The Prodigal Son and The Flesh

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 

2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! 


11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

such sinful people—even eating with them! 

16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. 


INTRODUCTION

I love Luke 15…Actually I love the stories that Luke recorded that are not found in the other gospels. Stories like the Rich Fool, the Good Samaritan, The Rich Man and Lazarus, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector and Zacchaeus. Today, I want to introduce a series from Luke 15. I will be speaking to you three times and LORD willing I will talk to you today about the Prodigal Son, then next The Loving Father and last The Elder Brother. To understand any of the three messages we have to begin with verses 1-2…


As I speak today, our convention is divided. The reform movement has made a huge surge into Southern Baptist circles and I yet to hear a hype-calvinist preach from Luke 15. The Reforms are fond of quoting a statement the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When you here this quoted more than John 3:16 beware. Jesus stated clearly in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” There is no debate about God’s love for sinners–“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


The Pharisees and Scribes were the Reform of their day, at least those in the Baptist Church. Our Presbyterian brothers do not press the analogy so far as this group in our convention. They did not believe that God loved sinners and they were upset that Jesus was eating with them. Tax collectors were hated by practically all Jews but these folks the Pharisees are refering to our Jews who have abandoned Judaism. They have stopped the practice of keeping the laws of Moses. In other words, they don’t attend church and make no pretence of being religious. The Pharisees did not see themselves as sinner but they labeled others as sinners. They refused to have any dealing with these sinners. They would not associate with them, do business with them and they certainly would not eat with them.


Jesus tells three stories in succession about things that are lost. First there is a lost sheep which of course had value. Many of the Pharisees were invested in livestock and they understood the worth of a sheep. The second story is about a lost coin and again, they understood the value of money because they were lovers of money themselves. The third story which we call the Prodigal Son actually has several parts and three main characters. 


The first two stories are to get the Pharisee’s attention: they can identify with these stories but the third story is an indictment against them. They are profiled in the third story in the person of the Elder Brother. The Tax Collecters and sinners are profiled in the Prodigal and God is the loving Father. So our plan is to talk about the PRODIGAL today, the LOVING FATHER next Sunday and then the ELDER BROTHER on September 17.


We have three sermons on the Prodigal but the good news this morning is that I’m going to do only one and it’s the shortest of the three.


When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, it left us with a selfish, self-centered nature. The bible refers to this nature as the ‘flesh’and we see it up close and personal in this story.

 Note verse 12 to begin with… The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FLESH ‘WANTS’ 

{A gluttonous appetite for things}

Note his words: ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

  • The flesh wants its way. Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to our own way…”
  • The flesh wants independence…This boy wanted some distance. He wanted to be away from his father, the power and influence of his father. He didn’t want his father telling him what to do.
  • The flesh wants things…My share of your estate…which he was going to liquadate immediately. The flesh has an insatble appetite for stuff, for things.
  • The flesh wants pleasure…it craves pleasure. Those who give into the desires of the flesh live undisciplined lives and go from one pleasure to the next just like Esau.
  • The flesh wants and it wants now…the flesh does not want to wait.
We have a four year old granddaughter who wants practically everything she sees. Every time I walk in the house, she asked for something…Chucky Cheese, Targets, money for her piggy bank, go swimming, Chick-Fil-A, etc. She is never satisfied. The more she gets, the more she wants. She is a child but unfortunately, some people never grow up and they continue to indulge the flesh. As we will learn today: it is not a good idea to give the flesh everything it wants. I would weigh 300 pounds if I gave into the flesh.

II. SECONDLY: THE FLESH WASTE

Verse 13…“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. The Greek word for Estate in verse 12 is bios, if you have the King James it is translated as living. The young man quickly converted his share of he estate to cash, money which is father had spent a life time earning. He packed all his belonging and moved to a distant country and there he wasted all his money on wild living.

  • First lets look at the word waste. The Greek word diaskorpizō means to scatter abroad, to disperse, to strew, to squander or to waste. It is the picture of a farmer scattering seeds, only in the case of the Prodigal, he was literally throwing money to the wind.
  • To waste to use use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.
  • Now lets look at the word ‘wild living.‘ The KJV translates this word ‘riotous’. The NKJV uses the word ‘Prodigal’. The ESV translates it ‘rckless.’ The NASB reads ‘loose living.’ Really, what does the word riotous mean? According to Strong, the Greek word could have been translated three ways: riotous, dissolutely, or profligately. The problem is: I don’t know what any of these words mean. Well riotous means without order or disorderly. Dissolutely means lacking restraint; especially, over indulgence.  Profligately means careless, foolish and reckless. I think all of these characteristics apply to the Prodigal: He was disorderly, over indulgent, lacking discipline or restraint, careless, foolish and reckless.

 WASTE

  • Waste is a sin. At the top of my daddy’s list of sins was wasting food.
  • It is also wrong to waste money which this young man did.
  • But he wasted more than money, he wasted a part of his life…He was living without purpose. He spent all the money but to what purpose?

When he got to this distant country, he should have found a job but he didn’t, he began living it up and wasted all his money. When the money was gone, he was not only broke, he was alone. He didn’t even have one friend. Note the last line of our text…But no one gave him anything. 

All this time and he had not built one enduring relationship. How sad!

III. THIRD: THE FLESH DOES NOT SATISFY, IT ALWAYS LEAVES US EMPTY

Verse 14-15…. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

  • Ironically, the KJV says, “he began to be in want.” The NIV reads, “he began to be in need.” NLT hits the nail on the head, he was hungry, starving. So hungry, so empty that slop was tempting.
  • The flesh is big at boasting but it cannot fulfill what it promises. It will leave you empty, hurting and dissatisfied every time.

CONCLUSION

Don’t waste your life pursuing riches, things, stuff. Begin today, if you have not began already, to live with purpose and build relationship instead of building a bank account. I was at least 40 years old before I understood this truth. Relationships trumps riches every time. The highest relationship is one with Jesus. Repent of your selfish ways and come to Christ today.

If We Could Visit Heaven

Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, NLT

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

INTRODUCTION

In November of 1986, I went with a delegation from Alabama to Nigeria, in the elbow of Africa. This nine-day visit changed my life completely. I bought a 35mm camera before departing and I took over a hundred pictures but my slides did not do Africa justice and I finally threw them in the trash. No description you can give will convey to others what you have seen with your own eyes.


How many of you have seen pictures of the grand canyon? How many of you have actually seen the grand canyon? I saw video of the Niagara Falls many times but when June and I visited the falls 1996, the sight took my breath. I stood there in awe and amazement and I tell everyone I see, “You have got to go to the falls.”


The same principle applies to heaven. I have never had a vision of heaven like John. God allowed John to stick his head through one of the portholes and take a quick glance and it changed Johns life forever.

I am sure that a visit to heaven would change us all…

I. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REASSURE OUR HEARTS THAT GOD IS ON THE THRONE

Africa was chaos, pure choas and it hasn’t changed. From what I understand, it is worse. But there is also chaos here, just not as much. In heaven, there is no chaos–there is perfect law and order because God is enthroned in every heart.

My father had a series of strokes before he departed this world. Back in 1994 he was in the hospital at Athens and I went up to see him on a Thursday night. Bill Clinton was the newly elected president and I had grown a full beard in protest. For some reason, Daddy had to explain the beard to everyone so when I walked into his semi-private room, he immediately began explaining to his room-mate why I had the beard. His room mate was black and his pastor was sitting by his bed. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I knew that black people are block voters and they vote democrat no matter who is running but Daddy would not hush. I tried in vain to change the subject but he was relentless….”My boy doesn’t like Clinton and he will not shave until Clinton is out of office.” By now, I am embarrassed and looking for a hole to crawl into. The black man’s pastor rose to his feet and he stood at least 6’8″, he was a giant of a man. I thought, “Oh no, he is going to pile drive me into this concrete floor.” He walked straight to me and I am thinking, “Gee, thanks Dad, you are about to see your son executed.” He reached out with his huge arm and grabbed my head and pulled it right up to where I was facing him. My heart stopped beating, I was terrified, then he said, “Son, don’t you be worrying about Bill Clinton. He is not in charge. My LORD Jesus is on the throne.” I’m too scared to speak but I was thinking, “hallelujah.” When I got my composure, I said, “I knew that but God sent me hear tonight so that you could remind me of the fact.”

This black pastor reassured me of something I knew…Jesus is in absolute control…God is on the throne. Everything is going according to plan. There is no panic, no chaos in heaven.

II. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REKINDLE OUR CHRISTIAN JOY

I know you know a lot of Christians, do you know any happy ones. I’ve been serving church since 1970 and I can tell you, there are a lot of unhappy Baptist. A visit to heaven would cheer us up. There is no sadness in heaven and what this earth needs, what this church needs, what you need is a little heaven. There are plenty of folks who want to give us hell but very few who want to give us heaven.

Dallas Willard was a great theologian and apologist of the last century. He was promoted on May 8th, 2013. His last words were to his granddaughter, before they took him into the surgery that he did not survive, he looked at Larissa and said, “Give them heaven.”

Many, many years ago I heard George W. Truett tell the story of John D. Rockefeller’s grandsons. Their grand dad went to work for 50 cents a day back in 1855 as a book-keeper in Cleveland, Ohio. But by the turn of the century, he would be the richest man in America, worth over 300 billion dollars. John D. Senior was raised poor and his parents talk him the value of hard work, honesty and prudence. John D. Rockefeller hated waste and that was the key to his success. Long story short, he didn’t want his grandsons corrupted by inherited wealth so he sent them to the iron orchards of Oklahoma where they had to work on oil rigs. He made them hire on under pseudonymous names and they had to work at entry-level jobs but the boys had a blast. They sang, cut up, joked and even whistled as they worked. It was irritating to others who hated the dirty gruesome job. Finally, one of the foremen, complained to the boss–“What with these kids, they have a good time, they enjoy this hard and grimy work, they even sing while they work. The boss, who knew the truth said, “You would be singing to if you knew that one day all this would belong to you.”

III. A VISIT TO HEAVE WOULD REVIVE OUR HOPE

Just this past Friday, I made a special trip to Huntsville Hospital to share the gospel with a young woman age 37. She has two children and a husband who will not work. In the last five years, she has lost both parents and battled two forms of cancer: ovarian and bladder. The treatment for the cancer has destroyed her kidneys and now she is on dialysis. She is hoping for a transplant but the chances are slim.

Week before last, I talked with a Daddy who had lost a son to suicide. The boy had medical issues, relational issues and he was head over heals in debt. He reached a point where he saw no way out and he took his own life.

I know a number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their parents are on drugs. I know several who have used their life savings to rehab their children only to see the child go right back to the addiction. There are a lot of situations that seem hopeless.

Years ago, I had a friend named Charlie. Charlie was unique, he was a pistol but he had a stroke, a massive stroke. He could not talk, he could not walk, he could not feed himself. The stroke left him totally helpless. Charlies was a prodigal, he had lived on the wild side and the stroke left him with nothing. His mom wanted him to go to their family doctor and have test run and so they went. The doctor obliged them, knowing nothing could be done. After four or five days in the hospital, the doctor came to Charlie’s room and said, “Charlie, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do. There is no hope of you getting better.”

I felt so sorry for Charlie. I didn’t like the doctor telling him there was no hope. I had shared Christ with Charlie and he had affirmed his faith by gripping my hand. I went to his bedside and said, “The doctor is wrong Charlie, there is hope and that hope is in Jesus.” I began talking to Charlie about heaven.

If we could visit heaven, it would rekindle our HOPE!

IV. IF WE COULD VISIT HEAVEN, IT WOULD REASSESS OUR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS

I am sure you’ve heard the fable of the miser who converted all his wealth to gold bullion so he could take it with him when he died. The story goes that when he got to heaven was those bags of gold that St. Peter questioned him, “What in the sacks?” The old miser opens one of the sacks and Peter exclaimed: “You brought pavement, why would you bring pavement to paradise.”

We are supposed to love people and use things but we have it backwards: We love things and use people.

I know some of you are campers. You are not shocked when you pull into a camp ground and see tents or trailers, campers but what if you saw a couple drive in with a load of lumber and start building a house on a camp site? Would you say, “Wow, that is a good idea, I wish I had thought of it,” or would you think, “those people are nuts.”

For too many are trying to build a permanent home on a camp site.

V. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REAFFIRM OUR FAITH THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE

I am running out of time so let me cut to the chase. Imagine on our visit to heaven, we interview some of the saints that are there. Lets start with Moses the Law Giver…Moses you had some unique experiences, you did some powerful things. You were God’s servant and God’s friend… Moses would then interrupt: “Jack, I am not here because of what I did for God, I am here because of what He did for me.”

Then I stop Peter, “Peter, you were one of the twelve and the leader of the church. You even died as a martyr for your faith in Christ…” but Peter would interupt…”Jack, I am not here because I died for Christ but because He died for me. Jack, I was ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish.”

Every testimony would be the same….JESUS…JESUS….JESUS…GRACE…GRACE…GRACE!

VI. A VISIT TO HEAVEN RELIEVE OUR ANXIETIES OF DEATH

Physical death is an illusion, at least to we humans. Remember the story of Jairus Daughter in Mark 5…

Jesus is on His way to Jarius house to heal his daughter but friends coming running up to Jairus and say, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” When they got to the house, the profession mourners were weeping and wailing until Jesus interrupted, “What’s going here, why all this commotion and weeping. You folks act like someone died, the girl is not dead, she is sleeping.”

So the professional mourners who see death daily are convinced that the girl is dead: Jesus on the other hand is convinced that she is not dead. He said, “She is sleeping.” and He went in the house and woke her up with these simple words, “Little girl, get up!”

What we see, dread and fear is nothing more than a nap. I plan to take one this evening and I do not dread it.


Two sisters lived in Western Europe, one lived in Germany and the other in Austria. The one is Austria was sick and dying. The sister in Germany wanted to see her one last time but the only way of travel was the train and it went through a long tunnel. She was terrified of tunnels and darkness but she wanted to see her sister desperately so she booked passage. She worried about the tunnel for days before the trip began. By the time she boarded the train, she was totally exhausted but still afraid.  By God’s providence, she sat down by a younger Christian woman and she shared her fear with this Christian lady. She open her bible and began to read out of Psalms. The scripture worked like medicine and the anxious woman drifted off to sleep and slept for three or four hours. When she woke up, the first thing she ask her new-found friend was, “How much further to the tunnel?” The young woman smiled with delight, “We went through that tunnel two hours ago.” All that dread and fear and it all boiled down to a short nap.

The KING ‘Is’ Coming

Scripture: Malachi 3:1-5

1 “Look! I am sending My messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
2“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.
3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD .
4 Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.
5 “At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

INTRODUCTION

If you recall last weeks message, we mentioned the five prophecies that the Jews were hanging their hat on…

  • They would return to the homeland
  • The temple would be rebuilt
  • The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  • Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  • Israel would have prominence in the world

Two of the five prophecies had been fulfilled: [1] The Jews were freed from captivity to return home and [2] the Temple had been rebuilt BUT…

  • Where was the glory? “I will fill this place with glory.”
  • Where was the LORD?
  • Where was the prosperity?
  • Where was the prominence?

In response to the Jews question in Malachi 2:17, “Where is the God of Justice?” Malachi said, “He is coming, the LORD you seek is coming. He will show up suddenly at His Temple. The Messenger and Mediator to the covenant that you eagerly seek is coming.” 

Malachi goes on to say in verse 2…”He is coming but you will not like it when He gets here. Who will be able to stand and face Him when He comes? He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then, and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem be fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago.

I want to say three things to you tonight in regards to our text:

I. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES

Whatever we find in scripture by way of prophecy has either been fulfilled or will be fulfilled. Lets look at one example:

Haggai 2:6-9

6 “For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land.

7 I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

9 The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”


You can see for yourself that Jesus has already fulfilled most of these prophecies.

  • He filled the Temple with Glory
  • The glory of Christ {the Temple} is greater than the glory of Solomon’s Temple
  • Jesus has already given us peace with God and someday He will establish peace on earth.

But you and I have the advantage, we are looking back through the lens of history. This prophecy in Malachi 3 was not fulfilled for 400 years, that is 20 generations. I never knew any of my great grand parents so three generations is as far as I can span. Thus 400 years is a long time to us but not to God. My point is: if God says it, it is history, it is going to happen.

One other example: Jeremiah 29:10…This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.

Guess how long the Jews were held captive in Babylon? Seventy years to the day. This is an amazing prophecy.

II. GOD GOES BY HIS OWN CALENDAR

The problem with a promise is that we humans expect immediately fulfillment and that is not how it works. In Genesis 3:15, we have the first Messianic prophecy…

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

The Messiah would come from the woman’s seed but biologically, the woman does not carry the seed, the male does. So this prophecy of an offspring from the woman giving victory over the serpent is also a prophecy of the virgin birth. Incredible! How in the world could this be done? Well 4,000 years later, God did it: a virgin gave birth to a son and they called His name Emanuel, God with us. If God says it, it is so. You might say it is so simply because He said so.

Eve got excited every time she got pregnant thinking, this may be the one. This Messianic expectation was strong among the Hebrews, then the Israelites and eventually the Jews.

III. GOD DOES EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE HAVE IMAGINED

Ironically, when Christ did appear, His presence went unnoticed by the entire Jewish religious establishment. All those years of waiting and then they missed it. This is why Malachi warns them about His coming. He coming but will you be able to endure it when He does? He could have said, “Will you recognize Him when He comes?”

God is not a predictable God. He rarely does the same thing twice. He is the God of wondrous variety and He is full of surprises. Jesus was nothing like what the Jews expected. The last thing in the world they were looking for was a suffering servant or a man of sorrows. Malachi’s prophecy is right on but they didn’t interpret him accurately. 

Malachi used two metaphors to describe the coming Messiah: He will be like a REFINER and like a FULLER. In other words, an intense heat and a powerful detergent. Both the refiner and fuller work to purify and cleanse the product; they just do it in different ways.

The refiner works via the process of heat. The ore goes into the melting pot and the heat is intensified until the ore melts into a liquid. At this point the alloys separate from the pure product {Gold or Silver}and the impurities come to the surface. Once this happens the refiner skims them off and throws them away.

None of us like the heat. We do not enjoy trials. We have been going through a bit of one this week but God has a purpose in it. I know there have been things in my life that I saw no harm in until the Refiner turned up the heat. Under this intense heat, the impure motives came to the surface. I saw them clearly for what they were. I would have never seen them otherwise.

In relationship to verse 3b, we are all Levites, we are all God’s servants. Christ has obliterated the distinction between those who can offer sacrifice and those who cannot. He has made us a kingdom of priest and we can present our own offerings but they will never be acceptable until we give them for the right reasons. Christ purifies our motives to the point that we offer praise for the right reason. We sing for the right reason. We give for the right reason. We do deeds of kindness for the right reason.

But for those who do not fear the LORD [verse 5], there is judgment…


“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear Me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

The Rich Fool

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?”
15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops.
17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’
18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.
19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’
21“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

INTRODUCTION

God labeled this man a fool. Why did God call him a fool?

I. BECAUSE HE THINKS LIKE A FOOL

  1. HE THINKS ONLY OF HIMSELF: This is an amazing story. The man Jesus describes is an egomaniac, he thinks only of him self. He has not the first thought for God who is the source of all blessings. This fool does not acknowledge God; he does not thank God for his bountiful provision. This is amazing to me: how could the fool not give God a thought. But neither does he think of anyone else. He never mentions family, wife or children. He never thinks of anyone other than himself.
  2. HE THINKS ONLY ABOUT THINGS: ‘Crops,’ ‘Barns’, etc. He never thinks about people.
  3. HE THINKS LIFE IS IN HIS POSSESSIONS: He believes the more he keeps to himself, the more he has. He believes success is measured by how much a person owns.
  4. HE THINKS ABOUT SAVING BUT NEVER ABOUT GIVING: There is a simple solution to his problem. Instead of spending all that money on tearing down old barns and building new and bigger barns–the wise thing to do would be to fill the old barns and give the excess away. This would save him thousands of dollars. How is it, that this fool never thought about giving? Because he was obsessed with his greed. Greed had totally consumed him and greed never sees giving as an option.
  5. HE THINKS HAPPINESS IS IN HAVING THINGS: This fool was not riding a white horse and shooting silver bullets, most Americans believe that happiness is bound up in things. If I can get this car…I will be happy. If I can just own my own home… I will be happy. If I can get this piece of property…I will be happy. Yet the more we get, the more we want.

STORY

I know what it’s like to want. I bought my first car when I was 19 years old. I bought if from a Baptist deacon. He told me what he wanted for the car but when I got there to pick it up, he upped the price $100 which was a lot of money in 1968. My daddy warned me, not about dealing with a deacon but about buying a foreign car: it was an Austin Healey Sprite. Daddy told me, “Son that car is wore out which is why he wants to sell it. You will spend more money on the car than it is worth. Don’t get the car.” Did I listen to my daddy? No! I bought the car and my daddy was right. The car became a headache, a nightmare to be honest. Things will not make you happy. Elvis had things, any thing he wanted but he died from abusing drugs which means he was not happy.

II. BECAUSE HE LIVED LIKE A FOOL.

This man was a practical atheist: He lives as though God did not exist. Not only does he refuse to show gratitude to God, he ignores his accountability to God. The man is a horrible steward. He lived like there is no judgment. Unfortunately, there are people today who think a lot like this man. Many of them do acknowledge God but they make the same mistakes with the resources God has entrusted to them that this man made. He was so intent on saving and hoarding that he lost everything. You would be shocked at the number of people who live without regard for others when it comes to sharing resources. GREED is a huge problem in the Baptist Church.

I met a man just last week who is being cared for by one of his daughters who is doing it with his money but her sister is upset that she is spending their inheritance taking care of their father. Our church is in partnership with Guatemala where we build houses for $400. It is actually a shed, something we would used to store tools in here in America. I know a man who not only has wealth in banks, he has old cars, barns filled with old cars, washers, dryers, refrigeration. This scrap metal that is rusting is worth thousands but he will not part with it. It isn’t helping him, nor is it helping anyone else. He could build 4-6 houses in Guatemala by just getting rid of scrap but he will not allow you to touch it. This is horrible stewardship. No one is getting any use of these wasted resources. Like the unfaithful Steward, he has buried God’s resources so that no one can benefit from them. All misers are miserable: there are no happy misers.

 

What would you call a person who built a house on a camping spot? It would not be intelligent or wise. If you drove into a State Park and saw camper after camper and then some dude building a house on one of the camp sites, you would laugh and say, “What a fool?” You can’t build a permanent home on a campsite. You don’t have a deed to the land. Sooner or later, the park ranger is going to show up and your little mansion is coming down. You may not like my analogy but this world is a “camp ground” not our home. We are here for only a short time. Abraham understood this principle and that is why he lived in a tent; even then he didn’t drive his tent stakes too deep. He never settled in this world and neither should you.


III. BECAUSE HE DIED LIKE A FOOL. 

This man was a fool because he prepared to live but made no preparations to die. As John Newton said, “We live in the land of the dying.” Earth is a dying planet and the evidence is everywhere. Grave yards and funeral homes dot the landscape. I personally don’t know how a person can miss it but greed has a blinding effect on our minds and we fail to see the inevitable.

This man was an absolute fool because he made no preparations for eternity. Have you made preparations for eternity? Are you laying up a treasure in heaven? Do you love money more than Jesus? Do you understand that money has no future? They use gold to pave streets in the next world. In the world to come, things that are of value here will not be worth anything. Are you spending your times hording manna that will canker and rot?

Man of Iron

Scripture: 2 Samuel 19:31-38

31 Barzillai [bear-zi-lie] of Gilead had come down from Rogelim [Ro-gee-leem] to escort the king across the Jordan.
32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim.
33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”
34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem.
35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king.
36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need!
37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham [Ken-hum]. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”
38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.”

INTRODUCTION

Barzillai {Bear-zi-lie} was a highlander from Gilead. He lived in the mountain village of Rogelim {Ro-gee-leem}. I’m sure the village was located on a mountain stream because the name Rogelim means “place of the fullers,” which means the place where they washed clothes. We don’t know a lot about Barzillai other what we have detailed in this story. We do know he was a SENIOR ADULT. I don’t understand why some have such a problem admitting their are SENIOR CITIENS: I love it. I enjoy being a Senior Adult. Why would I enjoy it when so many make fun of the way I walk, my failing memory and my lack of a filter. They made fun of me long before I became a Senior Adult. Most of them are not mean spirited when they make fun of me, they are just having fun and I have fun along with them. One guy did tick me off the other night at a ball game. Some of my friends and family were picking at me about my construction ability and this guy who I do not know chimed in with…”Yeah, he is a jack of all trades and master of none.” I wanted to go slap him but he is bigger and younger than my self.

TRANSITION

I have an idea, lets find a better example of a SENIOR ADULT than myself to talk about today and I think Barzillai is just the man. Alexander Whyte describes Barzillai and as a “Lovable old man with invincible charm.” His name means, “Heart of Iron.” This doesn’t mean he was hard hearted, he had a committed and courageous heart. Actually, he was all this and more.

I. BARZILLAI WAS COURAGEOUSLY LOYAL

David was his king and he loved him. David probably never recovered from the betrayal of the elders of Judah and Israel. All were solidly behind Absalom. David was literally run out-of-town in a shameful and disgraceful manner. Where as he had a large and loyal support among the military, he had become immensely unpopular with the public and the policy makers. Things did not look good for David. Everyone thought he was as good as gone. His enemies cursed him and his fake friends deserted him.

It is easy to be a friend with someone when things are going great for them but can you be a friend to those who are being persecuted, falsely accused, caught in a web of shame and scandal? Many are capable of being fareweather friends but few have the courage to stick with you when you are headed for the gallows. With the risk of facing scorn or even death, Barzillai brought necessary provisions to the hungry, thirsty followers of David. Are we as loyal to our heavenly Monarch as Barzillai was to King David? 

II. BARZILLAI WAS GENEROUSLY KIND

When David and his weary antorogue crossed the Jordon as they flead from Absolom, Barzillai and other were their with provisions. They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him.

Some times Senior Adults have the tendency to grow selfish in their old age. We have this fear of running out of money before we run out of life. It is a legitimate fear but we cannot allow it to control us. The bottom line is we must trust God. How many times has He failed us in the past?

There are two things we Seniors can do better than anyone else: We can give and we can pray. How many of these young people are head over heels in debt. They drive $50,000 automobiles and live in $300,000 dollar homes. Some of them have mortage payments that are higher than our income. On the other hand, how many of you SENIOR ADULTS are in debt at all? What these kids owe for, you have in a saving account. Guess what: some of you are still saving. How foolish! You are going to lose it all. You say, “I would help if there was a legitimate need.” No you wouldn’t, you would come up with another excuse. Where there is a will there is a way but where there is no will, there is an excuse. Do you not consider the ministries of DBC a legitimate need? Do you think that a $400 dollar house in Guatemalla is not a legitimate need? YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD TO GIVE. Why aren’t you giving?

The second thing we should be very good at is PRAYER. We have more time. I can’t spend time playing ball anymore. I don’t spend time jogging. I can barely walk. My knees hurt so bad I have a hard time going to sleep. I can still work a little but not like I could. My body is old and it demands more rest. I love being retired. I go to bed when I want to, get up when I want to, work when I want to and quit when I want to. It is not uncommon for me to come in at 3:00 or 4:00 oclock and take a shower and a nap. Sometimes I don’t make it until 3:00. Don’t give me excuses, you have more time. What are you doing with the time you have?

I can tell you what we Seniors do best or at least what are number one past time is: its COMPLAINING. If the Senior adults in this church prayed to God as much as we complain to others, we would have revival.

Look at how much complaining Barzillai did:

  • I can no longer enjoy anything.
  • Food and wine are no longer tasty.
  • I cannot hear the singers as they sing.
  • I would only be a burden to my lord the king.

Seniors, it is OK to complain a little, that is who we are but lets make an effort to balance the board: let covenant together to pray as much as we complain.

III. BARZILLAI WAS HONESTLY NOBLE

The King said to Barzillai…“Come across with me and live in Jerusalem and I will take care of you there.” Barzillai had pleased the king and David wanted to reward him. Are we living to please the KING? Little else matters if we do not please our LORD and KING.

David wanted to provide for Barzillai in his old age but the noble and independant Barzilla would have no part of that: he refused the king’s request. Barzillai realized that it was not about himself. He couldn’t really be a lot of help to David on account of his age. He was afraid he would be a burden on the king so he gave the king his own son. He gave him to be king david’s servant. Of course David, out of respect for Barzillai does not make his son a servant. He gave him title to property in Bethlehem where the son built an Inn. Possibly the same Inn that had no room for Jesus.

We SENIOR ADULTS are known for our honesty. One of the kids from the band was in shock the last time I preached on Sunday morning. He came to me after the service and said, “Brother Jack, I enjoyed the message. You are really blunt.” I would have preferred him to say “You are really bold or brilliant” but he said ‘blunt.’

Barzillai was honest and a bit blunt but he knew that the kingdom did not revolve around him. He had no grand illusions about his own importance. His highest allegience was to the king and his welfare. He simply reminded the king, “Things will be OK now, you no longer need me, you need someone younger so I will give you my son. I prefer to go back home and sleep in my own bed. I want to depart this world from my humble abode and to be buried with my parents.”

Noble men and women are rare: they stand on principle. They give no credence to opinion polls. They have no affinity for popularity or praise. Barzillai told David, “If you want to honor me, let me cross the river with you and then return to my home. That will be honor enough.” Wow, these are the words of a NOBLEMAN. Barzillai felt his services were trivial and unworthy of any recompense from David.  He did not want rank or riches: he simply wanted the honor of being in the presence of his king.

John Trapp said of Barillai, “He was a rose that had lost its colour but not its fragrance.” May the grace be ours to grow old gracefully and beautifully! We may lose our color but may we never lose our fragrance.

Five Kings In A Cave

Scripture Text: Joshua 10:1-8

Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had captured and completely destroyed Ai and killed its king, just as he had destroyed the town of Jericho and killed its king. He also learned that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel and were now their allies.
2 He and his people became very afraid when they heard all this because Gibeon was a large town—as large as the royal cities and larger than Ai. And the Gibeonite men were strong warriors.
3 So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent messengers to several other kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon.
4 “Come and help me destroy Gibeon,” he urged them, “for they have made peace with Joshua and the people of Israel.”
5 So these five Amorite kings combined their armies for a united attack. They moved all their troops into place and attacked Gibeon.
6 The men of Gibeon quickly sent messengers to Joshua at his camp in Gilgal. “Don’t abandon your servants now!” they pleaded. “Come at once! Save us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings who live in the hill country have joined forces to attack us.”
7 So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon.
8 “Do not be afraid of them,” the LORD said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.”

INTRODUCTION

Five Amorite kings conspire against Joshua and Israel. They join forces to attack and destroy the people of God. The good news is: there conspiracy failed and Joshua [a type of Christ] prevailed. Understand what is going on here: the Israelites are in the land but they have to fight to keep it. It is a fact of life, although we are saved, we can still become enslaved just like the children of Israel in Egypt. It is not God’s will for us to live in bondage to sin and Satan. In Israel’s case, there bondage did not alter who they were, they were God’s chosen people but they were enslaved to Pharaoh, a type of the flesh. They were not free to worship or serve Yahweh. God working through Moses delivered them from Pharaoh and lead them into the wilderness for training but  even though that had vivid images of Pharaoh’s death in their minds, they still thought and acted like slaves. It is God’s will to deliver us from the power of sin.

Dr. James MaHoney in his book, JOURNEY INTO FULLNESS, said, “If I could teach a new convert only one truth it would be this fact; your battle with Satan is not over when you get saved, it’s just beginning.” Simply because you gave your heart to JESUS, does not mean that Satan walks away and abondons his plan to destroy your life. Whereas it is true that he cannot touch your soul, he can still wreck your life, destroy your testimony and rob you of peace and joy. Satan doesn’t spend his time with those walking in darkness, his hatred is for the children of light. He hates Jesus and he hates all those who follow Jesus.

In today’s scripture {story}, the Israelites have already won decisive victories at Jericho and Ai but the natives of the land, the Amorites are not happy with their presence. So they conspire to defeat the Israelites and re-enslave them.

The five kings represent the stronghold of the flesh that rear their ugly head and try to dominate us and keep us from living the victorious Christian life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” It is not God’s will for us to live as slaves to sin and our fleshly nature. 


Let me inform you or remind you that we are in a war and it is a spiritual war. Paul said to the Ephesians 6:12…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.

It is a spiritual war. Paul also told the Corinthians… We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. {2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NLT}

It is a spiritual war which means, we cannot see our enemy but he is there and he is real: his goal is to enslave us, destroy our testimony and disable our ability to worship God and serve others. 

Paul made it emphatically clear in Romans 6…

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.

14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


When Jesus died, He broke sins grasp on our lives so that we no longer have to serve sin or bow to the power of sin.  We should consider ourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. We cannot let sin control the way we live; we must not give in to sinful desires of the flesh. BUT these sinful desires are there embedded in our flesh and trying to destroy our peace and joy. The presence of sin in our flesh and the world creates a struggle, a war, a spiritual war. As surely as Joshua and the Israelites were in a war, you and I are in a war.
These five kings are symbolic of the POWERS OF THE FLESH that conspire together to enslave and destroy us.

I. THE FIRST KING IS PRIDE

The first king is Adoni-zedek {At-a-knee-sedek}. Adoni means LORD and sedek means rightousness. Together, they mean “Lord of Righteousness”. This king was neither LORD nor righteous but he thought he was. He was not filled with righteousness, he was filled with himself…he was reeking with pride.

Pride is the mother of all sins. There is no sin without pride. Pride turned Lucifer into a demon. Pride is no respector of people. It tempts the good as well as the evil. There is no greater pride than to glory in our morality or accomplishments. Right in the middle of PRIDE is the unbended, stiff necked I [ego].

The following is a list of prideful features: only the Holy Spirit can help us see this inordinate pride that lurks in the shadows of our life: as I list them, examine yourself in the very presence of God. Are you ever conscious of:

  • A secret spirit of pride—an exalted feeling in view of your success or position; because of your good training or appearance; because of your natural gifts and abilities. An important, independent spirit?
  • Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had success.
  • The stirrings of anger or impatience, a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproval of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated flings at another?
  • Self-will; a stubborn, unteachable spirit. A headstrong disposition.
  • A critical or judgmental disposition.
  • A peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored?

Since humility is the chief Christian virtue, the one upon which all ministry, evangelism and missions is carried out; it stands to reason, pride is our greatest foe. We must constantly guard against pride. Sin itself is deceptive and pride is the most subtle of them all. It can be present in our life and us not even know it. Pride is the one disease that everyone knows a man has except the man himself. It can cause the greatest to fall.

II. THE SECOND KING IS GREED

Greed, like jealously, is an unpopular sin: no one ever confesses greed. Does this mean no one is greedy? Does this mean that none of us have been enslaved by greed? You know better. The greed bug or virus lives inside every person. There is no exception.


Giving is down across the nation and across the board. The average protestant gives only $10 per Sunday, a little over 500 per year. I don’t know of anyone making less than $5,000 per year. In a recent Barna survey, 69% of protestants said they were giving less and it is reflected across the nation. Mega churches had some increase last year but the average church did not. Yet, go to an Alabama or Auburn football game and observe the money being spent.


Robby Gallaty, the author of this years January Bible Study book is a pastor in Tennessee. A church member came to him and said, “Pastor, I want to volunteer to do the sheetrock work on the new building. I cannot afford to tithe and this is my way of giving back to the church.” The wise young pastor said, “Since you have confessed that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share with you what the bible says about this subject.” Reluctantly, the man agreed and the Pastor opened his bible to Malachi 3:10…

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

He said the LORD is challenging you to put Him to the test, so do you have a financial problem or a faith problem? The young man thought for a few moments and then confessed, “I guess I have a faith problem.”

Attendance at our church is sporadic to say the least because on any given Sunday, we will have a dozen families on vacation. I’m not talking about their only vacation of the year, I am talking about the first of twelve. Our pastor has challenged us to commit 48 Sunday to DBC. There is no telling what we could do if we were faithful to attend and faithful to tithe. Why don’t we?

If you are not proactive, if you do not attack your greed, your greed will ultimately control your life and with it will come many sorrows.

III. THE THIRD KING IS PLEASURE [hedonism]

We as a society have gone nuts over entertainment and pleasure. We are becoming a nation of hedonist. Like Esau, we live for pleasure. I don’t have anything against sports or entertainment these things are not to be our driving passion. Like Esau, we are more focused on happiness than we are holiness. Entertainment is to be one aspect of our life but not life; it is not to be our god.


Americans spend 6% of their income on entertainment. Not bad, right. That is almost twice what we give to charitable causes. The average church member gives only $10 per week or about $500 per year. When spend far more than $500 dollars on cable TV, not to speak of internet, Nexflix, computer games and etc. We all need a little entertainment but we don’t need to be entertained all the time.

IV. THE FOURTH KING IS ADDICTION

There are a wide range of addictions; not just drugs and alcohol. Porn is addictive and so is gambling: we will get to pornography in a moment. Right now, I want to talk about a huge problem in today’s society and that is substance abuse.

In the USA, we spend 700 billion dollars a year on substance abuse: this includes loss of work and rehab. Drug abuse is epidemic; if you don’t believe me, visit our Morgan County court house and observe what is going on in our court rooms. I would venture to say, 90% of the cases are drug related.

Young people listen to me, 90% of those addicted to drugs began by smoking and drinking. There are a wide range of drugs on the streets: marijuana, heroin, Crack Cocaine, Stimulates, prescription drugs, Opiates, Cocaine, Tranquilizers, PCP {Angel Dust, anesthetic, sedatives, hallucinogens and inhalants. Yet the number one problem continues to be alchohol. Every 53 seconds, someone is killed in an alcohol related accident. One out of every three automobile accidents is alcohol related. We spend 300 billion dollars a year trying to clean up the mess that alcohol leaves behind. You can visit the FOUNDRY or any drug rehab facility you choose and you will discover that alcohol is the number one drug problem in America. You will not hear the truth on Channel 19 or from the Decatur Daily, they profit from the advertizements but Alcohol is extremely costly to the tax payer and society as a whole.

Patrich Means an expert on drug addiction said recently, “When we want something badly enough, we’ll deceive whomever we have to in order to get it.” All sin is decietful by its very nature but addiction is extremely deceitful. Those addicted always convince themselves of two lies: {1} I don’t have a problem {2} I can handle this on my own. I don’t need intervention.

Satan is a clever stratigest, he is fighting to control your mind, the way you think. He wants you to think that your situation is hopeless, you are too far gone, you cannot change. He wants to trap you in toxic shame and endless regret. If you allow him to, he will make your life a living hell. He will engulf you with guilt and shame. Guilt is related to what we do but shame is how we feel about ourself and it is toxic, it can poison your entire system.

V. THE FIFTH AND FINAL KING IS LUST

Lust like greed is prevelant yet seldom confessed. Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America and young people are often the victims. Pornography is rampant thanks to the internet. Porn is one click away. Some estimate that 37% of internet sites are porn related. Some estimate that there are 260 million different porn outlets on the internet. Porn is highly addictive. The two addiction I fear most are porn and gambling. I had childhood experiences with both and I know what they can do. I stay as far from them as possible.

Conclusion

You will never get victory over these kings until you follow the biblical example in Joshua 10:22-26

22 Then Joshua said, “Remove the rocks covering the opening of the cave, and bring the five kings to me. 

23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon.


[1] Bring them out of the darkness into the light


24 When they brought them out, Joshua told the commanders of his army, “Come and put your feet on the kings’ necks.” And they did as they were told.


[2] In obedience to Christ command, take authority over them


25 “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the LORD is going to do this to all of your enemies.”


[3] Exercise courage…this takes guts which is why most folks try to keep their sins hidden. They lack the courage to confess, to be honest.


26 Then Joshua killed each of the five kings and impaled them on five sharpened poles, where they hung until evening.


[4] Give your sin, shame, addiction to Jesus, He will execute them for you.

Victory is accomplished by His glorious grace…verse 25 “The LORD is going to do this.” You and I will never be able to execute the powers of the flesh, we don’t have the stomach for it but Jesus does and he will carry out the execution the moment we surrender our will to Him.
A family had a little dog get hit by a car. The dog was injuried internally and could not recover. The vet told the family, the dog must be put to sleep, it is the only humane thing to do. The children began crying and the dad said, “I don’t think I can do it.” The vet said, “You don’t have to. I will do it for you but you have to give me permission. Sign this sheet paper, say good bye to your pet and walk out. I will do the rest.”

BOTTOM LINE: “Do you want to be free to worship and serve Christ? Or do you prefer to be a slave to your sin?

Irresponsible Priest

Scripture Text: Malachi 2:1-9, NLT

1 Listen, you priests—this command is for you!
2 Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.
4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

INTRODUCTION

Chapter two of Malachi is an indictment against irresponsible priest: they were not doing their job. They were not living up to their call. They were accursed in the Mosaic sense. Note Malachi’s words in verse 2….

Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.

The curse Malachi is referring to is in Deuteronomy 28…

15 “But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:
16 Your towns and your fields will be cursed.
17 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed.
18 Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed.
19 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.
20“The LORD himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.


The word Moses uses in Deuteronomy 28 for curse is kel·ä·lä’ and it comes from the root word kä·lal’ which is a very interesting word. It means to treat lightly, to trifle, to water down, to lightly esteem, to treat something holy as common. The priest were taking worship too lightly, they were taking their responsibilities too lightly, they were trifling with holy things and in so doing, they were dishonoring God’s name.

Dr. Page Kelly, whom Joe David knows personally, wrote the Broadman Laymen Commentary on Malachi: Dr. Kelly says: “Humanity’s highest duty is to hallow God’s name.” Needless to say, these levitical priest were not treating God’s name with reverence and respect.

I imagine someone in the congregation today is asking this question–“What does the irresponsible Levitical priest have to do with me, I am not a priest.” My answer would be, yes you are. If you are saved and under the blood–Jesus Christ has made you a priest….

I Peter 2:9

 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.


Jesus has changed everything. The Levitical priesthood is history, passe, they don’t exist anymore but Jesus transformed the Levitical Priest into Royal Priest. Every believer is a priest but we do not go back to Levi, we go back to Christ our High Priest. We do not serve a patriarch, we serve the King of kings, thus we are Royal Priest.

The GOOD NEWS is– Jesus made us priest and we have all the privileges of a priest. Actually we have much more than the Levitical Priest: we can approach the throne of grace any time day or night. BUT the BAD NEWS is–we also have all the responsibilities of a priest. About now, you are thinking, “Oh no, I thought he was going to be preaching to himself.”


In verses 8-9, Malachi levels five complaints against the priest. Let’s look at those and then draw some parallels.

8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
  1. They had strayed from the path. The ESV reads, “You have turned aside from the way.” [The way being God’s way] When we turn aside from His way, we turn to our way.
  2. They had become a stumbling block–They caused man to stumble into sin.
  3. They had corrupted the Levitical Covenant by violating it. They were not living up to their call.
  4. They had not obeyed the LORD.
  5. They were showing favoritism.

One other thing before we get to the heart of the message….What are the inherent responsibilities of the priest? They are listed in verses 5-7…

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
  1. They were to convey life and peace.
  2. They were to reverence and stand in awe of God’s name.
  3. They were to pass on God’s instructions.
  4. They were to live lives of integrity [no lying or cheating]
  5. They were to walk with the LORD.
  6. They were to embrace right and turn away from sin.
  7. They were to turn others from sin.
  8. They were to preserve the knowledge of God before the people.
  9. They were to be people you could go to for help and instruction.
  10. They were to be God’s messengers.

I am going to simplify things for you: our basic responsibility as PRIEST are two-fold: [1] We stand before God in behalf of men [2] We stand before men in behalf of God. The first responsibility has to do with prayer and worship and the second involves our witness and ministry.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, let me ask you some questions:

  1. Are you walking daily with the LORD. Are you on His path or your path?
  2. Are you faithful in your ministry to HIM. {standing before him in prayer}
  3. Have you become a stumbling block. People are watching you and me. Who do we need to apologize to today? {Because we’ve been a bad example}
  4. Are we living up to the responsibility of our calling, or are we shirking our responsibilities as a PRIEST?
  5. Are we obedient? Will you be willing to OBEY God during the next five minutes?
  6. Are we loving our neighbor as we love our self… we cannot be instruments of life and peace unless we love each other and treat each other fairly.

    I close with a story to illustrate the point:

In the book, “A Promise Kept”, is the story of Robertson McQuilkin, a former missionary and seminary president who gave up his post because his wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s disease. He dedicated himself full-time for as long as the Lord deemed necessary to take care of his wife. He wrote of traveling with his her:

Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes we’d take a fast-paced walk down the terminal in earnest search of what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her.

An attractive woman executive type sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once when we returned from an excursion she said something without looking up from her papers. Since no one else was nearby I assumed she had spoken to me, or at least mumbled in protest for our constant activity. “Pardon?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?'”

McQuilkin turned to the woman and said, “Oh yes, you can find a man like that. You can find a man like that, because I’ve found a man like that. The only reason I love my wife the way you see me loving her is because the man Jesus first loved me. The only resources I have to draw upon to love my wife the way I do are the resources He gives me. Mirrored in my relationship here with my wife you can see the faithful love of God for me.”


We share life and peace in our love and ministry to others: it is the strongest aspect of our witness. May God help us to be responsible priest who share life and peace with others.

The Bottom Line

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:6-11, NLT

6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.


INTRODUCTION

A little background is necessary for understanding the message tonight. Malachi was speaking to the post-exilic Jews. These are the Jews who spent 70 years in Babylon and now they have been back in the home land for about 80 years. When they returned, they expected some hard times. The infrastructure of the country had been destroyed. The land was occupied by several ethnic groups and none of them like Jews. Plus they are forced to pay high taxes to Persia and their is oppression going on within the Jewish community. The rich Jews were taking advantage of the poor. 


I had someone say to me a few weeks back, “One thing about it, the Jews look out for each other.” I gently corrected him: nothing could be further from the truth. The Jews are notorious for taking advantage of each other. Read the book of Nehemiah if you want proof or do a study of the Temple activity during the time of Christ. It was a corrupt money making scheme that profited wealthy Jews like Annas and Caiaphas. There have always been poor Jews. Even today, there are poor Jews, many of them in Eastern Europe and there are middle class Jews. It is a small minority who are extremely rich and when I say extreme, I mean extreme. This very small group of Jews control the gold in the world today. They owe all nine banks in the Federal Reserve system.


So what we have is a group of Jews who are disillusioned and disappointed. They thought things would improve with time but they were actually getting worse. They were focused on their circumstances {which we are prone to do} and they were blaming God. The fact that they blamed God for their circumstances lead them to have a “Bad Attitude.”


It is hard, if not impossible to isolate a bad attitude. It affects everything we do and say. It permeates our entire life. It affects relationships. A bad attitude can destroy a marriage, a family or a church. We will save that discussion for a later date: tonight we want to talk about how their BAD ATTITUDE affected their worship.


You cannot have a bad attitude and good worship. Our attitude has everything to do with our worship. Before God accepts an offering, He examines the heart. Motive is everything.


That is my sermon tonight: a bad attitude destroys worship but we are going to do two more things {LORD willing} before we go: [1] Look at the example in Malachi and [2] Tell you a life story that illustrates the same problem.


How do we know the Jews had a bad attitude? We look at their offerings. You can tell everything you need to know about a person by looking at what they give to God.

7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.


As you can see, the Jews were bringing God contemptible offerings. They were bringing blind, cripple and diseased animals. With the diseased animals came a defiled or unclean sacrificial meal which was a part of their worship.


Years ago, some 25 years or so, back when most of our furniture was early attic, it came out of someone’s attic, a man called me and invited me to his home, a new home. He said he knew that I had mentioned using used furniture and he had some if I wanted it. I assumed it was stuff in good condition. I admit that most of our furniture at that time was used. We either bought it second hand or someone gave it to us. But it wasn’t ratty, you could see the springs in the couch. When I got to his house, he was gone, {how convenient} so one of his daughters took me to the garage and showed me the furniture. I was shocked. You could see the springs in the couch. Everything there was a piece of junk and ready for the dump. I was embarrassed because his daughter must have noticed the shock on my face and I lost it. I said, “You tell your dad, he can get someone else to dispose of his junk, I am not interested.” There is a long story behind this story but I’ll save it for another day. My question is: would you offer junk to your preacher? Would you want to insult the man who had feed you spiritually. I baptized his wife and two of his daughters. I visited his parents and grandparents up until their death.

Would you give your pastor a shoddy, worthless gift, something you would not have in your house. Malachi ask the Jews if they would give their sick animals to their governor?Of course not! My question is why?

The answer is obvious: they had more respect for their governor than they did for God. The bad attitude comes from a lack of respect and without deep reverential respect, there is no worship. This is why the LORD says in verse 10…“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!


But I want you to look at the next line, this is the BOTTOM LINE…10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

Folks, if our worship is displeasing to God, we have failed and failed miserably. There is no use in our congregating and going through the motions if our aim, our goal is not to PLEASE HIM. Once again, it all boils down to respect or lack thereof.


I got a job in the 7th grade. I didn’t find the job, the job found me. A man in our church hired me to ride a 4 row planter. My job was to pull the markers and watch all the seed hoppers, to make sure the seed was dropping properly. It was a dusty job but I loved it. My employer was a big man in more ways than one. I guess he was about 6’1″ or so and weighted about 230. He was the Tax Assessor at the time and we didn’t see him much. I worked with his dad and his two sons. The oldest son was our supervisor. I worked for him throughout my school years and loved every minute. Not one time did I ever talk back to him or even speak in a disrespectful tone. The only bad thing about this story is that it reveals my sin. Mr. James was a respected man in the community: everyone thought highly of him and that included me. I don’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to please him. When he talked, I listened. When he gave a command, I obeyed.


What’s strange about the story is such behavior was out of character for me. I didn’t listen to my dad. When he gave me a command, I argued. What’s worse, he allowed me to argue. It brings me emotional pain to be honest with you and it has taken years for me to be honest with myself. The difference was in the matter of respect: I had great respect for Mr. James and very little for my own daddy. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am just saying this is the way it was. You might say I feared Mr. James but not daddy. It was not a cringing fear. I was never afraid that Mr. James would hurt me or abuse me but never the less, I didn’t take any chances. I didn’t want to give him a reason to take a limb to me. I wanted to please him. I worked hard to please him.


THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE

Our bad attitude, our pitiful and self-centered worship all stems from a lack of respect. We do not fear God. Our greatest aim is not to please HIM and it should be. Give me a penny for your thoughts: what were you thinking when you walked in here tonight? Did any thought of pleasing God cross your mind?

 

The Prodigal Son

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

INTRODUCTION

Jesus was the master at telling stories and this story is the most famous story Jesus told and quite possibly the most famous story in all of literature. It is much more complicated than you think. One of my relatives, Kenneth E. Bailey, a Presbyterian scholar fluent in Arabic and a specialist in Middle Eastern Literature points out something that you and I would never see. This story is poetic. This story is called a chi-asm, it is written in a certain pattern ABCD-DCBA and then the parrallel [elder brother] ABCD-DCB but the last A is missing. Jesus did not finish the story. There is a reason why and we will get to it later. We could spend weeks on this story but we are going to try to get it into three or four messages.

There are three main characters in the story but today, we will focus on the Prodigal Son…

The Prodigal represents the overtly rebellious and the Gentile. In either case, it represents those who are repulsive to the orthodox Jew or the Jewish Religious Establishment of Jesus day.

I. THE PRODIGAL’S WILLFUL REBELLION

Unlike his older brother, he does not hide his resentment for his father. He approaches him and asks for his inheritance early. The younger son said to his father,”I want my share of your estate now before you die.” In other words, he is saying “give me my inheritance early.” 

To his credit, he was not sneaky. The older brother was the pretender, not the Prodigal. He was open about his defiance and rebellion. He made no effort to hide his sins.

The Prodigal wanted his independence. He wanted to be free of any restraints. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or even to live in his fathers presence. He wanted to be absolutely free of his father which is why he moves to a far country. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.

II. THE PRODIGALS SHAMEFUL REQUEST

  • It was shocking request. It was not customary for a child to ask for his inheritance while his father was living. Because the Father had two sons, the younger would inherit one third of the estate at his Father’s death but he didn’t want to wait. This was a shocking story to the Pharisees, “How dare a son treat his father in such a way!”
  • It was a shameful request.  Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees and they were enraged by the younger sons behavior because he was bringing shame on his father. What kind of son says to their father, “I wish you were dead.” This is basically what the boy is saying. He publically humiliated his father.
  • It was selfish request. The AV reads,“Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” The flesh is impatient. It wants what it wants when it wants. This is the essence of sin. The motto of the flesh is “give me and I want.” The young man wanted his money and he wanted his way. He wanted his independence and he wanted to live an undisciplined life. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or restrained by his father. He didn’t want his father to be present. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.

III. THE PRODIGALS RECKLESS LIVING

The Prodigal was under the illusion that he could sin without paying the consequences sohe wasted all his money in wild living.” The Greek word for ‘wild’ is a-sō-tōs. It must be a tough word to translate because everyone translated if differently. 

  • AV-Riotous
  • NKJV-Prodigal
  • ESV-Reckless
  • Holman-Foolish
  • NASB-Loose
  • NIV-Wild

The Greek word means to act in a prof-li-gate or dissolute way. To profligate is t0 give in to self-indulgence, cast off all restraints. It is a life without discipline. The same word also means wildly extravagant and licentious. Licentiousness is self-indulgence in sexual sins. So the elder brother may have been right when he said, “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.”

The word wasted in verse 13 is the same word for a farmer sowing seeds, it means to broadcast or to disperse. The prodigal was squandering his inheritance. He was recklessly spending money on things that have no significance. He was literally throwing money into the wind. But he had given no thought to what would happen after the money was gone. Rebels refuse to look at the big picture–to think long term. {Halmark Movie}

IV. THE PRODIGAL’S GENUINE REPENTANCE

To his credit, the Prodigal does repent which is more than we can say about his brother but he did not repent until he came to his senses. Sin messes up your mind. It keeps you from thinking straight. Sometimes we have to get caught in some uncontrollable circumstances before we begin to think. We have to hit rock bottom which is what the boy did.

The kid is in a foreign country which means Gentile, he spends all his money and than a famine hits. Famines are tough if you have money but they are fatal to those that are dead broke. The boy attacked himself to a farmer who sent him to feed the pigs. The AV says he’joined’ himself to a local citizen of that country but the Greek word is the word for glue. He glued himself to this man but the man didn’t care anything about him. MacArthur believed that the man wasn’t even paying the kid because the boy was starving.

He was starving literally and figuratively. He needed food but he also needed friends and he didn’t have any, not even one. No one cared anything about him. Suddenly, having a  loving, caring father means something to this wayward child. In this dirty pig pen, he begins to think and pray. Then he came to his senses, he had a change of mind, a radical change of mind about everything.

  • He changed his mind about sin– Once sin had allured him but not anymore. He sees sin for what it is…black and evil. Sin is a weight that will carry you down. It will carry you further than you want to go and keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin is a downer!
  • He changed his mind about work.
  • He changed his mind about home.
  • He changed his mind about His father. 

CONCLUSION

Both sons were rebellious, both sinned against their father but only one repented. In the final analysis, there are only two kinds of people: those who repent and those who do not. Remember, the essence of sin it that you do things your way: the elder brother was serving the father, but he was doing it his way. He needed to repent as much as his kid brother. Unfortunately, he did not see his sin, only the sins of his brother. To repent, you have to see your sins.

Boasting In Weakness

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:28-33

28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?
30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.
31 God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.
32 When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me.
33 I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.

Sermon

I am a pastor, Paul was a missionary and there is a difference. The difference is seen in verse 28…Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. The difference is between the singular “Church” and plural “Churches.” Paul was deeply concerned with all the churches he had planted and this would be a considerable number. My concern for the past 37 years has been Danville Baptist Church. In a small way, I can identify with what Paul is saying. There is no escape from your responsibility. No matter where you go, the concern for your flock is on your mind.

The burdens a pastor bears range from sympathy to anger. Paul felt the pain of the weak and hurting and he burned with anger when some of his flock were being multilated spiritually. There are two interesting Greek words in verse 29. The Greek word for lead astray is skandalizō. Sound familiar doesn’t it. From this word we get our word scandel. The second word is pyroō like in pyromaniac. Pyroo is the Greek word for burn. So Paul’s emotions ranged between weakness [empathy] and anger. Either extreme can be draining emotionally.

I don’t think it is necessarily a super natural gift but I do feel people’s weakness. I feel the same helplessness they feel. I do admit that the problem the Judaziers posed doesn’t seem to be as real today. It burned Paul up to see his converts being lead astray by false prophets who were teaching a doctrine of works. I do know the frustration of seeing a member of the flock being lead astray but it has been rare for me, not the norm. It is a helpless feeling. I lost a very good friend in this very way some years ago. I man came into our church under the guise of being good person but he was divisive and he intentionally poisoned the attitude of a very close friend. He was so convincing, that my friend believed everything he said. It hurt me deeply but there was nothing I could do.

So Paul has a problem. He wants the Corinthians to love him and empathize with him. He so desperately craves their admiration that he has stooped to boasting just like the false teachers. But in the later part of Chapter 11, we see a shift as Paul seems to come to his senses, he will continue to boast but he has decided to boast about his weakness.

By boasting about his weakness, God can get glory.

In order to change courses and set the record straight, Paul tells about a humiliating experience. It is the kind of story that a proud man would not tell. The false teachers would never incriminate themselves. They would not tell a story that made them look small but Paul did just that.

Paul was saved on the way to Damascus so it was in Damascus that Paul was confirmed as a believer. It was here that he first witnessed to the Jews at the synagogue. Paul did not go back to Jerusalem for a while. He left Damascus and went down into Arabia where he spent some time in seclusion and some time preaching the gospel to the Nabataens and this may explain why  King Aretas would want Paul arrested. It is very possible that the Jews conspired with Aretas to capture Paul. Luke tells us in Acts 9 that the Jews were looking for an opportunity to capture Paul.

Paul was saved from King Aretas and the Jews but not in a spectualar fashion. Paul was put in a basket, like the ones used to empty garbage and let down through a window in the wall of the city. The basket used was about the size of a bushel basket: it was not tiny but neither was it large. A full grown man could not possibly get inside this basket. This and many other things, like his name, have lead us to believe that Paul was a tiny man, possibly a dwarft. John Chrysostom, a fourth century church father believed that Paul was tiny and hunch backed. He believed that the twisted spine was his infirmity. No one knows for sure but I am firmly convinced that Paul was a tiny man. It fits his profile.

No one is going to brag about their smallness, unless they want God to get the glory. The story of Paul’s escape from Damascus highlights his smallness and God’s greatness. The story had two sides: one was humiliating but the other was glorious.

I have wrestled with this concept for years: how can a man sincerely boast about his weakness? Was Paul sincere when he boasted about his weakness? At one time in my life I doubted the words of Missionaries who always said, “What we need most is your prayer.” I doubted until I became a short term missionary 6,000 miles away from home but that trip healed me of any doubt.

Likewise, there was a time in my life when I doubted Paul’s sincereity; how can a man brag about his weakess? How can one glory in his weakness? After all, weakness is weakness. I do believe that Paul was sincere. I do believe that he reached a point where he could boast in his weakness.

One of the things that has to happen in a believers life is total abandoment of the flesh and its ways.

You have to get to a point of such deep sorrow, grief and frustration that the only thing that matters is the glory of God. For me personally, it took what the old preachers called, THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. Dr. Adrian Rogers had a great message on this subject and I had it on tape but I have either let some one borrow it or I have misplaced it. I tried to reorder but the second version was not as good as the first. The dark night of the soul is a time of doubt {John the Baptist} where you question everything and there seems to be no light. I made the mistake of having a Calvinist preach a revival. I didn’t know it at the time and I had used a couple in the past that didn’t do any damage but this guy had 50% of our members doubting their salavation. It took me weeks to get things straightened out. He used John 2: Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them. [This is verse 23 and the first line of 24 but you have to read the entire verse to get the context] He emphasised over and over that profession of faith in Christ meant nothing. Faith is Christ is not the issue, it is His choosing us. The people that Jesus is referring to in John 2 believed that Jesus could be the Messiah but they did not trust Christ personally and Jesus knew it. You have to read the entire verse. They were admirers but not converted believers.

Everything is based on faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Even God Himself is invisible. You cannot relate to HIM a part from faith: it is impossible. How many times did Jesus say, “Believe?”

  • “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” {Mark 1:15}
  • “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” {Mark 5:36}
  • “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” {John 3:36}

Yes I would prefer to tell you that I’ve never had a doubt but that would be dishonest. I have doubted my salvation, my call to preach, my call here, my motives, etc. I got to the point that I threw in the towel and just said, “Lord, I don’t know, I believe, my faith is in Jesus but I don’t have assurance, not perfect assurance and I am weary of thinking about it. One thing is certain, you will get glory one way or the other, to You be the glory.” When I reached that point of desperation, I got peace. The good that came from it was that I ended up thinking about His glory more than my own personal good.

Job had the same experience and so did John the Baptist. So to answer the question, “Yes, I believe Paul sincerely gloried in his weakness because even in his weakness, God got glory. We want God to use our strength but He gets more glory by using our weakness.

Conclusion

I am going to wrap this up with a story that I have used often. It illustrates perfectly how God uses our weakness. I was doing a follow up visit on a 16 year old girl who had made a profession of faith in the little church is East New Orleans where I was serving. She lived with her parents in a trailer park just a few blocks from the church. She was not at home but her mother was and she answered the door. I told her who I was and why I was there and she informed me in no uncertain terms, that her daughter did not need saving. She was visibly upset by my words and my presence. I was a bit taken back and began my retreat but before I departed, I thought I should get a witness in so I told her, “Everyone needs to be saved.” Then I quoted some verses out of Romans or tried to, in truth I made a big mess, nothing came out right. As I pulled back out into the highway to leave, I broke down and sobbed. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had made a fool of myself or so I thought.

You can imagine my shock when I got up to preach the next Sunday morning and there sat that little lady and she still did not look happy. I preached a sermon on judgment which I thought would set her off again. When I gave the invitation, she stepped out and came forward. I was very nervous, she still looked angry to me. When she got to the altar she said, “You were right, everyone needs to be saved. I have sinned and I want to be saved.” We looked at the scripture, then prayed and she was saved. She was literally transformed before my very eyes and I never saw anger in her face again. I will be sending her a Christmas card in a few weeks. She is 92 and lives in the western part of New Orleans in a retirement home. She is still smiling. I know for a fact that God uses our weakness. I don’t want to be weak, I don’t pray for God to make me weak but I know He works through our weakness and by so doing, He gets the glory.