Doorway to a Decade – I Peter 1:13-23

In which camp are you? There are people who believe each new decade begins on January 1, in a year which ends in 1. They correctly say that life began on the first day of the first year of time – January 1, 01. So our next decade will begin on January 1, 2021. Back in 1999, the US Naval Observatory, the agency that maintains the country’s master clock, was asked to determine when new millennium would begin. It was their official position that the 21st century and second millennium would begin on Jan. 1, 2001. And when the Farmer’s Almanac agrees that must set it in stone. But common society often doesn’t care about facts, science and details. So there so many who say our last decade ended Tuesday, and with 2020 we have begun a new ten year period. In which camp do you belong? Of course it doesn’t really matter, because Jehovah, who is not bound by time, nevertheless governs time. He has stopped the solar clock a time or two, and in Exodus 12:2 He even changed the calendar. And when He did that He gave us grounds to make any New Year a time of new beginnings, whether it is also a beginning a new decade or a new century. As I say in Exodus 12:2 God changed the Jewish calendar. I doubt very much that the Egyptians or anyone else paid any attention. Assuming they had a calendar, they just kept on with the system they had in place. But I wonder if different countries had their own calendars, and if so, did...

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – II Corinthians 8:9

  As an introduction to today’s message, let’s begin with an entirely different mini-sermon. Gambling. Gambling (betting, wagering, lotteries) is one of the lesser condemned vices of our modern society. But it stands in opposition to some important Christian principles, and therefore it is sin. Despite what Christian gamblers might say, it is a fungus which grows on the rotten medium of covetousness. Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conversation” – let your life – “be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have…” Because we already have something which gamblers can never win – “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Gambling preys on others; it is a form of sanitized theft – profiting from the losses of someone else. But Galatians 6:10 says– “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do GOOD to all men.” By every honest measurement, betting is bad stewardship of the blessings God has given to us. And it leaves an ungodly testimony before the eyes of other Christians. To paraphrase Paul, “Wherefore, if gambling makes my brother to offend, I will not wager while the world standeth, let I make my brother to offend” – I Corinthians 8:13. It produces bad fruit in the gambler and is contrary to the fruit of the Spirit. There is an epidemic of gambling in this country today that is eating out the heart of our society. It is advertised as a form of entertainment, and those who can’t think rationally or logically are buying into it. If gambling is entertainment, it is akin to the entertainment of Russian...

Almost Persuaded to What? – Acts 26:24-30

It goes without saying that one of the great themes of the Bible is “Christianity.” It is not the only theme or even the greatest, but it is near the top of the list. The Bible tells us how to become a Christian, and how a Christian ought to behave. But as many of you know the word “Christian” is found only three times in the Scriptures. The first time – in Acts 11:26 – we are told – “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The disciples of Christ – the followers of Christ – have been called “Christians” since early in history. Later Peter speaks of disciples generally, saying, “if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” The term “Christian” was not a glorious one – not even a polite one. It was often spoken with a sneer in the voice. It was as derogatory as any nickname, or epithet, that wicked people use today. Was that how Rome’s Jewish puppet king spoke the word here in our text – or was he being serious? Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Did Agrippa have any idea what it was to be a genuine “Christian?” Or was he looking at the disciples of Christ from the other direction – with malice and ignorance? I want to give the man the benefit of the doubt – that he was as sincere as his corrupted heart could be. But still, immediately after asking his question he got...

I have Manifested Thy Name – John 17:1-6

When the Lord laid this message on my heart, I at first wondered if I was hearing Him correctly. It is related to a message we had a few months ago, and I feared that there might be too much repetition. And then as I began jotting down notes, I became concerned that it might end up being more of a theological lecture than a gospel message. Of course, the Christian cannot think too often, or too highly, of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. But I wondered – “Would a lost man be at all interested in this?” And then the Spirit reminded me that He would take care of that. HOW the Word of God is received is a ministry of the Lord, not the speaker. After more notes and settling on a scripture, my questions were answered and my doubts evaporated. Along with others in John 17 – verse 3 blended my theology and God’s evangelism. Speaking of Himself, Jesus prayed, “Thou hast given (me) power over all flesh, that (I) should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given (me). and this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Salvation, and its resulting eternal life, comes about by KNOWING the Saviour and His Father. We cannot go wrong in sharing the only true God with those sinners to need to know Him. Then Jesus went on, “I have GLORIFIED thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” And what was that work? It culminated...

The Spirit’s Witness to the Saint – Romans 8:14-16

Last week, in our scripture reading, we read about Satan’s temptation of our Saviour. Jesus had been fasting forty days, so in His humanity He was hungry, and the Devil attacked at that point. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Christ refused, and quoted an appropriate scripture. Then He was taken to a pinnacle of the temple where He was urged to jump. Satan said, God “shall give his angels charge concerning thee” and you’ll be caught. Again Christ refused. After his initial failures, the Devil told our the Lord that if he merely bowed before him, He would be given all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus responded “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Do you remember how Satan introduced each of those three temptations? It was always the same. “If thou be the Son of God…. If thou be the Son of God…. If thou be the Son of God…. “ I am not going to suggest that Satan had any doubts about the deity of Christ – that He is the Second Person of the God-head; that He is the only begotten Son of God. Satan is undoubtedly convinced of these things, but that was part of his attack never-the-less. And since he came at the unique Son of God in this way, we should not be surprised if he should come at us, in the same way. After all, we are only adopted into God’s family. “What makes YOU think you are...

The Gospel According to Satan – I Timothy 4:1-3

75 years ago, when WWII was still raging in the South Pacific, and 10,000 islands were held by the Japanese, the allies set up observation posts on remote islands; sometimes on islands still held by the enemy.  These spotters would take up positions on the sides of mountains; sheltered amongst trees or in caves.  It was their job to watch the sea and sky in order to report, by radio, what they saw in enemy troop and ship movements.  It was very dangerous work, and it cost the lives of a great many good men.  Every message they sent told the enemy that they were in the area and put them at risk. The Apostle Paul was like one of those spotters at the top of an enemy-held mountain.  He looked down into the mist below him and radioed to Timothy: “Tell the troops to prepare themselves.  The enemy is approaching.  In the days to come there will be temptations to defection, and many shall turn from the truth.  People will give ears and hearts to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.  I repeat, I see the Devil’s army moving in the area of deception and treachery.” I Timothy 4:1 is an important statement, and it needs to be repeated constantly, because I believe that we are in the “latter times” to which Paul referred.The Apostle says that the Holy Spirit is the One who actually saw – or foresaw – the Devil’s assault.  In other words, this is an official – authorized – dispatch from God.  And among other things, the Lord foretold that one of the characteristic...

What Must I do to be Saved? – Acts 16:25-31

Last Wednesday, I was reminded how busy Brother Fulton is right now.  He just got back from 11 days in Kentucky which included preaching in several churches and being in a missions conference.  Yesterday he and Rachel hosted a House-warming party which we forced on them, and then last night they drove three and half hours down to TriCities where he is preaching this morning.  Tuesday he leaves for the Conference in Oklahoma, for which he has had only had a few days to prepare several messages.  With that in mind, last Thursday, I texted him, telling him that if preaching tonight was too much, I would be happy to withdraw my offer, and I’d take both services.  He replied, telling me he’d love to preach, giving me the title “What men must do to be saved.” Did you read the title to my message when you picked up the bulletin this morning?  Did you pay attention to the scripture which we read a few minutes ago?  The Philippian jailor asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Immediately after that exchange of texts, Austin and I got on the phone and began comparing notes.  I cannot remember from where it came, but the idea for my message has been sitting on my desk for several weeks.  I believe it came up in the course of my reading, but I may be mistaken; that’s not a part of my notes.  Thursday before our texting, I began working on this message.  But after hearing what Austin planned to preach, I told him I’d find something else.  Then it occurred...

The Faithfulness of God – I Corinthians 10:11-13; 1:4-9

Have you ever felt betrayed?  Perhaps you shared an intimate secret with someone you trusted, but that person then shared it with others, causing you personal shame or harm.  Or perhaps you asked someone to help you in an important matter, and they promised to do so, but when the time came, they didn’t.  From time to time we enter into relationships where faithfulness is expected, but that trust is broken – a business agreement or sharing the expenses of some joint project.  One of the highest of those relationships is marriage.  When someone breaks their wedding vows, we say that he or she has been “unfaithful.” People handle the unfaithfulness of others in different ways.  And we shouldn’t condemn a person because he deals with betrayal differently than we do.  Maybe you have become hard and cynical, learning to expect others to put themselves first at your expense, so their betrayal is not quite the surprise to you that it is to someone else.  Not you of course, but some might have this cynical outlook, because they themselves aren’t to be trusted.  Then there are some, especially the young and inexperienced, who are surprised by their friends’ unfaithfulness, and they are crushed by it.  They divorce their unfaithful spouse rather than trying to “forgive and forget.” To both kinds of people, I would like to say, there is someone you can FULLY trust – ALWAYS trust – and you can even put your life in His hands.  “There is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother.”  And to you who understand what I am saying, there is...

The Central Point of Christianity – I Corinthians 1:17-24

We haven’t done this before, but I’d like you to go back to the scripture we read earlier in our service.  It’s not that I’ve slipped a mental cog, or I have had a problem with the earlier reading.  It’s that I’d like you to realize there is more than one way to read the scriptures.  We can sincerely and honestly read the words, or we can more slowly read the intent of those words. I believe that in I Corinthians 1 Paul points to the core of Christianity – its essence, its central point.  If we don’t understand Paul’s theme; if we don’t realize the importance of his subject, then no matter what we might profess about our religion, we are not Christians.  The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ is single most important event in history, in eternity and potentially, in your life. Let’s re-read our scripture and let Paul’s intent sink in – which of course is the intent of the Holy Spirit.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize,”  Paul’s commission from God was not to administer the external details of religion – no matter how good and important they might be.  It might be argued that baptism is a part of our overall commission, but it was not the key element in Paul’s.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:”   Paul was a preacher – he was called to the noble ministry of authoritatively declaring the gospel.  Yes, he was a teacher, and yes, he wrote important letters, but first and foremost he was a preacher of the gospel. ...

Playing with Fire – Acts 15:5-11

  There is an infamous cult of quasi-Christians living in the hills of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Every once in a while they pull out their stash of rattlesnakes and play with them in their church services. They carry them; they stroke them; they even hold them up to their faces, taunting and teasing them. These people believe that the promises of Mark 16 apply to them: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” Sometimes these people have been bitten by their rattlers, and sometimes they have recovered. The bite of a rattlesnake is not necessarily fatal to some people even without the promise of God. But some of these cultists have died from the poison of their snakes. And I’m sure that the explanation would include something about a lack of faith on the part of deceased. I don’t know how you define snake-handling, but I call it “playing with fire,” and I don’t recommend it. I don’t believe that Mark 16 is giving anyone the authority to tempt those snakes to bite. Nor does that scripture give anyone the authority to tempt the Lord to heal the person once he’s bitten. And that is perhaps a good definition for the old adage “playing with fire.” It is playing with fire to try to blackmail Jehovah into doing things for sinners like us. We are going to come back to this in a few minutes,...

The Fixed Heart – Psalm 57:1-11 (7)

  Some of you young people probably won’t appreciate the name “Christian Barnard.” And perhaps some of you adults might have forgotten the name as well. Christian Barnard was the son of a Christian minister in the country of South Africa about a century ago. But he didn’t follow his father into the ministry or as a missionary, or as a writer of Christian books. For a while Barnard was the world’s most famous cardiologist – heart surgeon. Fifty-five-year-old Louis Washkansky was dying of heart disease. And then Denise Ann Darval was killed in an auto accident. On December 3, 1967, Dr. Barnard took the heart of Denise and put it into the chest of Mr. Washkansky. It was the world’s first heart transplant – over fifty years ago. It came in a day when open heart surgery and by-passes were experimental and highly dangerous. Following that surgery, for nearly three weeks the eyes of the world were on Louis Washkansky, before he finally died of pneumonia. But those 18 days were a medical miracle and entered the annals of history. Today, probably all of us know people who have had open heart surgery or had an artery by-pass. It is so common today that a few months later we hardly talk about it. We have heard about stints – little gizmos used to keep arteries open and blood flowing. And then there is the pace-maker, a technological marvel planted in people’s chests with wires to the heart. This machine is designed to make sure that the heart beats at the rate prescribed by the doctors. At any time,...

A Biography of Faith – I Kings 18:36-46

  Several times over the last few months, the Lord has brought me back to God’s great prophet, Elijah. I have heard a sermon or two about him; one of those coming from this chapter. And in my reading I keep seeing his name come up. Also, I have preached on him once or twice lately – one message wasn’t very complimentary. Forgive me for coming back to him again. But this time I intend to be highly complimentary. There are a great many lessons in this chapter, but they are not all about Elijah. There is Obadiah an employee of wicked King Ahab. Verse 3 says that Obadiah “feared the Lord GREATLY.” For the moment let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say this was a very good thing. He certainly risked his life to hide and help a number of God’s servants. But when it came to believing Elijah, he was not as quick to believe and supportive. In verse 12 he said – “it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me.” “BUT” he reiterates, “I have feared the Lord from my childhood.” Elijah’s initial conversation with Ahab provides a great message. The wicked king said, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Elijah replied, “It is not me“… “But THOU… in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord…” What was the cause of that society’s problems? Any society’s...

The Accessible Christ – John 16:5-16

  Let’s begin by using our imaginations. Let’s pretend for a few minutes that Christ Jesus did NOT ascend into Heaven after His resurrection. Let’s pretend that He is still preaching and teaching, ministering and miraclizing here on earth after 2,000 years. The Bible tells us that Jesus of Nazareth is actually the ETERNAL Son of God – incognito. It tells us that He is, has been, and always will be the great “I am that I am” – Jehovah. To His enemies He declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, BEFORE Abraham WAS, I AM” – John 8:58. Of course, Christ was crucified as God’s sacrifice for sin; He was entombed, but then He arose. What if the eternal Son of God, did not leave the earth after His resurrection, and He is still here? In our text Jesus said to His disciples – and to us – “It is expedient for you that I go away.” And then He explained part of that expediency – the future ministry of the Holy Spirit. In addition to other reasons not mentioned, I’d like to add one more aspect of the necessity for Jesus’ departure. Because Christ is no longer here, He is far more ACCESSIBLE to those who need and want Him. Let’s pretend that Jesus is still living and representing His Father in this world. Rather than using you and me as His ambassadors, HE is God’s primary representative and missionary. During the past 2 millennia He has traveled the world several times, preaching repentance and faith – in Japan, China, Africa, South America and in many of...

Called out of Darkness – Isaiah 8:17-9:7

  Paul tells us in Galatians that at the appropriate, foreordained moment God sent His Son into the world. He was “made of a woman, made under the law.” And His purpose was “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This is just one way of expressing the purpose for the incarnation of eternal Son of God. In Luke 4 the Lord Jesus, himself, took another tack in describing the purpose for entering into His creation. After defeating Satan at the temptation in the wilderness, He returned to Nazareth, His home town. There in the synagogue He was invited to read the scriptures, so he turned to Isaiah 61 and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Matthew tells us the Lord then left Nazareth and walked to Capernaum in order to fulfil another prophecy of Isaiah. “The land of Zabulon, the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in...

To Have and to Hold – Daniel 3:1-18

  I have entitled this message: “To have and to hold; ‘til death do us part.” The source for these thoughts is this a trio of men: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their true names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. As part of an effort to strip these Israelites of their heritage and their hearts, their Babylonian masters gave them heathen names. It is a shame that most of us call them by their Babylonian monikers rather than their God-honoring names. We don’t do that with Daniel, so why do it with them? And remember – in more ways that one – “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” According to John Gill, Hananiah means “Whom Jehovah hath favored.” Couldn’t that be your name? Mishael asks the question: “Who is what God is?” or “who is comparable to God?” And Azariah means “Whom Jehovah helps.” Each of these point a finger to Jehovah – something which we should all do. Shadrach on the other hand means “the king” or the “the sun.” Meshach refers to the earth goddess of the Babylonians. And Abed-nego means “servant of the shining fire” and ultimately refers to Lucifer. These are not names which anyone should be proud to wear. These three men, and we could include Daniel but we purposefully leave him out this morning … These three men refused to bow their knees to the gods of Babylon. They were re-educated, browbeaten, vilified, threatened and cast into the very jaws of death, but they stubbornly, bullishly, and mulishly refused to join...