Sermon Notes • August 1

Because He Lives

There is no example of a quicker or more complete transformation of an individual, or in this case of a group of individuals, than that seen in the Disciples following the resurrection of Jesus. When they came to grips with the reality of the Jesus’ resurrection and were given the Holy Spirit as God’s testimony to the truth of His word, everything changed.  

The Disciples had spent approximately 3 years with Jesus during which time they became convinced that He was the promised Messiah. As such they believed He was going to raise up an army and overthrow Rome. 

Peter was so convinced that Jesus was going to lead a rebellion against Rome and set up His kingdom that when soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out a little sword and single handedly took on a whole slew of them. He assumed Jesus would give them a miraculous victory.

Then everything fell apart. Not only did Jesus not move to overthrow Rome, but He allowed the soldiers to arrest Him. Peter still loved Jesus, but he dared not be identified as one of His followers lest he too be arrested and crucified. When questioned about that relationship, he denied it. If Jesus was not going to overthrow Rome, that was the smart and safe thing to do.

And it got worse. The Romans that Jesus was supposed to overthrow beat Him mercilessly and it did not appear He was going to do anything about it even if He could. It got still worse. They crucified Him. Jesus died. A dead Messiah could not hope to set up a new kingdom. No victory over Rome was going to take place and their dream of a role in the kingdom was over.

If Jesus was not going to use His power to give them victory, then obviously they were on the losing side and their lives in danger. If Jesus, who had displayed many miraculous powers could not win against the Romans, who were they to think they stood a chance. They had apparently picked the wrong side. Rome was still in charge, and they were in danger for being identified with Jesus and crucified like Him. The best thing to do was stay out of sight so off they went to a safe room and once inside locked the door so no one could find them. At least for a while they would be safe.

Then something happened they never expected. The resurrected Jesus appeared to them in that locked room. Try sometime to imagine the looks on their face at that moment. 

Fast forward 50 days. It was the day of the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. Jesus had been with them for 40 of those 50 days so they knew with certainty that He was alive, but they still had no clear understanding of what was going to happen next. They joined thousands of other Jews who had come to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world to celebrate Pentecost. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they understood what the ministry of Jesus was all about.

Read the sermon Peter preached as recorded in Acts 2. Then skip ahead to Acts 4. Peter and John had just healed a crippled beggar. Read Acts 4:5, 4:7-8, 4:10-12.  Acts 4:18 notes that the religious leaders commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” 

So how did Peter, who a few weeks earlier had denied he even knew Jesus, react? How did John, who a few weeks earlier had hidden behind a locked door so no one could find him, react? Read Acts 4:19-20 for their response.

Peter and John refuse to yield to the pressure of the same religious leaders who had dragged Jesus to the Roman authorities and demanded that Pilate order Him crucified. And, from all history records, they were joined by all the disciples except Judas who, according to Matthew 27:5 “went away and hanged himself,” in a refusal to deny their faith regardless of the cost. 

The only death of a disciple, beside Judas, that is recorded in Scripture is that of Stephen and the record of that death is found in Acts 6 and 7. Read Acts 6:8-15 which records how some opponents of Jesus tried to prove Stephen’s testimony wrong and when that didn’t work, they persuaded some men to falsely accuse him of blasphemy. On the basis of their false testimony Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin, that is the ruling Jewish counsel. Rad Acts 7:1. Acts 7:2-53 records Stephen’s answer. Stephen laid out God’s plan beginning with Abraham and ended with the declaration that they had betrayed and murdered Jesus. Needless to say, that did not set well. Read Acts 7:54. Read verses 59-60 which record they stoned Stephen to death. 

I have never known some willing to maintain a lie to the point of dying for it. Stephen declared, in no uncertain terms, that he knew Jesus was alive because he had seen Him following His resurrection. I cannot imagine anyone willingly allow others to stone him to death for a lie. All Stephen had to do was cry out “I’m sorry, I lied” and the stoning would have stopped. He didn’t cry out because he knew it was no lie. He had seen the risen Lord. 

The testimony of the other Disciples added to that witness. Commentators today are dependent on the records of the early church historians and there is considerable difference in the details of those historians.  

Generally accepted historical records suggest that Peter was crucified in Rome. The most repeated aspect of that record is that he asked to be crucified upside down, saying he was not worthy to die the way Jesus did. Other records place his death in Persia with the same understanding that he opted for upside down.

The one thing all the historical records of the Disciples have in common is not a single Disciple ever recanted of his testimony of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Not a single Christian or secular historian even hinted at the possibility of one recanting. 

There are three very powerful testimonies to the truth of the resurrection. First, no opponent ever produced a body that they could identify as Jesus. Everything in our faith hinges on the truth of that resurrection. Had any opponent of Christianity been able to produce a body the whole movement would have been stopped dead in its tracks. 

Second, is the multiple witnesses to Him following that resurrection. Read I Corinthians 15:6. Paul declared that over 500 saw Jesus at one time and if someone wanted to verify that, many were still alive. Had that not happened, the opponents of Christianity would have immediately declared how many they interviewed who denied it. Jesus was seen alive because He lives. 

The third testimony that cannot be denied is that of the Disciples who gave up everything and, if history is even close to accurate, died horrible deaths because they knew it was true. While we cannot be sure of the fate of each of the Disciples, we can say with certainty that not one of them ever recanted of their commitment to the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know that? We know it because we can be 100% certain that had even one of them changed his story the opponents of Jesus would have jumped all over it and declared it everywhere. History does not even hint that one Disciple recanted.

What does that mean to us? All of us have been challenged at some point to prove our faith to ourselves. Satan continually tells us our faith is unreal and the resurrection of Jesus is an ancient myth designed to keep a lie alive. When Satan whispers that in your ear remember, no one ever produced Jesus’ body, He was seen alive by many, and His disciples gave up everything including their lives because they knew He was alive. That’s good enough for me.

Sermon Notes • July 25

Psalm 3

This is the first time the word “Psalm” is used in the book of Psalms, the first time a Psalm is attributed to David in the Psalms, and the first prayer in the book of Psalms.  Although not used in the NIV translation, this is the first time the Hebrew word “selah” is used and it is used here after verses 2, 4 and 8. “Selah” occurs 71 times in the Hebrew editions of the Psalms and 3 additional times in the Psalm or hymn recorded in Habakkuk 3. General speculation is that it had some musical meaning but what exactly that was, has long been lost. 

The ancient rabbis gave the setting in which David wrote this Psalm as, “When he fled from his son Absalom.” II Samuel chapters 15-18 detail that event.While the Psalm itself does not give specific details of either Absalom’s rebellion or the response of some of the people to him, the historical context set forth by the early rabbis seems more than adequate to place the writing in that setting. Realistically none of us will ever face a situation the same as that but all of us have faced and will face situations in which it may seem like everyone, or everything, is against us. The message of Psalm 3 reminds us that we have a God to whom we can turn for help.

Read Psalm 3:1-2. The very first word is “Lord.” One of the characteristics of our self-sufficient mentality is that we assume that there is nothing we cannot handle and so we turn to God when all else has seemingly failed. Critical situations call for us to pray while the rest of the challenges we think we can handle ourselves.

This Psalm is classified as a “lament Psalm” because it details the pouring out of one’s heart to God in a particular situation in which, from a practical perspective, there is little or no hope. When our lives are touched by situations that seemly have no hope apart from God, we certainly should seek His help and strength in a special way. But we must not limit our dependence upon God to those situations. Nothing is either too big or too small to take to Him in prayer.

David’s enemies were telling him that if God had ever been on his side, God had now abandoned him. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” He heard them but didn’t really listen to them because he knew God’s promises to provide and protect.

Verse 2 is particularly interesting because of the attitude of those who reject God too often display today. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” That is the declaration of those who, for all practical purposes, are atheists. They may outright deny the existence of God, or they may select one of several approaches that deny God’s ability or willingness to help us when we are in trouble. Some suggest that if God created, He then left creation to its own end and does not control it or interact with it any longer. A more common form of denial is that God cannot or will not help us when we need Him because we are not worthy of His help. This is one of Satan’s favorite arguments. It suggests that God may help a Billy Graham, but we are both insignificant and to impure to expect Him to help us. 

The idea of God deliverance of him can easily be missed. The word used here is Yeshua, which means helper and one who saves. It is the equilivent of Joshua and Jesus, who came to be our Savior. The God who offers us help in times of trouble is the same one who loves us enough to offer us eternal salvation in Jesus from the penalty and power of sin. Read Psalm 46:1 in respect to today. Read John 3:18 in respect to eternity. 

The Psalm goes on with verses 3-4 expressing David’s confidence in spite of the apparent seriousness of the situation. David was certain that that God would hear his prayer and certain that God would be his shield and restore him to the place God had set for him. Read verse 3. The psalmist noted three things that he can count on. God is his shield, gives him glory and then lifts his head up high.

The first is easily understood, although often forgotten. By declaring God to be his shield he was declaring that God was his protection or defender. Every soldier in his day was protected by a smaller shield that was used for hand-to-hand combat and protected him when the enemy got too close. That was the shield referred to here. The enemy may get close, but God is the shield that protects at that time. Read Genesis 15:1 on God’s promise to Abraham. Read Ephesians 6:16 on Paul’s challenge to Christians.  

The second assurance that David declares is that God will be his glory. Generally, when we think of glory, we think of God’s glory but here is it glory that God gives to His children. Read Psalm 62:7. We reflect the glory of our creator when we are living as God would have us live and doing that which He has called us to do.

The third assurance David trusted in was that God would “lift his head up high.” We often tell our children after they have failed at something to “hold you head up high.” It is easy to feel despondent at times, especially at times of seeming failure, but God enables us to find encouragement. David knew that God would help him to keep his head held high.

Read verse 4.That God answered him comes as no surprise. God has promised to do that. The Hebrew wording for “I call out” denotes an audible prayer. It was not just an inward petition but one that he vocally called to God. That gives us some sense of the urgency of his prayer. See Matthew 26:34. There are times when we can express ourselves better if we pray audibly.

The phrase “from his holy mountain” is a reference to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The Ark represented the presence of God. David knew God was not contained in the Ark, but the Ark reminded the people of the promise of God to be with them. One of the challenges we face as Christians is to balance our understanding of God, keeping in perspective both His transcendence, that is His eternal glory and power as found in heaven, and his imminent presence, that is His presence with us here and now in the real world.

Read verses 5-6. Contrary to what one would expect given his situation, David was able to lie down calmly, sleep, and rise the next morning invigorated. Too often when we are troubled, we take our troubles to bed with us and toss and turn all night instead of giving them to God. The old saying “When you can’t sleep at night instead of counting sheep, talk to the shepherd” is all too true.

David slept well and woke up refreshed and renewed in confidence. God had kept him safe all night and the fact that God gave him another day meant that God was not finished with him. Do we face each new day knowing that God has something more for us to do? If that were not the case, we would have gone home during the night.

Read verses 7-8. The Psalm closes with David calling on God to rescue him by disarming or rendering harmless his enemies as He had done on other occasions. Verse 7 begins withDavid’s call to God to rescue him. It reads Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! The call to arise is an Old Testament way of asking God to act. David did not think God was sleeping. 

Verse 7 goes on, Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” That request has to be put in the context in which it was written. To strike someone “on the jaw” or literally in the Hebrew “on the cheek” was a way of saying “shame on you.” The imagery of “breaking the teeth” came from the idea of pulling out the teeth of a wild animal in order to make it harmless. Put together David was asking God to declare the rebellion against him shameful and to disarm it. 

The last part of that verse is what is interesting, David asks God for His “blessing on your people.” David did not pray that God would bless him but the people. The people he wanted God to bless included those in rebellion against him as they too were Israelites. It is easy to ask God to knock the teeth out of those who offend me, but hard to ask God to bless them. 

Psalm 3 reminds us that in the world we will have difficulties and the enemies of God will in some way come against us. When that happens, we have an all-powerful, all-loving, all-caring Father in heaven who will defend us. Because we know that, we should be able to sleep at night and wake up in the morning ready for whatever God has for us that day.

Sermon Notes • July 18

Psalm 2: When the laughing stops.

Psalm 2 is a “Messianic Psalm: because it speaks of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Read Acts 4:25. That verse is a quote from Psalm 2:1 which Peter then applied to Jesus. Twice the author of Hebrews applied this Psalm to Jesus (1:5, 5:5).  

Psalm 2 may originally have been part of Psalm 1 since they are connected in some early Hebrew Bibles. Psalm 1 divides mankind into 2 categories, those who follow God and are righteous and those who refuse to follow Him and are described as wicked. Psalm 2 details the activities of both groups and describes, as Psalm 1 did, the end for each. Psalm 1 ends with the declaration the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” Psalm 2 presents the Anointed one, or Jesus, who will provide the way for sinners to be declared righteous and will ultimately judge the wicked.

The Psalm divides into 4 stanzas, each 3 verses long, with each stanza looking at man’s sin from a different perspective. In stanza 1 which is verses 1-3, we have the situation viewed through the eyes of the Psalmist, although anyone today who reads the paper or checks the news online can relate to the question of verse 1. Read verses 1-3

The Psalmist looked out at the world and saw that society was in rebellion against God. The leaders of that society wanted to end the rule of God. Verse 3 answers the question of verse 1 regarding whypeople conspire against God. Verse 3 declares that they no longer want to be tied to God’s rules and regulations. The people wanted to be free to live as they desired. It was a society that wanted the freedom to do what every man decided was right in his own eyes. The key to overthrowing restraints was being united, that is agreeing together. All we hear in the news today is that “obviously the commitment of the majority is changing and so must we” or “a new consensus shows… so get in line.” 

In verse 2 the Psalmist described that activity as ultimately a rebellion against God’s Anointed one. You’ll notice that the word “Anointed” is capitalized. The Hebrew word used there is the one from which we get the word “Messiah” and the Greek word “Christ.” The clamor to be free to sin if one wants to, is rebellion against Jesus. The “right to choose” is really the desire to reject God’s standard and Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings. 

Stanza 2, (verses 4-6), takes us behind the scenes for a heavenly perspective at man’s rebellion. They present the issue from God’s perspective. Read verses 4-6. The Psalmist records that God is laughing at the efforts to dethrone Him. Man can rebel but he cannot unseat God. We are answerable to God. God is and always will be on the throne and His will will ultimately be done. 

Don’t assume that God is laughing at sin. There is nothing funny about that. God is laughing at the efforts of man to dethrone Him. If ever the hope of dethroning Him held a possibility, and it really never did, the Cross and the empty tomb settled it all. Sin is serious and nothing to laugh at but the idea that one can dethrone God and thereby nullifying His declaration to judge sin is a joke. God is on the throne and not moving over.

In verse 5 the Psalmist declared that God will not always laugh at man’s futile efforts to dethrone Him. The time will come when He will speak. When God stops laughing it is all over. Judgment will come. When the laughing in heaven stops judgment on earth begins. 

Verse 6 declares that God has installed His King. Just about every translation capitalizes “King.” Jesus will rule because the God who laughs at attempts to rebel against Him has decreed that He will. Read Philippians 2:9-11. 

Stanza 3 is found in verses 7-9. Read verses 7-9. Here Jesus spoke and said that the Father had named Him “Son,” which is capitalized because it refers to Jesus. The whole declaration of what God has promised is repeated and amplified in the New Testament. Twice, at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration, God called Jesus His Son (Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5). History is going somewhere, and God is not only totally in control of it, but it is right on time. Our legalization of sin is not derailing His plan or even slowing it a bit. Jesus will reign.

Notice particularly verse 7 announces, I will proclaim the Lord’s decree.” Note it is a decree that God made. God can make that decree because He is still on the throne. 

Verses 8 should impact how we view missions and our own personal witnessing. In verse 6 the narrator spoke for God and declared what God had done in the past, that is God’s decision to install Jesus as ruler of the earth. In verse 8 the narrator shared what God’s plan is for the future. That plan is to have the rule of Jesus spread to the entire world. God’s plan is to use the church. Read Matthew 29:19-20. God’s plan is for the whole world to hear the message of salvation and that will only happen through His church and those of us who make up that church.

Stanza 4, which is the final scene, is recorded in verses 10-12. (Read verses 10-12

That stanza presents a warning, a command, and a promise. It begins with a warning to those who are in rebellion against God. It simply tells them to wise up, get smart, wake up and see what they are doing and where it all ends. Think how appropriate that is to our generation when those who are seeking to rebel against God often describe themselves as the wise ones and Christians as the fools unwilling to give up outdated traditions. Sinful man defies God in the name of science, or education, or coming of age. Read Psalm 14:1. God says, “ Get wise, smarten up. I’m on the throne.”

Verse 11 commands us to serve the Lord with fear. In David’s day to serve the king was far more than doing little things for him. It was a commitment to him, to being his subject, to supporting him. When this is translated to the Anointed One, or Jesus, it is a call to belong totally to Him in every way. It is a call to be His subjects who are always seeking to be obedient to Him, to doing His will, to supporting Him in every way. 

The biblical concept of service is not simply what we do, it is what we do as an expression of worship. Some translations actually translate the word “serve” as “worship.”  Genuine worship or service is to be a time of celebration or joy because we recognize the awesome nature of the one who sits on the throne and the privilege we have of serving Him.

Verse 12 is an additional command. To kiss someone was a sign of loving submission to someone. The idea is that we are to not only serve Him, which in a sense we must do since He is sovereign, but that we are to do so lovingly. Psalm 2 called for a kiss of genuine love and commitment to Jesus, God’s Son. 

The Psalm ends with a promise. It literally says that in contrast to those who plot to be free of God’s restraints and live as they want, the ones who honestly take refuge in God are those who are truly blessed, or as a word we perhaps better understand, “happy.” Those who claim the right to do their own thing often do so because they think that sinning will satisfy them or make them happy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who follow God’s way are the genuinely happy ones. Read John 10:10.

Psalm 2 ends in the same way as Psalm 1 did. It presents only two alternatives for man. Man can refuse to acknowledge God and in which case “He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Or man can commit to following God, in which case God will “Bless all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 2 reminds us that Jesus is on the throne. He will rule forever and ever. The rebels in any era who seek to deny that truth will ultimately be judged for their foolishness while those who trust God and His Word will ultimately be happy. 

Sermon Notes • July 4

2021 Independence Day

On July 4th America celebrates its 245th birthday. July 4th celebrates our independence from England, a freedom we cherish and will defend. Christians have an Independence Day also, it’s called Easter. It is our Independence Day because the purpose of that day, as promised in the Old Testament, was to set people free from the penalty, power, and ultimate presence of sin.

Read Isaiah 61:1. Approximately 700 years later Jesus had begun His ministry. Early on in that ministry, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scrolls. Read Luke 4:18-20 to see what He read. Then read in verse 22 what Jesus said next. Jesus declared not only that He was the Promised One sent to fulfill that prophecy, but He also declared that at the heart of His mission was setting captives free.

The Jews worshipping in the synagogue who heard Jesus make that declaration thought only of freedom from Roman rule and Roman taxes. That belief or hope continued throughout His ministry and was seen most vividly on Palm Sunday. But Jesus did not come to set us free from an earthly government, but to free us from slavery to sin. Read John 8:32. 

Read in John 8:34-36. Jesus’ response to a challenge by the Pharisees. Read also Romans 8:1-3.

There are a variety of things worthy of study in John 8:31-36. First, we have the objection the Pharisees raised as recorded in verse 33. For any Jew to declare he had never been a slave seems ludicrous, Certainly they understood that as a people they had been nothing but slaves for most of their existence. In the beginning they were slaves for 400 years in Egypt. As a nation leading up to the time of Jesus their slavery began when they had been carried away in slavery by the Babylonians. After their return one nation after another controlled them. They had been slaves to the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and at that time they were slaves to Rome. 

What we need to understand is the context in which they spoke. The Jews believed, according to various passages in the Torah, especially in Deuteronomy, that regardless of who they might be a slave to in this life, they were, in the final analysis, servants of God. While the rest of humanity might be judged for their sins, the fact that they were descendants of Abraham meant that they were exempt from that judgment. In the end they viewed themselves as slaves to no one but instead as servants of God.

Their attitude can be reflected in people who think that because they have their names on a church roll, and perhaps their lineage includes a long line of Christians, somehow, they are saved from the judgment on sin.

Perhaps deeper than believing that one’s heritage exempts one from judgement is the broader belief today that one is not a slave to sin unless perhaps one is addicted to some substance that he cannot break free from. Even then we hear over and over “I can quit anytime I want” which literally means they are not really in bondage to it. Attitudes such as “I can do whatever I want since it is my body and my life” deny the fact that in some way sin controls an individual. Further, if there is no God to judge sin there is no one to legitimately tell me I am a slave to it, so I am free.

The Bible, however, has a different message. The Bible teaches that sin is real, and sin has consequences that we cannot escape. Therefore, we are bound to those consequences even as a slave is bound to a slave master. 

The Bible tells us that we are slaves to the judgment on sin which is death. We cannot simply walk away from it. The wage of sin is death and since we cannot pay that price, we are slaves to it.

The message of John 8, and in fact the whole New Testament, is that Jesus and Jesus alone can set us free from the bondage to sin. In the discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees, Jesus began by stating that the truth will set you free.”

While Jesus did not spell it out initially, He was referring to Himself. It is not until verse 36 where we read that Jesus said “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” that we know for sure Jesus is clarifying what He had earlier declared when He said He had come to set prisoners free.

Jesus declared that when He sets us free from the slavery to sin, we are really free. The freedom Jesus provided gives us freedom first, from the penalty of sin, second, from the power of sin and finally from the very presence of sin. It is complete and glorious freedom, far more valuable than even our American freedom that can be either lost or abused.

The death of Jesus allows us to be set free from the penalty of sin. The penalty of our sin is death but when Jesus paid our death penalty, He set us free from that. The loss of fellowship with God because of sin was restored as was the penalty of an everlasting separation from Him. When the payment of our sins is accepted, we are given everlasting life.  

If freedom from the death caused by sin were all that was provided for us on the Cross, we would have incredible reason to rejoice and give thanks. It is, however, only one part of the freedom available because of the death of Jesus for us. His death provided us with the potential of freedom from the power of sin. We are given the power to be set free from the slavey to sins. Read Galatians 2:20 and I Corinthians 10:13.

What we need to do is determine where we need to change and then realize that the power to make that change is available to us. We don’t have to be slaves to sin. We can have freedom from its power if we allow God to work in and through us. Too many Christians are slaves to a habit or character trait that has been a part of them too long. They would like to see it gone but have decided it is simply something they and their family must accept and live with. We forget that there is freedom available in the power of Him who was raised from the dead. 

Even as we celebrate that freedom let’s not fail to celebrate and live in the freedom all who have accepted the finished work of Jesus on the Cross have. In Jesus we have freedom from the penalty of sin that allows us to have true fellowship with God and guarantees new glorified bodies and an eternity with God. We have a freedom from the power of sin that enables us to overcome temptations and live as He would have us live. Ultimately we will be in heaven with our Lord and there we will be free from even the presence of sin. That is freedom to be enjoyed each and every day and therefore should be celebrated daily and shared with all around us.

Sermon Notes • June 27

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is a favorite of just about everyone and one many Christians have memorized. The Psalm sets forth a series of comparisons or contrasts with the first being between two groups of individuals, those identified in verse 6 as “righteous” and those identified in the same verse as “wicked.” In all there are at least 5 comparisons that are made either directly or indirectly in this Psalm regarding those two groups.

Psalm 1, like all of Scripture, presents only 2 alternatives for one’s life because God has on only two classifications. One either belongs to Him via his acceptance of Jesus and is therefore viewed as “righteous” or one is a sinner separated from Him by sin and, therefore, viewed as “wicked.” Read Matthew 7:13-14.

The second comparison in this Psalm found in the 1st verse when the Psalm introduces “righteous” as the ones who are blessed. Implied, although not specifically stated, is that one is either blessed because he is “righteous” and doing what this Psalm describes, or one will not know that blessing. The word “blessed” is actually plural in the Hebrew and is also translated as “happy.”

Men and women will do just about anything to find happiness only to discover that nothing this world has to offer will meet that need. The Bible says real and lasting happiness is found in living God’s way. Incidentally, there are so many similarities between Psalm 1 and the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that many feel as if Jesus had this Psalm in mind when He gave us that teaching on being blessed or happy.

The third comparison is between the lifestyle of the righteous and that of the wicked with the lifestyle of the wicked being the total opposite of that of the righteous. In verse 1 the Psalmist wrote that the righteous do “not walk in step with the wicked, stand in the way that sinners take,or sit in the company of mockers.” Instead, according to verse 2, they “delight in the law of the Lord,and meditates on his law day and night.”

The idea of “delighting in the law of the Lord” is important. To the Psalmists the Scriptures centered on the Torah, that is the first 5 books of the Old Testament or as it was thought of, the law. With the giving of additional revelation by God the idea of “the law of the Lord” would have to be expanded to read, “A righteous man delights in the whole Bible as the Word of God.” That certainly stands in contrast to the individual who, if not rejecting the Bible completely, feels free to pick out what he wants to accept and then writes the rest off.

The fourth comparison is between the difference one’s lifestyle makes in the value of a life from God’s perspective. The righteous person is, according to verse 3, “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” In contrast the wicked are described as “chaff that the wind blows away.” Both of those illustrations were pictures easily understood to those in Old Testament times and easily understood by anyone familiar with farming today.

The righteous individual or the Christian has a source of inner happiness, strength, peace, purpose etc. that does may not make a lot of sense in a world that sees only barrenness. In the midst of what seems like barrenness, the righteous person or Christian bears fruit that makes no sense to the world but shines as a testimony to the love and care of our God.

In contrast to that, a sinner who may appear initially to have it all together, is in the end simply chaff. The sinner’s life is worthless and will ultimately be blown away regardless of how well he supports his family and the community or how many toys he collects.

The fifth contrast/comparison notes that because the commitments and lifestyle of the righteous are radically different from that of the wicked, their ultimate ending is different. Verse 6 records that the “the Lord is watching over the way of the righteous” but for the wicked, their end is destruction. Read John 3:36.

In a world that seeks happiness at any cost and in just about every conceivable way, the Bible is clear that true happiness is found in a right relationship with God with a vital part of that relationship being right living described in verses 1 and 2.  True happiness is found in avoiding sinful ways while delighting in God’s Word and following it in every aspect of life. That is the source of real happiness and the goal each of us should have. 

Psalm 1

1. Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day  and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Sermon Notes • June 20

Joshua 24:12-18: A Father’s Role

Very few Bible characters are as challenging as Joshua. His exploits, recorded largely in the book that bears his name, are always exciting and challenging. Among other characteristics, we see him as a family man who took seriously his responsibilities as the spiritual head of his family.

A Godly father’s motivation: 24:12-13: Joshua saw God as a gracious God who had blessed him as well as Israel in so many marvelous ways that it would have been all but ludicrous to do anything less than make God the center of his life and the life of his family. 

God had been so good to the Israelites so Joshua, serving as God’s spokesman, reminded the people of God’s great mercy and provision. Read Joshua 24:12-13

Israel had done absolutely nothing to deserve Canaan, but God gave them the land anyway. Skim through Joshua and see over and over how God worked in miraculous ways as He gave His people the Promised Land. All they did was walk around Jericho and the city was theirs. The Israelites lived in cities they had not built and in homes that that were already there. They ate food they had not planted. The land was so rich in crops, yet the Israelites simply walked in and claimed it as God had promised.

How much more motivation do we have to follow God when we remember God’s great love in providing us with salvation and then blessing us in so many other marvelous ways. Read Romans 5:8 and Ephesians 2:4, 5.

That loving provision is certainly a powerful motivation to lead our children in the ways of righteousness. How can we not want our family to love and obey a God who loves us that much?  

Joshua went on to tell the Israelites that because of God’s love and provision, they need to set Godly standards for their families. Read verse14.

Joshua gave two characteristics of a godly family. Godly families “fear the Lord” and “serve Him faithfully.”  To “fear the LORD” means to honor Him. Fearing God as a family is recognizing who God is and how we are to behave because of that. It means we are seeking to live as God would have us live because He is worthy of that kind of family life. Who He is should be reflected in every aspect of family life from the priorities placed on every aspect of life, to the way we treat one another.

To “serve” the LORD primarily has the idea of worship. We read over and over that the Israelites were not to serve idols but only the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:19). Not to “serve” meant they were not to worship them. Given all God has done for us He is certainly worthy of our worship, which includes, in addition to Sunday worship, family devotions and the rightful place for God in every aspect of family life.

They were do that with all faithfulness. They were not to give God half-hearted worship, but they were to give Him their whole lives. God has always required that kind of commitment and service from His people: Read Matthew 22:37.

For the Israelites to truly fear and serve God, they had to “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. While God is rich in mercy toward us and wants to bless us and our families He will not do so as long as we want Him plus other gods of our own making. To be the people God wanted the Israelites to be they had to turn away from idols. They had to reject the influence of idols in their lives. In order for us to lead our families properly we need to rid ourselves anything we trust in or depend upon in addition to God. One cannot lead his family righteously if he is knowingly following idols or living in sin. 

Now no one ever suggested that living such a life was going to be easy. Read verse 15. 

All of us, including our children, face many challenges with many contemporary gods vying for our attention. That means that we, like Joshua, must decide who we will follow.

God has never forced people to accept or obey Him. It becomes our responsibility as parents to lead them into the truth and work with them by way of example and instruction so they can make the right choices.

It is not easy but at the same time if we are faithful there is no reason to despair. When truth and lies are placed side by side and the presentation of the truth has been bathed in prayer to the Holy Spirit, then honest hearts will most often choose truth. The challenge is not “How can we raise children in a pluralistic world?” but “Are we placing truth in front of our children?” The Psalmist reminds us of the importance of keeping before our families the truth when he wrote in Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. We must not minimize the importance of making sure our children know the truth of God. 

Note one more truth. A Godly father leads his family by example and by assuming responsibility for the family. Joshua pledged himself to leading his family by making a personal commitment to being the father God wanted him to be. Joshua declared: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua promised to serve the Lord himself before he pledged to lead his family. Of course, Joshua could not lead his family in doing what was right unless he himself was doing what was right.

There is the important principle to note here. If we want to lead our children into righteousness, we ourselves must seek to walk righteously before God. We find that principle throughout Scripture. Read Acts 20:28, and I Timothy 4:16. We should never minimize the importance of making sure our children know the truth of God in practical ways day by day and not just on Sunday. 

Seeking to live righteously as godly fathers means we must also take the position of spiritual head of the home and lead our family in the right way. Note that Joshua didn’t open his family’s spiritual future to discussion. It was not a majority vote or a compromise to keep everyone happy. Joshua understood that as a man it was his responsibility to determine the direction for his family. God has given to us as men the awesome and exciting responsibility of leading the family.

I don’t believe that Joshua was trying to use his authority simply to dictate to the family nor do I sense he was ordering his wife and kids around.  It was a decision he hoped and prayed would be made as a family because of his example and commitment. He was using his position as father to help his family move closer to the Lord and in turn closer to all God’s love wanted to do for them.

Is there more you can do to lead your family in doing what’s right?  What a powerful gift it would be to your family if you re-committed yourself today to being the spiritual head of the family. God has offered so much to us why would we not want to see our family drawn closer to Him? Let’s recommit ourselves as grandfathers and fathers to that role and moms, recommit yourselves to both allowing and encouraging fathers to have that responsibility. Society today is continually trying to redefine family roles but as Christians we follow not the trends of that society but the Word of the Lord.

Sermon Notes • June 6

Ephesians 4:25-32 Put Off/Put On!   Part 2 Insert

Beginning in Ephesians 4:25, Paul listed 5 areas of everyday life that ought to reflect our walk with Jesus. Paul noted an area that we should avoid and then gave the counter part that should be seen in each of us. We have been looking at it under “Put Off, Put On.”

In verse 25 Paul wrote, “put off falsehood” and then noted, “speak truthfully to your neighbor.” In other words, stop lying and start being a person whose word can be counted on.”

In verses 26-27 Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin” and went on to note that even when we exhibit righteous anger, we must not hold onto that anger long enough for it to “give the devil a foothold.” If you have legitimate cause to be angry, be sure that anger does not fester to the point where it lashes where it should not.

In verses 28 Paul wrote that Christians should “steal no longer,” with the counterpart being, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” In other words, honestly work so you can earn sufficient income that you do not need to steal to meet your needs.

In verse 29 Paul wrote that “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” and instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, useyour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others. 

Finally in verses 31-32 Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.

Returning to verses 28, Paul wrote that they should “steal no longer,” but instead, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” Paul was dealing with a major problem in his day and while circumstances have changed, the belief that one has the right to take or keep that which belongs to another is part of our culture. “Do not steal” is the 8th of the 10 commandments so there should have been no reason to even write this. In Paul’s day it was part of the slave culture to assume that since one was not being paid, he was entitled to a share of whatever the owner had. Therefore, a slave felt free to take from the crops or house. Paul told the Christians that honest presented a testimony of the transformation God had brought in their lives.

No Christian should feel the need to purchase a gun and rob a bank, but too many Christians feel it is OK to take supplies from work, over state an expense account, keep anything extra a clerk gives us back by mistake, etc. Paul wrote that Christians should work honestly so they can earn sufficient that they not only do not need to steal to meet their needs but so they can share with those in need. 

The phrase “doing something useful” is literally “doing something good” with “good” denoting the quality of one’s work. Since Jesus noted that only God is good, we assume the work we do should be honoring to God and reflect His goodness. That includes how well we do the work we are being paid to do and the nature of the work. Any job that is not honoring to God or that does not reflect God’s standards is wrong for a Christian. A Christian does not belong in any profession that expects him to compromise his Christian standards.

Paul went on to give an interesting twist on working. He wrote that Christians should work, “doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” We obviously should work to support our family but added to that when we earn more we have more to use to help others. Read Luke 12:13-21. It is easy to miss the point of that parable and assume, like the man Jesus used as an example, a better income means more for me and my family. Paul wrote that a Christian needs to evaluate the priority he puts on things and evaluate his things against the opportunities God gives us to be His instruments of blessing to those in need. Something we can all think about.

In Luke 14 Jesus made another observation on the responsibility we have for the use of our resources. Jesus was discussing those the rich or powerful and in particular who the Pharisees invited to their home. Read Luke 14:12-14. That parable is a challenge to contemplate those we associate with and those with whom we share our resources.

Paul went to turn his attention from our hands to our mouths and wrote in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” but instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, as Christians we should useour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others. 

The picture Paul used to describe talk that is not wholesome is the same that was used to describe rotten fruit and rotten fish. Rotten food is overall worthless and may actually make one sick. Language compared to rotten food would certainly include taking the name of Jesus in vain. It would also include unkind words, untrue words, gossip, words that are rude, hurtful, or careless. Off color jokes fall into that category as does racist or sexist comments or jokes. A bit later in this same letter Paul listed a variety of behaviors that should have no place in the life of a Christian. Read Ephesians 5:4. 

In place of conversations that are not helpful and in fact are like rotten food, Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Colossae, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6)Salt was used in preserving food, which is the opposite of letting it spoil or rot. What a difference it would make in our society if people could learn to encourage one another instead of tearing others down. Paul would challenge us to make a habit of encouraging at least one person each day by saying something special to them. We can encourage adults by telling them what their service means, what their smile communicates, how their faithfulness is an encouragement, etc.

On the surface the command to avoid unwholesome talk seems very straight forward but it may be the most difficult of Paul’s challenges to correct. Read James 3:6 and 8. Speaking wholesome words that, as Paul said are, “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” will take a determined effort on our part but in the end will add significantly to our testimony as Christians to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within.

Finally, Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.

You’ll have to basically look at the last one on your own but just let me point out that Paul lists 6 attitude or activities that have no place in the life of a believer. He wrote that we are to put off bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Collectively they speak of doing the kinds of things that reflect varying degrees of getting upset or revenge over some way we have been treated. Paul never suggested that we might not feel, or even have in a sense reason to be, justified so he told us to put on forgiveness. 

The reason to put on an attitude and practice of being kind, compassionate, and forgiving is because our Savior has treated us that way. That approach is described in Ephesians 5:1 where Paul urged Christians to “Follow God’s example,” or as many translations have it, “Be imitators of God.” 

Use this overview of Paul’s “Put Off, Put On” to see if there are areas you need to personally work on. It may not be an issue of a major change but the tweaking of behavior that perhaps we have not thought about recently. Our goal as believers should be to constantly be growing in our daily imitation of our Savior. Growth means change and change demands work, but it is worth it. Commit to making any necessary changes in either attitude or behavior or perhaps in both. After all, Paul wants us to make a serious effort to be an imitator of our Savior. 

Sermon Notes • May 30

Memorial Stones: Joshua 4:1-9, 19-24

Memorials such as we celebrate on Memorial Day have always been important not only to societies but to God. For example, when Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land for the first time, God commanded Joshua to pile up a mound of stones at the place. They were memorial stones of God’s great grace, power, and most of all His faithfulness.

Because of a tendency to forget, we need memorials. Read Deuteronomy 6:12. The stones gathered from the Jordan river were intended to help the Israelites remember, as was the Passover celebration.

The reality is that all of us have short memories and the older we get the shorter they seem to be. Some things probably should be quickly forgotten but some things, especially as they relate to God and His blessings on us, should not be forgotten and should be recalled often. Memorials help us do just that. God centered memorials have a variety of uses in addition to helping us recall blessings and celebrate special events.

Memorials enable us to pass on the importance of certain events to our children. God specifically declared that the memorial He told the Israelites to set up as they crossed the Jordan was intended to teach your children. Read Joshua 4:6-7 and then Joshua 4:21-24. 

Not only were God’s memorials important tools to teach each generation important aspects of their faith, but they were also an important tool to reach others with the message. Read Joshua 2:24. Israel was intended to be a testimony of God’s grace and power to the nations around them. Memorials were designed to help with that. Twice in Joshua we read of the impact of how a testimony to God’s power had on others. In Joshua 2 we have the record of Rahab hiding the Israelite spies. Read Joshua 2:10-11 on how a testimony can impact someone.  That pile of rocks that the people of Israel put up stood out from the rest of the rocks in the area. When someone inquired about them the Israelites were to tell the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan river. Anyone hearing that story was bound to declare, “Wow, what a powerful God you worship.” 

One of the primary responsibilities of a believer is to be a living memorial to a lost and dying world. Read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16. 

As living memorials, we are to evoke questions from others about our life, which of course means that we are to live it in such a way as to cause those who see us to want what we have. 

While the text in Joshua does not spell out all of the details, common sense makes a couple of things obvious. First, the Israelites gathered large stones from the riverbed. Stacked pebbles don’t evoke either wonder or questions. We are called upon to live so boldly for Jesus that our faith and God’s faithful response to it stands out in a world that desperately needs to see a miracle of transformation.

Second, that pile of stones had to be in a place where others would see it. If no one passed by where it was, no one would ask about its meaning. If a church exists just in a building no one will ask about our Lord. Unless the church leaves the building to live as a testimony or memorial out there in the community, no one will know or care what you believe or what our Lord can do for us.

Third, t
o be a genuine memorial it must endure for a period of time. I am sure that every Israelite saw that memorial on the day they crossed over into the Promised Land and drew strength from the reminder of God’s power as they prepared to attack Jericho and then conquer the land. But God wanted more than that. Read Joshua 4:7. A genuine testimony is one that has a lasting impact. It is a consistent Christian life that stands out as a memorial to God’s saving and transforming power and causes people to marvel at the difference He has made in a life.

The Bible reminds us of the testimony of those who have gone before us and encourages us to bear a similar, lasting testimony to those who follow after us. Read Hebrews 12:1. A goal for every Christian should be to leave behind a testimony that will be a challenge and inspiration to those who follow.

God, knowing the importance of memorials as reminders of His faithfulness, established some for the church. A significant one is the Communion Service.  At the heart of the Communion service is the phrase, “do this in remembrance of me.” Communion is a memorial service and like all legitimate memorials it not only reminds us of God’s love and provision for redemption, but it stands as a testimony to others. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 

Every time we partake of communion, we broadcast to those who are with us what God did for us and what that provision means to us. In the case of communion, it may be in the building so not necessarily a testimony to the community. But it can also be a teaching time for our children as we explain the meaning of it to them. It can also be a testimony to the community. Every one of us will have someone ask on Monday, “So how was your weekend?” How about, in addition to “I mowed the lawn,” we say, “I was in church on Sunday, and we had communion. That was such a special time for me.”

Want to know what God’s most important memorials are? He has two. The first is His church. Read in I Peter 2:9 how Peter described the church.Note that Peter wrote that the people, not the building, are a holy nation intended to declare God’s praises to the world around us. When we cease to be a positive testimony in the community, we cease to be a church, perhaps remaining as a building but not as a church of Jesus.

Of course, since the church is made up of individuals, each of us is a memorial. Read I Peter 2:5. The Israelites collected stones from the Jordan to set up as a memorial, but Peter declares we are living stones designed to be a memorial to our precious relationship with God. What kind of memorial are we?

On a Memorial Day can you think of anything uglier than someone going to a cemetery where soldiers who gave everything that we might be free are buried and knocking over tombstones and painting disparaging graffiti on them? We would all be outraged. Imagine how God must feel when a Christian, who are supposed to be a memorial to His saving love, tramples on that love or hides it so no one can see it.

On Memorial Day we say thanks to the men and women who gave everything for our freedom and to their families for the loss they suffered. Hopefully, we remember them more often than once a year. In addition, remember every day as Christians we should be a memorial to God’s transforming power. Let us be faithful in that testimony.

Sermon Notes • May 23

Ephesians 4:25-32 Put off so you can Put on!

Paul began this section of Ephesians by writing, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”In the verses surrounding that statement Paul wrote about the changes that ought to be a part of every life that is seeking to live worthy of a life in Jesus. Paul was noting that we have been redeemed so we can have fellowship with God and to enjoy that fellowship we need to reflect His character. That character is, according to Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Spirit. A life still lived as the Gentiles or non-Christians do, means that the Holy Spirit has failed in His task of transforming us. Failure via an improper lifestyle grieves the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 4:30.

Beginning in verse 25, Paul listed 5 areas of everyday life where we ought to reflect our walk with Jesus. Paul noted areas that we should avoid and then gave the counter part that should be seen in each of us. 

In verse 25 Paul wrote, “put off falsehood” and then noted, “speak truthfully to your neighbor.” In other words, “stop lying and start being a person whose word can be counted on.”

In verses 26-27 Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin” and went on to note that when we exhibit righteous anger, we must not hold onto that anger long enough for it to “give the devil a foothold.” If you have legitimate cause to be angry, be sure that anger does not fester to the point where it lashes where it should not.

In verses 28 Paul wrote that Christians should “steal no longer,” with the counterpart being, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” In other words, honestly work so you can earn sufficient income that you do not need to steal to meet your needs.

In verse 29 Paul wrote that “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” and instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, useyour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others. 

Finally in verses 31-32 Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.

Paul’s first “Put off so you can put on” is found in verse 25. The word translated “falsehood” would be better understood as “lie.” The stronger command is to “speak” and the word “truthfully” is actually just “truth.” The phrase “speak truth to your neighbor” is a quote from Zechariah 8:16.

We live in a culture that sees little wrong with lying if it is done supposedly for the right reason. Over and over, we hear things like, “Everyone does it.” In thinking about what we call a “little white line” we hear it justified as, “It was the kind thing to do. Americans feel it is legitimate to tell any lie that seemingly allows one to avoid anything that may seem unpleasant. 

While Americans minimize the importance, God does not. Read Revelation 21:8. Why is God so concerned about lying? Keep two truths in mind. First, remember that God is the God of truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” To follow Him is to be truthful. Read Proverbs 6:16-17. 

Second, remember what Jesus said about those who tell lies. Read John 8:44. Satan is a liar and those who habitually lie are following him. Recall that in his first encounter with mankind he lied to Eve, telling her that even if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would not die as God had said she would. When you tell the truth, you are imitating your Heavenly Father whereas when you lie you are imitating Satan.

When one becomes a Christian, he switches his loyalty from the father of lies to the one who is in every way true and therefore one should always seek to tell the truth. Read Colossians 3:9-10. Lying often seems like the easier way out or even the right thing to do but in the end, it is always wrong. 

Lying, of course, involves far more than simply declaring something that is obviously not true. Lying includes the deliberate decision to not declare that which we know to be true. That is especially true when we are withholding information in a deliberate effort to deceive or mislead someone. Lying includes exaggeration intended to convey an idea that is not true. Lying includes making promises we have no intention of keeping. Often lying and stealing go hand in hand so one lies on a tax form to get more back or lies on an application of a resume to get something he should not have. Lying can come in the form of silence when silence conveys the idea that you approve of something you do not.

What we call white lies are often the most difficult to deal with. We assume that the truth will do more harm than good, so we lie and convince ourselves it is the lesser of two evils. The reasoning seems correct but since when is doing evil, even the lesser evil, acceptable?

Two side issues. Being truthful does not mean you have to tell everything when that everything includes things told in confidence nor does it require you to unload your feeling about someone under the guise of just being truthful. In addition, speaking the truth in the wrong way is not acceptable. Read Ephesians 4:15. 

Read Ephesians 4:26-27.  Again, there are lots of implications to this but let me suggest an area that too many of us seem to fall short in. I know there are Christians who have anger problems and fly off the handle at a neighbor, at the driver in front of them, even at family. We all know that is wrong and I suspect all of us have had to go to someone and apologize for our actions or words we have. On occasions I have had people tell me they have a right to be angry and I would be also if I knew the whole story and what someone once did to them. Good news, you are half right, some things definitely deserve vindication or revenge. The half where one is wrong there is in thinking he has the right to take that revenge upon himself. Read Romans 12:19.  

I would like to point out, however, that while there is an anger that is wrong, anger by itself is not necessarily wrong. In fact, we read examples in Scripture when God became angry. Jesus displayed His anger at the moneychangers in the temple area, at His disciples when they were hindering children from coming to Him and at the Pharisees when they objected to Him healing on the Sabbath.

Anger that is vindictive, undisciplined or stems from bitterness according to verse 31 is wrong and we know that. There are, however, areas where Christians should be angry and are not. Christians should be angry at injustice, unrighteous acts, racism etc. The attitude of live and let live has no place in the attitude of a Christian toward evil. There is a real danger that as Christians, while we do not accept many of the sins of our society as being right, we have not become angry enough about them to stand up and act. It is easier to be silent when an off-color joke is told instead of objecting. It is too easy to ignore racist comments or actions instead of speaking up. Sin of any kind should upset us.

But there is a caveat to even righteous anger. Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Why did Paul write this? Because it is far too easy to let even righteous anger morph into bitterness. Be angry at sin, not the sinner and move on. Speak out against sin but then calm down and act rationally. 

Paul’s challenges are to be honest is our speech and to deal with improper anger while showing legitimate anger at injustice. 

Can others depend upon our word and do they know we hate sin while loving the sinner?

Sermon Notes • May 16

Ephesians 4:17-24

In Ephesians 4:24 Paul wrote, “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Literally Paul was reminding the Christians in Ephesus that while they lived in a pagan world with standards and practices radically different than those of a Christian, they must maintain their Christian lifestyle. I’ve heard stories of Christians who declare they have never been challenged in their faith by those they go to school with or work with because they never let on they are a Christian. Too often Christians have one testimony on Sunday and another during the week. It is generally not a case of denying one’s faith but of letting the sinful lifestyle of the world dictate how we live instead of seeking to live as God has directed.

Paul introduced this half of Ephesians, according to 4:1, with, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In verses 17-24 Paul elaborated on that concept, presenting another description of what it means to live worthy of their life in Jesus.

Paul understood the pressures the Christians in Ephesus were under, so he encouraged them to put on or literally wear their faith in a way that it stood out in a way that pleased God and offered a testimony to the world around them. Read Ephesians 4:17.

Not only was Paul insisting they live out what that new relationship with God meant, but he implied that the command to be different comes from God Himself. That being the case, it is essential that we listen to and heed his challenge.

By way of explanation, when Paul used the term “Gentiles” in “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do” he was using a term that the early church used that today we would use “non-Christian” in place of. In the early church the term was used to depict those who were not a part of the family of God via faith in Jesus. Paul was saying, “I insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the non-Christian world does.” 

How did/does the Gentile/non-Christian world live? In verses 17-19 Paul described the sinful factors that controlled their behavior. Paul described the unsaved mind as being controlled by our sinful nature and therefore, controlled by “futility of their thinking,” “darkened understanding,” having “hardened hearts,” and “having lost all sensitivity.” Read Ephesians 4:19. It is not a pretty picture of non-Christian thinking and acting but it is God’s picture of those outside of His saving and transforming faith. 

Here in Ephesians Paul described the life of everyone who has not experienced a personal relationship with Jesus. What is interesting is that in Romans 1 Paul presented the same detailed description of one outside of Jesus and there he expanded on it. Romans 1:18 describes the non-Christian as those, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” In Ephesians 4:18 Paul described them as those who “are darkened in their understanding.”  Romans 1:21 describes non-Christians as those whose, “thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In Ephesians 4:17 Paul wrote of their, “futility of their thinking.” Because of the refusal to acknowledge God and allow Him to transform them, Paul wrote in Romans 1:24, 26 and 28, “God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” That compares to Ephesians 4: 18 where Paul wrote that they are, “separated from the life of God.” Then in Romans 1:24 and 26 Paul wrote that because of their refusal to acknowledge God “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” Here in Ephesians 4:19 Paul wrote, “They have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

Paul was not suggesting that every non-Christian lives a lifestyle that can be compared to that of a Hitler or mass murderer, but he was saying that unregenerated individuals all have the same components that are not only present but to one degree or another control the individual. 

If you get the daily news, you constantly get reports of crimes that cause us to ask what can be done. Society is out of control. Some suggest the answer lies in more legislation or stronger gun laws. Others in better education or all we need is training in diversity. God’s answer to our sin driven society is Jesus who alone can transform the inner being so sin no longer controls them. God’s Word presents two options and only two. We can live like the Gentiles, that is those who are ultimately controlled by their sinful nature or we can invite Jesus to be our Savior and begin the process of transformation that will find its completeness in a heaven where there is no sin or temptation to sin.

Paul’s description of the mind and motivation of non-Christians not only explains why sin is so rampant, but it explains why Christians cannot convince non-Christians of the wrongness of many of their actions. Their depraved minds, controlled by Satan, cannot think otherwise. That is why Christians cannot explain to non-Christians that God has a standard for both morality and marriage and any other practice is sin. Man’s sinful minds simply cannot compute that. Non-Christians don’t hear us because Satan has closed their minds and blinded their hearts to what God has to say. The only way to change the behavior of a society that ignores God is to present Jesus to them as a Savior who not only forgives sin but transforms them into the likeness of Jesus.

Paul’s purpose in writing this to both the Romans and Ephesians was to remind us of what their lives were like before being transformed via faith in Jesus. Paul went on to contrast that to what they should be now in Jesus. Read Ephesians 4:20-21.  

Here is where it gets personal for Christians. Paul wrote that the lifestyle of a Christian is to be different from that of a non-Christian. Paul noted that the standard for a believer is that which Jesus both taught and modeled. Read Ephesians 4:22-23. Paul reminded the Christians in Ephesus, and through them us, that God has a different standard that we are to follow.

The question that raises is, “Why, if we have been transformed through our salvation, do we struggle with living the old life to the degree that Paul tells us we have to work at putting off that old nature?” The answer to that is clear. The moment we accepted Jesus as Savior we were forgiven of our sins and promised the blessing of spending eternity with God in His home in new and glorified bodies. The reality is, however, that we do not yet have those bodies or the full transformation that will one day be ours. We still live in bodies that retain some of that old sinful nature. Depending on the degree we have grown in our walk with Jesus that old nature may still influence a major part of our decision-making process. 

You and I are a strange mixture of what we were and what we will be. Initially after our acceptance of Jesus the influence of the old nature is strong. The goal is to grow in our walk with God as we spend time in the Word, spend time in prayer and spend time in fellowship with Jesus which includes worship. Regardless, however, of how much we grow, there will not be a time this side of getting our new bodies that we will not have to be on guard against the tendency to slip back into the old live. When we do that, we will find ourselves accepting the philosophy of a sinful world or feeling the need or desire to act like we did before we made Jesus our Savior.

The challenge is to evaluate our thinking, our attitude, and our behavior by the new standard of being a child of God. It’s a personal challenge because Satan is going to attack us from different directions depending on our strengths and weaknesses. Because he will attack, we are challenged to, as Paul put it, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  That is a challenge God wants us to take seriously because in seeking to live as He wants us to, we find blessing and joy.