Archive for June, 2015

Cease to Do Evil

June 29, 2015

Faith and works have had a turbulent history. Finding the proper relationship is important to our Christian faith.

I. Worship and Evil: Isaiah 1:10-15

“Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the law of our God,
You people of Gomorrah:
11
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.

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“When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
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Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
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Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood. ”

A. Offerings and Sin
Samuel said said to Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. (I Samuel 15:22) We cannot live sinful lives and then think that we can buy God’s forgiveness by giving a big offering. Certainly it is good to give offerings, but it is more important to be obedient.

B. Worship and Sin
We are supposed to worship God. It is good to gather together with other believers to worship and pray. Many traditional congregations begin their worship with a time of confession of sins and a request for forgiveness. That can be a good thing. The potential problem with this is that some may use it as an excuse to continue in sinful behavior. The thinking may be that I can do what I want throughout the week as long as I go to church on Sunday and ask for forgiveness. That is not how it works. We are not to use the sacrifice of Christ as a means to remain in our sins. It is by the power of God that we are able to escape the clutches of sin. To come together to worship God, and then purposely remain in sin brings no glory to God.

II. Cease to Do Evil: Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
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Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

I greatly appreciate the simplicity of the statement “cease to do evil, learn to do good”. Of course, we need to be able to recognize the difference between good and evil. That is something that we should turn to the Bible to identify. Our culture does not lead the way to godliness. As Christians, we should follow the Bible, not to earn our salvation, but to display our salvation. We should “let our light shine, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

We should seek justice. God is concerned about how we live in society. As Christians we should rebuke the oppressor and speak up for the oppressed. Evangelical Christians were opposed to the Social Gospel movement, which seemed to equate salvation with a good life on earth. The emphasis placed on forgiveness of sins is appropriate, but to ignore injustice is wrong. We should preach the forgiveness of sins first, and work for justice second. They are not equal concerns, but justice should not be ignored.

III. Forgiveness: Isaiah 1:18-20

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
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If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) Forgiveness is offered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

However, we are also told, “If you love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15 We are forgiven for our past sins, but we are called, and enabled to turn away from the practice of sin.

Obedience will be rewarded, disobedience will be judged.

May God help us to cease to do evil and learn to do good, not because we are attempting to earn our salvation, but because we want to live out our salvation.

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Cast Your Cares

June 15, 2015

We are called to be different from the world.  Our American culture tells us to be proud, independent, even rebellious. God calls us to a different lifestyle.

I Peter 5:5-11

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us[d] to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen

I.  Submissive

This is not a quality that we like to emphasize as Americans,  It goes against our stubborn individualism.  Yet, learning to be submissive to those in authority can generally be a good idea.  As children we should submit to our parents.  As students we should submit to our teachers.  As workers we should submit to our bosses.  This should not mean a blind obedience, but a willing recognition of who is in charge.  As I told my boys when they got their first jobs “As long as it isn’t illegal or immoral, you do what your boss tells you to do.”  With a son now working in construction, I might add “or breaks the safety rules.”.

In the verses above, we are told to submit to one another.  It does not always have to be our way.  We need to be willing to think of others.  It should not be a matter of jostling for superiority, but rather  we should be considerate of each other.

Most of all we should be submissive to God.  Even as Jesus prayed, so we too should pray “not my will, but yours be done.

II.  Humilty

Pride is a dangerous trait for Christians.  Pride is a sin itself, and can lead to all kinds of other sins.  It can create dissatisfaction and strife when we think that we are better than others, or that we deserve more than we are receiving.  We must guard against pride.

This does not mean that we should think that we are worthless.  We are, after all, made in God’s image.  We are the “children of the king”.  We should seek a balance in understanding who we are in Christ.

III.  Cast Your Cares

It is a wonderful thing to be able to bring our concerns to God and leave them in His care.  God loves us and is able to help us in our time of need.  We need to place our trust in Him.  This also applies to our concerns for our children, or grandchildren.  Those situations are sometimes even more concerning, because we have less control.  We can bring our needs, and the needs of others to God in prayer, knowing that He loves us, our families and our friends.  We can indeed cast our cares upon Him, for He does care for us.

IV.  Resist

We need to be watchful for the attacks of the devil.  He will try to destroy us if he can by leading us astray.  It will be a little here, a little there, until one day we find that we have strayed far from the path that God intends for us.  We must be watchful, stand firm, endure suffering if necessary for the time being, knowing that God rewards those who faithfully serve Him.

V. Completion

Our tests and struggles will one day come to an end.  We will be able to say with Paul, that we have ‘finished the race’.  It is God who is working in us, and He finishes what He starts.  (Philippians 1:6)

VI.  To the Glory of God

Our lives are completed, not for our glory, but for the glory of God.  If it were not for the grace of God we would remain in our sins.  All that is accomplished in us or through us is by the grace of God and for the glory of God.

As Christians were are to have a different mind-set than the people in the world.  We are to recognize submissiveness and humility as desirable traits.  We are to place our confidence in God, rather than ourselves or others.  We are to resist the attacks of the Devil and allow God to complete His work in us.  All for the glory of God

These are the sermon notes from 6/14/15.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

Words For Life

June 8, 2015

The book of Proverbs is filled with short sayings filled with wisdom for godly living.  In today’s message I have selected seven to share with you.

I.  On Alcohol:  Proverbs 20:1

Wine is a mocker,
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

We all can think of examples where lives have been destroyed by alcohol: the drunk driver who kills someone, the alcoholic that loses everything important to them,  An individual who makes a mistake while under the influence that has lifelong consequences. No one drinks intending to make life destroying actions.   The best way to avoid these types of problems is to abstain from alcohol.  Perhaps you will have no problem with alcohol, but what about others who seek to follow your example, but who fail to walk the line of moderation?  We are not to set a stumbling block in the path of others.  If we practice abstinence, no one following our example will be led astray by alcohol.

Drinking alcohol is like playing with fire.  Abstinence is the better choice.

II.  Pleasure:  Proverbs 21:17

He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

This verse reminds me of the warning in II Timothy 3:4 that talks about people who are “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God”.  God has given us many wonderful gifts, but we need to be careful not to let the gifts take the place of the giver.  God is to be more important to us than material things.  If the things of this world take the place of God in our life, then even if we are rich, we are truly poor.

III.  Overwork:  Proverbs 23:4

Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!

The Bible talks about the importance of hard work.  Here we are warned against overwork.  Some of us have a tendency to be lazy.  Some of us are inclined to overwork.  We should seek to find a healthy balance.  Without the blessing of God, long hours will be in vain.  With the blessing of God, our efforts can bear fruit.  We should be faithful servants, but we do not have to work ourselves to death.

IV.  Repeating Mistakes:  Proverbs 26:11

As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.

We should learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.  Sadly, I know people who repeat the same mistake over and over again.  I guess that makes them fools.  I don’t like to use such terms for people, but that is what the Bible calls people who repeat their folly.  Let us not be fools.  Let us learn from our mistakes.

V.  The Wounds of a Friend:  Proverbs 27:6

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Our friends may tell us when we have messed up.  We should receive correction humbly, recognizing that they speak out of love for us, not out of hatred.  It may sting for the moment, but we are made better by godly correction.

VI.  Sudden Destruction:  Proverbs 29:1

He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

A person will only tolerate so much.  If we are in a relationship with someone and they continue in wrong behavior, there may come a time when we cut them out of our lives.  We see this in human relationships.  Is it true with God?  Is it possible that God will cut us off if we consistently refuse correction?  I certainly would not want to take that chance.  One of the scariest things that I have heard people say is “I know it is wrong, but God will forgive me”.  Premeditated sin, counting on God’s forgiveness, is a very dangerous road to travel.

VII.  Build a Life:  Proverbs 24:3-4

Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.

If we would live our lives according to God’s wisdom, it would be good.  Our lives here on earth can be filled with the riches that God has for us.  Those riches may look different from person to person, but for the faithful servant of God, life can be good, and the best is yet to come.

These are the sermon notes from 6/7/15.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

 

 

Up, Up and Away!

June 1, 2015

In the early comic books Superman would proclaim “Up, up and away!” as he would take off in flight.  We can use that phrase to our advantage.  I will explain how that applies later in this message.

I.  The Lord Keeps Watch:  Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

God sees everything.  It is one of the attributes of God.  We recognize that God knows what we are doing.  The people who do evil deeds should be aware that God sees them.  Even if it seems that they are getting away with wrongdoing in this life.  Their time of judgement will come.  For those who are doing good.  God sees them as well.  For believers it is important to remember “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ”  (Galatians 6:9)

II.  The Lord’s Hate List:  Proverbs 6:16-19

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

Pride is first on the list.  This does not mean that we have to think of ourselves as lower than pond-scum.  There is a balance where we can recognize that we are made in God’s image, that we are children of the king, that we are more than conquerors, because of God.  The key is to recognize the role that God plays in our life.  If we think that we are the cause of our own success, we are mistaken.  We do play a role, but unless God blesses our efforts our efforts will be in vain.

Lying is second on the list.  Our current society thinks lying is not really very wrong.  The “little white lie” is widely accepted as insignificant.  Yet, lying is lying.  We are called to be people who speak the truth.  We do need to learn how to be tactful, and we do not need to share every thought that goes through our head, but what we do say should be the truth as we know it.

“Shedding innocent blood” seems to be a pass for many of us.  We have not committed murder.  Most of us have not committed assault of any kind.  However, what if we think back to our childhoods?  Were any of us bullies?  Did we pick on those who were weak or different?  Perhaps as we grew older we recognized that punching someone could get us fired instead of sent to the principal’s office.  We could go to jail instead of detention.  Did we shift our tactics so that we would conform to societies’ expectations?  We should treat people with love and respect.  We are called to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, yet, is that what we have done?

Devising wicked plans is next.  There is a difference between the person who sins in a moment of weakness and the person who plans in advance to do what they know to be wrong in the sight of God.  Premeditated sin is very wrong.  However, this passage means even more than that.  God is concerned about our hearts.  If we are daydreaming about doing wrong, even if we do not act upon it, we are doing wrong.  We are to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  ( II Corinthians 10:5)

Feet that run to evil reminds me of a fight at the schoolyard.  The children run together to gather around and watch the people who are fighting.  As adults what evil do we run to watch?  What do we watch on television or at the movies?  Do we gather around and celebrate evil?  Or have we learned to focus on that which is good?

A false witness reemphasizes the importance of being truthful in all our dealings.  Are we honest in our tax returns?  Do we fulfill our commitments?   Are we known as people who do what we say we will do?

Finally, there is the one who sows discord.  Do you know how many churches have been destroyed by people who fought and bickered over things that were inconsequential?  We are supposed to be the family of God.  We are supposed to be unified by the Spirit of God.  Unfortunately, many Christians have fought each other rather than fighting the good fight.  We have far too often turned on each other, rather than supported each other.  That is wrong!

III.  Life Winds Upward: Proverbs 15:24

The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell below.

For those of us who have chosen to follow Christ we are called to “cease to do evil, and learn to do good”.  (Isaiah 1:16-17)  We are called to draw closer to God.  It is a lifelong process of serving God faithfully, not a onetime event, but a daily walk with God.  “Up, up and away!’ can refer to us drawing closer to God, and leaving the sin of the world behind.

Up, up and away!

These are the sermon notes from 5/31/15. Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I do not have any control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.