.

[16] Lack of concern for lost souls; dryness and indifference? Selfishness; love of ease; love of money.

Not I But Christ

 Lord, bend that proud and stiffnecked “I,”

Help me to bow the neck and die,

Beholding Him on Calvary,

Who bowed His Head for me.

I am humiliated every time I read the list, there is not much if anything on the list of which I am not guilty. Watch that secret spirit of pride. It likes to hid in the darkness of your deepest soul.

II. THE SECOND KING IS FEAR

Zig Zigler said fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. This is why the left loves fake news: it is designed to promote fear. The latest example is the Corona Virus. Just a few years ago, it was Social Security. When Reagan ran from president, it was the threat of war–he is a warmonger. Those who promote and incite fear are not of God. He doesn’t peddle fear, the devil is the fear monger. The devil is basically a terrorist. He peddles fear and promotes insecurity. He wants to destroy your peace and your sense of security. This is why he tempts all true believers with doubt. If you never have doubts, I am worried about your spiritual condition.

When Adam and Eve transgressed: the first results [immediate] was fear and shame. Our parents became grossly insecure and insecure people lie. They lie because they are afraid. They believe that lies protect them from being hurt. Insecure people cannot trust. They are afraid to tell you the truth. They think that love is earned. They live in constant fear of being rejected. But their dishonesty destroys their relationships one by one. Good healthy relationship are based on truth. You would be surprised by the number of people who live under the tyranny of fear. Paul told Timothy,  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. God does not want you to live under the dreadful tyranny of fear. There is hope and I am going to tell you how to get out from under this horrible taskmaster called Insecurity.

We had a WEE Care, that is weekday early education for 30 of the 38 years I was at Danville. A big part of the program is CHILD CARE. Back in the early 90’s we had a little 7 year old girl named Beth who was bad to act out from time to time. She had a little brother who was three or four years younger. Beth’s mother was fairly attractive, tall slender build and in her mid twenties. She had children before she was ready and she was waiting when the WEE Care opened and did not come to get her children until closing time. Beth and her brother were 12 hour children which is never a good sign. One day Beth showed out to the point that he workers were exasperated; they were at wits end and so they sent for me. I was a little aggravated at first but I knew the kids were innocent and my heart went out to Beth and her brother. The van was parked by the widow of the Child Care so I took Beth to van. The women could see us but not hear us. I spoke gently to Beth and just began probing. Finally, I ask the right question and she unburdened her little heart. She said, “I went to big one night a year ago and when I walk up I had no daddy and I have not seen him since, he just left and did not even say by. Every night when I lay down, I have a hard time going to sleep because I am afraid that when I wake up it will just be my brother and me.There are a lot of Beths in our world. I didn’t have the confidence that I should have had but I said to Beth, “Beth your mother is not going to leave you. She works hard and I know she looses her patience with you but she loves you and she is not going to abandon you.” Beth was seven year old and living in a world of fear. This should not be.

I’m a little hesitant to do it but I am going to share a personal testimony.

THE THIRD KING IS LUST

We call lust everything but what it isWebster defines lust as...having a very strong sexual desire for someone. Actually, it is to look of upon the flesh of another person with sensual and selfish desires. Lust has no regard for the other person. We are so confused in our society that we don’t know the difference between love and lust. Most of what we call love is lust. Having sex with someone is not making love. Love in most cases has nothing to do with sex: it should have. We sin every time we have sex for a selfish reason, married or not.

Lust puts my desire above your need.

I know for a fact that men have a problem with lust. I also know that old men have a problem with lust. I am extremely afraid of two things: porn and gambling. Now I am speaking from my perspective and conditioning. I was subjected to both of these evils when I was a kid. I know what both will do to me. Am I tempted? Of course I am, if I were not there would be nothing to fear. While I am on the subject: Ladies don’t make it harder on us: cover up, dress modestly. There are some things that only your husband should see, at home, not at church or Walmart.

Ladies, men are visually stimulated. All you have to do to get them fired up and give them a picture, a view and they get excited. Women are doing foolish things. I have pleaded with members of my own family about dressing in a revealing manner and they laugh at me. Ladies you are pouring gas on the fire; be careful. I tell the young ladies in my family that good men are attracted to modest women.

THE FOURTH KING IS ADDICTION 

I use to joke about drug addiction but not any more; addiction jokes are no longer funny. Once it happens to someone you love, it will cease to be a laughing matter. The bad thing about addiction is the blindness it creates. Drug addicts do not see drugs as harmful; they think of drugs as being helpful, ENABLERS but in reality they are disablers. The Graham Association says that 7 out of every 100 are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I think it higher. I heard a medical doctor say last week that if you have been on pain medicine for more than two weeks, you have a problem and if your doctor keeps prescribing pain medicine, you need to find a new doctor. I have become friends with a doctor in Decatur who says, “There are not enough narcotics in the world to relieve one persons chronic pain.” I think he is right on! You keep throwing pain med at chronic pain and you will end up with a much worse problem than chronic pain. There are some realities we have to accept…

Drugs kill and the medical industry knows this yet they keep legalizing more and more drugs. We are in a drug epidemic and no one is talking about it. Young people, I will tell you how to prevent, don’t start, don’t experiment with drugs. Do not do recreational drugs. Millions of addicted began with these so called recreational drugs and alcohol is a drug.

No one lives a pain free life. Pain is a part of life and we must except it.

Narcotics are for short term: for people in intense or traumatic pain following an accident or surgery or for the terminally ill. They are not for back aches and headaches. Life and narcotics don’t go together.

Narcotics are not enablers; they are disablers. Yes, in the beginning the rocket fuel that narcotics produce will enable you to fly higher, boost your energy enabling you to get more done with less rest but that is going to change. You will have to take more and more just to enable yourself to function. Eventually, your basic function will be to get the drugs and they are expensive.

Long story short: getting addicted to a narcotic or to alcohol can and will destroy your marriage, family, business, health, your social relationships, your mind and your life. They create a vortex that will suck you under.

THE FIFTH KING IS GREED

Greed is one of those secret sins [like jealously and envy] that we hide in the darkness. I heard every confession in the book but after 50 years no one has ever confessed to me that they are jealous, envious or greedy. These are the ones we like to keep hidden. I want to give you some advice. A lady on a search committee ask me about a person the other days and all I said was, “Check their giving record.” There is only one thing that I need to do to check out your credibility or your integrity: look at your giving. I am sorry folks, but it is a dead give-a-way. For a man to pretend to love his church and not support it financially is a sure indicator that he is lacking in integrity. He does not have things together. If a husband loves his wife and children, he will support them financially. It is absurd to think otherwise. Yet Baptist churches are filled with people who want to assume leadership when they are robbing God of HIS tithes. I am very familiar with those who make their own laws regarding giving but only a rebel makes his own laws. You do not give because your heart is not right and you have no integrity because you are pretending that it is right. To have integrity, you have to tell the truth. So stand up and tell the church, “I will not support you financially. I would like to help make decisions but I am not going to give my money.” Do that and see how many committee appointments you get.

Conclusion

THE PATH TO VICTORY

Now, as I have spoke on the kings that we hid in the darkness and secret places of our lives, has the Holy Spirit put His finger on any one of these Kings? If He has, I am going to tell you what to do.

Bring them out into the open, into the light. Don’t keep them hidden.Call them what they are. If you have a problem with lust, you will never get victory by calling it something else. If you refuse to admit that you are jealous, you will never get victory of jealously. {Junior Hill}You put your heel on their neck. You take command of them, instead of letting them command you.Surrender them to Joshua {Jesus}. You don’t have what it takes to put them to death but He does. Bring your sin to Jesus. He is the only person in the universe that wants your sin.

[1] Identify the secret sin and call it what it is…

To get free of addiction…call it addiction.

To get free of an Alcohol addiction…call it an addiction not a disease. Alcoholism is not a disease, it is a sin.

If you stretch the truth and call it a lying not embellishment or exaggeration.

If you are looking at someone inappropriately, call it lust not admiration.

Call it what it is... or there will be no victory.

If you get all tensed up every time you have an opportunity to give: call it what it is, Greed.

You get no victory until you call it what it is and acknowledge the destruction it is doing. Greed is no small sin: he perpetuates every form of evil: porn, abortion, drugs, gambling, etc.

[2] Next: You bring it out into the light [open]. We call this confession.

Perhaps your are thinking… “Will I am not confessing.” No confession, no victory. It is that simple.

The devil will keep you in bondage and darkness so long as you refuse to confess. There is no victory a part from confession. I heard a story when I was a kid about another kid…He lived on a big Southern Plantation and he was in good standing with the Master. He had his chores to do but he also had a lot of free time. His master had a small lake in front of the mansion and on that lake, he had some prize swans that he valued highly. He was very clear about the swans, no one was to hurt or injure them. One day this kid is tempted to throw rocks at the swans. He doesn’t intend to hurt them, only frighten them but his rock gets to close and hits one of the swans in the head. He fishes the bird out of the water but the swan is dead. He quickly slips into the forest to bury the dead swan. Then he goes the kitchen to so his chores. The man who runs the kitchen is not a nice man and he was watching the boy through the window and he saw it all. After the boy had done his routine chores, the cook said, “Boy, I want these floors scrubbed.” The kid said, “That’s not my job.” “I saw you kill that swan today,” said the cook, “Do you want me to tell the master?” The boy scrubbed the floors. He became the cooks slave. Finally one day, he just couldn’t take it anymore and he went and confessed to the Master. He was shocked when the Master said, “I saw you, I have known all along but I was waiting to see if you would confess. I believe you have suffered enough for your crime but don’t do it again.” “You don’t have to worry, I’m not going near that lake,” said the boy and then he headed for the kitchen. The cook said, “boy scrub the floors,” and boy said, “not today“. “I’ll tell the Master,” said the cook. “I already told him,” said the boy as he kept walking.

Third, by grace with the help of Jesus, you take authority over the sin. You put your foot on it.

Fourth, you give the Holy Spirit permission to execute the sin. You have no love for this sin and you do not want it to survive. The best thing for sin is death. You either have it executed or it will kill you. No compromise with sin. A family had a little dog that got hit by a car.

The Divine Vindicator

Psalm 35

A psalm of David.

O Lord, oppose those who oppose me.
    Fight those who fight against me.

Put on your armor, and take up your shield.
    Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.

Lift up your spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Let me hear you say,“I will give you victory!”
Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me; turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me.
Blow them away like chaff in the wind—a wind sent by the angel of the Lord.
Make their path dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me. I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me.
So let sudden ruin come upon them! Let them be caught in the trap they set for me! Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.

Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because He rescues me.
10 With every bone in my body I will praise Him: “Lord, who can compare with you? Who else rescues the helpless from the strong? Who else protects the helpless and poor from those who rob them?”

11 Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair.
13 Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.
14 I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother.
15 But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly.
16 They mock me and call me names; they snarl at me.

17 How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me from their fierce attacksProtect my life from these lions!
18 Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. I will praise you before all the people.
19 Don’t let my treacherous enemies rejoice over my defeat. Don’t let those who hate me without cause gloat over my sorrow.
20 They don’t talk of peace; they plot against innocent people who mind their own business.
21 They shout, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we saw him do it!”

22 O Lord, you know all about this. Do not stay silent. Do not abandon me now, O Lord.
23 Wake up! Rise to my defense! Take up my case, my God and my Lord.
24 Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice. Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.
25 Don’t let them say, “Look, we got what we wanted! Now we will eat him alive!”

26 May those who rejoice at my troubles be humiliated and disgraced. May those who triumph over me be covered with shame and dishonor.
27 But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!”
28 Then I will proclaim your justice, and I will praise you all day long.

Introduction

We don’t know for certain but we think Psalm 34 and 35 are connected in the sense that both come from the same experience of David being pursued or hunted by Saul. The only time David refers to the Angel of the LORD is in Psalm 34-35 [34:7, 35:5-6].

Psalm 35 is what they call and Imprecatory Psalm, a Psalm where David pronounces a curse on his enemies. He certainly prays for bad things to happen to those who have hurt him. In a sense, his soul cries out for justice. You and I know that although God is just, this fallen world dominated by the thinking of fallen man is not just. Injustice takes place every day. You are not going to escape this world unscathed: you will get a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Joe David and I went to DC when President Reagan’s body was lying in State: we stood in the hot sun for over 4 hours. I don’t know how many times the lined stopped to a dead standstill because some senator, congressmen or dignitary broke line. We had to wait like peasants but they had privileges. It isn’t fair but it is the way things are. We can get angry about it and voice our protest but the system is not going to change. It is a bit humiliating but as I told Joe David, I rather be on the unprivileged end because it does in fact teach us to humble ourselves and it relates us to the common man. There is an elite society in the country and a lot of them hang out in Washington D.C. and I have no desire to be one of them. I’d rather be at a Grace Point potluck supper than a Washington Ball.

Transition

So what do we do, how do we respond when someone sins against us. Perhaps it is the exercise of an unfair privilege or something much worse. I have to be honest, I can not recall any great sins against me. Nothing that would compare to David’s experience [he was hunted like an animal] but as Jesus said, “Offenses are going to come,” because we live in a fallen world and everyone sins. I have been slandered more than once and it is a very painful experience: on one occasion, it literally broke my heart. I was devastated. I guess the LORD used that experience to toughen me up because I don’t recall responding that way again but it does hurt. So what are we to do? How are we to respond when someone hurts us?

I. We Need Catharsis

Catharsis is a counseling word, it is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. I happen to believe that this is what David is doing in Psalm 35. Catharsis is a purging or a cleansing that comes only when we are truthful about our inner feelings. People have a tendency to repress anger and repressed anger turns into bitter resentment. Bitter resentment is toxic; it is much more harmful to you than the person you are angry toward. Rattlesnakes were created with a capacity to store toxic venom. They can carry it without it hurting them but human are not rattlesnakes and they have no capacity to carry toxic resentment.

David did not repress his anger: he went straight to his counselor, the LORD and He is a Wonderful Counselor. He is understanding, truthful and He never breaks a confidence.

You may be reluctant to do this, thinking, the LORD does not want to hear your problems. Actually He does. Go to Him, get alone with Him and pour out your heart. This is exactly what David does…Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me; turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me. 5 Blow them away like chaff in the wind—a wind sent by the angel of the Lord. Make their path dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me. I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me. So let sudden ruin come upon them! Let them be caught in the trap they set for me! Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.

There is nothing wrong with going to a human counselor: if you can, go to a Christian and a professional. If you can’t afford that go to a trusted friend. Confession is good so long as you confess to the right people: never confess to the devil. Judas confessed but to the wrong people, they laughed at him and said, “What do we care, that is your problem.” The one thing you cannot do is repress the hurt and anger: you have to get it out of your system.

II. We Need Freedom

When we suffer an injustice and repress it, it becomes a burden, an oppressive burden. The reason for this is that we are assuming God’s responsibility. Vengence is Mine, says the LORD, I will pay back.” This calls for an act of faith on our part, we must TRANFER THE BURDEN. As the old song says, “Take your burdens to the LORD and leave them there.” Part one is to confess–taking your burden to the LORD {which David did} and part two is leaving it with HIM; trusting Him to handle the problem.

In my opinion, Step One is much easier than Step Two. Sometimes it takes me a few hours or perhaps days to confess but letting go of the offense is much more difficult.

LEARN A LESSON FROM SAUL: Anything that we allow to become an obsession will eventually derail our intended purpose. Saul was set aside to be the king of Israel but his insecurity, jealously and paranoia caused him to be obsessed with David demise. It got to the point that all Saul thought about was David’s elimination. He spent every waking moment hunting David. Meanwhile, the kingdom suffered because the king was not being the king.

I know what a struggle it is to let go but God has made it vividly clear to me that I have a choice: I can give the offense to HIM or I can find another line of work. I cannot vindicate myself and pastor at the same time and I want to be a pastor.

Conclusion

Corrie Tin Boon was a Dutch woman who suffered through the astrocities of one of the Nazi concentration camps. Her sister Betsy, who was her mentor, had taught Corrie to be forgiving but when Corrie met one the brutal prison guards after the war, she struggled to forgive him. To help her in this area; Corrie imagined her hurt as a rose and forgiveness as an offering to Jesus. She would simply see the hurt as a rose and then take the rose and lay it at Jesus feet.

The LORD Is Near

Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol {praise enthusiastically} the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Quoted in I Peter 3

12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    He delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Introduction

Psalm 34 is a classic: if you ever experience a broken heart, this is the Psalm to turn to. This Psalm is an acrostic and has 22 verses, one verse for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a rich Psalm that contains a lot of consoling promises.

I want to share this Psalm by following this simple format: [1] The Testimony [2] The Principle [3] The Promises.

I. The Testimony That Inspired

The background for this Psalm in found in I Samuel 21. Saul has threatened David’s life and David fleas. As a fugitive on the run he is desperate for provisions so he goes to the Priest at Nob, you get in a fix and you do see the pastor: it is not uncommon. The priest gives David bread and a sword. He can tell something is wrong and so he asks David what’s going on and David lied. Perhaps he was afraid that if he told the truth, Ahimelech the priest would not help him. David gets these provisions and heads directly to Gath seeking asylum from Achish one of the Philisitine kings. But David reputation proceeded him and before he could be admitted into the presence of the king, he over head the Philistines talking about his military exploits: Suddenly David changes his mind. He realizes he has made a mistake by turning to his enemies so he pretends to be a madman, forming at the mouth, and scratching on the door. He was a good actor–it worked and David escaped unharmed to the cave in Adullam.

This is when He wrote this Psalm. He realizes he had a narrow escape and he is glad to be alive. If you have been saved from a near death experience, you know the feeling. When David talks about being delivered from all his fears and saved from all his troubles, he is referring to this incident.

David has not seen the end of fear or trouble: there is more coming in the future but in terms of this particular incident God delivered him from all his fears and saved him from all his troubles.

So there is the testimony behind the Psalm.

II. The Principle Illustrated

David understood the fact that God responds to HUMILITY. Of course this is taught through out scripture, not just here.

James 4:10…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I Peter 5:6…Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Jesus…Matthew 23:12… And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Humility within Psalm 34…

Verse 9–Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

Verse 18–The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

This is akin to what David said in Psalm 51:17…The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

The PRINCIPLE is stated clearly in James 4:6… “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I like the NKJV version even better… “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

The surest way to make God your opponent is to act in pride.

III. The Promises Stated

[1] Verse 7… The angel of the LORDm {Jesus} is encamped around those who fear Him.

[2] Verse 9… Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

[3] Verse 15… The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.

[4] Verse 18… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

[5] Verse 19–The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

[6] Verse 22–no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

The last promise reminds me of Romans 8:1– There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.…AND Romans 8:37-39– Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am like the old preacher who said, “I had rather live in Romans 8 than the Garden of Eden; fenced in on one side by NO CONDEMNATION and on the other side by NO SEPARATION.

Jesus Is Great, Demons Are Real and People Are Crazy

26 So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes,across the lake from Galilee. 27 As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town.

28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.

30 Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. 31 The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.

32 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.

So Jesus gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. 35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.

So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. 38 The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

INTRODUCTION

When our granddaughter Mylee was three or four, she was  saying her night prayers  and she prayed…”God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” I didn’t understand until one of my children told me that it was the title of a country song. Billy Currington came out with this hit in 2008. Billy and Mylee got two out of three: God is indeed GREAT and people are definitely CRAZY. Since beer is a drug and does untold damage to the family, I had to edit that part out–so the title of my sermons is JESUS IS GREAT, DEMONS ARE REAL AND PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. You will see all three clearly from our text.

I. GOD {JESUS} IS GREAT

I love stories about Jesus and this is one of my favorites. I don’t know how anyone could read this story and not admire Jesus…He is Great!

Jesus has “Great” courage--[verse 27]

As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. [naked as a jay bird and screaming]. Matthew adds that he approached Jesus screaming and Mark said “he ran toward Jesus.” So you step out of the boat on to the beach and here comes a man running straight toward you naked, bleeding from cutting himself, and screaming at the top of his lungs. What would I do? I know what I would do, “Get back in the boat ASAP and get the heck out of Dodge.” What did Jesus do? He stood calmly waiting on the demoniac to approach. Do you have that kind of courage?

Jesus has “Great” compassion

As soon as Jesus saw him, He knew what the problem was and began speaking to the demons that inhabited this poor man. Not only is Jesus not afraid of our problems, He loves us so much that He intercedes and stands between us and the problem.

Jesus has “Great” power–Jesus spoke directly to the demons and they obeyed His command. Jesus had authority over demons. There were 6,000 demons but they were not match for Jesus. He sent them packing, thus liberating the poor tortured man.

II. DEMONS ARE REAL

I not here to talk a lot about demons; I don’t know much. I don’t major on demonology and I don’t advise you to either. I do believe in demons. Jesus recognized them and although I understand much less than Jesus, I believe they exist. From this one story, I can tell you seven things about demons;

[1] Demons always recognize Jesus [v.28]

[2] Demons pray–three times they beg Jesus [v.28, 30,32] and Jesus answers their prayer. Figure this out theologians. I can’t explain it, I’m just telling you what is in scripture.

[3] Demons are frightening–demons can scare people, they shriek, they scream, they disturb your mind and your peace. They are experts at torture. You want nothing to do with demons. Stay away from the occult-fear it like the plague.

[4] Demons will enslave–When they get a hold on you, they do not let go. This man was enslaved to destructive habits, he cut himself with stones.

[5] Demons can empower–this man had incredible strength, they community had put him in chains but he could break the chains.  The antichrist will be empowered by the devil. You would not want to confront demons in the flesh. You will end up like the seven sons of Sceva, beaten to a pulp and stripped.

[6] Demons are destructive–when Jesus allowed them to enter the swine, they ran down the clefts into the sea and drowned. It was like Jesus hit the fast forward button and said, “When you do business with demons, this is what happens.” Avoid drugs, any form of meditation that is not Christ centered.

[7] Demons are subject to Christ–they are not all powerful.

III. PEOPLE ARE CRAZY

This story begins and ends with crazy people. Listen folks, if you:

In you Streak-Go without clothes: run all over the country naked…you might be crazy!

In you Slash your wrist and cut yourself with sharp objects just to inflict pain and see blood…you might be crazy!

If you Shriek and scream to the top of your lungs…you might be crazy!

If you Sleep in a grave yard or a funeral parlor…You might be crazy!

If you have supernatural Strength and can snap chains...You might be crazy!

But the demoniac was healed [Transformed] of his craziness. He was sitting calmly and in his right mind. The real crazy folks in this story are the Gerasenes [ge-rä-sā-no’s ]. [gee-raw-so-nos]

Sanity, defined by some is being in touch with, or facing, reality. Thus insanity would be the denial of reality.

The Gerasenes [gee-raw-so-nos] were out of touch with reality. They saw the miraculous transformation of a demon possessed man. Instead of screaming and running naked, he was sitting calmly, with clothes on and carrying on a conversation. He was a radically changed man and they knew it. Have you or I seen anything so radical as this man’s transformation? The Ge-ra-se-nes were denying reality.

Crazy people make bad judgments: the Gerasenes valued the price of hogs more than the value of a human soul. William Barclay: “No thing [including animals] in this world can ever be as important as a persons soul.”

Tell that to PETA or Planned Parenthood. This country has gone nuts. We are crazy. We slaughter babies like they are sheep and protect the Spotted Owls and Polar Bears. If that is not insanity, I don’t know what is! 

At Harvard University, you can no longer recognize a person by their gender. You are not allowed to use pronouns like his or hers. It has to be they and them. Is this not insane!

But the Crazy of the craziest is to ask Jesus to shove off. They invited Jesus to leave: they insisted that He leave and He left. If the LORD speaks to you today and you tell Him to but out and leave you alone, how insane is that? When we banned scripture and prayer from classrooms in 1963, was that not an invitation for Jesus to leave the room? Look at what has happened to education since 1963. It is not smart to ask Jesus to shove off.

Revival At Mount Carmel

NTRODUCTION

I want to talk to you about some things that accompany REVIVAL but before I do, I want to qualify what I am saying with this preface. Revival is a grace gift from the sovereign God. We can prepare for revival but technically, we cannot work one up or even pray one up. We can shout, cut ourselves with knives and rave all evening like the false prophets but we cannot work up a revival because revivals are not worked up they are prayed down. BUT make no mistake, it is not our pious or even passionate prayers that causes the fire to fall. God sends the fire. He is the source and the giver of the fire. I’ve seen the fire fall one time in my life and that was over 40 years ago. I’ve longed to see it fall again since. I have seen God work, He is always at work but I pray for the fire of heaven to fall on the body of Christ. This country has not experienced a great spiritual awakening in over a century and a half. If you put every Baptist preacher in the convention in one room, they could not conjure up a revival: that being true, you know that I can’t preach up a revival. In intend to talk more about Revival this week than I did when I was here before but be it known, that I am a seeker like yourself. I pray to our merciful God for revival. If He saw fit to let it begin here today, I would be fine with that but I have been in the business long enough to know that if it happens [the fire falls], He will be responsible and we will give HIM the praise.

From the study of God’s word, I do see some things that accompany REVIVAL and I want to share those with you this morning.

[1] THE CONGREGATION

So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel [V.20]

I don’t know about you but at home we have 600 members and only one third of them show up on an average Sunday. At Easter we have over half but that is one Sunday out of 52. I have challenged them time and time again to fake a revival. I tell them, “Let’s pretend that we have had a great revival and all show up this Sunday.” It never happens. It is a miracle in reverse. I don’t know how they do it but we consistently have our 35% with the other 65% on vacation, at the lake, footballing or NASCARing. It amazes me. I wonder if they have a secret network. How do we have the 35% per week when it is always a different crowd that makes up the 35%. If all our people where to show up at once, we couldn’t seat them or park them but it never happens. I don’t think we will have REVIVAL this week or any other week unless we congregate and draw near. The first commitment we need to make is not to let anything hinder us from attending the services.

[2] THE PROCLAIMATION OF GOD’S WORD

Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” [V.21]


If you do a history of REVIVAL you will discover that all are accompanied by the bold proclamation of God’s holy word. This does involve a preacher but I wish to put the emphasis on the WORD rather than the preacher. The MESSAGE in this case is greater than the messenger. The editor is more important than the kid who delivers the news paper. The chief is more important than the waiter. We all know that some waiters are better than others but our interest is in the quality of the food. Elijah’s message was brief but to the point. The people had been compromising. They were trying to serve two gods and Jehovah is a jealous God. Judaism did not mix with paganism. Judaism didn’t mix with any religion. Christianity is the same in that sense. I read the other day about a new religion called Chrislam which is a combination of Jesus teaching with Islam. This bird will not fly, CHRIST IS LORD. He said that no man could serve two masters but that is exactly what the Israelites were attempting to do, they were attempting to serve baal and Jehovah. Elijah said, “Enough of this nonsense: you can’t serve them both so make up your mind. Choose today whom you will serve.”

[3] THE PREPARATIONS

Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” Come near unto me, AV] They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

The first preparation Elijah had to make was to repair a broken  down altar. The altar had not been used in a long time. Jereboam corrupted Israel’s worship with the calves and than Ahab and Jezebel were promoting the worship of baal. Yahweh’s altar had been neglected and the stones were scattered. We think of an altar as a place to bring our sins and in the OT it involved confession and sacrifice. This process is vital to worship. When sacrifice and confession cease, we cease to worship. So the Israelites were guilty of idolatry and they had been unfaithful to Jehovah in worship. Impure worship is no worship in God’s sight.

Then we put the wood on the altar. Wood is combustible, it will burn up. It represents the temporal things that do not last. It is the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. It also symbolizes our works, our human effort.

Then they soaked the wood with water. These people were in a 3 and 1/2 year draught, water was the most precious thing they had. God wants the most precious thing you have on the altar. We cannot have REVIVAL apart from sacrifice and I think this is a major problems. We want God’s blessings but not His rule. We want Him to bless what we choose to do.

One other preparation is necessary and that is “Cut the bull”. I’m going to tell you why I think we don’t have REVIVAL, there is too much bull in our worship. We are not being honest with ourselves or God. We are playing church. We are acting like Christians instead of being Christians. Too much pretense. Does God see through it? You know that He does. I’ll be h0nest with: “I am shocked that God does what He does considering all the hypocrisy in the church.” When I was a young preacher, I heard Dr. Vance Havner tell the story of the church that went Hollywood. They brought in some type of entertainment every week. One Sunday they had a talking horse. They put the horse on the stage and his trainer ask him, “How many disciples were there?” and the old horse stomped 12 times and everyone applauded. Then he ask, “How many commandments are there?”  And the old horse stomped 10 times. Then some smart Ike from the back hollowed, “how many hypocrites are in this building?” Dr. Havner said the old horse went into a dance. I fully believe that we would experience some sort of spiritual renewal if we would just get honest with ourselves and God.

[4] THE PETITION

v.36…Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

There is absolutely no question that PRAYER has a vital connection to REVIVAL. I don’t know of any great spiritual awakening that was not preceded by a huge burden for men to pray. I don’t know how it is here but the most unpopular thing you can do in Danville is call a prayer meeting. More then a quarter of a century ago, we changed our Deacon’s meeting into basically a prayer meeting and one of my senior deacons removed his name from the ballot. He did not approve of the change. I am thankful to say that in these 25 years, I have had only one deacon to complain about coming early on Sunday morning for prayer. I do love prayer meeting which means I love deacon’s meetings. I must admit that as bad as things are, we don’t seemed to be burdened to the extend that we will met and pray fervently. I don’t think we have a China man’s change of having REVIVAL without prayer.

[5] THE INCINERATION

V. 38…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!

Now we get to God’s part: Elijah preached boldly, he repaired the altar, he cut the bull and he prayed but it was God who sent the fire. Moses the great prophet and law giver said, “The LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” What we have here is a holocaust: everything was consumed even the stone and the dust. It came quickly in the form of a lighten bolt. From heaven, God nukes the altar, He vaporized it and everything on it.

Note Psalm 135:6-7…For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.

Jesus taught is Luke 9:24…“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Let me tell you what life is about for a disciple of Christ…it is about surrender, giving things up. Desiring for God’s holy fire to consume all that will not honor Christ.

William Borden was born in Chicago on April 1, 1887. He was the son of a wealthy family, the Borden Diary industry. His parents gave him an around the world ticket for his high school graduation in 1904. William traveled the world and not just the finer places in Western Europe but he toured the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, India and China. William was astounded by the pain and suffering he saw: it literally broke his heart and while on the trip he made a commitment to give his life to Jesus as a Missionary to China. He wrote in the back of his bible two words, “No Reserves.” William was not holding back, he gave everything to Christ including his wealth. He came back to the states and attended college at Yale. At Yale he was broken over their drift away from the word and into liberalism. He and a friend began a prayer meeting before breakfast praying for REVIVAL at Yale. When he graduated four years later, 1,000 of the 1,300 students were attending prayer meetings. From there he attended Seminary in New Jersey and then he was off to China by way of Egypt where he went to study Arabic. When he left the harbor for his overseas voyage, he wrote two more words in the back of his bible, “No Retreat. His target group were Muslims so he wanted to learn the language. While in Egypt, young William contracted spinal meningitis and went to be with Jesus within a month of his diagnosis. A lot of people thought William made a mistake in giving his life to Christ. He had so much wealth and potential, why would he give it all up? Days prior to his departure, William wrote two more words in his bible, “No Regrets.” His most famous quote is…”Say no to self and yes to Jesus, always.”

CONCLUSION

I conclude with one final point, the OUTPOURING. Israel was dry, no rain in three and a half years. They needed a flood and they got one thanks to the mercy of God. I think of the words of the song, “Mercy drops round us are falling but O for the showers we plead.” Mercy drops are falling around Danville but we need a deluge, a flood, a shower. We need the fire of God to fall on us and consume everything in us that dishonors Christ. I want that more than I have ever wanted it in my life