Sermon Notes • October 24

Your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.

Living the Christian life we would like to have is getting harder and harder as society becomes more and more opposed to those things we hold dear. We are living in a day when Satan, as God’s enemy, is seeking to destroy God’s people. To counter that, God has given us armor to enable us to withstand Satan’s attacks and attack his strongholds of sin. 

The 3rd piece of armor is a challenge to translate. The King James version reads, your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”  In the NIV reads, With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” You will notice that the NIV makes no mention of footwear. The reason for that is that the Greek denotes a readiness associated with peace but makes no mention such. Translators and commentators are called upon to determine exactly what Paul had in mind. 

The idea of shoes comes from the similarity between the language here and Isaiah 52:7. Read that verse. Paul quoted that verse in Romans 10:15 and saw a relationship between Isaiah and the responsibility of the church to proclaim the gospel.

In addition to trying to identify exactly what is meant by one being ready, there is a more difficult challenge in determining what Paul had in mind by that. The problem is that the Greek tense of the verb Paul used is identical in both the subjective and objective forms. Normally that does not create a problem because the context makes the choice obvious. Here it does not, so you can get two different meanings,  

Let me illustrate the problem. The word “sheep” is the same in both the singular and plural. If I say to you Sam just bought a sheep, you know sheep is singular. If I say Sam has a 100 sheep, you know sheep is plural. The context makes that clear. If I say Sam has a lot of pets including dogs, cats, a cow, and sheep, you cannot be 100% sure if sheep is singular or plural. 

In the Greek that Paul used here it is possible to see his meaning stemming from either the genitive subjective or the genitive objective and the context doesn’t help. What adds to our inability to say for sure what Paul meant is that both possibilities have significant biblical evidence elsewhere to be true. 

Before we look at those 2 lessons, however, let’s assume that in one form or another Paul was thinking about shoes. Go to a shoe store today, and you will have literally dozens of options to choose from. In Paul’s day no such options were available. Civilians going outside generally wore soft leather sandals and when they were inside, they wore what we might call a soft slipper. Soldiers, on the other hand needed something more. They often had to walk great distances over difficult terrain. Soldiers were expected to be able to march on rough roads, climb over jagged rocks and across thorny fields. Their feet need protection. A soldier whose feet were cut, blistered, or swollen could neither stand and fight or advance against the enemy. There are historical reports that occasionally an enemy would place sharp objects on the roadways to delay an advancing army. Once an enemy was engaged it was vital that a soldier be able to stand firm. 

Roman soldiers were fitted with special footgear, wearing heavy military sandals called caliga. It was half boot and half sandal. The sole was made of several layers of leather up to three-quarters of an inch thick and studded with hobnails. The toes were often open. They were tied on with leather straps, wrapped halfway up the shin. For a soldier, proper shoes were essential. His life often depended upon his ability to hold a firm grip.  

Paul, looking at the feet of Roman soldiers he was chained to thought, “A Christian needs that kind of shoe for both footing and advancing forward in spiritual battles.”

First, proper shoes assure us of a secure footing whenever Satan attacks. Notice that Paul wrote that our feet should be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Initially it seems strange to think of wearing armor for war and being fit for peace in the same sentence but remember, Paul was using a military metaphor to describe spiritual battles.

When Satan attacks us, he will generally attack on one of two fronts. Satan loves to try and convince us we are not really Christians. That may come in one of several forms. Sometimes he will try and convince us that what we did when we thought we were making a commitment to Jesus was just an emotional decision that really means nothing. Satan will tell us that if we really were a Christian, we wouldn’t act the way we do. 

If I am not a real Christian, then I may as well forget trying to enjoy the blessings I thought should be mine in Jesus. Paul wrote that to withstand that kind of attack we need to know with certainty that we belong to God and, therefore, are at peace with God. Read Romans 5:1. Satan tells us we not Christians. Our heart tells us we are because we have peace with God. 

Then Satan tries another approach. If you have peace with God, how come you’re in the situation you’re in? Obviously, somethings wrong. Satan will try to knock you off your feet spiritually by discouraging you. But if you have the proper footwear, you answer back, “I not only have the shoes of peace with God, but I also have the peace of God.” Read in Philippians 4:6-7 what it should mean to be wearing the shoes of peace. 

Put on the footwear of peace knowing that you have peace with God and because of that you can always enjoy the peace of God regardless of what Satan throws at you. You are grounded in Him. Insecurity leads to defeat, but faith assures you of victory. 

That takes us to the second part of this armor. Footwear enables us to move out. William Barclay, in his study of this passage wrote, “Sandals were a sign of one equipped and ready to move. The sign of the Christian is that he is eager to be on the way to share the gospel with others who have not heard it. (p. 183). We must put on the sandals of peace, so we are prepared each day to share the gospel of peace with a lost world. A faithful Christian is a witnessing Christian. If we wear the shoes of the gospel, then we have the “beautiful feet” mentioned in Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15. Satan has declared war, but we are ambassadors of peace. 

The footwear of the Roman soldiers was designed to enabled them to travel great distances in a short amount of time. They did not conquer the known world by waiting for the enemy to come to them. They took the battle to the enemy. Too often the church today says to the world, “Come to church and get saved” but the Roman soldiers and the early church knew that their responsibility was to go to the enemy and subdue them where they were. The church today should be what the barracks were to Roman soldiers, a place of rest and renewal and the place from which they planned their next strategic attack on the enemy. 

We need to be ready to take the gospel wherever we are called to go. The Christian warrior must be ready to oppose the evil one by carrying the gospel to the lost. This will bring peace to those who are otherwise enemies of God.

Read the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19-20. That is no small task, but the good news is God has designed footwear to enable us to do that. It is time for the church to take off the comfortable slippers and put on that which God has designed so we can fulfill the commission we have. We have shoes of peace designed to remind us that as believers we are at peace with God and when the going gets tough, we have the peace of God. The world needs that peace. It is up to us to seek out the lost and share with them the gospel of peace.  

Sermon Notes • October 17

Breastplate of Righteousness

Last week we began looking at the various pieces of what Paul called in Ephesians 6:11 the Armor of God. We looked at the first piece which Paul called the “belt of truth.” That belt represented two dimensions of our faith. Objectively it represents our commitment to God and His word. Practically, we are to put on truthfulness so that what we say and what we promise can be depended upon. The two go hand in hand.

This week we are going to look the “breastplate of righteousness.” “Righteousness” is defined biblically as being totally free from sin. Sin is anything contrary to what God desires. Righteousness is a chief characteristic of God who is totally free from sin. To sin would be inconsistent with God’s nature. God cannot sin because His righteousness will not it.

The Bible notes that God cannot be in the presence of sin. Read Habakkuk 1:13. God did design ways for sinful man to behold a part of His glory and live, appearing to the Israelites in a cloud, giving sinful man a limited and temporary view of God. Neither sin nor sinners can permanently dwell in God’s presence.

Moving forward from God’s sinless perfection, we discover that mankind is just the opposite. We are all sinners. We were not originally created that way but because Adam and Eve sinned, we have inherited a sinful nature. Read Romans 3:23. God went further to note that in our sinful state there is nothing righteous. Read Isaiah 64:6. It is because even our attempts at righteousness fall short of God’s standard that Paul wrote Ephesians 2:8-9. Read those verses. Man is totally unrighteous and the only way he can become anything but is through the gracious provision of God.

In the same passage in Romans 3 that spoke of all men being sinners, Paul noted that when we make a commitment to Jesus, God literally gives us His righteousness. Theologically we say that God’s righteousness is imputed to us. In Jesus we are viewed as perfectly righteous. It is God’s gift to us. We do not put it on. So, when Paul urged us to put on the “breastplate of righteousness” he was not talking about becoming a Christian, since he was writing to believers and, therefore, were already clothed in God’s imputed righteousness. 

Paul was talking about our practice as believers. Think about the breastplate that a Roman soldier wore in Paul’s day. In Roman most wars were fought on a hand-to-hand basis with the enemy looking for any opening into which he could thrust his knife into his enemy. A Roman soldier, therefore, wore a breastplate to protect his vital organs from such an attack. 

There were evidently a variety of styles of covering that were worn by the soldiers. Some primarily covered just the front chest while others apparently wrapped around a soldier to protect both his front and his back. Generally, a military battle involved face to face conflict, but it was possible for an enemy to get behind a soldier. It appears some had breastplates designed to protect against that possibility. God has provided for our complete protection if Satan attacks either directly or from behind.

The breastplate a Roman soldier put on was often a woven chain with pieces of metal attached. Others were made of leather or heavy linen, onto which they sewed overlapping slices of animal hooves or horns. Some were made of large pieces of metal molded or hammered to conform to the body.  All were designed to cover the soldier’s entire upper body from the neck to the waist. The purpose of that piece of armor was to protect all the vital organs including the heart and lungs.

In prison, looking at the battle-ready Roman soldier to whom he was chained, Paul thought, “A Christian needs to wear a similar piece of equipment to protect him from Satan’s attacks.” 

Paul, of course was not thinking about the imputed righteousness of God because, as we already noted, that was given to us the moment we believed. Read II Corinthians 5:21.Paul was urging us to holy living, knowing that if we are not seeking to live holy lives, we are leaving ourselves open to the attacks of Satan. The imputed righteousness God gives us what is called a positional righteousness so we can come into God’s presence in worship and prayer. Only obedience to the Lord makes practical righteousness a reality in our daily lives. We are called upon to develop a righteous character that results in righteous living. We are to reflect the righteous character of God in our everyday actions. 

In Ephesians 4, beginning with verse 17 Paul decried the fact that some of the believers in that church were still living the way they did before they made a commitment to Jesus. Read Ephesians 4:22, 22 and 24. That is what Paul meant when later he wrote we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness. 

The Hebrew name for the evil one, transliterated as “Satan,” means “adversary.” That means that Satan is the enemy of both God and God’s people. As the enemy of God, he is determined to keep as many as possible from making a saving commitment to Him. When that fails, his goal is to keep the believer from enjoying the multiple blessings of belonging to God.  

Everyone who has asked Jesus to be their Savior is automatically made a child of God and given the Holy Spirit. But there is much more potentially available to the Christian. Read Psalm 103:2. Then in Psalm 2:3-12 note all the blessings that God gives to His people. 

While those blessings are available to all believers, they do not become a reality when God imputes His righteousness. A Christian must grow in his faith via deeper commitment to God. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is seeking to live in a moment-by-moment obedience to God.

The life we live either strengthens us against Satan’s attacks or makes it easier for him to defeat us. Satan’s tactic is to disrupt the daily blessings God wants us to enjoy. To do that he focuses on our daily living, searching for some kink in our armor that will allow him to stab us. A soldier in battle looked for a weak spot in the enemies’ armor. He looked for a spot left open when he constructed the armor. He looked for a spot not maintained so it has begun to rust and grown weak. Carefully the soldier examines the armor to see how to best attack.

Satan, who is wiser than any soldier, does the same thing. He looks at a believer to find his weak spots. He spots a Christian who dabbles in pornography and immediately he detects a weak spot that he can use to inflict greater harm. He surveys a Christian’s daily/weekly time spent with God and notices that he skips church regularly or never has time for personal Bible study. Immediately he stabs his knife designed to weaken the believer’s faith and confidence in God. Satan looks at the believer’s friends to see which ones he can use as his knife to cut the believer away from God. The reality is that our positional righteousness in Jesus, without practical day by day righteousness in life, gives Satan opportunity to attack us.

A Christian determined to live a righteous life and to confess sin when he fails is a Christian who minimizes Satan’s opportunities to attack. Satan has no place from which to operate. If there is sin, there is an opening and Satan moves in. He doesn’t need to find a hole from a major sin. All he needs is a crack because we ignore what we might call a minor sin.

Paul urges us to put on the practical breastplate of righteousness to minimize the opportunities Satan has to destroy the blessings that should be ours as believers. Paul would say, “Pursue practical righteousness for even what you think is a small sin is an opportunity for Satan to attack.”

Sermon Notes • October 10

Belt of Truth

Acts 19 records that Paul visited Ephesus on his third missionary journey. In total he spent close to three years planting the church there. For the first 3 months Paul spoke of Jesus in the local synagogue. After he was forbidden to teach any more there, he moved close by to a lecture hall where he taught daily for two years. Six or seven years later, while in prison in Rome, he wrote a letter to that church in Ephesus.

In Ephesians Paul described who we are and what we have in Jesus. He then wrote about our Christian walk in chapters 4-6. Paul went on to note that when the Christian lifestyle begins to become a reality in our lives, we automatically put ourselves in conflict with Satan. The Christian described in Ephesians 1-3 who seeks to live the faithful life described in 4:1—6:9 can be sure he will face the spiritual warfare described in 6:10-20. That is why we need to put on the armor of God.  

In Ephesians 6:10-13 Paul explained why we need the armor and then went on to describe various pieces of armor and how they should be used to protect a Christian from the attacks of Satan and how they should be used to attack the strongholds of Satan.

Read Ephesians 6:14. If Satan is a liar, and the Bible says he is, then we must all be guarded with the truth. If he deals in falsehood, then we must deal in truth. The belt was used to keep together the robe a soldier wore into battle. In a battle a soldier that did not have such a belt would easily trip and fall and then he would be easy prey for the enemy.

The Roman soldiers wore a tunic or an outer garment that served as their primary clothing. It was a large piece of cloth with holes cut out for the head and arms. Ordinarily it was simply draped over the body. For a soldier this presented a challenge. The greatest part of ancient combat was hand-to-hand, so a loose outer garment was a potential danger. Before a battle it was carefully cinched up and tucked into the heavy leather belt that went around his waist. The design of that belt was to hold everything in place and minimize the danger of falling. 

In Ephesians 6:14 Paul told us to put on the belt of truth because truth holds everything together, so one does not stumble. One of the fascinating things about this first piece of armor is that the way it is written allows for two interpretations. First,  it allows us to understand that we are to be held together by the truth of God and second it insists that we practice truth in our dealings with others. One without the other is incomplete. 

We need to know what Paul meant when he told us to wrap a belt of truth around us to keep us from falling.

From a biblical perspective there are 2 dimensions to truth. One is the fact that God is truth. In Him there is no deceit, no falsehood, not even a hint of lying. He is truth. Read John 14:6. 

The truthfulness of God stands in contrast to that of Satan. From the very beginning Satan has lied to mankind. See Genesis 3:1-5. See how Jesus described Satan in John 8:44.  

Satan is a liar but God is truth so when Paul wrote that we are to put on the belt of truth he means that we are to figuratively wrap God around us so He can hold us together. One of the truths of the armor of God is that it is He himself who is our resource. The closer we are to God the better able we will be to ward off the lies Satan throws at us to trip us up.

A second part of the definition of truth is that because God is always truth, whenever He speaks it is truth. That means that God’s Word is truth. Read II Timothy 3:16. There is no weapon for a believer who is confronted in battle by Satan or who wants to attach the strongholds of sin that compares to a knowledge of God’s Word.

In the spiritual battles we will face as we seek to grow in our faith and grow in the way we live out the life we are called up to display, nothing will be more challenging than confronting the lies of Satan. Satan will constantly lie about the nature of God. Satan will try to convince us that God is a God of love who will not judge sin or that God is some being bent on spoiling all our fun, so He has set up rules that are no longer relevant. Satan says it is fine to do all sorts of things that in the end are contrary to how God wants us to live. He will present those lies under the guise of it being our right, being what everyone says is acceptable. He tells us it is the only way to get ahead etc. but God’s Word says something else. We need to know His word as truth.

Earlier in this letter Paul wrote about what we will be like without knowledge of biblical truth. Read Ephesians 4:14.

Want to know what the problem is in America? We are a biblically illiterate nation. We fall for every lie Satan tells. In all honesty that should not surprise us. Read to I Timothy 4:1. We see it all about us and while it is perhaps inevitable as we draw closer to the return of the Lord, we need to be on guard that we are not drawn that way.

We are to gird ourselves with truth, truth about God, truth about ourselves and our sin problem, truth about how He wants us to live, and truth about our future. 

The word Paul used here for truth refers not only to knowing what is true but carries the idea of having an attitude of truthfulness. We are not only to know God’s truth, but we are to determine to live out the implications of that truth day by day. The Christian is to gird himself in an attitude of total truthfulness.

Being truthful implies several things including sincerity, that is no hypocrisy. Being truthful also implies that we are committed to keeping our word. Isaiah 11 describes the promised Messiah that was to come and in Isaiah 11:5 He is described this way, “faithfulness the sash around his waist.” The word the NIV translates as “faithfulness” was translated into the Greek as “truthful.” Because God is truthful it is expected we will gird ourselves with that same commitment to truth.

Read Psalm 15:1 and then verse 4.  God is pleased when those of us who know truth consistently seek to be truthful in all our dealings.

Earlier in this letter to the church in Ephesus Paul began a long discussion of what it means to live as Christians with the command found in Ephesians 4:17. Read that verse and then verse 25. 

One additional key teaching on wrapping ourselves tightly in truthfulness so we do not stumble in our battle with sin is found in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus dealt with the practice of people making a promise carefully worded so they could wiggle out of it. Jesus condemned such a practice. Read what He said in Matthew 5:37. Our word should be our bond and people should know that whatever you say, or promise,  is true.

Read Ephesians 6:12 on the battle we are in as Christians. The forces Paul wrote about are led by Satan himself and as we have seen, he is a liar and the father of all lies. If we are going to prevail in our battle against a liar, we must know the truth and we must live truthfully. Paul wrote, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” The first piece of armor to put on is truth and that includes truthfulness. Withoutthat the rest of the armor will be all but useless,

Sermon Notes • September 26

         Put on the whole armor of God!  Ephesians 6:1018

Background: In Ephesians, Paul began by discussing what it means to be a believer and take hold of the many blessings every believer should have in Jesus. Paul knew that our faith is lived out in the real world. In that world, there is an enemy, and that enemy is at war with Christians.

The whole universe is a battleground between God and Satan, between God’s holy angels and the demonic world, between those who belong to Him and have thus been made holy and those who still belong to the evil one. God’s victory is certain, but the battles go on and every believer is involved.

By way of review, in the opening chapter of Ephesians Paul described who we are and what we have in Jesus. When a Christian is seeking to live the life provided by Jesus, he automatically puts himself in conflict with Satan. The Christian who seeks to live the faithful life can be sure he will face the spiritual warfare described in 6:10-20. That is why we need to put on the armor of God.  

Paul used the imagery of a war to describe the challenges we will face as Christians. Paul often used military concepts to describe the Christian life. See I These. 5:8, II Timothy 2:3, I Timothy 6:12, 4:7, II Corinthians 10:4, and Philemon 2.  

The message of Ephesians 6 is that there will be warfare for the believer. It is inevitable. Paul’s call is not to war but to preparation for the battles that will inevitably come. As the Lord gives mastery over one area of temptations, Satan will attack elsewhere. We are in conflict with a real enemy. Since we cannot see the enemy, cannot touch him, cannot outwit him, and are not strong enough in ourselves to take him on, we must seek help. We need God’s wisdom, God’s power, and God’s strength. That is what Ephesians 6:10-18 is all about.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 that we will be involved in a struggle. The Christian life is never presented as a passive existence but serious work to the point Paul could call it a struggle. Just before leaving Ephesus after his ministry there Paul met with the elders and declared they would face persecution. Read Acts 20:29-30. Numerous verses urge us to be active for the Lord against Satan. Read II Corinthians 10:35.  

Before looking at the specific pieces of the armor God has provided for us, there are several things to keep in mind. The war is not about our salvation. Jesus totally cared for that on the Cross. That critical battle has been won and applied to us via our faith in Jesus. If you are a believer, the battle for your soul and eternal destiny is over. 

What is the battle all about? The battle is for our spiritual growth. There are those who claim that once you become a Christian all your struggles are over. We know that is not true. The deeper one goes the harder the attacks will become. Look at Job. Never was there a more faithful man yet never was a man attacked more. Should we think that it is different for us?

Christians can allow themselves to be influenced and even controlled by the demonic world. There are so many challenges and warnings about resisting Satan that there seems to be little doubt that if a man so chooses, he can, even as a Christian, allow Satan to run his life and even work through him. Christians who willingly place themselves where sin is evident, often under the guise of “I’m just here with friends and will not be involved myself” are playing with evil. Christians who dabble in the occult or horoscopes, usually saying things like, “It’s just interesting and fun” are dabbling in areas that Satan controls and, therefore, are placing themselves in a dangerous position. 

Christians are challenged to both protect themselves and take the offense against Satan. The armor of God is designed for both protection and attack. That we need help in protecting ourselves is too evident to be seriously doubted and it is the role of the church in attacking the strongholds of Satan that is too often missed by the church. It is too easy to cluster together in church and pretend we are neither being attacked or have no responsibility to attack the sin strongholds of Satan.

Paul began his comments on the armor of God with a command. Paul wrote “Put On.” That is an order for the soldier who would do battle. The command to “put on” is in the aorist imperative tense, which carries the weight of a military command. Military commands demand immediate and unquestioned obedience. 

The background to this command is found in the situation Paul found himself in when he wrote this letter. Ephesians, written by Paul from prison where he was probably chained to a Roman soldier. As he looked at those battle-ready men, he must have considered the fact that we, as believers, are in battle and we need to have on our armor. Paul knew that to live the Christian life successfully, we had to be as prepared for spiritual warfare as the Roman soldiers where for military battles. 

Paul wrote in verse 13 that we are to take, not make, the armor. It has been fully prepared for us. If we lose the battle, it is not God’s fault but ours. God has provided the armor and His armor is sufficient. We desperately need protection and God has provided all that is necessary. It is His armor that gives victory, not our own strength or ability while we have a responsibility to not only wear it but to develop the skills needed to use it. 

To be successful in the spiritual battles we will inevitably face we must put on the whole armor. We must have it all, not just what we feel we want to wear. The importance of each item will become clear as we examine the details of each piece. Imagine a Roman soldier heading off to battle and saying, “I am not going to wear a helmet today, it’s just too heavy.” 

The challenge begins with “be strong” but one cannot be strong if he is not seeking to put on the whole armor. The Greek verb form of the verb be strong is present-imperative, that is, it is a command to “be strong.” As a present tense verb, it implies an ongoing process, “keep on being strong.” The command is to “be continually strengthened” or in the context of the passage, “Allow God to strengthen us as we put on His armor.

God instructed us 3 times, in verses 11, 13 and 14, to stand. Satan is seeking to knock us off our feet. No soldier that is lying on the ground can do battle.  Because the whole passage is filled with military symbols, the phrase used here carried the idea of holding a critical position when one was under attack. Soldiers do not retreat at the first sign of a battle but take up an appropriate position, fully prepared and determined to hold it. This command means to stand firm and true to the faith, doctrines, and the life we are expected to live. Stand firm and do not move a bit. 

We are called upon to stand firm against, “The schemes of the Devil.” We wrestle against a real enemy. The choice of the word “schemes” is intended to communicate the way Satan seeks to do battle. The word carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception. The term was used to describe a wild animal who cunningly stalked and then unexpectedly pounced on its prey. Satan’s evil schemes are built around stealth and deception.

He is cunning and deceptive. He presents himself as an angel of light (II Cor. 11:3, 1314). If his devices are to be frustrated, then we need heavenly power and protection. Read I Peter 5:8. 

Our enemy is Satan. He is the temporary ruler of this world and totally determined to frustrate God and God’s people. He hates God’s people and will do anything he can to keep them from growing spiritually or advancing the cause of Jesus. As Christians we are called upon to be God’s soldiers doing battle with Him, not by ourselves. Therefore, be equipped with the armor God has provided. Put on the WHOLE armor of God.

Sermon Notes • September 12

How do angels relate to mankind?

The angels have an interesting response to God’s loving provision for the redemption for sinful man. Apparently, there was no provision for the redemption of the angels who rebelled against God. They were cast out of heaven and sentenced to the Lake of Fire. Read I Corinthians 4:9 and I Peter 1:12. Peter wrote that good angels look with wonder upon the salvation that is offered to us and never provided for the angels who joined Satan in his rebellion. 

In I Peter 1 we see some of the things that good angels marvel at. I Peter 1:2 notes being “sprinkled with His blood.” The angels who rebelled have not seen the potential for the cleansing of sin, 

Read I Peter 1:3. Fallen angels have never been offered the new life available to us because of the provision of Jesus for our redemption. Angels marvel that God would love mankind so much that He would enter our world so He could redeem us.

Read I Peter 1:4 and 1:8. The angels marvel at all God has for believers. Angels marvel at the wonder of our redemption while too often we take it for granted, forgetting what it was like before we made that commitment to Jesus.

Although angels do not grasp God’s redemptive provision for mankind, they have been assigned the responsibility of helping with the task of evangelism. In Acts 8:26 we read that an angel led Philip to the Ethiopian treasurer. In Acts 10:1-8 we find that an angel led Cornelius to Peter. In addition, angels will help in the reaping of the fruits of evangelism at the end of time. Read Matthew 13:39 and Luke 15:10. When God rejoices the angels join Him. Do we rejoice over the things that cause God to rejoice?

The Bible notes some of the specific things that God has assigned to angels to do for us. It is tremendously important to remember that any blessings angels provide to us are because of the love of God. Angels always minister at His direction. As noted last week, angels are never to be worshipped nor are we ever to direct prayer requests to them for assistance. Praise for what they do is always directed to God from whom the blessings always flow. The primary reason for noting that angels serve us is to give us another reason to praise God for His care and provision. 

Angelic activity can be divided into two categories, general activity in the world and specific activity on behalf of us as individuals. By way of general activity, it was via the angels that God gave us major parts of the Bible. Read Hebrews 2:2.How the Holy Spirit used angels to communicate God’s Word to the writers of Scripture or the extent to which He used them is not known. We must marvel, however, at the fact that angels, who know so much about God because they are in His presence, were used by God to reveal some of that knowledge to us.

Angels are also used to restrain evil activity. Scripture has various examples. Genesis 18 and 19 record the angelic activity in restraining evil men from doing harm to Lot and in leading Lot and his family away from Sodom. Read II Kings 6:8-17.  

In Kenya during the 50’s the Mau Mau, who were Kenyan freedom fighters rebelling against the British, were all set to attack the Kijabe mission station and slaughter the missionaries and the children who were there. When they saw angels ringing the compound they wisely decided not to attack it. I have talked to Kenyan men who were there, and they have verified that fact. God’s angels were there at His direction to protect His children.

We have no idea how ugly sin would be were it not for the restraining activity of angels at the direction of God. Sin left unrestrained would result in activity that would make events such as the Holocaust seem like child’s play. But God has set limits on sin. Satan is not all powerful and is still accountable to God. 

We have no way of knowing the extent to which God uses angels to protect us. Perhaps when we get to heaven we will understand how often God sent His angels to protect and care for us. There are times when we get a hint that He is protecting us like when we have a near miss of a car accident. I am sure we will discover when we are with Him that He has protected us a lot more than we can ever imagine.

In a more personal way, there is the question of “guardian angels.”  Do each of us, as a Christian, have a guardian angel? Before I answer that let me note that nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that everyone has an angel watching over them. Hebrews 1:14 talks of ministering spirits or angels that watch over the heirs of salvation, which is a description of a Christian. Read Psalm 91:11. Then read Psalm 91:14 to discover to whom that promise is made. Read Psalm 34:7, That is not to say that God does not send His angels to care for non-Christians, especially in response to the prayers of Christians, but it is not automatic. God said He sends the rain on the just and the unjust and He can send His angels to care for the unjust also. 

Do we as Christians have a guardian angel? Historically the church has been divided on that. Some of the early church leaders talked of a guardian angel only for Christians. Some said every soul that is born has one while others did not believe anyone has a guardian angel. 

There are 2 verses that are used to show that Christians have a guardian angel. Read Matthew 18:10. In that passage the angels could be in heaven not on earth, depending on how the Greek is translated. If they are in heaven, then they hardly qualify as a guardian angel here on earth.

In Acts 12:1-15 Peter was released from prison by an angel and went to the house where Christians were praying for him. A servant girl answered the door but instead of letting him in she rushed to tell the others that Peter was there. Read Acts 12:15. In that passage it was a confused household who declared it was his angel, but in reality, it was Peter himself. We are not told there that he had an angel, only that some thought so. 

Elsewhere, whenever there is talk of angels looking over us, it is always in the plural indicating that God has charged many with our care. Angels are available continually at God’s command, but God is the one who cares for us, not angels.

The idea of our having a personal guardian angel is very appealing. It is great to think that I have with me an angel whose sole responsibility is me. If you think you have one, you must be extremely careful how we respond to that belief. We need to guard against giving glory, directly or indirectly, to the angel and not to God. Dr. David Jeremiah wrote, “Angels are sent, but the messenger is never more important than the sender.” 

The second danger is that it is too easy to assume that if we have an angel always with us, we are safer than we really are and therefore forget our constant dependence upon God who is always with us. God is our strength and the One who cares for us. He has not, however, promised to protect us from our stupidity.

Finally, an angel will escort our souls to heaven when the time comes for us to die. We will not be alone. Read Luke 16:19-31. Note that in verse 22 there is no mention of an angel in relationship to the death of the rich man. It is the Christian who will be ushered from this life into the presence of God. 

Angels are God’s servants and because He loves us He directs the angels, who were created to serve Him, to care for us on His behalf. What a marvelous God we have!

Sermon Notes • September 5

Angels

Anyone who accepts the Bible cannot question that angels exist. Angels are mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament and over 160 times in the New Testament. We need to remember that the Bible is not primarily concerned with angels so there is far less on angels than we might wish.  

A Christian, looking at angels, must avoid the danger of getting into the cultic aspect of angels. In recent years there has been widespread interest in angels, especially by those into transcendental meditation. There are books telling us how to contact angels, communicate with them, and get guidance from them. Some books purport to tell one how to draw upon angel power to achieve anything in life by aligning one’s energy field with that of the angels. None of that is Christian. 

Elevating angels to the place where one worships them is forbidden by the 1st of the 10 Commandments. Read Colossians 2:18 and Revelation 22:8, 9

We are forbidden to worship angels and we do not go through them to get to God in prayer. Read I Timothy 2:5-6. One can buy an angel to mount in a car that says, “Protect me, my passengers, and all who I pass by with a steady hand and a watchful eye.” A prayer like that to an angel is against the teachings of Scripture.

What does the Bible teach us about angels?  First, angels were all created by God prior to the creation of man, although we have no idea when. We know that angels were created by God because we are told that everything that is came from His creative hand. God and God alone is eternal! He, and He alone, has neither beginning nor end. Everything else has been created by Him.

We have no idea how many angels God created. Read Revelation 5:11, 12  The word “angel” carries the idea of “messenger” and that gives us some insight into how both the Jews and early church viewed their ministry. 

Second, angels are spiritual beings. They dwell in the world of the spirits, not in a material world such as we live in. It is not accurate to say they have no bodies, but their bodies are very different from ours. Because they have some form of body, they are limited to one place at a time and are, therefore, are subject to that restraint. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15 of different types of bodies including spiritual bodies that we will one day have. Occasionally angels have been given material properties so that they can be seen but for the most part they are invisible to mankind. Read II Kings 6:8-17. 

In addition to good angels, there are fallen angels. The demonic world is made up of those angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God. The Bible classifies angels as either “holy” or “evil” with the “evil” ones being grouped with “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) and “the dragon and his angels” (Revelation 12:7) 

All angels, both good and evil, are created beings and therefore limited. They are limited by space. We must never assume that since they are spirit beings they can be in more than one place at once. Only God is omnipresent. All the rest of creation is limited by space. 

They have limited knowledge. They certainly know things we do not know, especially about the nature of God, but they do not have all knowledge and in fact cannot fully understand redemption. God alone is omniscient. 

They have limited power. Not only do they not have all power, they are responsible to God for their power. God alone is omnipotent. Demonic angels are more powerful than mankind so having on the armor of God is important, as is depending on God to help us in times of temptation.

Angels do not procreate. There are no “baby” angels.  From all we can tell all the angels, however many that may be, have already been created. Their number does not increase or decrease.

All angels, both good and evil, continue in what theology calls a “nonviolable” condition. That is their current condition will never change. Angels were apparently created with the freedom to choose between good and evil, to choose between God and an alternative, which in time Lucifer, presented to them. Having made that choice in history before time, their fate has been forever sealed. Those who are good will always be good, apparently with no additional freedom to choose wrong. Those who rebelled are lost forever with no apparent opportunity to be redeemed. Satan and all who joined him in rebellion are ultimately consigned forever to the Lake of Fire. 

Classification of Angels: God has organized His angels into groups for His purposes. See Ephesians 6:21. We would expect that from a God of design and order. A common title for a group of angels is “host.” Read I Kings 22:19 and Luke 2:13.

Cherubim seem to be the highest order of angels. They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24 where they are given the responsibility of guarding the Garden of Eden so that sinful man could not re-enter it. They stood there as a reminder that sinful man cannot be in paradise. They appear in the tabernacle as golden images on the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-22), again as a reminder that God is holy. 

Seraphim or as the NIV calls them Seraphs are mentioned only in Isaiah by name although Revelation 4:6-8 seems to be referring to them where they are called “living creatures.” They are worshipping angels who are also charged with protecting the throne of God from any invasion of ungodliness. 

Only 2 good angels are given specific names in the Bible. One name is Michael, who is designated in Jude 9 as the archangel and is also mentioned in Revelation 12:7. His name means “Who is like God.” Read I Thessalonians 4:16. 

A second named angel is Gabriel, meaning “mighty one.” Read Daniel 8:16 and 9:21 and Luke 1:19 and 1:26. His primary function is to deliver messages from God.  

The Bible gives us a few pictures of the role of angels in reference to God. The first and most obvious function of angels is that of worshipping God. Read Isaiah 6:1-7. 

Angels were also created to serve God and a major part of that service became apparent when  God created our world and man. Angels were present at creation (Job 38:7) and at the giving of the Law (Acts 7:35). They reveal God’s will to individuals (Daniel 10:10-15) and God’s plan (Luke 1:11-38). They are going to be very active in the last days according to Revelation.

Angels are often God’s agents in judgment. Read Matthew 13:41, 42.  On occasion angels announced the coming of judgment and on other occasions carried it out.

What can we learn from angels that is important to us today? First, we need to remember the importance of defending the holiness or glory of God. That we do by being obedient to Him, by being very careful not to take His name in vain, and by taking a stand against sin in our society.

Second, we need to remember it is important to worship the Lord, not just on Sunday but daily in our devotional time and throughout the day as we praise Him for who He is and all He does for us.

Third, angels remind us that we were created not only to have fellowship with God and worship Him but to serve Him. We are called upon as His hands, His feet, and His mouth so as to  display God’s love in a hurting world. 

Sermon Notes • August 29

Naaman the Leper: II Kings 5:1-27

Setting: Damascus, the capital of Syria. There were few places in the ancient world that were more evil or more destitute of any real message of God. God choose this place to display his mercy and love. Deserts and mountains stood between Damascus and the Land of Promise but those barriers that sometimes limit us do not limit God. God was about to work. In a city filled with statues to false Gods God was going to establish a new place of worship. 

Read verses of II Kings 5 as highlighted in the notes.

In II Kings 5:1 we meet Naaman. This may not be his actual name but an honorary title. It literally means was “well-informed” or “beautiful” and may have been the way he was known in a city. Verse 1 tells us a great deal about him but it does not say anything about his religious faith. He is not presented as righteous man or a religious man seeking truth so no one can say God presented Himself to him because of that. He was a man who had everything the world considers important but was missing the one thing most desperately needed by everyone, a right relationship with the creator God. We are told about him:

  1. He was a Captain/Commander: Commander in chief.
  2. He was a great man in the sight of his master, that is respected by the king.
  3. He was honorable/highly regarded. He found favor with the king because of all he had done for the nation.
  4. He had been used by God. Although he was not an Israelite the sovereign God used him in Syria. 
  5. He was a valiant soldier, a brave man who had proven himself equal to any task given to him.

He was a man who had everything except!

  1. He had Leprosy, a dreaded disease that no man could cure. Leprosy was so ugly in ancient times that God used it to picture sin for His people. Healing was only available from God. That pictured the truth that only God could save from sin. 

How many reasons can you come up with as to why God would choose to send help to Naaman? I know of no reason why God would come to him except to display His glory and because it was while we were all yet sinners that God loved us. 

A Jewish Slave. Read II Kings 5:2-4. What reason did she have to help the man who was a slave master? What reason did she have to share her faith in a Jewish God with a Gentile? She had every human reason to hate her captive and even rejoice when he became a leper. The armies of Benhadad had taken her captive and carried her away into slavery. “Just by chance,” she ended up exactly where she could be used of God. Think about how insignificant her life must have seemed in this ancient city where sin abounded, and God’s witness was so small. We can too easily feel overwhelmed by the abounding sin and limited support for the things of God in our society, but God can work through the seemingly most insignificant of individuals because He is God.

II Kings 5:5-6 give us a picture of how Naaman understood the way in which God works. He assumed that God’s blessings were available for a price. That is how he was raised. Unfortunately, this is the assumption many today still hold. God’s blessing is available at a price. Sometimes it is expressed as “If I am really faithful doing something I don’t want to do God will reward me.” Sometimes it is expressed as “If God does this, I will do this for Him.” For Naaman the assumption was that the magicians of Israel would perform a miracle for the right price. It’s the way of the natural man. Grace is foreign to sinful thinking.

Think about the length Naaman was willing to go to in order to find what he needed. A trip from Syria to Israel was no small undertaking but he was desperate and was willing to try anything. It is amazing the things people try to find even a moment of peace, peace that God offers freely to all who believe in Him.

King Joram: Once Naaman arrived, he went to the one the world would assume could give access to God. The slave girl said a prophet could cure him, but Naaman chose to approach the king. Maybe he assumed the prophet was subject to the king. 

II Kings 5:7 gives a pathetic picture of the king. The king of Israel was supposed to know God and be able to lead the nation in worship, but King Joram did not know God, so he was unable to help. He didn’t even know about Elisha. The king’s behavior should cause us to ask “Had Naaman come to me would I have been able to show him God or take him to a servant of God?” 

God allowed Elisha to know of the events that had transpired and directed Elisha to send a message to the Naaman via the king. 

II Kings 5:9 and 10 tell us that Naaman went to Elisha. But Elisha refused to come out to him, not as a sign of disrespect but to ensure God got all the glory. Elisha directed him to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River. God requires faith and faith alone. The Jordan was not the cure but a test of heart. Washing was a symbol of cleansing. Unless one is washed in the blood of Jesus there is no cleansing of sin. See I John 1:7, Revelation 1:5, 6

In II Kings 5:11-12 we learn that Naaman refused to follow the directions of Elisha. Pride always stands in the way of being cleansed. Naaman says, “I thought.” Sinners always have an idea of how to be right with God.

He let it be known that he was not treated with respect. To be saved from sin one must be willing to admit that he is a sinner with nothing to bring to God. To be right with God we have to acknowledge that even our best deeds and thoughts are still only filthy rags compared to the righteousness demanded by God. 

The rivers back home were better. The world always has a fairer, more realistic approach or better way to God. But Jesus declared that He and He alone was the way and that no one, not Naaman or anyone else, could come any other way. It’s God way or no way regardless of how we feel about it. 

A servant intervenedII Kings 5:13. We must never lose sight of the impact an encouraging word can be to one who is seeking God.  It took courage for the servant to address his master that way but in the end, it led to cleansing. God is so patient. He continued striving to get one to follow His directions. See Hosea 11:4. God never gives up on the lost.

Naaman yielded to God and did it His way. He was cleansed exactly as God said he would be. Naaman had to do something. A sinner must respond by faith and ask God to save him. Repentance is required. When Naaman did what God asked him to do, that is to trust in God’s way, God did something. It all happened just as God said it would. God acted as soon as the faith was evident. 

II Kings 5:15-19. The God once doubted is now worshipped. And it all began when a slave girl shared her faith in the true God who can do all things.

There are multiple lessons here. There is a lesson regarding the necessity of faith for salvation. If anyone has been trying to do church their way and not God’s way the story of Naaman is a challenge to make that personal commitment to Jesus. A personal commitment may at first seem contrary to today’s philosophy, maybe ridiculous or even unnecessary, but it is God’s way or no way as Naaman learned. God has only one way, the way of the Cross. And the only way to that Cross is by faith, not of works, lest any of us boast.

There is also a powerful message for all of us who have made that decision. Are we willing to be simply slaves or servants and tell others about Jesus? That may be the only way they will ever hear that there is a way of salvation or that they will make the commitment necessary. God want us to be faithful in our testimony because in ways we may never be able to imagine, He will use us for His glory and others will come to know that God and God alone is worthy of worship.

1) Leprosy: (From Arthur W. Pink)

  1. Has an insignificant beginning: Almost imperceptible
  2. Is inherited: A communicable disease and easily transmitted from parent to child
  3. Works insidiously and almost imperceptibly: Has little pain until the final stages
  4. Spreads with deadly rapidity: Slowly but surely the whole body is affected
  5. Highly infectious: Spread to others wherever he goes
  6. Peculiarly loathsome: Nothing more ugly to the eye than one infected with leprosy
  7. State of living death: Slowly spreads and destroys every function of the body
  8. Dealt with by banishment: Forced to dwell outside the congregation of Israel
  9. Makes its victim an object of shame: Places him outside of everyone and everything
  10. Incurable in O.T. times: It took a miracle to cure this disease

Sermon Notes • August 22

The Kingdom of God

Which verse is the center one in the Bible? Most often the answer is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Actually, there are 31,102 verses in the King James translation and since that is an even number, there is no single middle verse of the Bible. Psalm 103:1–2 are the two middle verses of the Bible, with 15,550 verses before and after them. Read those 2 verses.

What is the most common name and most common attribute of God in the Old Testament? What is the most common theme of the New Testament?

The most common name for God and the one God gave to Moses according to Exodus 3:14 is, “I am who I am.” He is the eternal God who does not change and can be trusted to keep every promise.

The common attribute of God in the Old Testament and the only one given emphasis in the Hebrew by use of triple repetition is that of the holiness of God expressed by the angels in Isaiah 6:3. Read that verse. 

The holiness of God means first that He was totally different from all else in creation and second, it carries an ethical concept that reminds us that God is without sin. Because God’s holiness will not allow Him to be in the presence of sin, God had one of two choices. God could either destroy us in our sinfulness or He could find a way to purge that sin from us. The Cross is God’s provision to purge us and acceptance of that provision allows God to do just that. Rejecting that provision means we remain in our sin and of necessity must be separated from God. 

The most common topic in the New Testament is the Kingdom of God, In the New Testament there are 65 verses that refer specifically to the Kingdom of God. There are 31 verses that refer of the Kingdom of Heaven and another 30 plus verses that refer to the kingdom with specific reference to that kingdom. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy kingdom come.” We should understand what the kingdom really is and what we are asking God to bring about in our lives, in our community and for our world when we offer that prayer. 

To have a kingdom there must be two essential ingredients. There must be a king and there must be subjects. In the Kingdom of God there is a King who is King Jesus Himself and there are subjects, those who belong to Him by faith and as such name Him Lord or King of their lives. 

See Ephesians 5:and Matthew 24:14 

The question is not who is King because that is obvious, but rather who are His subjects? To be a subject of a kingdom first one needs to become a citizen of that kingdom and then one needs to be a loyal subject of the king. Merely living within the confines of a kingdom does not make one a citizen of it. Merely attending a Christian church or having one’s name on the membership roll does not automatically make one a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

God says we are all sinners and Saint Paul wrote that because of their sin they are citizens of this world. He also said that because of that we are enemies of God. We cannot become citizens of the Kingdom until that enmity is cared for. That is done via an acceptance of the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross. His shed blood pays the price of our being enemies of God because of our sin. Jesus made it very clear that in the final judgment He will determine who is a real citizen and who is not. His decision will be based entirely on whether or not one’s name is written in the Book of Life. That book is a listing of all who have personally accepted Jesus as Savior. To the rest, some of whom will plead they were involved in the church and in the ministry of the church, He will simply say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” or literally “Depart from me for you have never really been a citizen of my kingdom, you have never been registered on the official rolls kept in that Book of Life.” Read Matthew 25:31-41. The unfortunate thing is that too many people who attend church every week have never made that personal commitment and yet Satan has convinced them that they are OK since they were baptized, have their name on a church roll and take communion regularly. That is just not so. Becoming a citizen of Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God demands that there is a deliberate act of personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

See John 3:3. 

Contemplate what commitment to Jesus means. Satan has spread at least 2 lies about that commitment. One lie says the Kingdom of God is some sort of democracy in which we get the opportunity to decide which laws we will accept and which ones we will repeal. If popular sentiment is against a law of God, we simply vote to amend that law or even annul it. 

A second lie is that participation in the life of the Kingdom is optional. If we want to participate, we can. If we want to opt out, we simply declare ourselves absent. There are no requirements, just suggestions, and nothing that we can be held accountable for. That is a totally twisted view of the Kingdom. In a kingdom there is not only a king but subjects that are in totally submission to that king.

Over 100 times in the New Testament we see Jesus and Lord used together. See Romans 10:9,  Acts 16:31, and Philippians 2:9-11.

James Merritt, in his book “Crown Him King” wrote the following on the subject of the lordship of Jesus: “While Jesus is His human name and Christ is His holy name, Lord is His heavenly name. Jesus Christ is Lord means:

He is our Master, therefore we are His slaves

He’s our Sovereign therefore we are His subordinates

He is our Ruler, therefore we are His servants

He is our King, therefore we are His subjects.

This is not a choice we make or an option we consider. This is not up for discussion or waiting for a show of hands. This is the way it is. Jesus is Lord whether some of us like it or not, understand it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not.

The question, therefore, is not “Is Jesus Christ Lord?” The question of His lordship has already been asked and answered for all eternity.” 

Merritt went on to write, “The only real question is, “Is Jesus Christ my Lord?” 

That is the question each one needs to personally answer. The question is not, “Have you trusted in Jesus as Savior?” but have you realized that in order to properly make that commitment you must also acknowledge Him as Lord. Remember, “If He is not Lord of all He is not Lord at all.” God does not ask us to accept Jesus as fire insurance for eternity but to accept Him as He really is, the Lord of His Kingdom and, therefore, Lord of every life in that Kingdom. Each one who is seeking to live according to His will needs to regularly evaluate his life and allow God to reveal areas where He still wants to rule and then ask Him to give the power to turn that area over to His Lordship. That is what being a real Christian is all about. That is what being in the Kingdom of God means.

Sermon Notes • August 8

Let Me Ask You a Question Matthew 11:2-15

Matthew 11:3 records that the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with the question from John. Read that verse and read Jesus’ answer in verse 4. 

Background to that unusual question:  John was certainly a unique individual. His birth was special. Luke 1:6-23 records details of his birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth with Luke 1:6-7 noting that John’s parents were righteous and very old.

Luke went on telling his story. Read Luke 3:2-3 and Luke 3:21-22. John the Disciple gives some additional details on the baptism of Jesus. Those details are recorded in John 1. Read especially John 1:29. 

John the Baptist faithfully and fearlessly proclaimed the need of repentance and eventually that got him in trouble with King Herod. Read Matthew 14:1-12. John had declared that Herod was living in adultery, which was forbidden under Jewish law. That took courage and was costly, but it was the truth. The church in America could learn a lot from that.

It was while in prison that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. Our first response might be, “How could John not have known? In fact, hadn’t he declared as much when he baptized Jesus?” But John was in prison and certainly knew his death could come at any moment, and John began to have questions. John’s faith had been brought into question and he sought reassurance from Jesus.

Probably all of us have had occasions when we doubted the legitimacy of our faith? The circumstances vary but inevitably we all have found ourselves in a situation like John where we expected God to answer in a different way than He did. At those times Satan whispers, or perhaps shouts, “Your faith is meaningless” or perhaps, “Your faith is too small, and you cannot count on God to help you.” John would have been the last person I would have expected to doubt but like all of us, he did. 

John’s disciples went to Jesus as he asked and note Jesus’ response, or perhaps first note how Jesus did not respond. Every time we doubt and wonder where God is when we need Him, Satan whispers in our ear, “God is disappointed with you. You have offended Him by even asking where He is.” We would think Jesus must have been really upset with John. Read Jesus’ answer in Matthew 11:4-5.

A quick reading of that can leave us thinking that Jesus was simply saying to John’s disciples, “Tell him about all the miracles you have seen me do and he will know that I can only do them because I am the promised one.” We would not be wrong in seeing that as a part of the message Jesus wanted John’s disciples to take back to him. But there was something more here that John would have understood.

John wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus answered by quoting the description of the promised Messiah as found in Isaiah. Read Isaiah 35:4-6 and Isaiah 61:1.  

Note the similarity between that which the promised Messiah would do and what Jesus told John’s disciples to tell him He was doing. We can point to the resurrection as a testimony to the legitimacy of Jesus but at the point when John needed reassurance that was not possible. Instead, Jesus answered John’s doubts with the declaration that He was fulfilling the things promised of God, promises John would have known very well.

Note one thing on the list of activities that Jesus had been doing that was omitted. Isaiah continually noted that when the Messiah came, He would “set the captives free.” Jesus made no mention of it in the list of things that John’s disciples were to report on. Perhaps being set free was the one promise John wanted most to hear and perhaps the failure of Jesus to perform it when John knew he needed it was not at the root of his doubts. Satan always comes to us with a question when God seemingly fails in a particular area where we want Him to act. We don’t get a job we wanted, and Satan puts doubts in our minds about God’s willingness to meet our needs without ever thinking about all the other ways He has provided for us. We ask for healing for a loved one and instead death comes, and Satan wants us to doubt God’s willingness to care for us without reminding us of His presence with our loved one and with us or the assurance of where that loved one is. The nature of doubt is that Satan brings into question a particular seeming failure as proof that God has totally failed. 

How did Jesus respond to John’s doubts besides sending assurance based on His activities that He was the Messiah? Read Matthew 11:7. Suppose in the weeks before his death Billy Graham expressed doubts about his future. What would that say to us? If the man who had preached salvation to millions doubted his faith at the last minute, was his faith real? Those who were aware of the issues John’s disciples brought to Jesus must have wondered the same thing. John was the Billy Graham of his day.

Jesus said to John’s disciples and all who were there, “Hold on, let me point out that while John’s faith was temporarily shaken, that does not take away from who he was or the ministry he has had. Don’t let a moment of doubt define him.” I think that is important for us to understand because I can assure you that at some point someone you have looked up to will fail. It will shake you and cause you to wonder about the legitimacy of that person’s faith. He or she is no different than John.

In Matthew 11:7-9 Jesus made three statements about John, each introduced with the question “What did you to see?” (See verses 7, 8, 9) 

The first thing Jesus said about John was that He was not “A reed swayed by the wind.” Jesus said that John did not compromise the truth just because some other idea was popular. He even held to the truth when he confronted Herod. How desperately we need the church to emulate that today instead of ignoring God’s Word in order to be acceptable to more people.

Second, he was not “A man who dressed in fine clothes.” Jesus is not opposed to proper dress. Jesus was referring to the desire of many in our culture to stand out as proper and with it stylish. Keeping up appearances at any cost is one of the characteristics of our generation. The “at any cost” can easily destroy one’s testimony. John, in his sackcloth, was anything but that. His concern was not how he looked but his faithfulness. He was not concerned with living the soft life but a genuine life.

Jesus went on to ask if the people went out to see a prophet. Jesus said John was “more than a prophet.” He was the promised forerunner that Malachi spoke of in Malachi 3:1. He was more than just a prophet, he was a special servant of God. You are always more to God than the world thinks of you. You are not just a Sunday school teacher; you are God’s representative to those kids. You are not just a witness; you are God’s servant proclaiming His love to a lost world. You don’t just clean the church building; you help maintain it so that the church has a place to meet.

Have you ever had moments of doubt or times when you wondered if there really was a God who cared about you and your needs? Don’t let Satan tell you on those occasions that you are a failure, and that God is upset with you. Like John the Baptist those moments of doubt or fear or uneasiness don’t define you. Just as Jesus understood John’s concerns and assured him that He was not only the promised Messiah, but He understood his doubts completely, so too Jesus would remind us of our worth to Him. Jesus loves us, period. He doesn’t just love us when we have great faith, He loves us when our faith seems to be smaller than a mustard seed. Yes, He wants us to be faithful and will help us to be that, but when we fail His love remains consistent. And that is a message Jesus sent to John and sends to us.

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.