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...

Ugly Unbelief – Matthew 13:53-58

  Let’s go back to last week’s lesson before moving on. While the Lord Jesus was at the top of Mt. Hermon being transfigured before Peter, James and John, the rest of the disciples were down below in the valley struggling to help some people in need. This is described in all three of the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples seeking their help, but they couldn’t. When Christ, freshly off the mount, was approached with the problem, He mildly rebuked everyone, and then STERNLY rebuked the demon. That evil spirit instantly left the child, and the boy was back in his right mind. “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your UNBELIEF: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” There are several important lessons here. One involves the relationship between the disciples and the glorified Saviour. Christ’s transfiguration was a temporary metamorphosis into the glory which was His from before creation. It is also the glory which He enjoys today – the glory to which He returned after His ascension. Today, He is on the holy mount, while we are here in the Spokane valley trying to do His will and to represent His name. And like the those early disciples, we are impotent without the blessing and power of...

The Goal of the Christian – John 17:1-8

  I was reading a book the other day by a well-known, modern, Christian writer. It is always good to be alert when you read the works of others – read with “your eyes open.” This is especially true when you read the works of “well-known, modern, Christian writers.” There are many classic Christian books which have passed the test of time. They have been read by saints for decades, even centuries, and they have been approved by many. That is why they are still being read today. While we still read them with our eyes open, we might read them without fear. But the “well-known, MODERN, Christian writers” haven’t endured that test of time through the hearts and minds of other saints, so we must approach their work more carefully.   I was reading a recent book on Christian living when I came to chapter 21 entitled “The Goal of the Christian.” The author began by asking, “What is the goal of the Christian life?” After a few comments, he said that the goal of the Christian must be to bring glory to God our Saviour. Immediately, my heart said, “Amen.” That agrees with dozens of crystal clear scriptures. Still in the first paragraph the man wrote, “One bumper sticker that always catches my attention is the one that says, ‘Don’t follow me, I’m lost.’” He went on, “Because many Christians have no clear goal in view, it is impossible for them to accomplish anything in the Christian life. Because we are so vague in our thinking about what constitutes Christian living, we have to confess that we...

The Defeat of Four Diabolical Doctrines – Ephesians 5:1-2

  Have you ever heard the words, “Keep your old Baptist doctrine; just give me Jesus”? Maybe it was, “I want a church which tells me how to enjoy life, not which dictates what to believe.” “I am looking for a church which uplifts my heart, not one that involves thinking.” Some more pious people might say, “The purpose of church is to instill the values of right and wrong.” Some of these things are good, and God’s churches are key to blessing hearts and improving society. But it needs to be understood that not every church is one of God’s churches. Furthermore – a peace-filled heart, a peace-filled society, the blessing of God, His church and even Bible doctrine, cannot be separated. True Christianity can’t compartmentalized: this belongs to the area of morality, this is church stuff: this is doctrine – the realm of the theologian, and this over here is life – my daily life. Like it or not, Bible doctrine – literally, the instruction of God – permeates and infiltrates everything spiritual. Idaho’s largest religious assembly calls itself “Real Life;” – is that because it wants to leave the impression that its focus is not Biblical doctrine? When people say, “Give me Jesus” what do they mean? Why don’t they say, “Give me the Lord Jesus Christ – the eternal Son of God” ? Is it because those words move from real life into Bible doctrine, and they don’t want to go there? About whose “Jesus” should we talk? The Mormons have a Jesus who is the brother of Lucifer – and that Jesus is not...

And They Mocked Him – Mark 15:22-38

  A few years ago, in Manila, Philippines, a devout Roman Catholic named “Mendosa” was “crucified.” He had been fasting and praying for more than a week, constantly encouraged by his priest. On what is commonly called “Good Friday,” he was stripped down to a loin-cloth, after which he lay upon a freshly painted white cross. Two men from his church tied his wrists to the arms of that clean, white, almost sterile cross. A third man tied his ankles to the post just above a foot-rest where his feet were propped. The men lifted the cross to an upright position with Mendosa still tied to it. Carefully they let it slowly slip into a perfectly prepared slot in a large piece of concrete. Some of Mendosa’s relatives and friends were silently weeping, while hundreds of others looked on praying and expressing words of encouragement. There was a doctor standing by, just in case he was needed, but it was unlikely that things would be taken that far. There was no one there laughing at him, no one mocking him, no one spitting or throwing things. Besides a few photographers, Mendosa had nothing but support surrounding him. The sun was hot that April afternoon, and very quickly he man began to wilt under its gaze. In his weakening condition it didn’t look like he would be up there more than an hour at most. Quickly his coaches threw in the towel on his behalf. When the ordeal was over, there was congratulations and praise for his devotion and bravery. Over the years this scene has been repeated hundreds of...

The God of Wrath and Glory – Psalm 145:1

  This message was ignited by an article in the “Institution of Creation Research” magazine “Acts and Facts.” It was written by Brian Thomas, who has a PhD in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool. That article was entitled “Was the Global Flood Too Extreme?” The title of my message is “The God of Wrath and Glory.” David’s 145 Psalm slaps the face of many critics of our God and our faith. Have you ever had someone try to turn away your Christian witness by pontificating – “The God of the Old Testament was a mean and crazy old ‘blankity blank.’ I could never worship a God like the God of Israel.” He might say he hates all the Old Testament accounts of the destruction of cities and entire nations. Some try to add that Jesus contracted the God of the Jews, with His love and cheek turning. He might say that he has no interest in what the Bible has to say, because of what he THINKS it says. But I want you to notice the way in which David, here, praises His Israelite God. “I will extol thee, MY GOD, O KING; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.” David acknowledges Jehovah to be king – the one with all authority – sovereign. “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is UNSEARCHABLE.” God’s greatness and power are not only practical but beyond man’s ability to understand. Many of the reasons for what God does are inscrutable. And no Bible-rejecting intellectual is going to understand why God does what He...

I Find no Fault in Him – John 19:6

  Knowing basically what I’d find I looked up the word “tolerance” in my biggest dictionary. It had six definitions, and three of those were a bit more fine-tuned into sub-definitions. It also listed about two dozen synonyms – including words like “indulgence“ and “acceptance.” But, you know, I didn’t find a definition that said: “Tolerance is the quality of being soft and fuzzy.” What’s wrong with being soft and fuzzy? Could it be that there isn’t much tolerance when it comes to definitions about “tolerance?” If I sent a letter to the editor of our newspaper which said that homosexuality is sinfully deviant behavior, or if I paid for piece which said that abortion was murder, or if I publicly said that Mormonism is a cult and should not be considered a part of Christianity, there would be a dozen letters to the editor vociferously condemning me as being “intolerant.” But the fact is, according to the Bible, those three things are absolutely true. “Intolerance is not an issue when it comes to the matter of truth. A growing number of people in the United States today are absolutely intolerant toward intolerance. “Intolerance“ is one of the bats with which honest people are beaten up these days. But just as the dictionary is intolerant toward false definitions, truth is truth, error is error and heresy must be clearly condemned as heresy. And even though the Lord Jesus was gracious towards erring sinners and heretics, He didn’t redefine sin in order to make it something less than sinful. When a machinist is manufacturing a delicate piece of equipment with...

The Blood of the Red Heifer – Numbers 19:1-22

  I was reading Spurgeon the other day when I ran across these words. “It is a marvel that any man should be a Christian at all…” When we come to understand the depth of our wickedness – our sinfulness – it is incredible that God should save us. And that anyone should think that we can save ourselves or contribute to our salvation is asinine. Spurgeon went on “It is a marvel… and a greater wonder that (any man) should continue (to be saved). Consider the weakness of the flesh, the strength of inward corruption, the fury of Satanic temptation, the seductions of wealth and the pride of life, the world and the fashion thereof: all these things are against us, and yet behold, greater is he that is for us than all they that be against us, and defying sin, and Satan, and death, and hell, the righteous (remain righteous in God’s sight).” Spurgeon understood the doctrine, but he also understood the weakness of his own heart. That God should continue to love us after saving us despite our ongoing sins and unbelief is astounding Spurgeon has not been alone in this mental and spiritual agitation. And that is despite the fact that the Bible is crystal clear on the matter. Hebrews 7:25 – “Wherefore he (Christ) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” I Peter 1:5 – “We are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last day.” John 5:24...

Wherefore Comfort Yourselves – I Thessalonians 5:9-11

  Despite all our technological gadgets, our toys, the entertainment industry, including sports, and an army of psychiatrists with all their drugs, we live in the midst of millions of very sad people. Despite all the casinos, comedians and carnivals, death still steals away people’s loved ones, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. As science eliminates or limits one disease or problem, two more come along to make people miserable. While 1% of the population rejoices because their team won the championship, the rest are depressed because their team didn’t. Divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, the nightly news and the jail population explosion tell us that there are a great many unhappy people in the world. And, if we’d admit it, from time to time we join them. In that light, please notice that this scripture concludes with – “Wherefore comfort yourselves together.” I realize that I preached from this scripture not too many months ago, but my purpose then was different from what it is this morning. I am most interested in that exhortation, Wherefore comfort yourselves.” How often do we hear that sort of thing from the Word of God? Doesn’t its frequency reiterate that there is a great need? Over and over again, it comes to us in different ways and formats. We find it is in the last verse of the preceding chapter – “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” And it arises again three verses from now – “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” The...