Caught Up Together

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. [14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. [15] For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [18] Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 This morning let’s consider the end of this pursuing process!  Let’s notice what Scripture says about what will happen when we no longer will be pursuing after Christ.

 

I. Two Groups of People

  1. Those who are asleep.
  2. Those who are alive and remain.

II. The Purpose

To be with the Lord. …so shall we ever be with the Lord…

Another translation words it – …and so we will always be with the Lord…

The purpose of this event is for Christ to take his bride to be with Him.  Christ is spoken of as the bridegroom, waiting for his bride.  Christ promised he would come and get believers.

John 14:1-3  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. [2] In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so , I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. [3] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

To give these believers a new glorified body.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54.  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. [53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. [54] So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

In the twinkling of an eye- literally in the milliseconds that light reflects off the pupil of the eye, this transformation will occur.  The bodies of those saints in the grave will rise up, be glorified and meet Christ in the air.  Those who are alive will suddenly be transformed and meet Christ in the air.

 

III. The Action

Verb- harpazo means take away, seize, snatch away. 

Future Tense– Verb tense where the writer portrays an action or state of being that will occur in the future.  Paul is describing something that is still yet to happen.  But notice Paul expected that he would be part of those who alive and remain.  Paul eagerly anticipated Christ returning and he expected it to be in his lifetime.

Passive Voice– grammatical tense that signifies the subject is being acted upon.  Those who are alive and remain are the ones receiving the action of the verb.  God himself is the agent performing the action, which is why sometimes this is referred to as ‘divine passive’.  Notice this is not man doing anything.  Believers will have no part in performing this action of the Rapture, it will be purely God.

Indicative Mood- meaning the mood of this verb indicates that the action presented is real.   Believers this is not poetic language, it is not figurative language, this is just as literal as God breathing the world into existence!

IV. The Place

Verse 17 says that in the clouds those who were alive will catch up to those who were in the grave. The Greek word translated ‘together’ means at the same time.  Those in the grave will rise first but will be joined in the clouds at the same time with those were alive to go meet the Lord.

Paul says to meet the Lord in the air. The air is a term for that region beyond where the birds fly all the way to the farthest star.  All believers will unite there in the clouds and at the same time be brought to the presence of Christ.

 

Application:

Comfort: that we will be with the Lord!

This is the main purpose as Paul pens this section, to give comfort to all believers that yes one day those who have already died believing in Christ, will be resurrected out of the grave, and receive a new glorified body, just as those who are alive receive a glorified body. Believers we can have absolute comfort we will be with the Lord

Comfort: that our pursuit is finished!

* our commission is complete.

Mark 16:15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

This is the task of every believer, it is a commission given by Christ.  It applied to Paul, you, and every believer.  There is no days off and no change in the command.  I like what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

At the height of WWII, Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for taking a stand against Hitler.  Yet he continued to urge fellow believers to resist Nazi tyranny.  A group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the antichrist, asked Bonhoeffer, ‘Why do you expose yourself to all this danger? Jesus will return one day and all your work and suffering will be for nothing.’ Bonhoeffer replied, “If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I’ll rest from my labor. Believers today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it’s finished.” 

 * we will have glorified bodies.

No more will we deal with sin, temptation, death, decay, sickness, disease, pain, etc… All of those things of these earthly bodies will be no more, we will have a heavenly body.

* we will be eternally in the presence of God.

In these bodies we Pursue after Christ, striving to live for him as he instructs us.  But when the Rapture occurs our pursuit will be over.  No more will we long for what is coming, because we will be with Him.  In his presence…

Illustration

Story is told of a little girl who was quizzing her mother one day, following the church service.

Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?

Yes

Today?

Yes

In a few minutes?

Yes, dear

Mommy, would you comb my hair?

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Crave

Our sermon theme to start this year has been Pursue.  We have considered several portions of Scripture related to this subject, and we recognize the continual need for our lives to grow like Christ.  Our relationship with Him is secure, and our destiny with him is sealed, but there continues to be the need for our lives to resemble him more.

Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 

In this verse from the Gospel of Mark we see a statement made about this man named Joseph of Arimathaea.  Scripture says he was an honorable man, he was well respected, and he was a counsellor, most likely a member of the Sanhedrin.  Mark continues by stating that he was a man who truly waited for the kingdom of God.  Lastly, he says that this man Joseph ‘craved’ the body of Jesus.

The word craved is an interesting term, according to Webster it means: to ask for earnestly, to want greatly, to yearn for.  The Greek term translated here means ‘to ask, beg’ in the context of making a request.  To put it mildly this was an enormous request to make before Pilate, and to make this request would publicly display his faith in Christ.

Webster goes on to indicate that this term indicates a strong, inner desire.  From this deep inner desire, Joseph went out, put action to his convictions and did something that most would have called radical or at best foolish.  Joseph is a great example that when we truly crave something we will do the unexpected to achieve our desires.

History shows that from an intense desire to glorify and proclaim the name of God, American missionaries have been sent out all across this world.  Why?  Because there were some men and women who so thoroughly craved Jesus Christ, that they moved forward to do the missionary work that many thought was foolish, men like Jim Elliott.

I just wonder how intense is our craving?  Would we do the unexpected simply because we crave Jesus Christ and desire to proclaim his name.

Right now in our church, I believe as strong as ever that there are some people on the verge of doing what is not the norm.  There is a group of people making decisions about doing the unexpected and going to Cape Verde on a mission trip.  Let me say:  mission trips are not the norm, mission trips are not a vacation, and mission trips will stretch your faith.  I am so excited to see what God does through this group!

Would you be in prayer for the hearts that God is leading, as well would you pray that God would bless the fundraising efforts.  Where God leads, he always provides!

Remember:   Craving Jesus Christ produces the unexpected in our lives!

to crave  =  the unexpected

Love / Doctrine

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Message #2

Text:  II John 1:1-13

Intro: 

2 John 1:1-13  The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; [2] For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. [3] Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. [4] I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. [5] And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. [6] And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. [7] For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. [8] Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. [9] Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. [10] If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: [11] For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. [12] Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. [13] The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen. …

Review:

Last week we began this study by considering John’s Truth Lecture and his Love Lecture.  We discussed two big concepts Truth is like an umbrella- it encompasses the believer in every way.  We also considered that love is Biblical only when it is underneath the umbrella that is truth.  Outside of the covering of truth, love ceases to be love.

I. Corruption of Truth

[7] For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. [8] Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. [9] Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

There is a verse penned by the Apostle Paul that very much shapes the discussion that John gives in our text. I encourage you to turn there with me- I Timothy 3:15.

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

This verse is so fundamental to the life and function of a church body, why?  Because it lays it out in the most simple terms.  The church is intended to be the pillar of truth.  Only when truth is held to can the church live out love, mercy, and peace.

Deceivers: comes from the Greek word meaning imposter or misleader. This word appears just a handful of times in the NT, and we see it again over in I Timothy 4:1-

1 Timothy 4:1  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Abundance: John says these deceivers have gone out into the world and there are many of them.

Purpose: There intent is to mislead people spiritually.  They are imposters of the truth.  In appearance they seem to have some true motivation but really they seek only to lead people astray from the truth.

Test:  John says the way to identify these false teachers is quite simple.  If the person does not believe that Jesus Christ came as God in the flesh, to this world, then he or she is a deceiver.

Opposer:  John says moreover that these misleaders are not only deceivers but quite literally they are opposers of Christ and God.  According to Strongs the meaning of that term antichristos is opponent of the Messiah.  We often think of that term in reference to that political figure who will one day rise up in the world and be the pawn of Satan.  However, this term is used several times by John and all having to do with our present time.

1 John 2:18  Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

1 John 2:22  Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

The same spirit that will enable the Antichrist of the Tribulation to gain power is the same one today that promotes these little opposers of Christ.

II. Corruption of Love

[10] If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: [11] For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Love that God despises- worldliness

We have seen the corruption of truth as John speaks about it.  Now we will notice the Corruption of Love.  First consider with me a slight detour: there is love that God despises!  There is love that God feels so strongly about, he hates it.  We hear love emphasized so much but rarely is it preached those things that God hates.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

The Greek word translated ‘enemy’ means to hate, as in a foe.  God so much despises this that he speaks strongly and makes it so clear that to choose and live this love is to make yourself an enemy to Jehovah.

So what love does God despise?  The love of the world.  To love this world is to identify yourself with something that is anti-God.

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. [17] And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

What is the world? It is not the physical planet.  It is not the people living on the planet.  It is that spiritual power that rules this earth, the ideology that seeks to control everything upon this earth.  As John references it, the world is that system in place to blatantly defy and stand against God.

Two can not coexist. A person can not love God and love this world.  It is impossible John says.  If the love of the world is in a person, then the love of the Father will not be in them.

Love with no spiritual convictions.

Love of the world is Corrupted Love.  But John also speaks in our text to a love that is Corrupted.  [10] If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: [11] For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

It seems this woman John is writing to would entertain and care for traveling preachers.  The key to everything John says in this verse is that phrase – ‘and bring not this doctrine’.  If these preachers do not hold to the truth that Christ came in the flesh, into this world, then avoid them.

Unfortunately this is where we find love corrupted so frequently today.  Believers who have long ago accepted what they hear about love and have no concept that what they are loving is truly opposed to God.  Another form of corrupted love is love absent conviction.  Church, there are some things we should completely avoid and we must exercise enough personal conviction to take a stand.

Illustration:  (sports)

Growing up I played baseball, pretty much through all of the levels city leagues where we lived.  I enjoyed playing baseball, regardless of whether I was very good, I enjoyed it.  My parents enjoyed it on some level, and my Dad as a pastor could meet and get to know people.  However, around my freshman year we reached a breaking point.  Practices continued to conflict more and more with church services, and the head coach of our team was using profanity prolifically.  My Father had enough and went to him privately and I stepped away from the team.  Some would say that was not very loving…  I submit to you that love absent convictions is no longer love.  For my Father it was a conviction- when the church doors are open, we will be at church.  It was a conviction- uncontrolled profanity is something that is not good for my child. 

Application:

How do I know if something I love is outside of truth?

  • Does it provoke others to glorify God?
  • Does it give legitimacy to a false teacher?
  • Does it violate the instructions Christ has given to His church?
  • Does it require a wife to step out from under the authority of her husband?
  • Does it cause a fellow believer to stumble?
  • Does it conflict in any way with sound doctrine?

Love / Doctrine

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Message #1

Text: II John 1:1-13

Intro:

2 John 1:1-13  The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; [2] For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. [3] Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. [4] I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. [5] And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. [6] And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. [7] For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. [8] Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. [9] Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. [10] If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: [11] For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. [12] Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. [13] The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen. …

I. The Truth Lecture v. 1-4

In the truth…

The umbrella concept: truth is like a large umbrella. A physical umbrella is large and encompassing, shielding, and protecting a person from a harsh environment.  Truth is much like an umbrella as it is the realm in which the Christian is intended to function, it shields and encompasses the believer from the harsh environment of this world.

David wrote…  Psalm 86:11 Teach me thy way, O Lord ; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

What is truth?

* God created this universe in six literal days, he breathed it all into existence.

* man chose to rebel against God, introducing sin into the world.

* The Son of God willingly entered this world, to pay for our sin debt.

* Jesus Christ shed his blood and laid down his life so that you could spend eternity in the presence of God.

* Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave.

* He promised to return one day, and left the Comforter with us on this earth.

* the Holy Spirit resides within every person who believes and submits themselves before God.

* Salvation is freely available to all who will call upon him.

* Christ established the church upon himself, it joins two other institutions established by God- the family and government.

* Christ left a task to his followers to spread the good news about salvation to all people groups.

* the responsibility of every believer is to read God’s Word, know it, and live it each day.

* it is our joy to anticipate his soon return

With an umbrella there are those within its scope and there are those outside of it. Much the same it is with truth, many operate their lives completely independent of truth. In our postmodern world truth is a relative concept.

Know the truth…

The end of verse one shows us that a person must know truth. Not merely an intellectual knowledge but more than that, a relationship! God desires for you to have a relationship…

1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

John 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Because of truth…

John says that he is able to love this woman because of truth. Truth makes possible for God’s children to love one another.

Truth and love…

Verse three could be worded- Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, in truth and love, from God the Father…. John shows us that truth and love make possible for grace, mercy, and peace to be present.  When grace, mercy, and peace no longer characterize a church family, most likely truth has been compromised.

Walk in truth…

John states to this woman that he has found some of her children still walking faithfully in truth. It appears this testimony was not true of all her children. Some were faithfully living and conducting themselves under that umbrella of truth, others were not.  Walking in truth should be the aim of every believer- studying God’s truth, the Bible, listening to the Spirit of truth, and living as truth tells us to live.

Some writers look at truth and love this way: truth is filter by which we assess all matters of intellect. By the filter of truth we perceive the events, issues, and challenges that come our way in this life.

Example:  continually before us in our culture is the issue of abortion.  Now the culture frames the perspective on abortion as – ‘it is the choice of a woman’.  But truth says – all human life is the work of God, and the end of human life is a work God reserves only to himself. 

Truth must be the filter through which we assess the matters of life.

Truth is the filter through which we assess the matters of intellect.  These writers also say that love is the filter through which we gauge all matters of emotion.  By the filter of love we can Biblically live together in marriage, serve in the church body, and even love our enemies.

But we must remember that love must function within the umbrella of truth.  John said in verse one that he loved this woman in truth.  Outside of truth, love ceases to be what the Bible commands.

II. The Love Lecture v.5-6

[5] And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. [6] And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

No new commandment

John is not speaking something new or profound, he is simply reminding them of that great commandment given by Christ.

John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. [35] By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. …

Ephesians 5:1-2  Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; [2] And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Love is walking in obedience to Him.

John continues to expound on the subject of love by stating that walking in love is obedience to God.

Romans 13:8  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Yes, it is obedience in the sense of the great command of how to treat others.  But even more importantly, love is walking on obedience because it functions and stays within the umbrella of truth.  As John said it we walk after his commandments.  Commandments plural, the truth of God, absolute truth, love is only love within the confines of truth.

Summary:

* Truth is the umbrella under which all of the Christian life is operated. 

* Truth is the filter through which we assess all matters of intellect. Love is the filter through which we assess all matters of emotion.

* When love is removed from under the umbrella of truth, it ceases to be Biblical love. 

* Love that is not within truth, no longer reflects the love of God. 

III. The Application

Is it possible to divorce love from truth? NO.

If a person’s truth is opposed to God’s truth, then love will be corrupt.

Illustration #1-  (Lauren Daigle and Ellen)  Recently I read that the Christian singer Lauren Daigle appeared and performed on the Ellen talk show.  The singer was praised by many Christians and pastors for carrying the light into that environment and being a witness for Christ.  I disagree- and I want to tell you why.  To go into the extremely un-Biblical environment of the Ellen show and emphasize love is inconsistent with II John 1-6, because that environment is openly hostile to God and truth!  Furthermore, by appearing there a Christian runs the risk of giving credence to the teachings of a false teacher.  What false teacher?  Ellen.  Ellen is much like Oprah, a few very good attributes that the world considers noble but really she encourages the worship of a false god.  She advocates for redefining what God calls a family, what God calls gender, etc.  She brings people to worship at the altar of human reasoning.

 Illustration #2-   (John Lindell). John Lindell is the pastor of James River Church.  I do not agree doctrinally with that church in every point.  Recently, he preached and encouraged his congregation to completely avoid and all types of yoga.  Then he gave a series of very valid Biblical reasons for his position.  Many have since called him out and their cry is of course hypocrite.  This recent event I believe illustrates our text today so well.  Yoga is clearly a pagan form of worship.  Its roots and even basic teachings are a part of Hinduism.  To participate in Yoga or something diametrically opposed to God is to go outside of the umbrella of truth.  To love something so opposed to Scripture is to step out from under the covering of truth.  Is Lindell being a hypocrite?  No.  It is the task of a pastor to speak Biblical truth to the flock.

Conclusion: 

* Knowing Biblical truth is so important!  

* Understanding Biblical love is vital!

 

Fair and Appropriate

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Is God’s way fair?  This message continues our study the Soul Who Sins, from Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18:21-32   [21] But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. [22] All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. [23] Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God : and not that he should return from his ways, and live? [24] But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. [25] Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? [26] When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. [27] Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. [28] Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. [29] Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? [30] Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God . Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. [31] Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? [32] For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God : wherefore turn yourselves , and live ye.

 

I. The Delusion of Inequality

In verse 25 and 29, God speaks to the hearts and mindset of his people. They were saying- …the way of the Lord is not equal…

 Feelings of Inequality

This delusion is not a foreign concept to us.  Many today express thoughts of inequality-

* why does God allow the wicked to prosper?

* why do bad things happen to good people?

* why does it seem like my life is so hard?

* why does God allow ugly things like racism?

This delusion is quite common.  Ironically, human beings despite all of our flaws, weaknesses, and limitations seem to think that we are capable of assessing the works and character of God.  Somehow the created think they can sit in judgment of their Creator.  This is truly one of the most disturbing parts of this condition of the Jews.

Participants in the Delusion.

The participants in this delusion was the Jews.  Who were the Jews?  Well they were suppose to be God’s chosen people.  Out of all the people groups on the earth, they were intended to be the group set apart for His glory!  Sadly, they were not living out their purpose, in fact they were far from it.

More specifically, the participants in this delusion were Jews in rebellion towards God.  Do you hear that?   They were actively in rebellion towards Jehovah.  They ignored God’s laws and lived how they wanted to.

Notice, as is often the case, those who participated in this delusion were those in a state of obstinate rebellion towards God.  Mark my words, when we choose to rebel against God, it will lead down a path towards doubts about God.  The people who were questioning the character of God, were the very people who willfully chose not to obey him, not to live for him, and not to submit to him.

 

II. Truths to Recognize during Delusion

Remember God is always perfectly Holy.  My hearts desire today is to remind you of a few vital truths, especially if you find yourself doubting or wondering about God and his work in your life.  First of all remember God is always perfectly Holy!  Holy means God is absolutely clean, perfect, without spot or blemish.  There is no wrong, no corruption at all in God.  He has always been Holy, and he will never cease to be Holy.

The holiness of God does not change!   Believers you can rest in that today.  Like Job, who lost almost everything he had, we may not understand the way God is working, but we can trust in the midst of it all that God is still Holy!

Remember you are a child of God.  Secondly, remember that you are a child of God!  If you know him as your personal Savior, then Scripture says you are his child.

Romans 8:16  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:…

I John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

These Jews listening to Ezekiel had forgotten or wanted to ignore the fact that they were God’s chosen people.  God was dealing with them in a way that was perfectly right because they were his people.

Likewise, God is fair because he works in your life in the perfectly appropriate way because you are his adopted child. 

Remember your flesh will strive against God.

Proverbs 19:3 – The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.

Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, said the foolishness of man and the heart of man are against the Lord.  The natural condition, the flesh, the old man is naturally opposed to God.  In a believer, there is a new man and old man in a constant struggle within to determine the choices that will be made.

Romans 7:18-19  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. …

Remember you are being molded like Christ.

For those who have made Jesus the Lord of your life, remember you are continually being molded into the image of Christ.  The New Testament speaks of it much like a carpenter with a chisel, God is regularly chiseling away those parts and pieces of us that do not resemble his Son.

This is a lifelong process and it’s a process that may be painful at times.  As believers we often look at those around us in the world- we see the wicked seem to prosper, the righteous appear to suffer, and we wonder how it is fair…

So, in our human minds does it all seem fair?  Well no, it probably doesn’t.  But that doesn’t change the truth that God’s way is perfect!

God is accomplishing a different plan with your life.  He is working towards a different goal with you than those neighbors around you! His purpose for the difficulties and situations in your life is significantly different than in the lost world! 

So, is God’s way fair? Yes, yes, yes.  Because God is shaping you into the image of his Son!

Is God’s way fair?  Yes.  Does it always seem fair to us?  No.   More importantly it should be said that God’s way is appropriate!  He knows you in a personal way and he always works his plan in your life in a way that is sovereignly appropriate.

 

III. Where to go after Delusion

Repent and Turn

[30] Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God . Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

Ezekiel says the first step that must be taken in leaving this delusion is to repent.  The concept of this word is to make a 180 degree turn.  To repent is to recognize the error of our way and to turn completely around and run the opposite way.

Why?  Because these Jews were in a rebellious way, going away from God.  Repentance is when we turn completely and go towards him.

Cast Away

[31] Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Cast away means to set aside, put down those transgressions, leave them there, and then turn and go towards God.

Make a new heart and spirit

Lastly, Ezekiel says a person must make a new heart and new spirit.  There must be a new nature put in place.  A willful choice must be made to walk in genuine faith in God.

This choice is made to today by submitting ourselves to Christ, confessing our sinful condition to him, and asking him to be Lord in our life.

Where do we go from this delusion?  We must begin a life of genuine faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

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The Victim Delusion

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Text: Ezekiel 18:5-17

Sermon-in-a-sentence: The victim delusion will cause you to lose sight of your identity.

Intro-

Ezekiel 18:5-17 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, [6] And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, [7] And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; [8] He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, [9] Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God . [10] If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things , [11] And that doeth not any of those duties , but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife, [12] Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, [13] Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. [14] Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, [15] That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife, [16] Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, [17] That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. …

 

Introductory Comments:

* we are all victims-   Truth be told we are all victims.  Victims of other’s words, actions or attitudes.  Victims of the evil of this world, and evil people.  Some are truly victims of heinous acts like murder, slavery, rape, human trafficking, etc…

* the Jews had embraced this delusion-  when I say they had embraced it, I mean they took it hook, line, and sinker.  They viewed themselves not just as victims, but as victims of God’s judgment upon their fathers.  As we said last week these Israelites looked at their present condition under the judgment of God and they blamed their forefathers.  There was no personal responsibility taken, they simply considered themselves the victims.  So as victims they just lived how they wanted to live.  (If God is going punish us for what our grandparents did, then why should we bother with living how God says to live)

* our culture likewise is engulfed in this delusion-   Everyone it seems today is a victim.  Somehow though the term victim has evolved greatly in our culture.  Several generations ago, a victim was someone who suffered some form of physical injury because of physical aggression.  Now days a victim is one who suffers physical injury, verbal injury, economic injury, emotional injury, and I’m pretty sure before long it will include even thoughts.

* this delusion seems to control the narrative in our culture today-  the platform from which most social discussion proceeds seems to be this platform of a victim.  If you don’t have a victim story, then don’t even speak.

On the show, The Voice, it seems every new contestant has a story, a story meant by producers to stir up your sympathy, and usually it is the story of a victim.  Victims to disease, divorce, tragedy, alcohol, etc…. Some of the stories emphasize the concept of ‘overcoming’ but still they are rooted in the basis of being a victim.

 

I. Analysis of a Victim: Character

Delusion says you are a ‘victim’.   A delusion is a consuming, overwhelming condition of the mind.  A thought that engulfs the mind, emotions, and will. Because of its consuming nature everything in life is affected-  including words, actions, and choices.

David Koresh… for those of you who recall the events in 1993, a man named David Koresh, which was not his birth name, led the members of his cult into a showdown with the FBI.  The confrontation ended with some 80 cult members dead and the loss of several FBI officers.  David Koresh was a deluded man, who believed himself to be Christ. 

 The delusion we are speaking about today is this one embraced by the Jews of Ezekiel’s time and like any delusion it caused them to not even recognize their own character.

God says you are a sinner.

1 Timothy 1:15  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 James 4:8  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

 God says something very specific about our character, he says we are sinners!  Paul called himself the chief of sinners.  Scripture says we are sinners, we come into this world as sinners, we live as sinners, and we will die as sinners.  The question is are you a saved sinner or a lost sinner?   Have you accepted the forgiveness that Christ offers for sin?  Or are you lost, wandering through this life on the road toward an eternity apart from Christ?

Let me tell you this morning, there is an indicator of delusion, something that should cause us to sit up and pay attention. When believers refuse to even acknowledge their own sinful condition, there is a delusion!

The Word of God says we are all sinners, no matter how much I love you, I have to remind you that you are a sinner.  Sadly, believers seem shocked when they go to the preacher and he reminds them of that Biblical truth.

 

II. Analysis of a Victim: Identity

Delusion says you are a ‘victim’.  As I said before, everything gets lost in this delusion of a victim, character is forgotten about, also identity seems to be forgotten as well.  In this delusion everything is swallowed up in that one concept of being a victim, to the point of even forgetting what God says about us.  There is no identity outside of being a victim.

Like most lies the devil tells, if it is embraced it will consume your mind, energy, and life!

God says you are adopted into his family. You are a child of God!

Romans 8:14-16  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. [15] For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. [16] The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:…

Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

You are a child of God!  You are washed in the blood of Christ!  You have an eternal home in the presence of God!  Your sins are forgiven!  Your eternal destiny is sealed!  The Comforter resides within you! You have the promises of God to rest upon!  You have the Word of God in your hands!  Every week you can gather in worship and fellowship with your church family!

What is your identity?  Scripture says that if you know him as your Savior, you are an adopted child of God.  How sad it is when believers so willingly trade their identity in Christ for this victim delusion. 

 

III. Analysis of a Victim:  Duty

Delusion says you are a ‘victim’.  This victim delusion is so consuming that believers lose sight of their identity in Christ, and with that forget the duty we have as children of God.  To embrace this delusion will make you less and less effective in your work for Christ.

There are several components to our duty before God.

God says your duty is to

2 Peter 3:18  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

1 Peter 2:2  As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

God says your duty is to

Hebrews 12:28  Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

God says your duty is to

Ephesians 4:32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

This is perhaps the most difficult duty at times for believers.  To truly forgive as Christ has forgiven us is a beautiful act.  We may skip over it but there are significant spiritual truths in God’s Word concerning forgivenesses.

  • Refusal to forgive will stunt spiritual growth.
  • Forgiveness is one of the ways we imitate Christ.
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting.
  • Forgiveness is an active choice each day to not remember the offense.

 

Conclusion:

The Jews in Ezekiel’s time had become consumed with this delusion.  They had used it as a license to sin, and they blamed God for it all.

Believers have you accepted this delusion that Satan has extended to you?  Is your mind consumed with being a victim?  Have you lost sight of your identity in Christ, your character as God sees it, and your duty to Christ?

Soul Winning 101

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John 4:1  When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4 ¶ And he must needs go through Samaria. 5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12  Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

 

Our Rationale for Soul Winning:

Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls. –Spurgeon

The Prince of Preachers put it so well, we should witness and win souls to Christ because that is our chief means of glorifying God.  Yes we gather in worship, we give financially, and we may even serve faithfully in the Lord’s house, but the primary way we glorify God is by winning others to faith in Him.

The Gospel is not something we come to church to hear, it’s something we go from church to tell.  – Vance Havner

The Gospel by its very nature is not something to be held in secret and whispered about, but rather it is a message!   It is good news!  It is meant to be shared and spoken to others!   As believers we come to church, or should, with the intention of being encouraged and strengthened to go out and faithfully speak the message to those we come in contact with each day.

When the message is hid:

The church dies, the Spirit is quenched, personal growth is stifled, God is grieved,  the Devil is pleased

When the message is proclaimed:

The church thrives, the Spirit move, personal growth is occurring, God is pleased, the Devil is enraged

Believers, we must win souls!   It is the plan Jesus put into place before his ascension.  You and I telling others the good news and leading them to a place of decision.  There is no plan B!  No plan C.  Jesus established the perfect plan, his choice plan and it is dependent upon you and I being faithful witnesses.

 

 I. Christ Revealed 

25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

Any discussion of soul winning, should not fail to mention the major concept that we see in verses 25-26.  This account with the woman at the well points out to us the two main parts to the process of soul winning.  Those two big parts are this:  obedience & the Holy Spirit!

Now we often zero in on the human part of soul winning, leaving the work of the Holy Spirit to take a back seat in our study.  But church, I submit to you the Holy Spirit, and his work is truthfully where we should begin this study of soul winning.  The work of the Holy Spirit is integral in the act of witnessing!  His work cannot be imitated by preachers, it cannot be duplicated by tv evangelists, and it cannot be replaced by man’s best efforts.

Let’s notice this morning the work of the Holy Spirit in the process of witnessing:

Revealing Christ: first of all it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to the heart and mind of a lost person. You and I can give testimony, we can quote Scripture, we can even appeal to a person’s emotions, but we cannot perform this particular work of the Spirit.  What do we mean by revealing Christ?   We mean that sincere work in a lost person’s heart that brings them to the moment of genuinely recognizing their sinful condition and love that is offered by the Son of God to all who will but accept his gift.  This revealing of Christ can’t be graphed on a page, it can’t be illustrated with charts, and it can’t be seen by our human eyes, but it is the most integral part of the soul winning process.

The Call: it is the work of the Holy Spirit to extend that personal call in a lost person’s heart.

Romans 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

1Co 1:1 ¶ Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Means of Regeneration: the Holy Spirit is likewise the means through which regeneration takes place in a person’s heart.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

The Means of Conviction: the Holy Spirit is also the means by which conviction occurs in person’s heart. Notice it with me in John 16:

John 16:7  Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

The Greek word translated ‘reprove’ is that concept of conviction.  Ryrie does a good job defining the concept of conviction:   It is convincing or refuting an opponent so that he has the matter set before him in a clear light whether he accepts or rejects the evidence. 

Conviction is that inner work that occurs in a person’s heart, bringing to light their true condition before God, making it undeniable before them, whether or not they choose to accept the truth.

We should not fail to point out that conviction occurs both in saved and lost individuals.  Through conviction the Holy Spirit makes clear a lost person’s need for the Savior, and in a believer he makes plain the condition of the relationship between the believer and God.

Lastly, conviction is accomplished in several different ways:

* the Spirit speaking directly to a man’s conscience.

* the Spirit speaking through the written Word (Bible).

* the Spirit speaking through the spoken Word (preaching, testimony).

But whether or not  people are involved in affecting this ministry of conviction, if conviction comes to an individual the Spirit must do it. We readily acknowledge that regeneration is the work of the Spirit, but we sometimes let ourselves think that our clever or convincing presentations can convict.  Not so. God must do even that.  -Ryrie

 

II. Preparation

6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.   

We should notice from the text that Christ was tired, he was physically worn out after their journey.  (Which is no surprise considering that Scripture indicates Christ almost always walked his journey, rarely using any other form of transportation)   However, despite the tiredness of his flesh he was prepared and ready to witness to the Samaritan woman.  Much like Christ we need to be ready to win souls at any time, but there are going to be those things that hinder us if we are prepared:

* physical tiredness

* physical pain

* mental exhaustion

* doubts and uncertainty

 

What steps can we take to be prepared?

Prepare our mind!

Although I have shared Christ personally with many thousands of people through the years, I am a rather reserved person and I do not always find it easy to witness.  But I have made this my practice, and I urge you to do the same:  Assume that whenever you are alone with another person for more than a few moments, you are there by divine appointment to explain to that person the love and forgiveness he can know through faith in Jesus Christ. – Bill Bright

I love this quote by Bright because it sums up so well this necessary preparation we must take as believers.  To witness effectively, we must have our mind prepared.  There is both wrong and right thinking, and far too often we let the wrong thinking invade our minds.  We must see witnessing as Christ saw it-  witnessing was a literally a divine appointment with God!   Now, in the case of Christ, that is absolutely the case, but often we treat our conversations flippantly.  To prepare our minds we must see our witnessing opportunities as an appointment arranged by God, every single opportunity.  Believers, it is a divine appointment because we have no guarantee of tomorrow.  That person you share Christ with may not even finish the day on this earth, and in his great wisdom God has arranged for you to cross paths and have a conversation.  Don’t ever take lightly the conversations, the appointments that God arranges!

Secondly, we should prepare our minds by remembering that in no way is this process about us.  It is all about Him, and about a lost soul that he cares about deeply.

I’m just a nobody telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody. – anonymous

 

Prepare our lives!

This is likewise a vital piece in the preparation process.  The question we should ask ourselves is this-   Is there anything in my life that would hinder this person from accepting Christ as their Savior? 

Is there a spirit about me that does harm to the message I am speaking?  Is there an attitude, a sin, a defiant spirit that distracts from the Gospel message…

 

Prepare with prayer!

God places unplanned opportunities in our path, and there are also those times of witnessing that we sense are coming.  The question is how much time do we truly invest in prayer concerning these lost souls?

When is the last time that you let God so deeply burden your heart about a lost person, that you wept over them and you prayed daily for them?  Prayer is the strength of the Christian and it is essential in the process of witnessing.

 

Prepare with fasting!  

Lastly, this is probably the last preparation we ever involve ourselves in, but it is the preparation we see modeled by Christ in his ministry.  Christ prepared himself for significant moments and significant work, but submitting himself to fasting.  When has lost souls so burdened you that you prepared yourself by abstaining from food?

This is just my opinion, but I wholly believe it, the Christian who is willing to fast over a lost soul is the Christian serious about seeing God do a life-changing work in the heart of a person.