Four Things That Only Jesus Can Do

I love the minor prophets: I love all the prophets but somehow I am fascinated with the minor prophets. Micah was a member of the 8 century quartet consisting of himself plus Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos. Prophets are different; rarely do they fit in. They are a bit strange, austere; not give to small talk or chit-chat. They are not interested in winning friends and influencing people; they are more into raw truth. They have a knack of telling like it is instead the way folks want it to be. They are faithful at rebuking sin, preaching judgment and the holiness of God but they always have a message of redemption and hope.

Micah saw the exile coming. He knows that Israel is in for a tough time and he tells them as much but chapter four is a sun burst of hope as Micah looks into the future. Those in my profession that consider themselves experts in the area of prophecy will probably have a different take on Micah four but I can be dogmatic about what I am going to share and no one in their right mind would be dogmatic in their interpretation of prophecy. I would venture to guess that Micah 4 has something to do with the millennium but I know that it has something to do with Jesus. The bible is a Him book; it is a book about HIM, that is Jesus. I see Him on every page and He is certainly visible in Micah 4.

Tonight I want to talk to you about four things that only Jesus can do. No one else in existence can do these four things and of course it is as the Father ordains.

Jesus Can Give Us Unity

Micah said, In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all—    the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say,“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. [4:1-2b]

There is no question that our world is divided. We are divided by culture, language, ethnicity, religion, philosophy and taste just to mention a few. Not only is our world divided, our nation is divided. Several years ago, following a presidential election, the red/blue map denoting democratic and republican states was a graphic reminder of how clearly we are divided. The South and middle America are conservative and the Northeast and West Coast or liberal. Conservatives believe it is wrong to kill and unborn baby whereas liberals see nothing wrong with abortion–matter of fact, they promote it. Abortion, homosexuality and many other things are controversal and divisive subjects. It was not that way 50 years ago. Sometimes I think we were better off when there was no TV. The liberal news media exonerates the left and bad mouths the right. Now we have a president, maybe the first in history, who plays on our division and is seeking to divide us even more by constantly using his class warfare rherotic.

To be frankly honest: a divided world and a divided nation do not grieve me as much as a divided church. As a pastor of 42 years, I have to be honest–I do not know if I have ever seen a church that was unified. In every church that I have served there has been a faction, a force, a pocket of resistance. I do admit that preachers don’t always help matters. I know that for my first 20 years of trying to pastor, I thought that I was supposed to play the “Authority” card–“I am your pastor, do as I say.” Needless to say, that does not work. I have discovered that only one thing will bring a church together and that is Jesus. If I can faithfully follow Jesus myself, I have discovered that most will follow. They will help build His kingdom but most of them are too intelligent to help a preacher build his own kingdom. My philosophy is really simple: preach Jesus, teach Jesus, live Jesus, obey Jesus and exalt Jesus. If Jesus does not bring them together, they are not in His fold.

I believe Micah was talking about the later days. In regard to the last days, I believe Jesus is going to be the great unifying force of the ages. He is going to bring nations together and Jerusalem is going to be the center of worship. I am sure that it is Jesus who is going to bring this about, not Judaism. Jesus said, “No man can come to the Father except by Me”. Jesus is not a way, He is the only way. I believe that the Jews have a future but that future is bound up in Christ, not a part from Christ. You don’t put new wine in old skins. Judaism is a religion–Christianity is not. I am quite sure that God is not going to lead us back into religion. I am certain, Christ is the way, the truth and the life. God is not going to run Judaism and works on one track and have Jesus and grace on another. Jesus will bring Gentile and Jew together.

Jesus Can Give us Peace

Micah said, The Lord will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has made this promise!

Can you imagine a kingdom of peace: no war, no conflict, no killing, no violence…wow, it is hard to picture a world at peace. You and I have never seen a world at peace but it is going to happen some day and Jesus is going to be the Prince of Peace. He is going to do what no one else has ever been able to do–bring lasting peace. Jesus is going to bring WORLD PEACE.

I know, we have a hard time waiting on this to happen. We want it to happen and it will eventually but what do we do in the meantime. The good news is that you do not have to wait on Jesus to be your personal Prince of Peace. Jesus can give you peace now. The moment you cast all your care on Him, He will give you peace.

No one other than Jesus can give you peace. You can not get your doctor to prescribe peace. Peace doesn’t come in a bottle or a capsule. You can pop pills every 15 minutes and still live in a hell on earth. The problem is not the world; not really. The problem is not your neighbor or your church. The problem is that you are not trusting Jesus. You have been living life your way; you have turned aside to your own path, you are following your own agenda. Stop being angry with others and cast all your care on Jesus. He is the only One who can give you peace.

Jesus Can Give Us Eternal Security

Note Micah verse 4…Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has made this promise. [CEV reads, “This is a solemn from the LORD All-Powerful.”]

Did you catch that…there will be nothing to fear. We are talking perfect peace and security. Feeling secure, knowing you are secure…wow! Note also verse 5…Though the nations around us follow their idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever. Also look at verse 7…”Then I, the Lord, will rule from Jerusalem as their king forever.”

Listen friend, if Jesus does not have the power to keep you saved, then He is not a Savior. I do not understand these people who think you can be saved and lost, saved and lost and they base it on our behavior. I got news for you friend, you are not saved by good behavior–you are saved by the grace of God. Grace is God’s Riches At Christ Expense. It is ludicrous to talk about falling from grace. Jesus saves and keeps me and He is the one I give the glory to. If I have to do something to get saved or to stays saved, then it is up to me. If it is up to me, then it depends on me, if it depends on me then I deserve the credit. I am telling folks, any form of works glorifies man not Christ. You and I are not fit to be saved. We are saved by the redeeming power of the blood of Christ and He gets all the glory. He does not get 90% or 99% or 99.99%–He gets all the glory. God will not allow it to be any other way.

Jesus Gives Us Victory Over Our Enemies

You will soon be sent in exile to distant Babylon. But the Lord will rescue you there; he will redeem you from the grip of your enemies. [4:10b] I am reminded of the great hymn, “O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever” [there is that word forever again].

I guess you might say, the devil is having his hay day but it is only a day. I love the movie, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. Percy, the noble Englishman that comes to the aid of the French aristocracy plays a trick on the villain whose name has eluded me. The villain has Percy before a firing squad but unbeknown to him, the firing squad is made up of Percy’s men. You can imagine the horror and shock that the villain felt when Percy comes back into the room after the shots have been fired. “Why this charade?” Says the bad guy…”Ah” said Percy, “I could not deprive you of your moment of glory [pause]…but alas, a moment is all I could spare”. The devil may be having his day but it is only a day.

There is victory in Jesus now but even more so in the future. We still have to face the fury of the flesh, the wickedness of the world and the animosity of the adversary but Jesus is going to put and end to it all: He will vanquish every foe. When He comes O glorious day, all our enemies will be defeated. The world, the flesh and the devil will be put down forever and ever, hallelujah.

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Normal Christianity

Matthew 10:37-39

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people believe that being a Christian means attending church once a week but is that a good definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ or a follower of Christ? Are all true believers followers of Christ? Did Jesus teach nominal Christianity? Did He distinguish between a believer and a follower? A study of the gospels reveals that Jesus made the same demands on all followers. There is no category for non-following believers. In the GREAT COMMISSION Jesus emphatically stated…”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.

In a moment, we are going to look at three extreme claims that Jesus makes on our lives but first I want to tell a story. Recruiters for all the armed services were given one hour to make presentations to the student body of a certain high school. The Army recruiter went first, then the Navy and then Air Force. The problem was that each one of them too more than their allotted 15 minutes and that left the Marine recruiter with 3 minutes to present. He stood and spoke loudly and clearly: I have less than three minutes to speak but I don’t need three minutes. Most of you can not handle being a Marine; you don’t have what it takes. In a group this size, there are probably a half dozen that can make the grade. I want to see you six at my table as soon as the bell rings. Guess who had the most applicants? The Marine told them the truth and that challenged a select group.

When it came to enlisting followers, Jesus was tougher than a Marine. Three things Jesus says if we are to follow HIM…

  1. WE MUST GIVE HIM PREFERENCE. He must be our highest priority. He can not be given a place; He demands preeminence. If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Jesus must be your greatest love. No one can come before HIM, no one. Many of us want Jesus to be first in our lives but we have learned as did Peter that sometimes our heart deceives us and we don’t love Jesus as much as we thought. My intention is to put Jesus first in everything. I read a story about a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart. She was married to an unbeliever who was also a jerk. He resented her going to church every time the doors were open but she loved the worship and fellowship of her church and she never missed. Finally on a Sunday morning, he gets fed up with this church business and he tells her as she walked through the den and headed for the garage that she is not going. She hesitates briefly but continues to get her coat and the car keys. By the time she is ready, he is standing between her and the door. “You are not going to church today, you are staying home and spending time with me” he said. “No,” said she, “I will have all evening to spend with you but this morning, I am going to church.” With that he pulls a pistol and puts it between her eyes. In a rather sarcastic tone of voice he says, “Now where are you going?” She said without a blink, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to heaven; if you don’t I am going to church.” I love that story…I’m cheering her own…you go girl. Jesus has to be number one: your greatest love.
  2. WE MUST TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS. Theologically, there is no such thing as a Christianity without a cross. The cross was the Roman instrument for death and of course Jesus took our sins to the cross. Our forgiveness and atonement is directly related to Jesus death on the cross. If you take the cross out of Christianity, our sins are un-atoned for and we have no forgiveness. The cross is not a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm, it is death to the flesh, to our self life. Paul told the Corinthians that he suffered death daily. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. Matter of fact, Paul said to the Galatians that he was a living dead man…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. Paul said I am crucified, that would mean dead but then he says, nevertheless I live but it is not I but Christ in me. So what is Paul, living or dead…he is both. He is a living dead man. He is dead to self and alive to Christ.
  3. WE MUST WILLINGLY SURRENDER OUR VERY LIVES. The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. JESUS does not want to be a part of our life, not even the best part: he demands our life itself. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his opportunity to follow Jesus, or will renounce his faith to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive. We keep nothing that we have not given away. The only thing you will retain in the final outcome is that which we did not clink to. It’s not that important that we live long upon the earth; it is important that we be faithful as long as we live. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple. Admittedly, we are afraid of persecution. We see what the world did to Jesus and we do not want to bear that kind of reproach. We do not want to be marched down main street with a cross on our shoulder while the crowds is mocking and making fun of us. Our very nature instinctively cries out for us to preserve our lives, to clink to our life and that would make sense if this life was all we had.
    • If this life is all there is, no more studying all day on Saturdays…I watch football and eat stew.
    • No more trips to Guatemala and no more money given to missions…I will use that to buy me a new tractor with a front end loader.
    • Sacrifice is stupid if this life is all there is.
    • If this life is all there is we should live it up not give it up!

CONCLUSION

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. We live in a world that is anti-Christ and the hostility toward Christ and His followers is growing. I think it is very possible that a more severe persecution is on the way, one that I fear the West is not prepared for; one that I’m not sure I am prepared for. All of the 12 Apostles were martyred except John.

  • James the brother of John was killed with a sword by Herod.
  • James the less was stoned to death by the Jews.
  • Andrew was crucified on an X cross in Greece.
  • Matthias was stoned by the Jews.
  • Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Peter was crucified on a cross in Rome. Upside down by his own request.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome.
  • Bartholomew was crucified in India.
  • Thomas was run through with a spear in India.
  • Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain.

The bad news is that this world will hate anyone who openly confesses Christ and they can kill the body; the good news is they cannot touch the soul.

A Spoiled Generation

Matthew 11:15-19, NLT

15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! 16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17 ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Jesus compares His generation to spoiled children who cannot be pleased. Jesus and John had opposite personalities. Jesus was extroverted and a fun lover. He enjoyed parties and people. John was an introvert and very ascetic in nature. He enjoyed fasting and spending a lot of his time alone. He was anything but a socialite. The Pharisees attributed John’s austerities to insanity; they said he is crazy and they said Jesus had a devil. John was too morbid like a funeral dirge and Jesus was too happy like dance music but the Jews turned a deaf ear to both. Jesus is saying, “What would take to please you guys?”

SPOILED CHILDREN ARE USE TO GETTING THEIR WAY

The first thing that comes to my mind when dealing with spoiled children is that they pout when they don’t get their way. Neither Jesus nor John  appealed to the Jews because neither would compromise. John told them to repent and called them a brood of vipers. Jesus referred to them as white washed tomb stones and hypocrites. Both John and Jesus preached the truth about sin and repentance and the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders did not want to hear it. They wanted to be commended not convicted. They did not respond to either John nor Jesus because they were demanding to have their own way. You can not serve God your way! Millions have tried but it cannot be done. Cain was the first to attempt serving God with the will of the flesh. God taught the boys through Adam what was required for forgiveness; there had to be shedding of blood, the innocent die for the guilty. Cain rejected the doctrine of atonement and he took it upon himself to rewrite the laws of sacrifice. He said to himself, I will present what I please and God will accept it or else. Well, it turned out to be else. Abel went by the book, he sacrificed according to God’s requirements and God accepted his sacrifice. We cannot worship God our way. We cannot serve him our way. We cannot honor him our way. “Our Way” is the problem. He does not want anything “Our Way” but demands that it be His way. There is enough self-will in the average Baptist Church to sink it to hell. We have committed people, but they are committed to doing it their way and then some have the audacity to call it following the spirit. They are following the spirit but it is the wrong spirit. Have you ever wondered why the devil worshipers choose a goat as their symbol. Goats are stubborn and self-willed. A goat will kill itself rather than surrender. I have seen a goat butt a tree until it broke both horns off and almost bleed to death. When you make a goat mad, they go crazy. They will not only hurt others, they will hurt themselves. The Jewish religious leaders had the nature of a goat. It was their way or else.

SPOILED CHILDREN CANNOT BE PLEASED

It really doesn’t matter what you do, you cannot please a spoiled child. If you play happy music, they want sad and if you play sad, they want happy. Most of them want to be unhappy and they want to blame someone else for their being unhappy. John was ascetic and they didn’t like him; said he was crazy. Jesus was happy and hung out with common people and they said he was full of the devil and at one time called Him a bastard. Unhappy people choose to be unhappy but they blame others for their condition. I’ve been in the ministry for  45 years and have served churches for 43 of those years and I am telling you that some people cannot be pleased and you will compromise your convictions if you try and even then you will not succeed. It is a lose/lose and a waste of time. I always have people that are upset with me because I am not upset that they and others are upset. It is not that I dislike people but I have learned that we cannot make pleasing people our priority. There are conviction that govern my life and I live by those convictions.

  • There is only ONE person that I have to please and give an account to and that is Jesus. That does not mean that I am unaccountable to people or that I do not listen to their advice. It does mean that when the final decision is made, my greatest consideration is whether or not I have pleased the LORD. Some will admire and support that while others will disapprove but that is the point, I don’t wait for their approval. It most cases it is something that I will never have.
  • Practically, you cannot please everyone and if you are the leader of an organization, you are going get blamed for all mistakes or lack of progress so it is best to make wise decisions regardless to how they are perceived by the general public or even your followers.
  • God gave John his message. Jesus most certainly spoke for the Father. They could not change their message without disobeying God the Father.

SPOILDED CHILDREN ARE INDIFFERENT AND CONTEMPTOUS

Have you tried to entertain a brat? They are unimpressed with anything you do. Jesus said that His generation were like bratty children; they were filled with indifference and contempt, especially in regards to the things of heaven.  You could play a happy song and dance and they did not respond: you could do slow funeral music and they did not respond. They were unresponsive to John, unresponsive to Jesus, unresponsive to anything that was of God. Jesus even compared them to the generation that lived during the days of Sodom. He said, “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.” We make too big of a fuss over the delivery boy instead of praising the editor. When God called Moses in Exodus 3-4, Moses repeated informed God that he was a poor speaker. The LORD assured him that his speech was not a problem. I will tell you what to say. Moses thought the Pharaoh would have to be confronted by an articulate man. The LORD told him, it will not be your speech that moves him, it will be my power. This generation of Jews heard two of the all time greats preach but it was like water off a ducks back. People make fun of my inability to articulate things clearly. My diction is horrible but that has nothing to do with nothing. I’m not going to move my generation with slick or eloquent sermons. We are as bad as the Jews. God sent Moses before Pharaoh as His spokesman but it was God’s power that broke Pharaoh’s will. I like the Black preachers version of Moses and the burning bush: it goes like this….

  • Moses–Wow, what a bush!
  • LORD–What are you talking about Moses?
  • Moses–The bush, I’ve never seen a bush like this, ever. Wow, What a bush!
  • LORD–Turn Moses and look behind you and tell me what you see.
  • M0ses–I see an ordinary bush, Lord, and then over there another ordinary bush.
  • LORD–Look all around and tell me what you see.
  • Moses–I see bushes LORD, in every direction there is a bush.
  • LORD–Moses, it is not the bush, it is my glory on the bush, any bush will do.

If Jesus could not reach the Pharisees and Scribes of this world, you and I are not going to reach them. They are spoiled, self-willed, contemptuous and content. They are not going to respond to anything we do or say. Indifference dulls our ears to God’s voice and to the good news of the gospel.   Only the humble of heart can find joy and favor in God’s grace.  Do you know the joy of the gospel and is you life in tune with Jesus’s message of hope and salvation?

Unbelievable!

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  I tell you, there is One here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, 10 where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.) 11 And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. 12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! 14 Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.

Matthew 12:1-14, NLT

Introduction

I have a good friend who’s favorite expression is “Unbelievable!” In today’s text I see four UNBELIEVABLE things about the Pharisees who were representative of the Jewish religious culture. I even see a progression as each action is more unbelievable than the previous.

FIRST: THEY ACCUSE JESUS DISCIPLES OF VIOLATING THE SABBATH

Jesus and His disciple are talking a casual walk through a wheat field on a Sabbath. The disciples are hungry so they shuck some grains of wheat and crunch them between their teeth. What they did would be no more filling than you and I eating sunflower seeds. A kernel of wheat may actually be bigger than a sunflower seed. The Pharisees show up out of nowhere and say, “Aha, we caught you, Your disciples are violating the Sabbath.” My first question is: What were the Pharisees doing in a wheat field? They were spying on Jesus. They were dogging His steps. They were persecuting Christ. They were hunting for a mistake. Pharisees were nitpickers. Do you know what a nitpicker is?

Nitpickers are people who are looking for small or unimportant errors or faults, esp. in order to criticize unnecessarily. the word Nitpicking actually comes from the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host’s hair. As the nits are cemented to individual hairs, they cannot be removed with most lice combs and, before modern chemical methods were invented, the only options were to shave all the host’s hair or to pick them free one by one. It was a slow and laborious process. Imagine Jesus and His disciples walking through a wheat field and the disciples began to shuck some of the grains of wheat and eat them much like we would eat nuts. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes a group of Pharisees. This is no coincidence. These guys were following Jesus. Why would they follow Him, they did not want to be His disciples: they were following Him to catch Him in some kind of fault. Moses had some strict Sabbath rules but the Jews had added to them. They had 365 additional laws regarding the Sabbath and they caught Jesus disciples breaking one of those laws.

When I entered the ministry in 1969, I had no idea that Baptist Churches were filled with nitpickers; people who would swallow a camel while trying to strain a gnat. A lady came to me during one of my two seminary pastorates and said, “I sure like you more than our last pastor.” I should have had brains enough to stop her right there but I was too curious so I said, “How is that?” She said, “Because you always say amen and he said ah-men.” I walked away in shock. A pastor friend of mine was giving an invitation and a man came forward: he assumed he was coming to make some kind of decision. When he got to the pastor, he opened the Sunday bulletin and said, “Who proofs this, I found 6 errors.”

SECONDLY: THEY COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTAND AND MISINTERPRET SCRIPTURE

Three times in this passage, Jesus questions their knowledge and understanding of scripture:

  •  Verse 3: Jesus said to them, Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
  • Verse 5: And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  One greater is here than the Temple!
  • Verse 7: But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Is this unbelievable or what: these guys knew the O.T. by heart but they had totally misunderstood all the O.T. types, the spirit of the law and the heart of God. These guys were anything but Godly. Jesus give three examples of where the Pharisees has totally misunderstood the scripture.

  1. They misunderstood the law. God gave us rules for our own welfare and protection. The Sabbath was not to punish but to prosper us. The Sabbath was never intended to make life harder but easier but the Pharisees were legalist, they pressed the letter of the law far beyond God’s intention. Let me give you an example: abortion is not constitutional, it is based on the right to privacy which is not in the constitution. The liberals knew that we could not make a clean jump from the constitution to abortion, so they created the right of privacy and then from there they went to the termination of the baby’s life. I promise you, the original intent of our forefathers was not to legalize killing babies. The Jews had done the same thing with the law of Moses so that it had become harmful to certain segments of the population.
  2. They misunderstood symbols and types. The Jews were notorious at working the symbol and ignoring the substance. Jesus said, “One greater than the Temple is here.” Israel’s first worship center was a tent made of goat skins. It was simple, plain and I suppose unadorable. It was not one of the wonders of the world. Moses constructed this portable worship center by following God’s detail instructions. God was content with the goat skin tent: He did not want an elaborate edifice because He knew the Israelites would worship the structure rather than Him. You know the history, they were not satisfied with the tent, they wanted a temple, a huge temple with gold plated walls studded with precious gems. And what did they do with this magnificent temple, they worshipped it. Jeremiah the prophet had a sermon on temple worship. Not only did they worship the temple, they worshipped the Sabbath. Let me ask you a couple of questions: what was the purpose and meaning of the Tabernacle? Was it not God’s intention to dwell among His people and thus the sacred tent. John tells us in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Literally, Jesus pitched His tent among us and we who are believers saw His glory. Unfortunately, the Jewish religious establishment did not recognize the deity of Christ which explains why they persecuted Him.
  3. They misunderstood the heart of God. God is merciful, the Pharisees were anything but. The LORD prefers kindness to sacrifice. He loves mercy. The Pharisees who claimed to be God lovers did not know God’s heart.

THIRDLY: THEY HAD MORE COMPASSION ON ANIMALS THAN PEOPLE

I told you that it would get more unbelievable as we went. They follow Jesus to the synagogue and there is a man there with a withered hand. Jesus can heal him but it is the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit you to heal on the Sabbath?” What a dumb question. First of all, Jesus created the Sabbath, He is greater than the Sabbath. Secondly, healing the man will be something good. Is it wrong to do good on the Sabbath, to relieve human suffering. The unbelievable thing is the coldness of the Pharisees. Jesus stands the man in front of them, his hand is withered. He cannot use his hand which is a disability. They feel no compassion on the man, none.The man with the withered hand was invisible to them. They were so wrapped up in their own selfish agenda that they didn’t even notice the hurting man and they didn’t care to notice.

Jesus asked them the question, “If you had only one sheep and it got in a ditch or pit, would you rescue it on the Sabbath?” He knew the answer, they were greedy and yes they could pulled their ox out of the ditch but they did not care about this man’s pain. They had no ability to care for people. If we are going to follow Jesus, we have to feel the same way about people that He did, we must love people, more than we do our pets and more than we do our possessions. I don’t believe there is a believer in the building that could not think of at least one lost friend if we tried, the problem is, we don’t care. People are going to hell and we don’t give a damn. The proof is that we are more upset with the word I just used than we are the fact that people without Christ are going to hell. Let’s be honest, we don’t care.

FOURTH: THEY INITIATE A CONSPIRACY TO MURDER JESUS BECAUSE HE HEALED A MAN ON THE SABBATH

Jesus does a good deed, He relieves a man from his suffering and they get angry, so angry that they have a meeting where they discuss a way to get rid of Jesus. How could anyone hate Jesus or want to kill Him, that is unbelievable. How can a act of kindness and love arouse hate? To my knowledge, it was this act of kindness, Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath that initiated the conspiracy that would eventually lead to Jesus death. It all began on this day.

CONCLUSION

What conclusion can we draw from this story?

  1. We do not want to be like the Pharisees. [Nitpickers, fault-finders, cold, indifferent, misguided and full of hate for Christ]
  2. We want to move in the direction of Christ. Where are you spiritually. With the Pharisees being a 0 and Jesus being a 10. Where are you in your love  for people: are you where the Pharisees were with no love for people or where Jesus was, a perfect 10, willing to lay down your life for others. How many of us are closer to the Pharisees than we are Jesus.

Five Steps To Overcoming Discouragement

SCRIPTURE

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him. Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. 9 “O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?”  10 Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” 11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

INTRODUCTION

As Augustine said, “We find no rest until we rest God”. The human soul cannot survive the storms of life unless it is anchored in something greater than it self. The soul that rest upon itself will sink in the storm. Christ is the anchor of the soul and it is He who carries us through the storms of life. We are buoyed in Him and He keeps us from sinking in a sea of depression and misery. We long to see Him in the storm and to know that He is near. Matthew Henry once said, “To be in the presence of the Lord is the desire of the upright, as it is the dread of the wicked.” We all like sailing when the seas are calm but whether on land our sea, we have some ups and downs and at times our world is shaken. During these turbulent times we are prone to doubt, to be discouraged, to lose our confidence. Like a ship in the midst of the sea, the human heart is assailed by many things: turbulent times, taunting enemies of the faith, doubt, fear grief, loneliness and just the feeling of being forgotten. Sometimes it is just the feeling of being small, like a ship in the middle of the sea. How could my life mean anything to the grand scheme?

It is at this point that there are things we must remember….

FIRST — DISCOURAGEMENT is always of the devil.

Note these scriptures–

    • When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. [Rom. 1:12]
    • If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. [Rom. 12:8]
    • Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. [2 Cor. 13:11]
    • I have sent him [Tychicus] to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. [Col. 4:8]
    • So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. [I Thes. 5:11]
    • Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. [2 Timothy 4:2]
    • And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. [Heb. 10:25]

We must recognize the source of discouragement. No where in scripture does the word of God attribute discouragement to the LORD. Every verse above and there are many more are about encouraging one another. Imagine the writer of Hebrews saying, “Don’t concern yourself about being faithful in worship attendance. It will discourage those that are being faithful and this is good.” Or Paul saying to the Colossians, “I have sent Ty to discourage you.” Ask yourself this question: why did Paul put so much emphasis on encouraging each other? I think the answer is simple: because we are easily discouraged. Matter of fact, it does not take that much to discourage most of us. The world taunts us, the flesh is always pulling us down and the devil is firing those fiery darts of doubt. All believers need encouragement. Take these 13 new Christians we have at DBC, what if next Sunday morning, they were the only ones who showed up? Do you think that would be discouraging? It would be devastating.

Brooks Faulkner, a Leader Care counselor, estimates that nearly 100 SBC pastors leave their ministry every month. Why is this? Some of it is moral failure but a lot of it is what they call burnout which is extended discouragement. First of all, I get quite a bit of encouraging from members and friends and I am thankful but I learned a long time ago that you have to determine where the criticism is coming from. God uses criticism to help us but the devil uses it to destroy us. Good criticism is anchored in a heart of love, destructive criticism is intended to discourage and it always of the devil. Once you know the source, you can deal with what is being said. A man confronted me many years ago with an accusation. He had heard a rumor and he told me that he had a good source. I said, “I know the source.” He argued, “You cannot know the source.” I said, “I assure you that I know the source. What you heard is a lie and all lies originate with Satan and that makes him the source.” He just grunted. This principle is not only true of gossip and rumor, it is true of discouragement. Anyone who intentionally tries to discourage a child of God is being used by Satan.

SECOND: Your personal worth is determined not by your performance or your accomplishments but rather by the price that was paid for your redemption.

Someone said it like this, THE CROSS is your barometer; it is how you measure God’s love for you. Charles Allen says that “No person created in the image of God is useless.” I think it was Elisabeth Elliott who said, “No one who can perform an act of kindness toward another is useless.” We live in a gigantic universe and at times it’s immensity can make us feel rather small. But created us and crowned us with glory and honor [Psalm 8] and that is said of no other creature other than man.

Getting encouragement from others is important but even more important is to understand our relationship with Christ. You need to know who you are in Christ. If you are convinced that He loves you unconditionally and that He values more than He did life: that in itself will change the way you think. I am not a loner: I do enjoy solitude but I like to pick and choose the spots. I enjoy the company of my wife, my children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine a world without them but I can live with their disapproval. There are times when they get angry we me but that does not change my course. I know what Christ has called me to do and I must do it with or without any one’s approval or encouragement. We must maintain our vertical alignment with Christ.

THIRD–Remember, You are needed.

There is something that needs to be done that will not be done unless you do it. God has put you in a unique position: there is no one else on planet earth that has your positioning, conditioning and gifting. The question you need to ask is: “What is it God wants me to do that only I could do?”

FOURTH–Remember, you are empowered.

God has given you a will. You can be what you choose to be. Recently a woman came up to me and just blessed me out. She said several things and none of them were nice or encouraging. When she finished, she threw her head up, wheeled around and marched off. I was standing there is shock. I think my only verbal response was “well.” She is filled with bitterness and she blamed me and others for the way she feels. You choose the way you feel. If you are determined to be discouraged, I can’t help you. If your life goal is to be bitter and sour, no one is going to change you. Ruth was sweet and adorable because she choose to be sweet and adorable. Naomi was bitter because she choose to be bitter. You say, “Naomi had lost a husband and two sons,” and I would say “Ruth had lost a husband and never knew the joy of having a son.” Naomi is your classic example of the person who believes “My problems are worse than your problems.” Problems are problems and grief is grief and everyone has them. Self-pity will destroy the greatest among us

FIFTH–Last but certainly not least…Remember you have an Awesome God to turn to, to trust.

David said, “I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” First of all: no problem is bigger than God. When I get down and discouraged, I go to God. I get alone and pray. I talk to my maker and redeemer.

Most of us have flown on commercial jets and those who have flown quite a bit know that you can get into turbulent weather. We got into a little on our last flight to Guatemala. The captain spoke to us over the intercom and reminded us to stay buckled. He said, “We have encountered some turbulence and we don’t know where it came from. We have not seen any bad weather on the radar and there are no other air craft near us so its a bit of a mystery but just stay in your seats and hopefully we will get through it shortly.” I’ve been in a lot of turbulence for worse than that day and I have never heard that particular speech. I was on a flight from Atlanta to Huntsville back in 1986 and it is only a 30 minute flight but we got in a thunderstorm. The captain came on and informed us that even though it was a short flight and not normal, we were going to go higher and fly over the storm which he did, thank goodness. This is good advice: when you are in a storm go higher. Go to the one who is greater than the storm.

[For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.]

What Is Your Handicap

TEXT: 2 Corinthians 12:1-7

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

INTRODUCTION

I’ve been in several golf tournaments where they ask for my handicap which is golf is “a measure of his current ability over an entire round of golf, signified by a number. The lower the number, the better the golfer is.” I think the limit for a man is 36 so that would be my handicap. I think this means that if I shoot 108 it is the same as par for a person who has no handicap. I’m not sure but it is my assumption that Profession Golfers do not have handicaps but all the rest of us do. Life is some what different from golf, in life, we all have a handicap. Paul had one, he called it a “Thorn in the flesh” but he never tells us exactly what it was. Tonight, there are three things I want to say about this subject.

FIRST: We all have a handicap. No one is perfect. One way or the other, all of us are lacking in some area; there is something we would like to have that we don’t. I believe Paul’s handicap was something physical. We are all familiar with the Helen Keller story. Helen was born blind and deaf, a double handicap yet she accomplished more than most who have sight and hearing. Moses had a handicap, he says it was a speech impediment. Many people including myself, believe that the Apostle Paul was dwarft, a very tiny man. It explains a lot about his life. Little people are over achievers and many times they have a chip on their shoulder. I don’t think there are any exceptions to the rule, we all have at least one handicap; we all have weaknesses that we had rather not have. Chuck Swindoll wrote a tiny book entitled FRESH WIND where he goes from one bible character to another highlighting their handicap. One chapter is on Jephthah one of Israel’s Judges. Jephthah was a bastard, his father was Gilead and his mother was a prostitute. His father took him in for a time but allowed the siblings to run him off. Jephthah was not inferior physically but he left because of the ridicule and scorn. He was the last person in the world that his village thought would become the leader of Israel, yet he did and was a good one. He is mentioned in the hall of faith, Hebrews 11. He had a lot to overcome as do most of us. No one is perfect, we are all lacking in some area.

SECOND: We are not proud of our weakness. Paul mentions that he has one but he does not tell us what it was. He wrote one third of the N.T. so he could have told us exactly what it was had he wanted to but he choose not to. We don’t normally or at least consciously go around broadcasting our weakness. We all know that the enemy will attack our weakness so there are things that we keep to ourselves. When the Israelites were traveling from the wilderness into Canaan, they went through Moab. Balak the king of Moab tried to get Balaam to curse the Israelites which he refused to do but before he left, he shared with Balak a secret, the weakness of the Israelite men were women and the Moabite women were easy on the eyes plus they were worshipper so Molech so I will let you read between the lines. They seduced the men of Israel and it created great problems. Whether it is boxing or football, the opponent is going to try to exploit our weakness so I don’t know how wise it is to publicize your weakness. Paul was probably exercising wisdom that keep that between himself and God. We all have weaknesses but we are not proud of them.

THIRD: The third thing that is true of Paul is that he learned to live with his weakness, even to use it for the glory of God. Paul said in verses 8-10…Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I like how the AV states verse 9,  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I was having lunch with a young man today and he brought up this passage. He is facing a problem that he has no solution for and it has humbled him. Whatever Paul’s infirmity was, it was humiliating. We know that the Corinthians said of him… “His letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. [2 Cor. 10:10] Eugene Peterson paraphrase goes like this, “His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he’s a weakling and mumbles when he talks.” Paul did not get a lot of affirmation from Corinth but he never let it slow him down. Whatever his infirmity, he learned to live with it and even glory in it.

FOURTH: He not only lived with it, he overcame it. Paul was like the violinist who was doing a concert when one of the strings on his violin broke, it made an adjustment and kept on playing. He could have given up and even blamed the violin or its maker but he played with the strings that he had and that is what you and I must do. We don’t give up because we are not perfect and we don’t give in when conditions are not perfect. A young man was selling books in the summer to support himself in school and he happened to be handicapped. He could walk but he had to drag one leg due to a birth defect. He got around, just not as fast as others. He rang a lady’s door bell and she was ugly to him. He thanked her for her time and turned to walk away, after just a couple of steps she saw that one leg was not the same size as the other and she called out to him, “Come back son, I did not realize that you were cripple, I will be glad to buy a book.” He told her that they were no longer for sell and said, “I am selling books not sympathy.” She said, “Doesn’t being cripple color your life?” He said, “Yes mam but thank God, I get to choose the color.” This is how the story ended and I want to know if he sold her a book. Chuck Swindoll says, “You may have only one string to play but play it well. Life is 10% circumstances and 90% how we respond to them which is attitude. You are in charge of your attitude.

Thanksgiving

SCRIPTURE TEXT:

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

INTRODUCTION

As a general rule, I don’t speak to the occasion because I am normally engaged in a series but I’m going to make an exception with THANKSGIVING. Actually, I was inspired by two factors; [1] The Children are with us today and my series subject would have been the UNPARDONABLE SIN which I don’t think is appropriate for them [2] and the LCBS lesson inspired me. Let’s be honest, it is hard to get too much of Psalm 100.

There are several things I want to say today about THANKSGIVING…Things connected to THANKSGIVING…

[1] The connection between THANKSGIVING and Acknowledgment.

For Thanksgiving to be thanks giving, we have to acknowledge to God what we are thankful for and we need to be specific. Have you paid attention to the words of the old hymn COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS…Counting or naming your blessings is the key to thanksgiving. Note the words…

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

I want you to notice the highlighted words…Tempest tossed, discouraged, thinking all is lost, burdened with a load of care, heavy cross to bear, amid conflict, disheartened…the entire setting of the song is amid the conflict.

  • Are you tempest tossed today? You feel like you are reeling from one side of the deck to the other. Every time you get your balance, here comes another wave and it knocks you off your feet.
  • Are you discouraged today? Have you been getting more bad news than good? Do you have problems that seem overwhelming?
  • Are you about ready to throw in the towel? Ready to count it a loss? Ready to give up?
  • Are you burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
  • Are you in the middle of conflict? Is your family being torn apart by the ravages of sin? I have never seen a time when families were so torn as they are today.
  • Are you so disheartened that you think that things are out of control? Evil is winning and no one can stop it.

If you feel any of these things: you need to stop and count your blessing. You can’t count them if you don’t name them. Naming them is very important.

The Pilgrams landed at Plymouth Rock on December 16 – much too late to plant or prepare for winter. Without enough food or protection from the cold, families watched their loved ones suffer. In December, 6 of the 102 pilgrims died. In January, 8 more passed. In February, 17 more people died. In March, 13 passed away. At one point, only 7 people were well enough to care for everyone else who was sick. By spring, just over half of the original pilgrims remained. I read a story on the internet a couple of nights ago about the Pilgrims calling a meeting. They were recounting all the adverse things that had happened to the colony and contemplating whether or not to stay in America. They were very discouraged and on the verge of giving up when one Pilgrim stood and suggested they count their blessings, from this sprang the idea of having a three day festival of thanksgiving. I don’t know if the story is legend or fact but I do know this: counting our blessings is the key to maintaining a proper attitude.

[2] There is a vital connection between THANKSGIVING and JOY.

I love to read Matthew Henry’s commentary of the scripture and have been doing so since 1969. The first set of commentaries that I had in my possession was given to me by my father in the ministry [Calvin C. Inman] and it was a six volume set of Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry was robbed on one occasion and this is what he entered in his journal that night…“Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” Matthew Henry incarnated I Thessalonians 5:18…In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Remember, it is always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Dr. Jack Taylor, one of my favorite preachers of yesteryear, tells the story of the woman who was dying with cancer. She was filled with bitterness and despair. She had reached the point that no one could stand to be around her which made a bad situation worse. Someone as Dr. Taylor to pay her a visit. When he went in, she unloaded on him. She counted all her problems and named them one by one. After she had finished telling him all the things that were wrong, he asked her this simple question, “Have you given God thanks?” She said, “Are you crazy, who in their right mind could give God thanks for cancer?” He said, “I am not asking you to give God thanks for cancer; I am asking you to give Him thanks in the midst of your cancer. The bible says, In all things give thanks, not for all things but in all things. So what I am asking you to do is stop right here in the middle of this bout with cancer and give God thanks.” Suddenly, a light came on and she saw the truth of I Thessalonians 5:18, “In all things give thanks.” She bowed her head and starting giving thanks and her life was literally transformed. People could not believe the difference, this bitter woman became sweet; this unhappy and miserable person became joyful even though her cancer was not healed in this life. She was promoted a few months later but she departed this world a happy soul. Folks, we are all going to die physically with something, is it not better to depart with a happy spirit than to be bitter, cynical, sour and filled with self-pity? I can guarantee you that if you do not give thanks, you are not a happy person. God has made it impossible for an unthankful person to be happy.

[3] The third connection that I want to mention is THANKSGIVING and Grace.

The very first Max Lucado book that I read was IN THE GRIP OF GRACE. I gleamed several new insights from the book but the one that changed my life was the understanding of the connection between THANKSGIVING and GRACE. I don’t know that Max stated the insight is so many words but as I read the book, it became very clear. Legalistic people are never thankful where as gracious people or people who understand grace are always thankful. What it boils down to is this: a legalist [a Pharisee type] is on a point system. They believe that God’s love and favor must be earned. These people are “Record Keepers” and “Fault Finders.” They will remember every offense while forgetting all the acts of kindness and it is all because they do not understand grace.

Grace means God’s salvation and forgiveness are a gift which cannot be earned. I deserve death and hell. No matter what I do from this day forward, I deserved death and hell. I am a death and hell deserving sinner but I have been pardoned by HIS amazing grace. When a person understands this truth, they have to be thankful: they can be no other. I deserve hell but by the grace of God I am going to heaven–how can I not be thankful! Understanding grace means we put the emphasis on Christ. The emphasis is on what HE HAS DONE not on what WE DO! Honestly, can I be thankful for Jack? I can tell you exactly what Jack is: He is depraved, he is capable of any sin and he deserved to die an excruciating death and spend eternity in hell. Should I preach Jack? Who would be edified or changed if I did? When people scoff at my preaching, I can take no personal offense because I am preaching Jesus. They hatred is not so much against me as it is HIM. Why should I get my feelings hurt? Do people hate and despise me? Sure they do but I can’t get hung up on side issues and it is not about me. Those who despise me have missed the point. If you are all hung up on what some preacher did or didn’t do, you have missed the point. If you hate or despise anyone, you have missed the point. No one deserves to go to heaven and that includes preachers. If we put all the preachers together, their composite righteousness would not be enough to send one person to heaven.

Let me tell you the gospel truth: any person who hates, despises, or keeps a record of the wrongs you have committed does not understand and has not experienced GRACE. A person who has experienced Grace is always THANKFUL, not critical, not judgmental but THANKFUL.

Where Shall I Go?

SCRIPTURE

Psalms 28:6-9, NLT

Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. The Lord gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king. Save your people! Bless Israel, your special possession.Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever.

INTRODUCTION

A little girl was walking down a sidewalk when she tripped and fell, skinning her knees and hands. As her mother was consoling her and cleaning her up, she looked up and said, “Wouldn’t it be great mom if all the world was cushioned?” Sadly, the world is not cushioned and there are countless bumps and bruises in life. We all get tripped up from time to time and every now and then we take a spill. Falling can be embarrassing but it can also be painful. There are many things that can trip us up, bring us down and cause of pain.

  • Loneliness is a big issue, especially during the holidays. Can you imagine being forgotten. I did a memorial service a few days ago for a sweet and very innocent woman. I don’t think this woman was capable of hurting a fly. It was a grave side service at an unfamiliar location. I got there more than 30 minutes before the service but the Undertaker did not give me the obituary card until we left to start the service. I glanced at page one and put it in my pocket. I had known the woman for over 20 years and I never saw anyone other than her daughter, who is a member of our church, and her two granddaughters who also attend. I thought I knew all the family so I never used the card. When we got home, my wife was hanging up my suit and she came across the card, sat down and read it.  This sweet lady had three children instead of one and nine grandchildren instead of two. Thank God for her daughter who cared for her and her two granddaughters that had a relationship with her but as I thought about the other 9 who had no relationship with her, it broke my heart. Had it not been for the one daughter, she would have been forgotten. It is a heart breaking thing to be forgotten. We live in the midst of a lot of lonely people; they are all around us, I am sure.
  • Grief can also trip us up. I suppose the most difficult thing in life is to give up a loved one in the prime of their life. We have a very dear and precious woman here at DBC who had three of her six children precede her. She epitomizes our text, “The LORD is her strength.” She is an incredible woman. She thinks about her children every day: she has three in heaven and three here on earth. I’ve never seen a person handle grief so graciously but I know that she grieves every single day. Her faith is greater than her fear and although she grieves, she does not do it without hope.
  • Disappointment can trip us up. Sibling rivalries are a huge source of disappointment. Parents yearn for their children to love each other. Some families are unable to be together for the holidays due to sibling rivalries. Divorce can be a huge disappointment. A divorce is like an oil tanker with a hole in the hull, it leaves and oil slick of bitterness and resentment a half mile wide and it can never be cleaned up.
  • Financial struggles can trip us up. Christmas is a hard time for poor people. I think most of us want to do something special for others at Christmas but sometimes we are forced to make hard decisions. We cannot afford to help everyone on our list so we have to study and re-study the list and pick out those that we think need it the most. I’ve been struggling with this very issue this week. I have one of my Church Mother’s left. She is a widow woman who lives in Ashville, Alabama. She likes to go see her kids at Christmas and I usually give her a little money for the trip. She needs that money right now and I have been praying for a way to get it to her. I know a woman who works five jobs just to keep her family afloat. Financial struggles are a daily grind for many families and sometimes the struggle can get us down.

What Is The Answer?

[1] WE NEED TO RELY UPON THE LORD

David said, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me.” The various trials of life can get us down. Most of us will never experience anything like Job but we will have problems and they can sap the life out of us. There will be days when we do not have the energy to go on. I love the song of Moses and in the second stanza, Moses says, The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him—my father’s God, and I will exalt him! There were over 600,000 Israelite men under Moses command so some estimate as many as 2-3 million total that were under his leadership and care. To make bad matters worse, he lead them through a barren wilderness where there was no pasture and no water to speak of and no shelter. Wow, what an incredible responsibility! How did he do it? He relied on the LORD. The LORD was his strength and song and we need to make HIM our strength and song.

[2] WE NEED TO HELP EACH OTHER

When the little girl fell in the story above, her mother was there to pick her up. It is paramount that we first and foremost rely on the LORD and make HIM our strength but secondly, we need the loving support of other believers. I can tell you what we don’t need when we fall…

  • We don’t need scorn and laughter. Two boys went to the park to play. They lived in south Florida where the palm and coconut trees grow and their parents had warned them about climbing the trees. The youngest on a dare, climbed a coconut three and was reaching out to knock one of the coconuts down when he lost his grip and fell some 20 plus feet. He landed on top of his arm and he broke the bone. The older brother reveled in the pain and demise of this younger sibling and went running home to tell the parents what had happened. The younger brother did not need a tattletale, he needed help. He could have used some sympathy. I’ll be honest with you: I have never known a hurting person who did not want sympathy.
  • We don’t need sanctimonious admonitions. Jobs friends were full of advice but they had no compassion. “God will bring good out of it…God knows best…It’s not as bad as you think…It could be a lot worse…The good LORD will see your through.” Whereas all these chinches are true, they are not always appropriate. Hurting people need your sympathy and love: they don’t need your advice.
  • We need to help. David said the LORD is my helper and we need to be the LORD’s helpers. I can promise you that there is someone very close to you that needs your help right now. Slow down, think, pray and the LORD will lead you to the person.

[3] WE NEED TO LEARN TO SING IN THE RAIN

David said, “My heart is filled with joy. I will burst out in thanksgiving.” What I want you to see is the connection between thanksgiving and joy. They always run together. If you don’t have thanksgiving, you will not have joy and if you have joy, you will most certainly have thanksgiving. Dr. Jack Taylor tells the story of the woman dying with cancer. She was bitter, so bitter that no one wanted to be around her. Dr. Taylor paid her a visit and he listened to her story. When she was finished, he asked, “Have you given God thanks?” Are you nuts,” she said, “why would I thank God for cancer?” Dr. Taylor replied, “I’m not asking you to thank Him for the cancer, the bible says “In all things give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ.” God wills that we be thankful because He wants us to be joyful. Fortunately, the story has an happy ending. The woman saw the truth, “In the midst of whatever, give thanks…” and she bowed her head and began giving thanks. Although she had cancer, she was a Christian and was headed for heaven. She began with her relationship to Christ and began thanking God for all the good things that He had done for her. Her attitude and life were changed by one verse of scripture. She did pass away a few months later but she was not bitter: she died thankful and joyful.

Christless Religion

Religion Without Jesus
Religion Without Jesus

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 12:38-45, NLT

38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” 39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. 42 The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

46 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 4Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50 Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

 

Introduction

This is a great text because it reminds us that JESUS IS GREATER THAN…Jonah, Solomon, Religion or even Family. The reason the world celebrates CHRISTMAS is that Jesus is greater the Mohammed, Confucius, Aristotle or anyone else. All of this and more is implied in the text but I want to narrow the search somewhat and focus on Jesus and the Pharisees. This particular story begins with the Pharisees demanding a sign. According to scripture, their words were… Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority” but Jesus said…Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign. The Pharisees are trying to cover their intentions by being some what respectful but Jesus knew exactly what their intentions were: they were trying to discredit him before the masses. It was a form of threat but Jesus did not yield. It was not that He could not, but being God, He would not. God does not respond to threats or demands. I would not advise this approach: I would think pleading or praising would be more appropriate. The Pharisees were devoutly religious but their religion was void of Christ. They had a Christ-less religion whereas I have priceless relationship. Speaking of signs: what are the signs of a Christ-less religion?

[1] ITS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE FAITH

Essentially, the Pharisees said, “If you are the Son of God, prove it…do a miracle to authenticate your claim.” It is similar to the devils approach in Matthew 4, Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” God does not have to prove Himself to anyone; as a matter of fact, He chooses not to give infallible proofs. He makes it very clear in His word that His way is faith… And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Faith is the only language that heaven understands. It is impossible to please God without faith. Therefore we do not exalt signs over scripture. God has given us His word: why do we need a sign. When Dives woke up in hades he begged Father Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his brothers of hell and Abraham said, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We have HIS word so why do we demand signs and feelings. You want a sign, you got the only one your going to get, it is a cross and an empty tomb. It is three days that begin with hell and ended in glorious triumph. You have the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that is the only sign you need. I want to make this perfectly clear: you will never have a relationship with Jesus by an other means. You either trust HIM, put your faith in HIM or else stay condemned. He will never give you more than His word. If you are waiting for the lighting to strike you may very well burst hell wide open.

[2] IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT A RELATIONSHIP

The Pharisees were not seeking to KNOW Jesus: their intent was to prove Him false. They put absolutely no effort into getting to know HIM. The Pharisees were religious and they even accepted the law and the prophets as the word of God. They believed the story of Jonah surviving three days and nights in the belly of a fish but ironically, they did not believe Jesus or believe in HIM. They had a religion but they never developed a relationship. Religious people can have impeccable character, at least on the surface. They may be straight as an arrow morally. They may cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s but the one thing they do not do is talk about Jesus. They Pharisees talked about God, even professed to have a relationship to Him but they did not talk about Jesus, not in a positive way. They did not preach or praise Jesus. They did not do as John the Baptist and point people to Jesus. I am dumfounded by the myriads of preachers who talk about everything under the sun except the SON. A very misguided youth brought me a tape of their favorite preacher. He was enamored with the man; thought he was the greatest thing since light bread. I’m not positive but I believe the message was on the subject of worship. It was approximately a 30 minute message and he never mentioned Jesus, not one time. At the end of the message, he did pray in Jesus name but he never mentioned Jesus during the message. I don’t think the man was anti-Christ, I think is had subtlety fell into the politically correct mold. His intention was to be seeker friendly. I checked this guy out and I believe he is genuine but what he was doing was yielding to the world’s pressure to conform. The world does not want us praising Jesus. It is offensive to them, they don’t like it. Beware of religion without a personal relationship with Jesus. I will tell you something else: the devil is a master at diverting our attention within the body of Christ. Some believers are more excited about their spiritual gifts than they are the Giver. I’m sure the devil is behind the worship wars. He will do anything to get our focus off of Jesus. The devil does not hate worship; he hates Jesus and of course he hates for us to worship Jesus. But when we go to promoting worship over Jesus, we have grossly missed the point. This Christ-less, Cross-less religion is not new but it has really emerged in the last 40 years. If Jesus is not the center of your theology, you need a new theology. If He is not your focus in worship, you need to change your worship. The Pharisees were very religious but they did not have a relationship with Jesus the Son of God.

[3] IT IS A RELIGION WITHOUT TRUE REPENTANCE

Jesus used a great analogy: He said, “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”  This is a picture of a person who reforms their way of living but does not  truly repent of sin and turn to Christ. Salvation involves more than cleaning the house: the most wonderful aspect of our salvation is that Jesus comes into the house. He indwells the believer. The big difference between reformation and repentance is Jesus. Jesus does not reform us, He transforms us and conforms us. We reform ourselves. The big difference between a REFORMED RELIGIONIST and TRANSFORMED CHRISTIAN is humility. A reformed religionist is easily offended or insulted. They are legalistic record keepers. They can be no other: they give themselves credit for the clean house and they tend to check your house to see if it is as clean as their house. They are filled with pride because everything they believe in depends upon what they have accomplished. They continually go back to their record.

Conclusion:

I have an agnostic friend who sees red whenever you mention Jesus. He told me several years ago that Christianity was the cause of, the prime root of wars, greed and corruption in the world. I said to him, “You are talking about Christianity as a religion. I don’t believe that Constantine’s conversion was authentic and he did a lot of harm by stamping the Christian label on all that he did but the mistake that you have made is that you think Christianity is a religion and it’s not, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I know the people you are referring to did a lot of horrible things under the name of Christ but they were not true followers of Jesus, they did not have a relationship with HIM.” The world is filled with Religious people and so are our churches but religion does not produce true righteousness, only Christ can.

The Pharisees demanded a sign and Jesus said, “You are going to get one, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only sign that this unbelieving world is going to get. Friend, don’t wait for lightening to strike or for some strange experience: repent of your sin today. Christ is as near as the air you breath: confess Him as LORD and ask Him to come into your life. Commit to follow Him as your LORD and master.