Prayer And Peace

TEXT

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

INTRODUCTION

The New Living Translation reads…YOU will keep in perfect peace all who trust in YOU, all whose thoughts are fixed on YOU. The Easy to read version reads…God, You give true peace to people who depend on YOU, those who trust in YOU. I love Isaiah 26:3, my father in the ministry [Calvin C. Inman] quoted this verse often. I heard him quote it so often that I learned the verse by listening to him. It is a wonderful promise.

Have you noticed that little children rest more peacefully than we adults. It seems like the older I get, the harder it is for me to sleep soundly. Little children seem to have a higher quality of rest. I think this can be attributed to three things: [1] They have young bodies and do not have the aches and pains of a Senior Adult. [2] They are innocent. They do not understand sin. They have never contemplated death. They do not know what it is like to feel guilty. Can you remember the innocence of childhood? It did not last long, did it? [3] Children are not usually worried about the many things that we worry about. We have to worry about paying our taxes. It is a major headache for those who are self-employed. We worry about paying our bills. We worry about our health and whether or not it will hold up until we can retire. We worry about retirement. I have a dear friend in another State who calls me from time to time and we exchange worries. I was her pastor for only 18 months but she has the confidence to confide in me as I do her. She probably afraid to confess to anyone inside the community.  The last time we talked she had a list of concerns that were really troubling her. Not everyone is as honest  as my friend but I can tell by experience and the expression on their face that they are worried. If you are concerned, it is hard not to worry.

Jesus basically said that worry is a sin. He said in Matthew 6...” Don’t worry about your life; what you are going to eat or wear”…then He said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.” The question is: How do we live worry free? How do we move toward the “Perfect Peace” that Isaiah mentions?

1. WE MUST LEARN TO LEAVE OUR WORRIES WITH THE LORD

The bible speaks to this concern in I Peter 5:7…Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Recently I was preaching a revival in a church and they sang a song that I loved. It has a Jewish beat and it speaks to this issue of God loving and caring for us.

Jehovah Jireh, My provider,  His grace is sufficient
For me, for me,  for me!
 Jehovah Jireh,  My provider, His grace is sufficient for  me

My God shall supply all my needs– According to his riches in glory
He will give His angels charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me– Jehovah Jireh cares for me!

Charles Allen tells the story of a man who was a chronic worrier and he brought his anxieties home with him every day. He never enjoyed supper with the family or his time with them in the evening because he was worried about his work. His worry so consumed him that he decided something had to be done. One evening as he was about to climb the steps into his home, he said to himself, “I’m going to leave my worries on the porch and I will pick them up in the morning on my way to work.” So he did just that…in his mind, he sat his worries on the porch and then entered the house worry free. His family noticed the change and he had a delightful evening himself. The next morning when he picked his worries up, they did not seem as heavy. Some of the things he had been worrying about were gone. Joseph Scriven had this principle in mind when he wrote his mother this poem. The poem has been a comfort to many.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

I remember the words of another hymn that says, “Take your burdens to the LORD and leave them there.”

2. THE SECOND STEP IS TO FOCUS ON CHRIST

This promise is conditional. “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Me,” that is the promise. There is no question that peace of mind is conditioned on our thinking. Paul encouraged the Philippians to discipline their minds by thinking good thoughts… Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Our peace is determined in large part by what we have our minds set on. To the Romans, Paul said… For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Sometimes our focus is on the wrong thing:

  • We focus on obstacles instead of opportunities
  • We focus on our problems instead of His power
  • We focus on our fears instead of feeding our faith
  • We focus on sin and Satan instead of our sovereign Savior
  • We focus on all that is going wrong instead of thanking God for what has went right

A manager held up a piece of white poster board on which he had put one tiny black dot in the middle, amidst the huge sea of white. He said to his sales team, “What do you see?” Everyone said the same thing, “We see a blot dot.” None of them said we see a white poster board. He said, “This is why sales are down, you are seeing the one tiny dot, that person who is not interested in our product but you are seeing all this white area that represents those who are interested.”

It is human nature for us to see the black dot. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful,” but we don’t believe Him. We see the black dot instead of the white harvest. Every now and then someone will compliment me on a message and its like a grain of salt. One of the hardest lesson I had to learn as a preacher is to be gracious when people praise you but then you step on it and kill it. You don’t even take it home. Mild praise which is all I get doesn’t phase me but you like one unhappy Pharisee complain and I can’t get it off my mind. I have spent entire Sunday evenings struggling to come back to the pulpit because of something negative and sometimes tacky that was said to me.

When it comes to focus: sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and start counting your blessings. Make a list! You are going to be surprised at all God has already done for you. I have never met a complainer who was not extremely introverted and selfish. All they think about is their own needs and wants. No wonder they are miserable. Stop thinking about yourself and your problems. Find someone who has a greater problem and help them: that will help you.

3. THE THIRD STEP IS SET YOUR AFFECTION ON THINGS ABOVE

Stinking thinking is an everyday battle. In that respect, it is like pride; you have to deal with it everyday but disciplines help. I can tell you one thing you do not need to do all the time and that is watch TV. There is a lot of stinking thinking on TV. I know that some of you watch Nature shows and reality stuff and not all of TV is bad but the Network stuff stinks to high heaven. It is laced with Relativism and Secular Humanism. The left has made TV their number one brain washing implement. My suggestion and I am for from perfect on the subject of positive thinking, is that you read the bible a lot. I have a long way to go and a short time to get there but bible reading helps me as much as anything. I have to be careful about TV. Many TV programs are border line porn to me. That may be because I am an old man, I don’t know, but I do know that it is better for me not to see certain things. Once the wrong image gets in my mind, it may take me weeks to get it out.

Not only do you need good reading material to win the battle of the mind, you need good clean wholesome recreation. I pick at hunters a lot but really I envy them. They have a passion for what they do and its far better for them to be chasing deers than dears. Everyone needs some good healthy recreation. Some like to fish which could become a passion for me if I would make the time. We all need a venue where we can relax and enjoy God’s wonderful creation. For some it is a trip to the beach or if you are a fundamentalist, a trip to the coast or for some to the lakes and mountains. If you get involved in the wrong kind of rec or entertainment, it can corrupt your mind.

The New American Standard translates Isaiah 26:3 as follows…“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Steadfastness is the key to victory when it comes to the mind. We have to establish and maintain the right habits. You cannot allow your mind to wonder; it will inevitably go in the wrong direction. There is an old adage, “An idle mind is the devils work shop.” If you have to, memorize the list in Philippians 4…practice thinking on…

  • Things that are true
  • Things that are honorable
  • Things that are right
  • Things that are pure
  • Things that are lovely
  • Things that you admire
  • Things that are excellent
  • Things that are worthy of praise
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Jesus Is Not A Patch

TEXT

14 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fastlike we do and the Pharisees do?”
15 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
 

INTRODUCTION

There is a T.V. show called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I have never seen the show personally but I did read about it and I have a video clip. A crew of builders and designers ride a bus across country and they renovate houses for families. Some of these families have suffered tragedies, some have fallen on hard times but long story short–this team comes in and with the help of neighbors, they complete renovate the house. They put the family in a motel for a week while they are working and then on show day, they bring them in a limo to the home site but they do not allow them to look at the house. They position them behind their huge bus which blocks their view of the newly renovated house, then the neighbors begin to chant…”Move that bus…move that bus” and when they move the bus, the family sees the home for the first time. I think the team leader is a man by the name of Todd and he does something new, fresh and creative with each house. Let’s look at the clip. http://youtu.be/9g0J5aK9wZY

I like the concept of creating something unique from each new location and project. Our God is not a duplicator, He is a creator. This reminds me of II Corinthians 5:17, If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! Jesus did not come to patch us up; He came to make us a new creation. The segment begins with the disciples of John the Baptist asking Jesus a question…Why don’t Your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees? Jesus answer is classic…Do the guest at a wedding celebration fast? And then He answers His own question…Of course not, but some day the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then they will fast. Jesus did not say it was wrong to fast but he simply said, don’t do it out of season and don’t do it for the wrong reason. Then He went on to say, “You don’t patch old clothing with new material unless you want to end up with a bigger tear. You don’t put new wine in an old wine skin unless you want it to burst.” Jesus is saying, I did not come to patch up Judaism, I came to give you something new.

I understand that Jesus is all we need but the Jews had a hard time with this truth and so did the disciples of John but look closely with me at what Jesus is actually saying to them…

1. I AM HERE…I AM THE BRIDEGROOM…IT IS NOT THE SEASON TO FAST

Jesus was standing right in front of them…Hey fellows, I AM here, the Bridegroom, it is not the time to fast.  You guys are not with it, you are going to get left behind. You are lost in your ritual but you are missing reality. Right now, you need to be enjoying the company of the Bridegroom. My disciples will fast someday but this is not the season.

I am fairly certain the disciples fasted the day Jesus was crucified. I imagine the horror of Jesus trail and crucifixion took their appetite. There is a time and season to fast. The Pharisees were not properly motivated and the same could be said for the disciples of John: they fasted but for the wrong reason. The sad truth is that the religious Jews did not recognize the presence of the BRIDEGROOM. Jesus disciples had recognized His deity. They believed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. The religious Jews thought he was a teacher at best, a blasphemer and demon at worse. They refused to accept His deity. In John’s gospel, Chapter 20, verse 31, we read… but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. It is absolutely essential that you believe that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. You cannot be saved unless you confess and believe that Jesus is God’s Son. I John 4:15 reads…Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. I John 5:12… He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. You have to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Look at the cast of characters who recognized Jesus as the Son of  God.

  • Gabriel announced it….“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. [Luke 1:35]
  • The Demons shouted it… Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ. [Luke 4:41]
  • John the Baptist testified to it…”I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” [John 1:34]
  • Nathanael saw it… Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” [John 1:49]
  • Martha believed it…“Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” [John 11:27]
  • Peter confessed it…“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matthew 16:16]
  • The Roman Centurion said it…”Truly, this man was the Son of God.” [Matthew 27:54]
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch declared it…“I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
  • Paul preached it…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. [Galatians 2:20]

Based on scripture, I do not see any possible way a person can be saved from their sins and hell unless they believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

2. I AM HERE BUT I AM NOT HERE TO PATCH UP SOMETHING OLD…I AM HERE TO BRING YOU SOMETHING NEW AND FRESH

Jesus is not a patch. He is not a fix for any religion. We can’t put Jesus on Judaism and fix it. We can’t put Jesus on Islam and fix it either. You cannot put Jesus on any ism or schism…it is never religion plus Jesus, or religion and Jesus it is simply Jesus. He is not a patch for the old: He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. You don’t need religion, you need Jesus. Religion might make you better but only Jesus can make you holy. The Jews missed a vital point, one that Jesus makes clear to the Disciples on the road to Emmaus…“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. The Old Testament is our HIM book, it is all about HIM [Jesus]. God simply used Judaism to get us to Jesus. It is one of the truly amazing things about the bible, Jesus is on every page. Sometimes it takes a good Jewish scholar to help us see Jesus in the passage but He is there. The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 and Phillip took that passage and preached Jesus. Hey, you don’t have to be a scholar to see Jesus in Isaiah 53. Every single verse has Jesus written all over it. Judaism was not the substance, it was the shadow. Judaism was John the Baptist preparing the way for the LORD. Jesus ushered in a New Covenant.  Jesus fulfilled Judaism. Judaism is no longer relevant and it was Jesus who made it irrelevant. Jesus did not come to patch Judaism, He came to fulfill it and replace it.

  • Abraham was a friend of God…Jesus is the Son of God
  • Moses was a great law giver…Jesus is much, much greater…He is the law liver. Jesus fulfilled the laws demands.
  • David established a great kingdom but it did not last…Jesus established an eternal kingdom that will never end.
  • Animal sacrifices could not take away our sin…The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin

3. I AM HERE BUT I AM NOT HERE TO PLACATE AND PACIFY THOSE WHO THINK THEY ARE RIGHTEOUS

Do you see the competition going on here? We fast and the Pharisees fast, so why don’t your disciples fast. Hey, we are one up on Your disciples. Religious people want to be noticed. They come to church to be noticed. They get offended when they are not noticed. Religious people are record keepers; some of them can tell you to the day, how long they have been serving or how long they have been a member. Things that are important to religious people are not important to Jesus. Jesus was concerned with lost people not who was fasting or not fasting. The religious community was upset with Jesus. Here they were fasting, doing without food and He had paid no attention to them. He was spending all of His time with sinners.

The Last Laugh

TEXT

Matthew 9:18-26

18 As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.” 19 So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. 20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, 21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.  23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, he saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music. 24 “Get out!” he told them. “The girl isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him. 25 After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! 26 The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.
 

INTRODUCTION

I love this story. Actually we have two miracles; in fact we have a miracle in a miracle but I want to talk about the latter. The first miracle in the text is a miracle of healing. By this time in Jesus life and ministry, everyone knew that he was a healer. It is getting to the point where no one is shocked when Jesus heals a person of some physical or mental abnormality or sickness. I want to focus of miracle number two: Jesus raising Jairus daughter back to life. Mark and Luke tell us that a messenger came to Jairus before he and Jesus got to the house with the news that his daughter had died and that there was no need in troubling Jesus. Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healed.”

 

When they got to Jairus’ house, it was packed with mourners weeping and wailing. Jesus took the parents and Peter, James and John and went in where the girl lay. Jesus said, “Why all this commotion and weeping [carrying on]?This child is not dead, she’s only sleeping..” Luke says in 8:53, “But the crowd laughed at Jesus because they all knew that she was dead.”

I am going to share something with you that I have shared at many grave sides over the past few years. I was waiting in a Doctor’s office some five or six years back and I picked up a news letter from some Christian group. The statement that caught my attention and lodged in my brain was this…Infinity is the greatest reality. No one, no matter how liberal can argue with infinity. These blooming idiots who came up with the BIG BANG theory and other ridiculous theory’s as to how the earth came to be have no explanation for original matter. Their asinine theory of evolution goes back to a one cell ameba [some spell it amoeba] but where did the ameba come from. They come up with all this ridiculous dating: this is 40 million years old and that is 20 million years old. They are like drunks stumbling through a dark room and falling on the furniture. They are parrots repeating what someone said or taught in a college class room and they have no idea what they are talking about. The one question they cannot answer is when did it all start and who or what was the primary cause? The world of philosophy has commonly agreed that there is an infinite power and intellect behind creation. We as Christians answer the question of when, how and whom with one word, God! In the beginning God. For believers in God and only fools do not believe in God, the greatest reality is God. Moffatt always translates YHWH as “The Eternal” and he has it right. Yahweh in the Hebrew verb for being. It is a unique word because it contains every tense. I AM is the most popular but it also means…

  • I AM that I AM
  • I AM because I AM
  • I AM since I AM
  • I AM because I was
  • I was because I AM
  • I will always be what I AM
  • I AM what I will always be
  • I AM since I will always be
  • I will always be because I AM
  • Since I have always been, I will always be

There are probably hundreds of tenses and all of them are true of God: He is who He has always been and He will always be who He is. I like the way the black preacher stated this truth. He was going to preach on the 23rd Psalm and he never got past the first three words, “The LORD is.” He said, “The LORD is, He always has been is and he always will be is.” God’s name Yahweh means that He is self-existent, eternal and infinite. So for believers, the greatest of all realities is the Eternal One, Yahweh [God, Jesus]. When Peter made his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, he said, “You are Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God.”

1. So that is where we want to start: God is a God of the Living. He is the author and giver of life. Death cannot survive in His presence.

In Matthew 22 we have and encounter between the Sadducees and Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection. They believed that death was it, I guess that is why people called them Sad-U-sees.  They asked Jesus a trick question but he was not fooled by their foolishness. Let’s look at Jesus response…Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. “But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.”  When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching. God, our heavenly Father is alive, He is the living God and the source of all life. Jesus Christ His son is alive and He has life in Himself.

2. Now we need to establish Jesus had his feet in both worlds. His deity made HIM the unique man.

Even when Jesus feet were standing on earth and in time, He also knew what was going on in eternity. He had His feet on earth and His head in heaven, so to speak. In eternity, there is no death other than the second death which is eternal separation from God. We do not presently [in this world] live in the land of the living, this is the land of the dying. The land of hospitals and funeral homes. We are moving toward eternity and therein lies the land of the living where there is no dying. Because Jesus knew this as a fact, he viewed physical death as sleep. He said of Jairus daughter, “She is not dead, she is asleep.” In John 11, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” What did it take to wake Lazarus? The spoken word of Jesus, “Lazarus come forth.” In Luke 7:14, Jesus said to thewidow of Nain son,“Young man, I say to you, arise.” It is the same word for awaking a person from sleep, “Get up.” In the N.T. Jesus spoke to people who were physically dead and when he spoke to them, they came to life, they awoke and got up. There was healing in His words and there was life in His words. Jesus trumps death. He is greater than death.

3. Now lets talk about our senses and how they deceive us.

Luke points out that the professional mourners “Knew” the girl was dead. Their experience, their common sense and their five senses told them that she was dead. You see a body getting cold and pale, there is not pulse or breath and you reach the conclusion that she is dead. This is what they did: they examined her and there were not signs of life and they declared her dead. In the minds of the mourners, she was dead but Jesus never accepted that sentence, in His mind, she was not dead, only sleeping and what He thinks is infinitely greater than what we think. Let me explain if I can. Although very few people around Him that day understood that He was God, Jesus knew who He was. He knew that this girl would not remain as she was…in time she had died…but Jesus sees things from the eternal perspective and so He is not seeing her the way they are seeing her. Because Jesus could see the final outcome, he refused to say that she was dead. He never says that she is dead, He says that she is asleep. In other words your death here on earth is not the final outcome. Yes, we all die here, that is our mode of transformation, but we are alive in eternity. When you look through the unbelieving lens of this world, you see death. When you look with eyes of faith with Jesus perspective, you see sleep, a temporary rest between time and eternity. The point is: Jesus was a greater reality than physical death. I am not saying that physical death is not real  but I am saying this: it is not the ultimate reality, it is in fact the greatest illusion.

I know, you think I am crazy but study the story…these people thought that Jesus was crazy. They said, “Asleep my foot, this girl is dead as a hammer. We have seen death many times and trust me, this kid is dead.” [JEV] Then to cap off their ignorance, they laughed at the Son of God and author of life. Let me put it this way, it does not matter what your experience tells you or what your senses feel, if Jesus doesn’t pronounce a person dead, they are not dead. You are wasting time and energy declaring someone dead that Jesus says is “Not dead!” It is not over until Jesus says its over. You are not dead until He declares you dead.

I am not trying to be facetious, we have to come to a point in faith where we take Jesus word over our feelings. This is why Jesus had the last laugh. They were going by their senses and He was operating with infinite power. Our senses cannot comprehend His infinite power and this is where faith comes in to play. If Jesus says it, just take Him at His word no matter what your senses tell you. This is why I refer to physical death as the greatest illusion. Physical death looks so real that 99% of us are fooled by its appearance. Jesus told Martha, Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never die.” Then he said to Martha, “Do you believe this?” Let me offer you some help in believing. Dallas Willard points out in the Divine Conspiracy, “We are never-ceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in the full world of God.” Remember also what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD.” When a person is in a deep sleep, we refer to it as being “Dead to the world,” and that is the only death a Christian will suffer, death to this world. In reality, you and I will go right on living in another dimension.

Dwight L. Moody was a spiritual giant of the 19th century and he said, “One day soon you will hear that I am dead. Do not believe it. I will be alive like never before.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a man that I deeply admire. He could have lived a long and prosperous life but he choose to be a martyr for Christ. You cannot question the integrity of a martyr. On the way to the gallows he told a friend, “This is the end [here on earth], but for me it is the beginning of life.” Dietrich wanted to live in a world where there were not Hitler’s. Because of Adolph Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer never had a life of peace and happiness. He was engaged but never got married. Hitler had him hung with slick wire two weeks before the war ended.

Peter Marshall, the great Presbyterian of yester year used the analogy of child when talking about our transition from one world to another. Children play until they get so tired they just fall asleep where they lay or play. Mother or daddy picked them up and puts them in bed. The next thing they know, they have awaken to a new day and they don’t even remember falling asleep. They did not see sleep coming; they did not taste it or feel it. John Henry Newman said, “We have not see it all,” I would venture to say, we haven’t seen a fraction. C.S. Lewis believed that he would take an eternity to see it all. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has any man imagined what awaits us. 

Prayer and Joy

Text

   Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
 

Introduction

Have you considered the connection between joy, peace and prayer. As you study the text above, you can see that the three are connected. Many people falsely assume that Jesus was a wet blanket when in fact Jesus was a happy person, filled with joy and peace. Yes, He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. He did not laugh about sin or the cross that sin produced but He possessed a deep inter joy that was complete. Dante summed it up when he said, “In His will is our peace.” Jesus remained in the Father’s will. He never, one time, got outside His Father’s will. He lived a life of perfect obedience and herein lies the JOY. Jesus referred to this in John 15 as abiding…“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

What happens when we abide in His will?

1. Abiding in Christ Gives Us A Sense of Security Or An Absence of Fear

When we abide in Christ, we do not fear getting lost. We have a peace and a sense of security that we could not have a part from our relationship with Christ. Freedom is one thing but security is another. Dr. Charles Allen tells the story of a friend who offered to fly him home after a meeting in his little two-seater cub. The plane had no instruments and you navigated by visual landmarks, highways, rivers, etc. Somehow they managed to get off course and although they could see land, they didn’t see anything they recognized and there was no place to land. Suddenly, both men realized their were lost and running low of fuel. They did not have a radio so there was no way they could even signal for help. Dr. Allen does not finish the story but we know he survived. I hate if when a preacher does not finish a story; I want to know what happened.

A few months later Dr. Allen was flying in a commercial liner and the pilot allowed him to come into the cockpit. This was back in the 60’s, there is no way this would happen today. They were flying in the clouds and visibility was about 30 feet. Dr. Allen ask him how they stayed on course since they could no see any landmarks. The pilot assured him that landmarks were not necessary and then he put his headset on Dr. Allen…”Do you hear that noise?” said the pilot, “That is a radio beam and it will guide us to our destination.” I suppose it a kin to the lasers that Engineers, surveyors, and builders use today. When you get the grade exact, the beep become one solid sound.

When you look at the natural world, it is absolutely amazing how God guides the birds who migrate thousands of miles. Can you imagine setting sail from San Francisco and headed for the Hawaiian Islands. Let me tell you, in relationship to the Pacific Ocean, those islands are tiny. The Pacific Golden Plover, a migratory bird that is born in Alaska and Siberia, makes a two thousand mile flight over the Pacific and in spite of wind and other factors, they fly straight to the Hawaiian Islands.

When it comes to you and I following Jesus, we have a radio beam: He is called the Holy Spirit and when we get off course, the sounds we hear in our spirit are not in harmony. We are don’t get a clear signal because we are off course. Obviously God gave the birds and the animals instincts that He did not give us but He has given us His word as a compass and His Spirit as a guide. As Dante said, If we stay on course, stay in his will, there is going to be that one clear sound and herein lies our joy and peace. No one who chooses to live outside the will of God will have peace. No one who lives in rebellion of God’s will can experience joy. They may display a fake happiness but they do not possess joy.

If you will study your fears, you will discover that you are not worried about the past even though in my class, it is littered with mistakes. Neither are you terribly worried about the present. What we tend to worry about is the future. We do exactly what Jesus told us not to do, “We worry about tomorrow.” Paul said in the text above, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” The rule I try to follow is: if something creates anxiety, it’s time to pray. Prayer is the great stress reliever. When we by faith put ourselves into the hand of Christ acknowledging that He is responsible for us as long as we are in His care, it brings peace to our minds. A troubled mind is hard to live with. Living by faith does not mean we see the near or distant future, it means that we walk daily in the light that He gives us. When you travel at night by car, you don’t see your destination as soon as you pull out of the driveway, you see a hundred yards or so depending on the lights of your car and your eyesight. To reach your destination, you travel mile by mile following the light that you have and eventually the light will illuminate your final destination.

There is one thing that all believers in Christ need to keep in mind, we don’t need to make any final judgments until we have seen the final destination. I admit, things look bad now. There is more hatred for Christ in this world than I ever imagined. Church after church is struggling. We are baptizing very few people. The churches that are growing are growing off of other churches. We desperately need a spiritual awakening. We have a hundred and forty million people in America who are dependent on Government instead of God and that is not good. As a nation, our future is very uncertain but as believers our future is secure.

2. Abiding In Christ Will Banish The Conflict

Do you remember the headache commercial that use to run on TV that pictured tension as a rope stretched to the point that it was breaking a strand at a time. That is what the word tension means, to be stretched to tight, strained to the point of breaking. We often refer to a tense person as being “Up tight”. One of the things that causes anxiety, worry, and tension is to be pulled in many different directions. Paul knew the secret, he said, “This one thing I do.” I don’t have a choice, I do not think I could function any other way. I do one thing at a time. When Teddy called about the REVIVAL, my focus was on the revival. The five days I was in Mobile, I was focused on one thing. I did not worry one second about the BLOCK PARTY. As soon as we got home Thursday, I started worrying about the block party. Then for the next three days, it was all BLOCK PARTY. We did have a promotion in the church family but other than that, it was Block Party. I got home late Saturday night and I turned my attention to Sunday a.m. message. Did I have some anxiety over all three? Yes, but I did take them one at a time: it is the only way I can function at age 64.

When we filled pulled in two direction, it creates tension and conflict. Where there is tension and conflict, there is no peace; It is that simple. I will not lie, for years I had my own agenda. I don’t think that I was aware of it but my will and God’s will were not the same. The results is a lack of peace. A few years ago I sensed a work of grace in my life as I began to feel my will abating and my desire to do God’s will growing. I would not go back for any amount of money. There is no substitute for the PEACE of God, it passes all understanding. Huck Finn said, “Conscience takes up more room than all the rest of the fellow’s insides.” Huck had a point, there is not better feeling than the approval of a good conscience.

3. Abiding In Christ Will Produce The Fruit of JOY

I think every child wants to please their father. I think it is inherent; it is something that is in us, something we cannot explain but neither deny. I grew up on a 40 acre cocklebur farm in Limestone County. From day one, I loved tractors. I could not wait for daddy to let me drive the tractor and I remember the first time he left me alone in the field on the tractor [C-Allis Chamber]. I was breaking land and was in hog heaven. It was in the fall when the days are warm but the nights are cool and I was wearing a shirt but that is another story. I never made that mistake a again. I had a good daddy but there are two things I never heard: one was “I love you son” and the other was “good job son, I am proud of you.” When we become a child of God, there is something in us that longs to please our heavenly Father. Like an earthly father, the heavenly Father loves respect and obedience.

Several years ago, I learned a critical lesson in life, one that I regret not learning earlier. We had a FAITH team that got inside a house and was presenting the gospel. The presenter that night was a trainee named Nancy. She was a tiny and sweet girl. She may have been 5’4″ but she didn’t weight a 100 pounds. She had a beautiful smile and a sweet disposition. Nancy was sharing with a man who was seated on the couch and right in the middle of her presentation, his wife [whom they did not know was around] burst out of the bedroom and drove the entire team out of the house. When this team got back to the campus for the report hour, I was worried that Nancy would be discouraged but she had the spirit of Peter and John in Acts 5 where they had been beaten by order of the Sanhedrin; the bible said they left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Nancy was not the least bit discouraged. After she shared her story, the entire group erupted in praise. Nancy did not lead the man to Christ, so why the joy and celebration. It did happen, I was there and I was a part of the celebration. It was real and generated by the Holy Spirit. This put me to thinking, “Why did we have joy when we had no success?” Then the answer came from heaven like a bolt of lightening…it’s our obedience, not our success that brings joy.

Every time you met an unhappy Christian, you have met a person living in disobedience. Years ago I was preaching a revival meeting and one night a man came to me after the service weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he could not get enough composure to respond so I waited…finally he said, “You are doing what I am supposed to be doing.” I said, “You mean preaching. Has God called you to preach?” He then shared his story and I urged him to surrender but he walked away saying, “It’s too late.” Folks, it’s not too late to repent and to obey and there is no peace when the flesh is on the throne of your life. Remember the story of Jehu riding toward Jezreel and Jehoram sends out a rider to see if Jehu is coming in peace. The rider goes out to met Jehu and says, “Is your mission peace?” I love Jehu’s response, “How can there be peace with Jezebel on the throne?”

The Heart Of The Father

Text

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Introduction

Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to the Jewish Religious leaders who love money and despise people. Their attitude toward those who were not like them was horrible. We refer to this third story in Luke 15 as the STORY OF THE PRODIGAL SON but in reality, it is not about the prodigal or his sin. The good news is not our sin, the good news is that God loves sinners. The father is this story is a picture of our heavenly Father and no one could paint a better portrait of the Father than Jesus. Tonight we are going to focus on the Father. I am sure there is more here than I will share but I want to show you three theological truths about our Heavenly Father…

I. GOD IS IMMUTABLE [He never changes]

From beginning to end, the Father in the story does not change: location, tone of voice, demeanor, love, patience, mercy. The story begins and the story ends and the Father never changes one iota. In theology we call this immutability. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. He does not need to change. There is no rhyme or reason for Him to change because He is perfect and lacking in nothing. Malachi 3:6 reads…“For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” James 1:17 [ERV]… Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same. I love Hebrews 13:8 which says…Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. What would you want to change about Jesus…He is perfect. I didn’t come to talk about what’s wrong with me, I came to talk about what’s right with Jesus. When I get down its usually because I am looking at my sin or someone else’s: the way to get up is to celebrate Jesus. I can’t think on my feet and every time someone gives me a piece of their mind and tells me what all is wrong with me, I should say when they get through…What do you think about Jesus?

Illustration

I love Psalm 46 which begins like this…God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. I have had the privilege of serving the same congregation for 34 years. The only down side is seeing two generations depart this world. We lost our entire Senior Adult mens class in less than 2 years. We saw three promoted in one month. Just a few more years back, I had a Senior Adult woman in a nursing home in Huntsville. She was in a lock down unit which happen to make me nervous. Once I got inside, she was sitting in a room with about 20 others and they were all making weird noises. I guess weird is the wrong word, but it was a cacophony of sounds. There was no harmony. Some were praying, some crying, some hollowing, some groaning, some babbling…I was totally overwhelmed. I was trying my best to communicate with Mrs. Emma, my friend but I could not hear my self think. There was one attendant in the room and she was a nice black lady. She came over to me and said, “I bet you are a preacher.” I said, “Yes mam, how could you tell?” She said, “I can tell.” Then she said, “Preach to them.” I said “Are you kidding?” She said, “No, I am not…preach to them and they will get quiet.” I said, “I don’t have a bible.” She said, “I have that covered and she reached over and got a Gideon bible that was laying on a table and she said, “Now preach.” I said, “Mam, you don’t understand, I have prepared a sermon. I can’t just open the bible and preach.” She said, “Well at least read something.” To which I agreed. The only thing I could think of was Psalm 46 and so I read Psalm 46. It was a miracle. When I started reading they were all making sounds but by the time I finished, they had all gotten quiet and were listening. I was amazed. The attendant was not shocked. Psalms 46 reminds us that everything around us in changing and some of those changes are hard to deal with. Who wants to be in a lock down unit for alzimers patients? Who wants to lose their independence. Einstein said, “Every thing is the universe is in a state of change except the speed of light.” I am here to tell you that everything else may be changing but God does not change.

II. GOD IS GOOD [He is benevolent]

The Father is Luke 15 is a good father and a giving Father. I do want to remind you that the very first thing that Satan put a question mark on was the goodness of God. We must believe that God is good or we will not trust Him. The devil knows that if he can undermine our confidence in the goodness of God, he can destroy our faith. Basically what he said to Eve was this…is there anything that God is withholding? It was a very subtle accusation questioning the goodness and benevolence of God. Note what happens in this story…

Look at verse 12….The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. The Father divides his wealth. You would assume that this means, he now has less wealth. Now look at verse 22…But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And then note the next verse…And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate! Look how lavish and generous the Father is….A robe, a ring, a new pair of shoes, a calf and a party. Do you know how much a party of this magnitude cost!

But this Father is not through…[v.31] His father said to him [elder brother], “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.” How could he give the elder brother everything and yet have plenty for everyone else?

The more I give, the less I have. Isn’t that the way it works for you? It does not work this way with God. The more God gives, the more He has to give. His giving never diminishes His wealth.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

III. GOD IS LOVE

[Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:8]

This is really why Jesus told the story. The Pharisees despised people whereas the heavenly Father loves people. He even loves sinners, who else among us is there to love? Folks, this is the good news. God loves people. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world.” This is a reference to people. God loves people and this story illustrates that truth. The tax collectors were like the prodigal, the Pharisees were like the elder brother but the Father loved both.

Do you know any Pharisees? They are proud, arrogant, self-righteous and they are convinced that God loves them more than He loves “Sinners” and of course they define who is and who is not a sinner. They never viewed themselves as sinners. The elder brother has Pharisee written all over him but the Father loved Him.

The Pharisees were judgmental and condescending; they did not believe that God loved everyone. The Pharisees loved money, praise and themselves but they despised many Jews and hated all Samaritans. Jesus spoke very directly to them, He even made fun of them at times but He did love them. For God to love a tax collector is one thing, but to love a hateful Pharisee, that is another. Yet Jesus prayed for them while on the cross, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” Truer words have never been uttered.

The Father in Luke 15 loved both sons. He shared his benevolent goodness with both sons. He offered mercy to both sons. It is also noteworthy that the FATHER never used force. He never tried to manipulate either son. He never rides rough shod over their will.

No one will be in heaven that doesn’t want to be there: God will not force anyone into submission, not in regards to salvation. Every knew will bow someday and every tongue confess but that will be in judgment. Today is the day of salvation and God wants you to choose to love Him. He loved you first and now He waits for you to love Him in return but He will not disregard your will. Your will is what makes you a person. If you didn’t have a will, you would be a puppet and you are no puppet.

Lostness

Luke 15:1-10

Lost Sheep

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable, saying,  “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The Lost Coin

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’  In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

INTRODUCTION

Jesus was a master story teller and many people believe that the story of the lost son in Luke 15 is the greatest story Jesus told. Actually Jesus tells three stories in Luke 15 and all are about things or persons that are lost. We will say more about the motivation of Jesus to tell these particular stores later but for now I want to address the subject of “Lostness”. What does it mean to be lost? I was cold door knocking in East New Orleans back in my seminary days and I came across two couples sharing the same house. When I asked them if they had been saved, they said, “From what?” They may have been pulling my leg but I don’t so. There are people in New Orleans that have never heard the gospel. They invited me in and gave me an audience, they had never heard the terms “Saved” and “Lost” used in a spiritual sense. None of the four had ever entered an evangelical church or heard the gospel presented.

What does it mean to be lost? Mr. Webster says that being lost is being unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts: Unable to be found. I read a story last week of a man whose three year old daughter just disappeared. When he went to wake her for breakfast, she was not in bed. He went from room to room hollowing for his daughter but no daughter. By this time, Mom and big sister are a part of the search and they look through the house, in the closets even the back yard and no baby girls. They are about to call 911 when the dad thinks: maybe I should look under her bed and sure enough, there she was, curled up in a fetal position with her blanket and sound of sleep.

The word lost here in Luke 15 is a bit stronger in definition: it means to be in a position of peril. The sheep was lost but it was also alienated from the shepherd and the flock. The sheep had no protection and was in real danger. It is a perilous and dangerous thing to be lost in the spiritual sense. To be lost in the spiritual sense is to be separated from God as the sheep was from the shepherd. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are lost. He is the good Shepherd.

I. THE KEY TO SALVATION IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE LOST

It is hard to find a person these days that will confess that they are lost. We have people stop at the church on a regular basis wanting money, gas or sometimes groceries. I hate to give them material things without trying to help them spiritually but it is frustrating. We don’t have a lost beggar in Morgan County, they not only declare that they are saved, some have told me they were called to preach and some have quoted scripture. Once I was quoting scripture and this man corrected me and then he quoted it right…I was both embarrassed and stunned but I quickly retorted, “That’s King James, I’m quoting the New American Standard.” The biggest problem with MY HOPE is that no one has any lost friends, that is friends who acknowledge that they are lost. As the old preacher use to say, “You can’t get them saved until you get them lost.”

In these first two stories, we have a lost sheep and a lost coin. It does not matter how they got lost or whose fault it is that they got lost. In the case of the sheep, it most likely wandered. It got lost by being careless, by not keeping its eyes on the shepherd or some may even blame the shepherd, who should have been watching. Jesus does not talk about this because it is not important. It does not matter how you got lost or whose fault it is. The coin could not have lost itself. Someone lost the coin. What good is money if you do not know where it is?  It is possible likely the woman misplaced but she does not waste time assigning blame, she searches the house.

I’ve been preaching the gospel for 44 years and I have person after person fix the blame on someone else for their spiritual condition. Don’t be concerned about who is to blame. Maybe one of both parents were horrible role model; perhaps some professing Christian lied to you are defrauded you in some way. Don’t worry about who is at fault, your concern is to correct the problem. You cannot make progress and excuses at the same time.

II. THE KEY TO EVANGELISM IS TO VALUE THE LOST

There is quite a bit of difference between a sheep and a coin; one is animate and one is not but both are of value. Jesus is addressing this story to the Jewish religious leaders who loved money. He knew that if they lost something of value they would drop everything and look for what ever it was. So the sheep is lost and the coin is lost and the key is that they are both is they have value.

We all have what we call CORE VALUES. Core Values are the guiding principles that we live by, it is the things we value most. This church has CORE VALUES. All churches have core values and in a Southern Baptist Church the number one core value, almost without exception is FELLOWSHIP. It is why SB build bigger sanctuaries instead of having two services, we all want to meet and greet each other. This is important to us. Where do you think the LOST rank in our core values. We would put them under the heading of EVANGELISM. Is Evangelism our highest core value.

It is sad but true, that most churches care more about padding the pews or getting new carpet than they do the lost. The primary focus of Jesus mission was to seek and save the lost. Jesus loved lost people. He valued lost people. Look back at verse 1…Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Did you notice, Jesus was drawing them, they were coming near Him.

Why is it that Jesus drew them and we don’t, unless of course you know of a church that does. I do admit that Jesus has a huge advantage, He had no insecurities and no one freaked Him out. If we had a bunch of prostitutes and drug users walk in here this morning dressed in their normal attire, it would freak us out. It would disrupt the service. We fear those who are different and we despise those who do not live up to our standards and Jesus did neither and they sensed it. Jesus loved them and that is what they crave the most. He didn’t make them feel condemned, He made them feel accepted. I don’t know about you, but I fail miserably at this point. Furthermore, let me tell you that this is the crux of Luke 15…God’s love for sinners. Jesus loved lost people. Do we love them?

III. THE KEY TO JOY [ABUNDANT LIFE] IS TO FIND THE LOST

In verse 4, Jesus says the owner of the sheep will go out and search until he finds. In verse 8, He says the woman will light a lamp and sweep the entire house searching for the coin until she finds it. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost [Luke 19:10] and His mission is now our mission. They are not going to come to us; we have to go to them. The sheep could not find itself nor could the coin; someone had to go seeking and searching. This is our primary call and we will never experience the abundant life until we do as we are commanded.

You will note in all three stories that there is rejoicing when the sheep is found, coin is found and son is found.

  • Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep [v.6]
  • Rejoice with me, I have found my coin [v.9]
  • We must Celebrate [v.23]

I heard Dr. Landrum Levell say this many years ago and it does sound like an over simplification but I believe it to be true. He said, “Your church does not have a single problem that evangelism will not cure.” Churches that swap sheep have lots of problems but churches that go after the lost are in a constant state of celebration. Let me tell you a great way for every service to end, with someone coming to Christ.

Max Lucado tells the story of the two friends that took their sons on a fishing trip. They drove up into the mountains, unpacked the jeep, got the camp set up and it started raining. No problem, the four went into the tent and started paying cards. Went to bed, got up and it was still raining. They played more cards but before the day was over, the boys were irratible. They went to bed the second night only to get up with more rain. Four guys in a tent, things were not working out: finally the fathers had words and they loaded up and went home without speaking. The moral of the story is when fishermen don’t fish, they fight. If you aint fishing, you aint following.

Not only is there joy in finding the lost, there is joy in our obedience in seeking the lost. Back in the 90’s we had a young lady on one of our faith teams and it was her night to share. She had never shared the gospel before. They actually go invited in to a mobile home and were be treated very nicely by the man. Two guys, and Nancy on the team and the man that Nancy was sharing with. He allowed her to start the presentation and about half way through, a mad angry woman came storming out of the bedroom and ran them off, she didn’t stop till she had showed them the door. The entire team was stunned and Nancy was speechless. When we got back to the church and the team leader told me what happened, I got worried. My first thought was “This is bad and Nancy will be discouraged.” When the report time came and Nancy shared her experience, she wrapped it up with tears of joy. She was just thrilled that the Holy Spirit had given her the boldness to share, before it was over we had the best celebration of 10 years of doing FAITH. I’ve never seen anything like it. When I got alone with the LORD, He explained what had happened, “The joy is not in your success, it is in your obedience.” I have never forgotten what He said.

  1. Joy can only be found in obedience

Five Kings In A Cave

Text

Joshua 10:16-27, NLT

During the battle the five kings escaped and hid in a cave at Makkedah. 17 When Joshua heard that they had been found, 18 he issued this command: “Cover the opening of the cave with large rocks, and place guards at the entrance to keep the kings inside. 19 The rest of you continue chasing the enemy and cut them down from the rear. Don’t give them a chance to get back to their towns, for the Lord your God has given you victory over them.” 20 So Joshua and the Israelite army continued the slaughter and completely crushed the enemy. They totally wiped out the five armies except for a tiny remnant that managed to reach their fortified towns. 21 Then the Israelites returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah. After that, no one dared to speak even a word against Israel. 22 Then Joshua said, “Remove the rocks covering the opening of the cave, and bring the five kings to me.” 23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. 24 When they brought them out, Joshua told the commanders of his army, “Come and put your feet on the kings’ necks.” And they did as they were told. 25 “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.” 26 Then Joshua killed each of the five kings and impaled them on five sharpened poles, where they hung until evening. 27 As the sun was going down, Joshua gave instructions for the bodies of the kings to be taken down from the poles and thrown into the cave where they had been hiding. Then they covered the opening of the cave with a pile of large rocks, which remains to this very day.

INTRODUCTION

When Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua and the Israelites had virtually destroyed Jericho and Ai and that they had signed a peace treaty with the Gibeonites who had a reputation of being fierce warriors he became afraid that he was going to be next so he created an alliance of five kings. Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish and Debir of Eglon. There plan was to destroy Gibeon and send a message to all the others as to what would happen if you allied yourself with Joshua and then they would take on Joshua and the Israelites but the Gibeonites sent word to Joshua that they were under attack and Joshua’s army marched all night long to confront this Amorite alliance. In what is recorded as the longest day in history, Joshua and the Israeli army won an overwhelming victory. During the battle, the five kings fled and took refuge in a cave at Makkedah. They were hiding in the darkness of a cave; hoping not to be discovered. These Amorite kings are symbolic of the fleshly kings that war with and seek to lord over God’s children. I think they are symbols of the strongholds that sin has in our flesh. The biggest part of our sanctification is to identify and destroy these strongholds. Today, I going to talk about five fleshly strongholds that seek to rule you and I. Two things are very important as we get into this message: our honesty and Jesus help. I want you to keep in mind that Joshua {Yahweh saves}  a type of Christ. With that in mind, let’s talk about FIVE KINGS IN A CAVE.

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 Greek word for I is ‘ego‘. 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 can be deeply rooted in your life and you not even know it. 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…

  • Exalted feeling in view of your success or position.
  • Spirit of independence.
  • Love of human praise and a secret fondness to be noticed.
  • Love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation.
  • The stirrings of anger or impatience.
  • A touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when others disapprove.
  • 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.
  • Carnal fear; a man-fearing spirit; a compromising spirit?
  • A jealous disposition, a secret spirit of envy shut up in your heart.
  • An unpleasant sensation in view of the success of another.
  • A disposition to speak of the faults and failings, rather than the gifts and virtues of those more talented and appreciated than yourself.
  • A dishonest, deceitful disposition; the evading and covering of the truth; the covering up of your real faults.
  • Leaving a better impression of yourself than is strictly true.
  • False humility; exaggeration; straining the truth.
  • 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 overanxious feeling whether everything will come out all right.
  • Lack of concern for lost souls; dryness and indifference? Selfishness; love of ease; love of money.

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.

THE SECOND 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. 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…

  • 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. 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 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.

If you are hurts on prescription drugs or alcohol. I will tell you what to do in the conclusion of this message.

THE THIRD KING IS LUST

We call lust everything but what it is…Webster 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 real 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.

THE FOURTH KIND IS ENVY

Envy is a feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by the qualities, abilities, success or possessions of another. It is a secret sin that no one ever confesses. What delivered Jesus to the executioners? The answer is in Matthew 27:18, it is ENVY. Envy crucified Jesus. What motivated the Jewish people that dogged the apostle Paul’s steps and caused trouble in practically every city? Acts 17:5 will tell you, it was ENVY. If you think envy is a petty thing, not to be worried about, just type ENVY into your concordance and study the other things that hang out with envy. Here is what you will find with envy…malice, strife, deceit, hypocrisy, hate, slander and even murder. WOW! Envy is one bad dude. It can destroy a friendship, a family, and it can destroy a fellowship. Here is the sad thing, envious people do not see themselves as envious. Is there some position that you want to hold but you were never asked? Be careful, don’t let a seed of envy begin to grow in the area of disappointment. Over 35 years ago in my first pastorate after graduating Seminary, a pastor friend of mine had his heart broken. He had done a terrific job in a difficult place. He had served this church for almost 20 years, much longer than any previous pastor. A rumor got started about him and the secretary. It broke her heart as well as his. She quit immediately and he was thinking about resigning. He poured his heart out to me in his study and I gave him this piece of advice. “If you know this is not true, then you also know that it is a lie and all lies originate from Satan. Don’t resign, if you do, he gets the victory. I know you feel humiliated but stand strong and follow the crumbs until you find the source of this malicious gossip.” He stayed and he took my advice. He called the person who told him about the rumor, and from there he traced it to its source. It originated with a woman who had applied for the secretarial position and she did not get the job. That made her angry and so she started the rumor that he and the new secretary were having an affair. Thank God she confessed publically and the man’s ministry was saved but her envious rumor did leave scars. Shakespeare was a pretty wise guy and he said, “Hell hath no furry like a woman’s scorn.” He was right of course but men are guilty of envy as well as women. Do not kid yourself, an envious person will do whatever it takes to satisfy the discontent they feel for being rebuffed. The woman started the humor about pastor to make him pay. The Jews falsely accused Jesus to make Him pay. Envy will end in confession or the dishonor, discrediting and sometimes death of the other person.

THE FIFTH KING IS GREED

Greed is one of those secret sins that we hide in the darkness. 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 love 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.

THE PATH TO VICTORY

  1. You have to identify the secret sin and call it out just like Joshua called the kings out of the cave. You have to call your sin what it is: you have to use the proper name. An addiction is an addiction. You are hooked and you have to admit it. Alcoholism is not a disease, it is a sin. Drug addition is not a epidemic, it is a sin. Embellishing the truth is not exaggeration, it is lying. Looking at the young lady a second and third time is not admiration of beauty, it is lust. If you are like me, you can not admire the beauty without corrupting it with lust. When you are upset that you have been over looked bring it out in to the open and talk with someone about it. Call it what it is…which is envy. 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.
  3. Third, by grace with the help of Jesus, you take authority over the sin. You put your foot on it.
  4. 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.