Substitution – the Great, the Good and the Ungodly – I Peter 2:21-25

  I read about the death of Michael Costello in a book of contemporary sermon illustrations. According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael was a parachute instructor. Although the article didn’t say, I’m going to assume he was the owner or manager of a company which taught recreational skydiving. On June 22, 1997, Michael took a novice skydiver – Gareth Griffith – up to an elevation of 22,000 feet. Then they both jumped. After soaring downward for a few moments, as instructed, Griffith pulled the rip cord, but nothing happened. Costello then pointed to the secondary chute, but again nothing happened when that cord was pulled. Plummeting toward the ground, it looked like certain death for the first-time parachutist. At that point there was no time for Costello do much to save both the student and himself. But then, according to the Tribune, the instructor did something astonishing. Just before hitting the ground, Michael pulled in front of his pupil and rolled over, cushioning Griffith for the moment of impact. The student survived, but the teacher did not – dying instantly. The editor of the book suggested that the sacrifice of that skydiving teacher is an illustration of salvation. And in several ways it might be. He substituted himself for his student. Just as Christ took the impact of God’s justice for our sins, dying on the cross. And because of His sacrifice and substitute, we can walk away without injury. While perhaps conveying a nice story, there are some flaws in the application of the lesson. For example, the failure of the parachutes was probably due to someone in...

It was Just a Small Dinner Party – Matthew 26:26-29

  Why are there so many denominations trying to squeeze under the umbrella called “Christianity”? The short answer is that they all believe different things while still claiming to follow Christ Jesus. Lutherans believe different doctrines from the Mormons who believe differently from Roman Catholics. Even those who bear the same denominational name sometimes have serious differences of doctrine. And there is no reason to look beyond those who call themselves “Baptists.” Some Baptists glorify God in preaching His sovereignty over salvation, while most put salvation squarely on the sin-dead heart of the fallen sons of Adam. Some Baptists try to keep their distance from the methods and music of the world, while others embrace as much of the world as possible in order to draw the attention of the lost man. Some Baptists call themselves “Protestants,” while others, like ourselves, see our forefathers in history long before the Reformation, stretching back to the Apostles. I get perturbed by former Southern Baptist Churches and churches of the Baptist Bible Fellowship who drop the “Baptist” name, calling themselves just “Church of the New Life” or some such thing. But in reality, since they believe themselves to be Protestants, and they are denying the doctrines our ancient Baptistic predecessors died to maintain, dropping the “Baptist” name is not really a bad thing. Two particular points of disputed doctrine relates to the nature of Christ’s church and the Lord’s Supper. Many Baptists believe there are two kinds of churches – one local and the other universal – which supposedly incorporates everyone who believes on Christ as Saviour. Those who accept the universal...

The Word and His Way – John 1:1-14

  It might be fun during some evening of casual fellowship to play a little game which we might call “First Lines.” Mankind has been writing books for thousands of years now, and many of them have begun with interesting or powerful opening sentences. I know some Christians who say they never read secular or fictional literature, sticking only to Christian literature, Christian biography or theology. I pity those people, because they are keeping themselves of some of God’s great blessings. Do they also deprive themselves of the fragrances of the garden and the taste of fresh fruit? In the midst of disgusting and evil things, there are all kinds of secular blessings which God has given us to enjoy, and good literature is one of them. But getting back to that little game. I wonder how many can hear the opening line to some great book and identify the author or the title? For example, how many of you recognize these words? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (A Tale of Two Cities). “Call me Ishmael.” (Moby-Dick). “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice). “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff...

The Wearing of the Blood – Matthew 27:3-8, 15-26

  There are many people who are offended by any reference to “blood” in modern day religion. To them “religion” is a spiritualized moral philosophy of positive thoughts and actions. As far as I am concerned…..let those people be offended ! We Christians have a choice of offending a few sinful people or offending God. The Lord has said that no man will ever approach His throne without an offering of blood. This is because every man, every woman, every child who has ever breathed the air of earth has been a sinner in God’s sight. And no unholy sinner has ever had access to the Lord. But in the shedding of acceptable blood, and only in the shedding of blood, there is remission of sin. In application of the blood of God’s proscribed sacrifice – righteousness is applied to the sinner. Theologically, it is called “justification” – the imputation of the righteous of the Lamb of God. Those who moan about the bloodiness of Bible Christianity could have it a lot worse. Christianity is the reason why the aisles and parking lot of churches are not stinking with the stench of stale blood. If were not for the influence of Christianity, we’d still be slaughtering chicken, sheep, calves and goats. Blood sacrifices have been a part of most ancient religions from the days of the Babylonians and the barbarians of Europe. Christianity is the reason why some of our daughters’ throats have not slit open with sacred knives. Christianity is the reason why some of our children haven’t been pushed into volcanos or tossed over the rapids on...

God – Both Just and the Justifier – Romans 3:19-26

  Let’s say that a man is worried about robberies in his neighborhood, so he sets up surveillance cameras. They are linked to three computers, making a recording of everything that takes place on his property. Through an ap on his phone, he can view his property in real time wherever he might be. And then the computer inside his house is making a permanent digital recording, which the man erases every Saturday night if there is nothing needed to be saved. But then as a back up, his work computer is making a second recording. One eventful night that property owner comes home and gets into a fight with his wife. He is a violent man and strikes her across the head with the closest thing handy, and she dies. As it happens he has a ready-made alibi because of something earlier that evening. So he goes to his home office and deletes the video on that computer. But he doesn’t realize that a neighbor heard yet another fight at the house and has called the police. They arrive just as he finishes with his computer and as he slips out the back door of his house, racing to his office. The police see body and the cameras all over the house, and because it is still running, they see that there aren’t any video recordings – they must have been recently deleted. And then the neighbor tells them that the man has often boasted of his back-up system at work. The police, knowing they have no time to spare, order an officer downtown to enter the man’s...

Wisdom in the Little City – Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

  I would like to use Solomon’s words in why in which he never intended. But I do knowing exactly what he meant, so it’s not out of ignorance I am headed in a different direction. What God’s prophet was pointing out is pretty obvious. Where sin controls people – most of our society – Where sin reigns wisdom, righteousness, kindness and many such good things are ignored. Not only ignored, but deliberately rejected and even scorned. I remember a man coming to our house in Lethbridge looking for directions. I gave him the help he wanted and then a bit more, handing him a gospel tract, giving him directions towards heaven. When he left my porch, he wadded up the tract and tossed it onto the lawn. He didn’t just throw it away; he wanted me to know that he scoffed at it. How often have we showed kindness or befriended someone who later turned against us? We see nations, receiving billions of dollars in U.S. aid, turn against us when a better offer comes along. Parents who spoil their children, giving them what demand, often find themselves hated by their kids. An employee designs a great new product, but when the money starts rolling in, his employer forgets who had the original idea. We could probably think of illustration after illustration. “Now there was found in (the little besieged city) it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man (when peace returned to the community.)” Solomon suggests, “This is cruel and inconsiderate, but typical of...

Serious Thoughts for Serious Moments – Ecclesiastes 8:11-17

  Is there such a thing as thinking for personal enjoyment? How many people think about things simply because we have the ability to think? Is there entertainment in thinking, or is it just a part of work? To put it differently, when you have nothing specific to consider, what is it that you consider? Some people in such situations – worry – they think about all the ways that life can go bad. They are pessimists. Some brains, when there is nothing important to consider, turn to sports. Others turn to their memories – past events or other things like recent books or stories. How many people appreciate the opportunity for serious thought? How many philosophers are there in the general population today? Philosophy is defined as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.” Isn’t this much of what Solomon is doing in this Book of Ecclesiastes? The verses of this scripture suggest some very serious subjects. But some might disagree and say that thinking about these things is a waste of time. They would rather talk about yesterday’s baseball game, or the Seahawk’s potential season. I remind that person of Solomon’s words in Proverbs – “As (a man) thinketh in his heart so IS he.” If all our thinking over the last 24 hours – including our dreams…. If all our thinking was put under divine analysis, would there be evidence that we are Christians? If our thought-life truly reflected the condition of our hearts as well as our minds, would there be evidence that we are children of God? The Apostle Paul...

The Christian’s Day – Romans 13:11-14

  Have you ever found that your first impression of the day determined the character of the rest of the day? You slept fitfully, or you had a terrible dream, or you over-slept and the day began with a jolt. For some reason, the next eighteen hours were completely destroyed before they ever began. You got out of the bed on the wrong side, and you were on that wrong side for the rest of the day. Sometimes you tried to find a solution to your negative attitude, but sometimes it just stuck with you. We find here in Romans 13 that the Bible has some recommendations for us on this sort of thing. Other scriptures help us to sleep well, even when the world is falling in around us. And now that we are awake, the Bible gives us directions for the day. If we are able to establish a proper attitude and direction as we get out of bed, we will be headed in the right direction until we hit the pillow again in the evening. “This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 is a wonderful verse, and it is true that every day is a new gift from God. But have you ever noticed that the context of that verse is a bit more specific than July 23, 2018? “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is...

The Person of Christ – John 12:20-21

  It is said that Sir Isaac Newton wanted to make some studies of the sun, involving looking directly towards it. He took all the precautions that he could think of and went off to his work. After a couple of hours, he jotted down his notes and went to bed. A few hours later when he awoke he found a permanent impression of the sun in his eyes. I wish I could say that when I get up in the morning everything I see is superimposed with an image of God’s Son. I wish that when I look at you I could see Christ. I wish that when we are tempted to sin, we would always see the Lord standing by, shaking His head. I wish that our thoughts, our deeds, our conversations, our joys and our sorrows were all blended with the realization of the presence of the Saviour. Alas, this isn’t true in me, and I must assume that probably isn’t true in you either. This morning I have a very simple topical message. It is elemental – the kind of sermon with which I grew bored after I had been saved for a few years and after I went to Bible college. If this was the only kind of message preached in this place, I wouldn’t blame you for being unhappy with me. But on the other hand, it is messages like this that all Christians need to hear from time to time. It is messages like this which help us to think about the Saviour and to see Christ. As Christians we need to...

The Hidden Ones of God – Psalm 83:3

  Without a doubt this Psalm of Asaph is speaking about Israel. It was written some time during the reign of David. This Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians. But we can’t be sure of the occasion, so we don’t know the particulars. This may have come during the period when David was forced to flee from Jerusalem during the rebellion of Absalom, but we don’t know for sure. Whenever it was, the man of God was apparently depressed – perhaps appalled – at the power of ungodly. So he pleads with the Lord to take action against them – “hold not thy peace and be not still, O God.” God’s enemies are also the enemies of God’s people – righteous people – David and Asaph were feeling the sword of the ungodly. “Lo, thine enemies make a tumult” – a great deal of noise – “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” – just as Saul of Tarsus will do a thousand years later. Do you remember what happened to him? While this is speaking of Israel 3,000 years ago, I hope you can see a parallel in today’s Christian world. The enemy of Christ is still “making a tumult” and “taking crafty counsel” against the people of God. Those who deny Christ – from the Muslim to the homosexual – the evolutionist, the liberal libertarian, the ACLU, and some courts – would love to see the end of Biblical Christianity. “Come,” they say, “let us cut them off from being a (people) that the name of (Christ) may be no more in...

Without the Camp – Hebrews 13:10-14 (Numbers 19:1-10)

  There are very few things which so clearly demonstrate God’s hatred sin as the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. For example, this is a blood sacrifice which was made – not for the wicked – but for professing believers. This came after all the sin offerings, trespass offerings, the Passover and so on. The Lord still hates our sins, even after the atonement. The Red Heifer still bears the general characteristics of all sacrifices. There was the fact that a beautiful animal had to die for the sins of wretched men. Here was an animal which in no way had ever sinned against its Creator, and yet it was killed. Death is a result of sin, but this death had a special relationship to that sin. This was a vicarious death – a substitutionary death made on behalf of the sinner. “Without the shedding of blood there is no redemption” and deliverance from sin. But when God has ordained a substitution, if the criteria is met a switch can be made. This sacrifice was so horrific that it rendered everyone involved unfit further worship. The priest and all his helpers became unclean by offering this sacrifice. It was spiritually radio-active, and these people could not serve the Lord for the rest of the day, even though what they were doing was ordained and commanded by God Himself. God hates our sins. And among other things, all of this was done outside the tabernacle and outside camp. It was so horrendous and disgusting that it couldn’t be performed in the midst of general society. This was no superficial, smile...

The Lordship of our Lord – Romans 10:9-13

  This scripture contains a wonderful promise about one of the most important of all things. It speaks about salvation from sin though the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this is a scripture which is also very often abused. It is highly mis-used by ignorant people who claim to be “soul-winners.” Now there is nothing wrong with this scripture, and there is nothing wrong with being a soul-winner. But there is something very wrong with abusing, twisting and wresting scriptures from their context. This scripture is abused when it is taught that prayer or mere confession delivers people from their sins. AND it is abused when the Lordship of Christ is omitted. I would like, once again, to exalt our Saviour among us. Christ said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” This lifting up, of course, began at the cross. But it continues whenever the saints of God glorify His Name and properly teach His doctrine. I don’t have any illusions of greatly stirring your MINDS this morning, because it’s unlikely that I’ll say anything that moderately educated Christians don’t already know. But I do hope that the Holy Spirit will stir your HEARTS just a little bit. Who is this Lord Jesus Christ? We begin with the fact that He is the Lord of CREATION. Christ Jesus is the Lord of creation by His intrinsic – self-possessed and natural – creative power. “In the beginning was the Word (the Lord Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He same was in the beginning with God. All things were...

The Gender War – Genesis 1:26-28

  It’s been a few weeks now, but one morning last winter you awoke not feeling your usual perky self. You felt listless and unenergetic – you woke up tired – but not your usual tired – this was different. You didn’t have any appetite for breakfast and then later in the day you felt unusually warm. You had a tickle in your throat; you sneezed a few times; you were inexplicably irritable. Initially without your knowledge, there was a war going on inside your body. Some sort of infection had crept into your lungs and from there it spread into your blood stream. At some point your body reacted by sending out its army of defense, once again testifying to the marvelous creative design of the Almighty God. When you woke up that day there was a battle raging within you and you didn’t realize it. Similarly, outside our bodies, within society as a whole, there is a war raging, and for the most part the people around us are unaware of it. Even when the fever begins to rise and some are falling victim, others refuse to admit to the conflict. One reason is that the terms used to describe it are foreign to uneducated ears. Just as medical doctors and CDC might use unfamiliar words to talk about your infection, the Bible speaks about “Satan,” “Heavenly rebellion,” “human depravity” and “native weakness” – words which the religious layman might not understand or care to admit. This war to which I refer may not display itself with incendiary bombs, cannon fire and massive explosions. But if we...

The Path of Sin – Jeremiah 2:4-13

  As I read these words, it is with an emotion which is entirely human. No human being, poet or prophet, has been spiritual enough to fully understand these divine emotions. But I THINK I hear an anguish – a tear if you like – in the voice of God as He reasons with His chosen nation. Although Jehovah doesn’t possess the same passions we have, there is something here which can only be illustrated by the longing of a father rejected by his son. We have a hint here of the prodigal and the loving father awaiting and praying for his return. “Be astonished, O ye heavens: My people, my children have forsaken me.” The Son of God “came unto His own and His own received him not.” Incredible, astounding, flabbergasting, heart-breaking! There is a tendency, when the human interpreter looks at a passage so clearly pulled from antiquity, to think that he is pointing his finger at people other than the one’s to whom he is preaching. But I’ve been in the ministry too long to think that WE are any different from Israel. I know my own heart well enough to know that there lurks in it the shadow of the blackest of sins. And it doesn’t take a special pastoral gift to know that others are following the same pig trail through the same swamp. Think back over the last twenty-five years, and you too can name people who walked this path. Even some former members of this church. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world and is departed unto Thessalonica.” “But all...

On the Back Side of Conversion – Acts 9:1-20

  Four or five weeks ago we considered the circumstances of Saul’s conversion to Christ – His salvation. The Lord sovereignly intervened in the life of a man who was determined to whatever he wanted to do with his three score and ten years on this earth. But he was instantly changed – converted. Here in this chapter Saul met the Christ who he had been so vehemently denying. He was saved from a future life of blasphemy, hatred and the wicked persecution of God’s saints. He was delivered from the guilt of his sins through the shed blood of the Saviour which he had been trying so hard to remove from the soil at Calvary and from the memories of God’s people. This salvation story is one which I have preached several times, and Lord willing, will preach again and again until the Lord is finished with me. It is a classic evangelical message, similar to thousands being preached around the world this morning. But — in many of those churches where the conversion of Saul is preached, the gospel message seems to stop at verse 6 or 7 or 8. Many evangelists think that once they get someone to repeat “the sinner’s prayer” their work is done. Some may encourage their “new convert” to be baptized, to join the local Baptist church, and to tithe, but these things are secondary – almost unimportant compared to “asking Jesus into their hearts.” But of course, no such words or ideas can be found in this scripture. And have you noticed the Holy Spirit doesn’t tell us the moment in...