The Loving Father

Luke 15:11-32

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.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.
32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

INTRODUCTION

This is definitely the Parable of the Loving Father. Jesus mentions the Father 11 times, the prodigal 8 and the elder brother 3 times. I love this story and I love to tell it over and over. Each time I tell it I discover something wonderful that I had missed previously. Each time I study this passage, I discover new truths. I am amazed at the depth of this story. It cannot be exhausted in a life time.

A quick review: Jesus sets these stories up in verses 1-2…we are all in this chapter…You may protest: I am not a prodigal and I am certainly not a Pharisee. Let me ask you one question: Are YOU A SINNER?

  • The Tax Collectors and Sinners are the Prodigal
  • The Elder Brother is the Pharisees and Jewish Religious Leaders
  • The Father is our Heavenly Father

There are some wonderful truths about the FATHER that I want to share with you: these things have come to me one at a time over the years and then 5-6 years ago, I put them into a message and I have been preaching since…

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FATHER NEVER CHANGES

It is a wonderful truth: in this story, the FATHER remains consistently the same, he never vacillates, he never changes. From beginning to end: He is the same, a loving Father. There is no question: Jesus is painting a beautiful portrait of our heavenly Father who is, immutable. He never changes. He does not need to change because He is perfect. To be perfect is to be beyond improvement: you cannot make something perfect better. I am a sinner, I am imperfect, I need to change but God is perfect and He needs no changes.


We Live In A Changing World


 We live in a changing world. Everything about us, around us is changing. We call in the law of thermodynamics. Einstein said, “The only constant in the entire universe is the speed of light.”

Everything else is subject to the law of thermodynamics: it is in a state of constant change. The sun has less energy, the moon is inching toward the sun and away from the earth every day and it has nothing to do with global warming. Everything is changing. The United States is evolving into something a lot of us are uncomfortable with: we are certainly not like colonial America. The world is changing and everything in it. The Southern Baptist Convention is changing: the millennials are taking over and one out of five are into Reform Theology which is not good. What can we say, things are changing and they are changing fast. Yes, it can be a bit unnerving. We desperately need something to stay the same. We need a ROCK, something we can lean on, something stable and we have that in Jesus.


Hebrews 13:8 comes to mind….Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 


THE GREAT I AM

Our God, Yahweh is immutable; it is declared in His name YHWH, “I AM”. God choose a verb for His personal name. It is the Hebrew verb for being. God is not a being: He is being. He is self-existent and uncreated. His very name contains every tense in the Hebrew language. Not only can it be translated “I AM” but …

  • I AM WHAT I AM
  • I AM BECAUSE I AM
  • I AM SINCE I AM
  • I WAS WHAT I AM
  • I AM WHAT I WAS
  • I WILL ALWAYS BE WHAT I AM
  • I AM SINCE I WAS
  • I WAS BECAUSE I AM
  • I ALWAY WILL BE BECAUSE I AM
  • You can go on and on for pages. There seems to be an infinte number of ways to parse this fascinating verb. But I can sum it all up with the story of the Black Preacher doing the 23rd Psalm. He never made it past the first three words…THE LORD IS….HE ALWAYS HAS BEEN IS AND HE ALWAYS WILL BE IS. He is the eternal, self-existent, immutable God and He never changes.

 

Our God is immutable: let’s praise Him!

II. THE FATHER IS WISE

Legally, the Father was not obligated to divide his estate. The sons actually had no claim until the Father’s death. But when the younger son rebelled, the Father did not try to force him to stay, nor did he refuse his request. He basically allowed the boy to have his own way. The Father had the upper hand, he could have used force but he wisely choose not to. Evenutally, he gets his son back safe and sound and this son is a new man. One who loves and appreciates his father. One who is ready to obey every command and do it for love’s sake.


As Paul reveals in I Corinthians 13, the highest motive of service is love. The elder brother had served for many years but not out of love. He served for duty sake. He served for the sake of his own reputation.

By allowing the younger son to exercise his free will, the Father gets a son in return who loves him.

God could have made us puppets on a string. He could have made us robots. He could have programmed us so that we would be perfect but He choose to make us in His own image and a part of that is the freedom to choose. You don’t have to trust Christ. You do not have to repent of your sins. It’s your choice. You cannot get into heaven without repentance but no one will force you to repent. If you choose to repent and return to the Father, you will love the fellowship and you will love the Father. When we labor for duty sake, it can be like slavery. When we labor out of love, it is a privilege.

Illustration:

I grew up on a small farm. We had cows, pigs, chickens and even goats when I was very young. There were plenty of chores to be done but like all boys, I preferred playing at the creek to doing chores. Daddy was not a slave driver but he did expect us to work. Mother was a slave driver. I preferred working for Daddy. I worked as a kid but in those days, practically all kids worked. I did not work because I wanted to and I did not work because I loved my father. I worked for one reason, they made me. If you didn’t work, you did not eat and I liked to eat.

{Fast forward 35 years} My father had a series of strokes before his departure. He got to a point where he was helpless and it bothered him. I stayed with him one day and one night a week and he was always telling me to go back home to my family. He didn’t want me to take care of him; he wanted me to take care of my children and grandchildren. I always assured him that they were fine. Finally, I had a talk with Daddy. I told him the truth: “Daddy this is not my duty, this is a privilege. I am honored to be able to take care of you. I could never be happy in this world if I did not.”

That’s all any father wants: to be loved, honored and respected by his children.

III. THE FATHER IS BENEVOLENT

The Father in this story was a giving man, a benevolent man. Every time he appears in the story he is giving something. He gives the younger son an early inheritance. Then he gives him a hug, a robe, a ring, and a party. He gave two thirds of his plantation to the older son, it was already in his name. He gave him godly advice. He told him, “Everything I have is yours.” Wow, what a generous man? He gave and gave and gave again.

Our heavenly Father is benevolent. He is good and gracious and He loves to give. You are not going to out give God. It is like trying to out give a rich man: your pockets aren’t deeper enough. June and I are trying to be a little more careful this Christmas because I am about to lose most of my income. We have talked about who we will give to this Christmas. We know that the more we give, the less we will have. Our giving diminishes us, that is because we are human beings but giving does not diminish God: the more God gives, the more He has to give. What I said doesn’t make sense, but it is true…God is not diminished in any way by giving. In a spiritual sense, it will work the same way for us. The more we give, the more we get. The way to increase your eternal stock is to give now. We humans can give sacrificially. We can give until it hurts but it never hurts God to give, other than when He gave His son.

I love the poem by Anne Flint…

  1. He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
  2. When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
  3. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
    Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
    Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
    The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
  4. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

IV. THE FATHER IS GENTLE, PATIENT AND KIND

He never loses his cool. He never becomes impatient. It is absolutely amazing how kind he is to these boys. I am more amazed at his kindness to the older than I am the younger. The older son needed a good kick in the rear. He had a horrible attitude and was so disrespectful to his father. Yet his father gently begs him to join the party.

After a very intense 30 hours of travel, I returned home last night very thankful for God’s infinite goodness, grace, and mercy. The Bailey’s are blessed beyond belief and we do not deserve it. How can God be so good, so kind, so patient and so gentle? Every time I go off with my kids, they tell these far fetched stories that I don’t remember. I’ll tell you this: I enjoy being a granddad a lot more than I did being a dad?


Is this because my grand kids are better than their parents? No, it is because I have changed over the years. When I was younger, I put too much emphasis and sometimes too much pressure on my children–especially in the field of sports. Last December, our Son {Joe David} graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the same Seminary I attended 45 years ago. I am very proud of my son. Growing up, I wanted him to be a great athlete but now I want him to love Jesus and he does. I want the same thing for my girls and grands. I have almost made a 180 degree change in my attitude and it’s all due to God’s grace. I would like to take credit but the gentle Savior has nudged me along. He has patiently destroyed my idols one at a time. How could anyone be so patient.

V. THE FATHER MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE: HE LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN

I guess this is one reason I love the story. It contains the heart of the Gospel. The Pharisees were despicable people. They were rich, aristocratic, snobs who thought they were better than everyone else. I can see how God would love a sinner like a prostitute or a tax collector, {State trooper} but how could He love these despicable Pharisees who were plotting the death of His Son.

In this story, the Father loves both sons. Unfortunately, only one joins the celebration. The older son stood outside his Father’s generous grace and pouted. He was outside because he choose to be outside. The sheep got lost by wandering, the coin got lost by accident but this son is lost by choice. He chooses to be outside the sphere of his father’s grace. His father begs him to come in and he will not.

I Timothy 1:15–This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

CONCLUSION

The Pharisees couldn’t believe that God loved sinners. I sure that the sinners wondered how He could love the self-righteous and arrogant Pharisees but the truth is–He loved both. I am so thankful for the word ALL…

  • Romans 8:32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
  • Romans 10:11-13As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one {Christ} died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

The Pharisees believed that God loved some {some lives mattered}. Jesus taught us that all lives matter.

 
Advertisements

The Elder Brother

Scripture: Luke 15:25-30

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

INTRODUCTION

“Anything we do a part from GRACE is sin.

The key to understanding this story is found in Luke 15:1-2, Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

The Pharisees, who prided themselves in obeying the law, failed to keep the two most important commandments: [1] Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and [2] love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. They neither loved God nor man. As a matter of fact, they basically hated everyone who was not like them. They hated Gentiles, Samaritans and Sinners. They were filled with pride and self-righteousness. They refused to even acknowledge their sin, let alone repent of it. In this story the elder brother is a portrait of the Pharisees.

I’m sure you are wondering: if this is about the Pharisees, why preach it today, there are no Pharisees here. But there are, Self-righteousness is not dead, nor is pride, contempt for others and self-will. The Pharisees are very much alive and among us….As a matter of fact, I consider myself as a “Recovering Pharisee.”

  1. They are very religious, faithful to the church.
  2. Most of them do not miss a service.
  3. They tend to be morally impecable. [cover their flaws]
  4. They are critical and judgmental.
  5. They have a tendency to voice their displeasure.

Today, we are going to look at the characteristics of a Pharisee or Elder Brother.

I. THEY HAVE AN UNHAPPY DISPOSITION

{V. 25-26} When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on?


Elder brothers don’t like music and dancing. They don’t like celebration because they have no concept of grace. They are legalist and they hate grace. When the elder brother found out they were having a party, he went ballistic.


Elder brother are working on a holy look for appearance sake: it is somewhere between a migrane headache and acid indigestion. They look like they were born on the dark side of the moon and baptized in pickle juice. They are not a good advertisement for Christianity. They appear to be having as much fun as the Cruise Director on the Titanic. The bad thing is, they think they are holy. They have no clue what real holiness looks like. The elder brother was unhappy. 
  • He was unhappy [angry] with his brothers return
  • He was unhappy [angry] with his fathers response
  • Unhappy [angry] about his work (slaving)
  • He was unhappy that they began the party without him
  • He was unhappy with the party itself [You can celebrate GRACE but not legalism]

Have you ever meet any unhappy Baptist?

  • Unhappy with the music
  • Unhappy with the preacher [little ladies at Cash]
  • Unhappy with the deacons

Have you noticed: you can change music, preachers and deacons and they are still unhappy. The more you placate and pamper them the unhapppier they get because they hate GRACE and why we are celebrating. They believe that everything is merited. They are list keepers. They believe they have earned what they have. The elder brother was upset with the party because his brother did not deserve to be forgiven, let alone had a party thrown in his honor.

Folks, we cannot earn God’s favor. We are all sinners and we all deserve death and hell. There are no exceptions. Everything is grace, everything. Once you understand GRACE, you can party and party hardy. Pharisees have no concept of grace.

II. THEY HAVE AN UNFORGIVING ATTITUDE

Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

The Father ran to meet the prodigal. He was quick to forgive. He didn’t even allow the boy to finish his confession. The elder brother is a different story. He refuses to forgive his brother. He doesn’t even claim him as a brother...Yet when this son of yours comes back…the elder brother says. We can’t claim to love the FATHER when we don’t love our brother. We have to forgive. Not only did Jesus command it, relationships demand it. You will not stay married if you don’t learn to forgive. An unforgiving attitude is an indication that you are holding on to something and it could be an offense but that is not your call or mine: if the FATHER forgives, we are also to forgive. The offense is first and foremost against Him.

III.THEY HAVE AN UNREALISTIC VIEW OF THEIR OWN SIN

The Pharisee or Elder Brother types are good at posting and recording the sins of others but they do not see their own sins. The big difference between the brothers is that the baby finally acknowledged his sin, repented and confessed his sin to his father. The Elder brother is a sinner as well but he masked his rebellion. His sin is covert. He keeps it covered but after a time, sin decieves us and the elder brother does not see his own sin. 

He does however see his brothers sin…Yet when this son of yours comes back…. after squandering your money on prostitutes.

  • How did the Elder know about the prostitutes?
  • Did he spy on his baby brother? {not likely}
  • Did he hire someone to spy on him? {possible but not likely}
  • How did he know he was spending money on prostitutes? {that is what he would have done if it were not for his polished exterior, for the fact that he was concerned about what other people thought of him}

NOTE: You and I have the same black heart as a prodigal. They go out and sin openly, we desire to do the same but are afraid of being found out.

I was in a mens SS class 40 years ago when a man spoke up in the middle of the lesson, he said, “It just dawned on my, my sin of judging others is worse than the sins I am judging them for.” Bingo, he understood grace. Prodigals don’t pretend. They make no attempt to hide their sin. Elder brothers are big pretenders. They cover their sin, they mask their lust. They would not be caught dead with a prostitute but they look at porn on the internet. They have the same black heart as a prodigal.

The Elder Brother, like the Pharisee, did not see his sins but he had them, they are evident to us.

  • The Elder was jealous.
  • The Elder was angry with the Father
  • The Elder was disobedient to the Father {refused to go in to the party with his Father begging him}
  • The Elder brother was full of resentment
  • The Elder brother was judgmental
  • The Elder brother was unsympathic and unyielding: hard on people

IV. THEY HAVE UNLOVING HEART

The bottom line is this story is: the Elder brother did not share his FATHERS heart. He did not love his brother. I am reading the bible again and this time I am making note of the passages that have to do with loving our brother. Jesus said there are two GREAT COMMANDMENTS: [1] Love God with all your heart [2] Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. These two commandments are preached throughout scripture, old and new Testaments.

Here is what I am saying, when you boil everything down, TWO THINGS MATTER [1] Loving Jesus [2] Loving your neighbor. If you get these two things down, you are in good shape. BUT you have to understand that they go together. If you don’t love God with all your heart, you will not love your neighbor as you do yourself. If you can’t stand your neighbor, you don’t love God.

The Elder pretended to love his father but did he? He certainly didn’t love his brother, did he? The truth is, he loved neither. When you love your FATHER with all your heart, you want to honor them, please them. What would it have taken for the Elder to please his FATHER? To forgive and love his brother.

CONCLUSION

This story is a Chiasm, a Middle Eastern literary structure with a mirrored pattern. If you have studies poetry, this is similar. The pattern in this story of parallels is ABCDDCBA [first stanza or half]. The second is ABCDDCB and the A is missing. Jesus did not end the story. We do not know if the Elder brother changed his mind and joined the celebration. In other words, Jesus was giving a personal invitation to the Pharisees. Please repent, come in and join the celebration.

So where are you in this story. I am the elder brother and I have repented, it took me a wild to adjust but I am loving the CELEBRATION. I want to please my FATHER. I want to honor HIM. I want to love people the way He loves people. 

What about you? Do you want to acknowledge your sins today or you focused on the sins of others? Do you want to come inside and join the Party or had you rather stay outside and pout? I am begging you to come inside.

Stewardship

Scripture: Luke 12:41-48

41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”

42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

47 And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

INTRODUCTION

Stewardship is an old word that we don’t use much but it is a good word. A steward was an exalted slave who was entrusted with the responsibility of managing his master’s estate. Abraham, for example, had a Steward who’s name was Eliezer. Abraham trusted Eliezer with everything he had. Before Abraham had children, Eliezer was named to inheret Abraham’s wealth. A second, and even better example is Joseph. Joseph was a slave but he was Potiphar’s Steward {Butler}. Joseph ran Potiphar’s estate. He kept the check book, paid all the bills, instructed all the slaves. 

Before we get into the heart of the message, I want you to note that his particular teaching comes in response to Peter’s question in verse 41, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?” Jesus had been teaching on “Readiness and watchfulness” in regards to His return. Now Jesus in answer to Peter’s question, takes it a step further and teaches us not only to be watching and ready for His return but to be faithful during the interim. We are not to sit and watch but work and watch. Paul gave the Thessalonians a good chewing out for sitting on their roof top patio’s, having bible studies and watching for the Second Coming. Jesus said in John 9:4, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Now is the time to work, not sit and watch but work and watch.

TRANSITION

What do we look for in a steward? What would a wealthy Jewish man like Abraham look for in a steward?

I. HE WOULD LOOK FOR ABILITY

Ability is the talent, the skill, the aptitude to do something. When you are drafting leaders, you look first at ability. One of the requirements of Stewards, Managers or Leaders is to be sensible, wise and prudent. We are to make good sound judgments. You don’t give great responsibility to someone who has no ability to perform the task you are delegating them to do.

If we, as leaders, delegate authority to some individual who does not have the abilty to carry out the assigned task and they fail to do so, God will not hold them responsible, he will hold us responsible because we ask them to do something that they were not capable of doing.

II. HE WOULD LOOK FOR FAITHFULNESS

Jesus said, [v.42] “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

Abraham didn’t put Eliezer in charge of his household until he knew that he could trust him. The same was true of Potiphar. After ability, the first thing you look for is faithfulness or loyalty. You want a person you can depend on. Therefore the steward must be reliable, dependable, trustworthy and loyal to a fault. We sang a song when I was growing up that came to my mind when I got to this verse…it goes like this:

In the warfare that is raging
For the truth and for the right,
When the conflict, fierce, is raging
With the powers of the night,
God needs people brave and true:
May He then depend on you?

See, they come on sable pinions,
Come in strong, Satanic might,—
Powers come, and dark dominions,
From the regions of the night;
God requires the brave and true:
May He then depend on you? 

From His throne the Father sees us;
Angels help us to prevail;
And our leader true is Jesus,
And we shall not, cannot fail:
Triumph crowns the brave and true,—
May the Lord depend on you? 

Refrain:
May the Lord depend on you?
Loyalty is but His due;
Say, O spirit, brave and true,
That He may depend on you.

It is a sobering question: Can the LORD depend on you? If your church can’t, I doubt seriously that the LORD can. I know a lot of good people. They are very likable and fun to be around but you cannot depend on them. They are not reliable. When I was a boy, we had a horse named Betty. Betty enjoyed her freedom. She like to frolic but she didn’t like to work. To catch old Betty, you had to hem her up. If she was in the lot, you could slip around and shut the gate, then get her in the barn or a corner. If you didn’t decieve her and she saw you walk toward her with a bridle, that head came up and she immediately headed to the very back side of our 40 arce farm. Believe it or not, we have church members who are just like Betty. They have ability but no sense of responsibility. You can’t hem them up. When they see you coming with a task in mind, they are gone. There is only one thing worse than a Betty, its a person who promises to do something and then fails to keep their promise.

A steward must be reliable!

III. A THIRD THING TO LOOK FOR IS GOOD JUDGMENT

The AV translates verse 42 thusly, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

Lets look quickly at the bad judgment of the hypothetical steward that Jesus describes:

  1. He thought of his MASTER as being absent.
  2. He thought he had more time “My master won’t be back for a while.”
  3. He abused his power “Beating the other servants”
  4. He acted irresponsibly “Getting Drunk”
  5. He failed to put his MASTER interest above his own. He pursued his own agenda.
  6. He was not prepared when his MASTER returned.

 

CONCLUSION

The wise, the sensible steward who is faithful will be rewarded with more responsibility and priviledge but the unwise, the foolish steward will be cut in sunder [NLT, to pieces].  One commentary said, “Cut in half,” which was an ancient form of execution. Isaiah the prophet was cut in half by a saw by the wicked Manassah.

Jesus said, And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Junior Hill told a story, a parable about two brothers. One was a very healtly and gifted child and the other was born with Downs Syndrome. They attended the same school but the child with the disability was in a special education sector. They were only a year or so apart in age. One day they came in from school and both were elated, the gifted child ran to him mom showing his report card which had all A’s, the child with Downs Syndrome, pecked his mom on the arm and said look, he bent over and ties his shoe. Which one was the mom most proud of? Both, she was proud of both. Both used the ability they had but both didn’t have the same ability.

God is good and He is fair. He is not going to require the same from those who have less ability as he does from those who have much more.

Generous Grace

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

INTRODUCTION

When we think of condescending; we generally conjure up negative images like a rich person looking down on a poor person because he has less or an educated person looking down on the uneducated, think he or she to be ignorant. As a general rule, human are very condescending in a negative sense; we are bad about looking down on others. I knew a man who thought he was morally superior to his father but when this man became older, he realized that he was morally inferior to his father. We all know people who assume that they are the sharpness knife in the drawer. They feel confident that they are the smartest person in the room and without their being aware of what they are doing, they have a condescending attitude that is not admired by anyone. I would not be shocked if the greatest sin of the church is not “Self-righteousness” which iminates from our feelings of moral superoriety. 

BUT when we speak of the Divine Condescension, it is not a negative thing at all because the true definition of condenscion is “To descend to the level of one considered inferior; to lower oneself.” The key passage in the bible on this subject is probably Philippians 2:6-8, Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges ; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human formHe humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

The ‘He’ is in reference to Jesus: NOTE what “He did for us.”

  • He did not cling to His divine rights or priviledges
  • He became a human being [God became flesh]
  • He took the form of a servant or slave [lowered Himself]
  • He humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be humiliated
  • He died a criminals death

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is using Christ as our example in the matter of giving. Jesus Christ was a giver, a generous giver; more generous than we can imagine. Paul said, You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

Again, note what “He did for us.”

  • He was generous
  • He was infinitely rich
  • He became poor for our sakes
  • He makes us rich by His poverty

Transition: I had planned to go to the next passage and keep moving but in reading one of the commentaries this week, I felt convicted about passing over verse 9 so lightly. So tonight, we go back and review this verse again.

I’ve organized my comments around three headings:

I. OUR APPRECIATION FOR THE GENEROUS GIFT THAT CHRIST HAS GIVEN

Robert Tasker said, It is not so much the lowly circumstances of His birth and life as it is the fact that He was willing to become human which was the greatest condescension of them all.

I agree with Tasker. We have no means, no cognitive way to measure the gift of the incarnation: Christ becoming human to save humans.


Probably 25 years or so ago, I heard Paul Harvey tell the story of the birds. It was near Christmas and it was the best illustration that I had heard on the incarnation. 

There was a certain man who had no interest in Christ, church or any type of religious devotion. It just so happened that he was blessed with a very good Christian wife who carried their children to church on a regular basis. It was Christmas time and the family was preparing to attend the Christmas service at church and the wife invited the unbelieving husband and the kids also begged dad to go but he refused. He opted to stay home and watch TV. There was a snow on the ground and an overcast sky. As the man reclined to watch some TV, he heard a thug against the slidding glass door that separated the warm den from the cold patio. He didn’t pay any attention and went right back to his program but in a few minutes, he heard the thumping sound again. He knew something was hitting the glass door so he got up to investigate and that is when he discovered two dying birds laying on the snow. They had seed the light beaming from the den but did not see the glass.

He sat back down to enjoy his program but he just couldn’t get the birds off of his mind. He decided that if it happened again, he would intervene somehow and sure enough a third bird crashed into the glass and broke it’s neck. So he got up, put on his coat and went outside. He had an out building so he went in, cut the light on and lay some bird seed on the floor for the birds to eat. Then he went inside and observed. To his dismay, the birds did not trust him and they would not go inside the building for food and shelter. He went back out a made a trail leading into the building with the bird seed. But when the birds got to the door they flew away. He did it a second time and when the birds got near the door he rushed out to drive them into the shelter but as soon as they heard him exit the den, they flew away. 

Now he is really frustrated: he wants to help the ignorant birds but they will not let him. They don’t trust him, they don’t understand him and his presence terrifies them. What can he do to save them? That’s when he heard an inner voice say, “You would have to become a bird yourself if you are to help them. Then you could speak their language and be on their level. They would not fear you as a bird.” Suddenly it dawned upon him…That’s why Jesus came. He had to become a human to save humans.”

It’s a good story and makes a great point but someone came along and said, “It’s not strong enough, birds have some value; it is more like becomeing a rat to save the rats.”

The truth is: the condescension is an infinite jump that no one can measure. The sacrifice Jesus made in becoming human is beyond description. No illustration we use is adequate. Have you stopped lately to thank God for this indescrible gift?

II. WE ARE NEVER MORE LIKE CHRIST THAN WHEN WE GIVE SACRIFICALLY

Christian love best expresses itself in sacrifical giving.

William Sydney Porter {O. Henry} tell the short story we call “The Gift of the Magi”. It is about a young couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. 

Mr. James Dillingham Young (“Jim”) and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della’s beautiful long, flowing hair, almost touching to her knees, and Jim’s shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.

On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser named Madame Sofronie, and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch chain for Jim’s watch for $21. Satisfied with the perfect gift for Jim, Della runs home and begins to prepare dinner.

At 7 o’clock, Della sits at a table near the door, waiting for Jim to come home. Unusually late, Jim walks in and immediately stops short at the sight of Della, who had previously prayed that she reamain beautiful in Jim’s eyes without her long hair. Jim is so stunned by Della’s short hair that she admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.

Nothing conveys love like a sacrifical gift.

I cannot remember my father ever getting a Christmas present while we were growing up. He did later when his children were grown but in the 40’s and 50’s there was not much money in the Bailey household. I was a grown man, 22 years old, before it dawned on me that my parents had made huge sacrifices for me. You still see it today, parents driving an old jalopy while their kids drive new sports car.

When you truly love someone, no sacrifice is too great.

III. THE LAST THING I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT IS: THE HIGHEST MOTIVE FOR GIVING

Paul is proding the Corinthians to give the way Christ gave but he is also pointing them to the highest motive in giving.

  • Sometimes we give to get
  • Sometimes we give to be a part of a cause or group
  • Sometimes we give to recieve recognition
  • Sometimes we give under compulsion
  • Sometimes we give begrudgling
  • Sometimes we give because their is a need
  • Sometimes we give because we love

BUT the highest motive is to give because Jesus loves. You see, it is one thing for me to give because I love Jesus but it is another for me to give because Jesus loves me. There is an infinite gap between my love for Him and His love working through me. We are to be driven, compelled by the love of Christ, not our love for Him but His greater love which He imputes to us by grace.

In light of what Christ has done for us: who’s love is greater? I think we overwhelmingly agree that His love for us is greater than our love for Him. 

We must learn as did Peter that it is not our love for HIM but His love for us that drives us, motivates us, satisfies us, encourages us and gives us boldness.

Today, August 24th, is the birth date of one of my old friends. He actually departed this world some ten years ago. I worked along side him when he was a flaming evangelist but he got scared by an ugly divorce and he got out of church completely. He moved away from the place of his birth and in the community that he lived in, a church decided to evanglize him. They had good intentions but made a fatal mistake. They told him they “Loved him” and he called them on it. He said, “You don’t love me because you don’t know me.” He was right. I think he politely asked them to leave. Their mistake was professing to love him when he knew they didn’t. He is right, you can’t love someone you don’t know and if you really love someone, you do all you can to get to know them. If they had said, “JESUS LOVES YOU,” there wouldn’t have been any problem.

I have not had the exact same experience as these visitors but I’ve been close and I learned years ago not to say things you don’t mean or can’t back up. First of all, I seldom visit because I love people, I am not motivated by my love. I visit because Jesus loves people and in the perfect sense. They can question my love and sincerety but most do not question His. There are exception: some people get angry if you tell them Jesus loves you. If gives me greater confidence and boldness to go when I am motivated by His love for me and others, not my love for HIM nor my love for others.

 

 

Encouragement

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:1-7, NLT

1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
2 Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone.
3 I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you.
4 I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.
5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.
6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.
7 His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!

INTRODUCTION

Life on this earth is beset with problems. Moses stated it well in Psalms 90, “Seventy years is about all we have, perhaps eighty if you are healthy, yet these days upon earth are filled with trouble and sorrow, then life is over and we are gone.” {Psalm 90:10, JEV} We all have problems, there is no exception. It is true that some seem to have far less problems.


In Psalm 73, David confesses, “I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening? Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.” The key word is ‘seem.’


 

Corinth had problems and Paul wanted to help them.

When we attempt to help others with their problems: we must first examine our hearts and motives. In verse 1 Paul says, “Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” In helping others, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

  1. What are my motives?

  2. Where is this leading? To benefit me or the other person?

  3. Who am I trying to please? Is this what God wants me to do?


If our motives are pure, our help will be blessed


So…I want to talk about Encouragement


#1…We all Need Encouragement

Let me do a little background [2 Corinthians 2].  Paul is in Troas where Christ has opened a door of opportunity but Paul can not rest. He is filled with anxiety, worried about the situation at Corinth. When the problem arose [made sleeping with his step-mother], Paul made a brief and painful visit, rebuking the man and the church. His rebuke was ineffective so later he writes a painful letter. Now he is on a Mission Trip but he cannot get the problem at Corinth off his mind. He has sent Titus to find out what is going on but Titus is on the other side of the Aegean Sea. Paul is so restless and frustrated that he is dysfunctional so he leaves Troas and sails to Macedonia where he meets Titus.


Paul says in verses 4-5

I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.
5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.

NOTE:

  1. Paul troubles–You made me happy despite all our troubles.

  2. Restlessness–There was no rest for us

  3. Struggles–conflict from every direction…Battles on the outside

  4. Anxiety– fear on the inside.


     

     

     

    Paul was an outstanding Christian but sometimes we paint him larger than life. We think of him as being perfect and he was not. There are times when we think that outstanding people like Paul have no problems, at least none that get them down but this is mythical thinking. Paul had the same kind of troubles and struggles that you and I have. The great apostle was so anxious that he couldn’t function. He left a place of ministry due to this extreme anxiety.

There are times when it is encouraging to think about the imperfection of the Saints:

  • Abraham lied to protect his own hyde.
  • Jacob conned his own father.
  • Joseph was a fascist.
  • Moses had a bad temper and even killed a man in rage.
  • Samuel judged Saul by his appearance.
  • Elijah ran from Jezebel.
  • Jeremiah got discouraged often.
  • Jonah was a bigot.
  • Hosea wife was a harlot.
  • David had an affair.
  • John the Baptist wrestled with doubt.
  • Peter denied Christ.

There is only one perfect person and that is Christ Himself. We all have problems, we all have struggles and anxieties. You are not riding a white horse; you are not alone–we all share your pain so be encouraged.

#2…We all need to be Encouragers

Notice the chain of events: Paul sends Titus to encourage Corinth and Corinth surprizely encourages Titus who relays the good news to Paul which encourages Paul. When everyone is an encourager, everyone gets encouraged. The Corinthians church repented–how encouraging. Titus delivered a message. Paul sits down an writes a letter. There are many ways that we can encourage others…let think about some of them.

  1. Titus encourages Paul with his PRESENCE. Look at verse 7….His presence was a joy. Wow, do you realize that you can encourage people with your ‘presence’. I love to study and to preach and your presence here tonight encourages me. Hebrewss 10:25 is one of my favorite verses….And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Again, here is this concept of mutual encouragement. One of the first things I did when I got right with God was move to the front. I’ve been sitting on the front pew since I was 17 years old and most of that time I have spent alone. I tell people, I have my own pew. One of my motivations for moving up front was so I could encourage my pastor. Baptist fight over the back seats, not the front. How encouraging would it be if the front pews filled first! I’m not complaining, I am dreaming…What if 50% of our members came to the GATHERING. You know that our Wednesday night music is great but what an encouragement it would be to see the house filled on Wednesday night. I don’t know if you have noticed or not but fewer and fewer people are attending night services, even leaders. Do you know what that is for me and you? It is discouraging. We would be encouraged if people just showed up. YOUR PRESENCE CAN BE ENCOURAGING.
  2. Paul was encouraged by Titus presence but also by his “WORDS,” Titus brought good news. Words are powerful which is why we are to be careful and not careless is our use of words. I have learned over the years that kind words have to be crafted, we have to think before we speak. Many of us have the tendency to approach things from a negative point of view and our words discourage others. In my first pastorate out of seminary I discouraged a new convert without realizing what I had done. I rained on this man’s parade because he suggested something that was not Baptistic. The principle behind my words was correct but I didn’t think it through before I spoke. Looking back, I could have handled it in a positive way and perhaps the man would not have gotten discouraged. God will use us to encourage others if we will let Him but the devil will use us to discourage if we are not careful. As a young preacher [19] I wanted and needed affirmation especially from family. A great uncle came to hear me preach and I couldn’t wait to hear his appraisal, this is what he said, “Boy you don’t know how to preach. You never rolled up your sleeves. A real preacher leaves the pulpit hoarse and soaking wet from sweat.” I stood there stunned but thank God my mother was eave dropping. She waited for him to walk away and then she said, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about and if you ever preach to please him, I will not come and hear you.” Words can hurt, they can sting to the bone and the devil knows it. We must be careful to encourage with our words, not discourage.
  3. Paul was encouraged by the Corinthians LOYALTY and LOVE. I witnessed something last week that encouraged me. I saw my Son-in-law and his sister stay by their daddy’s bed side day and night. They talked him into coming home one day for a few hours but he went right back, he was by his daddy’s side when he passed away. It reminded me of the movie “Where The Red Fern Grows.” There were two coon dogs, Dan and Ann. If memory serves me right, Old Dan died first from the injuries of a mountain lion. Ann lays by Dan’s grave and grieves herself to death. When it comes to loyalty, dogs are our teacher. Dogs are loyal to the death, literally. Paul started the church at Corinth: he was their spiritual father but they had been influenced by preachers who had no use for Paul. This hurt Paul deeply but Titus news assured Paul that Corinth still loved him and longed to see him. This was music to Paul’s ears. I was in my mid-thirties with four children and living on what income I could generate working as a pastor and a jack-leg contractor when out of the blue, two friends [deacons] asks me to meet them at the church. They said, “There is a petition out asking for your dismissal and we want you to hear it from us. We don’t think it will suceed but we are here to tell you, “You have are support and we will do whatever you feel God is leading you to do.” This was over 30 years ago and I am still here thanks to God’s grace and their loyalty. Loyalty is no longer a core value for most but for me, it is huge.

#3…Our Source of Encouragement is Christ

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.

Often times God uses others to encourage us but always, He is the source of encouragement. Encouragement begins with Christ, my divine Encourager. I love to read and study His word because it is the source of my encouragement.

I stood in front of a hurting family just yesterday. These kids have lost mother and daddy in a span of four years and the oldest of the group is 42. That’s awful young to lose your parents. There were extenuating circumstances that made the service hard and I went to bed Monday night with no idea what I would say. In my morning quiet time, God spoke gently through His word and I knew in a heartbeat that He was giving me the message. My heart was flooded with thanksgiving. It is an agonizing thought to stand before people without a message: it is a reoccuring nightmare for me. 

I spoke to the family what God spoke to me. I pray that it encouraged them; I know it encouraged me. We are God’s instrument of encouragement but He is the Source.

CONCLUSION

  1. Is there someone in your circle of influence that needs your encouragement? Could be your spouse, a son or daughter.
  2. Would you commit to being an encourager? Would you be willing to pray and ask God to use you as an encourager?
  3. You may have to begin with an appology: are you willing to do that if necessary?
  4. There are many ways to encourage: a visit, a phone call, a text, a card or letter. Would you give serious thought about encouraging someone today, tomorrow?

 

Motivation

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:11-19, NLT

11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work [try] hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.
12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.
13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.
14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.
15 He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Introduction

As I read and reread tonight’s text, the word motive kept popping into my mind and then I picked up Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and there it was again, the word motive. We’ve talked about it for weeks now, Paul’s motives were being impugned; his sincerity was being questioned. Evidently, some of the traveling preacher’s whom Paul refers to as “Super-Apostles,” were critical of Paul’s methods, message and motives. Now Paul is afraid of being misunderstood and misjudged by the Corinthians whom he loved. I 2 Corinthians 5, he makes his motives clear.

I. FIRST: PAUL IS MOTIVATED BY A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY

[V. 11]… Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work [try] hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.

Paul was motivated in part by a Godly fear, he knew he would eventually stand before the ‘bēma‘ [judgment seat of Christ]. The bēma was a raised platform, mounted by steps where the Tribunes stood to judge the games, to disqualify or reward the runners. In this sense, Paul is stating that he is motivated by his desire to please Christ. Going back to verse 9, this purpose is stated clearly….So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. Max Lucado says, “If you want to conduct the orchestra, you have to turn your back to the crowd.”

In order to please Christ, Paul followed a plan or practiced certain disciplines.

  1. Paul maintained a narrow focus…[Philippians 3:13-14] No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. I ran track in college, believe it or not, and looking at me now, it is hard to believe. In track, you never look back. Three things can happen if you look back and none of them or good. [1] You waste vital energy [2] You risk stumbling and [3] You take a chance on being distracted. You always look forward to the finish, to the goal.
  2. You never yield to social pressure...The world will try to conform you and make you like others. Our goal is to be like Christ. We never yield to the man fearing spirit that makes us people pleasers. Paul’s critics worked to gain popularity but Paul stood his ground. He was driven by principles, not popularity. [v.12] Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. Would Paul have enjoyed some fame and popularity? Sure, he was human but it was not going to make that his motive.
  3. You never get your affirmation from your critics. You are sitting yourself up for failure once you make it your motive to please people. They will pull you in a dozen different directions. Paul had critics, they said he was crazy. Crazy Paul! [v.13]…If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Paul was not the first man of God to be labeled crazy, nor the last. Critics of Dwight L. Moody [a layman] called him “Crazy Moody.” Have you ever heard folks refer to me as ‘Crazy Jack?’ If you follow Jesus, you will be misunderstood and you will not be popular.

Paul was motivated in part by his fear of God but not fear of man. But this is not the only thing that motivated Paul and it cannot be the only thing that motivates us.

II. PAUL WAS MOTIVATED BY THE LOVE OF CHRIST

[v.14]…. Christ’s love controls us.

  • KJV ….’constraineth’
  • NKJV, NIV….’compels’
  • RSV, NASB, NLT…’controls’
  • GNT, CEV….’rules’

The Greek verb synechō means to take hold or hold together. I like either. Christ love takes hold of us and it compels us, drives us, motivates us, energizes us. If you study the various translations, none are incorrect: Christ love constrains, compels, controls and rules. 

In the early days of my ministry, I was highly motivated by fear of the LORD and my desire to please HIM. I felt a strong sense of accountability. Over time, I saw my motivation shift to the love of Christ. There came a time in my life when honestly, I had no desire, other than guilt, to witness to the lost. Then one day in my study, it dawned on me, I am not to be motivated by my love for the lost, I am motivated by Christ love for the lost: it changed my life and ministry. It set me free. No longer did I enter a home feeling guilty about not loving these people the way Christ did: I understood clearly, that I was there as His ambassador to tell them HE LOVED THEM, not that I loved them. What good would it do for me to sheepishly tell them, “I love you,” when they knew the truth.

I grew up with a guy that got saved when he was about 20 years old. He was so on fire for the LORD that it caused marital problems. His wife was jealous of him spending so much time at church and she told him so. This initiated a series of problems that did not get resolved. By the time I graduated Seminary [7 years later], he was divorced and bitter. He dropped out of church completely. A few years later, he fell in love with a very gracious Christian lady and I performed the marriage ceremony but he never healed. He was not bitter toward his wife or children but he was bitter about the past and I don’t think he ever let it go. He got cancer in his late 50’s and he didn’t last long. In one of my conversations with him, he talked about a local church that tried to get him involved. On there first visit, they told him they loved him and that did not fly. They could have said a lot of things and gotten away with it but this man had experience things they knew nothing about and he called them on it. He said, “You don’t love me, you don’t even know me. There is the door, it is time for you to leave.” The church was right is trying to reach my friend but they were wrong in their approach. We cannot be hypocritical and it was true, they didn’t love him and proved it by leaving him alone. We don’t go because we love people, that will be questioned, we go because JESUS LOVES THEM and that is not questioned, not by most. If they had told him that Jesus loved him, he would have been fine. This is what it means to be constrain, compelled,  or motivated by the LOVE OF JESUS, it’s HIS love not ours that motivates us. Understanding this truth will keep you out of a lot of trouble.

III. PAUL WAS ALSO MOTIVATED BY HIS LOVE FOR CHRIST

[v.19]…For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.

Paul never got over the fact that Christ died for him. Paul’s response was one of pure adoration: Paul was motivated by his love for Jesus. Paul gives us a brief list of benefits bestowed by a loving Christ:

  1. Christ died for all, everyone [v.14,15]
  2. Christ gave us new life [v.15]
  3. Christ made us a new creation [v.17]
  4. God did all this by grace [v.18]
  5. God gave Paul a message and ministry [v.19]

In light of the fact that Jesus had died for Paul [a vicious church hater], gave him a new life with sins forgiven, made something totally knew out of him and did it all by grace moved Paul to love and gratitude. In light of what Jesus had done for him, how could he not love Jesus.

This is the highest motive, doing things because we love Jesus. We will never pay Him the debt we owe but we are not trying to repay the debt, we are expressing our love in obedient devotion.

CONCLUSION

God’s grace has changed me over the years. I am not the person I use to be. I think it all goes back to verse 15,  He died for everyone [ including me] so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

I don’t remember being ruthless or totally callous but I do know that in the early days, I was more motivated by fear than anything else. Then I discovered that I was to be motivated by HIS LOVE not mine and it revolutionized my world. In these last days of my life, I am learning to do things because I love HIM. I have to tell you the truth: I don’t know that I will have many if any rewards when I get to heaven but there are rewards here and now. I guarantee you by my own experience that it pays to serve Jesus and there is no greater fulfillment than to do things simply because you love HIM.

At one time, my goal was for my son to play professional sports which is what I always wanted to do and then it became for all my children, a good job, a good living and healthy children but I don’t ask for things like that anymore. I have narrowed my prayer to something that will cover all of the above. I pray that my children and grandchild will love Jesus with all their heart. If they do that, they will be happy and so will I. It’s a process and it takes time but it doesn’t have to take them as long as it took me.

A Fume Or A Perfume?

A Fume Or A Perfume, which do you want to be?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

12 When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. 13 But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.

INTRODUCTION

Tonight scripture  comes from Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul left from Jerusalem went due North then cut across Asia Minor [Turkey] to Troas on the Aegean Sea. Troas is located on the Northeastern side of the sea just South of the Hellespont. It is a hop, skip and jump from Traos to Macedonia. The voyage has  series of islands with the center most point being the Samothrace.

I have struggled to organize our material but finally came up with an outline that will guide me through tonight’s thoughts. We are going to examine Paul’s ANXIOUS MIND, God’s AMAZING GRACE and our AWESOME TASK.

I. PAUL ANXIOUS MIND

Paul is expecting to see Titus at Troas but he does not show up and Paul is visibly upset. Paul became anxious; so much so that he is dysfunctional. A door of opportunity is open before him but he lacks the presence of mind to enter. He is worried sick over the Corinthian situation. So much so that he has no peace of mind. He becomes so obsessed with anxiety over the Corinthian situation that he does not seize the opportunity to evangelize Troas. This is so not like Paul. Under normal circumstance, a team of wild horse couldn’t stop him from evangelizing.

I am so thankful for the book of 2 Corinthians. This book reveals a human side of Paul that we would not know otherwise. Although worrying is a sin and is stimulated by lack of faith, Paul confesses his anxiety and lack of peace, so much so that he was rendered dysfunctional. I glad the moment of weakness is recorded because I have many such moments and it encourages me to know that the same thing happened to Paul.

Worry is similar to grief in that it is a sign of love. Parents who love and care for their children, worry about them. When you run into a parent that does not worry, it is because they do not care. When I was a teenage and young man, my Mother had a curfew and it was mid-night. I heard kids say more than once, “I don’t have a curfew, I can stay out all night if I choose.” They were actually saying, “My parents don’t care…they are not waiting up for me.”

I understand that we are not to become or remain obsessed with anxiety but I think a little anxiety every now and then is a good sign. I know one thing for sure, I can relate to Paul. I know that anxiety hinders study, sermon preparation, devotional time, bible study, evangelism and mission. We will never produce our best until we relax. This is why recreation is so important to people who have stressful jobs–our creative juices, the inspiration is not going to move in a tense body.

So I realize anxiety can work against us but in Paul’s case it was a definite sign that he cared deeply about the church at Corinth.

II. GOD’S AMAZING GRACE

When I first read tonight text, I saw Paul’s anxiety clearly but I did not see God’s amazing grace. After reading the passage 20-25 times and reading every commentary I could get my hand on, bingo, I saw it and then I thought, how could I not see it? Paul is a bit distracted and discouraged but then the thought of a Roman General came to mind and he realized that he was a part of General Jesus conquest.

When a Roman General had a great victory or conquest of additional territories, the Emperor would do a parade in his honor; something similar to our ticker tap parade. The parade would feature the general leading the procession riding in a gold chariot. The General would be followed closely by his sons, then his officers, then the priest burning incense, then the captives. It was a big deal in Roman culture. The incense would be a fragrance to those who were allied to the General but it was be an odor, a stench to the captives. The parade would end at the Circus Maximus and then the captives would be thrown into the arena with wild beast.

Jesus is the conquering general [King] and we are members of the royal family. We follow him as He leads the way. In Christ we are more than conquers. Jesus won the battle; He is the victor but those of us who follow Him get to walk in victory with him. Just as the family of a general would have nothing to do with the battle, yet get to celebrate the victory. It is a beautiful picture of GRACE. We walk in victory because of what Jesus did in our behalf.

Paul said, “Not only do we walk with HIM, we are the incense.” We are a ‘perfume’ to the believers but we are a ‘fume’ to the unbelieving. To believers we are a pleasure, to unbelievers we are a pestilence.  The key is to understand that we are marching in the victory of Jesus.

III. OUR AWESOME TASK

I like the question raised in verse 16…who is adequate for such a task as this?

The word ‘adequate’ is hikanos which is used 45 times in N.T. It is the same word John the Baptist used when he said, “I am not fit to baptize You.” In reference to the Roman Centurion, it is translated ‘worthy.’ It is also translated sufficient and enough in size, time, length. Paul answers his own question in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6…

We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit.

Getting the gospel to the world is a monumental task. To be honest with you, it blows me away. Had God said to me personally, “Jack, your task and yours alone, is to get the gospel to the world,” I would have collapsed in despair. Thank God it is not my personal charge but that given to the church. Even so, it is still an AWESOME TASK.

Are we up for the task? Are we adequate? No, a thousand times no, but God via His grace and Spirit will enable us; He will make us adequate.

I heard a story many years ago about a preacher who went to a town in the mid-west to do a revival. It was a small town of lest than 20,000. The First Baptist Church was located on main street just across from stores and businesses. The pastor had a visitation in the day and the revival services at night. Each day when the members came for prayer and assignment, the pastor had cards prepared and he handed one to each prospective visitor. On one of the visitations, a mentally challenged man came in for the prayer meeting and visitation but the pastor ignored him. He didn’t think the man had enough sense to go visiting so he never gave him a card.

You or I would have gotten our feelings hurt: we would have went home and never returned for visitation but this man was unimpeded. The towns leading rebel and church hater ran a furniture business almost directly in front of the church. The mentally challenged man, walked across the street and went into the store. The man was in the middle of a sale but our friend interrupted him, he said, “John, would you like to go to heaven.” John was very irritated that he had been interrupted and embarrassed by the question; he said abruptly, “No, I don’t want to go to heaven!” But before he could say more, the intellectually challenged man said, “Well, go to hell then!” Then he turned and left the store. The businessman was furious. He was much more angry with the pastor and the church than he was this simple man. He tried to finish his sale but he kept hearing the man’s voice be replayed in his mind….”Well, go to hell then!” As the day progressed, the voice became more frequent and it was driving the businessman crazy. By night time, the voice was tormenting him and no matter what he did, the voice kept coming back…”Go to hell then.”

He had no peace. When he began locking his business and getting ready to go home, he noticed people gathering at the church for the revival service. Mysteriously, he was lead across the street and went into the service, sitting on the very back row. By the time the invitation came around, he was broken and contrite, he went forward under heavy conviction and gave his heart to Christ.

The pastor was in shock. Before presenting the man to the congregation, he asked. “John, what prompted you to come tonight?” John told him the story…The intellectually challenged man that you sent today said something that I could not shake. He asked me if I wanted to go to heaven and I rudely said, “No,” to which he said, “Go to hell then.” I have not been able to get that voice out of my head all day.

The story may shock you but it doesn’t me. It is not our ability that works, it is our availability. It is God who works, God who enables and He can use anyone He chooses. I attended the COLS a week or so ago. It was the celebration of the life of a simple man. He was an Ag teacher. A small man physically with a low voice. I had a hard time understanding him. I doubt that he had any evangelistic training in his entire life but he loved people and he knew how to relate. He would go get his pastor or a staff member and carry them to someone he was praying for; he would initiate the conversation and then after a few minutes say something like, “I brought my pastor with me, he has a few words he want to say,” then he stopped talking and went to praying silently. Many of his converts were former students. I would not dare anyone to imitate this man but it would be great if we had folks who would follow his example. I met this man at the church I served in college; got to work with him 18 months. I had never saw anyone like him before or since.

Folks, it does not take degrees, training institutes, diplomacy, eloquence or intellectual brilliance to witness for Christ; it simple takes a desire to be used and willingness to go. It is God who enables, convicts and changes lives. The intellectually challenged man did not change the furniture salesmen’s life , Jesus did.

Christian Ministry

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4, NLT

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. 24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

 So I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit. For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I have grieved. That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

We don’t have an introduction…we are just going to dive into the message without a spring board…

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE MINISTRY IS A RELATIONSHIP

Obviously, a minister has a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul echoed this truth in chapter 5...14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Paul stated in I Corinthians that he was Corinth’s spiritual father. He was the one who brought the gospel to Corinth and the one who founded the church. Paul had a fatherly relations ship with the church is Corinth.

For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. {I Cor. 4:5}

Being a father myself, I know that this relationship involves a lot of things. There are stages in the relationship where things can be one sided. Paul loved the Corinthians like a father. It was a committed love, an unconditional love but the Corinthians were not loving in their response for all that Paul had done. There was someone in the church [v.5], a man who was anti-Paul and apparently, he had a rather large following. There is no doubt, Paul loved the Corinthian church more than they loved him. Of all the churches he founded, Corinth gave him the most heartache.

Finding a preacher is not that hard these days. There are many gifted pulpiteers our there but find a pastor is a horse of a different color. Until a preacher has invested his life in a particular congregation, he is not going to love them like a father. Any church who has a pastor that loves them is fortunate.

II. THE CHALLENGE OF MINISTRY IS TELLING THE TRUTH IN LOVE

Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. [1:23]

Using the same analogy [Father and child], a part of a Father’s responsibility is to be honest with his children. Everyone needs someone in their life who loves them enough to tell them the truth.

How does a child grow and mature? How does a football player improve his game? How do we grow in Christ?  We all need someone to hold us accountable, someone to challenge our thinking, someone who will tell us the truth in love. No one is what they think they are: your perception of yourself is not accurate. You cannot see your back side. Others have a totally different opinion of who you are: we all need correction, sometimes rebuke, we need admonishment and encouragement.

I had a seminary professor take a slight interest in my life. The man proved his sincerity by helping me graduate early. I was on campus two and one half years where as it takes three years to graduate. He took it upon himself to let me finish my last class as a Seminar, this meant more work for him, far less time and expense for me. Toward the end of my class he felt confident in talking to me about my weaknesses, the areas where I need vast improvement. I have never resented this man’s comments because I was confident that he was trying to help me. We all need coaching and accountability.

Paul was not afraid to speak the truth which was exactly what Corinth needed. Some old friends from a former pastorate dropped in to see me this past week. I asked them about one woman in particular and they told me that she was not doing well which is what I feared. This woman was very straight laced and some what of a pharisee. She did not understand why I preached depravity. She believed that everyone has inherent goodness and that in some cases, the good far exceeds the bad. This is contrary to scripture that teaches all have sinned and come [exceedingly] short of the perfection we see in Jesus. When I talked about death and hell deserving sinners, she was offended.

I loved the woman and my goal was never to offend her but I had to preach the truth. After I left the church and moved to our present place of service, she told someone, “I loved Bro. Jack but he never said anything good about us.” I may have been guilty of too much truth without enough love. To much rebuke without enough encouragement.

I’ve been in the ministry for 45 years and only once have I been asked to preach on stewardship. I do preach on the subject but not because it is popular but because it is the truth. No one will be helped spiritually if I tickle ears and stroke egos. 

III.THE GOAL OF MINISTRY IS SYNERGY [Working together]

24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together [synergos] with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

Total domination destroys synergy [working together]. Paul did not want to lord over them or dominate them, he wanted to work together with them. If I could pass along one word of advice to husbands and pastors it would be this: do not attempt to be dominating. Total domination may exalt you but it will be at the expense of other and your long term goal.

Synergy is not my way or your way but a better way that can only be achieved by us working together. So much more will be accomplished by working together than by one person dominating and commanding. You always know that a church has become a cult when the dominate leader is the focus. Some people praise their pastor more than they do Jesus. Folks, we are to promote Jesus, not earthly leaders.

IV. THE FRUIT OF MINISTRY IS JOY

[2 Cor. 2:3] That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. 

This is not rocket science: an average leader will accomplish more than a highly gifted leader if he has a congregation that is willing to work together. Moses was an outstanding leader but he did not have a congregation which was willing to work together. Thus Moses had more grief than joy. Team work creates enthusiasm. People are always happier when they feel a part of the team, when they know they contribute. We cannot win by disenfranchising people.

Hebrews 13:17– Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

The Israelite’s gave Moses sorrow rather than joy. They were anything but obedient: their were stiff necked and obstinate. They not only hurt Moses, they hurt themselves.

Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Dwyane Wade, Carlos Bozer, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Emeka Okafor, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, and Richard Jackson have in common. They were members of the 2004 US Olympic men’s basketball team, all NBA all stars playing against amateurs, projected to go undefeated. The only question was the margin of victory. WRONG! They lost three of their seven games by a margin of 33 points. One game was a blow out and the last was never close. You can see the highlights on YouTube. The difference: the Americans were all stars with huge egos, concerned about stats and publicity. They played as individuals whereas Argentinians played as a team. To my knowledge, Emanuel David Ginóbili is the only member of the Argentine team to play in the NBA.

They teamwork payed off and they celebrated their victory with great joy. When synergy happens, joy is the by product.

V. THE HEART OF MINISTRY IS COMPASSION [Love]

 I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. [2 Cor. 2:4]

Our motivation for Ministry has to be love: love for Jesus and love for others. We must be compelled by the love of Christ. As Paul shared in his first letter, LOVE is the highest motive:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We never fail in ministry if we are motivated by the love of Christ. The last line of to nights passage is:  I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

Dealing With Temptation

May 17, 2015

Dealing With Temptation

Luke 4:1-13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. 11 And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” 12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Introduction

Joe David will get the opportunity to speak to you tonight, so I want to speak to you this morning. This message is directed toward our seniors and young people but it is a message for all ages. I want to talk to you this morning about something that is very real and I will preface my thought by pointing out several related realities.

  1. The “World” is real and when I say world, I mean the world system which is in rebellion against Christ, God’s anointed. Our world is hostile toward Jesus. They despise our Savior. If you want to fit in to this world system, you must not talk about Jesus unless you are uttering curses.
  2. The power and presence of “Evil” is real. In 2013 there were 1.2 million abortions [certainly a violent crime], 13,160 homicides, over 75,000 rapes and 316,000 robberies. The same liberals who say that evil does not exist have three locks on their doors: latch, chain and deadbolt. Every child in our house had a 12:00 pm curfew because my mother said, “Nothing good happens after mid-night.”
  3. The “Flesh” is real. By flesh, I mean the selfish and sinful nature that indwells each of us. This nature says… “I want what I want when I want it and I will act ugly if necessary to get it.” We see this nature come out in little children. It is in all of us. Isaiah said…All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Jesus].
  4. The “Devil” [adversary] is real: he goes by many names—Lucifer [Light bearer, shinning one], Satan [accuser]. He is not a cartoon character dressed in blue and red with long tail and pitch fork in hand. He is a fallen angel; angel gone bad. He is a spiritual being and you and I have never seen him with our eyes but he is real, just as real as the air you breath which you cannot see either.
  5. Last but not least, there is “Temptation” which is what I want to talk about today. Temptation is real, very real, among other things. Let’s talk for a minute about the other things.

Facts About Temptation

  1. Temptation comes from the devil. James says in chapter one of his epistle…12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,  and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. [Four stages to sin: Desire, Deception, Disobedience and Death] God will test us to bring out the best in us but Satan tempts us to bring out the worse. {W.W. Wiersbe}
  2. Temptations follow a basic pattern: Genesis 3:6… When the woman saw that the tree was good for food [Physical appetite], and that it was a delight to the eyes [pleasure principle], and that the tree was desirable to make one wise [Power/control], she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Think about it: Jesus was tempted to turn rock into bread [physical appetite]. He was tempted to do something sensational [Pleasure Principle] and He was tempted to set up an earthy kingdom [Power/Control]. John said, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh [Appetite] and the lust of the eyes [Pleasure] and the boastful pride of life [Power/Control], is not from the Father, but is from the world. Jesus was tempted with the same things as Eve but there is one difference: Jesus was tempted to rely on His divine nature, you and I are tempted to rely on our human nature. We’ve never been tempted to turn rocks into bread because we lack to power to do so.
  3. Temptation is common to all men and all believers. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. My pastor challenged me to memorize this verse which I did and I do not know how many times this verse came into play, it was more than once. Every time I claimed this verse and prayed, God gave me a way of escape.
  4. Temptation is a powerful force or pull. We cannot take it lightly. [1] First of all, we cannot deny the pleasure of sin. Listen to what the scriptures say about MosesIt was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. Did you note: there is pleasure in sin, if there was not, temptation would have no power but alas the pleasure of sin is fleeting. Jesus offers us suffering first but it is consummated in glory. The devil offers us glory first but it ends in agonizing suffering. [2] Satan always using attractive bait. He allures us. Just as a fisherman lures the fish. Satan’s lures look good to the eye but they all have a hook. Your goal is to not get hooked. [3] No one is above temptation. Jesus the Son of God was tempted and you and I will be tempted also. Don’t get proud; pride makes us setting ducks. Paul warned in Galatians 6…Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

Remember

  1. Satan always attacked our weakness
  2. He always using alluring bait: something that will draw you out.
  3. He always uses deceit: he is a liar and the father of all lies…you cannot trust him, ever.
  4. He always cast doubt on the goodness, the benevolence of God.
  5. He always cast doubt on the motive of God…God doesn’t love you, why would He love you…do you deserve being  loved by the Creator?
  6. He always cast doubt of God’s word.

CONCLUSION

  1. Today, I challenge you to believe with all your heart that God loves you more than you love youself. Jesus loves you this I know, He gave up heaven’s glory to take on the garb of our human flesh. He lived a perfect life in our behalf because we could never meet the laws perfect demands. He died on a cross to pay for our sins which we could never pay for. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. Jesus loves you, don’t doubt it. If you are a doubter, watch the PASSION OF CHRIST.
  2. The Bible is God’s word, believe it:  If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. If you will put your faith in the righteousness of Jesus, God will give you credit for His perfect life.
  3. It all boiled down to who you trust: the world, the flesh {self}, the devil or Jesus.

SOCIAL STATUS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST

TEXT: James 1:9-11, NLT

9Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

INTRODUCTION

I have always had some difficulty with this passage because I have some wealthy friends who are very good to me and I think it is wrong to be unjustly harsh toward them simply because they are rich. My father was a member of a local union and for some reason, the unions teach, or brainwash their members into seeing the rich as the enemy and the cause of all ills. Abraham was rich, Job was rich, Zacchaeus was rich and Joseph of Arimathea was rich just to name a few. Money or wealth is amoral: it is neither good or bad. It all depends on our attitude toward wealth.

Christ brings to every man what every man needs. The despised poor need self-respect and the rich need humility. Christ is the great leveler of men: He raises the despised and He lowers the elites.

I. CHRIST CAN RESTORE SELF-RESPECT TO THE POOR

Like it or not, our world judges people by their income and net worth. All wealthy people are considered successful. It does not matter how wicked a person is: if they have lots of money, the world admires them. There is something superficial and shallow about the world’s analysis but that is the way it is. This tendency of judging people by the social economic status has always been a problem in the church. James will have a lot to say about how we relate to the poor and he has a stern warning if we show partiality by giving preferential treatment to the rich.

People tend to kiss up to money, just the way it is and people who don’t have money tend to think less of themselves for being poor. The major attitudinal problem with the despised poor is their self-respect or sense of self-worth. Christ came to restore our sense of self-worth. No one is useless, no one is invaluable in the kingdom of Christ.

William Barclay says that in the early church, some of the pastors were slaves. They were serving communion to their masters. The church is to obliterate social distinctions which divide us. In other words, we they walked into the sanctuary to worship, there was no slave and master. Every man became a slave and Jesus was the Master.

Creating a culture that disregards social distinction is not an easy thing. Countless number of churches have had wars over things like bus ministries and Weekday Education [some call it Day Care but it is really Child Care]. I have heard opponents say, “It does not make sense to bring in all these poor kids. They do not give, they only take.” Some people want to run the church like a business but the church is a ministry and there is a big difference. All ministry is costly and never profitable if it really done in the name of Jesus and for his glory. If you are making a profit in ministry, you best find a prayer closet and get your motives purified. All Christ exalting ministries lose money which is why we give our tithes and offerings.

I have a pastor friend in L.A. who has a bus ministry. They have been running buses as long as the Falwells and they will keep running them because they have a climate and culture conducive to bringing in poor  [sometimes] children. They embrace these kids. I doubt if you can find a bad attitude in the entire church concerning these children. We have one van and we use it on Sunday and Wednesday night. Practically all the children that ride the van [two loads on Wednesday] are from welfare families where the parents don’t work. These children do not practice good hygiene and they do not dress as well as others but I have been super blessed, along with drivers and the teachers. Our Wednesday night supper crew knows every child by name and they treat them like royalty. I am telling you, it is a sight for sore eyes. One of the little girls named Sissy has become an icon.

In the body of Christ, the church–social distinctions are to be obliterated. I can promise you, there will not be any in heaven.

II. CHRIST CAN GIVE THE RICH A SPIRIT OF HUMILITY

You have to admit, most rich folks are not humble. Wealth has a tendency to make us arrogant and self-reliant. Because we have more than others, we feel superior to others. We may even feel intellectually superior. We may even think that all poor people are stupid or dumb. We may feel more deserving. I have heard rich people say, “I worked for what I have. No one gave me anything.” What an arrogant pile of rot. Their mama gave them birth and God gave them breath and health to work. It is God, according to Moses, who gives us the ability to make wealth.

In America, at least in the past, we have three classes whereas in Jesus day there was only two. We have the rich, the middle class, and the poor. Most of us are middle class. We do tend to congregate with our kind. Very few rich people belong to a small rural church: they go to a First Baptist or some prestigious church in town. I’ve had it happen. A middle class man became wealthy during the Reagan years and he moved his membership to a First Baptist Church. It was not a great loss, he only tithes his advice. He sent his tithe to whomever he decided. He never trusted the church with HIS money.

Here is the dilemma. I am not rich but I am not poor either, not in our culture. I don’t mind telling you that I get intimidated by the rich. I have always felt inferior to the rich but at the same time, I have often felt superior to the poor. Christ wants to level our thinking. So I am in the middle, I am neither rich or poor so I have trouble relating to both.

I’m going to be honest. We have beggars stop here on a regular basis and I do profile. As a matter of fact, I can give you a profile of a modern day, North Alabama beggar. They smoke, they have a cell phone, they like beer, cable and pets. They all have a sob story and they shun work and responsibility like it was the black plague. Yet I know what the old testament teaches about our relation to the poor and we do help. Our church gave thousands of dollars this past Christmas, making sure these kids from the welfare families had a Christmas. At our BLOCK PARTY in August, we will give away thousands in food, clothes, school supplies and prizes. In the 15 years that we have been doing Block Parties, I would guess that we have given close to a quarter of a million dollars to the poor in our area.

In either direction: extreme wealth or poverty, or in the middle– the problem we battle is ATTITUDE.

III. RICHES ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN POVERTY

William Barclay said, “Riches tend to make us feel proud and self-sufficient. Wealth gives us a false sense of security. Money makes us feel safe…we become convinced that we can buy whatever we need and that includes buying our way out of a bad situation.”

We have seen this right here in Morgan County: the poor kid goes to prison and the rich kid gets off scott free.

The problem of trusting your riches is that wealth is transient and not really dependable. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. For an illustration, James uses the Sirocco or as some call it the Simoon. This is the scorching Southeast wind that blows up from the dessert. It is a picture that we are totally unfamiliar with in the West. In Palestine, a field can be green one day and brown the next. When the Sirocco comes in, it is like the opening of an oven door, the scorching heat fries the vegetation is hours, less than a day.

The point is: we cannot put our trust in riches. It is not wise because they are here today and gone tomorrow. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.”

CONCLUSION

Jesus urges us to admit our human helplessness. We need humility. We need to put our faith and trust in HIM, not earthy treasures. We need to totally depend on HIM and it takes humility to do this. God give us humility.