July 24, 2012

God, murders, and justice

As a preface: I had started this post on Friday. I halted it for a couple of reasons. I won't go into all of them, although the most important one I will. I believe of cycle of 24 hour news, with all the latest information available immediately on the internet is wonderful for gossip, and absolutely terrible for meaningful reflection on anything, but most especially tragedy. I woul venture to guess that most of you reading this felt shock, horror, outrage, or some other emotion of a particularily violent force when you turned on your TV/computer/radio Friday morning. I would also think it safe to assme that as coverage has slowly waned, so has emotion. To some extent this cannot be helped, things that are fresh in our minds are always going to be what bring forth the deepest emotions and reactions. But I fear the we are so overwhelmed with information that when something truly of weight like this happens, we are quick to forget, turn the page, and go do something different. And so I delayed my posting this.




As I eluded to Friday in a Tweet, the news of the shootings in Colorado has weighed heavy on my mind. How do such tragedies happen? How could God, if He is truly loving and truly sovereign, allow such things? These are serious questions, for which trite answers will not suffice. And I will not attempt to answer them in this short post.

But as I consider these questions myself, and look to Scripture for the answers, here are a few things that comfort me.

1)The first place I think of is Hebrews 4. The writer there tells us that in Jesus we have a High Priest before the Father who is sympathetic with our plight, and He gives mercy and grace to those who would draw near Him.

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest gwho is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

2)God hates the sin of murder. He will execute justice.

'And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image."'
(Genesis 9:5-6)

3)God hates all sin. He hates it so much that He sent His own Son to bear the weight of sin. God poured out His wrath of Jesus so that any who repent might have God's wrath absorbed by Christ, and would instead be given His righteousness.
 
"He Himself bore bore our sins in His body on the tree..."
(1 Peter 2:24a)
 
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

(Colossians 2:13-14)
 
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

(Romans 5:8-9 ESV)
 
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
 
4)God's justice demands that all sin be paid for. The repentant will be forgiven by God, and their sin is laid on Jesus (see previous point). The unrepentant stand condemned, and unless they turn, will bear the wrath of God for their sins eternally.
 
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
(John 3:16-18)

"The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

(Revelation 21:7-8)
 

July 19, 2012

Grace and misplaced trust.

Just a quick thought on grace. Reading in Matthew 26 in my devos today and Jesus tells them the will all fall away, and of course as we know, Peter says "not me! I'll die before I leave you!" Of course he's wrong. Peter's confidence is misplaced. Jesus reinterates that Peter will not only fall away, but more than the other disciples, will verbally deny Jesus three times before morning. imagine being Peter right now. You are Jesus' closest earthly friend. And you're told that you will fall away. You reassure him that you are faithful. And then you're told you're falling will be worse than the rest.
Isn't that us? Does it not seem that every time we become more determined to be "good  Christians" that these are the moments we fall the hardest? Of course they are. That used to terribly frustrate me. Reading that today though showed me something beautiful. Those failures are the grace of God. If through grit and Will-power(pardon the pun), I could become the person God desires me to be, my boast would be in myself.
But that doesn't work. Praise God. I, like Peter, love to boast in my loyalty. It usually results in failure. Praise be to God that he is faithful, and his grace is there to sustain. Especially in my failings.

July 18, 2012

Solid Rock or Sinking Sand?

Preface: This is the manuscript for a sermon I preached at Plummer Bible Church on 7/1/12. We had several people not at church that day who requested I get them CD's...and well, I haven't done that. Until that can happen, here is the manuscript.

Faith in the Rock or faith in the sand?


7/1/12 Plummer Bible Church

Prayer:



Father God,

I pray for this sermon. I pray that as Your word is opened that your Holy Spirit would open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and soften our hearts to respond. I pray that we would seek to know you, Father. That we would long for the reconciliation you offer through Jesus, and the transformation done by the Holy Spirit. I pray that you would do these things in us for the praise of Your glorious grace. We pray in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.



Intro:



*Matthew 7:13-29 (ESV)

“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. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.



*I want to begin this sermon by making something clear up from the start. I did not pick this text because I thought it would make a good sermon. Nor did I pick it because it’s on my list of 15 favorite Bible verses. I’m not even really sure if using the word “picked” in reference to my decision to preach this text today would even be accurate. To say I was left without a choice seems more honest. I tried to preach it last year over at Harrison, and while I don’t feel like I did a very good job of it, ever since I read it before that sermon these verses, especially verses 21-23 have disturbed me. They have weighed heavily on my mind, a times keeping me awake at night with endless questions. I am forced to wonder as I read, “Is this me?” Will I be among those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and are told to depart, for I never knew Him and walked in lawlessness? That is a disturbing thing to consider. Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than that is the fact that millions of “Christians” don’t ask those same questions, when Jesus point right here is very clearly to cause us to question. This is profoundly disturbing to me.



But before we get too far, I want to tell you how I’m going to break this text down to preach through it. In these 17 verses, I want us to see five distinct contrasts, which we will divide into three categories, if you will. The first contrast we will look at examines the authority of the teaching, I want to establish the fact that we need to pay attention to what is said here. The next three contrasts will fall into the second category and will comprise the meat of the teaching. What is Jesus point here, and how does it apply to our lives today? And then we have the fifth contrast in it’s own category, that being the application or challenge question, which Jesus gives us by way of analogy.



These 17 verses at the end of Matthew seven comprise the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. That is important to keep in mind, because often times, this is one of the first places people point when they want to call Jesus merely a “good moral man” or a “good teacher.” They will point to such things as the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, the litany of moral imperatives, perhaps even the Lord’s Prayer, and say “see, good rules to live by.” I find that reaction both fascinating and terrifying, because while the teaching of Jesus is most obviously good, that is not the first thing on the minds of those who were there for this sermon.



Contrast 1: Jesus versus the scribes

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

(Matthew 7:28-29 ESV)



What is it that these people leave astonished at? Not what Jesus said, but rather how he said it. They don’t leave astonished that a nice man had a few helpful things to say that may help their life. The Scribes, experts in the law, taught with no such authority. They could only teach what was already stated, Jesus was saying, “You have heard it said…but I say…” He had an authority that blew people away.



I want to notice this first of all, because it is far too easy for us to get stuck on clich├ęs such as “the Bible is our road map” or, “the Bible is basic instructions before leaving earth.” The problem is, while the Bible is filled with instruction and directions on how to live, these are what I would contend, are secondary to the primary purpose. And they can only be understood in light of what is primary. The primary purpose of Scripture is to reveal God, specifically Jesus, who is Himself was sent to reveal God. Let’s look at a couple passages of Scripture.



(John 1:1-4;14-18 ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.



Jesus is God. Hence the authority with which He taught. We’re not dealing with your average Galelian peasant, or for that matter, we’re not dealing with your average Oxford professor. We’re talking about, or in the case of the Sermon on the Mount (and any other place in Scripture) listening to, the God of all the universe. The Second member of the Trinity, the maker of Heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and the end. He came to earth to make God known and bears witness to the truth of God’s word (see John 5, John 17, and John 18). Let’s look at another large chunk of Scripture.



Hebrews 1:1-2:1

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,

today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,

and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,

and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,

and the heavens are the work of your hands;

they will perish, but you remain;

they will all wear out like a garment,

like a robe you will roll them up,

like a garment they will be changed.

But you are the same,

and your years will have no end.”

And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.



Jesus, again, is God. He now sits exalted. And He has spoken to us today through His word. Tell me then, how can we not pay careful attention to what he says? God the Father reveals Himself to us through the person of His Son, we come to know His Son through the Scriptures (see John 5, 2 Timothy 3). The Holy Spirit moves through the word. He wrote it. He shows us God in it. Why should we settle for viewing it as a mere roadmap or guidebook when it is infinitely more than that? Why, why, why oh Christian, are we happy with so little? Why do we go searching for rules, or loopholes to escape rules, when we should be in desperate search of the face of God? How could we do this?



As we move into the meat of Jesus teaching here, we will see directions. We will

be told things about life, about ourselves. But in all of this, we must long to know how it fits into the character and nature of God, because if we try to understand the imperatives and statements on how to live, apart from who God Himself is, we will be utterly lost. Our teacher here is no mere man. Our Teacher here is God Himself.

Contrast 2: Wide and easy versus Narrow and hard

Matthew 7:13-14

“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. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who enter by it are few.”



As we look at this contrast between the narrow and wide gate, and the easy and hard roads, again, I want us to remember our teacher is Jesus. Jesus is God. And here, Jesus is saying that the way to hell is real easy, and most people are coasting right on in. I don’t recall if I said this last time I preached here or not; but it bears repeating. Jesus did not come in order for you to live a “Christianized” version of the American Dream. If you doubt that look no further than this verse. What we call the American Dream is success, ease, comfort, and stability. And Jesus says living for these things, these things that are easy to live for, these things that everyone chases, are the road to hell. And many enter by it. Many. So, we should feel pressed by this question-if ease marks the road to destruction, then why is it ease that I seek? The gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to drunken Friday nights, forgetting the worries of my week. The gate is wide and the way is easy that spends my extra income to upgrade my TV package so I can watch more football. The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to men shirking responsibility and chasing an indulgent life of fun and play. The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to wives dishonoring and disrespecting their husbands. The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to American “Christians” giving less than 2% percent of their income to “charitable causes” of any sort, let alone their local church. The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to our overtly self-centered, egotistical, me-first way of living. And the world paints it as right and good. But Jesus paints it another way. The picture he paints of that life shows it ending in hellfire. Jesus says the easy way ends in destruction.



This is the terrifying reality-there are millions who call themselves Christians, perhaps some in this very room, who are not on the hard road to life, but on the easy road to destruction. Church is simply a part of your ease seeking life. That is frightening to me. That people who do not truly have a saving faith in Jesus could be sitting in these very pews believing that they are on the road to life. Because we have been sold a bill of goods. We live in a culture, and all too often, in a church culture, that sees the avoidance of pain as the highest good. We need to wake up to the fact that the life Jesus calls us to is not an easy one. He calls us to enter a narrow gate, approached by a hard road. As Bonhoeffer put it, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Death to the world, death to self, death to sin. As Paul says in Romans 6:11-12



“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”



We ought to echo with Paul what he writes in chapter three of his letters to the Philippians:



But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:6-11 ESV)



Paul counted all else as loss, and he counted that loss to be mere rubbish compared to the richness of knowing Jesus. Is this us? We see something interesting in Paul’s statement here. While he certainly is looking forward to the end, the resurrection of the dead, that’s not all he mentions. His counting of all former things as loss is present tense. He already sees the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. He says in Philippians 1:21 that, “for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” How often do we simply read the last part, about dying being gain? Of course we want to see that, that is an incredibly important for our perspective as Christians. But Paul doesn’t just say that. He says to live is Christ. Paul is living the hard road, heading for the narrow gate. We’ve seen in our study of Acts that his life is not easy- he is jailed, beaten, ridiculed. But in spite of all that, he says to live is Christ.



Contrast Paul’s view with that of Solomon. In Ecclesiastes one, the Preacher, Solomon, a man who possesses more wealth, money, fame, glory, wisdom, women, servants, etc, than anyone of us could ever even dream of-declares “all is vanity.”



Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”



Here is a man whose earthly status and possessions makes anything you will accomplish, gain, or have pale in comparison. And what does he call it? Vain. Chasing after the wind. Meaningless, pointless. He just can’t “get no satisfaction” as the Rolling Stones would have it.



Paul had nothing, yet had everything in Jesus. Solomon had everything, but it was all empty. Which is to say, not only does the broad and easy way lead you to hell-you get there feeling empty. The climb up the narrow and hard way, while certainly not easy, is most definitely satisfying. Because Jesus is satisfying.



Contrast 3: False Teachers versus True teachers.



Matthew 7:15-20- Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.



And so we come to our third contrast. We see Jesus draw a very distinctive line between the false and the true teacher. The analogy he uses is that of fruit trees, saying that healthy trees produce good fruit, and diseased trees bear bad fruit. This should be obvious, right? I mean, do we not somewhat question why Jesus is even taking the time to point this out? I think it probably has a lot to do with the fact that we have such an incredibly flawed idea of what Jesus means by “healthy” and “diseased.” Jesus says that the false teachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Which is to say, we in the 21st Century, probably don’t have to worry about being too influenced by Mein Kampf. We can look back and see the Hitler as a despicable human being, and it’s easy to avoid those sorts of errors. The biggest problems and most dangerous errors are not going to come from people or teaching so far out there that it is labeled as crazy. It comes from wolves disguised as sheep.



2 Timothy 4:3-4- For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.





People everywhere are looking not for sound teaching, but for some to itch their ears. We look for those who would tell us what we want to hear, and we reject the truth. Why? Because much of Christianity is uncomfortable, bad news. You are by nature a child of wrath and servant of the devil (Ephesians 2), you have seen God and rejected Him (Romans 1), you have sinned and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3), the wages of said sin is death (Romans 6), and the only way out of this circumstance is by God Himself making a way and causing you to be born again, you cannot earn it (John 3:16-18, Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 1:1-2:9; etc). Furthermore, for those who have been born again, Jesus makes some radical demands. He is to be valued more than wife, children, parents, friends, and even life itself (John 12:25, Matthew 10:37). He tells them they will be hated for His sake, that persecution will come, and that following Him guarantees them nothing in the way of material blessing-the disciples are not promised that Jesus will keep them alive, that they will have food, or that they will even have a place to sleep.

Later on in the epistles writers such as James and Peter give such ridiculous commands as rejoicing in the midst of trials, and then promising that those same trials are a place where we can find peace and rest in God, and where our faith will be grown. Or we could consider those uncomfortable words of Paul in Colossians 3 where he tells us to put our sin to death. You see true teaching isn't going to be identified by the fruit of people liking it. Telling people they can have their best life now, or that God will make them rich and healthy, or that God's favorite way of showing His glory is through your wealth, will pack church buildings. It does every week all over America. But it will do so at the cost of souls. You see, the primary danger for Christians isn't from Atheists, or Democrats, or evolutionists, or Islam-the biggest danger is from within. Beware of false prophets. Beware of anyone selling you a smaller version of who Jesus is than what the Bible paints. Beware of anyone trying to tell you God's biggest goal for you here is comfort. Beware, because to buy into a cheap version of Jesus is not to have bought the Gospel at all. No social gospel, prosperity gospel, or any other Gospel that says “Jesus is the way to get____” will save you, unless what fills in that blank is God. Jesus will not be used as currency to purchase your idols. If you look to Jesus just because you want things to go well for you, you've missed Jesus. If you want Jesus just because you feel guilty about your baggage, you've missed Jesus. If you want Jesus just to get to heaven, you've missed Jesus. Jesus came to bring us to God, for the praise of His glorious grace. Come to Him in humility, adoring Him for who He is, loving Him for who He is, and humbly accept the gifts of salvation and forgiveness that He offers those who approach Him with a humble and contrite heart. But don't come demanding the gifts, and don't come for the gifts. Come to Jesus for Jesus. Come to Jesus to know God. And listen to teachers who point you there. Because there is a lot of stuff out there that sounds good, but will poison you. True teaching reproves, rebukes, and corrects us for our sin. True teaching exhorts us to live lives that are holy. True teaching trains and equips us for righteousness. True teaching points us to the Bible, because the Bible points us to Jesus, and He is the one we need.



What teachers are you looking for?





Contrast 4: Lawless faith and obedient faith.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’



These verses, perhaps more than anywhere else in Scripture, give us clear evidence that the widely taught “easy believism” of modem evangelicalism, is an absolute farce. Jesus is speaking here of people who clearly identify Him as Lord. People who do “many mighty works” in the name of Jesus Christ. They obviously believe that they serve Him. They presumably cling to the promises of glory and heaven promised for His servants. And yet Jesus tells them that all of their believing and clinging is in vain. They are lawless. They never knew Him. He casts them out. Wow.



This should be profoundly disturbing to us, because we must see as we read this that these people have faith. They believe that calling Jesus “Lord” and doing works equals them being in the kingdom. These are probably not the sort of people who are out being blatantly wicked and lawless, but rather are quite religious. Good church folk. These people very clearly think that they are saved. Which means, when we consider Jesus' earlier statement that few enter through the narrow gate, that it is not only possible, but probable that there are people sitting in these chairs today who think that they know Jesus, but don't. Which means, that it is very possible that there are people sitting in this room who would call themselves Christians, and are still under the wrath of God, destined for eternal torment in hell. This fact should not only scare us with its weight, it should utterly break our hearts. You have friends, family members, coworkers, fellow churchmen, who not only are lost, but are so deceived as to believe they are safe. This is bad news. I want to take a little time to look at the nature of this “deficient faith,” and then look at how to identify and guard against it in our own lives and church.



What makes their faith deficient? Jesus tells us very clearly in verse 23. “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” He never knew them, and they are workers of lawlessness. Contrast that with verse 21 where Jesus says that those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaver. So the deficiency here is that their “faith” does not lead into obedience. This concept really should not be new to us, and some of them we went over in my last sermon.



(James 2:14-18 ESV) What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.



(John 3:16-18,36 ESV)“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.



(Hebrews 11:6, 8 ESV) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.



(John 14:15 ESV) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.



(1 John 2:4 ESV) Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,



Did you identify a theme running through those verses? Faith-real, true, Biblical, saving faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord, is always followed by obedience. Having faith does not replace good works, rather, it always produces good works. Always.



Now, anytime someone dares to call us on this, we are quick to point to Paul and say “grace!” we are not under the law, but under grace! Yes, and Amen. But I don't think people who are playing the “grace card” have any idea what they're talking about. Because claiming to be a follower of the Jesus who hung our sin on the cross and soaked it in His own blood, does not free me to live in all the sin and debauchery I desire. It is the exact opposite. God the Father has given us, in Jesus, freedom from the bondage of sin. He has loosed the shackles. And according to Romans six, we are now not only able, but commanded, to walk in a way that is dead to sin, and alive to Christ. Let's look at Galatians 5, verses 16-21.



But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.



The Spirit and the flesh are opposed. They cannot be reconciled. Essentially what Paul says here is that you cannot claim to be a Christian and live like the world. You know the saying, “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.” If you look like the world, and act like the world, you're probably of the world. Which means you're opposed to God. That's not a good place to be. Your life needs to be radically transformed by the Gospel. If it's not, then Scripture is clear-you're probably not a believer at all.



But let's pause for a minute and go back to our text in Matthew. Before you take what I just got through saying about faith producing works, and go gung ho into every church program we have and start five more, listen to Jesus words again. Let's re-read verses 21-23



“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’



You may have noticed already that these people aren't necessarily doing all those things listed in Galatians as being “of the flesh.” Perhaps they were, but we can't prove it, because Jesus doesn't say. What is far more likely given what he does say, is that these are devoutly religious people. People who are avoiding all of that bad stuff, and finding their own way to be lawless. They have good works, don't they? And not just any good works, but major league good works! Prophesying, casting out demons, and many other mighty works, how many of you have just one of those on your resume? These guys are top of the line Christians...or are they? I want to look very quickly at a few more verses in Galatians five and the peek over to Galatians six.



(Galatians 5:22-26 ESV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.



(Galatians 6:3-4 ESV) For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.



(Galatians 6:14 ESV) But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.



We all know that list in Galatians five. But let me ask you a question, how often when the fruit of the Spirit are mentioned, do simply think of them as the Christians “to do” list? I think most of us do. And it is totally wrong headed. Paul says these things are the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus already explained to us how fruit works. Where does good fruit come from, diseased trees that decide to try hard and make pretty fruit? No, it comes from healthy trees, in this case trees whose disease of sin is taken away by Jesus, and who are being healed by the Holy Spirit. These trees then begin, with increased health, to bear increasingly better fruit. We call that sanctification. And it's the work of the Holy Spirit, not a checklist.



Paul goes on in chapter six to say you're nothing, to think you're something is a joke. Examine yourself honestly, and then try boasting. You have nothing. So boast only in the cross, because it is all we as Christians have. Is this how the people in Matthew seven respond to Jesus? No! They plead the case of their own works, which the book of Isaiah would call “filthy rags.” It doesn't matter whose name you did them in, if they were your works, then they are of no account. Let's be clear-works are an indicator, and a necessary one at that-of salvation. But the focus of salvation will never be works. It will always be the Gospel, because a focus on our works would bring glory to us, while a focus on the Gospel brings glory to God. And the glory of God is the point of the Gospel (see Romans 1:1-7).



So what that means is this-it is possible to “believe in Jesus” in a way that is not obedient to Him, and therefore is not what we might describe as true or saving belief. And we cannot be wishy washy on this. Our witness to this dying world is at stake, the health of the church is at stake, the eternal destiny of people-of you and I-are at stake. This is no small matter. Jesus call in the Scriptures is never to evangelize, get them a “get to heaven free card” and then disciple them if they're into that and it works for you. His radical call of discipleship applies to each and every believer, and those unwilling to embrace it are most likely not believers at all. This is not an oft said thing in our churches. We want people to feel secure and happy knowing how things will end for them-but Jesus seems very little concerned about such a temporal sense of security in the Gospels. He is always making statements like these that force us to question if we ourselves are saved. Jesus seems far less concerned about a small temporary sense of peace, and far more concerned about you seeing the stark contrast between believing Him, forsaking the world, gaining our soul, and rejecting Him, living for food that perishes, and ourselves perishing eternally. If that is the concern of Jesus, should it not be the concern of His church? Brothers and sisters, please, I beg of you, honestly question your salvation, examine your works, and then cling to Jesus. Not some caricature of Him that makes Him nice and fuzzy and easy to believe in cause He is just so easy to get along with, but cling to the God-man who crucified sin, who rose from the dead, and cry with the man in Mark 9:24 “I believe; help my unbelief!”



Contrast 5: Wise Man versus Foolish Man

(Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”



Our final contrast is essentially Jesus' parting shot in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, more or less, are you going to listen? Will you repent of your evil, follow me, and in so doing build your house on the rock? If you don't, watch out. Rain will fall, floods will rise, and the wind will come beating and driving. Where is your house built? Are you on the hard way, destined for the narrow gate, watching for false teachers, and examining your faith to be sure you're clinging to and building on the rock? If so, your house will never fall.



Or are you whistling merrily along the easy road, headed for that broad gate. Are you coasting along, not questioning what the world has to say, buying it hook line and sinker. Are you confident in your own thoughts, and living for that beach front view? You're building on sand, and it ends in destruction.



Everyone is building a house. Where are you building yours?

About Me

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com