Jesus said we are wrong when we try to find a cause and effect reason for every person who has a disability or is suffering.
What’s that in your hand today? Is it a rock and you find yourself being obsessed with a sense of always being cynical and hypercritical? You can’t have an open hand of grace as long as you’re holding on to a rock in your fist. The message the Holy Spirit has for some of you today is to drop your rocks.
Are you willing to leave your comfort zone to trust God completely? God didn’t save you to make your comfortable, but you make you obedient. You’ll never go on a mission trip is you’re not willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start tithing until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start travailing in prayer until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never vocally share your faith with others until you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never volunteer to serve the Lord if you aren’t willing to leave your comfort zone.
Drifting is something that happens slowly and gradually. But here’s the truth about spiritual drifting: You never drift toward holiness, you drift toward ungodliness. You never drift into faithfulness, you drift toward faithlessness; you never drift toward goodness, you drift toward wickedness.
There are some Christians who believe you can lose your salvation. They think there is something a Christian can do that would cause them to longer be a child of God. We believe there’s nothing we can do to become a child of God, so there’s nothing you can do to lose that position. Once God has placed you into His family by a new birth, no one or nothing can cause you to lose your relationship with Him. You don’t have to work to keep your salvation; He is keeping you.
What is the unforgivable sin? Let me tell you what it is NOT. It is not murder. Moses was a murderer and he’ll be in heaven. It is not adultery. King David committed adultery and God forgave him. It is not divorce. The woman at the well had multiple divorces and she was forgiven. It is not suicide. Although the Catholic Church teaches suicide is an unforgivable sin, you don’t find it in the Bible. Suicide is self-murder and it is no different from homicide—both are forgivable. If you think a person who commits suicide can’t repent of that sin because they’re dead and that’s your attitude, then you don’t understand salvation. Once you are a Christian, you don’t have to confess every single sin you commit in order to go to heaven. We confess our sins to stay in fellowship with God, but when you surrender your life to Christ, every past sin you’ve committed and every future sin you will ever commit is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
There is a deep-seated need in the human heart to seek forgiveness. For those of us who know Christ, we find our forgiveness in God’s amazing grace. But what about the millions of people who claim to have no relationship with Jesus? They are still desperately seeking ways to find forgiveness and to unload their sense of guilt. Because of this need to confess and seek forgiveness, there are a number of “apology websites” in cyberspace where guilty people can go and anonymously confess their sins.
From the beginning of the beginning of the beginning, God the Father and God the Son had been co-equal and co-existent. They communed together in a relationship which Jesus described as “I and the Father are ONE.” But for those few hours in which Jesus became sin for us, that bond was somehow broken. Did you notice Jesus addressed God with the title, “God?” Every other time Jesus spoke to God He called Him, “Abba” which means “Father” or “Daddy.” The first word from the Cross was “Father, forgive them.” The last word from the cross was “Father, into your hands…” But at this central moment of His suffering, Jesus called God, “Eloi” or simply “God.” My two daughters have always called me “Daddy.” This cry of Jesus would be like one of my daughters calling me Mr. Dykes.
In some ways, we’re like Lazarus. He was saved, but he still stunk. He was rescued but he was still reeking. He was energized, but he was still entrapped. He had life, but he wasn’t liberated. Jesus could have exercised His divine power and Poof! The grave clothes would have disappeared miraculously. But I think He wanted to involve the other people in what He was doing. Fortunately, there were people there who cared enough to get their hands dirty and obey the words of Jesus and help Lazarus remove those old grave clothes. And I’m quite certain there was someone standing by who quickly found a clean garment to put around Lazarus as well.
In this age of computing, we have generated a new word: Multitasking. That means while you are working on one particular task, your computer can be working on two or three other processes simultaneously. You may think that’s neat, but God is the original Multitasker. He can ignite the mighty sun in the sky to hold the planets in orbit, and He can use that same sun to ripen your tomatoes as if He had nothing else to do. As I began to study this passage I realized there were several divine tasks occurring simultaneously at the Cross of Jesus. At the same moment Jesus Christ was being nailed to the cross, God was also nailing three other things to the cross.
You may think your sin only affects your life, but it always affects others. Your sins are like a pebble dropped in a pool of water–the ripples always spread out and touch those around you. Because of Achan’s sin, 36 soldiers died. Because of Achan’s sin, his entire family died. Sometimes people try to justify sin by saying, “It’s my life, as long as what I’m doing doesn’t hurt anybody else what’s wrong with it?” The problem with that is that none of us lives in a vacuum. We are connected to other people and our sins always hurt those we love.
A pig returns to its mud because it is the nature of a pig to love mud. Don’t be surprised when you see some people start attending church, and seem to clean up their lives, only to go running back into the same old filthy, sinful lifestyle. Their nature was never changed. A counterfeit Christian is like that old pig. The lesson of the prodigal pig is this: You can clean a person up on the outside, but unless their inner nature is changed, they will always return to sin.
Imagine the shock of bearing all our sins to Jesus’ entire system—a sinless, holy man being defiled with the humiliation of every murder, rape, robbery, and lie every committed. It was the foul rottenness polluting His pure personality that killed Him—not the nails. Have you ever seen the significance in the fact that Jesus only survived the cross for six hours? It was common for crucified men to linger for many days before they died. The two criminals crucified with Jesus had their knees broken so they would die, but Jesus was already dead. If you were filling out a death certificate for Jesus and it asked for the cause of death, don’t write “crucifixion.” Don’t write “Roman Execution.” The true cause of death was carrying our sins. The strain of carrying that load overwhelmed His entire system and that’s what killed him.
Over 90 percent of Americans claim to believe in God—but what kind of God do they trust? For some, He is the nice, neat God they salute for an hour a week and then live the rest of their lives as if He doesn’t exist. For others, their religious rules and rituals have become a substitute for knowing God. Jesus Christ visited planet earth 2,000 years ago to teach what God is really like. In the parable of the tenants, He reveals four foundational aspects of the nature of God. You may be shocked to learn the truth!
Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion–it is a choice. It is your decision not to want to punish that person for what they’ve done to you. Our forgiveness should be a reflection of the forgiveness God offers us. He places our sins behind our back and remembers them no longer. If you actively choose to continue to remember what that person has done to you, you haven’t truly forgiven them.
When God forgives us, He doesn’t keep bringing up our sin–but the devil keeps trying to make us aware of our own sin and the sins others have committed against us. That’s why the Bible calls him the accuser of the brothers.
Through the years, I’ve known hundreds of Prodigals. They are teenagers and adults who had a loving relationship with God, but they allowed restlessness and reckless living to enter their lives. They walked away from God’s blessings and they ended up a mess. Some of them are still there, others have come back home to their Father. That’s the good news: you can come back home. You don’t have to wait until you reach the pig pen either. At any time, you can decide to return to the blessing and fellowship with your Heavenly Father…If you have wandered away from God and allowed sin to take control of your life, it’s not hopeless.
There’s nothing funny about sin. It’s sad to see people who ignore their beams and look only at the faults of others. That’s why we must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, so we can confess our sin–but it is a beautiful sight to see someone with a clear eye gently and lovingly helping someone remove a speck from his or her eye.
Before Levi started following Jesus, his life revolved around his job. He was going to make a boatload of money because he was fixed for life in this lucrative occupation. When Jesus called him, he had to choose whether his life would revolve around making money or around pleasing and obeying Jesus. Let me ask you today: What or who is at the center of your life?
In the Bible, leprosy is often used as a symbol for sin. While none of us have the disease of leprosy, we have been afflicted with a terrible malady worse than leprosy–a sin sickness. I believe there is a remarkable parallel between leprosy and sin. Four ways in which leprosy and sin are alike.
Some people wonder why Jesus even allowed the old devil to tempt Him. Didn’t Jesus have power and authority to banish Satan from His presence? I believe He did. Just as Jesus cast out a thousand demons from one man, I think Jesus could have kicked Satan right out of the desert too. Why then, did He endure this temptation? I believe He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation. Just as He refused to call on His Divine Authority to turn the stones into bread, I believe He refused to zap Satan. Instead He met him and defeated him with exactly the same resources we have available today: The Power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. That’s why Jesus quoted three verses from Deuteronomy. To show us how to do it.
Repentance before God is one of the most frequently recurring messages in all the Bible. No less than 969 times, God thundered, “Repent!” It was the first message Jesus preached. Matthew 4:17 says, “Jesus Christ came preaching, ‘Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” The last message Jesus left with the church was a message of repentance. Some people think the Great Commission was His last message to the church, but almost 60 years after Jesus gave the Great Commission He gave this message to the church in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent!”
We are going to find that this “unconquerable” nation, God’s people–the people with whom he had established a covenant –is going to fall. You’d think God would sooner fall from the heavens above than for these nations to fall. Not so, because these nations collapsed and fell. Actually, it is the fall of TWO unconquerable nations and then we’re going to draw some parallels between them and the United States of America.
Sometimes people are so content, they just get into a spiritual rut, where nothing ever changes. A rut is nothing but a grave with both ends kicked out. God is trying to say to every one of us today, “Hey, wake up! The alarm has gone off.” I know that part of the problem is with us preachers. There is so much Sermonic Sominex dispensed in churches today, it lulls people to sleep. Today, God is trying to say to Green Acres Baptist Church, “Wake up from your apathy.”
The Apostle Paul said if you take all of the suffering you’ve ever endured in this life, it is like a drop in the bucket compared to a vast, deep ocean of glory that’s going to come. And so today, we’re going to look into the future and talk about the future glory. Paul will give us three examples of why we ought to have hope and the words drawing these three together is the word “groan.” First of all, he talks about creation groaning, then he talks about how we groan, and in the third example the Bible says even the Holy Spirit groans in us in prayer.
Of course the story of Samson is a story you have heard all of your life. I don’t know about you, but I always used to picture Samson as some huge, built-up, bulked-up, he-man! I mean a guy that looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Incredible Hulk all put together. The more I studied the text, the more I am convinced he probably didn’t look like that at all, because the source of Samson’s strength was not his hair, the source of Samson’s strength was not his muscles, the source of Samson’s strength was the Holy Spirit of God, because of his commitment and his devotion. It is clear every time he did something requiring supernatural strength, it was the Spirit of God coming on him. A study of “the downward slope” of Samson’s spiritual decline.
We become accountable when we know we are choosing to sin. When we know it’s right or wrong, that’s when the law has come alive and that’s when as he says in Romans 7:9, “Sin springs to life and that person dies spiritually.” Parents often ask me, “How old is a child when they reach the age of accountability?” I can’t answer that because children develop at different stages, emotionally and spiritually, and this development is not always attached to a biological age. But it has been my observation most children reach that age around 7, 8, 9, 10, when they know what the rules are, but then they knowingly and willfully choose to break the rules. You’ve got to understand the Bible teaches we are sinners by nature from when we are born, but we also become sinners by choice when we choose to break the rules and that’s when we are held accountable.
You ask most people and they say, “living forever, existing forever.” The only thing wrong with that is that some of you are so miserable right now in your life the idea of existing as you’re existing right now forever– that’s eternal misery. No, eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is not how long it is, it’s how deep it is, how wonderful it is, how good it is. If you want to know what eternal life is, look at John 17:3 where Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life. That they may know you, the only true God, and know Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” What is eternal life? It is knowing God; it is knowing Jesus Christ.
A problem for a lot of people who name the name of Jesus as Christians is there hasn’t been a lot of growth in their Christian life. If I could have a timeline up here, there would be a point in time when you were B.C. (Before Christ) but then there was a point of conversion where you passed from death unto life. The problem a lot of Christians have is they don’t grow much beyond that point. There is no growth in grace, as the Bible calls it. They stay to close to the point of conversion.
Do you remember what happened to Adam when he sinned? He died immediately in his spirit, he died gradually in his soul, and he died ultimately in his body. Now, let me tell you what salvation is. It reverses it. Look at it. When you receive Jesus you receive life immediately in your spirit. Instantaneously, you are justified. Immediately, you receive life in your spirit.
Did you know it is possible to commit sin without even doing an act? Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So many people have trouble with that verse, because they realize it is possible to commit what we call “mental adultery,” or adultery in a person’s heart. The difference between a tempting thought and a sinful desire is you could look at somebody of the opposite sex and say that person is nice-looking, but if you entertain thoughts about entering into a sexual relationship with that person, you begin to fantasize it and visualize it, then you can step over the line and you can commit adultery in your heart with that person, but it all began with a tempting thought.
I’m going to say something that may shock you out of your socks: Jesus had to deal with homosexual temptation. How I can say that? It’s simple. Jesus dealt with every kind of temptation. He dealt with alcoholic temptation. Jesus dealt with the temptation to lie. According to Hebrews 4:15, Jesus is our high priest and he’s the high priest who was tempted with all of our weaknesses. It says, “He has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet without sin.”
The world began when God created the heavens and the earth. He created Adam then he created Eve. Perhaps you’ve heard the world’s shortest poem entitled, “Troubles” and the poem goes “Adam had ‘em.” That’s right. Adam had a lot of trouble. When sin entered his life, all the trouble began.
If you want to have the fruit of goodness, righteousness and truth in your life, the way to do it is get close to the light! Spend time next to the Light, because he is goodness he is righteousness he is truth. That’s why it’s important to have a quiet time. That’s why it’s very important every day for you to spend personal quality time with God in prayer and Bible study. That’s why you need to come to church and have a Bible study group to be a part of be involved in discipleship because you are exposing yourself to the light and the only way that you and I can shine out there in the darkness is if we stay close to the light who is Jesus.