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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Fall of Man

The Fall of Man
(by Ralph W. Hovey, edited and updated by Terry Lee Hovey)
Luk 3:38; Isa 14:12

Introduction:

Now, I've never been to Rome or Athens... I've never seen the ruins myself of these once great cities...

But I would like to paint a word picture for you... if you'd allow.

Because I have seen pictures... I've seen various movies... and I can let my imagination run free...

If you would for just a few minutes... close your eyes and try to visualize this scene...

Our scene begins on a beach... ocean waves rolling in toward the shoreline on one side... rolling hills on the other... gradually changing into more rugged terrain until we see a promontory... a portion of land, jutting out into the sea...

On top of the promontory... washed by the sea... stands some ancient ruins... and we begin to climb the hillside to examine it...

There's only a few of its iron columns still standing... and these support a central stone over what once was a noble gateway to a building...

Perhaps a temple... or a palace... its hard to tell because the walls have long-ago fallen... and the roof has collapsed...

Stones of the edifice lie in disarray... half sunk in sand and weeds...

Lizards dart about... we catch glimpses of fluttering butterflies...

Here's a stone arch-way... with a half-obliterated inscription. The letters are foreign... many appear to be missing... blotted out by the years of wind and rain...

I wonder what it once said?

That dismantled and ruined building is a symbol and parable of man's nature.

The very ruins of this edifice proclaim its original splendor...

And so do the ruins of man's nature proclaim his original greatness.

To survey man is like visiting a temple in its ruins!

You walk over the mosaic pavement, now over-grown with weeds... between crumbling walls where serpents and lizards crawl...

Here is a fountain that once threw its silver spray skyward... now filled with rubbish...

Here lies carved and once decorated columns... broken and prostrate... breaking down and crumbling as time takes its toll...

Here are busts and statues... defaced and fallen from their pedestals...

Richly carved casements through which wind now howls

Here, possibly a chapel where incense once rose up from a golden altar... now defiled... profaned... and abandoned...

And this is man... created to have dominion... but now a victim rather than Lord over creation...

O Lucifer, son of the morning, how you have fallen?” (Isa 14:12)

Matthew, in his table of genealogy, traces the descent of Christ to Abraham... then stops.

Luke pushes beyond that boundary and goes to Adam... and he's not content to stop there... but steps out into the unknown...

In one great, luminous, God-given phrase, he tells the origin of the human race... “Adam, which was the son of God

But he doesn't use this term as we apply it to Christ

He means that man was created in the image of God... with a mind... speech... memory... will... and love

But side-by-side with this fact of man's divine origin, you must place the fact of man's present condition...

A condition which confirms that “an Aristotle is but the wreck of an Adam”, and “an Athens or Rome... is but the rubbish of an Eden”

Christianity assumes man's original greatness... his moral nature... and also his fall...

Christianity isn't a guidebook... it's not a marching song... it's not a compendium (or a collection) of ethics...

Christianity is the remedy for sin!

Christianity means redemption for mortal beings gone astray...

Man's greatest need isn't further growth and dev-elopment... He doesn't need more cultivation or restraint... He NEEDS Cleansing... Regeneration... and Salvation!

The phrase “Fall of Man” doesn't occur in the Scriptures... but the fact of man's fall is everywhere assumed... and everywhere revealed...

It is to that condition of man, that the message of salvation addresses itself!

I. The Evidence of the Fall of Man

1. Among these Evidences is the Universal Tradition of such a Fall...

To some... such a tradition may appear crude, and childish

But all bear the fact that man has a conviction that something has gone wrong with him...

That he isn't as he was intended to be...

2. Then, there is the Fact of the Persistence and Endurance of Evil...
Evil is something that never play out.

It keep coming into the world with every new generation...

That like produces like... is both good and sound biology and theology...

3. The Education Systems of the World are a Witness to the Fall...

Every school-house... every ivy-clad university tower...

Witness to the condition of Human Nature.

How?

Because they testify that in man there is a nature...

That if left unchecked and untrained... uneducated... will make him a savage and a menace to society.

A man once visited the English poet... Coleridge... and he said to Coleridge that it was folly to give early moral and religious instruction to children

He said that they ought to be left free in their minds to shape and grow as they would...

Coleridge asked if he would like to see his garden

They went ouside and the poet pointed out a mass of tangled weeds and thistles...

The man said, “This is no garden... It's nothing but weeds and thistles...”

To which Coleridge replied, “I didn't wish to restrain the liberty of my garden. I left it to choose for itself what it would produce. I could bring forth produce... or weeds...”

4. The there is Government...

The very existence of Government shows us that human nature must be restrained and guarded by law...

5. Another Evidence of the Fall is Conscience...

When did conscience first show itself?

In the garden... after the first transgression... when man and woman covered their nakedness and hid from God.

What but conscience would lead men to build temples and light fires on alters?

These are but man's attempts to find reconciliation with God and to make amends for breaking His law.

6. Everywhere, is the Universal Presence of Evil...

Instead of living as Paul said we ought... the sea of humanity today heaves and tosses... casting up its mire and dirt...

Some say that this is because of environment... that man isn't a fallen creature... but only evil by association.

7. The Most Striking Evidence of the Fall is the Dis-harmony and Dis-unity in Man's Life...

No animals display such dis-unity...

Take for example, profanity...

God whom men recognize as Creator, and whom they worship and envoke for favor...

Yet in passion... in scorn... in hatred... in bitterness...

Men will employ that same Name in cursings!

How do you account for this?

(Jam 3:9-11)

There is no such fountain on earth... the only such fountain is in man's heart!


II. The Message of Christianity

1. To Such a Being, Christianity comes with it's Message of Pardon and Redemption

(Luk 19:10; 1 Tim 1:15)

Far from degrading and dishonoring man... Christianity and its doctrine of the Fall highly honors man because it proclaims His Noble and Divine origin.

That though now Fallen... he can have Salvation in Christ!

2. The Perfect Sermon on this Subject was Preached by the Perfect Preacher...

He told of a son who honored and loved his mother and father...

But at some point in his life... he grew weary of home and revolted his father's authority... and said, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me...” (Luk 15:12)

Then he took a journey to a far country... where he wasted everything he had...

After eveything was gone, a famine hit the land... and he soon was in want...

He sank so low that he would have eaten the slop of the hogs...

Then he came to himself and said... (Luk 15:18-19)

And while he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion on him.

He ran to him... embraced him... and kissed him, and said... (Luk 15:22-24)

3. There you have the Story as Christ Alone could Tell it...

Christ said that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents...

It's the joy and glory of men brought back to God by Christ... the Savior

That is the joy and glory of which the Angels sang when Christ was born in Bethlehem... singing... “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

4. I would imagine that there are only a few who haven't heard of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale... Treasure Island

One of the characters in the book is a castaway named, Ben Gunn... who had been marooned for years on the lonely island with nothing but hidden treasure and the graves of his murdered comrades for companionship

Through the years, the customs and manners and even speech itself of human-kind were beginning to leave him

There was a gradual and natural degeneration toward the brutish... for it is not meant for man to live alone...

Man was made for human interaction... for human society...

When the young man... Jim... first met Ben Gunn in a remote part of the forest...

He was running along the ground and leaping from tree to tree

Jim's doubts were finally put away when the poor creature... after much advancing and retreating...

Seized with terror... and now animated with home... at length came forward and fell at his feet and made supplication to him in the human tongue...

The moment he saw that young man... from his own country... England...

And heard his own language again... the years of isolation and solitude were blotted out and he saw life as it ought to be lived...

As God intended that he should live it

Mankind has suffered shipwreck... He has fallen away from the life that God intended him to live...

Till our life... at best... is but a faint recollection of what it was... or what it might yet be...

But the moment that Jesus appears before the human conscience... He presents to man the lost ideal of his being...

And man looks upon Christ and says to himself, “Yes... That is the life for me. That is my true speech. That is my true behavior.”

5. If there is Anything True...

It is that man is not what God intended him to be... or what he could be...

But through Christ... that can be remedied.

We can return to that state from which we fell...

Through faith in Jesus... we can have fellowship with God... once again...

Prayer and Invitation






Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Good News

The Good News
Romans 1:1-7

  1. Introduction

    1. This world is filled with negativity

      1. Look at any newspaper... watch or listen to any TV or radio news show... look at the main page of your internet news/search engine...
      2. The majority of what you see, hear or read is bad news... not good news... and it seems to be getting worse each and every day
      3. How anyone who can remember what life in America was like 30-40 years ago... can say that this world is better now than then... is beyond me.

          1. It's not better... but so much worse that I can practically see American life going 'round and 'round and 'round... on it's spiraling downward trek toward the sewer
      4. And what we see happening in the world at large... is only a magnification of what's happening in our lives on an individual level
      5. We (the human race), are being held hostage by a terrifying power that pushes us toward self-destruction in one form or another

        1. That power is sin... which is always... bad news
        2. But, the Bible tells us that even though we, and this world are “steeped” in sin... there is good news that really is good news!
      6. That good news is that in Jesus Christ

        1. Sin can be forgiven...
        2. Selfishness can be overcome...
        3. Guilt can be removed
        4. Anxiety can be alleviated...
        5. And life can have hope and eternal glory
  2. The Preacher

    1. Romans 1:1
    2. God called a unique man to be the major spokesperson for His Good News

      1. Paul was God's keynote speaker for heralding the gospel

        1. Though probably small in stature, he was a giant for God
        2. Originally called by his Hebrew name, Saul... after believing in Christ, he was given the Gentile name, Paul... to symbolize his ministry as The Apostle to the Gentiles
      2. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews... trained and gifted in his knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets)

        1. Born a Roman citizen... highly motivated... articulate... and he was specially and directly called, converted, and gifted by God
        2. After which he crisscrossed the Roman Empire as an ambassador for Christ

          1. He performed many miracles of healing... but couldn't rid himself of his own thorn in the flesh
          2. He raised Eutychus from the dead... but had been left for dead at least on one ocassion
          3. He preached freedom in Christ... but spent many of his ministry years in prison
      3. He was a “duolos” of Jesus Christ

        1. Duolos” translated into English is “slave”
        2. It is sometimes used of a person who voluntarily serves another... which in this case... “bondservant” would be the better translation
        3. Exo 21:5-6
        4. The apostle Paul had given himself wholeheartedly in love to the Master who had saved him from sin and death
    3. Paul was, called to be an apostle”

      1. He didn't volunteer for the office... nor was he elected into the office by his peers...
      2. Paul was specifically, and specially chosen by Jesus Christ Himself

        1. Just as all the other apostles had seen Jesus and had been specifically chosen by Him... so was Paul
        2. The same cannot be said of Matthias, who was placed into office by casting lots... which may explain why we never hear of him again...
      3. Paul was called to be an apostle... or, one who is sent

        1. But in a broad sense of the word, every believer is also called to be an apostle

          1. Because every believer is to go into the world to tell others about Christ and make disciples
          2. This doesn't mean that everyone has to go on “mission trips” to another country
          3. Because our mission is the world... wherever we are...
    4. He was separated unto the gospel of God”

      1. Because he was called and sent by God as an apostle, his whole life was “separated unto”, or “set apart” in and for the Lord's service

        1. As a Pharisee, he had been separated, which is what their name means... to be separated... but this was a separation unto the study of the Law
        2. Now He is separated unto the gospel of God... he has changed his studies
      2. Any person who is called by God to a special type, or place of service, can”t be effective if he isn't also separated unto God and the gospel of God
      3. To give you a better idea what this means... the greek word here for “gospel” is evangelion”, which means “glad tidings”, or “good news”

        1. It was a common term in Paul's day and it was used in the cult of Emperor worship

          1. Where favorable events concerning the Emperor were proclaimed to the citizens as “good news” from the town square
          2. Good News”, “The Emperor's wife gave birth to a son!”. “Good News! The Emperor's heir has come of age!” Etc.
        2. But the “Good News” that Paul was proclaiming to the Romans... the same “Good News” that we as believer's are to proclaim to everyone around us is of an entirely different order!

          1. We don't proclaim trivial or vain proclamations concerning Emperors... our truly good “Good News” is from and of God Himself!
          2. And that “Good News” was promised, long ago...

  3. The Promise

    1. Romans 1:2-4
    2. The gospel which Paul proclaimed... the gospel which we are to proclaim to the world... wasn't some “divine afterthought”

      1. It wasn't first taught in the NT... it doesn't reflect some late “game change” or a “revision of strategy”
      2. It was promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures
      3. In other words... the OT told us that it was coming...
    3. Paul had repeatedly been accused of preaching and teaching against the Law and the Prophets (Acts 21:28)

      1. When in actuality what he was teaching was straight out of the OT... it wasn't “new” or “revolutionary” at all...
      2. It may have been counter to what the Jews had been teaching, because they had elevated their “traditions of the elders” to a place that superseded the OT...

        1. Which is also why they hated Jesus, because He kept taking them back to the Law and the Prophets... in essence, letting them know that their “traditions” were wrong
      3. These “traditions” of the Jews, were in essence, a man-made religion... and is the same thing that man has been doing down through the centuries...

        1. Socrates once said, “O that someone would arise to show us God”

          1. Man has always sought after God... but, the god they usually seek after is a god of their own making... one that is in their own image...
          2. The question isn't whether man will worship... but what he will worship
          3. It's not whether man will be religious... but how he will define religion
          4. Man's eternal soul seeks for God... but in his fallen, sinful state... the god he usually devises provides no solution to man's real problem...
    4. Imagine, if you would, a box... totally closed in on all sides...

      1. There's no doors or windows in this box... and the box represents man's world... inside the box, man exists
      2. He exists in a time-space capsule... outside the box is outside time and space... it's the supernatural...
      3. Outside is God

        1. Man bangs around inside this box and speculates about what it's like outside the box...

          1. Something within him causes him to long for an understanding of what's outside...
        2. He plays games with his fantasy... he tries to enter into the supernatural... but he can't... he's trapped inside his box
      4. Now, all the religions of the world tell him he can reach his goal...

        1. All he has to do is “be a good enough person” and he'll bust out of the box
        2. Or, perform certain “liturgies”... fulfill certain “rites”...

          1. Sit in some cross-legged position and go “Ommmmmm”... or recite some other “incantation”... and he can reach the “divine”
      5. But it's all a lie because man is confined by his own nature...

        1. In the same way that he can't enter a phone booth and come out as Superman...
        2. He cannot, of himself, get outside the box... he cannot operate outside time and space
    5. And, this is where Christianity enters in... because Christianity acknowledges that man can't get out of his box...

      1. But, the good news is—that God Himself has invaded that box from the outside to tell us what's out there...
      2. And that we too can live with Him out there forever
      3. That is Good News!

        1. The natural may not enter into the supernatural
        2. But the supernatural has condescended to enter the natural in human form... through the Son of God... Jesus Christ

  4. The Person

    1. Romans 1: 3-4
    2. Is there any question in anyone's mind that there's a great mystery surrounding the concept of Jesus as God's Son?

      1. That, although he Himself is God and Lord of all... yet, He is the Son of God!
      2. Though He was, is, and always will be...

        1. Though He is the Creator of all things in the heavens and the earth...
      3. The Second Person of the Trinity condescended to be born into a human family and share a human life in every way...

        1. He identified Himself with fallen humanity... and yet, lived without sin
        2. Hebrews 4:15
      4. God broke into our box and became a man who would die for the sins of the world

        1. So that all... and I mean anyone and everyone, who believes in Him... should not perish, but have everlasting life
  5. The Purpose

    1. Romans 1: 5-7
    2. The purpose is clear... like Paul, every believer is called not only to salvation and to service...

      1. But also to witness for Christ in order to bring about “obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name”
      2. He uses this phrase again at the end of his letter, saying that...
      3. Romans 16: 25-26
      4. Genuine faith is obedient faith

        1. The person who claims faith in Jesus Christ but whose life is a pattern of disobedience to God's Word is deceiving himself... has never been redeemed... and is living a lie
        2. James 2:20 tells us that faith without works is dead
      5. And before I get anyone into an uproar, thinking that I'm saying that we're saved by faith PLUS works...

        1. Let me emphatically declare to you that... we are saved through faith in Jesus alone... “Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9)
        2. But true faith is verified through obedience...
        3. Obedient faith proves itself true... whereas disobedient faith proves itself false

          1. Jesus asked us if we could pick grapes from thorn bushes... or figs from thistle bushes?

            1. He told us that good trees don't bring forth evil fruit... and evil trees don't bring forth good fruit
            2. Then he tells us, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20)
        4. We don't work for salvation... we work because of our salvation!
    3. And to belong to God in a relationship of obedience is to recognize that salvation includes submission to His Lordship...

      1. And the Bible recognizes no other saving relationship to Him
      2. The heart of the Sermon on the Mount is that faith without obedience is not saving faith

        1. But it is evidence that they are following the wide road that leads to destruction... rather than the narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14)
    4. All of this is “for his name”

      1. The primary purpose of the gospel isn't for man's sake... but for God's
      2. It's main focus is to display God's glory, because...

        1. God is ultimately and totally committed to the exaltation of His own glory.
        2. When a person believes in Jesus, he is saved... but more importantly... God is glorified!

  6. Close

    1. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
    2. As I mentioned earlier, those who are true believers, are called not only to salvation... but to obedience.

      1. To be obedient to Christ involves bringing others to Him in faith and obedience
      2. And then to disciple them and teach them to remain in “obedience to the faith”
    3. And the good news, people—the Good News is that Jesus Christ has come into our world...

      1. He broke into our box... to tell us about God...
      2. And to take us out of the box and into God's glorious eternity


        Someone wrote:


        I know a soul that is steeped in sin

        that no man's art can cure

        But I know a name, a name, a name

        That can make that soul all pure

        I know a life that is lost to God

        Bound down by the things of earth

        But I know a name, a name, a name

        That can bring that soul new birth

        I know of lands that are sunk in shame

        Of hearts that faint and tire

        But I know a name, a name, a name

        That can set those lands on fire

        Its sound is a brand, its letters a flame

        Like glowing tongues of fire

        I know a name, a name, a name

        That can set the soul on fire”

Let's pray. (Invitational music softly plays)

Invitation:

While your heads are bowed just in closing... do you know that name? Do you know that Good News?

Jesus has come... told us about God... taken our punishment... conquered death... and has shown us that He can and will take us with Him to God's eternal world... if we'd only believe...