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How Far Is It?

Sermon for Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Far Is It?

There are two goals in this lesson: 1) Learn about God’s plan of salvation and 2) learn something about how to interpret the Bible.

If you ask me how far is it to Arkansas, you need to first tell me where you are.  Likewise, the answer to the question “What must I do to be saved” depends on where you are along God’s plan of salvation.

Why are there different instructions given to different people when it comes to the subject of salvation?  Some get confused or focus only one command because they do not realize that God’s plan of salvation is a plan, which indicates it involves more than one thing in God’s plan.

There are several things in God’s plan.  All of these things are found in the gospel the apostles are to preach.  Note Mark’s account of the great commission:

Mark 16:

[15] He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The disciples must preach the gospel to people in order that they might know what to do to be saved.  Verse 16 indicates that faith in what is preached will eventually result in baptism.

Our text is under the NIV heading: “Jesus Appears to the disciples.”

The purpose of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples is to give instructions about their coming mission to preach the gospel and establish his church.

Luke 24:

[44] He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

[45] Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

[46] He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, [47] and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

[48] You are witnesses of these things.

[49] I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

1) Hear:

The essential nature of hearing the gospel is stated by Paul in Romans 10:17.

Hearing implies the ability to understand.  The content of the gospel must be understood when it is preached.  Infants can hear sounds but they cannot understand the gospel.

Hardness of heart will also prevent understanding.  Jesus says,

[14] “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  [15] For this people’s heart has become calloused…’ ”

Hearing is also necessary because it is implied in the accounts of the great commission to the apostles. Notice verse 47 of our text: “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Mark 16:

[15] He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Matthew 28:

[19] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

2) Faith:

Acts 16:

[29] The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. [30] He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

[31] They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

[32] Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  [33] At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.

Notice that faith is the result of preaching the gospel (Romans 10:17), and the first thing one must believe is that Jesus is savior.

1) The greatest question:

Verse 30:  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

2) The greatest answer:

Verse 31:  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

3) God’s plan of salvation:

Verses 32-33:  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  [33] At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

True belief in the Bible is never faith only:

James 2:24  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

3) Repentance:

Godly sorrow is said to bring about repentance:

2 Corinthians 7:

[10] Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…

Acts 2:

[36] Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

[37] When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

[38] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

4) Confession:

A confession is some kind of public declaration that you believe in Christ.  Confess means to profess or acknowledge your faith in Christ to others.

Romans 10:

[10] For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Matthew 10:

[32] Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

[33] But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

John 12:

[42] Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.  But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; [43] for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

5) Baptism:

The focus is on the one being baptized and not the baptizer.  The Bible says Jesus baptized more disciples than John “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples” (John 4:2).

Paul baptized at least two people at Corinth but some there thought it was important who did the baptizing, so he was glad that others baptized:

1 Corinthians 1:

[14] I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, [15] so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

[17] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…

The point: baptism was necessary but the baptizer was not.

The necessity of baptism is stated in the Great Commission:

Mark 16:

[16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Matthew 28:

[19] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It is commanded in Peter’s Sermon on the Day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:

[38] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Baptism is the last step in God’s plan of salvation.  It is not the first, as some think when they try to baptize an infant.  An infant cannot believe, repent, and confess.

It is the last step because Bible baptism cannot occur unless a person believes, repents, and confesses that Jesus is Christ.

J B Myers

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices

Sin and Happiness

Sermon for Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sin and Happiness

As humans, we are created to have meaning and purpose in our existence.  In the past, I have preached sermons the purpose God had in created us.  We have been given the wonderful gift of life by God and he intends that our lives have meaning and purpose. Today’s lesson will focus on these two points:

1) An important by-product sin is the loss of happiness.

2) An important by-product of forgiveness is the gain of happiness.

Understanding sin is a major component of what God wants us to know about ourselves.

A religious counselor’s perspective:

“Sin is often the root of emotional and psychological problems.  People are emotionally disturbed because they are sinners or have been damaged by other sinners and we should heighten our sensitivity to sin.”

Genesis 1:

[26] Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

[27] So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  [28] God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

A purpose of God is that humans exercise their freedom of choice:

Genesis 2:

[15] The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [16] And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; [17] but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

This freedom of choice is a part of being created in the “image of God” in chapter 1.

After the first sin, humans are described as knowing good and evil.

Genesis 3:

[22] And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”

In chapter 3, God describes some of the destructiveness and consequences of sin.

[24] So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

In chapter 4, we find the consequences of Cain’s sin in the murder of his brother:

Genesis 4:

[13] Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

In chapter 6, we see the consequences of sin for a whole nation and the world:

Genesis 6:

[5] The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

[6] The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.  [7] So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

[8] But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Verse 9 says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

The point: Noah was counter to the prevailing culture.

The dominant culture will always stray from God.  This is why there is so much wrong with the world today.

God promises a blessing in the descendants of Abraham:

Genesis 12:

[2] I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

[3] I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Perhaps there is more to the promised blessing of God than salvation through Messiah Jesus.  The Bible also shows us a better way of life.  This life will give us meaning and purpose.

In Genesis 18, God warns Abraham about the destruction of Sodom:

Genesis 18:

[2] Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.

[16] When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way.  [17] Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”

[20] Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous [21] that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.  If not, I will know.”

[22] The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Note that later there are only two men in Sodom (Genesis 19:1).  In verse 19:1 these two men are described as angels but in 18:22 the remaining man is called the Lord.

Abraham believed there might be innocent adults in the city besides Lot and his family but there were not:

Genesis 18:

[22] The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.  [23] Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  [24] What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?  Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

[25] Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike.  Far be it from you!  Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

[26] The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Remember the religious counselor’s perspective:

“Sin is often the root of emotional and psychological problems.  People are emotionally disturbed because they are sinners who have been damaged by other sinners and we should heighten our sensitivity to sin.”

Sometimes the innocent suffer because of the sins of others.  There were innocent children in Sodom and Gomorrah who suffered because of the sins of the parents just like there are innocent children who suffer today.

God is perfect in justice as well as love.  As Abraham says, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (v. 25).

There are two views regarding sin:

1) Belief in sin is the cause of our unhappiness.  To have joy, we must desensitize ourselves to the concept of sin.

2) People are unhappy because they are sinners and they need to experience the joy of forgiveness.

Remember, there is more to salvation than forgiveness.  God also tells us how to live and have relationships with other people.  Our forgiveness points the way to meaning and purpose in life.

If you want to be happy, be aware of sin!

To be happy, we must look beyond the world we often love:

1 John 2:

[15] Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  [16] For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  [17] The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 Corinthians 15:

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

Luke 12:

[23] For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Note that wealth is not always a predictor of happiness.

1 Timothy 6:

[6] But godliness with contentment is great gain.  [7] For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  [8] But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  [9] Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Suicide notes of the poor revealed that poverty was not the primary cause.  Instead, the primary cause was a lack of purpose for living.  In other words, if people had meaning to their lives they could cope with their poverty.

J B Myers

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices

Affirm Your Faith

Sermon for Sunday, January 28, 2017

Affirm Your Faith

Dictionary definition of affirm: “to state or assert positively; maintain as true.”

Joshua 24:

[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.

Chapters 23 and 24 are about transition.  Joshua says “I am old and well advanced in years” (23:2).

Our focus will be on what Joshua says in the last part of verse 15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

This statement is a challenge to the nation to be faithful to God and follow his example.  There is wisdom is saying what he says here and there is much we can learn from this statement about how we can affirm our own faith as well as lead others to faithfulness in a positive way.

Note how this statement should not offend.  He offers the possibilities and then says this is what he will do.

The implication is that they are to follow his example.

1 Corinthians 11:

[1] Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

[1] Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)

Joshua is old and realizes he will soon leave them.  He loves the nation and wants them to be saved.  This is his farewell speech.  In the last part of his last speech, he says, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Perhaps there are people in your life you love and respect and you are worried about the direction of their lives.  Many times we cannot persuade others to do the right thing, or convince them why we should not behave as they do.

Our responsibility is to do the right thing and affirm our commitment to do so in the future.

Affirming our commitment to the Lord is a powerful tool we can use in encouraging others.

The point: When all else fails, affirm your commitment to serve the Lord!

1) Affirm your faith to your household.

Joshua was a model of faith in his own house.  This indicates all within his household were following his example (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Children are a gift from God and should be loved.

Psalm 127:3  Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Agree to raise your children according to the philosophy of the Bible.

(Psalm 127:1  “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”)

Note that Joshua says, “and my household.”  This refers those in his family that he will lead until his death.  I am sure he feels confident they will follow him.  Joshua does not personal and family control over the nation, but those in his family will be led the right way.

Children, even if unplanned, should be considered a blessing from God, and never as an intrusion to be aborted.

Our children are not really ours—they are a gift from God and one day we will give them back to him and God will hold us accountable how we raised them.  Children are to be trained to obey and honor God.

3 John and verse four ought to be a key verse for every Christian parent:

3 John 1:

[4] I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Your primary goal is not to raise an academic scholar, a beauty queen, a star athlete, or a successful stockbroker.  Your goal should be to raise children who put their trust in God.  You should rejoice when your children are baptized and when you see them taking moral stands that are biblical.  And you are fulfilled when you see them adopt a lifestyle that honors God.

Never follow your children into unbelief.  Let them know this: As for me I will serve the Lord.

2) Affirm your faith to your culture.

Humankind shapes God’s image by the culture of the day.

When God gave Jeremiah his mission of preaching to Israel, God said to him:

Jeremiah 15:

[19] Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.

The point:  People tend to follow culture but you must not follow them.  Instead, your preaching should turn them to God.

Note that Paul warns the church about this:

2 Timothy 4:

[3] For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

The gospel message was not bound by culture and many aspects of the message were very counter to the culture of the day.

Much of the gospel is counter to the culture of our day.  For example:

1) Many today worship at the altar of abortion.

Today, our culture often discriminates against those who do not believe in abortion.

If you work in health care in some places you will be expected to help with abortions.  At work, you may need to affirm, “As for me, I will serve the Lord.”

Jeremiah 1:

[5] Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Psalm 139:

[13] For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  [14] I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

2) Many today worship at the altar of same sex relationships and marriage.

Do not confuse marriage with sin.  Marriage is defined in Scripture:

  1. a) It is between a man and a woman.
  2. b) It is a commitment to one another and to God.

Biblical marriage involves a covenant with one another, and adultery is the sin of breaking of that covenant.

1 Corinthians 6:

[9] Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…

NIV “men who have sex with men”
NASB “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals”
KJV “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind”

[10] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

We can be persecuted by our own government.  Protections in our constitution regarding religious freedom are worthless if they are not enforced by the ruling authorities.

When I hear a politician say churches must change their theology about same-sex marriage, I become fearful about persecution.

My message to you is this:

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of our culture, or the god of abortion, or the god our homosexuality.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

3) Affirm your faith to your fellow believers.

1) Regarding the person and work of Jesus, affirm your faith.

2) Regarding the plan of salvation, affirm your faith.

3) Regarding the importance and theology of the Lord’s Supper, affirm your faith.

4) Regarding instructions about how the church is to worship, affirm your faith.

5) Regarding the authority of Scripture, affirm your faith.

6) Regarding the restoration of biblical Christianity, affirm your faith.

7) Regarding God’s law of silence, affirm your faith.

J B Myers
jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices