Sermon Notes: Heavenly Reward

Sermon for Sunday, July 30, 2017

Heavenly Reward

Text: 2 Peter 3

John 3:

[16] For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

[17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

1 Corinthians 15:

[19] If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Our subject today is heaven.  Sometimes when I preach on this I get the feeling that some people think this is a subject that is not very practical.  Some think that when we get to heaven we will have plenty of time then to worry about the subject, but right now they think we ought to spend our time thinking about the here and now.  They say,

“Aren’t people who are heavenly minded no earthly good?”

The idea is that if we focus on the heavenly streets of gold we will forget about the potholes here at home.

If it wasn’t for the Bible, we might be able to reason like this, but one of the most consistent truths of the New Testament is this:  What you think about heaven, determines how you live today!

2 Peter 3:

[10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

[11] Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives [12] as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

[13] But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

[14] So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Notice, Peter asks “What kind of people ought you to be?”

This is not someday, but right now.  What difference does it make now that we know about heaven and God’s future plans for us?  The difference is, the more we know about heaven, the more we should be changed in our living here on earth.

Look at verse 11, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.”

In this verse, Peter describes the lifestyle of a Christ follower who understands the future plan of God.  The Greek word for ‘holy’ is hagios and it means ‘set apart.’

Because we believe that someday we are going to go and live with a holy God, we are to be in the process right now of becoming more and more holy.

Important point:

Over and over again in Scripture, we are told that holiness is associated with 1) the return of the Lord, 2) the end of the world, 3) judgment, and 4) heaven; that is, it is associated with last things.

Here is the point: knowing about the future tells us how to live today, so don’t think that a sermon on heaven is not practical to you in the here and now.

Now, let us notice two things as I go through these texts with you: 1) the connection between last things and 2) holiness.

Colossians 3:

[4] When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  [5] Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 3:

[12] May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  [13] May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

1 Thessalonians 5:

[23] May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:

[2] Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  [3] Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Notice that when we read about the future it always has an impact on the present.  Because of heaven and judgment to come, we all ought to be motivated to live in a godly way.

The point: If our focus is on heaven, sin will become less and less appealing.  It is when our minds drift from the thought of heaven that we are more susceptible to sin!

Sin seems more attractive when we think less and less about heaven.  Our high tolerance for sin testifies for our failure to prepare for heaven.

Look at 2 Peter 3:13 again:

[13] But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

This means that we should be interested in what will happen in the future.  This is why it is important that we study about what happens after death and the end of the world.  Look at verse 3 of our text:

2 Peter 3:

[3] Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  [4] They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

[5] But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  [6] By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  [7] By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Some today scoff at the idea that the world will end, or that there will be a Great Day of Judgment, or that Jesus is coming back.

There are Bible scholars who believe the apostles were mistaken about the return of Jesus and that this shows the Bible is not the inspired word of God.  They were not mistaken that Jesus would return, or the world would end, or that there will be a Great Day of Judgment.  They just did not know when it would be!

Remember what Jesus said about these matters:

Matthew 24:

[36] But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Now return to our text and listen to what Peter actually says:

2 Peter 3:

[8] But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

[9] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Let me remind you something about the prophecies in the OT concerning the first coming of Christ.  Everyone of those prophecies were fulfilled in exact detail.  Without Jesus, many of those prophesies do not make sense even today, but they make perfect sense when we consider that Jesus fulfilled them all.

Now, if it is the case that the prophesies regarding his first coming were fulfilled, don’t you think those of his second coming will be fulfilled also?  Go back to verse 4 of our text and look again:

[4] They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Verse 5 indicates they willfully forget the power of God’s word in creation.

The same God who made statements about his coming at Bethlehem has made statements about his coming again and they will be fulfilled exactly as the statements regarding his first coming were fulfilled.

Hebrews 9:

[27] Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, [28] so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

(See also Philippians 3:20-21; Titus 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 4:8)

The point:  One day we are going to stand before God and give the final report on what we have done here on earth.  Note verse 17 of our text:

2 Peter 3:

[17] Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.

[18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever!  Amen.

J B Myers
jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices

Sermon Notes: Life Choices

Sermon for Sunday, July 23, 2017

Life Choices

From beginning to end the Bible teaches that humans have free choice. 

According to the Bible, God expects people to exercise their abilities to choose in a way that is in harmony with his plan for the humans he created. 

Joshua 24:

[1] Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.  [2] Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…

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[14] Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  [15] But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

[16] Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!  [17] It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes.  He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled.  [18] And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land.  We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

[19] Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD.  He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.  He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  [20] If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

[21] But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”  [22] Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”  “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

[23] “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”  [24] And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

[25] On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 

Important:  Your belief in choice says a lot about your relationship with God and how you view the circumstances of your life.

Your choices are important

Two views:

1) My choices make little or no difference on the outcome of my life.

If you believe your choices in life make little or no impact on your life, you will not see the value of this lesson.  In addition, you will take a more passive approach to changing the circumstances of your life. 

Many Jews felt this way in Ezekiel’s day. 

Ezekiel 18:

[1] The word of the LORD came to me:

[2] “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

[3] As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  [4] For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.

[20] The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

2) My choices make a major difference on the outcome of my life.

Others believe their choices make a big difference in the outcome of their lives.  They believe they have the ability in themselves to make choices that will positively affect their lives. 

Important point: We can choose and we have choices!

From the beginning, in the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve a choice.  This is seen in the fact that God says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (vs 16-17).  Notice that God says, “You are free to eat…but you must not eat.”  The implication is that people have the ability to make choices.   

As noted in our text, Joshua told the nation of Israel, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). 

Later, Elijah said to the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). 

The idea presented in these texts is that the Israelites had the ability to determine their own destiny.  At the time, however, the people were not motivated to act in their own behalf.

Here is the point:  Israel was God’s choice but they had to chose him!

God’s Choice and Your Choice:

In the Bible, God Chooses Individuals and Groups.  This does not mean, however, that you have no choice in the matter.  God may choose you but you do not have to choose God.

Some do not understand that we must still choose God even if he chooses us.  It is important that you understand how God chooses people in the Bible.  To illustrate, consider God’s choosing of the Levitical priesthood.  All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests.

Deuteronomy 18:

[1] The Levitical priests—indeed, the whole tribe of Levi—are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel.  They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord, for that is their inheritance. 

 [4] You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, [5] for the Lord your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord’s name always.

From the tribe of Levi, God chose certain men and their descendents to serve as priests.

Exodus 28:

[1] Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.

But notice that Nadab and Abihu became unfaithful as priests and died (Leviticus 10). 

Later, God rejected Eli and his sons to serve as priests and chose the descendents of Zadok instead. 

According to 1 Samuel 2, God chose Eli’s family to serve as priests forever (verse 30), but their unfaithfulness nullified their election. 

Instead, God chose to raise up another priest who would be faithful: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind” (v. 35).

1 Samuel 2:

[27] Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?  [28] I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites.  [29] Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling?  Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’

[30] “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’  But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me!  Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.  [31] The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age…

[35] I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind.  I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

The point:  The corporate priesthood was chosen by God but some individual priests were rejected because they proved unsuitable.  For example, God struck down Korah the Levite when he instigated a rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-3). 

In addition to choosing the tribe of Levi and the Levites who were to serve as priests, God chose individuals for special tasks.

For example, God chose Saul to be king (1 Samuel 10:24) but later rejected him because of his sin (1 Samuel 15).  Samuel says to Saul:

1 Samuel 15:

[26] You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!

This shows that God can choose an individual for a task but if he fails to perform the task he can be rejected. 

The point is, if God chooses us, we must still choose God.  If we accept God’s call and faithfully perform what he tells us to do, then we will be accepted.

God chooses those who choose him:

Ephesians 1:

[1] Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

[4] For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love [5] he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—[6] to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

**

[11] In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, [12] in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  [13] And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

Note that God chooses Christians before the creation of the world.

Notice in verse 4 that God chose us to behave in a certain way.  We are to be “holy and blameless in his sight.”  Are we doing that?  God chose us, did we choose him?

Just as God chose Israel to be a holy nation, he chooses the church.

1 Peter 2:

[9] But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Salvation is conditional.  God chooses us and we must choose him by obeying what he has commanded us to do.  Israel’s choice is an example for us:

Exodus 19:

[5] Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.

Remember, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

J B Myers
jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices 

Sermon Notes: Marriage Failures

Sermon for Sunday, July 16, 2017

Marriage Failures

I had a business professor say onetime that there was value in studying why businesses fail.  I think that is wise.  There is also value in understanding why marriages fail.  If we know why marriages fail, then we can correct what we are doing wrong.

Marriage failure in Jesus day:

Matthew 19:

[3] Some Pharisees came to him to test him.  They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

[4] “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ [5] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  [6] So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

[7] “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

[8] Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  [9] I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Context:  The context of this text is that Jesus answering the Pharisees when they test him regarding the subject of marriage.  Note some things about this context:
1) The reason they ask him is to test him.
2) The question is controversial in their day.

Marriage in Jesus’ day:

Our world today is becoming more and more like the world in Jesus’ day when it comes to marriage.

In the first century world, sexual immorality and divorce were acceptable in Roman and Greek culture.  Sexual immorality was permissible for men but often frowned upon for women.  Divorce could be instigated for both men and women.

An important point: Just because this was the prevailing culture does not mean everyone did it.

Among Jews in Jesus day, divorce was practiced among the Jews but it was controversial.  Women could not instigate divorce.

I once thought polygamy was also widespread and I interpreted one of Paul’s qualifications of elders as referring to this (“husband of one wife” 1 Timothy 3:2).  I have learned since that polygamy was rare then like it is today.  Sexual immorality and divorce, however, were not.  Many people did not bother with marriage but lived together. 

Marriage today has become more like marriage in Jesus’ day:

1) The cultural acceptance of sexual immorality.

2) The increase in divorce.

A difference today is that women are more independent and do not need marriage as they did in Jesus’ day.  This has resulted in an increases in:

1) Couples living together before marriage.

2) Couples living together with no plans for marriage.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports:  “Cohabitation, once rare, is now the norm: The researchers found that more than half (54 percent) of all first marriages between 1990 and 1994 began with unmarried cohabitation. They estimate that a majority of young men and women of marriageable age today will spend some time in a cohabiting relationship.  Cohabiting relationships are less stable than marriages and that instability is increasing, the study found.”

Interesting marriage failure statistics:

1) Cohabiting couples have twice the breakup rate of married couples.

2) And yet, about 42 percent of all first marriages end in divorce.

3) Couples who divorce become poorer than couples who stay married.

Failures of men that lead to divorce:

1) Men who do not try to hold down a steady job.

Work is honorable and good for all Christians.  The Bible says, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).  Work is not a curse because of sin but a blessing from God.  Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were told to work in the garden (Genesis 2:15).  Not working is contrary to God’s plan, and Paul gave this rule to the church: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Some people choose not to work even when it means not providing for their families.  However, the Bible says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Some men marry women who support them so they do not have to work.  I have seen some men work harder at not working than if they actually worked.

When they do work, it is only for a short time because they always find something wrong with their jobs.

2) Men who abuse drugs or alcohol.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).  There are two things taught in this verse relative to addictive behavior. 

First, self-denial is possible.  To follow Christ, disciples can and must deny themselves all kinds of gratification that is not in keeping with the lifestyle of Christ.  In contrast, addiction makes the self the center of everything, which is incompatible with the Christian lifestyle. 

Second, the idea of taking up a cross indicates that we are to live in the way of the cross, as when Jesus bore his own cross, or when Simon from Cyrene was enlisted to bear Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:26). 

Cross bearing suggests that the choice one is asked to make regarding Christian behavior is not always an easy choice.  Addiction is also a choice, although it may not be an easy choice.

3) Men who are not sexually faithful.

God told Hosea, “Go show your love to your wife” (Hosea 3:1).

Hebrews 13:

[4] Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

4) Men who do not attend religious services regularly with their wives.

5) Men who are not emotionally engaged with their wives.

The Success Sequence for Families:

There is a relation between poverty and family disintegration.  In communities where there is a high rate of out-of-wedlock births, there is a corresponding higher rate of poverty and crime.  

Researchers have discovered a success sequence that seems to be an insurance against poverty.

The evidence is in “The Millennial Success Sequence,” published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies and written by Wendy Wang of the IFS and W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and AEI.

The point of the success sequence is that if you do any of the listed things, you must do them in sequence.

Just because you want something now does not mean you need it now.  Remember, wanting is half of having.

Success sequence:

1) Get a high-school diploma.

2) Get a job.

3) Get married.

4) Have children.

The point: These must be done in sequence; that is, you do not have children before you get married, you do not get married before you get a job, and so on.

Marriage benefits:

Ecclesiastes 4:

[9] Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:

[10] If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

[11] Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?

[12] Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

This passage reveals four benefits from being a couple:

1) Mutual effort: 

[9] Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:

The work of living is easier when you share it with someone.  The work of making a living, of handling pressures, of dealing with disappointments. 

2) Mutual support: 

[10] If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

This is a fear of growing old, and shows the need for assisted living. 

Note the blessing of having a partner around when you are feeling down.  Seldom are both down at the same time!

3) Mutual encouragement:

[11] Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?

Note this is literally true when you share the same bed with someone in marriage.

4) Mutual strength. 

[12] Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

J B Myers
jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices