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.

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[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 

Sermon Notes: God Speaks

Sermon for Sunday, July 9, 2017

God Speaks

Hebrews 4:

[12] For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

[13] Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

These have God married and no man shall part, dust on the Bible and drought in the heart.

The point: If you do not study the Bible there will be drought in the heart.

Bible student’s prayer:

“Lord deliver me from the cowardice that dare not face new truth,
and from the laziness that is contented with half-truth,
and from the arrogance which thinks it has all the truth,
Lord deliver me this day.”

I hope today that you will not have cowardice that you will not face the truth, or laziness that you accept half-truth, or arrogance that you think you have all truth.

There is no easy way to understand the Bible, but God’s word can be understood. 

 

1) God’s word is alive!

 

Hebrews 4:

[12] For the word of God is alive and active. 

 

There is a living quality about the Bible.  It is alive in the sense that it does things (penetrates and judges the heart).

The word of God is alive and active because it comes from God who is alive and active.

His word is alive and active because it comes from God who is alive and active:

 

Hebrews 3:

[12] See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 

 

John 6:

[63] The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

 

Ephesians 6:

[17] Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

God’s truth has been revealed in Jesus who is described as the incarnate word (John 1:1, 14).  The word has also been given verbally in Scripture.

 

1 Peter 1:

[23] For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

 

2) It is reasonable to believe that God would speak to the humans he created.

 

Hebrews 4:

[13] Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. 

 

Think about this: Why would the creator of the universe not want to speak to the highest form of his creation?

Why would God not speak?  Is it not reasonable to think that God would speak to humans in words they can understand?

1) God creates a complex physical world and then abandons it.  (The deists thought this.)

2) God creates humans like him or in his image and then ignores them.

3) God creates humans with a desire to worship their creator and then provides no guidance.

4) God creates humans with a desire to live after death but provides no means for this to happen.

The will to believe:
Some people are not open to faith.  Or, they use unbelief as a way to justify an attitude or lifestyle.  Some people do not believe in God because they do not want there to be a God.

Why is it that some people do not believe in God?  It is usually not ignorance of the evidence or a lack of knowledge of the Bible.  How people live often determines their view of God or the existence of God.

 

Psalm 14:

[1] The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

[2] The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

 

Intuitive recognition:

History shows that the religious element of our nature is just as universal as the rational or social one.  Wherever people exist, in all ages and in all parts of the world, they have some recognition of God and a creator.  They may be vague about their understanding.  They may call God “the man upstairs” or similar expressions, but their seems to be a universal recognition of something that is powerful and exists outside of themselves.

Intuitive knowledge of God comes naturally, atheism must be taught.

 

3) God’s word can penetrate our hearts.

 

Hebrews 4:

[12] Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

 

The instrument God uses to pierce your heart is the revelation of his word.  We call this the Bible.

It is not so much the word of God that people reject as it is the moral indictment of the sinner.

The word penetrates “soul and spirit” and “joints and marrow.”  Soul and spirit are two ways to say the same thing like “heart and soul.”  It is used for emphasis like in Luke 10:27 where we are to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul.”

Notice the text says: “it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The point: The word of God searches our hearts in such great detail that it is like a sword that cuts open the body.

How to help God’s word work in our hearts:

 

1) Pray over it.

 

Psalm 119:

[12] Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.

Psalm 119:

[18] Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Psalm 119:

[36] Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.

If you do not have an interest in the word of God, then pray to God, “Turn my heart toward your statues.”

 

2) Ponder it.

 

Psalm 119:

[14] I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.

[15] I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.

[16] I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

 

When you ponder the word of God, make notes to yourself regarding your thoughts.  This is why I like a wide margin Bible.  When you hear a sermon, turn to the text and write down your thoughts so you will not forget them.  Remember, the weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.

If you don’t read the Bible with a pen in your hand then you are not expecting to receive anything.

 

Ask yourself these questions when you read the Bible:

Is there a promise to claim?

Is there a lesson to learn?

Is there a blessing to enjoy?

Is there a command to obey?

Is there a sin to avoid?

 

3) Remember it.

 

Psalm 119:

[11]  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

 

Memory comes with use.  The more we think of something, the more we remember it.

 

4) Practice it.

 

We can start feeling better about ourselves when we start doing better.

 

Psalm 119:

[1] Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.

[2] Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

[5] Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!

 

If you want to learn the word of God, then obey the part you know.

 

Psalm 119:

[105] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

 

4) God will judge us by what he has spoken.

 

Hebrews 4:

[13] Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

John 12:

[48] There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.

The KJV has “the same shall judge him in the last day.”

 

4) We can turn away from God’s word.

 

We turn away from the living God because of what can happen in our hearts. 

Hebrews 3: [7] So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, [8] do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, [9] where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.  [10] That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’  [11] So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

 

J B Myers

jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:

Faith and Addiction

Elders and Deacons

Life Choices