August 26, 2012

More Than One Way - Aug 26, 2012

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.

Thematic Introduction:

Today we've come to the eighth message in a series of ten titled, "The Lies of Satan". Today's lie is this: "There is more than one way to heaven."


Our sermon reading comes from John, chapter 14. These words were spoken by Jesus to His followers on the night He was arrested, the night before He was crucified to death.

John 14:1-6 (ESV)

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The Bible is absolutely clear about this point. There is only ONE way to heaven, and that is through the Savior that God the Father sent, Jesus Christ.

Some people may try to muddy the water a bit when it comes to this passage. They may say, "You have to take the passage in context. Jesus had just told them that He was leaving and they were freaking out! He's not making a broad statement that no other religions are valid, He's just comforting His disciples."
But all you have to do is read the rest of verse six. Not only does Jesus state what he's saying in the positive, He also re-states it in the negative. He says, "I'm the way" (positive) and then He restates it "No one comes to the Father except through me" (negative).

You might say the same thing when giving someone directions to a town. Take Maple Road, it's the way . Don't take any other roads, because there aren't any other roads that go through that town.

It's pretty simple. And John 14:6 isn't the only passage in the Bible that says that Jesus is the only way to heaven. There's also passages like...
" 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV).

" 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23 NIV).

"5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all..." (1 Timothy 2:5-6a ESV).

There is only one mediator between God the Father and the human race, one go-between, and that is Jesus Christ. There is only one way to heaven.

The Bible teaches that ever since Adam and Eve sinned, people have been born sinful and thus disqualified from living beside God in heaven. IF sinners could somehow earn heaven, then there would be many different paths to heaven. Your path of good works would be different than mine. Your neighbor's path would be different than ours, an so on. But the Bible is clear on this point also. Good deeds simply can't erase past sins.
" 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin" (Romans 3:20 NIV).
Again, if heaven could be earned, there would be different ways to get to heaven. But if salvation is a gift from God, given through Jesus, then there is only one way to heaven. And that's exactly what the Bible says salvation is, a gift.
" 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

It seems to me that this lie of Satan only works on people who have stopped reading their Bibles. This lie is also easier to accept if you've already absorbed the lie that we can actually earn our way to God. If I can earn my way to God, what do I need Jesus for?

May God keep us from ever drifting away from the sure teaching of salvation through faith in Christ alone. May God help us never to lean on our own works as a way of trying to reach Him, but instead trust in the Lord's promise and in His gift.

Now, there's a little bit of static that comes along with this lie from Satan. And maybe that's why Satan likes to use this lie - not so much to tear Christians away from Christ but more to make Christians look arrogant to other people. If Christians are seen as arrogant, then people won't enter into conversations with them in the same way. They'll enter with their guard up.

Plenty of people think it's just plain arrogant to claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. All the other religions of the world are wrong? Christianity is the only one that got it right? That sounds arrogant in their ears.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there aren't arrogant Christians. There certainly are, and we all need to pray for a spirit of compassion, understanding and love when it comes to sharing the message of Christ. But to put it plainly, the claim that Christ is the only way to heaven isn't arrogant in itself, it's just a truth claim.

Think about it like this. Something is wrong with your car. You take it to a garage where two mechanics have a chance to look at it. One says, "It's your fuel line. It's plugged up and not letting gas get to the engine properly." The other says, "It's your spark plugs, they're corroded and not firing properly." Are these arrogant statements? Is one of these mechanics more arrogant than the other? No. They simply hold different beliefs. Holding something to be true is not inherently arrogant. So don't let the Devil make you feel guilty for sticking to your guns, holding onto your beliefs, especially when it comes to the Gospel of Christ.

Another bit of static that comes with this lie from Satan attaches itself to God Himself. This bit of static goes like this, "What about all those other people who just don't believe in the God of the Bible? They're not going to heaven just because they don't believe something? That's just plain mean."

But when you look at what the Bible says about God, He's not mean. He's anything but mean.
" 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV).
The truth of the matter is that God's message of salvation is incredibly inclusive. God holds out salvation through Christ to every sinner. But there's only ONE way to receive this salvation - through the Savior that God provided.

If you think about it, it's actually extremely arrogant for sinners to demand heaven on their own terms. It's as if the lifeguard holds out the life preserver to a drowning man only to hear, "Excuse me? That's a red preserver, I want a blue one."

Satan appeals to man's huge ego with this lie that there is more than one way to heaven. If you think about it, this lie from Satan says more than the surface tells. It really isn't just saying that there is more than one way to heaven, you know, like maybe there's two or three ways. The underlying implication is that there are MANY ways to heaven, and MY own way, whatever it might be, is certainly valid.

In the end, Satan's lie claims that God's Word is wrong. And when the lie of "many paths to God" is accepted by sinners, it leads people to devalue the Word of God. The message of Christ isn't all that important in a sea of different ways to reach God. And that's exactly what Satan wants. He wants us to devalue God's clear message. That way we'll discard the truth for a lie, and reject both God's plan of salvation and God's plan for our earthly life.

And here's the irony of the whole situation, if it weren't for God's love, there wouldn't be ANY way for sinners like us to reach heaven. We're all born sinful, and sinners can't enter heaven. But through Christ Jesus a new way is opened up for us. Like Jesus said,
" 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV).
Through the Gospel of Christ's sacrifice in our place, we have found the narrow way. The Holy Spirit placed our feet on this path when He worked faith in our hearts. May God keep us on this singular path, this only sure path, until we reach the promised land of heaven. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

August 19, 2012

You Will Not Die - Aug 19, 2012

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


Today's sermon is the seventh of a ten part series called, "The Lies of Satan". So far we've examined different lies that Satan uses in our modern day.

Today we'll hop into the time machine of Scripture and revisit the first lies that Satan presented to the human race. May the Holy Spirit equip us to stand against Satan's lies, shielded by faith, and armed with the Word of God. Amen.

Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

We need to remember what was at stake here. At the beginning of this six verse reading, the human race was perfect and sinless. By the end of this reading everything had changed. Sin and death had entered the world, and all because of Satan's lies.

Bumps and bruises. Sorrow and guilt. Mourning and frustration. Every pain you've ever experienced can be traced back to this event.

Every historical atrocity, every shocking headline, every late night news story that tightened your stomach - can be traced back to this event.

What was at stake here?

The life, peace and joy of the human race. The uncorrupted beauty of the universe. These things were are at stake when Satan entered the garden of Eden in the form of a serpent.

The unbelieving world around us likes to treat this story like a fairy-tale. Satan, of course, loves this. When people consider Genesis a fairy-tale they do not look closely to examine Satan's methods. But today, we will.

Essentially, we'll be asking three questions today. What can we learn from Satan's lies? What can we learn from Eve's reaction? And what do we learn from God's response? May the Holy Spirit bless our study today with insight from His Word. Amen.

So, what can we learn from Satan's lies?

Well, first of all let's hear those lies again. Verse 1,
"He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”" (Genesis 3:1b-5 ESV).
Satan uses three different lies here. The first is a lie of implication. It's kind of a soft lie. He says, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (verse 1).

Technically, Satan doesn't make a direct statement here, he just asks a question. But the implication is clear. He's planting the idea that God just might be a little too strict.

When you refinish a piece of furniture, or a wood floor, it's helpful to do a little sanding between final coats of sealer. Not a lot, just enough sanding to rough up the surface so the next layer sticks. That's what Satan is doing with this first lie of implication. He's roughing up God's reputation so that the next lie will stick.

The sinful world does the same thing today. It roughs up God's image by presenting a slightly skewed image of God to us. Every time we see a movie or read a book that describes God different than Scripture does, Satan's soft lie is there. What IF God were different than you've been told in the Bible? This readies the surface of God's reputation for the obvious lie to stick.

Eve responded to Satan's first question by setting him straight. Of course God didn't say all the trees were off limits. On the contrary, God said that they could eat from any of the trees, just not the one in the middle of the garden. That one would kill them.

To which Satan replied, "You will not surely die" (verse 4). The obvious lie is like a slap to the face. It hits you so hard that it spins you around. Now you're not sure which way is right. The obvious lie benefits from a bit of preparation because it's so obvious. And it also benefits from a little work after it's presented.

Ever stick a hook on the wall? You know, one of those little plastic hooks that go on with a little adhesive strip? The directs say that you should apply pressure for 30 seconds and then let it dry for a few hours before using it.

The obvious lie needs a little pressure too before you can try to hang anything on it.

In the garden, Satan immediately applied pressure to make his obvious lie hold fast. He said, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (verse 4).

This final lie of Satan adds weight to the obvious lie. You could call it the power lie. It's the lie that ties the others together and makes them a force that keeps growing. Or you could call it the simmering lie because it sits on the backburner of a person's mind getting stronger and stronger.

Satan's power lie presents God as a liar who has some evil intention for lying to Adam and Eve. But there's still time. If Eve acts quickly, there is still a way to escape God's clutches and elevate herself to His level.

Many of Satan's lies are power lies which invite us to put ourselves in the driver's seat. To make decisions apart from God's will. They appeal to our egos, suggesting that by disobedience we can gain wisdom that we couldn't otherwise. If we stay in the moral straight-jacket of God's commands, we'll never know what true happiness is. But, if we disobey, that's where freedom and life begins.

Of course, that's not what Adam and Eve would tell you. They knew what real life was like. They communed with God on a daily basis. They knew what a sinless world was like. They would not agree that disobedience leads to happiness. They would be the first to tell you that sin leads to death.

Adam and Eve saw physical death first hand when their son Cain murdered his brother Abel. They saw spiritual death in Cain's too. Though Cain spoke face to face with God, he refused to trust in God.

Eve could have told you that it was the most horrible lie when Satan told her, "You will not die". For all of her descendants have been born spiritually separated from God. They have been born spiritually dead - because of her sin and Adam's sin.

So, to review, Satan used three lies when he tempted Eve. He used a lie of implication to rough up God's image. He used an obvious lie to turn the tables and make God appear like an evil tyrant. And, he used a simmering, power lie to suggest that Eve could escape God's clutches and elevate herself above Him by eating from the forbidden tree.

Now, let's turn to Eve. What can we learn from Eve's reaction?

When we accept a lie, we're leaning on something other than God's Word. Eve's reaction to Satan reveals some of the unreliable things that people lean on instead of trusting what God says. Look once more at verse 6.
"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:6 ESV).
After Satan stopped speaking, Eve stood there looking at the forbidden tree as if through an invisible doorway. There was a new possibility in her life. She could step through this door and take what God had forbidden.

And as she looked she saw three things.

First, the fruit was good for food. In other words, it was similar to other food she had eaten. Satan wasn't suggesting she eat rocks off the ground, he was suggesting something reasonable. This fruit looked like other fruit, why not eat from this tree?

The sinful heart still responds in this way. If it'll work, why not do it? Lies can work. Stealing can make you rich. We are designed for sexual interaction. But just because something will work, just because something CAN be done, doesn't make it right. Just because we are presented the opportunity to do something, does not mean that's what God wants us to do.

The second response of Eve was to note that the fruit was a delight to the eyes. Not only did it appear edible, it was downright beautiful.

How many times doesn't the outward beauty of something suck us into a bad decision? How many things have you bought because of the outward packaging, only to find that the actual product was a piece of junk? Outward beauty doesn't ensure quality.

How many times have we rushed into sin because it looked like fun, only to find that it had serious consequences. Better to trust the guiding word of our loving God.

Eve's last response to the fruit on the tree was to note that it was desirable to make one wise. In other words, she had accepted Satan's lie that this fruit would make her like God, knowing good and evil, and that she would not die.

Wisdom gained from doing something is a great thing when it isn't sinful. In fact that's sometimes the best way to learn something knew. By experience. But when that experience is sinful, it becomes a curse. You can't un-know evil when you have experienced it. Like the images that you see in movies can't be unseen, or the things you hear or read that you can't forget. Satan was being truthful when he said Eve would know good and evil. Eve did come to know evil by doing evil, something that she could never undo, or erase.

And neither can we undo what we have done. You and I cannot erase the sinful nature that we got from our parents. You and I cannot unsay the horrible things we've said or un-think the things that we have thought.

But God can, and has.

After Satan's lie, came God's promise. He promised the serpent,
"15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15 ESV).
In other words, one day a Savior would come from Eve's descendants. And that Savior would oppose Satan and destroy his power over mankind. This happened when God's Son was born into the human race, lived a perfect life, and offered Himself as THE sinless sacrifice for all sinners.

When Satan promised Eve that she would not die, it was a lie. But when God promised the same thing because of the Savior to come, that was the trust. As Romans 6, verse 23 says...
"...the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23 NIV).
Simply put, "In Christ, you will not die".

As Jesus once said...
"...I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 ESV).
Will we have to experience physical death, sure. But will we be separated from God forever, NO. In Christ our sins are forgiven and we are united to our gracious Creator once more.

In Christ, we will not die.

This is what we learn from God's response. Right after the fall into sin, God's response was love. He made the promise that He would rescue Adam and Eve from the death their sin had brought upon them. And that promise stands for us today.

So, what have we learned today? Well, we've learned that Satan is crafty. He uses lots of difference lies to accomplish his agenda. We've learned that when a person stops leaning on God's word all they have left is untrustworthy stuff like outward appearance with which to judge things. And we've been reminded that God's first action after Adam and Eve's sin was to promise them a Savior.

So, how can we safeguard our families against Satan's lies? By returning daily to God's book. Where we learn the real truth about Satan's lies, and where we hear the real truth from God's mouth. May God draw us ever back to His Word, Amen.

August 12, 2012

We Need Time Away From Church - Aug 12, 2012

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


For the past few Sundays we've been examining some of the lies of Satan. We're doing this is so that when we hear these lies we'll recognize them. Instead of being fooled we'll be able to defend ourselves using God's Word. May the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and equip us to stand strong in the Christian faith. Amen.

Today's lie from Satan is this: "We need time away from church".

Now, maybe some of you are thinking, "Man, I am not gonna like this message, because I agree with that statement. Sometimes I NEED a break from church".

Well, if that was your thought, you're not alone. That's what I thought too when I first read this lie. But the more I looked into God's Word and thought about it, the more I began to disagree. We DON'T need time away from church.

I would offer this thesis for your consideration today: If we feel like we need a break from church, it's because we've made church into something God never intended it to be.

The part of God's Word which helps us jump into today's study comes from Luke chapter 10. This is the story of two sisters named Mary and Martha who invited Jesus to dinner one night.

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Maybe you've been in the same situation as Jesus in this story. Maybe you've been invited to someone's house as a guest. They welcomed you at the door, took your coat and seated you in a comfortable chair. They brought you a pint of beer or a glass of wine and made sure to refill it when it was low. They served appetizers before dinner and did everything possible to make you feel welcome. They darted this way and that, getting things ready, making sure everything was perfect - just for you.

You were flattered that they'd go through the trouble. You were comfortable and relaxed. But what you wanted most of all was for them to just SIT DOWN and be with you. You didn't come for the food, or the cushy chairs. You came to be with them. A packet of Ramen noodles and a glass of water would have been enough. You came to be with them.

That's how Jesus was feeling at Mary and Martha's house. Martha was doing so many things to make the Teacher feel welcome and comfortable. And no doubt Jesus appreciated her hospitality. But what Jesus really wanted was for Martha to SIT DOWN and be with Him. Our reading says that Mary, " sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching" (verse 39). Jesus had things to say to these sisters. Spiritual truth and life to share with them.

But Martha was to distracted by things that she THOUGHT she just had to do.

We too can be distracted from what is crucial if we come to church and focus on what WE can do for God instead of what GOD has done for us.

Just like Martha, we can approach church like it's a chore. Like it's a place of work. But Jesus wants the place where we touch base with Him to be a sanctuary not a factory. Jesus wants church tob e a place of protection, peace, rest and healing. Not a place of emotional pain and struggle.

Church is a place where we reconnect with our Creator. Church is a place where we are reminded that even though we pushed God away through our sinning, He fought through our struggling shoves and made us His own through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

The Gospel of Jesus makes church a sanctuary. A place where you GO FOR A BREAK, not a place you NEED A BREAK FROM.

We've all grown up with church associations, even if we didn't grow up in a church. The churches we've seen and the worship we've experienced has formed a picture in our minds of what church is all about. But no doubt, many of these associations are wrong. They are things we have imposed upon church, not things that God intended church to be like.

So lets try and forget our perception of what church is for a moment. Let's look back to the early Christians and see what church was about two thousand years ago. Turn to Acts 1, verse 12.

After Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, He taught His disciples for forty more days. Then He blessed them and rose up into the sky until He was gone from their sight. This is what happened after that.

Acts 1:12–14 (ESV)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, His followers gathered together for an impromptu prayer service. They didn't run to the Temple, but just gathered together and prayed.

Their worship was spontaneous. It was not motivated by the expectations of others. It was not just going through the motions. It was not slogging through a worship setting with their brains shut off because that's what they had always done.

Their worship sprang out of what God had done for them. They had recently seen Jesus raised from the dead. Now they had seen Him lifted up into the sky where He had disappeared from their view and entered the Heavenly Father's presence once more. And so the disciples worshiped God in prayer.

Turn to Acts 2, verse 42.

After Jesus returned to heaven, the church on earth really began to grow. On one occasion, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to share Jesus' message with thousands of people. As a result, thousands came to trust in Jesus. This is what happened after that.

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Again, their worship was spontaneous. They worshipped together because they wanted to. They were full of joy because the Savior from sin that God had promised had now come. Their sins were paid for. Their salvation from guilt and sin was no longer some future event to long for, it was a historical event to remember! This was church to them, remembering the Savior. Celebrating His love and their salvation. Church wasn't something they needed to take a break from.

Turn to Hebrews 3, verse 12.

We're not exactly sure who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, but we do know that he wrote as the Holy Spirit directed him, and he wrote to his fellow Christians. Here is what he says.

Hebrews 3:12–14 (ESV)

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

The writer to the Hebrews tells his fellow Christians that they have come to share in Christ. That is what Christianity is about and what church is all about. Sharing in Christ. Experiencing together all that Jesus is, and all that He gives to us sinners. Things like repentance, forgiveness, peace, hope, strength and eternal life.

But the writer to the Hebrews brings out an additional reason why Christians gather together. Protection.

In addition to reveling in the Gospel, Christians gather with each other for protection against the "deceitfulness of sin".

You see, sin lies to us. Like the water that trickles into the rock and freezes in the winter, sin tries to soak up into our heart and harden there, splintering us apart from God.

This happens when Christians embrace sinful behavior and make excuses for it. This is when we need compassionate, but firm correction from our fellow Christians. Sin lies, entraps and eventually kills, but the truth of God sets us free.

Turn to Hebrews 10, verse 23. The writer to the Hebrews has more to say about church.

Hebrews 10:23–27 (ESV)

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

The writer to the Hebrews says that church is about stirring each other up as we wait for our Savior's return. But he also reminds his fellow Christians that church is about safeguarding each other from falling away from faith.

These are just a few of the many Bible passages that speak of what church is all about. We could also talk about the Lord's Supper, and how we receive that at church. Through the body and blood of Christ miraculously given with the bread and wine, we are reassured that Christ died for us personally.

Or we could talk about how we baptize our children at church. Through the command of God we use water and the word, sparking faith in the hearts of our young ones. Or we seal the faith of our older members who know Christ as their Savior, but are coming to Holy Baptism for the first time.

These are the things we do here. Church is where we come into contact with the divine. Not only in this building, but wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ - there is church, there is worship. When we read devotions with our children, or talk about a passage with our spouse at the breakfast table - there is church. These are not things we need a break from. Why would we need a break from communing with God? He is our loving Creator and Savior.

But sometimes we do feel like we need a break from church. Don't we? We feel a little churched-out. Ever felt that way? Let me tell you why you felt that way. It's not because of God. It's not because you needed a break from Him. If you've ever felt "churched-out" it's because of sinful people. Three people specifically: pastors, fellow Christians and yourself.

Let me explain.

Pastors make church into something heavy when they focus too much on sin, and not enough on the forgiveness that we have in Christ. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we deserve hell, but in Christ we are given forgiveness and eternal life. Our debt is cancelled in Christ.

If a preacher doesn't emphasize Christ's gift of forgiveness over the Law of condemnation, then we leave church feeling like damned sinners instead of forgiven ones. That's something we might need a break from.

Other pastors make church heavy by focusing too much on the Christian life. "Yes, we're forgiven sinners", they say, "But we're not the Christians we aught to be". With a Gospel phrase or two thrown in, they preach on how our response to Christ's love is all to pathetic. Their message amount to, "Jesus saved you, so get to work you pathetic diva Christian! Your life doesn't reflect the amazing gift you were given you ungrateful sloth. How about some more commitment on your part?"

If our pastor is constantly talking about you living the Christian life, doing the right thing, being the person God intended you to be - without coming back to grace, love and forgiveness that we have in Christ, after a while you're going get weighed down in our failed attempts at being holy.

And that's not what Church is supposed to be about! The apostles didn't gather in the beginning because they had some great ideas about how to become better people. They gathered because Jesus had just risen from the dead! And then into the sky! He was the promised Savior of the world! In Him their sins were erased! That's why they gathered. The Gospel is why they gathered.

Church also becomes heavy when our fellow Christians come to church with a judgmental attitude. When they hold grudges. When they favor certain people over others. Church becomes heavy when gossip wears the mask of "concerned conversation". Church becomes something we need a break from when Christians only talk ABOUT each other, but not TO each other. Who wants to come to church for that?

That's not a Gospel attitude. That's not an attitude of forgiveness. When the Holy Spirit moves us to have an attitude of repentance over our sins, we bring our sins to Christ in prayer. And He forgives us. And He expects us to forgive the people who sin against us in the same way. Forgiveness is simply part of being a Christian. It's not optional.

A church that has an atmosphere of judgmental grudge-holding is not the church that Jesus founded by the cross of Calvary. A church were our every sinful word, or action is held onto and shoved in our face from time to time - yeah, that'd be a church we'd need a break from.

We need to be careful that we don't make church into that. We need to shower the forgiveness of Christ on our fellow Christians so that church is truly a sanctuary.

But there's one more person who makes church something we might need a break from. That's ourselves.

Here's now I make church something I need a break from. First I recognize my sins. I know them very well, and know that I should be damned because of them. I don't deserve God's love or all the blessings that He's poured into my life.

So, when I come to church, I think about my sins, and then I jump to how I can change things in the future to be a better Christian. Let me say that again, I come to church and think about my sins, and then I jump to how I can change things in the future to be a better Christian. Did you see what I skipped over? The Gospel. The forgiveness of Christ is completely missing from this thought process.

There's three parts of the Christian life. There's sin, grace and Christian living. If I just think about sin and how I can live the Christian life better, I've skipped over the Gospel in the middle. I'm not going to have any peace over my past sins without the Gospel, and I'm not going to have any power to grow as a Christian in the future without the Gospel.

If church feels heavy, like some burden that we have to bear, than we've made church into something it's not supposed to be! The core message of the Bible is sin and grace. The message of mankind's sinful failure and our redemption through the life and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel promise runs throughout the Bible and ties it all together. Remove the Gospel message and the Bible falls apart. The same is true of church. If you leave out the Gospel, everything falls apart.

Think about it like this, if you take out the engine, the car doesn't work so well. And pushing that care from place to place becomes a burden instead of a help. The same is true when it comes to church. When you leave out the Gospel, everything gets to heavy to push around.

Christians, we gotta remember what our Master said. Jesus said,
"...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45 NIV).
When we come to church, Jesus does not intend for us to be His slaves. Instead He wishes to serve us, to teach us forgiveness through His sacrifice. Sure, this message will empower us to serve Him with our lives, but that comes later. The main thing that Jesus wanted Martha to do was to sit down and listen to His message of grace! And that's the main thing Jesus wants you to do too. Sit down and listen to what He did for you. Jesus doesn't want something from us, He wants first and foremost, to give something to us.

That's what church is all about. Jesus filling us with peace through the free gift of His forgiveness. Then we erupt with thanks and praise, but it's all about Jesus first, His grace filling us up.

When we feel like we need time away from church, that's because we've made church into something God never intended it to be. That happens when our pastors don't go back to the gospel, when our people don't live the gospel and when we ourselves come to church focused on something other than the forgiveness of sins that Christ gives. The gospel is the starting point that we have to go to. The gospel of Christ is what makes church a sanctuary, something we NEVER need a break from.

Prayer: Father in heaven, forgive us for what we've made your church into. Shower your wisdom and peace on us once more through Your Word. And help us to come to church to meet with You. To build up the fire of our faith by kneeling at the foot of Your Son's cross. May the good news of Christ be our greatest treasure always, and may its light shine on our pastors, members and ourselves. May Christ bleed into all that we say and do, to your glory Father, and our joy. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

August 5, 2012

We Can't Really Know the Truth - Aug 5, 2012

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


For the past few weeks we've been using our sermon time to study some of Satan's lies. By examining Satan's lies and what the Bible says to counter those lies, we hope to be ready when it is time to defend our faith. Through God's word, and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit we will be ready.

Today's lie is this: "We can't really know the truth".

Now, with THIS lie, Satan isn't suggesting that truth doesn't exist. He's just suggesting that we can't be SURE what is true and what is not.

Now, this lie is only aimed at big things. Because nobody is stupid enough to believe that nothing is true. Plato, who thought the world was one big illusion, still ate food. He breathed air. He drank water. These things are crucial for life. That can't be argued. The lie that we can't really know the truth isn't aimed at simple truths like these. This lie is aimed at the more important questions.

Does God exist?
Where did the universe comes from?
Does hell exist? Is it eternal?
Is there purpose in human existence?
What happens after death?

To all these questions Satan whispers, "We can't really know the truth". Satan whispers this lie to non-Christians and Christians alike. To the Christians he whispers things like, "We can't really PROVE the truth about the God we believe in". Maybe you've even heard pastors speak in this way, that you can't prove the existence of God. I may have even spoken like this from this very pulpit. I may have said that God's existence can't be proven. That it can only be believed. But listen to how God speaks in our sermon reading for today. It certainly doesn't sound like God would agree that we can't really KNOW the truth for sure.

Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Like most of Satan's lies, there is a grain of truth in today's lie. We can't really know the truth, UNLESS God teaches it to us.

This week on our Youth Camping Trip, one of our devotions brought us through some passages about fools. The Bible describes the fool as a person who is preoccupied with temporary things. Like the Rich Fool in Jesus' parable who took time to plan out how he would store his huge harvest of grain, only to die that very night having made no preparations to meet his maker.

Here are some other passages about "fools" that we studied.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7 ESV).

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion" (Proverbs 18:2 ESV).

"Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly" (Proverbs 17:12 ESV).

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice" (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).

"Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance" (Proverbs 14:9 ESV).
Now, here's the kicker - in Psalm 14 it says...
"1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
2The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:1-3 ESV).
In other words, by God's standards we're all fools. Since all humans are born sinful, we're also born stupid. Our inner sinful nature make us dumb when it comes to spiritual things, and dumb when it comes to a lot of other things too.

Just think back to the garden of Eden. Right after Adam and Eve sinned against God, what did they do? They noticed that they were naked, so they covered up. That's sounds smart I guess, but what did they cover up with? They sew fig leaves together. Maybe not the most resilient of clothes. And then they heard God walking through the garden, which led to their next stupid action. They hid from God. From the God who is all knowing and present everywhere. Yes, sinful mankind is truly brilliant.

But we do things today that are just as stupid. We have God's Word which reveals the way to heaven in Christ Jesus, and which reveals the path to true fulfillment and joy in this life also. But we neglect reading it.

We have a God who promises to hear our prayers because Jesus has opened up the way for our prayers to get to God. Not only will he hear, but he will answer in the best way POSSIBLE. But we often use prayer as a last resort, instead of a first response.

We know what God says is the right way to act toward other people. Whether it's respecting our parents, helping those in need, protecting the picked on or simply listening to people when they talk to us. But we can always find a reason why WE are the exception. In THIS case I can do what I want to do instead of what God says is the right way, the way of blessing.

Truly, because we are sinners, we are fools.

Even when God the Son walked the earth in visible, tangible form, human beings responded to His words and actions with foolish unbelief.

After Jesus had done all sorts of open miracles as signs that He was from God, the religious authorities said, "Come on, do a sign to show us you're from God".

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead, those same religious elite didn't discount the miracle, but they also didn't become Jesus' followers either. They decided they really needed to get rid of this miracle worker.

On one occasion, God the Father had spoken from the sky while a crowd of people surrounded Jesus. Some recognized the voice, others said, "Must have been thunder".

Or think of the night before Jesus was crucified, when he was arrested. Peter jumped forward with a sword and slashed a man's ear off. Jesus healed the man's ear right on the spot. MAYBE this was some evidence that Jesus really was the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. MAYBE this was some evidence that they should leave Jesus alone? But no, after the miracle they arrested Him.

Or think of what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead. God sent an angel to roll the stone away from the tomb and show the world that Jesus was gone - alive once more. The soldiers that had been detailed to the tomb saw the angel and fell down like dead men. No doubt in shock. But when they recovered their senses they ran into Jerusalem and made a deal with the religious elite to lie about what they saw.

You see, sinners are dumb. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 says...
" 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV).
Like I said, there is a grain of truth in Satan's lie that we can't know the truth. We can't know the truth APART from the instruction of the Holy Spirit which flows out of the Bible.

But with the Holy Spirit working through the Bible, there is hope for foolish sinners like us. God's word is a text book for making the foolish into the wise. And in this book we find far more than practical day-to-day nuggets of wisdom. Here we find spiritual wisdom that leads to eternal life.
" 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV).
Through the Bible we come to know God, the source of all lasting wisdom. Through Christ Jesus we come to know that we have been saved by the cross of Christ. Through Jesus our Savior we are forgiven all our foolish sins. Through Christ we are fools made wise.

1 Corinthians 2:16 says,
" 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV).
Through faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior, we are connected to Him. His wisdom then flows into our hearts and minds and lives as we learn from the Bible.
" 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV).
The people who the apostle Paul preached Jesus to were either Jews, or non-Jews. The Jews wanted to see miracles. The non-Jews wanted to hear messages that appealed to their logic. But Paul had something better than miracles and human wisdom. He had God's wisdom. Something we could never figure out no matter how hard we tried. Paul had the message that in Christ sinners are declared saints. The guilty forgiven. In Christ we are "Fools Made Wise".

Satan whispers that we can't know the truth. But we can, when God reveals it to us.

I've got a hat in my hand. If you were blind you wouldn't know what color it is, and could never find out. You could take the hat in your hands, but you couldn't feel the color. You couldn't smell the color. You couldn't taste the color. There would be no way for you to know what color it was, unless I told you. If I revealed to you what color it was, then you COULD know. That's the way it is with God. We can't know Him, unless he reveals Himself. And He has done just this through the pages of history, and has preserved the record of this revelation in the Bible.

Without the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we couldn't know the truth. But with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we can, and do.

And you know, this isn't just a matter of "blind faith". Our faith isn't blind. When we look around at the world, we see that it is just like God described it. There are animals made in kinds that reproduce their same kind. That's right from Genesis. There is wonderful potential for beauty in the world, but a horrible darkness and brokenness that runs through it also. This too matches up with a perfect creation gone bad due to sin. What I'm trying to say is, what the Bible says matches up with what we find in the world. When things match up, that's truth.

Or think of what the Bible says about testing prophets. If a prophet made a prophesy that didn't come true, God says, don't fear that prophet. He's a fraud. He's not from Me. But in the Bible we find prophesies that were made long before they were fulfilled. In other words, they match up, although only a supernatural force could make such things match up. Again, when things match up, there we find truth.

Can we really know the truth? You bet we can. It's found in the Bible. Like Jesus said...
" 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17 NIV).
Through the truth of God's word we have been sanctified - set apart as God's own redeemed sinners. We have been made wise for salvation in Christ Jesus our Savior. That, is the truth.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

God Wants Me to be Happy, So... - July 28, 2012

To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.


Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In our sermon series entitled, "The Lies of Satan" we've come to this lie: "God wants you to be happy, so..."

May the Holy Spirit bless our mediation upon His holy Word so that our armor against Satan's lies is strengthened. May the Holy Spirit do this for our own good, for our personal happiness, and for the glory of God our Creator and Savior. Amen.

For our sermon reading we have two selections today. One from John's Gospel, and one from the apostle Paul's letter to the Roman Christians.

John 6:40, Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let's get right to it. Today's lie from Satan is pretty ridiculous. "God wants me to be happy, so... FILL IN THE BLANK." When you get down to it, the logic behind this statement is downright childish. It's a self serving philosophy, and an abuse of God's love. It's the call of the person who wants to be enabled. Let's not be enablers whether this lie springs up on our conversations with someone else, or whether, God forbid, it springs up in our own hearts.

I mean seriously, does this sound like the God of the Bible that we know?
"I want you to be happy, so... do whatever you think in your mind will make you happy. Whatever that thing is, I'm sure that it'll be my will. Just follow your heart, it'll NEVER lead you astray."
That doesn't sound like God's voice to me. Not at all. This sounds like the voice of the person who wants to justify the fact that they're going to openly disobey one of God's clear commands.

I mean, really, why did God have the Ten Commandments written down if we could just follow our own emotions? Why didn't He just say, Follow your heart?

And yet, this is what some so-called Christians believe today. That following our own hearts is what Christianity is all about. Recently I read an interview with a high ranking official in our government. This official claims to be a Christian, but listen to the following excerpt.
Do you believe in sin?
What is sin?
Being out of alignment with my values.
What happens if you have sin in your life?
I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.
Sin isn't being untrue to yourself, sin is being untrue to God. Sin isn't being out of alignment with one's own values, it is being out of alignment with God's values. And the punishment of sin isn't just the damaging fallout of sin that happens in our lives, the full punishment for sin is eternal existence apart from God and all His blessings. Eternal suffering in hell is the punishment for sin!

That phrase, "God wants you to be happy, so..." has a grain of truth in it. God does indeed want you to be happy. It's the dot, dot, dot that makes it a lie. It's when we insert our own "therefore" statement on the end of it that makes it Satan's lie.

Just imagine some of our Bible heroes employing this little lie in their own lives. Imagine Joseph in Egypt reasoning, God wants me to be happy, so I think I will have an adulterous affair with Potiphar's wife. She wants me. She's attractive. Surely God wants me to get all the happiness out of this opportunity that I can.

Or imagine Daniel in Babylon reasoning, God wants me to be happy, so I think I will worship King Darius. After all, if I don't they'll throw me to the lions, and that doesn't sound like much fun. Surely God wants me to worship King Darius.

Or worst of all, imagine God's own Son employing this logic, Being beaten, spit on and nailed to a cross doesn't sound like fun. Certainly my Father in Heaven doesn't want me to suffer like that. I think I'll skip suffering and dying to save all the sinners of the world. After all, God wants me to be happy!

Part of the reason why Satan is so successful with this lie is that he often offers this lie when we're in a hard place. He presents two options: 1) Either we do something we know is wrong, or 2) We remain miserable for the REST OF OUR LIVES. But this is selling God woefully short. Like God is unable to make things better in our lives unless we take the wheel into our own hands and steer down a sinful path. God is powerful!

When Joseph refused the advances of Potiphar's wife, he got accused of doing what he actually refused to do and was thrown in jail. But not long after that God arranged events that made Joseph the ruler over all Egypt, with only the present Pharaoh holding more power.

When Daniel refused to worship Darius, he was indeed thrown to the lions. But God sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions and Daniel made it out of that pit without a scratch, and it ended up being Daniel's haters who became the lions lunch.

When Jesus refused to falter on His way to the cross, he was indeed beaten, tortured and crucified to death. But three days later God raised Jesus back to life and exalted Him as the Savior of all mankind.

God doesn't need our sinful ways to make us happy. He has more than enough power to make that happen all on His own. So, let's trust Him when He directs our walk.

Putting words in God's mouth is always spiritually dangerous. How much more dangerous it is when we use the love of God to justify putting words in God's mouth. Instead of putting words in God's mouth, we aught to go to where God has put His own Words - in the Bible!

Instead of filling the blank after "God wants me to be happy, so..." with our own motives and desires, how about we fill that blank with God's Word?

Here's what I mean. We aught to reason like this instead. We know that God loves us. The divine Creator who made the amazing universe for our playground certainly loves us. The divine and Holy God who voluntarily sent His Son to suffer and die to take away the punishment for our sins certainly loves us. He DOES want us to be happy. That much IS obvious. So we aught to reason like this. I know that God loves me and wants me to be happy, so, in this situation I'm going to do what HE TELLS ME IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO IN HIS BIBLE! Then, I'll wait for the blessing that He promises to those who walk in His ways.

The thing is, we live in a sinful world, so the happy blessings that that result from following God's direction don't all come to us here. Some blessings won't arrive till we reach heaven. Jesus Himself made it clear to His disciples that their Heavenly Father loved them. But He also made it clear that in this life God's people should expect suffering and ridicule. Just as God's Son was hated by the sinful world and persecuted, so also God's followers will be hated and persecuted.
" 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:18-20 ESV).
And that same Jesus promised those who trusted in Him the following...
"... Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life" (Luke 18:29-30 ESV).
God indeed wants you to be happy, but now just happy with some temporary and fleeting thrill. Not just happy with some self gratification. He wants you to be ETERNALLY HAPPY as His forgiven child in heaven.

Lasting happiness doesn't spring from following your sinful heart. Nor does it come from riches, or fame or physical pleasure. Just look at the movie stars in Hollywood. Are they the happiest people on earth? Not when you read their biographies. Instead, the lives of the godless are often the most troubled and empty.

Right now, a group of our young people are overseas serving up the message of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ to people who have very little when it comes to physical possessions. And yet it is the poor Christian people of India and Africa that shock our missionaries. They often come home telling tales about people who have nothing but the Gospel, and are radiant with peace and joy. No, lasting happiness does not depend on the things this world can offer. It does not spring from the hear which seeks to find it's own way. Enduring happiness comes from an ongoing relationship with the forgiving God.

So, when Satan whispers that little lie in your ear, when he says, "God wants you to be happy, so..." let us respond in this way. Let's say, "You've got it right Satan, God does want me to be happy, that's why I'm going to do things His way and wait for His blessing. And if that blessing doesn't come fully until I reach the shores of heaven as a sinner cleansed by the blood of God's Son, then so be it."

I'd like to close our meditation today by reading our sermon selections one more time.

John 6:40, Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.