Destined To Suffer

Scripture: I Peter 4:12-19

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? 

18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

19 So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good. — 1 Peter 4:12-19 (CSB)

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also,

“If the righteous are barely saved,
    what will happen to godless sinners?”

19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. [NLT]

INTRODUCTION

Peter addresses the subject of ‘Suffering’ often because he knew that the church to whom he was writing were about to face a wave of brutal persecution. His objective is clear: He wants to prepare them for this fiery ordeal. They had experienced a singe from the heat but the fire that burns was coming. There are different levels of persecution. The first level is to be rejected, slandered or to be mocked for our faith in Christ. The second level is the lost of property, employment or freedom. The third level is martyrdom. The United States has been the least persecuted society in the world and until the last quarter of a century, we knew nothing about the second or third levels but we are getting acquainted to level two–the loss of property and rights.

In order to prepare these believers from the coming fiery ordeal {Suffering}, Peter tells them the TRUTH. As I have stated, Peter is blue collar. He is practical. He deals with reality, not fantasy.  Let’s pay close attention to what He has to say.

[1] DON’T BE SURPRIZED WHEN SUFFERING COMES YOUR WAY

Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. {V. 12}

In other words, Peter is saying, do not be shocked when trials come. Be prepared to suffer because persecution is coming. Don’t feel like God is picking on you, you are not the exception to the rule, you are the rule. This is normal for Christians. In spite of all the teaching we have from the bible on the subject, we usually react to suffering with shock, “Why is this happening to me?” or “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

Our suffering is intensely personal. God who is Sovereign, sends us trials that are taylor made for us personally. He does not indescriminately throw trials to the earth so that they land on whomever. It is not a random thing: he sends what we need. It is a part of our Christian education. Paul Belhiemer wrote a book years ago entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows.” Sorrow and suffering are teachers.

I heard a little poem when I was a kid that stuck in my brain…

I walked a mile with pleasure, she chatted all the way, but I was none the wiser for what she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow and never a word spoke she, but on the things that I did learn with sorrow walked with me.

Suffering is not God’s curse, it is His blessing.

[2] REJOICE WHEN TRIALS COME

rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. [V. 13]

Again, I remind you that this is Peter talking and not Jack. Peter, like Paul had demonstrated this principle with his life. This is one thing that I don’t think I have done. I have suffered a few times but my rejoicing came when the suffering was over. We are to rejoice in the suffering.

  • Our suffering identifies us with Christ and His suffering. Paul said, “I want to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection by entering into fellowship with His suffering. You can’t really know Christ intimately apart from suffering. You certainly can’t know the power of His resurrection without suffering.
  • Our suffering will be transformed to glory or joy. Jesus said in John 16...20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you. — John 16:20-22 (CSB)
  • Just as a woman’s labor is transformed to joy with the birth of the child, so our suffering will be transformed to glory and joy. [Again, I remind you, that I have never met a happy, thankful Christian who had not suffered. There is a state of joy you cannot get to any other way]

[3] THERE IS NO SHAME IN SUFFERING JUSTLY

If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name.

The repentant theif on the cross realized this truth: 

39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us! ”

40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” — Luke 23:39-41 (CSB)

[4] SUFFERING CAUSES US TO EXAMINE OUR MOTIVES

For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? 

  1. Why has God sent this particular suffering to me?

  2. What is He trying to show me or teach me?

  3. What are my motives? What needs to be consumed by the fire of this ordeal?

  4. How can this be used to glorify Christ?

  5. How can it be used as a witness?

[5] OUR SUFFERING HERE AND NOW IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THAT OF THE LOST

18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

[6] THE KEY IS TO ENTRUST OURSELVES TO OUR FAITHFUL CREATOR

19 So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good. CSB

19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

The word entrust or trust is a banking term: it means to make a deposit. Give your sorrows to Christ, entrust them to God.

 

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Practical Christianity Or End Time Ethics

Scripture: I Peter 4:7-11

7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.– 1 Peter 4:7-11 (CSB)

Introduction

If you’re like me, you first thought after reading verse 7 is that Peter was wrong because it has been 2,000 years plus since he wrote this letter. But the Greek word he uses is a very familiar word to us in English, it is telos and it carries multiple meaning: actually four–

  1. Termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not of the end of a period of time).

  2. The end, the last in any succession or series.

  3. That by which a thing is finished, its close.

  4. The end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose.

Peter could have meant the pupose or aim of all things is near. We don’t know. We do know that Jesus taught us that no one knows the day or hour. Peter is a practical man. He came from the middle class. He was a fisherman and that was not easy work. Peter was a man of action and here he is giving us practical wisdom on how to live our lives. The opening line, The end of all things is near, is there for a purpose. We Christians need a sense of urgency. What happened when a doctor tells a patient that he/she has six months to live? Have you witnessed such a thing up close and personal. I have. I have had several friends that heard the doctor say, “You have cancer and in inoperable. We can prolong your life with treatment but we cannot cure your cancer.” Let me tell you what happens: they go through a period of shock and denial; then they move to acceptance and then they reorder their lives. They eliminate trivial pursuits. They stop wasting time. They began to cherish relationships. They totally reshuffle their priorities and put the most important things first.

TRANSITION: Isn’t this the way we are supposed to live?

Peter gives us SEVEN PRACTICAL EXHORTATIONS

  1. BE ALERT–The Greek word means to be of sound mind, sane, (figuratively) moderate:—be in right mind, be sober (minded), soberly. 
  2. BE SOBER— We usually use this word in reference to Alcohol but it means more than not being drunk. It means to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, and dispassionate. Obviously Peter is not trying to sell books are tapes. He is not trying to scare folks with a doomday prediction. He is doing the opposite: BE CALM. We never accomplish very much in a state of panic. I don’t know if its just me but traffic everywhere seems to be getting worse. It may be my age but I really think there are too many cars for too little road. The LORD speaks to me but I need to be in a calm state to hear Him. I’m not saying He cannot speak in the tension of traffic but I sure love my quiet little cabin.
  3. BE PRAYERFUL–Again Peter connects the word for calm to prayer. Yes, we can all pray in a state of panic but to have sweet communion with Christ, we need a quiet place. Chuck Swindoll tells two stories about prayer in his commentary on this passage.

    I suppose it was him on the plane but in a routine flight to NY city, on his decent to land, the pilot realized that his landing gear was not coming down and locking into place. He continued to work with the levers and buttons as he circled the airport but with no success. Finally, he calmly announced to the passengers that the landing gear was not operational and they would be making a crash landing. He calmly explained how the process would work and immediately flight attendants began circulating, giving instruction and preparing folks for the rough landing. They told them that on command, they were to put their heads between their legs and hold their ankles. It is a good think I was not aboard because I cannot put my head between my legs. I do good to tie my shoes. There was some panic among passengers but the flight attendants did their job. The emergency crew at the airport coated the runway with foam and awaited the plane with all the emergency equipment available. Upon final approach, the captain came over the intecom with these word, “At this moment, in accordance with international aviation codes established in Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God, you should commence prayer.” The story has a happy ending. No one was injured. One passenger was so impress that she called the airline the next day and asked for a copy of the code. The airline refused to comment. AMAZING: the only thing that brought this secret code into the light was a crisis. I don’t see how God could not be offended. SECOND STORY: A report got caught near the mouth of Mount Saint Helens in 1980. He literally had to run for his life. He forgot to turn off his camera which recorded every word. The audio recorded coughing, gagging, heavy breathing and prayer, one prayer after the other.

  4. BE LOVINGAbove all {Peter says} maintain constant love for one another since love covers a multitude of sins.” Peterson says, “Love each other as if your life depended upon it.” The AV reads...And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves. The Greek word means stretched out, intent, earnestly, assiduously, constantly without ceasing. Peter is not implying that our love can cover our sins. He is simply making the point that when we love each other intently, we overlook each others faults. June knows my faults: it is not that she is blind to them but she is able to overlook them because she loves me. You either love or get a divorce.
  5. BE HOSPITABLE [V.9] and do it without complaining. We have totally lost the meaning of hospitality. We think it is inviting friends over for dinner. The Message reads: Be quick to give a meal to the hungry or a bed to the homeless. We are not into that kind of hospitality are we?
  6. BE SERVANTS [V.10-11] –Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God…. if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides. Note: Peter puts more emphasis on serving than all the others. Serving others is the most practical way to demonstrate Christ love: if we do it cheerfully and without desire for recognition. I noticed something in my study that I had not seen before…FROM THE STRENGTH GOD PROVIDES...WOW!
  7. BE WITNESSES [V.11] If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words. Perry told me Sunday that he had just finished a book about lay evangelism. Every believer is to be a witness. God called me to be a witness before He called me to preach.

CONCLUSION

All of the above should result in one thing: God being glorified through Jesus Christ and this is in everything.

Think Like Jesus

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding ​— ​because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin ​— ​
2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. 3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the Gentiles choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you don’t join them in the same flood of wild living ​— ​and they slander you. 5 They will give an account to the one who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged in the flesh according to human standards, they might live in the spirit according to God’s standards. — 1 Peter 4:1-6 (CSB)

INTRODUCTION

I have really struggle with this message but both the Amplified Bible and the Message have helped. Basically, Peter is challenging believers to think like Christ when it comes to suffering. Peter says more about suffering than any N.T. writer. He makes six references in I Peter alone: 1:6, 2:20, 3:14, 3:17, 4:15, 4:19. Peter’s basic premise is–We are all going to suffer. We can suffer for doing evil or we can suffer for doing good but everyone is going to suffer. It is the curse of living in a broken world.

Peter said, “Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same understanding.”

FIRST: SUFFERING IS A CALLING–Be Mentally Prepared

Philippians 1:12….For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.

The word ‘arm’ is a military word. When the soldier arms himself, he get all his equipment ready for battle. For the Roman infantry, that was a long spear, a shield and a short sword. No soldier goes into battle without arming himself.

Note what Jesus says prior to His crucifixion:

Mark 8:31…Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.

Luke 9:22…“It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.”

  1. What has Jesus done? He has prepared Himself for suffering. He has accepted His call to suffer and even embraced it. He is ready to suffer!
  2. Why is He telling His disciples? To prepare them; to get them ready for His suffering because when He suffers, they too will suffer.
  3. I know most of you have ridden the subways underneath the Atlanta Airport; they move fast and they stop fast. You grab a handle or you brace yourself, if not, you will going rolling to the end of the car. We need to be braced for suffering. It is surely coming. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Augustine: God had one Son on earth without sin but none without suffering.

SECOND: SUFFERING IS NECESSARY…It has a purpose

Jesus suffered but He suffered for a reason, a cause, a purpose. Jesus suffering was a vicarious atonement for our sins. No person is their right mind wants to suffer but Jesus armed Himself to suffer in our behalf in order to save us from our sins.

Perhaps you are thinking: that is well and good but why do we have to suffer? Why should we arm ourselves?

  1. We suffer justly. A lot of our suffering is related to the fall of man. We are suffering due to our sin and rebellion. Our world is sin cursed and it is full of suffering. In a sense, all suffering is related to our sin and rebellion.
  2. We also suffer redemptively. God uses suffering as a refiners fire to purify us of vain motives and worldly lust. Suffering is a great teacher.
  3. I’ve never had a desire to suffer or to fail and yet I have suffered many failures. All CHRISTIAN VIRTUES come by way of suffering. The most humble, gracious people on the earth are those who have suffering. The most humble man I ever knew was a retired missionary from Africa by the name of Clyde Dotson. Bro. Clyde was in his 80’s by the time I met him. I’ve never been in the presence of a man with deeper convictions or greater compassion. Bro. Clyde would pray at the drop of a hat and he would drop the hat if necessary. I wept every time I heard him share his testimony of children he buried in African soil, along with two wives. Bro. Clyde got so lonesome after his first wife died that he would walk 30 miles searching for a soul he could have true fellowship with. {Ron Dunn, Adrian Rogers, Manley Beasley}

THIRD: SUFFERING IS A FORGE

To forge is to fashion something, shape something by using intense heat. A blacksmith uses a forge. He heats the iron so he can bend it, mold it and make it into something useful.

Paul said in Philippians 3:10, My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.

Some of the heat comes from the world…Listen to I Peter 4 via the Message….

Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. 
Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. 
3 You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. 
4 Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. 
5 They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet – and before God himself. 
6 Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus. 

If you follow Christ, you will stand out. If you stand out, you will be persecuted is some shape form or fashion. It may be as simple as rejection. When I surrendered to preach, I not only lost friends, I lost family. I became and odd ball so to speak. I still feel that rejection today as an old man. I would love to say that it doesn’t hurt but it still hurts but that is why we call it suffering. I don’t like rejection, I don’t thrive on it but it is part of being a follower of Christ. The world hates me because it hated Jesus. {Dickie}

Remember: hot metal glows. I’ve seen believes shine in the darkness during time of crisis and suffering. It is an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Don’t waste your sorrow. [1] God is either showing me something or [2] He is showing someone else something through me.

The Good Samaritan

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, NIV

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 
27 He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
35 The next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

INTRODUCTION

Everyone loves stories and Jesus was the master at story telling. Luke records at least four stories that are not found in the other gospels: The Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, The Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Story of the Prodigal is the most renown in all the world and the story of the Good Samaritan is not far behind. Everyone knows what it means to be a good Samaritan. There are hospitals name GOOD SAMARITAN. Franklin Graham relief organization is the SAMARITAN PURSE.


This is a simple story with a simple meaning. Origen, the Catholic scholar, interpreted it as an alegory but it is not an alegory. It is a simple story that even a lost man can understand. Jesus told it for the benefit of a Jewish Lawyer who was lost in religion. This story is a favorite for the left because they think Jesus was advocating socialism and the distribution of wealth but nothing could be further from the truth.


A very simple way to understand the story is to see the four groups or four kinds of people involved:

  1. There is the man who fell among robbers–he is the victim
  2. There are the robbers or thieves–they represent the villians
  3. There are the religious leaders, priest and Levite–the apathetic
  4. There is the Good Samaritan–the compassionate

The story center around the victim, the man beaten and left to die and how the other three respond. In their response, we see three philosophies of life.

I. THE ROBBERS–WHAT YOURS IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO TAKE IT

In spite of what our friends say on the left, there is evil in this world and there are vicious people out there who will do you bodily harm. One liberal said, “The problem here is not the crime, it is the deeper social ills behind the crime. We must uncover and dig out the roots of social injustice that made these men steal. There is a Greek word for this thinking…Balogna. These men were not stealing in order to feed their starving families and I can prove it. Look at verse 30… A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A man is singular, robbers or thieves is plural. There was more than one robber. Thieves and robbers have always run in packs so they over powered this man. Had robbery been their only motive, they would have tied him up and left him but not only did they strip him, they beat him and left him to die.


Folks, I don’t care what the liberals say, there are mean, evil and violent people in our world and they will hurt you for their own sick pleasure. Are we so niave to think that criminals are concerned about hurting others. First of all, being robbed is painful but being beaten half to death is worse.


A liberal was debating Dr. Jerry Falwell on national TV. He told Dr. Falwell there was no such thing as evil and that men are not depraved. Dr. Falwell asked him, “Do you have locks on your doors at home?” The lib said, “Yes, of course I do.” Dr. Falwell said, “Then you must believe in evil, why else would you lock your door.”

II. THE PREIST AND LEVITE–WHAT MINE IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO KEEP IT

Sad to say, both of these men were church men and probably on their way to the temple. Priest were the religious leaders of the day, the descendants of Aaron. They were your teachers and worship leaders. The Levites were the temple care takers. Both were involved in the activities of the church. Both should have been concerned about the hurting man but both passed by indifferently. The priest barely slowed his pace. The Levite did go closer for a better look but he too, hurried off to church.


There is an old adage–put a mouse in front of a cat and you will find out if you’ve got a cat. Put a hurting person in front of a Christian and you will find out if you have a Christian. As Christians, we are supposed to care.


I want you to picture the victim as he lies beside the road in his own blood. He may be semi-conscience but he is dying. The beating and the lose of blood have taken its toll. Without intervention, he will die. What if his eyes were open, like when they do a root canal: you can see and hear but can’t move. What if he saw the priest out of the corner of his eye or the Levite. He was bound to think…help is coming but they looked and passed on by.


Have you ever had your heart broken? Perhaps you suffered through a painful divorce. Maybe you were the rejected one. When the people who are supposed to love us and care for us don’t care, it hurts. 


Hurting people want help but they don’t want to be exposed. The man was laying there naked; they had taken his clothes. He was lying in his blood and shame. He wanted help but he did not want to become a spectule or a side show. Let me tell you what can hurt worse than the clubs of the robbers, the indifference of those who are supposed to care.

III. THE GOOD SAMARITAN–WHAT IS MINE IS YOURS AND I AM GOING TO SHARE IT

Folks, the key to abundant living is good stewardship. Paul told the Ephesians in 4:28,  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who is in need. Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Let me give you the JEV…Life is a lot more fun when you are on the giving end rather than the recieving end. I had much rather be Santa as the kid.


Ministry always involves a sharing of resources and the Good Samaritan was lavish in his ministry. He used his time, his energy, his resources [oil, wine, animal] and his money to help this hurting man. He has no concern for the cost or for being reimbursed for his expenses.


If you go back up to verse 2 in this chapter, Jesus says, “The harvest is truely great but the laborers are few.” The harvest is great, it is just not the harvest we envision. We are looking for folks who are hungry for the gospel and want to be saved: these folks are hard to find but there is a harvest…the fields are littered with hurting people. They are everywhere. Hardy a days goes by that I don’t encounter a hurting person.


The time to express the love of Christ for our friends and relatives is when they are down. This man was lying there helpless–he was open to someone lending a hand.

CONCLUSION

A junior high students approached his teacher in the hall way with a problem, as he was telling the teacher his problem: the teacher pulled a quarter from his pocket and said to the kid, “Here is a quarter, go call someone who cares.” All the other kids laughed but the kid needing help just ducked his head and walked away. I am sorry to say, that I witnessed this event and did nothing about it. I already had a bad reputation for meddling in school affairs and I kept silent.

I’m not picking on school teachers, there are preachers who don’t care. Of course we preachers and teachers are held to a higher standard, we are supposed to care. Every believer and follower of Christ is supposed to care.

The Celebration of Life

Scripture: John 11 {Selected}

INTRODUCTIONS

Those of you who have attended COLS that I am involved in know that John 11 is my favorite chapter and I use it a lot at Celebration of Life Services but I have always had a desire to share it with the Sunday morning crowd…so here goes.

I. A COMMON PROBLEM

1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 
2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 
3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

II. A STARTLING PROPHECY–“Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.”

 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 

III. AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE–“Lazarus has fallen asleep.”

11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 
13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 

15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” 


We humans have a problem: we view everything through the lens of time… We even project time into our thoughts of heaven but there is no time in eternity…if there was, there would be a starting time and finishing time. Jesus had His feet on earth but His head was in heaven: He could see both worlds. He could see the future as well as the past. Think of it as a continium…At present [Lazarus is sick]…then Lazarus dies…Future, Lazarus is alive and well. Death is a barrier for us–we can’t see beyond it–but it was not barrier for Jesus. What appears to be death to us is simple sleep to Jesus…a temporary state of repose…everyone dies but we do not stay dead. Yes, from our perspective, death seems and appears to be final but not from God’s.

IV. AN INFINITE POWER–“I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Notice the focus of Mary, Martha, the disciples and the mourners. They are focused on circumstances, problems, grief, sickness, mystery of unanswered prayer, dates, promises, prophecies about the future. There is nothing sinful about focusing on the great resurrection day in the future unless we are more focused on the date than we are the person of Christ.

Look with me if you would at these verses…

  • Verses 2-27–Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 
  • Verse 33–When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. [NASB,  He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled] The first of these two words [anger in NLT] means to snort with anger, to groan with displeasure or to sigh with chargrin. The second word means to be agitated, stirred up, troubled or distressed. To my knowlege, used only here in reference to Jesus.
  • Verse 38 —Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 

Over the years, hundreds have tried to discount Jesus emotional state at the tomb: some have even said that it was due to his grief that Lazarus was dead and others believe that he felt emphathy for Mary and Martha but this is clearly not the case. JESUS IS RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNATED over the unbelief of the entire bunch. No one there believes a thing He has said…He told Martha plainly, “Your brother will rise again.” He told His disciples plainly, “This sickness will not end in death.” And yet no one believes. Martha did not believe…When Jesus told them to roll the stone aways…she protested…”By now he stinks.”

What does this tell us? Unbelief is offensive to God. Hebrews 3:12–Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heartof unbelief in departing from the living God.

  • It was unbelief that kept Israel from the land of promise.
  • It was unbelief that caused the Jewish Religious Leaders to call for the crufixion of Christ.
  • It is offensive to God when we mistrust His word or even doubt it.

CONCLUSION

Let me tell you what I love about this story….No one in the cemetery that evening believed that they would be eating supper with Lazarus that night: no one but Jesus. Not even Mary or Martha believed that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. When Jesus commanded them to roll the stone aside, Martha protested….”By now there is a stink.”


It doesn’t matter what you think or what you believe about any given situation. The Jewish mourners believed that Jesus had failed his friends. The disciples believed that Jesus was committing suicide by returning to Jerusalem. Not one soul in this story believed that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus by the power of His spoken word. Practically all believed that Jesus was a healer but even Mary and Martha believed that He had showed up too late.


Here is what is important: God had a sovereign plan and Jesus carried that plan out. God intended to get glory this day and He did…in spite of the unbelief.

ARE YOU NOT GLAD THAT OUR IMPOTENCE AND FAILURE PUTS NO RESTRAINT OR RESTRICTIONS ON GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE.

Hallelujah, HIS Kingdom is going to come and His will is going to be done because it has been spoken and in spite of man’s sin, wickedness and unbelief—it will happen.

The Man, The Moment And The Message

1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 
2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. 

Introduction

  • I Peter has become a favorite to me. I don’t know how this happened, but over time, it is the first book I read when ever I begin reading a new translation. This has been going on for some five or so years. If we fast forward to I Peter 5:12, I think we will find out why this has happened in my life. Here Peter says…

  •  I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s GRACE for you. Stand firm in this GRACE. [Grace is the theme]

  • In this message, I wish to introduce our study in I Peter: one that I pray will be encouraging and uplifting. If you get a small percentage of what God has given me in the preparation of these messages, you will be blessed. I love this letter.
  • Speaking of this letter: when we get mail, the first thing we do is to see who it is from. If it is from a close friend or loved one, we give it special attention, don’t we. This brings us to the MAN.

THIS LETTER IS SPECIAL BECAUSE IT IS FROM PETER THE APOSTLE

I. THE MAN: PETER THE APOSTLE

v.1…This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. {Silas wrote it but Peter dictated the content. I Peter 5:12}

  • Note: It was from Peter the Apostle, not Simon the fisherman, but Peter the Apostle {a messenger, a delegate, one sent out} of Jesus Christ is writing to encourage these persecuted believers in the Northern part of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey and he does so with gentleness and grace. I think my love for this letter is the grace that exudes from Peter’s words. Oh how I love GRACE because it was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious does that GRACE appear when I read and meditate on the Epistle of I Peter.
  • Think with me for a moment, how did Peter come to know the marvelous grace that he writes about? Peter was the first to confess Christ but he was also the first to deny HIM. Shortly after confessing Christ, he attempts to rebuke Jesus. One minute Peter is exclaiming the truth and the next minute he was acting as an agent of Satan. So we are talking about impetuous Peter, the man who only stopped talking long enough to change feet. We are talking about the oldest of the twelve who lead them boldly but also failed them miserably. We all know the story of Jesus renewing Peter after the resurrection. It was Peter who preached at Pentecost and it was Peter who became the leader of the church. So this letter is written some 30 years later. Peter is not an old man but he is probably in his early 60’s. He knows what it is like to fail and be restored. He has been growing in grace for 30 years.
  • This letter is not just from anyone, it is from Peter the Apostle: one who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Apostleship and eyewitness account was a passing thing. These folks understood that in a few years, there would be no eye witnesses left, many of the twelve had already departed this world and Peter was only months away from his departure. Peter himself was awaiting trial under Nero who was possibly the most vile man who ever ruled the empire. He was a sexual pervert and had a touch of insanity.
  • To get a letter from an Apostle is one thing, but to realize that he is a dying man adds weight to his words.
  • I think the main thing we need to understand about the author of this letter is his experience in GRACE. After denying Jesus for the third time, I imagine Peter felt like he was finished but Jesus did not write him off although he did a terrible thing.
  • Jesus heard the denials but He did not reassess or disclaim His call on Peter’s life. Had our LORD been merely human, He might have said, “I made a mistake choosing Peter. He has too much pride and too big of a mouth. I will never be able to use him. I should have chosen John to be their leader. Peter is not cut out for this.”
  • NO! This is the great thing about GRACE. Jesus knew in advance that Peter would fail, it was Peter who didn’t see it coming.
  • Jesus changed his name from Simon [to hear from] to Peter [rock] because He knew what He could make out of this impetus and temperamental Galilean fisherman. Jesus transformed this loud mouth into a flaming witness. He transformed the impetus fisherman into a rock solid leader. He transformed a fisher of fish into a fisher of men. Only Jesus could do such a thing.
  • If there was anyone on the face of the earth who could talk about Grace from experience, it was Peter.

II. THE MISSION: ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS TO STAND FIRM IN GRACE

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. [I Peter 5:12, NLT]

Now a word about the people to whom Peter is writing. Scholars are divided concerning their ethnicity: some believe he was writing to Jewish Christians, other think Gentiles but it really doesn’t matter. He uses three words [all in verse 1] to identify these people:

  • Elected/Chosen {eklektos} [selected, chosen, picked out]
  • Strangers {parepidēmos} [Pilgrims, aliens, used again in 1 Peter 2:11]
  • Scattered {diaspora} [dispersed, spread out]

In the Greek they come together in the above order… Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς [elect] παρεπιδήμοις [strangers, aliens] διασπορᾶς [dispersed] Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας

NOTE:

  • These scattered believers [not living in the bible belt] are like strangers or foreigners. They are being called to live counter to their culture which was very pagan.
  • There must be no attempt assimilate or blend in and this will [Romans 12:2… Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will]…undoubtedly  lead to persecution. They had already experienced some but Peter, who was in Rome, knew that it was going to get worse and it did. [Nero]
  • Peter understood that a call from Christ is a call to suffer and much of this letter is about suffering. [I Peter 2:21, F]
    21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 
    22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 
    23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
    24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
  • When Christians do what is right in a pagan culture, they are going to suffer for doing good. David Green had to take on the Federal Government who tried to force him to provide funds for abortions in his company’s health insurance. He refused. Ultimately, he was favored in a Supreme Court Ruling but not until he had spent millions, not to speak of the loss of time. All Muslim businesses were given a free pass but the Obama administration targets Christian businesses.
  • Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake shop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs. Two lower courts ordered Phillips to serve gays but he carried his cause to the Supreme Court. Two of the Supreme Court justices were outraged at a comment made by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission…. who said, religion  has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, including slavery and the Holocaust." You have to understand where these civil rights groups such as the ACLU are coming from...Rich, agnostic Jews, in the mold of Ciaiphas, who hate Jesus. These talking pundits have made slavery, the holocaust and civil rights for sexual perverts the only three sins. It is OK to kill a baby but its immoral to honor the memory of George Washington because he owed slaves.
  • The ACLU along with every civil rights group I know always target Christians. If religion was really their target, they would go after Muslims and Orthodox Jews.
  • Long story short, we live in a Christ hating world and those of us who identify with HIM are going to suffer for it. It is not a matter of if but when...we are going to suffer for Christ.
  • The recipients of this letter had suffered but things were going to get worse and Peter is simply alerting them to get ready.

III. THE MESSAGE: SUFFERING NOW BUT GLORY TO COME

Peter says in verse 2, God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ

  • Note first of all that the TRINITY is at work in our behalf...God the Father chose us, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us [making us holy] and Jesus made it all possible by dying for us. All of this is God's work in our behalf and it is according to His eternal plan.
  • Like Jesus, we are called to suffer but just as his suffering lead to glory, so will ours.
  • Jesus had the ability to look beyond the pain: the writer of Hebrews said...            "We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
  • This is why Peter said in the closing of his letter [I Peter 5:12]...My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 
  • You might say, "God's gracious plan for you." Jesus coming was a part of a plan. His suffering and death were according to a plan. Our suffering is no different, it is according to God's plan. There is a purpose in our suffering.
  • Peter said at Pentecost, speaking of Jesus....  this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 
  • Peter says in chapter 4... Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world

CONCLUSION

Suffering is never pleasant but it is necessary for our sanctification. Suffering is God's refining fire, his smeltering furnace. Do you want what Jesus wants? Does your heart beat with His? If you answer yes then I know you have suffered.


Greed is no respecter of persons: never doubt that poor people can be just as greedy as the rich. We want to take possession of things. We measure people by the kind of house they live in, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive and their annual income or their net worth. This fallen world has a seductive power that can get to any man. In my life time, the only folks that I have seen OVERCOME THIS WORLD were those who suffered. People who have suffered intensely don't care for this world nor the things in it. They don't fight over land lines and inheritances because they see beyond this world. What was it that destroyed their love for this world? I can tell you, it was suffering. If you look closely into the lives of the great saints, you will see they all have something in common: they suffered.


As a very young pastor, I stood along side a family who watched their 8 year old son depart this world due to Cystic Fibrosis. Just minutes before his passing, I heard his dad say, "I would give everything I have in this world, for just one more day." I had enough sense not to articulate my thoughts but my thoughts were: "that's crazy, he is terminally sick, he cannot get well, why would you give everything you have for one more day?" I was young and ignorant and not fully convinced that life doesn't consist in the abundance of things one possesses. But the suffering, broken hearted dad didn't care for the things in this world. He loved his son and wanted to spend one more day with him. This man became one of the best friends I've ever had. He came to my defense when no one else would. He had more courage than anyone I've ever known. The LORD promoted him in November of 2009--He died like he lived, without fear. How did he get this way? By suffering. Peter got thrown into the same smelting pot as did Jesus and it bonded them together. I've seen the same think happen when we fellow believers suffer together.

My best friends are not those I played ball with or those I did business with, it is those I suffered with. I am not saying that suffering is pleasant, I am saying it has a purpose and the outcome for a believer is glorious. Hope is looking beyond the pain and seeing the glory that is waiting.

May you be encouraged by this word from God.

 

 

The Invisible God

Scripture: Malachi 2:17

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 INTRODUCTION

I like the GWT version of verse 17, I think it puts everything in perspective…You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

This brings up an age-old argument: Can God’s patience be exhausted? Does God get tired of our constant complaining? Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s establish some fundamental things that we do know about God.
  1. God is not Apathetic. He is im·pas·si·ble in the sense that our emotions do not rule Him nor change His essential nature but at the same time, He does feel our pain. At Laarus tomb, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Isaiah said of Jesus, “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief.” The word acquainted means to know or learn by experience. Impassibility means to be incapable of suffering or feeling pain. Jesus laid this myth to rest. God does feel our pain but don’t ask me to explain, I can’t explain it and yet I believe it. This is what I call the paradox of faith.
  2. So we can say with confidence, God is not Apathetic but neither is He pathetic or at the mercy of man’s emotions. In other words, our emotions do not rule Him. We are sinners in the hand of an angry God, not the other way around…God in the hands of angry sinners. We are at His mercy.

So the same paradox exist when it comes to God’s patience. God can not run out of patience because He is infinite and there is no end to His resources. Surly you do not believe that God is limited in any capacitySo in one sense, the answer is no, God doesn’t run out of patience. In other words, our constant complaining will never transform God into an impatient God. But when we flip the coin to the other side, God does have an allotted degree of patience for each one of us. In this sense, His patience can be exhausted as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah and the children of Israel in the wilderness

This fact makes it unwise to presume on God’s patience or mercy. God did grow weary of the Israelites incessant complaining and He sentenced them to 40 years of futility in the wilderness. So, there is a line that can be crossed and once it is crossed, there is nothing but judgment.

In today’s text, the Israelites are making the same mistake that their forefathers made in the Wilderness, they are trying God’s patience, which is never wise.

The situation reminds me of a story told by Bill Patterson. It is the story of Robert Shelton. Robert Shelton lost his job but only after he had exhausted the patience of his employer. Robert had been warned repeatedly about being late for work and about his lack of productivity when he was at work. His boss even enrolled Robert in a program to improve his job performance but Robert made no attempt to learn from the training. He continued to do what he had always done until the day he was called into the office and handed a pink slip. Robert went ballistic. He was outraged. He began a tirade of complaints beginning with his supervisor whom Robert said, “Had been unclear on instructions.” Then Robert lashed out t his co-workers, accusing them of conspiring against him. Then he made excuses…his assigned task was beyond his abilities and training. Robert blamed everyone except the guilty party, Robert.

The Jews of Malachi’s day were a lot like Robert…they blamed everyone except themselves. The truth is, they brought much of their suffering upon themselves. They were their own worst enemy but would not confess it and for such people there is no help.

The Jewish Problem

  1. Oppression from foreign domination

  2. Surrounded by hostile neighbors

  3. Injustice and exploitation {Economic}

  4. Skepticism and indifference {Spiritual}

Three Areas Where We Have To Be Careful of Exhausting God’s Patience

I. NUMBER ONE IS ATTITUDE

Irresponsible people believe that bad circumstances validate a bad attitude but nothing could be further from the truth. God expects each of us to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances. Joseph had a good attitude in bad circumstances and so did Daniel and Nehemiah. How would you like to be a slave? Those three handled in pretty well, did they not.

Circumstances on this earth are never going to be ideal. I am a fan of the Jesse Stone murder mysteries. Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Actually Paridise, Massachusetts is is fictional. It does not exist. The definition of Paradise is an ideal place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness where everything goes beyond expectation. We are not going to find that here on earth. We must do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances. As Erma Boombeck was fond of saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.”

The Jews had a bad attitude not because circumstances were bad but because their thinking was bad. They had some stinking thinking. They were blaming God. They accused Him of being partial to the wicked. Their complaint was that He was not holy, that He was lacking in moral judgment. When our attitude is bad, it is the result of bad thinking or theology.

God is holy, moral and good. He is not the enemy. When we reach the point where we accuse Him of being the problem, we have a problem.

II. THE SECOND PROBLEM IS OUR TONGUE

Complainers are vocal by necessity. People who complain are outspoken. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness–they murmured and complained constantly. They grumbled in their tents…

Exodus 16:2…I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

Number 14:27…“How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against Me.”

What was the result of their complaining in Numbers 14….The Lord told Moses to tell them...”I am going to do just as you have suggested, you will die in the wilderness.” Be careful what you say, the LORD is listening.

III. THE THIRD PROBLEM IS THEIR SIGHT OR INSIGHT

They have not acknowledged what God has already done. They refuse to see His goodness and mercy. They were released from Babylon by a miracle of grace. They did not gain their independence via a war, it was given to them and yet they could not see God’s goodness.

God had made the Jews some precious promises through the prophets.

  1. They would return to the homeland and the temple be rebuilt
  2. The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  3. Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  4. Israel would have promonence in the world

The first promise had been fulfilled but they were waiting impatiently on the others. Malachi’s word to them in chapter 3 is…God is going to keep His promises, He will come to His Temple but when He does, you will not recognize Him and they didn’t. So we are talking about spiritual blindness, a sight problem.

Conclusion

“Where is the God of justice?” The Jews were asking. Sounds exactly like their forefathers who is Exodus 17:7 said, “Is the LORD among us or not.” The Israelites craved a God they could see, they wanted a visible manifestation. Yahweh cannot be seen. We don’t have a lens or scope big enough to see Him. He is the invisible God. I think it was Josie who asked about this a few days ago. Christ is the image of the invisible God. [Colossians 1:15]  Paul said to Timothy, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.

We are not to question God’s presence merely because we do not feel it, sense it, or see it. Jeremiah 23:23-24…. “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” You don’t have to feel His presence, or sense His presence–you simply have to believe the truth–He is present. It is impossible for Him not to be present.

Growing up in church, I never go to go out to the bathroom during a service. Once the service started, we were planted. If we moved, there were consequences. One Sunday night mother had a headache and so she stayed behind, the rest of us went on the church. My daddy slept soundly once the preacher got started and since mother was not there, I seized the opportunity to go out during a service. I eased out and daddy never opened his eyes so I head for the foyer. Our building had those saloon doors that open both ways and I hit them almost on a run, but there sitting behind them was mother. I did a quick 360. She was there all the time but I didn’t know it.

Bottom line: Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a simple matter of faith–do you believe what Jesus said?

The Process

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 We never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

INTRODUCTION

We have come together today to celebrate the life and memory of Ruth Livingston. Ruth and I had a strange relationship. Casual observers assumed that we did not like each other but nothing could be further from the truth. I guess one of the reasons that we didn’t get along was our likeness. Neither of us would give in. I have pieced together a little acrostic that spells RUTH.


  • Ruth was Redeemed: I have no doubt that Ruth loved Jesus and that she understood the gospel…that all have sinned and come short…wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD.
  • Ruth was Unique. She was a pistol. She had a mind of her own. It was not easy to direct Ruth. Matter of fact, I don’t know that I ever directed her. If she wanted to sing, she would sing but you were not going to coheres her to do something she didn’t want to do. I was never able to get her to one Senior Adult function. I tried everything. I tried putting her on a guilt trip but she was buying any of that and she told me that she wasn’t going to come.
  • Ruth was Talented. She lead the music at DBC at one time. She sang duets with Lou Hayes. She sang in a trio with Lou and Virginia Penney. She sang with a quartet: Lou, Virginia and Hugh.
  • Ruth was Honest. Boy was she honest! She said what she thought and of course, so do I. {maybe the reason we didn’t get along} This blatant honesty can be a virtue or a vice. Ruth and I got involved in more than one heated discussion. She told Joe David that she was just pulling my chain to see me react and that could be true. I know it is true that I was pulling her chain. I use to brag {in Ruth’s presence} about how hard Ed worked. She would take just so much and then she would interrupt: “Old Ruth works hard too.”  She did enjoy working in her flower beds.

 

Ruth just got tired of living, she packed her bags and waited for her flight. She was ready to go and no one needs to be upset with her departure–it is what she wanted. We grieve her absence but we do not grieve her promotion.


I have chosen three verse in 2 Corinthians for today’s message and I share this very brief message in Ruth’s honor.

TRANSITION

I want you to notice four things from this text:

I. OUR BODIES ARE DYING/DECAYING

As we get older, these earthly tents/tabernacles begin to wear out and they become a burden to us. Things that were once easy become very difficult. Ruth’s body was wore out, she was tired and homesick. You young people don’t understand what I am talking about but these bodies are in a state of decay. Our bodies are dying because we live in the world of the dying but Ruth has departed that world: she is now in the land of the living. There is only one death in eternity future and that is separation from God. Other than that, everyone is a live. According to Jesus, Sodom has yet to be judged. The same is true of Nineveh. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive. But due to sin, these old flesh and blood bodies are subject to death.

II. OUR SPIRITS ARE BEING RENEWED

The word renewed means to be changed for the better. It actually means to renovate. While our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renovated. God’s grace is at work in our spirit and He is transforming us into the likeness of His dear Son.

III. OUR TROUBLES ARE SMALL

You may be thinking, “Speak for yourself,” my troubles are not small. Well they are small in comparison.

IV. OUR GAZE IS ON THE UNSEEN

What better time to think of heaven than today! The Greek word translated ‘gaze’ is ‘skopeō’ from which we get our word scope. It means to look at, observe, contemplate, to mark, to fix one’s eyes upon. Literally, to take aim. Now, you cannot see heaven and neither can I but we can set our aim on heaven.

What is your aim on today? What do you have your eye on? More money…more success… more possessions…more pleasure. You have your eye on something. Are you gazing on the visible or the invisible? Everything you see with the outer man’s eye is going to disappear, it is a temporary thing. It is in a state of decay just like you and it will not last. The things you cannot see with the outer eye is what will last through eternity.

You cannot set your sight on heaven without setting it on Jesus. God cannot give you salvation a part from His Son.

 

 

Noah And The Flood

Scripture: Genesis 6:1-9, NLT

1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them.
2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives.
3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
4 In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.
5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.
7 And the LORD said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”
8 But Noah found favor with the LORD .
9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

INTRODUCTION

Sin by its very nature is destructive and the antediluvian world that Noah lived in was in a self-destruct mode. The only way for God to save a world from self-destruction is judgment. I call this doctrine Salvation/Judgment. There are two universal judgments in the bible and both wrought SALVATION to man. The first was involved the “Flood” and the second involves the “Blood.” The means of the first was a boat, the Ark, the means of the second was a person, Christ.


Today, I want to talk about the first, the judgment of the flood. This message is constructed around the story of Noah and the Ark. God instructed the patriarch Noah to build a huge boat or barge. This flotation device had no engine, sails, rudder. It had three decks, one window and one door. The interesting thing about the story is the threat of the flood. God warned Noah that a flood was coming due to excessive rain but it had never rained. Rain was unheard of, it had no history. Due to Noah’s respect for God and his faith in God, Noah obeyed the LORD and built an ARK when there was no water to support it. So let’s get into the story and we will begin with….

I. A WICKED WORLD

The world that Noah lived in was unimaginable to Westerners of today. Those living in Africa and the East could better relate…First of all….

  1. It was a DANGEROUS WORLD…twice the scripture says “the earth was filled with violence.” {verses 11, 13}
    • It was a world without churches. If you think our world is bad, try to imagine what it would be like without churches. There is no question that we as the church have failed but if you removed the influence of the church, our society would rot in a hurry. Who fights vice and crime? Who opposes gambling, alcohol and abortion? Who began our colleges and universities? Who planted hospitals and orphanages all over the globe?
    • It was a world without government. I’m talking none, nada, zilch. No police force, no militia, no army, no judges, no law enforcement at all–none. You think crime is bad now; remove all law enforcement and see what happens.
    • It was a world controlled by crime. Keil and Delitzsch believe that the world was controlled by these “heroes” or “warriors” mentioned in verse 4. It was run by organized crime. In other words, it was a frightening world. Noah was the last of the Sethites, those who feared God–all the rest had died or had been murdered.
  2. It was a DEPRAVED WORLDThe LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

    The second thing I call your attention to is….

II. A GRIEVING GOD

Note verse 6, So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. The AV, which I grew up on, reads….And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

The NIV reads…The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Classical theism affirms that God is dispassionate, they He cannot be moved by human emotions or feelings. Therefore He cannot be grieved with man’s actions but Jesus was anything but dispassionate. Jesus was compassionate. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He lamented over Jerusalem. As a matter of fact the word used in Luke 19:41 means to wail which is a violent form of weeping. The kind of weeping we do when the death angel strikes.

Although God is self-sufficient and has no needs, He chooses to love us and where there is love, there is grief. Grief is the price we pay for love. Because sin hurts us, God grieves when we sin. Indifference laughs and scoffs but love grieves because it cares deeply.

Genesis 6:6 is the John 3:16 of the old testament. For God so loved the world, it grieved Him when sin began to destroy it. Let me share a story, a true experience that will help you grasp this point.

Growing up, I was very rebellious. I was not mean. I did not like nor enjoy hurting things. I did not torture animals or anything of that nature but I had a hard time with rules and I didn’t like anyone telling me what to do. My mother was a good woman, ultra Victorian, very strict. She did not believe in sparing the rod nor spoiling the child. One day {I was 15 or so} she was beating me for being disobedient and I got angry. I did not hit her but I stood erect and refused to cry. I also looked at her with as much contempt as I could muster under those conditions. She did something that day that she had never done before, she stopped whipping me. Then she collapsed on the ground and began to sob. Her weeping was hurting more than the switch. 

I stood there like a hardened criminal. Then I heard her say, “Son, rather than see you grow up and act like a stubborn fool, I had rather you not been born.” That got my attention. I walked away to lick my wounds so to speak but what she said stuck in my hard head. It remained an unsolvable mystery until years later, I read Genesis 6:6 and the truth hit me like a bolt of lightening. My mother knew that ultimately, rebels end up in hell and she was afraid that is where I was headed. When she said, “I wish you had not been born,” she was not saying “I don’t love you,” she was saying the opposite. It was the ultimate expression of a mother’s love. She would rather forfeit the privilege of motherhood rather than see me go to hell.


If God did not love us: He would not care what we do…


III. A MAN NAMED NOAH

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. {Genesis 6:9}

  • Noah was a godly man. [verse 9]
  • He was without blame among the people. [verse 9]
  • He walked with God.[verse 9]
  1. Noah’s ObedienceNoah did everything exactly as God commanded him. {6:22, 7:5}
  2. Noah’s Sermons: He did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.
  3. Noah’s Salvation: Noah went into the Ark and “The Lord Closed the door behind him.” {Genesis 7:16}

CONCLUSION

John 10:7-9 {NKJV}

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
Jesus is the ARK, Jesus is the Door. He is the means and He is the way. He is the ONLY door. He is a timely door. He is open now, may not be open tomorrow.


I ran cross country in college. I loved and admired our coach. I never heard him use any foul or off color language. I assumed he was a Christian. One late Saturday night as we drove home from a meet in South Alabama, I asked him about church and I was stunned at his answer. He said, “I don’t attend church. I should but I don’t. I do believe a person has to repent and trust Jesus but I am not ready to do that at this time. Some day I plan to be saved, to join a church but right now is not a good time for me.” I trembled at his response. He treated salvation like a loaf of bread, something he could go to the market and get anytime he wanted.


God’s word teaches us that God has to draw us {John 6:44}… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. Look at Genesis 6:3, And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”