Press On Or The Press Is On

 

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 3:12-16

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

INTRODUCTION

I have absolutely no doubt, Paul was an avid sports fan. One thing we must consider is that our world is drastically different from Paul’s. I think Paul has two sports in mind, [1] Track and [2] Hunting whereas today we have football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, golf and a thousand others. Here in Philippians 3 and in his other letters, he uses sports terms. Here in chapter 3 Paul is giving a pre-game inspirational message on our approach to the future. Remember our approach is Christian. We look at the future differently from the pagan world.

Last fall, I was called upon a couple of times to do a motivation speech to our High School football team. I wish I had studies this passage before hand because there is a great motivational speech here for a group of athletes or believers.

Paul says in verse 12, Jesus apprehended me on the road to Damascus, He laid hold of me and now my intention is to apprehend or lay hold to that for PURPOSE {teleioō} which He laid hold of me.

THREE THINGS YOU NEED IN ORDER TO APPREHEND [lay hold to] YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE.

FIRST: You need a good attitude.

I am not an NFL fan by any stretch of the imagination but my wife and I watched a little of the Saints verses Chicago last Monday night [My wife is a Saints fan. We lived in New Orleans during our seminary days]. I feel sorry for the Chicago Bears fans. I think Jay Cutler has the sorriest attitude of any athlete I have seen. This man made 22 million dollars this year and his team will not even be in the play offs. He threw three interceptions Monday night but that is the least of his problems: the major problem is that he didn’t care. He was not disgusted with himself, he just goes to the bench and sits alone. No one on the entire team like him. Why? Because he has a stinking attitude.

You know, we have people in our churches, some come every Sunday but they have bad attitudes. We have folks that you could not please if you hung them with a new rope. They come in the door every Sunday looking for something to complain about. Honestly, I wish they would stay at home but misery loves company and they have no intention of letting us off the hook. I am talking about critical, negative, pessimistic people who love to rain on everyone’s parade. It happened to me a few Sundays ago. We had a great service, had two or three professions of faith and we having a celebration at the end of the service when this person comes to me and says, “I have to talk to you now.” I missed the end of the celebration. By the time I got home, my family had already eaten dinner. Don’t dare tell them that they can’t rain on your parade because they will show you.

But there is another attitudinal problem: not only do we have our unhappy critics, we have our retired stock holders who will not disengage from the past. These are those who want to have a say but they don’t want to do anything. They’ve already done their part. I came to my present place of service back in 1979 and there was one particular woman who urged me every Sunday to accept the position. I came as a fill in for two months before accepting the call. She would say something like this: “We need a young pastor. It’s time for the young people to take hold here, those my age have done their part. It is time for the new generation.” One Sunday a man who had attended here forever heard her say all those things about her “having done her part,” and he came up to me and said, “Don’t pay any attention to her, she has never done squat,” only he did not use the word squat. I’m sorry folks but I had to laugh. It is true that I was young and had a lot to learn but I had already encountered these “Retired Christians” who have done their part. You never hear Paul talking like this. Whatever you have done in the past, forget it, time to move on. We don’t live in the past: we move from it toward our goal. You haven’t done your part. There are no rest stops on this pilgrimage. We press on. There is work to do, not excuses to be made.

You have not done your part. If you had done your part, God would have you with HIM. Your being here tells me that you have not done your part. You may be too old to stay in the nursery but you are not too old to pray for those who do. You are not too old to make a phone call or write a card. You may be too selfish but you are not too old. As long as your world revolves around you and your needs: you are going to be unhappy. Negative attitudes; selfish attitudes will keep you from laying hold of your purpose.

SECOND: You need to narrow your focus.

This should come natural for those of us growing old. You cannot do everything but you can do something. Notice what Paul says in verse 13…No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing. This is the secret to progress, learn to focus on one thing. “One thing” comes up in the bible a lot…

  • Jesus said to the Rich Young Ruler…”One thing you lack.”
  • Jesus said to Martha…”One thing is needful.”
  • The Blind man said to the Temple authorities…”One thing I know.”
  • David said in Psalm 27…”The one thing I ask of the Lordthe thing I seek most.”

Here Paul says, “I focus on one thing.” I think Paul is looking forward to the Resurrection. This side of the resurrection, you and I will never know perfection which is what Paul confesses in this passage…I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. {verse 12} Do you hear what Paul is saying? “I am not perfect, I do not claim to be perfect but I am moving toward perfection. When Christ laid hold of me, His intention what that I become like Him [perfect, Teleioo] and my one goal is to lay hold of that perfection that will come with the resurrection. Paul had narrowed his focus. When we narrow our focus, we concentrate on one thing and it gives our focus  this concentrated power like a laser. A laser is focused light. Focused light is powerful and a focused life is powerful.

I young lady told me once, “I envy you. You know exactly what the Lord has called you to do and I don’t have a clue. I don’t know what my purpose is or even if I have a purpose.” I said, “You have a purpose. For one thing you are the mother of three children and you are to guide them to Christ.” If your purpose become your sole interest, you will find your purpose. My mother had a purpose. She was the most influential person in my life.

Dwight L. Moody was into a lot of things but after the great Chicago fire, he begin to think and he decided he was running out of time and he wanted to focus one thing and the one thing he choose was his evangelistic ministry. Before the fire, he was big in the YMCA and the Sunday School movement. When he narrowed his focus, he became the LORD’s laser. Millions of people came to Christ because of Dwight L. Moody.

A river is a powerful source of energy if it is channeled: if not channeled, it can be a source of destruction {flood} or decay {Swamp}.

You cannot do everything but you can do something: find out what it is and get busy. We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails. We cannot do what God does but God will not do what we can. {Oswald Chambers} Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depends on God: work as though everything depends on you.”

THIRD: We need to PRESS ON with intensity.

Paul used the word “Press” twice. Verse 12…But I press on to possess…  I press on to reach {v.14}. This word press is an athletic term: it means to pursue with every ounce of energy. We still use the term in Basketball. Ty plays in an instructional league and they cannot play defense outside the three point circle until the last 2 minutes. Trust me the intensity picks up the last two minutes. Ty thrives during that time because he is naturally intense. To press is to reach for, to stride for, to push for with all our energy. In hunting, it is to be aggressive in the pursuit of the game. It means to move in on and to capture.

We don’t need less intensity in the LORD’s work. I go home on Sunday’s for lunch, eat a bit and then go to bed. I don’t think I am less intense, I hope not; I think I am more intense than I’m ever been.

Sometimes a basketball team will press the entire game but usually, it when they see time is running out. It is for this reason that I think the older we get the more intense we ought to get as we realize that time is running out. Joe David was telling me yesterday that if you make is past 50, odds are you will live to be 80. I think most people expect to live that long. One of my best friends father past away at 90 and he told me that his dad was shooting for 100. Most people think they have plenty of time but not all of us think that way. Kenny told me last week, I just hope I make it to January 1 which is only two weeks away. Kenny lives at a higher level, he is on a plateau that we don’t understand, he knows time is running out. We don’t believe it.

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Knowing Christ

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:7-11, NLT

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

INTRODUCTION

The world views religion as man’s attempt to reach God and it’s not a bad definition. Since Jesus is the one and only way, it seems to me that the devil is behind religion. Many people seem to believe that religion will save them but this is not taught in scripture. They do not get their theology from the bible. Religion is what we do for God. It is our attempt to reach Him. Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. It is not what we do for God but what He has done for us. It’s not about our reaching out to Him but His reaching out to us.

Paul was a very religious man until he meet Christ on the road of Damascus. Christ convinced Paul to give up on religion. Judaism was the seed from which Christianity sprang but the seed no longer exist. Christianity is the flower that sprang from the seed. All seeds, to give new life, rot and decay. Jews don’t need Judaism, they need Jesus. I believe in every O.T. prophecy. I believe in a Millennium but I am not a Zionist. Judaism can never please God. The O.T. prophecies are all fulfilled in Christ who is the only way. Some Jews are very religious but they are not practicing O.T. Judaism. They have no High Priest, no sacrifice, no temple and no way to atone for sins. They have none of these things because Jesus is all of these things. Jesus will never have a rival and that includes the revival of ancient Judaism. God’s way is faith in Christ which is exactly what Paul is saying in Philippians 3…For His {Christ} sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Making oneself righteous by obeying the law is a religious thing but the Christian thing to do is put your confidence in Christ who kept the law in your behalf.

No where else in scripture do we have a sharper contrast between religion and Christianity than in Philippians 3. A little girl was attended a wedding with her mother. The bride came out in a white gown. The little girl pulled on her mom’s dress, “Why is she wearing white.” Not wanting to get into the real meaning of purity and virginity, the mom said, “White is the happy color and today she is happy.” It was a bad answer. Immediately, the little girls asked, “The man is wearing black, isn’t it the sad color?” The little girl had a good point: there is a huge contrast between black and white and the same is true with religion and Christianity.

The Apostle Paul understood the truth: there is no value in religion. Religion is dog food, human excrement [dung], garbage, refuse. Paul had nothing good to say about religion. Paul said, “It has no value, I am done with religion. You take religion but give me Jesus.”

Why is religion so popular? Ralph Martin of Tyndall Commentaries says, “The religious man hankers after something he can boast about; he is blind to his need for grace. He covets a virtue he can call his own.” I agree with Ralph Martin. Religion is rooted in pride. In this passage, we have Paul saying the opposite: Paul is saying, “I renounce my virtue, I have no righteousness, I have thrown my religion in the garbage where it belongs and my desire now is to know Jesus. In verse 8, Paul is saying, there is no comparison between Religion and knowing Jesus

Tonight, I want us to look closer to verses 10-11…I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

KNOWING CHRIST INTIMATELY

The word ‘know’ in the Greek carries the same meaning as the Hebrew word for ‘know’. I love the Hebrew word, it is ‘yada’. Adam knew Eve and he said, ‘yada, yada.’ Of course, the apex of intimacy for a married couple is becoming one in flesh. A huge part of intimacy is bearing one’s self, taking your clothes off, making yourself known.

Paul is not talking about “knowing about Christ.” He is not talking about intellectual knowledge. He is talking about intimate knowledge. He is talking about knowing Jesus intimately. You don’t get to know a person in this way without some things coming into play…

  1. You have to have an unrushed fellowship or communion. You cannot know a person that you are not willing to spend time with.
  2. You have to have an unconditional trust. Intimacy is a two way street. There must be mutual trust. Intimacy is not just getting naked as Lewis says, it is stripping away the pretense that covers you soul. It is getting naked emotionally. When you have secrets, you live a guarded life. When you have insecurities that have hedged these secrets; you make it impossible for anyone to see your soul. Therefore intimacy is not possible. I am not a Psychiatrist by any stretch of the imagination but being a pastor has taught me that emotionally scarred people have a tendency to be distrustful and they have a hard time being intimate with anyone. As humans, we have need to bare our soul. The problem is finding a person who is healthy enough to listen or who cares enough. Most people just don’t care how you feel. How you feel is not important to them. This is not really a problem unless you are married to such a person. There are some exceptions but basically, men are idiots. They treat their wives like prostitutes. They do not understand that the physical act of sex is taking something from her that is precious to her. She doesn’t mind giving her body but she wants to give more. Men don’t have a problem having sex, they have a problem listening. The quickest way to destroy a woman’s love is to convince her that she is there for sex and serving. No one can survive with their soul in tack in such a one sided relationship. Unless your wife was abused sexually before you met her, she will want to be intimate. She wants to share her heart as much, probably more than her body.
  3. You have to have an unselfish love. Again, marriage is a perfect example: you are not going to have a great marriage if everything is about you and your needs. We need to get to a point in our relationship with Christ where everything revolves around Him and What He wants. Paul is there, no doubt. He wants to please Jesus.

KNOWING THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION

Most people think of the resurrection as an event but really it is a person. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” The resurrection is the “Like Force” that emanates from Jesus. This resurrection has many facets. There is the historical resurrection. There is the resurrection of the new life once the old is renounced. There is the resurrection of the body and there is the resurrection day. A merely spiritual existence is not appealing to humans: we want a body–perhaps a new and improved body but none the less a body. I think the resurrection Paul is talking about here is the same as Romans 6:4…

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. The spiritual power that generates the Christian life. But in verse 11, he is talking about the bodily resurrection. William Barclay says the resurrection guarantees us a [1] Body [2] Immortality [3] Never be separated from Christ.
KNOWING THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERING
We cannot add anything to the suffering of Christ. Our suffering has no vicarious value but it does have spiritual value to the one who suffers. It all goes back to “Knowing Christ”…it goes back to intimacy. When do you get to know people best? When they are suffering. If you are willing to suffer with your friends; you will have friends for life. Truthfully, we will never get to know Jesus intimately without suffering. Barclays says–“To suffer with Christ is not a penalty, it is a privilege.” Paul would say, amen!
The religious man needs something to boast about. He hankers for a virtue he can call his own. Paul had moved away from this religious stance.
CONFORMITY TO HIS DEATH

Immanuel

 

 

 

SCRIPTURE

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

INTRODUCTION

I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas but I love it for a different reason than I did when I was a small child. I am not going to deny getting excited about Santa and a toy. Things are totally different now than they were back in 1950. Kids get new toys every week these days; some every time their parents go to town but it was not that way in the middle of last century. There were no rich kids in our neighborhood and the average child got at least one toy at Christmas and most kids in those days did not have birthday parties. My mother had 8 children and she gave two parties per life time: at 6 and 16 and she always made the 16th a surprise.

My love for Christmas today has nothing to do with a toy, not even a new computer or notepad. I get excited about Christmas because it is the celebration of the INCARNATION. My wife and I were in Forest, Mississippi on November 1 for a Celebration of life service and as we pulled out on I-20 to drive home, I started searching for a good talk radio program and found a station our of Jackson [105.1 The River] that was playing Christmas Music. I listen to the station almost everyday [on line]. I am a Christmas nut! I love Josh Grobans “O Holy Night” and Celine Dion’s “Ave Maria”. I have had a lot of people chide me for my love for Christmas by saying “Easter is more important than Christmas.” I always respond in the same way, “there would be no Easter without a Christmas.” What excites me about Christmas is that God, the Creator, came to this speck of dust we call earth and took on the garb of our flesh. We call it the condescension: Jesus came down to our level, our way of life and giving up the glory of heaven to walk the dusty roads of Palestine. The fact that He came translated clearly: HE CAME BECAUSE HE CARED! His coming speaks volumes.

Two centuries ago, cultures all over the world banished lepers. I have been told that at one time, one of the Hawaiian Island was used for the exile of lepers. There was no one on the island that did not have leprosy. There was no government on the island, no law enforcement. The hopelessness and despair drove the lepers to act in reckless and destructive ways; it became a hell on earth. These people felt God-forsaken and rejected until one day, a Catholic Priest named Father Damien moved to the Island. He did not come as a leper, he came as a servant to the lepers. He had a habit of addressing those who would come to church as “My brethren” but after a few years on the Island, he stood one Sunday morning and said, “My fellow lepers.” Father Damien had taken on their sickness. That’s what Jesus did for us: He came to our leper infested planet and took on our leprosy. When we had no hope, He came to given us a bright and glorious hope.

Matthew points out in his gospel that Jesus fulfilled every O.T. Messianic prophecy. Jesus says in Luke 24:44, “Everything written about Me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” He explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus how that all the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Him. Several scholars point out that no other human in history, past, present or future can possibly fulfill these prophecies. I believe this was the approach that Paul and Apollos took when arguing with the Jews. There is even more evidence today: all the Jewish records were destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Today, no Jew knows his tribal identity. There is no way the prophecies could be fulfilled today.

Matthew goes back to Isaiah 7:14, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child, She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Joseph McCabe said, “Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel.” He is even closer: He is in us! John Wesley’s last words before departing this life were: “The best of all is: God is with us.”

As a matter of fact, Wesley wrote a Christmas Carol that expresses this thought as well as any:

Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold HIM come, offspring of a Virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.

My father in the ministry was Calvin C. Inman and he became acquainted [during his seminary days I presume] with an artist/preacher. This preacher would introduce his sermons with what he called a Chalk Talk. He would talk as he sketched and within minutes, he would have a graphic picture. He could draw a picture of a house in the shadow of the night. The house would look cold, dark and empty but then with a stroke of genius, he would put a light in the widow [A Thomas Kincade type picture]. That one light changed the entire picture. Jesus is the light  that changed this world forever.

Immanuel, God with us, wow! He did not send an angel, for God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son. He took our flesh from the portals of Mary’s womb, the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. He left a heaven filled with glory to live in a world cursed by sin. He took our flesh, He took our suffering and eventually He took our sin and shame. He suffered with us and for us that He might be more than a faithful high priest but also a sympathetic high priest. Jesus was an infant nursing on his mother’s breast; he was a child playing in the streets of Nazareth; He was a teenager; He was a carpenter’s son and then a carpenter. Jesus worked, sweated, got hungry and got tired: He was acquainted with hunger, with thirst, with rejection, with ridicule. He knew what it was like to feel lonely; to feel guilty and to feel God-forsaken.

If you could interview the disciples: I think all would say, “Jesus was exciting, He was real, He was fearless, He was God and it was wonderful to be in His presence.” When we needed courage: Jesus was there to say, “Take courage, I AM“, when we were afraid Jesus was there to speak peace to our fear. When we had doubts, Jesus was there to strengthen our faith. God with us…We are talking about His presence with us. So used to His presence, the disciple grieved deeply when Jesus talked about going away but He promised His presence in another dimension, He said in John 16…I know that hearing news like this is overwhelming and sad. But the truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.” With the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer, we have God’s presence 24/7 no matter where we are.

RULE # 1–DO NOT CONFUSE FACTS WITH FEELINGS: FEELING  HIS PRESENCE WITH THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS PRESENCE. He can be present without manifesting His presence.

Let me remind you of a precious truth: our feeling His presence, our sensing His presence or seeing a manifestation of His presence has nothing to do with the fact of His presence. You do not have to be aware of His presence for Him to be present. There is a wonderful story in Luke 24 about two disciple who are very discouraged and they are leaving Jerusalem shortly after the crucifixion and walking 7 miles to a town call Emmaus. Jesus appears to the on the road and actually walks with them and converses with them but they are not aware that it is Jesus. How did He keep them from recognizing Him? I don’t know, don’t have a clue but they did not recognize him until they sat down for supper and He returned thanks. Then their eyes were opened and then Jesus vanished into thin air. He was present with them for hours while walking on the road and they did not know it.

RULE # 2–HE DEMANDS THAT YOU LIVE BY FAITH. Faith is HIS idea, it is His way of doing things. It is impossible to please HIM without faith. In laymen’s terms, this means He will not give us a steady diet of miracles or manifestations. His design is for you and I to lear to trust HIM and take HIM at HIS word. David said in Psalm 23, Yea though I walk thought the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because Thou art with me. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I am with you every single day, to the very end of the age.” Our faith is based on the integrity of Jesus. Can we trust HIM? Has He ever lied to us? There are times in our lives when we have nothing to go on other than His word and we must learn to take Him at His word.

The second temptation {Mathew 4} is the lure of the spectacular, the lure of the sensational. Jesus is capable of the spectacular and the sensational but He refused to build His kingdom on those things. Do you have to experience the sensational to feel the presence of God? Do you have to see special effects to feel the presence of Christ. Most of what the modern church does is a subtle form of entertainment; it is smoke and mirrors. Dr. Vance Havner told of the church that went Hollywood and had one sensational program after another to attack people. The church was growing with each new sensation but it was a mile wide and an inch deep. One Sunday, they brought in a talking horse, put him up on stage and his trainer ask: How many commandment are there? The horse to his right front hoof and tapped the floor soundly ten times. Then he ask him, “How many disciples?” The horse tapped 12 times. Then some smart aleck from the congregation hollowed, “How many hypocrites are there in this church?” Dr. Havner said the horse went into a dance. JESUS PROMISED HIS PRESENCE, He did not promise a feeling or a sensation. We either take Him at His word or we don’t.

RULE #3–CHRIST IS WITH US BECAUSE HE CHOOSE TO BE WITH US. The best illustration are in the bible and the best of the best is found in Genesis 45 when Joseph reveals himself to His brothers. By the way, Joseph was in their presence and they did not know it. He was among them and they were not aware of his presence. But what I want you to notice is what he says to them…“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. Later Joseph sends them back to Canaan for Jacob, then all the Israelites come to live with Joseph in Egypt and it was all Joseph’s idea. He wanted to be close to his brothers. You must understand that Joseph’s desire was to please his father and he knew his father loved all his children. Joseph made a conscious choose to forgive, love and be in the presence of his sinful brothers. What the brothers did or did not do had nothing to do with Joseph’s decision.

Jesus did not come to hang out with us because we are good or deserving. He came because His father loves us and He shares that same love. He came because He cared and He literally wants to spend time with us. This may be the most wonderful truth of the bible, Jesus wants to hang out with the likes of us. Joseph was a man of impeccable character: his brothers were liars, cheats, con-artist, rapist and murderers. Bro. Tucker referred to them as hooligans and outlaws. Joseph wanting to be near them was an act of GRACE.

I once read a story of a father, who had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper, if he broke disobeyed him mom one more time. The child disobeyed again and was sent to the attic: The father could not eat. He had the boy on his mind and his heart. His wife said: “I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would encourage his disobedience. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your promise.” To which her husband replied: “You are right. I will not break my word. To do so would cause my son to lose his respect for my word. But he is so lonely up there.” He kissed his wife good night, entered the attic, ate bread and water with the boy, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow. {Pat Cook}

Today’s Treasure–Tomorrow’s Trash

Text: Philippians 3:3-7

For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

INTRODUCTION

I want to say first of all that it is hard for a Western Gentile to understand what Paul is talking about. Many bible label this section Paul’s Credentials. Credentials are qualifications, achievements, personal quality, or aspect of a person’s background, typically when used to indicate that they are suitable for something. We look at Paul’s list and snigger: what’s so great about being a Jew or being of the tribe of Benjamin. It like “Who cares?” Or “What’s the big deal.” One thing to keep in mind is that Paul is writing to some Jewish Christians and they can relate to what he is saying. The people who are stirring up trouble in the church of Philippi are Jews who claim to be Christians but who refuse to let go of Judaism. The point Paul is making is that at one time in his life he treasured Judaism but now his treasure is Christ and he is ready to discard Judaism. This testimony was hard to the Jewish Christian and the false teachers. Judaism is big on history and it focuses on the past; the Jews did not want to let go of the past.

There are two things in play here that I want to point out: FIRST–CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO JUDAISM. Christianity has a Savior, an active and faithful High Priest. The Judaism of the Old Testament had the promise of a Savior and faithful [perfect] High Priest. The Old Testament is full of type of Christ but everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. In other words, Judaism is the ‘seed’ and Jesus is the ‘flower’. The seed must die to produce the flower. We glory in the beauty of the flower, we don’t glory in the history of the seed. This is where our Jewish friends have missed the boat; their focus is on the past. In Christianity, our focus is on the future. We love the Old Testament because it points to Christ; they reject the New Testament because it glorifies Christ.

What Paul is saying in Philippians 3 is huge, it is earth shaking to the Jewish mindset. How could Paul give up Judaism for Christ? How could Paul refer to his former religions as garbage or trash to be discarded? Jews are stubborn by nature and they refuse to let go of the old to embrace the new. Jesus said in Mark 2:22, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Judaism cannot contain Christianity because Christianity is vastly superior; it is greater, so much greater that Judaism does not have the capacity to contain it. The false teachers in Philippians who were called Judaizers were trying to put new wine in old skins.

SECOND: THE JEWISH TENDENCY IS A HUMAN TENDENCY. Luke elaborates on Jesus quote [5:37-39], “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.Did you get that last line, Jesus was directing this toward the Jews. They rejected the new {Christ} and cherished the old {Judaism}. Jesus was trying to give them something better, and upgrade if you will and they refused.

Why did the Jews cling to the old and refuse to even taste the New? I know a family, a good family that began with nothing and became millionaires. Fortunately, it has not changed them. They are as common and down to earth as anyone you know. They would be the last folks you would pull out of a line up for being wealthy because they can remember what it was like not to be wealthy and they have a heart for people. The Patriarch and Matriarch of the clan has been promoted but some years before their departure: the kids and grandkids insisted that they get a new TV. They said, “We don’t want a new TV. There is nothing wrong with the one we have.” It was an old console model from the 60’s. The kids over ruled them and got them a new plaza TV, not a big one, they would not year of a 55″ but a small one 32″. They had them set it up on top of the old one. It stayed that way for a couple of years and then they moved the old model to the garage and put the new one on a stand. Every time I visited them they reminded me that they did not need the new TV, the old one was fine. They even offered it to me. They kept it in the garage in case someone needed it. Their kids new and I knew that the only place for that dinosaur was the city dump.

I am not anti-tradition but I want the best. If something comes along that works much better than what I have, I am all for it. My first computer back in the late 80’s was basically a word processor. Today, I have a computer in my office at work and three at home [two are lap tops]. I do everything on the computer except read. I still enjoy reading books. I do all my research on a computer. I know folks that will not allow a computer in their house. I do know that the internet can be harmful but to me it is very helpful. I can do more research faster. I do not want to go back to the old. I embrace change. I embrace the new.

I don’t have anything against traditions if they have meaning but I don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing something.

THIRD: GRACE IS VASTLY BETTER THAN THE LAW

Paul knew what it was like to live under the tyranny of the law. The law is perfect and good but it has no ability to show mercy and it makes no provision for grace. In Romans 7 Paul talks about the two husbands: the first is Mr. Law, he is perfect and he demands perfection. He makes no allowance for falling short. The second husband is Mr. Grace; he too is perfect but he is understanding and forgiving. He demands perfection but he works with us enabling us to do what pleases him.

I’ve been thinking about this contrast since I began working on this message. As Paul will state later in chapter 3, “I have not arrived: I have not attained any degree of perfection” but I do see God’s grace actively working in my life. I have been thinking about the things I once treasured and how irrelevant these things seem to be today.

As a young man and preacher, I hated to read. I didn’t even enjoy reading the bible. I did my daily bible reading most of the time and I studied to teach and preach but just to read the bible for the sake of reading was not my thing. I am ashamed to say that I was in my 50’s before bible reading became a passion. I don’t think it would ever have happened had the LORD not put it on my heart to read the bible through in a year. I had tried several times and failed which is pitiful. So, out of fear of failure, I picked a modern translation, a bible that was easy to read and then the miracle happened. After three months or so, I began looking forward to my bible reading time. Long story short, I did not read the bible through in a year, it was more like 6 months and then I found another version and started all over. I have read the bible through from Genesis to Revelation and from Revelation to Genesis. I have read it chronologically, I have read it in sections which is what I do today. Last year, I focused on the N.T. and read it four or five times in different translation. I read the Message in a month. My latest bible is the KINGDOM NEW TESTAMENT by N.T. Wright. I started on it this morning. I don’t have to make myself read: I am anxious about reading, excited with every new bible and new translation.

Now this is just one area where I see God’s grace at work, there are more. What I treasured as a young man is trash to me today, I no longer value what I once treasured. I have let a lot of things go. By grace God has taken them one by one. This is not an instantaneous thing, God works over time. Paul had a hard time breaking from Judaism. Long after his conversion, he was driven by his desire to be in Jerusalem at Pentecost and the like. He got arrested for being in the Temple, fulfilling an O.T. vow that has nothing to do with Christianity. I think he did it to please James and the others but why would James even suggest such a thing, let alone put pressure on Paul. It was because they had a hard time letting go of the old and fully embracing the new. It is human nature to hang on, to cling when we feel threatened with loss. Growing up I was a avid lover of sports and fanatical fan but I am losing my love for sports. I have a little less every year. I watch a little baseball, no basketball to speak of until they get to the NCAA tournament. I have not watched an NBA game in over 2 years and after the way the NFL did Tim Tebow, I have lost interest in professional football. What happened to the old Jack Bailey. I know age has something to do with it, but I credit it to God’s active grace working in my life.

Things that I once treasured no longer have any meaning or value.

Watch Them Dogs

Text: Philippians 3:2

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. [AV]

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. [NASB]

 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! [NRSV]

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. [NLT]

Introduction

I don’t usually display such a variety of translations but the key word is katatomē which means to cut or to mutilate. True circumcision would be a surgery performed by another and in the O.T. sense authorized by God but ‘concison’ or ‘mutilation’ is self inflicted and is condemned by the law of Moses. Circumcision was the physical sign of the OT covenant relationship but Baptism is the NT fulfillment of this OT ritual. The Judaizers were Jews who had supposedly converted to Christianity but were hanging on to OT customs. They followed Paul where ever he went, infiltrated churches that he planted, and worked to undermine the true nature of the gospel which is GRACE.

There is no question that Paul has the Judaizers in mind when he warns the Philippians to ‘beware of the dogs’ because his very next phrase is ‘beware of evil workers’ [those people who do evil]. So Paul is referring to the false teachers as dogs. This was not a compliment: the term ‘dog’ was very derogatory in Paul’s life time, much more than today. Americans like dogs, they are popular pets. According to a 2006 Gallup poll, six in 10 Americans own some type of pet. Forty-four percent of Americans own a dog and 29% own a cat. Among pet owners, 73% own a dog and 49% own a cat. As you can see, Dogs are very popular and more so among women than men. Men get dogs to attract women which is why dogs are referred to as chick-magnets.

It was not like this in Paul’s day. Dogs were considered disgusting, dirty, deceitful, destructive and despicable. To the Jews, dogs epitomized uncleanliness. So to call someone a dog was not good. We know that dogs do have some wonderful qualities such as loyalty and they are known as man’s best friend in our present culture but it was not this way when Paul wrote Philippians. Dogs were scavengers who ran in packs and did a lot of damage to people and property.

Let me say before I get into my outline that you can go to YouTube and type in B.W. Smith ‘Watch Them Dogs’ and hear a wonderful sermon. I confess that I cannot do the passage justice and B.W. Smith makes is come alive. If you have never heard him preach this sermon, you need to go there now.

Why would Paul compare the False Teachers to Dogs?

There are a lot of similarities….
  1. The Judaizers were doggish in their mentality. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Dogs have no appreciation for holy or sacred things. Dogs have no gifts of discernment. You cannot leave your bible on the outside swing if you have a dog. The dog will tear the bible to shreds. The bible means nothing to the dog. He has no reason for ripping it apart other than his nature to do so. The Judaizers had this same destructive instinct. They had no appreciation for the gospel of grace, it meant nothing to them. They had no true love for Jesus. They had merely traded on religion for another. I’m not even sure they understood what they were doing.
  2. They were doggish in tenacity. Dogs are not prone to give up easily. They have been used as human trackers for ages. Once they get your scent and get on your trail, it is all but impossible to shake them. We use the term ‘dogging my steps’ to refer to someone who refuses to give us space. Paul went all over the known world preaching the gospel and planting churches and the Judaizers followed him. Paul would get a church organized and going and they would infiltrate by stealth and begin to undermine everything that Paul had accomplished. B.W. Smith tells about the old porch dog who sleeps all day and barks all night. Where do dogs get the energy to bark all night, to annoy and disturb the peace of God fearing hard working people? I don’t know but they can do it. God uses those of a good disposition to spread the good news but the devil uses those who have a doggish disposition to discourage and to defeat. The porch dog barks for no particular reason but he keeps barking until he has every dog on the block barking. Our churches are filled with yelpers, unhappy souls who bark constantly. They find fault with everything. They are happy about nothing. I have often quoted the preacher who said, “A barking dog doesn’t stop a freight train.” I agree but the problem is that very few churches have the force, the movement and energy of a freight train. Although I resent the philosophy of oiling the  squeaky hinge and I hate the idea of playing nurse maid to a bunch of spiritually immature Christians, I will confess [in my old age] that the negative people [dogs] have a detrimental effect on the fellowship of a church. If the momentum shifts from a rolling freight train to a slow moving or dead still train, the negativity will take on added strength. I don’t think these people are totally ignorant of what they are doing; but like the Judaizers their goal is to rule or ruin and they have no scruples about telling the lie. The bad thing is they don’t let up: they are tenacious. Their philosophy is that if we keep hollowing smoke, eventually, everyone will believe there is a fire. I think it may be the most difficult aspect of pastoring a church in the 21 century. Can you keep the brush fires from spreading? I serve a good church but there has been so much negative fodder spread by Christ haters and insiders who are unhappy about this or that, that I have no doubt, it has hurt the church. I think Paul would also admit, the Judaizers where hurting the churches. Why else would he warm people to watch out for or be aware of the false teachers and those who think more of their appetite than they do good of the church.
  3. They are doggish in their philosophy. If you could get them to tell the truth, they would have to admit that they really don’t care that much about the welfare of the church and I have never met one yet who cared about the lost. There philosophy is carnivorous. I want what I want and I will tear the place to bits if I have to. It’s a ‘My way or highway philosophy’ or a ‘Rule or ruin.’ Who has the advantage when one is trying to preserve and the other is trying to destroy. If you goal is to destroy the fellowship of a church, to make them pay for not appreciating you, there are not rules. When people get into a dog mode, a destructive mode, they are not concerned about integrity. They will lie like a fox. Circumcision done right is a procedure and it is done in a sterile atmosphere by a professional. We don’t go to the woodshed and take a hatchet and circumcise ourselves. The difference between circumcision and mutilation is the way it is done and who does it. The trouble with most trouble makers in church is that they have never been circumcised by Christ. They mutilated themselves and are calling it circumcision. Thus everything they do is governed by their self-will. This is not what they profess but it is how they operate. When they gather for worship, they worship themselves. There can be no true worship when we are obsessed with our self-consciousness. In worship, we lose consciousness of ourselves and see only Jesus like the woman is Luke 7. If you focus on yourself or others, you are hindered in your worship. Dogs cannot think beyond themselves. When given to their nature, they are greedy and will destroy or hid what they cannot consume.
  4. They are doggish in their habits. Dogs are animals driven by an appetite and they can be deceitful. I’ve had some to growl but not bit and some to slip up behind me and bit without making a sound. If all false teachers would wear a name tag or a badge it would help but this is not the case. A big part of their success depends on how other perceive them so they do all the right things in the presence of the congregation, but go straight to garbage with the service is over. They partake of unclean things. They can be two totally different people. I have heard them tell an unclean joke and then walk straight to the pulpit and preach. No one listening to them would ever know where they mind was just before they entered the pulpit. Some women are prone to kiss dogs in the mouth: I always ask them the same question: “Do you know what that dog has been eating or what his face has been in? I was raised on a farm. I know what dogs will eat and it is disgusting. Dogs sneak in, tear up and destroy. They are church splitters not church planters. The Reform movement in big among the youth. It is attractive for many reasons but the one that draws them the most is the emphasis on worship. They are also heavy into bible study and the pursuit of knowledge. Reform theology is laced with enough works to give them a sense of pride and accomplishment but it is also a balm for their conscience and helps them to feel good about neglecting the one thing that Jesus was most passionate about. They are not going out in the world and start churches, their plan is to straighten out those of us who are wrong, so they enter a Southern Baptist Church, earn a degree of popularity [they love hero worship] and then mislead the congregation into their doctrine with is anti-evangelism and missions. I don’t know one single church that was planted by Calvinist, do you? I would be glad for you to correct my error. You cannot build a church on their theology; it has no cutting edge. They deny the power of the gospel and the gift of faith that every human possesses. You don’t have to worry about a Calvinist going door to door. In their mind, you have nothing to respond to and no way of responding to it. WATCH THEM DOGS!

Conclusion

If it four legs and barks like a dog; its probably a dog. Jesus said, “You know them by their fruit.” There are several dead give-a-ways when trying to discern if a teacher is true or false.

  1. Look for genuine humility. A person who can take criticism and respond meekly to accusation. Beware of those who are full of themselves. I attended a COLS some 20 years ago and the key note speaker talked more about himself than the deceased. One woman came out and said, “Did you hear that: he used this funeral to promote himself and his ministry.” This is not a good sign.
  2. Look for gracious generosity. Most false prophets are takers, not givers. They talk about giving: they may even preach on giving but the problem is they do not give themselves. Churches could save themselves a lot of heart ache by checking giving records. When the giving is not right, it indicates a huge problem. False teachers have a tendency to be greedy.
  3. Look for a Jesus Lover. It is always a good sign when a teacher talks more about Jesus than himself. Every true disciple knows that hero worship is strictly forbidden. In Acts 10:28, when Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet, Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that–I am a man and only a man, no different from you.” Good angels do not allow hero worship— [Revelation 22:8-9] I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!” When the man becomes bigger than the message, that indicates a huge problem. As long as people go away praise God and giving glory to Jesus, we are OK, but when they talk more about us than they do Jesus, it is not a good sign.

Call Him Jesus

 

 

 

 Text: Matthew 1:18-23

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

INTRODUCTION

We have been in Matthew’s gospel for a couple of years and I am not going to leave his gospel, I am going back to chapter one in this Christmas season. I don’t normally do this but we are moving toward Easter in our regular series and so I want to go back to chapter one for the month of December. Actually, [Lord willing] I am preaching twice today and then again on the 21. All three messages will come from Matthew 1-2 and two from this text. Today we are going to talk about JESUS OUR SAVIOR. Tonight, LORD willing, JESUS OUR IMMANUEL.

Before we get into the heart of the message: lets talk about Jewish customs as related to marriage. The Jewish people had a three step process in the consummation of a marriage between a man and a woman. First, there was the matchmaker who could be an individual or the parents of the children. You can see a good example of a match maker at work in the Fiddler on The Roof, which happens to be my favorite musical. This could take place when the children were babies but usually they were older. The second phase was betrothal. It was a formal engagement but quite different from what we think of as engagement. When a Jewish couple were betrothed, they were to assume the responsibilities of marriage but not the privileges. They did not live together but they could not have relations with anyone else during this time or it was adultery, just as if they were married. The only way to get out of the betrothal was a legal divorce. It was during this second stage that Mary became pregnant so you can imagine the anxiety this created. The third and final step was the wedding which lasted seven days. Marriage was a big deal to the ancient Jewish people and it should be big to us.

Joseph is very disturbed when he discovers that Mary is pregnant. He knows for a fact that he is not the daddy of the child. He loves Mary and does not want her to be stoned or embarrassed, so he is thinking about the problem and how he can do what is right and at the same time not hurt Mary. While Joseph is considering his problem and trying to decide what to do, the LORD appears to him in a dream and says…“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus is the Greek name for Joshua of Old Testament Hebrew. My English name is Jack and it has multiple meanings. A Jack can be a flag on a ship, a mechanical tool or a barn yarn animal just to mention a few. I think my name has over 30 meanings. My Hebrew name is Ya’akov. Jack is the English translation of Ya’akov which in English is pronounced Jacob [heel]. Jesus OT name was Joshua which means “Yahweh Saves”. Joseph was instructed clearly, “Name the child Jesus because He will save people from their sins.”

So that is our subject today…Jesus our Savior

I. THE NEED FOR A SAVIOR

Notice the text, Jesus came to save us from our sins. I have an old Ford Tractor that is 40 plus years old and practically worn out. It is a diesel which complicated things more than ever. When it breaks down, I call Joe. Joe has the right tools and the expertise to work on a tractor. I have all kinds of saws: chain, circular, skill, table, radial arm, zig, hack: if it is a saw, I have it. I may not be able to find it, but I have it some where. BUT, you do not fix a mechanical problem with a carpenter’s tool kit. To fix a mechanical problem, you need mechanical tools and mechanical know how.

How do you fix a spiritual problem? How do you settle the sin debt? We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous. Solomon said in Eccl. 7:20, Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins. If we all sin, how are we going to fix the problem. We cannot fix a spiritual problem with natural tools. Education is good but it will not fix the sin problem. Technology is nice but it will not fix the sin problem. We have come a long way in medical science but it will not fix the sin problem. You may have billions of dollars but it will not fix the sin problem. Your can cure leprosy with more leprosy or cancer with more cancer and we can fix sin with more sin.

In Ruth 4:14 most translations will use the word ‘redeemer’ or ‘kinsmen redeemer’ but the Hebrew word is ‘ga’al’. The ga’al could redeem a farm from foreclosure, he could redeem his kinsmen from slavery and debt but to do so, he had to have two abilities: [1] He had to be able [financial resources to do so] and [2] he had to be willing. In Ruth’s story their were two ga’al’s and both had the ability financially to pay the debt but only Boaz was willing. This story is not about Boaz and Ruth: it is about Jesus and a lost world. Jesus is our ga’al, our kinsmen redeemer. He was incarnated to be our relation.

Long story short: God sent His Son to do something for us that we could never do for ourselves: “To save us from our sins”. Jesus is our ga’al: He was able and willing to save us.

II. HOW DID JESUS SAVE US?

Lets go to Romans 3 in the NLT because I do not know another translation that is so clear on this subject: For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Years ago I read a story about Night Court that was a custom in New York city in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. A man was arrested and brought before the judge for stealing a loaf of bread. When he was called to approach the bench, he refused to ma eye contact with the judge. He was staring at the floor. The judge order him to look up but even when he lifted his head, his eyes were looking down. The Judge said, “You must look at me.” Reluctantly, the poor man made eye contact. “What are you here for?” said the judge. “I stole a loaf of bread your honor,” replied the man and “I know that it was wrong. I am guilty.” “If you know that it is wrong to steal, why did you take the bread? Said the judge. “I have five hungry children sir and I have not been able to find work anywhere. I have searched your honor but no one will hire me. I could not stand the thought of facing my hungry children another night so I tried to steal the bread but as you know, I got caught. I am very guilty and very ashamed.” The Judge pounded his gavel almost in disgust and said, “I find you guilty as charged and I fine you 1$.” “But I don’t have a dollar your honor.” “I know that,” said the judge as he reached for his wallet, I giving you the dollar, now pay the bailiff”. Then  the judge pounded his gavel a second time and said, “I find everyone in this courtroom for indifference and neglect. How could you let a man and his family starve when you have more than enough. I fine everyone in the courtroom 1$, pay the bailiff.” Then he instructed the bailiff,  “Give the money to this gentleman so he can buy food for his family.”

How did Jesus save us: “He paid our fine with His own precious blood.” We were guilty as charged but He took our guilt and sin and gave us His righteousness. F.B. Meyer called it the GREAT EXCHANGE. Jesus gets my sin and shame and I get His righteousness. If that is not gospel, good news, I don’t know what is!

III. WHAT DID JESUS US SAVE US FROM?

More immediately, He saved us from sin and self. Sin is like leprosy. It begins internally and eats its way through the body until it destroys both soul and body. Sin is destructive. Sin is deadly. I tell folks who flirt with drugs, you might as well stick your hand into a den of rattlesnakes as to fool with drugs. Drugs are lethal, they will destroy your mind, body, soul, family, finances, career, marriage, etc. In the end, they are going to leave you dead. Jesus came to save us from destroying ourselves. Today, Jesus stands ready to save you from sin and self if you will repent of sin, turn from sin and turn to Him. Dr. Graham says you must do three things: [1] Repent and turn from your sin [2] Trust Jesus to forgive and cleanse you from sin [3] Commit your life to Him, to follow and obey Him. I agree: this is a sound biblical path: Repent, Trust and Commit.

Ultimately Jesus came to save us from hell and He is the only one who can.

  • Paul said [I Tim. 2:5] —For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
  • Jesus said [John 14:6]–I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
  • Listen folks, only ONE Person can save you from hell and that One person is Jesus.

I had surgery a few weeks back and as a part of my rehab, I walked through the neighborhood during the days I was off from work. It was very cold and I was wearing a hooded coat and had my head bent toward the ground to avoid having the wind hit me in the face. I was walking by a home but hadn’t really paid any attention to where I was when all of a sudden I heard a ferocious dog who sound like he is inches away from my jugular.  Right as I turn, he takes flight but before he got to my neck, he hit an 8′ chain link fence and it knocks him sprawling to the ground. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to react: once I saw the fence, I was OK. Had the fence not been there, I might not be here. The fence kept me from getting bit or maybe worse.

  • I could say that my courage saved me from the dog but actually, I took my courage from the fence. There was a moment of fright until I saw the fence.
  • I could say that my skill saved me from this mad dog but that would also be incorrect. I am old and slow, the dog is young and ferocious. I would be no match for the dog.
  • I could say it was the weapon in my hand but I didn’t even have a stick: I have carried one since but that day I had nothing. I had no doubt that the fence saved me from the dog.

A few steps down the path, and the still small voice said to me, “Jesus is your fence, He is the only things standing between you and hell.” Wow! Jesus is my shield: He protects me from sins destructive power and from the devil’s hate. Triple Wow!

If you are a Starwars fan, you will remember the Gungans who lived under water on the planet of Naboo The capital city of Otoh Gunga was anchored to a massive underwater cliff deep within a lake and was a mass of hydrostatic bubbles which keep  water out while allowing the Gungans to enter through them. There were satellite clusters outside of the city, including buildings which had been cast out from other Gungan settlements. While the Gungans could survive both on land and underwater, they chose to build their capital city under Lake Paonga to avoid contact with the Nabooian Humans. What I want you to do if possible is remember the invisible [almost] reflector shield used by the empire in their effort to wipe out the Gungans.

I have a slide to help you remember: I have two slides but the one at  the top is the one I want to use as an analogy. I want you to think about what Paul said in Ephesians 6:10-12… A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Paul is giving us a list of things that are out to destroy us: mind, soul and body. What protects us from destruction? In a word, JESUS. He is our invisible reflector shield. You can see the shield but it is there and if He were to remove the shield, all would be lost. Jesus and only Jesus stands between us and the destruction that our enemy intends for us. What can I say, “O Hallelujah, O what a Savior.”

Reflector shield

gungans with reflector shields