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Friday, February 10, 2017

Worship and Self-Denial

Worship and Self-Denial
Psalm 96:8

Psa 96:8  ...bring an offering and enter His courts.

In the course of my walk with Christ... I've had the opportunity to attend the worship services of several different denominations. Each group I've visited, claimed that their worship was “Christ-centered” and in accordance with the the Scripture. And I'm not going to disparage the customs and practices of the various groups because I understand that what appeals to me... doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone else.

For instance... there are those who desire to worship in a more “high church” and “liturgical” fashion. They love to see their priests or pastors wearing the vestments of their calling... or their robes. The sound of the pipe organ playing the lofty hymns of the church... and the performance of various rites and rituals each week brings a comfort to their heart and soul that they won't find elsewhere.

But there are others who prefer their “worship” to be at the other extreme. Services that are more in line with a rock concert or music festival. Where a band plays contemporary christian music... loudly... while a worship leader or worship team leads the congregation in the singing. There might be lights flashing all over the place... rising smoke... and there could even be people with flags or banners... dancing up and down the aisles.

Most churches though... fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But regardless of the form or fashion of the services... in order to truly be called worship... there are certain demands... or elements... that have to be present if the worship is to be according to Christ's command that... Joh 4:23   ...true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Now... as I've said before... “in spirit and truth” means that worship must be from the “inner being”, or from the “heart”... and it must also be in accordance with the truth... or the “Word of God”.

So... one of the elements that would be included in “heart-felt” worship is an attitude of thanksgiving for the goodness of God... which He displays toward us each and every day. You know, we slip up all the time... yet He doesn't pounce on us in judgment... does He? Of course not... but with grace He leads us into repentance and restoration.

Heart-felt worship will also include a sense of our own spiritual need... and the knowledge that only God can fulfill that need. And because He has fulfilled our needs through His Son... our worship will also include an attitude of indebtedness. In other words... we owe Christ everything... because He loved us and gave Himself for us. That it's through His death that we have any hope... and it's through His Spirit that we have any strength.

Thanksgiving... Spiritual need... Indebtedness... All of these attitudes have to meet and mingle together within our worship... if it's to be considered true worship. And if they aren't included... then the person who comes to church will more-than-likely leave the church no better than they came.

But there's another attitude that's also included in worship that's just as important as all the others... but it's most often ignored... because of the demands that it places upon us. This other attitude is “self-denial” or “self-sacrifice”.

Mar 8:34  Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.

Now most of us... when we think of worship... we think of praise. And we all know that praise is an important part of worship. We like praise. It's fun. It's easy to do. It flows naturally out of our gratefulness toward God, for all He's done for us. But its also easy for us to become so locked in praise, that we forget that worship also calls for self-denial.

You see... there's joy in worship... but there's also duty. And our duty in worship can be seen...

I. In Our Offering

Psa 96:8  ...bring an offering and enter His courts.

Exo 23:15  ...No one is to appear before Me empty-handed.

Worship... from the very beginning of time... has always included some sort of financial offering... Whether it be in the form of animal sacrifices... food or baked goods... or actual money... everyone brought something and no one came with nothing.

No Jew would ever come to worship empty-handed. Giving of his means was simply a natural part of his devotions. Within the Temple was an area that was called the “treasury”... and around the treasury were 13 boxes boxes... 4 of which were for the free-will offerings of the people.

And it was here, that Jesus... Mar 12:41-44  Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums.  [42]  And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.  [43]  Summoning His disciples, He said to them, "I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury.   [44]   For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed—all she had to live on."

You see... it didn't matter whether someone had a lot of money... or a little... everyone gave. It was simply the natural thing to do. And though He didn't condemn or make light of those who were rich and gave a lot... He did make special mention of the woman who gave sacrificially. She gave until it hurt. She actually had to deny herself something in order to give anything to the Lord.

And from the earliest of times... it has been felt by spiritual men that true offerings should touch on self-denial. For example... King David knew that when making an offering to God... it should come at personal expense...

2Sa 24:24  The king answered Araunah, "No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

And then when Zacchaeus came into contact with Christ... we hear him cry out... Luk 19:8  ..."Look, I'll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I'll pay back four times as much!"

You see... he had always given according to the Jewish custom... in the Jewish way... Whenever he entered the Temple, he never came empty-handed. But when he came face-to-face with Jesus... he couldn't give enough!

This also puts me in remembrance of the children of Israel... while in the wilderness... they kept giving and giving and giving until Moses had to actually order them to stop!

Exo 36:4-7  Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work for the sanctuary came one by one from the work they were doing  [5]  and said to Moses, "The people are bringing more than is needed for the construction of the work the LORD commanded to be done."  [6]  After Moses gave an order, they sent a proclamation throughout the camp: "Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." So the people stopped.  [7]  The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.

And this ancient spirit of worship through giving has passed through Judaism into the Church. But now... it's been deepened and intensified by the addition of Christ's sacrificial death for our sins... and our desire to further His ministry through our giving...

2Co 9:6-7  Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  [7]  Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.

So when it comes to our duty of giving... I think from time to time, it'd be a good idea that we ask ourselves... “Have I been giving to the point of sacrifice?”, “Have I ever denied myself anything that I might bring an offering to the Lord?”

Our self-denial in worship can be seen in our offerings... but it will also be evidenced...

II. In Our Heart

Psa 51:16-17  You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering.  [17]  The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

As men became more spiritually minded... the thought of self-denial deepened. It simply wasn't enough to worship God with an offering in hand anymore. It slowly began to dawn upon the Jews that the truest form of offering came from the heart.

Think about David. He was a man who had been trained in ritual worship... and from his earliest years... you can be sure that he never entered the Tabernacle empty-handed. His worship would cost him something. The God he found while shepherding his flock wasn't a God to be worshipped cheaply.

But after his rise to kingship... and then his fall... his sorrow for his sin against God brought him to the realization that the blood of bulls and goats just wouldn't be enough. No outward sign would make him a true worshipper again...

That would come from the inside... from a broken spirit... and a broken and contrite heart. In other words... He had to give himself... deny his lusts... lay aside his pride... and be repentant... or all his worship would mean nothing.

He may have known from the first that worship meant denial... but in his trials... it was those thoughts of denial that deepened. He could be the possessor of great wealth... and he could give it all to the Lord... but it would mean nothing if his heart wasn't penitent and humble.

And this was a great truth for him to grasp... and it has helped to enrich worship throughout the ages... where it passed from the old covenant into the new covenant... and into the gatherings of its saints where we see self-denial also...

III. In Our Sacrifice

Listen to the words of David's greater Son... Jesus... as he spoke in the Sermon of the Mount about bringing offerings to the altar... Mat 5:23-24   So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you,   [24]   leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

He's talking about our attitude in worship... and what attitudes are necessary if we're to worship God in spirit and in truth. He doesn't tell us about giving... because that's a given... He's taking that for granted because no one comes to the Lord with empty hands.

But He does point out that behind every gift... there should be self-denial of the heart. You see... it's far easier to give up a quarter than a quarrel... isn't it! It's easier to lay down a generous offering than to lay down a long-standing grudge.

And Jesus is showing us that if worship is to be acceptable... the worshiper has to lay aside his pride and become as humble as a child. We need to clear our hearts and our thoughts of anything that would hinder our worship. Any resentment or anger that we harbor in our hearts... will be like a wall between us and the Lord.

And giving that up... or tearing down that wall... isn't an easy thing to it! It goes contrary to the natural man who would rather bask in anger and unforgiveness... than in patience and self-sacrifice.

But true worship isn't meant to be easy. It's hard. It's not just a comfortable hour or so on a Sunday morning... singing beautiful songs of praise... and listening to a sermon preached. It's an attitude of the heart and soul that demands self-denial if it's to be appropriate.

Jesus has placed a demand upon our soul... and it's a call to sacrifice and cross-bearing... because the road to church is like the road to heaven... it lies in the shadow of the cross.

And our self-denial in worship then can also be found in the regular attendance...

IV. In Our Church

Heb 10:25  not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

I'd be willing to bet that just about every person in here today can easily see an element of self-denial in coming to church... week after week. Do you remember what I said at the beginning about the worship attitude of self-denial being most often ignored... because of the demands that it places upon us?

Well... one of those self-sacrifice demands that is most often ignored is in the weekly gatherings of the saints. There was a time when it was frowned upon... or a person would lose their good name if he seldom went to church... but those days are long gone.

These days... many believers are just simply too tired at the end of a hard week... and the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest... right? Or maybe... we're just not feeling too good... or it looks like it might rain... or, you know what... I can get more out of worship on the golf course than I can in the sanctuary...

But whatever the excuse is... it demonstrates that our natural inclination is not towards church... and that a denial of self is needed if we are to be in the sanctuary every Sunday.

And that very self-denial that's required to do this, is not only good for man... it's pleasing to God. The best of all beginnings to the week... can be found when we take our desire for ease... and crush it a little...

When we do on Sunday what is our Christian duty... we are bringing our will into subjection... and this is a better beginning for the week than listening to the finest sermon being preached on TV from our easy chair.

Luk 4:16  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day...

Did you ever think about that? His custom was to be in church on the sabbath. He is the Son of God... and heaven is His home... and yet His custom was to go to church.

He never said that He didn't need to go... that He could have fellowship with His Father anywhere. He never used the excuse that there were simply too many hypocrites. No... His custom was to be in the Temple... or the Synagogue... on the sabbath.

And this should be our custom also. Not only that we deny ourselves and make a habit of worshiping Him regularly in the church... but also that we deny ourselves in our offerings... and our hearts... and our sacrifices.

All of these are included in His command that we take up our cross... deny ourselves... and follow Him.

He has done so much for us. How can we not desire to give Him our sincere worship and our complete allegiance? I mean... His love toward us was so great that even when we were His enemies... he gave Himself for us.

Would you do that? Would you willingly give your life for someone who hates you? Well... that's exactly what He did.

Rom 5:10  For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

So we have a decision to make. Continue doing things the way we always have... sort of haphazardly and grudgingly...

Or make a full commitment to the Lord today. To deny ourselves... take up our cross... and follow Him... wherever that might lead..


Saturday, February 4, 2017


Psa 32:1-2

Psa 32:1-2   How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!  [2]  How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

This last Wednesday evening... we started a new series of studies called “The Disciples Path... The Journey”. It's a new intentional discipleship program that's put out by Lifeway. It begins with the very basics of Christian doctrine and then builds upon those foundations... brick upon brick... with the end goal of growing disciples into maturity of their faith and understanding.

So... our class began with a session that asked, “Who Is Jesus?”... and it covered the biblical truth that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% man. He isn't 50/50 God and man... or 60/40... or 80/20... or any other combination. He was and is... 100% God and 100% man, both, and at the same time.

And why is this important? Well... by-passing a lot of the theological jargon and reasoning... it boils down to God's plan for the forgiveness of sinful man. You see... after the Fall... sin passed from Adam to all of his seed. So, every person ever born from the very beginning... was born dead in their trespasses and sins... because of the sin of Adam.

But God... from the foundation of time had established His plan for the salvation of man and the forgiveness of sins. That plan was that in the fullness of time... the Son, would come as a man... live a sinless life... and then He'd lay down that sinless, perfect life as the payment (or an atonement) for the sins of those who believed.

But... prior to that happening... from the time of Adam to the Incarnation of the Son of God... He told us and showed us that this was coming through the prophets... and the law... and the sacrificial system. In other words... for millennia... God has shown mankind through types and symbols, what His intentions were.

But the problem with types and symbols is that because they aren't the “real deal”... they're inadequate. The sinfulness of man is so complete... that the law and the blood of animals... is totally insufficient to save us.

Heb 10:1,4  For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  [4]  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

The Son had to become 100% man in order to save sinful man. Man sinned... so all men became sinners. Sinful man could never save himself. God then, became a man born of the Holy Spirit, not man... so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. He would be... as John the Baptist said... that spotless... Joh 1:29b  ...Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

And as that perfect sacrifice... all those who believe on Him... are forgiven of their sins. Col 1:14  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

This is the gospel message. That through faith in Jesus, we can have the forgiveness of all of our sins. It doesn't matter how great or how small they are... they can and will be removed from you forever...

The Bible tells us that it's... Psa 103:12  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Now think about that for a moment. “As far as the east is from the west...” There's four directions right? (North, South, East, West) But he doesn't write that our sins are removed as far as the north is from the south... but as far as the east is from the west!

Anything that keeps heading north... will eventually head south... and whatever heads south will eventually head north. However... whatever keeps going east, will always go east. And whatever goes west... will always go west.

In other words... they will never meet... They will never return to you. That's how far away your sins are removed from you when you believe in Jesus and give your life to Him! To borrow a phrase from Buzz Lightyear... “To infinity and beyond!”

That's how much God forgives our sins. He's done His part. He's done the heavy lifting here... but we also have a part to play. You see... God has forgiven us when we trust in His Son... He's done that and it's ours. Nothing can take it away from us.

But there are some things that can keep us from fully realizing that forgiveness in this life. There are some things which can hinder our Christian growth and prevent our coming into maturity of faith...

Things such as, not...

I. Forgiving Ourselves

Now... the truth is that the Bible simply doesn't say anything about forgiving ourselves. It clearly teaches us that we're to forgive others... and that God forgives us... but forgiving ourselves... just isn't there.

This, however... doesn't mean that there's no value in the idea. And please understand that when I speak of “forgiving ourselves”... in no way am I trying to “belittle” our sins or to “make light” of our crimes against God and man. Because folks... our sins are so great that we all deserve death.

But through our faith in Christ... God has forgiven our sins. I can understand how we might struggle with our own forgiveness for a time... because in a very real sense... anyone who has no struggle with this... hasn't really seen how horrible their sins truly are.

But... forgiving ourselves... or moving beyond our past... though never easy... is necessary for us to grow in Christ and live fruitful and godly lives. But the sad fact is that there are many people who simply can't... or won't move on.

Maybe they don't want to move past their former sins... which in itself is sinful rebellion... because they've been forgiven. If you don't want to move past your former sins... then you really don't want to be forgiven, do you?

Or maybe they think that their sin is too heinous for God to truly forgive. But this is like saying that their particular wickedness is just too big for God to handle.

The Bible though, teaches us that if we truly repent of our sins and confess them to the Father... He will forgive us. 1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgive us our sins”... “cleanse us from all unrighteousness...” Not just some of them... all of them! (Washing dishes illustration) But if we don't accept Him at His word in this... then can we say that we've truly believed in Him?

Anne Graham Lotz tells a true story that so graphically illustrates God's forgiveness that I have to share it with you.

There was a woman that she used to visit in prison from time to time, who had been convicted of multiple murders and was going to be executed within a few hours of their last visit.

And this woman was struggling with the assurance of her salvation which she had claimed by faith six years earlier. And on the very night that she would be stepping into eternity... she was desperate for reassurance of her own forgiveness by God.

So, Anne asked her if she had ever seen the ocean. The woman nodded, “yes”. Then she asked her if she had ever walked along the shore and seen the little holes that the ghost crabs left behind when they darted in and out of the sand. Again she nodded, “yes”.

Then she asked her if she had ever seen the larger holes left by children and adults, playing in the sand. With a puzzled look, she again nodded, “yes”. Then Anne asked her if she had ever seen the much larger holes and ditches created by the machines dredging a channel or burying pipelines on the beach. She again acknowledged, “yes”.

Anne then leaned toward her and asked her, “Velma... when the tide comes in... what happens to those holes?”

Folks... when the tide comes in... all the holes are covered equally by the water. God's forgiveness is like the tide that washes over all the “holes” of your sins and covers them equally... It doesn't matter how great your sins are... or how small... they're all washed away and eliminated by the tidal waves of God's forgiveness.

Now... when we trust in Christ, God forgives us. When we come to the full realization of that forgiveness... then we need to move past ourselves toward...

II. Forgiving Others (Those who have hurt or offended us)

Mar 11:25-26   "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.   [26]  [ "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." ]

The first thing I want to point out here is that there's a difference between the forgiveness that God extends to us... and the forgiveness that we are to give to those who've offended us. For us to receive God's forgiveness... it's required of us to repent. But God tells us that we are to forgive freely.

You see... God is responsible for the moral governance of His creatures... while we aren't. He set the rules... and He judges according to His holiness and perfect righteousness. On the other hand... any judgment we would pass would be tainted by our own sinfulness.

Another point is that God's forgiveness is with an eye toward the eternal salvation of people... while the forgiveness we are to give, is with ourselves in mind... Mar 11:25b   ...that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

The person that we extend forgiveness to may not even be aware that they've done anything that offended us. But because we are offended... they've been allowed... basically... to live “rent free” in our heads... and we've allowed them to take control of our thoughts... when only Christ should have that place.

I mean... think of a time when someone did something that hurt your feelings... or gave you some sort of offense. Do you remember how that situation played over and over in your mind? Do you remember how difficult it was to get to sleep that night... because you just couldn't quit thinking about it?

It's kinda like that song that keeps playing in your mind... over, and over, and over, and over again. You just can't get rid of it. That recently happened with Terri and I with the new Hawaii Five-O theme song. It drove us nuts trying to get it to stop.

In a very real sense... the forgiveness that we are to extend to someone else... is more for our own good than it is for theirs. Because an unforgiving and resentful heart is a barrier between us and the Lord.

Mat 6:14-15   "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.   [15]   "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

When we think of forgiving others in relation to our own forgiveness... it really makes the whole process a lot easier for us to do. You see... I know how black my sins were. When I remember what I've been forgiven of... it makes it easier for me to forgive others.

Thinking about how... Psa 40:2  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock... also helps me in...

III. Forgiving Enemies (Those who hate us...or those we hate)

Pro 25:21-22  If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:  [22]  For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

You know... it's one thing to be able to forgive someone you know, who's offended you in some way. Because many times this will be a friend, or relative... or someone you do business with... an acquaintance maybe...

But it's an entirely different thing to forgive an enemy. That designation alone... enemy... implies an anger or other emotions that go way beyond simple annoyance or hurt feelings... and it delves into the area of hatred.

I mean... look at vs 22 again... That whole verse seems to tell us that an incentive for being kind and forgiving to our enemies... is so that we can bring some sort of harm on them! We'll be heaping “coals of fire” on them!

It's kind of like praying for our enemies... that God would bless them... with a brick... up side their head! But this would be contrary to Christian charity... wouldn't it?

But using the principle of interpreting Scripture with Scripture... I found that if we look elsewhere for that phrase... “coals of fire”... we find something similar to it in Lev 16:12... where it describes the high priest on the Day of Atonement... taking his censer... filling it with “coals of fire...” and then putting incense on the coals so they'd burn and become a sweet-smelling savor to the Lord.

So... instead of desiring to do our enemies harm... maybe we should look at this as our hope that the first emotion that our enemy might have when we do good to them... be a burning shame... and that, that shame will do its work and cause their heart to burn toward God in repentance... which will rise up as a sweet smelling savor to God. Maybe that's how we should look at this.

This, then is how we can... Rom 12:21  ...overcome evil with good. By doing good to our enemies... in hopes that it will bring them to repentance... and ultimately... their own salvation.

The Bible also tells us that we should show a loving concern for our enemy's property by caring for it when they aren't around... or when they need assistance with it. In Exodus, we read... Exo 23:4-5  “If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him.  [5]  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

If you see someone breaking into, or causing harm to your enemies house... you should call the police and then give testimony to it. If someone you dislike is being mistreated.. then get involved in some way that will stop it.

If your enemy has gone through an ice storm and needs help with heat, showers, water, food or tree removal... Well... I'll let you fill in those blanks.

In a very real sense... the measure of your Christianity will be seen in how you treat the people you don't like. Mat 5:46-47   For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?   [47]   And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

And right before He said that... He said... Mat 5:44-45a   But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,   [45]   so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven...

Love your enemies... not simply tolerate them. Love them... and pray for them. You know... it's difficult to maintain hatred toward someone you're actively and sincerely praying for. And if you truly believe that God answers your prayers... then why wouldn't you pray for them?

They are... after all... in the image of God, just like you. God causes the sun to shine on them... and the rain to fall on them... just like you. Forgiving others... and especially your enemies... and being kind to them and praying for them just may be all it takes to bring them to Christ.

And isn't that what we're all about? If it isn't... then we've got another problem... Paraphrasing something Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you have no desire to see the lost saved... then you aren't saved yourself.”

Jesus died for all of those who would believe. Not just those people that you like. And if God has shown His grace and mercy toward you... to forgive you, and to save you... then it's only right and natural that you should show the same grace and mercy toward others... including those whom you hate.

And when you can do that... through His grace... you'll... Mat 5:45 sons of your Father who is in heaven...


Friday, January 27, 2017

Ye Are Christ's

Ye are Christ's”

1Co 3:23a    And ye are Christ's...

Something I've noticed over the last few years is that many people today... when they look at history... they tend look at it with a judgmental eye. In other words, they evaluate the past... and stand in judgment over a person... or an entire civilization which lived years or even centuries past... by the standards we hold today.

A primary example of this would be slavery. It's a practice that's been around for millennia... probably since the beginning of time... and it's only fallen into widespread disfavor within the last 200 years or so.

Every people group on this planet has practiced slavery at some point in time... but it seems like all we hear about today is how it was practiced and what it was like... here in America... as if we're the only country that ever did this.

And please... don't misunderstand me here... Slavery is horrible! It was an institution that rightly died in America in the early part of the 19th century... and it's a practice that's just as detestable to us today as it was to all those men and women who laid their lives on the line, fighting against it way back then.

But I will not try to resurrect the long dead and stand in judgment over them using our standards today. For example... the very idea that we should expunge the history books... or remove statues... in order eliminate the historic achievements of certain people, simply because they owned slaves is ludicrous. Some of the greatest men and women in American history were slave owners... but they were subject to the laws and the customs of their own time... not ours.

Why not instead concern ourselves with those places and cultures where slavery is still practiced? All over Africa... and especially South Africa... sex slavery is a real problem. Sex slavery is also a problem here in America... only, we give it a little bit of whitewash call it prostitution now.

Within Islam... women are nothing more than property and are subject to extreme punishments for something as simple as driving a car... or leaving a house without a male family member present. Elsewhere in the Middle East... any young girls who are captured by ISIS are either turned into sex slaves... or they're brutally murdered if they don't comply.

Folks... human slavery has not been eliminated. The various forms of it we see in our world today are just as bad... if not worse... than it was in history past. Now, some of today's slavery (like sex slavery or actual physical bondage) is blatant and in your face... While other forms of it (such as financial and economic debt) are more subtle... or given a veneer of acceptability so that as a society... we can be comfortable with simply overlooking it.

But slavery is slavery... and as Christians we should do everything we can to fight against it wherever we see it... whether it be physical, mental, financial or even spiritual.

However... there is a form of slavery, which we as Christians... find totally acceptable. Matter-of-fact... we not only find it acceptable... but we freely give ourselves over to it... and encourage others to follow us in it...

Our verse says in... 1Co 3:23a    And ye are Christ's...

We belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His. He is our Master... our Lord... and our Sovereign King! One of the Apostle Paul's favorite designations for himself was that he was the “duolos” of Christ.

Now... wherever you see Paul making mention of being a “servant” or a “bond servant” of Christ in the NT... the word he uses is “duolos”... which means... slave!

He was wholly and completely owned and possessed by His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Though he possessed a will of his own... it was in total submission to the will of His Master. As the “duolos” of Jesus Christ, Paul was the possession of the Lord and was completely dependent upon Him.

And this is God's design for all who believe in Jesus Christ... 1Co 6:19-20  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  [20]  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

God is in us... we are not our own... we've been bought with a price... and we belong to God!

We... as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are the sole possession of our Master... and we were given to Him by the Father. And I know that as Americans... it's difficult for us to wrap our minds around this concept. We're so used to having “inalienable” rights and being “free” as a people and the beacon of “freedom” to the world.

But the God's honest truth is that if you are truly a Christian... then you are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns you and you not only should... but you will submit to Him as your Lord! And if you don't... then you aren't!

From eternity past... as the property of the Father through His creative act... He gave us to the Son...

I. By Donation

Joh 17:6   I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

There is this unwritten law in the universe that when someone creates something... that thing which is created belongs to its creator. When God created everything... including man... man became God's possession to do with as He wished.

The prophet Isaiah... speaks of the relationship between man and God in terms of a Potter and the Clay.

Isa 64:8  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

Now... I minored in Art when I was in college at Wayland Baptist University. And because of that minor... I took a lot of Art Classes... one of which included Pottery. In that class I learned how to “throw” clay... which simply means how to shape a lump of clay into something while it's turning on a wheel.

While the wheel would spin... I'd use my hands... fingers... or any other tool I desired... to fashion whatever it was I had in my mind... which was usually a pot, or a vase or an ashtray. Something simple... because I was a novice. But anyway... I'd work at it until I got it to look however I wanted... and then if I didn't like what I made... I'd smash it and add a little more water... and start all over again.

Once the pot or ashtray was finished... I'd fire it in the kiln. If it didn't explode because of air bubbles... the finished product would be mine to do with as I wished. I could keep it and use it. I could throw it up against the wall if I desired. Or, I could give it away to whoever I wanted... because it was mine.

In the same way... God took the dirt of the ground and fashioned man from the mud. He then took a part out of that mud... that clay... and fashioned a woman from the man for the man.

We are His by the law of creation. And He can do with us as He wishes. And because of His great love for us, His creation... He determined that all those who believed in the Son... would be predestined to be given to the Son as a love gift from Him.

2Ti 1:9  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began

And because the Son loves the Father and the gift that He received from Him... the Son kept us... and saved us... and called us with a holy calling. We didn't do anything to earn it... It was all according to His own purpose and grace.

But there was a difficulty with the gift... because it rebelled against its creator... In essence... the clay vessel believed the lie that it could become it's own potter. That it could become like God... So sin entered the gift, making it flawed and sinful... no longer perfect. Rom 5:12  Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

And because of that sinful rebellion by Adam... sin passed through him unto all his seed. So that now... the gift from the Father to the Son... must also become the Sons possession...

II. By Purchase

Psa 34:22  The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Tit 2:14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

You know... I can remember as a kid back in the 60's... going to the store or the gas station to buy a soda for a dime. A pack of gum was around a nickle... For a dollar and a half you could buy a hamburger, fries and soda at the Tastee Freeze. A dollar's worth of gasoline would keep the car going for quite a while because gas was only 25-30 cents a gallon.

Over the years the price of everything has gone up. And in many cases... the price of goods have out-paced any rise in personal income. Our purchasing power has fluctuated over the years from inflation... depression... and erratic swings in the market... The value of the dollar truly isn't what it used to be.

But the value of the blood of Christ isn't affected by any economic fluctuations. It's purchasing power remains the same wherever or whenever you are in the world. It's unaffected by the color of a persons skin... their sex... or what decade or century they lived...

Now because of the sin of Adam... as our federal head... sin has passed to all of us too... Adam made all of his offspring sinners. So now... that death that God spoke of when He told Adam that if he ate of the tree... Gen 2:17  ...thou shalt surely die. That curse also passed to all of us.

So now as sinners... under the curse... we're face to face with the justice of God. He can't simply sweep that curse, or that debt under the rug... If He were to do that... if He were to simply give sin a pass... He wouldn't be “just”. No. This debt has got to be paid.

Martin Luther said that as God, He couldn't die, so He became man in order to die. On the cross, He accepted the sin of man against Himself. As the Bible says in... 2Co 5:21  ...he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

In other words... our sin was imputed, or credited to Christ on the cross. And when He died... in a sense... our sins died with Him. Our debt was paid... The curse was lifted.

The blood that He shed for us on the cross... was the purchase price of our freedom. And folks... don't ever let anyone tell you that He paid this price to the Devil. No! We may have been in bondage to sin... but the debt we owed was to God, for breaking His law. Not Satan.

Rev 5:9  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

We were redeemed to God... not the Devil.

We were given to the Son by the Father. The Son then redeemed (or purchased) us back to God by His blood. And now we have standing in His family as sons...

III. By Adoption

Rom 8:15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Gal 4:5  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

When we think of that word... adoption... I'd be willing to bet that you visualize the common practice of bringing someone who's not your child into your family and making them your legal child. Though they aren't your flesh and blood... to all intents and purposes... they become your child in every other possible way.

But the Christian experience of adoption is different in that we don't enter God’s family by adoption... but by regeneration. Jesus told us that... Joh 3:3b  ...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

And then He goes on to say... Joh 3:7   Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

So... we become children of God by faith in Christ. We're born into God's family. But every child of God is automatically placed into the family as a son... through adoption.

When a sinner trusts Christ and is saved, his condition is that he's is a “spiritual baby” who needs to grow up. But positionally... he's an adult son who can not only draw from the Father's wealth... but can also exercise all the rights and privileges of sonship.

The adoption of sons” has to do with our standing in the family of God.
So... we enter the family by regeneration... but we enjoy God’s family by adoption. The Christian doesn't have to wait to begin enjoying the spiritual riches he has in Christ... because... Gal 4:7  ...thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

* * * * *

Folks... by God's grace, through faith in Jesus Christ... we are saved and born again. And that new birth... means exactly what it says. It means... truly born again... given new life! Taking that which was dead... and putting new life within it. It's not my old life resuscitated. It's brand spanking new.

Now according to Romans chapter 6... our old man was nailed to the cross and was crucified with Christ. So he's dead and gone. But because Christ rose from the dead... we also have risen from the dead in Him.

Rom 6:11  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a brand new start. A new lease on life. A do-over. Have you ever wanted that? To just wipe the slate clean and start all over again?

Well... you can do exactly that today.

2Co 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Repent of your sins... Trust Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord... Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.

And you will be saved. You'll have that do-over!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wait Upon The Lord

Wait Upon The Lord

Psa 27:14  Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD...

Contrary to popular belief... or what my wife might tell you... I really am not a very patient person. Now, I know that may be surprising to some... since I've acquitted myself in this so well over the years... but the truth is... I'm not a very patient person.

For example... I absolutely detest standing in lines. I can't think of how many restaurants I've not eaten at... or opening night movies I haven't seen... simply because there's a line waiting to get in. I have never been to a Black Friday sale in my life because one thing I dislike more than standing in lines... is standing in a loud, pushy, and rude crowd of people jockeying to get in the line to get in the door first.

When I go to the store... I try my best to find a checkout lane that doesn't have any customers in it... or at least just one or two that only have a couple items in their baskets... in hopes they'll get done quickly. You know... checkout lines and walking around “shopping” at the store is one reason I do so much more online shopping now... but then... I have to wait for my purchases to arrive in the mail.

Now... being impatient can be a problem living in the Texas panhandle... because here, we tend to measure distance by the amount of time it takes to get somewhere. Everywhere, other than where you're at is far away. It's going to take time to get anywhere. We might try to lessen this time by exceeding the speed limit... but it still takes time... and a measure of patience.

Oh... and don't even get me started on Doctor's offices! More than once I've thought about sending them a bill for every ½ hour I've had to wait past our appointment time. I've walked out of more than one waiting room without ever seeing a doctor... simply because they kept me waiting past my endurance.

Yeah... my patience leaves some to be desired... and I should probably be in prayer about it... but I'm afraid He might answer my prayer by making me wait in even more things... like lines... or doctor's offices...

But you know... one thing I've found in reading my Bible... is that I'm not the only impatient person that God knows. Nor am I the only impatient person that God has continued to use despite their flaws in this area.

For example... Abraham's impatience brought Ishmael into the world... and the following generations of hatred between the children of the flesh and the children of the promise. Tamar's impatience guaranteed her place in the lineage of Messiah. Saul's impatience gave rise to a new royal blood line in David.

And Peter's impatience took him fishing... and then to a seaside conversation with our risen Lord where he was told to... Joh 21:15  ..."Tend My lambs."

Now, we know that the Lord works all things (including our impatience) together for the good of those who love Him (Ro 8:28)... So, those who love Him... should exhibit patience... because... 1Co 13:4  Love is patient...

And the truth of that statement is clearly displayed to us each and every day, through the Father's loving patience with us. Though we sin all the time, and fall short of His design for us... His love for us, is demonstrated through His patience with us.

Psa 103:8, 10  The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. [10] He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

Now... our opening verse tells us to... Psa 27:14  Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD...

And many times, when we think of that verb “wait”... we also tend to think of adjectives that so often go along with it in a sentence... such as “patiently”, “calmly” or “continually”. That's why I spoke so much about my patience... or lack of it... in relation to “waiting” in lines or doctor's offices.

And though “patiently waiting” is implied in our verse... it also goes beyond that and actually speaks of “eagerly”, “expectantly” and “hopefully” waiting.

In other words, we are to “patiently” and “expectantly” wait on the Lord. Not just calmly and stoically sit back and wait for Him to do whatever... No! Our waiting is filled with anxious anticipation of His revelation.

And there are several other strands of meaning behind the biblical thought of “waiting” on the Lord. Strands such as...

I. Our Dependence on Him

Act 17:28  for in Him we live and move and have our being...

Just as the newborn baby waits on his mother for life and sustenance... and as the patient waits on the skills of the surgeon to give him the hope of life... so also we wait on the Lord because our very existence is dependent upon Him.

He is our original fountain of life... and He upholds us each and every moment... in the palms of His hands. The fact that we live at all is his gift... That we have power to move is his gift... And our continued and prolonged existence is also his gift.

Now... there is a sense in the Scripture where this waiting on the Lord is a universal thing. Psa 145:15  The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

But this is an inescapable and unconscious dependence. In other words... all of creation is dependent upon the Lord... whether it's conscious of that dependence or not.

But our verse speaks of dependence that's a conscious and hopeful anticipation of the Lord's providence. We wait on Him because we know that in Him we live and move and have our being. Our minds have been wakened to the knowledge that on Him... hangs every beat of our heart... and breath that we take.
We gain strength in that knowledge... and it produces a courage within us beyond what would be possible if we were dependent upon ourselves.

Waiting on the Lord speaks of our dependence on Him... but it also speaks of...

II. Our Obedience to Him

Psa 123:2  Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

To wait... is another term for service. When we go to a restaurant and sit down at a table... the person who's there to supply our wants is distinguished by the title of waiter. But in biblical times... this service was supplied by servants... or actually, slaves who were so attentive to their master's desires that every minor gesture of the hand would bring them to his side to supply whatever his want or desire was.

This servant's position couldn't be filled with the idle or lazy... because it required the utmost attention to detail, and demanded the highest level of energy. Every flick of the wrist... wink of the eye... clearing of the throat would cause a flurry of activity designed to fulfill the master's need.

And so... when we wait on the Lord... it doesn't mean a cessation of activity because the thought of service runs right through the word. Our eyes remain focused on Him every time we help a brother or sister in need... and do it lovingly for Jesus' sake... expecting nothing... and wanting nothing in return.

We wait on the Lord when we teach our Sunday School class faithfully... or every time we go out of our way to bring some joy to a heart that's in need of cheering up. The servant who works in the kitchen waits on the Lord when they do their job faithfully and to the best of their abilities... for His name's sake.

You know... this reminds me of Kairos Prison Ministry. On the men's units... like the Jordan unit in Pampa... it's only the male volunteers that get to go inside and work with the inmates. So... the only faces of Kairos the inmates see throughout the weekend... are the faces of the male volunteers that go inside. It's only on Sunday, for about and hour or two... that they ever see the other faces that are involved in the ministry. The ones that do all the real work, outside, in the kitchen.

Those women... but there are some men outside too... are waiting on the Lord by faithfully doing all those things that are necessary for the smooth functioning of the whole weekend inside!

Don't forget though... that just as the servant who's faithfully performing their duty for the Lord's sake, is waiting on the Lord... so also is the master or mistress of the house waiting on the Lord when, for His sake, they are faithful and kind and observant of the servant.

We're prone to limit the thought of waiting on the Lord, in this regard, aren't we? It's easy for us to think in terms of servants serving... but the notion that the master can serve too... seldom even enters our thoughts. But the fact is... that our Master is the example of serving... of waiting on the Lord... to all people... whether high or low.

Waiting on the Lord speaks of our dependence on Him and our obedience to Him... but it also speaks of...

III. Our Love for Him

Love... 1Co 13:7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Intrinsic to the idea of waiting on the Lord is the notion of our love for Him. I mean, think about it. We won't wait for things we don't like or love, will we? I don't like going to the doctor... so it's difficult for me to wait past my appointment time. But those things that have great value to us... those things that we love... we will anxiously wait for... won't we.

Back in the early 90's... Southern Baptist's came up with a program for youth and college students... called “True Love Waits”... The program promotes sexual purity and abstinence before marriage... You see... God has designed man and woman to share this physical union inside the boundaries of the marriage covenant. So the person who truly desires to follow the Lord will wait until after marriage to share that gift with their spouse...

But so many today no longer see value in waiting... for anything. Our society has so warped our sense of morality to the point that instant gratification is now considered right and normal... and waiting for anything... whether it be sex or a new set of golf clubs... is just so archaic!

But the biblical notion of love waiting... still holds true... regardless of what the world may say. Out of his great love for Rachel, Jacob worked 7 years for his bride... and then worked another 7 years after being tricked by his father-in-law. Can you imagine anyone being willing to do that today?

And what is it that makes a mother rise from her bed when she hears her child cry? Love. Even if she's exhausted... sick... or frail herself... she will still pull herself out of bed to bring comfort to her baby. Because love waits on and love waits for... the object of its affection.

You know... it must have been hard, under the old covenant... to wait upon God. He must have seemed so far away back then... shrouded in darkness and clouds... thunder and lightening surrounding His throne.

But now... under the new covenant... access to the throne of grace is within reach and open to all who believe in the Son! Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Heb 4:16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And because we've drawn near... and He's extended His grace and mercy toward us... we love Him. And because of that love... we wait upon Him. And that waiting also speaks of...

IV. Our Expectancy of Him

Why does anyone “wait” for anything? When we “wait”... aren't we usually waiting “for” something?

For example... I've got two dogs, and every time I go into the kitchen... they come into the kitchen and plop themselves down... and wait on me. But they're not simply passively waiting... they're expectantly waiting. They know that the kitchen means food, and they follow me in there and wait... expectantly. Will I toss them a bite or two of something to eat?

Or... if I've made myself a plate for dinner and go into the living room and sit in the recliner to eat and watch some TV... they'll follow me to my recliner... and will sit down at my feet and remain at the ready... staring at me... hoping that I'll share something with them. They “expect” something from me.

The accused waits upon the verdict of the judge and jury with an expectancy that can border on the painful. The prison inmate waits upon the parole board in anticipation of being granted an early release. The young man waits upon the young lady with an eager expectation of her response to his request of marriage.

To wait upon the Lord is to wait with expectancy. There is no waiting without it... because waiting without expectancy is waiting without faith! Heb 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

So in faith... we wait upon Him for His guidance... His instruction...the fulfillment of His Word... Whatever it is... we wait for it with an eager expectation.

And in faith... we wait for His mercy... His pardon... for His salvation... which He has promised to all who will trust in the Son...

The Bible tells us... Rom 10:9-10  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  [10]  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Waiting upon the Lord implies waiting for something that lies in the future... something that we will receive one day.

His salvation however... is something you can quit waiting for... right now... by receiving Him as Lord and Savior.

Confess with your mouth... Believe in your heart... You will be saved.