Friday, May 15, 2015

The ONE Deadly Sin

As I was sitting there waiting for the sun and the rest of the world to arise, I was once again thinking about “self will versus God’s will”.  This is not a new subject for me to explore.  If you’ve read, watched, or listen to my sermons you’ll see that I’ve visited the subject several times from different angles.  I have to say that I get tired of preachers who keep ‘riding the same hobby horse’ and I may be coming close to riding this one.  However, I truly believe that self will is THE sin.  That all others derive from this one source.

          Let’s explore that idea for a moment.  Let’s look at the “Seven Deadly Sins”.  These sins are: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony.

          First on our list is the sin of Wrath.  Wrath is not a commonly used word however we all know by its more modern common terms: Anger or Rage.  We can read from the dictionary that “Anger is an emotion related to one’s psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged, or denied and a tendency to react through retaliation.”  I can say it in much simpler terms, “We become angry when we don’t get our way.”  When our self will is blocked we often react in anger. 
          Is there any time when anger is not a sin?  Yes, of course, when our will is in alignment with the will of God and His will is being blocked, then our anger is righteous.  You have probably already thought of Jesus’ anger when He saw the holy temple being misused as a marketplace by dishonest people.  Inferior animals were being sold (and possibly resold) as sacrifices to the people.  The money changers who were changing Roman (and other nations’ currency) for the coins used in the temple, were using dishonest exchange rates.  Jesus’ will was fully inline with God’s and he was angry that God’s will was being thwarted by these supposed leaders of the people.

          Check yourself when you are angry.  Ask yourself, “Why am I angry?  Is it because something has gone against MY will or God’s will?”  If you have had the wrong kind of anger, you must do two things: Forgive and Love.  That is what God in Christ has done for us. 

          For our part forgiveness means that we stop the anger.  Do you remember Peter asking Jesus how many times he should forgive?  Here it is in Matthew 18:21, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Now look Peter was a capable of being compassionate and he shows it by continue the question with a suggestion when he said, “Till seven times?”  Hey!  Seven sounds like plenty of times to me!  But Jesus said to him, “I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”  You know, don’t you, that Jesus wasn’t literally saying four hundred and ninety times.  He was saying that you keep forgiving until you have REALLY forgiven … when you’ve stopped counting. 

          If you think forgiving is hard … just wait because now you are to LOVE those that HATE you.  Forgiveness is just the stopping of the negative anger.  Now we are to repair the damage.  Matthew 5:43-44 is where Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemies.  But I say to you. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you and persecute you.”  This will repair the damage that your wrath has done to YOU.

          Wow!  We’ve only covered the first of those seven deadly sins.  So I’m going to combine two because frankly Greed and Gluttony are so closely associated.  Greed is the over accumulation of whatever we desire.  It is not just about wealth.  Think of hoarders who have old newspapers stacked floor to ceiling with hardly enough room to walk in the house.  Greed can express itself in non-tangible ways also.  Jealousy is greedy love.  People who demand your time for their own purposes are greedy.  I think you are getting the point.  Amen?

          Gluttony is simply the over consumption of the hoarded items; food and otherwise.  Greed gathers and Gluttony consumes.

          Pride yells, “Look at me!  I can run faster, jump higher, and dive deeper than any man on earth.  I’m smarter than anyone in the room.  Women love me and men want to be me.  I’m better than you in every way!  No brag just fact!”

          Okay, for me, it is all brag.  It’s what Texans refer to as “All hat and boots … no cattle.”  However, even if there is some truth behind the bragging, if we fail to give the glory to God for all that we have and all that we are, we are like Goliath.

          You remember Goliath, Amen?  He was the giant Philistine who stood boasting in front of the Israelite army.  He was the very embodiment of pride.  When Goliath saw that David had come to challenge him, Goliath started trash talking him.  “Did you send children to come at me with sticks?”  “Come here, boy, and I’ll feed your flesh to the birds.”

          Goliath seemed to have the right to boast.  He was huge.  His armor weighed more than David did.

          And David?  In his family he was just “the kid” the baby of the family.  He was the youngest and smallest of all his brothers.  Nothing but a skinny armed kid who smelled like sheep.  Nothing here to be prideful of.  Right?
          Well … Maybe! 
          He’d killed a lion and a bear with his slingshot.  However, instead of bragging about what a great shot he was, he gave the glory to God.
          I’m sure that you know the story of David and Goliath.  David, through the power of God, prevailed.  “Pride goes before a fall.”  It was Goliath’s pride in his own strength and skill that got him killed.  And it was David’s trust in the Lord that made him victorious.

          Lust is a strong sexual desire for someone or something.  God built us with the ability and desire to share in physical love.  Lust is the perversion of that desire.  Lust is the desire to completely control or consume.  It is all taking and no giving.  It is the seeking of self satisfaction rather than an expression of love.  Again, it is all about “ME!"
          Envy is a desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else.  This isn’t a case of; “Gee, Bill and Betty have a really nice house.  I’d like to have one like it.”  This is a case of;  “Gee Bill and Betty have a really nice house.  I want IT!”  The envious person believes that they can and should have anything that they desire.  If they don’t have it, it is someone else’s fault. 

          Sloth:  This is a word that we don’t use much and when we do we make it synonymous with laziness.  I can’t help but think of the animal named sloth.  Just to be clear … we are not talking about that slow moving creature.   

          No, this Sloth is a spiritual or emotional apathy.  It is either an outright refusal or merely a carelessness in the performance one’s spiritual, moral or legal obligations.  The joke goes, “I used to be apathetic, but now I just don’t care.”

          Being slothful is more than just laziness.  It is the inability to care about anyone or anything other than ourselves.  That is the clinical definition of a sociopath.  A sloth lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.  Once more, it is a sense that I’m going to do what I want to do without regard to the laws of God or man.

          The Envious, The Wrathful, the Greedy, the Slothful, the Prideful, the Lustful, and the Glutton all want the same thing.  They want to be the center of their own universe with everything and everyone subservient to them.  They try to sit on the throne that fits only God.  When God commanded, “Have no other gods before me.”  That is meant to include ourselves.  We are not to put our will ahead of God’s.

          I don’t know of any who believe in God that would dare to pray, “Not THY will, but MINE”.  And yet how often do we live that concept!  We go about our daily lives living them as if ‘it is all about us”.  How many of our prayers are ‘gimme’ prayers? 

          I can only speak for myself here … but too many of my prayers are focused on MY concerns.  I get in my own way.  (Please read that carefully.  I did not say that I get my own way.  I get in my own way.)  God has a plan but I too often substitute my own plan.  Or I may just ‘correct’ His plan with a better idea.

          I am blessed to know many great prayer warriors that multiple times a day go into battle on behalf of others.  These are the people whom you call when the day is darkest and you can’t see the light.  They are there to hold you when you’ve reached the end your rope and it is beginning to fray.  I am a BIG guy and some of these folks are frail of body but they are oh so strong in the spirit that they can LIFT even me to God the Father in prayer.  The secret of their strength is that they’ve turned their will over to God and let the Spirit of God fill them so full that there is no room left for SELF.

          By the way, the Seven Deadly Sins is a MAN made list of what are considered the WORST sins.  However, realize that God makes no such distinction.  Sin is sin.  Period.  And all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  And when you realize that the wages of sin is death, then you’ll understand that ALL SIN IS DEADLY.  For sinful man can not stand in the presence of God without being destroyed … not by God … but by the sin within us.

But wait … here’s the good news … Christ’s blood has cleansed us of sin and made us able to stand before God and be bathed in the love and fellowship for which we were created.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Short History of Jesus

Sermon:  A short history of Jesus
(Sermon Prepared for May 24, 2015)

 This is Pentecost Sunday.  A lot of sermons today will focus on the events of that day so long ago when the Christ’s church on earth started.  Many will focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit as the promised Comforter.
I, however, am taking my cue from the message that Peter preached that first Pentecost.  Here is a shortened version.  I’ve left out the scriptures that he referenced and gone to the heart of his message.

He begins his preaching in Acts 2:22.
“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say.  Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know – This man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the Law.  But God raised him up having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Continuing on at verse 29
Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day.  Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.

Skipping to verse 36
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Peter that day tried to give an account of Jesus ministry, death, and resurrection.

We have four gospels in our Bible that attempt to give an accounting of the life of Jesus.

John begins his Gospel at the beginning … literally.  “In the beginning was the Word.”  He uses rather poetic language to introduce us to Jesus as the divine Son of God. In just 18 verses he lays out the whole life story of Jesus, the Christ. 

Here is what you need to know about Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.

Christ is eternal and divine.
Before the creation of anything, Christ was already there.  God’s only begotten Son was not a created being.
He is God along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

This is a mystery.  Our God is one God composed of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 
Christ tried to explain it simply by saying, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 

Whole libraries are filled with people trying to understand this concept. 
I have my own simple analogy.  It’s not perfect … but it helps me get my mind wrapped around it.

I think of the Godhead as water, H2O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. 
The Father is liquid water which is the lifegiver.  Every living thing has water in its cells. 
The Holy Spirit is steam which is the invisible, powerful, motivating power of God. 
Jesus is ice which is the solid, tangible presence of God.  As John calls him, “God the only son”.

Christ was born. 
We celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, but remember He pre existed this earthly body. 
What an amazing event when the God of Creation took on human form.

God the Son took on this body of flesh and lived among us. 
That was why he was also called Emmanuel.  It means God with us. 
Think about that!  God … with … us!  Not a distant … disinterested … disconnected … God.
God WITH us!
Try wrapping your mind around that thought for a while.
No wonder, the crowds called out to him … gathered around him … sought to touch him.
And still do!
What an amazing God we have!  Amen?

We celebrate His birth as a gift to us,
but think for a moment how it must have seemed like loss to him. 
Look at what he laid aside to live this life

While earth is OUR home and heaven OUR hope,
He had what we hope for … all of eternity in heaven … all of eternity with the complete Godhead:
the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Himself. 

And He stepped out of the heavenly realm onto .. and into … this broken world. 
This world that WE broke.
Adam and Eve were given a perfect world in which to live.
And they were in perfect union with God!
And then … and then … they listen to the devil and did the very same thing that Satan had done that got him cast out of heaven … they set their own self-centered will against the will of God.

Yep!  We broke it and Jesus came to live in that world with us.
 That was God’ plan to heal all of creation.

Christ Lived
Of his early life we know very little. 
We know that he was born in a stranger’s stable … laid in a manger … visited by angels, shepherds and wise men. 
We know that, as a small child, his family fled to Egypt to avoid being murdered by a jealous king.

He was just freshly born into this world and already sinful men tried to kill him.
The devil, the ruler of this world was scared!
Oh was he ever scared! 
He was scared of this promise … this plan … which would break his grip on the world … on us!

The angels said to us, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

We know that at age twelve Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem asking questions of the learned temple priests. 
And at the same time he was answering questions that dumbfounded those men of knowledge, because he had wisdom beyond his years … and beyond this world.

Yes, he lived the life of a man, a plain man; although of a Royal Linage he grew up in what we would call a Blue Collar household, the son of a carpenter. 
I can imagine Him as a hard working man with dirt under his nails and calluses on his hands. 
Can’t you? 

Those same hands who smeared mud on the eyes of a blind man to heal him.
Those same hands who sat a little child on his lap and explained, that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become trusting and believe just like a little child.
Those same hands the made the lame to stand … and the dead to rise from their deathbeds.
Those were the same hands that lifted Peter as he began to lose faith and sink into the sea.
Those same strong, yet gentle, hands waved to some fishermen and invited them to join him.

Yes, at around thirty years old, he began calling others to follow him. 
He called to an odd assortment of folks: fishermen, tax collectors, shop keepers, lepers, women, blind people, rich young rulers, priests and Pharisees. 
One thing he asked of all of them: “Follow me.” 

Some dropped their nets or their purses of gold and followed. 
Some turned away sadly. 
And some turned away angry. 

For the most part the angry were angry because he was a threat to their power and authority. 
These are the ones who murdered him.

Christ has died
Yes, He was unjustly crucified by those who feared Him. 
But in truth they didn’t kill Him. 
He gave up His life.  Did you realize that?  “It is finished,” he said and then he died.
Hanging beaten and broken with his life’s blood dripping from Him, he allowed all the sins that ever had been or ever would be to be laid on Him. 

He bore our guilt and accepted our punishment for that guilt.

My heart broke when I first … finally … really realized that Christ died for MY sins!
Can you imagine that?  This holy, blameless, Son of God who knew no sin, took the beatings for my hardheaded, willful, rebellion against the will of God. 

His blood was poured out to cleanse and purify my sinful nature so that I could come into the presence of holy God.  Thank you, Jesus!

It is recorded that at His death the sky darkened, the ground shook and the Temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn apart.  And the Centurion in charge of the execution proclaimed, “Truly he was the Son of God.”

Christ is risen.
We can all thank God that death was not the end of the story for Christ.  Amen?

For, although His pale lifeless corpse was quickly cleaned and interned in a cave like grave,
even though the tomb was sealed with a heavy stone,
He rose from the dead. 

He was always in control. 
And, just as he allowed himself to die the physical death, he also rose from the dead because death had no hold on him. 

Son of Man and Son of God.  The Word made flesh that could not be held by death and the grave!

He ascended into heaven
There on a mountainside near Jerusalem, He gave his last command,
“Go into your world and tell everyone the Good News!”
What good news?
The Good News that the price has been paid. 
The Good News that we are free.
Our salvation has been secured.

And the good news … He’s coming back for us.

Now you know about Jesus.  However, it is more important to KNOW Jesus than to ABOUT Jesus.

“He made a change in my life and I want you to know that He can make a change in yours.” 
Really!  That’s what it is all about. 
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in the life changing business.  Praise God!

All sins stem from that same root.
And that root sin is to follow our own will instead of the will of God. 

God loves us and wants the best for us all the time. 
God is good! (All the time.)  All the time.  (God is good.) 

Anytime that we stray from God’s good path, we sin. 
It doesn’t make any difference to God which “flavor” of sin you commit. 
Sin is sin and God is perfect.
Sinful man can not stand in his presence because God’s perfection would destroy us.

Christ’s death erased my sin, your sin, everyone’s sin.
This is the arrangement that the Godhead created so that we, could enjoy that perfect fellowship for which we were created.

Our only duty is to accept that freely given salvation by turning our will over to God.

You’ve heard that, “Not my will, but thine O Lord!” thing?  Amen?
Such easy words to say.  Such a hard promise to make ... and to keep.

I made that promise … to surrender my will to God’s will. 
It wasn’t easy because I am a strong willed child. 
I struggled like Jacob when he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. 
And, honestly, there are times when I still, like a disobedient child, stamp my feet and hold my breath and demand that God do it MY way. 

But in the end, my prayer is, “God, lead me, push me, pull me, place me where you want me.” 
It’s my own version of “not my will but thine.”
That’s MY story.

How about you?

If you haven’t turned your will over to God,
or if you have given yourself to God … but are stamping your feet and holding your breath … I want you to take a moment right now to ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and to take control. 

You can do it silently right there in your seat, right now. 
It doesn’t have to be a fancy well thought out prayer.

An honest prayer of, “God, I messed up. 
I’m sorry.  Forgive me. 
Make me the person you want me to be.” Is music to God’s ears.
If the Spirit of God is speaking to you right now, I want you to know that I and others will pray with and for you.
If you are feeling embarrassed about making a public display, that’s okay, I understand. 

However, if you are serious about turning your life around and turning it over to God,
understand that this is THE moment to demonstrate that commitment.

Don’t be like those that Jesus called that turned away sad. 
Jesus would make you glad.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

For those who may be “almost persuaded”,
as far as I know, this may NOT be the last chance you have. 
You MAY have another day. 

But our days are numbered and only He knows the length of our lives.

Here is the message I bring to you, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy to you is given a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Amen.