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Sermon preached July 3, 2005, at Walnut Hill Baptist Church, Petersburg, VA

Hope for America

Psalm 33:12-22

Introduction

In 1453 the Turks conquered Constantinople and cut off commerce between the East and West. The Europeans could get along without their silks and jewels from the East, but their pampered palates missed the spices of Asia. One man believed it was possible to get to the spice islands of Indonesia by another sea route. He was a devout Christian who prayed that, if God would bless his efforts, he would convert every heathen on those islands. It took him 20 years to find a sponsor, but in 1492 he set sail under the flag of Spain with 3 small ships and 40 men to bring back the spices that would make Spain rich. On October 11, 1492, he sighted the islands of the Bahamas. Thinking he was in Indonesia, he called the inhabitants “Indians.” The name stuck and was later applied to all New World natives. To his dying day, Christopher Columbus believed God had allowed him to discover a new route to the Orient, and his unsinkable spirit became the model of hope and determination that motivates Americans today.

Just as Columbus celebrated and praised God when he landed in the American islands, King David wrote Psalm 33 for a great celebration of praise to God. In the first verses he called for all creation to use every instrument possible in a great hallelujah chorus. Then, beginning with verse 12, he proclaimed God’s response to the nation that praises him. On this first 4th of July weekend after the tragic events of 9-1-1, let us continue our celebration by remembering the prayers we offered to God last September and the promises we claimed from him. Those promises give “Hope for America.” That’s the title of this sermon. Follow in your Bibles as I read Psalm 33:12-22.

Our nation’s independence was declared in 1776, but it was not realized until several years and many battles later. On the night of April 27, 1777, a messenger came hastily to the Ludington farm in New York. Mr. Ludington was captain of the state militia. His depressing news said the British in a surprise attack had burned Danbury, Connecticut, and they were advancing on the countryside. Captain Ludington was needed to command the troops, but he had a 16 year old who volunteered to call the farmers to battle. Grabbing a big stick, young Ludington rode all night in a 40 mile circuit from farm to farm, banging on each fence and gate, calling the farmers out to fight. And, they came! Ludington mustered enough minutemen to send the British running back to their boats in defeat. Earlier, Paul Revere and 2 cohorts from Boston tried to do the same in 1775; but catastrophes befell them, and Revere was arrested in Lexington by the British before he had ridden 10 miles. One of America’s first unsung heros, therefore, was a 16 year old girl named Sybil Ludington! Longfellow chose to make Revere famous because he couldn’t rhyme Ludington!

They said it couldn’t be done: that democracy wouldn’t last. But, Americans like Sybil Ludington, compounded by the millions, have proven that with God’s help nothing is impossible. The poet expanded that which has been our national motto over the last 200 years with these words:

In God we trust with all our heart and soul;

In God we trust to reach our righteous goal.

Enshrined in Thee forever may we be.

Come what may, keep faith and pray:

In God we trust.

In God we trust wherever we may roam;

In God we trust to bless our land and home.

Thru all our days, we’ll always sing His praise.

Come what may, our hearts will pray:

In God we trust.

As long as that is our sincere prayer, there is hope for America! As we do what King David did in Psalm 33, perhaps this will be a time to reshape our values and redetermine our directions. David rejoiced in past blessings in verses 1-11. Then, he challenged his people in the present with verses 12-20. Verses 21-22 form his prayer for the future. Let me use his pattern to comment on America: past, present, and future.

I. AMERICA PAST

Just as the huge cables of a great suspension bridge are embedded in solid rock to withstand the strain, so our forefathers founded our nation upon the Rock of Ages. Just as the pilings were anchored to bedrock, so from the beginning the sovereignty of God was deeply rooted into the American spirit. From the purpose of Columbus, to the dedication of the Mayflower Compact, to our Declaration of Independence and Constitution and first presidents, our nation has acknowledged our dependence upon Almighty God. This is precident our courts would do well to remember!

Benjamin was born in 1731 near Baltimore. His grandmother taught him to read, and his Quaker schoolmaster taught him to depend upon God. Benjamin had a brilliant, inquisitive mind. As a teenager, using a knife as his only tool, he took apart an old watch to study its workings. Then, he carved larger parts entirely out of wood and created the first chiming clock made in America. A neighbor taught him the skills of surveying, and in 1790 our government hired him to assist Major Lafant in drawing up plans for a brand new city unlike any other in America. Benjamin watched and learned from everything the designer did. When Major Lafant, in a fit of rage, packed up all his plans and returned home to France, Benjamin asked God to help him redraw the plans from memory! Thus, a black surveyor, Benjamin Baniger, gave us our nation’s Capitol, Washington, D. C.

We have built, therefore, upon a foundation laid by men and women of all races and nationalities upon a great God. Our nation is great because our God is great! David said in our text, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” When the idea of independence was spreading across the colonies, Samuel Smith wrote new words to the British anthem, “God Save the King.” When British soldiers heard the familiar tune ringing from our churches, they thought the colonists were being loyal to England. In reality, they were singing:

My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty; of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

Our Father’s God to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light.

Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.

Nate was only 21 years old, but he’d been teaching school for 2 years; and he had advanced to Captain in the Long Island militia. He was a likeable young man with fair skin, piercing blue eyes, and blond hair. When General Washington needed someone to learn what the British were planning across the East River, Nate volunteered. Dressed like a Dutch schoolmaster, he ventured through the enemy lines, learned their plans, and started back with their battle tactics tucked inside his coat. In a surprise search at the border, the British found his documents and asked him if he were a spy. Nate knew a Christian must not lie; so he told them he was a spy for General Washington. The British sentenced him to hang the next day. As he stood there with the noose around his neck, the last words of Nathan Hale were: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country!” In so doing, he showed the world what Americans are made of.

II. AMERICA PRESENT

However, in America present we see a different story. No longer does God receive unanimous credit for our accomplishments, that is: until we have a great calamity like a world war or the attacks at Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center. Then, we are quick to ask, “Where was God in all this?”

God was in the heros from the New York fire departments and police squads who rushed into the falling buildings as everyone else was rushing out. God was in the volunteers who came from every state to help search through the rubble for survivors. Whether they outwardly claimed Jesus or not, their unselfish motivations of generosity and self-sacrifice originated with Jesus Christ; and they have been instilled in the laws and morals and citizens of our nation. We are the most generous nation on earth because of our Christian background! Our text says God looks from Heaven upon the sons of men and fashions their hearts. Verse 18 says, “The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy: to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.”

Todd Beamer was a passenger on United’s Flight 93 when it was high-jacked on September 11, 2001. Recovered cockpit tapes and cell phone recordings reveal that when the passengers were herded to the back of the aircraft, Todd slipped out his cell phone and called the GTE Customer Service Center in Oakbrook, IL. He told supervisor Lisa Jefferson what was happening and that the passengers were planning to jump the highjackers. “I don’t think we’re going to get out of this thing,” Todd said. “I’m going to have to go out on faith.” The Wheaton College graduate asked the operator to send word to his wife that he loved her. Upon learning that the supervisor was a Christian, Todd asked her to pray with him. Then, he left his phone on as he led the passengers in reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. Crying, “Jesus, help me!” Todd said his famous last words: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” The passengers overcame the highjackers but failed to regain control of the plane. Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field rather than into the Capitol or the White House which were its first and secondary targets.

Even when we did not know what was happening, as millions of television viewers were praying that morning during the attacks on New York and Washington, God was answering our prayers through the courage of a young Christian man who said, “I’m going to have to go out on faith…Jesus help me!” Just as God intervened in our battle for independence and in World Wars I and II to allow us to win over impossible odds; just as he intervened in the Presidential election of 2000 and gave us a Godly leader for these trying times, God will still bless those who say with Psalm 33:20, “Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and shield.”

III. AMERICA FUTURE

And, what will the future hold? Is there hope for America? What if the Supreme Court ruled that there are times when the Ten Commendments cannot be displayed on government property? God has already anticipated this and sent his response in Psalm 2. “Rulers take counsel together against the Lord….He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh….I will declare the decree.” God laughs when pitiful creatures take counsel against him, because he is still on the throne. And, his children can laugh also! The Almighty holds us in the tight grip of his right hand, and we are secure no matter if the sky falls and the ground sinks beneath our feet! Verse 21 of our text says, “Our heart shall rejoice in him because we have trusted in his holy name.”

An Air Force pilot climbed into his jet and flew off leaving the world far behind. High above the clouds, he began to hear a strange sound. It sounded like a rat gnawing through a crate of cheese. Looking down, he saw – just beyond his reach – a rat was, indeed, eating through the main wire to his control panel. His first instinct was to descend, land, and kill the rat. But, he was over the ocean. So, he put on his oxygen mask and pointed his jet upward. Higher and higher he went until he no longer heard the gnawing. The rat died for lack of oxygen!

When we, as individuals and Americans, face the rats that would gnaw through our peace and freedom, we must not go down and try to solve the problem ourselves. Our only sure defense is to go up higher to the One who sits on the Throne of the World. Let our hope be that recorded by David in verse 22, “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in Thee.”

Conclusion

Don’t become discouraged with what you see happening to America’s morals today. Discouragement never led anyone to do anything except give up! Instead, let your faith drive you higher and closer to God. View our future as an opportunity for God to show his great power and answer the prayers of his children. While giving the battle to th Lord, do all you can to restore the cables of our nation back into the Solid Rock from whence they are slipping. Remain faithful to him through his Word and prayer. Give yourself to God the best that you can and wait for him to show his power. There in lies our hope for America!

 

Sermon preached Father’s Day at Antioch Baptist Church, Yale, VA

The Prodigal Father

Luke 15:11-12

Introduction

Luke 15 gives us the parable we call “The Prodigal Son”, although the word “prodigal” isn’t in the parable. This is a lesson about the attitudes of two sons toward their father and each other. I know that in an allegorical sense the father in this parable represents God who loves each of us as his children and who grieves when we go astray. However, if you will allow me certain leeway in interpretation on this father’s day, I want to bring a secondary application by way of “The Prodigal Father.” This sermon really concerns our family relationships.

So, I’m not preaching an expository sermon as I usually do; rather, I point you to Luke 15, verses 11-12, which introduce the father in our story. Read those verses now.

How would you define “prodigal”? I thought I knew until I looked it up in the dictionary! When I think of prodigal, I think of the whole story of the son who left home and became repentant, then he returned home. I always thought a prodigal was a wayward child. However, that’s not what Webster says! The dictionary defines prodigal as one who is reckless, wasteful, or extravagant. By inference, then, a prodigal is one who has lost something by giving it up, throwing it away, or abandoning it. It’s that sense in which I want us to consider the prodigal father today. I call him a prodigal because he lost several important things.

1. He May Have Lost His Wife

Have you noticed in the old TV reruns like the Andy Griffith Show and a lot of the new family sitcoms that one of the parents is missing? Of course, the purpose of this is to allow more variety in scripting romances into the story lines. But, it’s also a sad commentary of our time when one-half of today’s marriages end in divorce. The strength of a nation is in its homes; when its homes disintegrate, the nation is in trouble!

We can imply by the absence of a wife or mother in this parable that the man had lost his wife. I say that because it was God who designed that a man should leave his father and mother and become one flesh within the bonds of holy matrimony. Now, that same God who came as the man, Jesus, told of a family where there is no mention of the wife. Therefore, it appears that the mother is no longer with the family.

So often, it’s the case that a man thinks all is going well. He has a good business, a nice house, a wife and children, respectability, and a reasonable amount of success and security. Then, without warning, he wakes up one day to find his wife is leaving him. Their relationship has changed, their love has grown cold, other things have come between them, and soon she is gone.

Or, perhaps the wife has to face what she would not dare let herself think: Her husband is seeing another woman. This is a tragic situation because God planned that a husband and wife should remain together as long as they both shall live. God wants that special love relationship to teach us about the eternal bond of Christ and his Church. “Whom, therefore, God has joined together”…no one, not even the individuals themselves, has the right to separate. That means the couple must do everything within their power to hold their marriage together. If the husband leaves, the wife should go with him! If the wife leaves, half of the man will be missing half of himself. In many ways he will be a prodigal husband.

What can we do to keep our marriages strong? Let me share some rules I found for a happy marriage:

1. Don’t be a dictator. Having a monarch in the home is a medieval concept.

2. Don’t be a mote-picker. If you constantly find fault with each other you will never have marital harmony.

3. Don’t be a battle-starter. Arguing and shouting at your partner is a mark of immaturity, and marriage is for adults only.

4. Don’t be a tale-bearer. Never reveal your partner’s faults to a friend.

5. Don’t be an iceberg. Don’t stop courting after the honeymoon.

6. Don’t be an abdicator. Never shirk your duties as a husband, wife, or parent. Abdicators are cowards who will not accept responsibility.

A wise old philosopher also gave these practical rules for a happy home:

Never both be angry at the same time.

Never talk at one another either alone or in a crowd.

Never speak loudly to one another unless the house is on fire.

Never fail to yield to the serious wishes of the other above your own desires.

Never taunt with past mistakes.

Never make a mean remark at the expense of the other.

Never meet without a loving welcome.

Never part without a good-bye kiss.

Never let the sun go down upon any grievance.

Never forget that marriage is ordained of God and only his Presence can cement your relationship permanently.

Let’s examine our marital relationships and give our mates the attention they need so we won’t be prodigal spouses.

2. He Lost His Possessions

A second reason I call him the prodigal father is because he lost his possessions. Our text tells us he divided his possession among his sons, and one of them squandered all he was given. This meant that money the father had worked for and saved was recklessly wasted. It must have been hard for him to realize that all those years of hard labor and sacrificing had been taken so lightly. Yet, we have a positive lesson here: The man never once asked his son about the money he had squandered on riotous living. You see, his son was more important than his money!

Jesus taught that life is more than food or clothing. There are other treasures you can lose which are more valuable than money. Jesus asked what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? If you’re not committed to Jesus as the Lord of every decision, you are in danger of losing your soul if you should die without Christ. The Bible warns of the trap our possessions can set: “If riches increase, don’t set your heart upon them.” It is God who made us and gives us the strength and mental power to get wealth.

Don’t lose your relationship with God, or you’ll be like the man who killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Once there was a man who had a goose that laid golden eggs. He was thrilled every day to find the goose had laid another golden egg. Then he got greedy and decided to cut the goose open so he could get all the golden eggs at once. Of course, when he killed the goose he didn’t find any more gold nor did he get any more eggs after that!

If in the process of accumulating money you lose everything else, what have you gained? Today it’s common to believe that a rich man is naturally a successful man. This is not always so. A millionaire who has lost his personal relationship with his family is a failure. You can’t afford to be a successful failure! But, the tragic thing about this is that it won’t be your wife or children who are lost, but you’ll be a prodigal father!

3. He Lost His Younger Son

Continuing on in our story, we see that the father also lost his younger son. We’re not told why the boy wanted to leave home. The father may have lost him by being too lenient and giving him everything he asked for. It’s one thing to be willing to give up our possessions for our children but another thing to substitute possessions for personal attention.

On the other hand, the father may have lost this son by being too harsh with him. We can do that when two children are completely different. The older son may have been more responsible so the father thought the younger son was lazy. In reality he may have had a learning difficulty or some other reason for appearing irresponsible.

The reformer, Martin Luther, could never begin a prayer with “Our Father” because his own father had been so stern with him he couldn’t think of God as being that way. Fathers, remember we paint our children’s first picture of God. Will our relationship help or hinder their knowing God personally one day? Colossians 3:21 warns, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That means don’t discourage them, but encourage them as they grow up to trust the Lord one day.

This means you don’t send your children to church, you take them with you. It means you don’t serve roast preacher for Sunday dinner, but you talk positively with your children about their worship experience. It means you reinforce your teachings by the way you live before them.

Another philosopher gave these good points for rearing our children:

1. Life isn’t what it used to be. There’s nothing more ridiculous than to tell them they can’t do something because you weren’t allowed to do it at their age. When my dad was a teenager he rode a mule; I rode a bicycle, but many teens today have their own cars! Times change and so must we.

2. Children have their own lives. A father who was an unfulfilled athlete pushed his son to play sports until one day the son cried, “I’ll never play football again!” You lived your life; allow your children the freedom to be themselves.

3. Remember that the purpose of discipline is not to inflict pain but to teach a positive lesson. The same Book that teaches us to use the rod of correction also says God chastises those whom he loves. Fathers, you are usually the disciplinarian. Give discipline wisely, for deserved offenses, and in proper measure to the degree of offense. If you drive your children away, they won’t be any more a prodigal child than you will be a prodigal father!

4. He Lost His Older Son

Again, I think this man was a prodigal father because he also lost his older son. He eventually gained his younger son back, and it appears that relationship was stronger than before. But, in the process, he lost his older son. The latter verses of this chapter tell us the older son refused to come into the father’s house when his younger brother was being honored. That shows that he was lost to his father even though he remained at home.

His father had failed to teach him love and forgiveness. Instead he had learned jealously, bitterness, and resentment based on pride that he wasn’t the one being honored. And, remember, the younger son was restored; but we’re never told if the older son ever came back into the house. Jesus left this story open-ended because that was the real point of the parable.

The first verses of Luke 15 say Jesus was telling this story to Pharisees and scribes who were murmuring about Jesus being friends with those they called sinners. Therefore, the main lesson Jesus wanted to get across really wasn’t about the younger son. The real prodigal here is the older son! Jesus wanted the Pharisees to see themselves as the older son who had lost the joy of their relationship with their Heavenly Father. They refused to rejoice when a straying brother came home.

Application

Adults, don’t be a prodigal. You don’t have to be if you will learn who you really are. If you don’t already know your six basic relationships in order of their priorities, write these down now:

You are a Child of God first. God made you, and you hope to spend eternity with him. Your primary relationship must be settled with Jesus Christ; if that’s out of order, everything else will be also.

You are a spouse second. You knew your mate before the children came and your partnership will continue after they’ve left home. In fact, one-half to two-thirds of your married life will be without children in your home. Keep your love relationship with your spouse alive.

You are a parent third. Put your children ahead of your job, and everything else, but God and your spouse.

You are a church member fourth. Are you surprised to hear me say other things come before church? Church activities can break up families if you stay at church more than you stay at home. But, be honest here and don’t cut short either church or family.

You are a business person fifth. Don’t let your work or the desire to make money come anywhere before fifth place. Change jobs if you have to because the other four must be priorities.

You are a social being sixth. Don’t let clubs or friends, hobbies or recreation come before sixth place. This also includes good things like community and benevolent organizations that mustn’t come before your family or church.

So, remember that your family would rather have more parent or spouse and less things if they have to choose. The bottom line is this: Put Christ first. Love and live in God’s permanent plan for the Christian family. Serve the Church as Christ would want, and practice what you preach. Then, God promises “all these things shall be added unto you.” Best of all, you won’t be a prodigal parent!

 

Final morning sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church June 5, 2005

HOW TO WELCOME YOUR NEW PASTOR

1 PETER 4:7-11

INTRODUCTION

It’s unusual when a secular magazine promotes religion, so I took note when Time Magazine recently published 5 ways to improve your happiness level: (1) Get involved in a faith community like a local church. (2) Count your blessings by keeping a gratitude journal of what God has done for you. (3) Learn to forgive others and let go of past grievances. (4) Practice daily acts of kindness by putting others ahead of yourself. (5) Write notes of appreciation to brighten someone else’s day. That sounds like the Bible! Well, I found some advice in the Bible to help you welcome your new pastor. Please turn to 1 Peter 4:7-11.

You recall that Peter was the hot-headed fisherman whom the Spirit miraculously transformed into the first leader of the early church. Peter wrote his first and second epistles mostly to churches without pastors scattered across the empire. He challenged his readers to remain faithful in times of transition. Therefore, the words of 1 Peter 4:7-11 are appropriate for this church. Please stand as we read those verses.

The Prince of Madrid was imprisoned when his rival took the Spanish throne. He was allowed one book, and he chose the Bible. After 33 years he died. They found written on his cell wall such statistics as: The middle verse in the Bible, the longest verse, the shortest verse, and which verse contains every letter of the alphabet. But, they found no great truths or wonderful promises he had claimed. What a waste! The Bible gives us practical guidance for every situation. It can even offer advice to welcome a new pastor.

Let me draw five summary words from our text: One word from each verse. In verse 7, the key word is prayer. Love is the key in verse 8. Verse 9 speaks of hospitality, while verse 10 tells of stewardship. The key thought in verse 11 is dedication.

1. PRAYER, v. 7

In verse 7, Peter urged prayer because he saw the end of all things. He was anticipating the soon coming of Christ; but today you’re approaching the end of an era. An itinerant pastor is leaving; you’re gearing up to welcome a new pastor and begin a new chapter in the life of this church. Verse 7 implies that you ought to be sober, or serious, in prayer.

This church certainly knows how to pray! I’ve heard beautiful prayers offered that I believe have touched the very Throne of God. I’ve sensed that you really care about the people and issues you’ve prayed for. Therefore, God has blessed. We’ve seen souls saved, lives changed, and spirits renewed as we have wept and rejoiced together. I’m aware that many of you and your children have included my family in your prayers. I appreciate that more than I can say. If we have accomplished any lasting good, it has been in response to your prayers and the moving of God’s Spirit among us.

Being from Mississippi, it was a big deal for me when I baptized my first black man whom I had led to the Lord. Today, Phil Watts is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Monumental Church. Phil took it upon himself to become my prayer partner. He would come to my study before church or catch me in a hallway and briefly lift me and my family before God. What a blessing to know that he was praying for me every time I preached!

It’s now your responsibility to pray for your new pastor and his family. Build a hedge about his mind so that only the Spirit of God may impress his leadership and then follow as God leads him to lead you. Peter’s advice in verse 7 is still good: Be sober, be urgent, watch for signs from the Lord, and surround everything with prayer.

2. LOVE, v. 8

Second, in verse 8, Peter challenged the lay leaders of those early churches to show fervent charity, or love. It’s sad when a church is divided and when little groups turn into gossip sessions. Also, it’s sad when whole groups of people are rejected because of the way they look, their race, or their social status. I can honestly say that I’ve not heard of any major disagreements between your members. Nor have I heard of anyone pre-judging those who are different. I’m proud of you for giving an equal welcome to every one who has worshipped with us.

So, continue to love one another; and love the lost. Help your leadership to visit this whole community. Go back and knock on doors you’ve knocked on before. You have the authority and command from God to meddle in their affairs even if they don’t appreciate it. The bridge is out ahead, and they need to hear there’s danger on the path they have chosen.

Dr. Jerry Rankin at a recent missionary appointment service said Jesus’ Great Commission could be summarized by the two words: “Go” and “Lo.” We go because Jesus has promised to be with us. If no “Lo,” then no “Go.” But, we do have the “Lo, I am with you always.” So, we must go as he commanded.

As you love strangers and each other, you will be prepared to love your new pastor. Remember, no one is perfect; and you can’t expect him to be perfect. Give him a chance to make mistakes, because he will. He will forgive you when you fail; you forgive him and then forget his mistakes.

It’s serious business to talk against God’s man. If you don’t believe me, look at what happened to Korah in Numbers 16. The earth opened up and swallowed him when he complained against God’s man, Moses! Remember, there can only be one leader of the church. The deacons, the committees, nor the women’s missionary organization may not replace God’s plan. God’s ideal plan is to reveal his will to his man for his people.

So, love your pastor. Don’t glory in the past, and don’t compare your new preacher with anyone who’s gone before. His style will not be the same as mine, because God has given him unique gifts for the “now” generation. He’s a young man who will do things differently than we older folks do, but that’s why God calls young men to appeal to the next generation. Give him a chance to mold this church for future growth.

3. HOSPITALITY, v. 9

Next, in verse 9, Peter urged hospitality to one another without grudging. That means to freely show common courtesy, kindness, and respect to each other. And, don’t forget to show special hospitality for your new pastor. Respect him as a called Man of God; but get to know him as an individual, and accept him as your friend. He will need your friendship and advice. If you offer it as humble advice acknowledging that he must follow God’s leading, he will appreciate your help.

When I was first learning to preach and practicing on my home church, a teacher in our congregation rendered an invaluable service to me. Miss Frances Mallory was the high school English teacher. She was an unclaimed blessing, which may have accounted for her being so stern and never smiling. Her students were really afraid of her. When I was preaching and looked out at her in my audience, she really shook me up! However, without fail, after every sermon she shook my hand and thanked me for the fine sermon. And, in my hand she palmed a small, folded piece of paper. When I had a chance to look at it, she had listed my grammatical errors. She corrected such errors as saying “you and I” when it should have been “you and me.” She never embarrassed me publicly; but as I learned to correct my grammar, I got less and less corrections from her. One day, she handed me a note that was blank. Miss Frances never gave me another note after that. By the way, I passed her English class with an A!

Don’t be hesitant to share your concerns with your pastor. He will not be shocked, nor will he judge you. Accept him as a prayer physician and call upon him to heal your family’s needs. The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much in God’s sight. Don’t let him have to hear later that you were sick, and then you got your feelings hurt because he didn’t visit you. Don’t depend on someone else to call him. You call him first.

As you expect him to help you, you be a helper to him. My special helper at Monumental Church was Melvin Gay. Melvin is not comfortable with prospect visitation, but he showed up one visitation night so I wouldn’t have to go out alone. Many weeks Melvin and I were the only ones going out. I would have gotten discouraged and gone home because I felt like the church didn’t care whether we visited our prospects or not, but Melvin was there in rain or snow to go with me every week! Make yourself available to be your pastor’s friend.

A pastor’s life can be very lonely even though his family lives in a fishbowl. Invite him and his family for lunch and class socials. Encourage him to have a hobby. If he doesn’t have one, teach him your hobby! And, let the pastor’s children be just like any other children. They’re not perfect. You know why? Because they play with your children! But, let them be individuals in their own right without any special expectations because they’re the pastor’s kids. They’ll be told that enough at home!

Give your new pastor some privacy at home and during his study times. Don’t begrudge him time for his family and chores at home. Remember that his work hours are different from yours. He may be up in the wee hours of the morning praying to get a word from the Lord for you. He will have calls that detain him at home or send him to make sick or counseling visits that you’ll never know about. Respect the schedule he makes for himself. It may not be the one he wants, but he will do what he has to do.

4. STEWARDSHIP, v. 10

Fourth, Peter says in verse 10 that each one ought to be a good steward. Remember: God’s programs cost money. Don’t accuse your pastor of always having his hand in the till because he wants more money for programs. Spend God’s money wisely, but do spend it for expansions and ministries that will pay eternal dividends. Give your tithes and offerings to God in the right spirit and let him work through his leaders for the use of that money.

You also have a stewardship of time and faithfulness to your church. In 1959, President Eisenhower invited Russian Prime Minister Krushchev to accompany him to a worship service at Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. When the Communist leader declined, Eisenhower left him and went on to church. I dare say you won’t have an excuse to top that! Don’t let the pleasure of the weekend or being with friends seduce you to leave the work of the church to someone else. Accept the jobs that need to be done, and fulfill every obligation as unto the Lord.

Also, remember you have a stewardship to keep the pastor’s reputation untarnished. You can’t work against your leader and be a strong church. Guard him like you guard your own child. Remember, in congregational government each member has a vote so attend those meetings: speak up, make motions, and vote your convictions. Then, accept the answer God gives the church and work together united against the devil. If you have complaints, voice them privately; but if you have praise, voice it vocally!

5. DEDICATION, v. 11

Finally, in verse 11 Peter says whatever you do, do it in sincere dedication to God. In Christ’s letter to the church at Sardis, he told them to strengthen the works that were about to die. When Sunday School is declining or when other church programs are ready to give up the ghost, it’s your responsibility to strengthen those good works. If any organization closes its doors, it will not be from pressure without, but because of lack of faithfulness within.

I heard of an African warrior showing how brave he was by holding up a lion’s tail he had cut off. When somebody asked why he didn’t cut off the lion’s head, he said someone else had already done that! Let your bravery and dedica tion be real in this community. I was proud when I heard how some of you stood against evils and started new community programs. Continue to get the drunk driver off the roads and the drug pusher off the streets. You are the salt of this community; you are the light of this county. Let the work of Christ continue through you.

Each member of the church at Philadelphia considered themselves a pillar in that church. You ought to have the attitude that they can’t have church here if you’re not in attendance. Your dedication to the Lord should cause you to bloom faithfully where God has planted you. I like this poem.

I think that I shall never see

A church that’s all it ought to be.

A church whose members never stray

Beyond the straight and narrow way.

A church that has no empty pews,

Whose pastor never has the blues.

A church whose deacons always deac

And none is proud and all are meek.

Where gossips never pedal lies

Or make complaints or criticize.

Where all are always sweet and kind

And all to others’ faults are blind.

Such perfect churches there may be

But none of them are known to me.

But still we’ll work and pray and plan

To make our church the best we can.

And should I ever that church find

The one that’s perfect to my mind.

If I joined t’would not perfect be,

For it would then have imperfect me.

adapted by Lovorn

Conclusion

We have made friends here who will last a lifetime. Thank you for accepting us so completely! I don’t look at this interim as just marking time and running in place. Rather, I look back over these months and see a time when we’ve laid a foundation for the future. I’ve seen you grow spiritually, especially in your knowledge and thirst for God’s Word. I believe God wants your best years ahead for this church, and I pray that your dedication to Christ will allow that to be so. This is the way to welcome a new pastor. If you do this, you will not have to worry about his staying too long. You’ll build him up so much some other church will grab him away from you! You may hate to see him leave but he will have a place in your heart, as you have in ours. And, God will bring another pastoral family for you to love, train, and encourage on to greater heights. All along the way, you will be following Jesus and winning his smile of approval. This is my prayer for you as you properly welcome your new pastor.

 

Outline of sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church May 29, 2005

THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT

Matthew 16:13-19

(Ouline credit to Dr. Adrian Rogers)

I. The Saving Belief of the Church, vs. 13-14

A. Peter’s Conviction

B. Peter’s Confession

C. Peter’s Conversion

II. The Sovereign Builder of the Church, vs. 15-17

A. We are Built Together

B. We are Bound Together

C. We are Blessed Together

III. The Spiritual Battle of the Church, vs. 18-19

A. Our Battle

B. Our Victory

C. Our Authority

Sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church May 22, 2005

No Grace Apart from the Law

Romans 3:19-24 NIV

Introduction

At the American Family Radio’s Worldview Weekend in Branson, MO, I heard evangelist Ray Comfort say 88% of all evangelical church kids leave the church after age 18 and never return. Hey, that’s shocking! We may think we’re bringing up our children to know the Lord, but we must be doing something wrong if only 12% of them remain in the faith as adults!

Further, Ray said only 2% of all Christians even attempt to share their faith, and many of them go about it the wrong way. He said that’s why we have such a drop-out rate when tough times come, or our children go out into the world. We’ve emphasized the fact that Christ fulfilled the Commandments for us so much that we’ve neglected to teach that the Commandments are still the valid rules for our spiritual and social relationships, and to break them is still sin.

In this sermon, when I refer to the “Law” I mean the 10 Commandments listed in Exodus 20 with their applications in the rest of the Old Testament. The purpose of the Commandments is to point out our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. In fact, I want to remind us there can be no grace apart from the Law. Please turn to Romans 3:19-24 and follow as I read from the NIV.

I heard many inspirational speakers at the Worldview Weekend. Among those who impressed me the most was Kirk Cameron, the TV actor who played the obnoxious teenager in “Growing Pains” and who now stars as Buck Williams in the “Left Behind” movie series. Kirk was an atheist until he was 17. He’d never been inside a church in his life until he went to church with a pretty girl, because that’s the only way he could date her! Once he heard the gospel, he couldn’t get away from it. He asked questions until her dad led him to the Lord. He’s now a Christian evangelist who, with Ray Comfort, has formed an evangelistic association with a TV ministry called “The Way of the Master.” You can get some valuable teaching from their web site: www.thewayofthemaster.com. Kirk is married to the girl he married on “Growing Pains,” so he married her twice; and they have 6 children. He’ll be one of the speakers at our SBCV Youth Evangelism Conference in August. Much of this sermon was inspired by Kirk Cameron.

Let my 3 main points give you 3 reasons why we need to use the Commandments when we’re witnessing and why we need to continue to instill them into growing Chrtians. So you’ll know where I’m going, here are my points directly from this text: (I.) Sin is revealed by the Law, verse 20; (II.) Righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ, verse 22; and (III.) Justification is the product of God’s grace, verses 23-24. See how our text moves from the Law to grace?

I. SIN IS REVEALED BY THE LAW, v. 20

Verse 20 says it’s by the Law that we learn what sin is. Let me read Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sinful? God forbid. No, I would not have known sin, but by the law.” Verse 12 says, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”

We do our listeners a disservice when we imply that God’s Laws are no longer an obligation for Christians to keep. We may not say that in so many words, but we have passed on what we’ve been taught. We’ve been told that since Jesus fulfilled the Law for us, he set it aside. That’s true as far as our having to obey it to earn our salvation. However, that has led us to think we no longer need to emphasize the Commandments. But, as Kirk and Ray said, that may be the very reason our society is in the mess it’s in today, and it could cause many of our converts to fall away when crises come.

It’s true that Jesus fulfilled every requirement of the laws of God. He kept every Commandment without ever breaking even one of them. One reason he did that was to show us that it’s possible to live without sinning. He’s our Example in all things. We wear our WWJD jewelry to remind us to ask before every decision: “What would Jesus do?” We picture Jesus in our situation and imagine how he would respond. But, another reason Jesus lived without sinning is so he could substitute himself and die for our sins. You see, God requires a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, to pay for sin. The Jews had to examine carefully their lambs before they brought them to be sacrificed and then a priest had to confirm that the lamb was without spot or blemish. That’s a prophecy of Jesus, God’s perfect Lamb. If Jesus ever committed a sin, he would have to die for his own sins, but because he was without sin he could die in our place.

So, the Bible says the purpose of the Commandments is to show our guilt and drive us to the only One who can save us. God gave the 10 Commandments to Israel as trustees, but they’re the rules of operation for the whole world. Every society needs to embrace the instruction of those commands. All the Commands are renewed in the New Testament except the fourth has been changed from Saturday to Sunday.

Psalm 19 says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

When we witness, our plans of salvation usually emphasize the blessings of coming to Christ rather than first leading people to repent of breaking the Commandments. We talk about the abundant life in Christ and imply he will pour out blessings and prosperity on those who trust him. (There’s even a store-front church on S. Crater Road in Petersburg called the Prosperity Worship Center.) We imply, “Come to Jesus and he’ll bless you abundantly.” Some TV evangelists teach that if you’re not enjoying riches and good health you’re out of the will of God, because that’s what God wants every Christian to have. But, that’s just not true! And, that’s why many new converts drop out when problems come.

If we look at the example of Jesus, we’ll see that he never tried to lure converts to himself by offering prizes. In fact, Jesus used the seventh command with the woman at the well to bring conviction: Thou shalt not commit adultery. It was only after she realized she had broken God’s laws and repented that she was able to believe in Jesus and be forgiven.

Do you know what the first word of the gospel is? Some people use a play on the word “gospel” and say the first word of the gospel is “go.” But, Jesus never commanded us to go; what he really said in the Great Commission is that wherever we go we are to make disciples of everyone. The first word of the gospel Jesus taught his disciples to preach is “repent!”

Matthew 3:2 says, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17, “Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Mark 1:15 Jesus taught his disciples to say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Mark 6:12, “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” Jesus himself preached in Luke 13:3, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” And Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2:38 said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Repentance means more than just being broken over your sins; it means to stop sinning! You turn from your sins desiring never to commit them again because you’ve heard the terrible consequences of how sin can send you to Hell for eternity. You look at God’s ideal requirements in the Commandments and see how many of those laws you’ve broken, and you fall on your face in repentance before a holy God. Repentance comes from the Law and without it you can’t be saved. There can be no grace apart from the Law. Many converts fall away because, if they’ve never repented, they’ve never been truly saved. And, any society that outlaws the 10 Commandments is headed for moral chaos, because they’re the operations manual for every orderly relationship.

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS COMES BY FAITH IN JESUS, v. 22

After the Law has shown us our sinfulness and we have repented, verse 22 teaches that righteousness comes by faith in Jesus. The Law does it’s job when it points the helpless sinner to Jesus. Galatians 3:24 says, “The law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Today, we think of a schoolmaster as a teacher or a principal, but that’s not what a schoolmaster was in Paul’s day. The schoolmaster was the slave who was responsible to take his master’s children to school each day. He escorted the children to the teacher and sat with them to make them behave, then brought them home after school.

We need to teach the fear of the Lord. People are not afraid of the wrath of God any more, but there are always consequences for breaking any of God’s laws. Revelation 21:8 promises that, “those who cause fear, and the unbelievers, and those who commit atrocious sins, and murderers, and adulterers, and spirit worshipers, and idolaters, and (then it includes all of us when it says) all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the LORD leads to life.” Law without consequences is only good advice. God is watching. The fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning. Luke 12:4-5 says, “Don’t be afraid of them that kill the body, and afterwards can do nothing else. But, I will warn you who to fear: Fear God, who can not only kill you but cast you into hell; yes, I say again, Fear him.”

Yet, an example of society’s picture of God today is in a song most of us like called “I Believe.” But, it’s theology is all wrong. For every drop of rain that falls, a flower doesn’t necessarily grow. Just ask the people of Ethiopia and the Sudan. That song also points to a god who will always say, “I forgive.” That’s not true; sin without repentance can’t be forgiven.

But, righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ. When we repent and realize how we deserve Hell, but Jesus died to give us Heaven, then we’re ready to receive the gift of righteousness. Psalm 34 says, “The angel of the LORD surrounds those who fear God, and delivers them….O fear the LORD, you his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.”

III. JUSTIFICATION IS THE PRODUCT OF GOD’S GRACE, vs. 23-24

Justification is the final result of repenting and believing, and it’s a free gift of God’s grace. It’s the decree of the Judge of the Universe that he finds no fault in those who have placed their sins on Jesus. Yet, that process of salvation begins with learning first that we are sinners doomed for Hell.

Kirk uses the following illustration: Imagine 2 men given parachutes on their flight. The first is told he needs to wear the parachute to improve his flight and make him comfortable. The second is told he needs the parachute because the plane might crash. Our modern preaching has told people to put on Jesus to improve their flight through life. They do this, but when trials come, they think the parachute is no good so they take off Jesus and fall away. Then, they become bitter and very hard to win back. But, if the stewardess trips and spills hot coffee on number 2, he won’t take off his parachute, because he didn’t put it on to be comfortable. He put it on to escape death.

Don’t tell people Jesus will improve their flight, tell them one day the plane we’re all riding in – this old planet earth – is going to crash and burn. If they’re going to survive, they need this parachute to escape eternal death. It’s not happiness but righteousness that people need. They must be broken in repentance first before the righteousness, joy, and peace can come.

At the Worldview Weekend we heard a black lady, Star Parker, who works to restore the rights of poor people say, “We don’t have decision to make, just instructions to follow.” The Commandments are still those instructions we need to teach to our children as Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You should teach them diligently to your children, and talk about them when you’re sitting in your house, and when you’re walking and lying down and arising.”

Kirk Cameron said when he attempts to lead someone to Christ, first he will engage them in casual, general conversation. Then, he will bring up some current disaster or person being arrested. He’ll use that to say that he wonders of those people are bound for Heaven. Next, he asks his prospect if they believe they are bound for Heaven. Then, he asks why the believe God should let them into Heaven. If they say because they are basically a good person (as most unsaved people will say), Kirk uses the commandments to show their guilt. He asks them if they’ve ever told a lie or looked at another person with lust. He might ask them to suppose that they only committed 1 sin a week. That’s about 25,000 sins in an average lifetime. One parking ticket isn’t so bad, but imagine going before a judge with 25,000 parking tickets. He’ll throw you under the jail! Then, he reminds them that it only takes 1 sin to make you a sinner and all sinners must answer to God’s wrath if they haven’t let Jesus pay their fine.

CONCLUSION

People, praying a sinner’s prayer is no more than a fake magic incantation without real repentance. Have you ever repented of your sins? You must tremble in fear of an everlasting Hell without Jesus. Then, let the Spirit’s conviction lead you from judgment to the foot of the Cross. We must all be convinced of the disease before the cure can help us. So, in your witnessing, don’t throw the gospel seed on unplowed ground. Like in the Parable of the Sower, the seed will wither and die. They can’t accept grace until they’ve trembled before the Law. If we put the Commandments back in our society, we’ll keep our nation from anarchy, turmoil, and chaos. If we preach that people need to come to Christ to escape Hell rather than receive abundant life. Then, they will be eternally grateful to God and won’t let the crises of life turn them away.

 

Outline of srmon preached at Waverly Baptist Church Mother’s Day, May 8, 2005

The World’s Meanest Mom

Proverbs 31:27

Nominations are open to nominate the World’s Meanest Mom: Perhaps the fake mother of 1 Kings 3:26 who would let King Solomon cut a baby in half if she couldn’t have him alive. Maybe Queen Athaliah of 2 Kings 11 who had her children and grandchildren killed so there would be no competition for her throne. Maybe you want to nominate Madelyn Murray O’Hare who used her son Bill to get Bible reading and prayer thrown out of our schools or Susan Smith who drowned her children in her car which she pushed into a lake.

Using the positive example of Proverbs 31:27 we can assume that, in God’s sight:

I. A Mean Mother Doesn’t Take Care of Her Household, v. 27a

II. A Mean Mother is Too Lazy to Teach Spiritual Principles, v. 27b

By contrast, if each mother will apply the good qualites of Proverbs 31, then you won’t be in the line-up for the World’s Meanest Mom!

 

Outline of sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church May 15, 2005

 The Priority of Worship

Revelation 14:6-7

Our text records an angel flying across the sky preaching the everlasting gospel to all nations. However, we believe angels cannot preach the Christian gospel because Jesus never died for them. Therefore, what is this everlasting gospel preached after the Church is raptured? The everlasting gospel is an injunction for all people to worship God, because from the beginning worship has been our reason for being created.

I. What is the History of Worship?

Adam worshipped in fellowship and service but after the Fall sin built a barrier between God and man. The Tabernacle taught that worship was to be central. The First Commandment taught to worship God and no one else. The New Testament tells how Jesus prepared a way back to God.

II. Why Should We Worship?

Ephesians 1:14 says we are redeemed to worship God. The Rollcall of the Faithful in Hebrews 11 lists Abel first because of his worship, Enoch second because of his walk, and Noah third because of his work. So, worship is more important than our walk with God or our work for God.

III. Who May Worship?

Psalm 24:3 and Romans 12:1 say those with clean hands and a pure heart as a living sacrice holy to God may worship Him.

IV. Where Can We Worship?

Our text says we are to worship God on the earth, therefore all we do should be worship to Him. The Psalms urge us to worship in the beauty of holiness, and a life possessed by the Holy Spirit is beautiful to God. A church is only as holy as those who gather to worship there. Jesus will not take lightly those who ignore His Bride.

V. What is Acceptable Worship?

Approaching God by Jesus as the only Way to Him and letting Him declare us righteous, then following the leading of His Spirit we worship God in spirit and truth.

 

Outline of sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church April 10, 2005

How to Know You’re Saved

1 John 5:10-13

Do you know for sure that you’re saved? I do! Let me tell you several ways I know I’m saved:

1. I have met the conditions for salvation, 5:1

A. Admit

B. Believe

C. Confess

2. I have the witness of God’s Spirit telling me I’m saved, 5:10, 6b

3. I seek the salvation of the lost, 5:11-12

4. I have the love and forgiveness of Christ, 4:7

5. God’s Word tells me I’m saved, 5:12-13

6. My past experiences with God testify to my relationship, 5:4

God wants us to know we’re saved so we can convince others to trust him.

 

Sermon preached at Waverly Baptist Church April 3, 2005,

Saved to Share

1 Corinthians 9:22

(Idea from Herb Hodges’ Mission Sermon From IMB)

Introduction

There are 2 kinds of Christians in the world: the introverts and the extroverts. The introvert Christian faces inward, thinking only about his needs for self-survival. He’s fearful and unsure about his walk with Christ. He rationalizes that he can’t witness or doesn’t have the time to fulfill the Great Commission. After all, that’s what he hires our church staff and pays our missionaries to do.

The extrovert Christian faces outward, thinking about others and looking for ways to share ministry and witness with everyone he meets. His walk with Jesus gives him fulfillment and excitement. Which one do you think is most like Jesus? Which one would Jesus want you to be like? Old Dr. Vance Havner once said, “Most Christians today are so subnormal that, if they ever became normal, everyone would think they were abnormal!”

Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 9:22 leaves no doubt that he was an extrovert Christian. There, he said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” For this sermon I call “Saved to Share” I chose 1 Corinthians 9:22 to emphasize the 3 “alls” in this verse: “All things…all men…all means.”

I. A Principle to be Practiced

The first “all” says, “I am made all things…” I call this a principle to be practiced. The NIV correctly translates this phrase as, “I have become all things.” That means that Paul deliberately chose this principle to practice. What principle? Let me paraphrase Paul’s philosophy here, “I will identify with the needs of all people.” That’s the extrovert Christian’s life-philosophy. That’s what Jesus did when he had compassion on the multitudes and when he interceded to rescue individuals like the woman taken in adultery. Certainly, that’s what he practiced on the Cross when he took our sin penalties and paid them for us.

Becoming all things is not moral or spiritual compromise. It’s not a license to sin. It is, however, the attitude of being in the world but not of the world. We can’t stay in our ivory-towered churches and expect to win the world to Christ. We have to get outside these walls and go where the people are. We can go walk the streets where the prostitutes solicit their “johns.” We can go into the neighborhoods where people are in need of food and clothes. We can go into a bar to bring an alcoholic home sober. We can help a homeless person find a job. Don’t worry about your reputation or getting your hands dirty; I think they are cleanest in God’s sight when we’ve dirtied them helping our fellowman. We can walk and minister in the world without putting down roots. We won’t lose our holiness by walking among these people; we won’t become filthy by associating with them. Instead, we’ll become more like Jesus.

Someone has said that every person needs 2 conversions. First, we need the conversion of the sinner when we’re called out of the world. Second, we need the conversion of the saint when we’re called back into the world to serve Jesus.

II. A People to be Pursued

The second “all” is “all men” where Paul said, “I am made all things to all men.” This tells us of a people to be pursued. This principle restated says, “I will reach out to touch every person for Jesus.” Jesus told us to go everywhere and as we do we are to make disciples out of everyone. That means no one is unworthy of the gospel. There is no circumstance so low it is beyond God’s ability to help. There is no person so lofty that he or she doesn’t need the touch of God to complete their lives. The down and out, the up and out, the best person, the worst person, the richest, the poorest, the smartest, the dumbest, the prettiest, the ugliest, the healthiest, the most deformed, the religious, the irreligious, the Baptist, the atheist, the American, the Arab, the Mother Theresas, the bin Ladens – everyone needs Jesus. And, he can only be received from those of us who have the franchise. Christians must take the gospel to all people.

Oswald Smith asked, “Should anybody on earth have the right to hear the gospel twice until every person on earth has heard it once?” Biblical evangelism is nothing less than the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world so that everyone has the opportunity to hear and respond for themselves. To do this, it will take more people than the pastor, more places than church, more methods than preaching, and more perseverance than “business as usual.”

When real calamity strikes as a judgment from God, all the prayers and witnessing of righteous people will be too late to save America. We must identify with the needs of all people, and we must reach out to touch all people for Jesus. But, there is a third “all” in my text.

III. A Price to be Paid

The third “all” says, “that I might by all means save some.” This is the “all” of “all means.” Whereas we’ve said there’s a principle to be practiced and a people to be pursued, this portion of the text teaches there’s a price to be paid. Restated, this principle says, “I will pay whatever it costs to be a soul-winner.”

There is a price to pay to be a soul-winner. You must be studied up, prayed up, and cleaned up for God’s Spirit to use you. You need to love souls and believe that without Jesus everyone will spend an eternity in an awful Hell. You need to be willing to learn new techniques of witnessing and practice them to be prepared to share. You should give your schedule to Jesus and let him find the time for you to witness; then give your heart to him and let him lead you to those who need what you can share.

In the 1800’s William Borden was born with the silver spoon of the rich and famous. He finished Yale University with honors and had a brilliant future if he stepped up to leadership in the Borden Milk company. But, he turned his back on the family fortune and business because God called him to be a missionary to the Islamic people of Egypt. Only a few months after arriving in Egypt he contracted a deadly disease and began to die. Among his last words he said, “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.” All Jesus wanted from him was his willingness to go, then Jesus took him to his reward in Heaven.

Are you willing to go and be a soul-winner for Jesus? You can do it; everyone can. It’s simple just to tell someone what God has done for you. It’s exciting to share Jesus. You just need a plan and the determination to do it. Do it a few times and get the taste of blood – the blood of Jesus saving the helpless and hopeless. Then, it will become a habit which will reward you both here and in eternity.

IV. Ways to Witness

Let me teach you some ways you can share Jesus. Here’s how to get into a soul-winning mode. Everyone today wants to talk about the terrible tsunami in Asia. Say , “Last December 26 over 200,000 people went to meet God; I wonder how many of them were saved. If you were to die and God were to ask you ‘Why should I let you into Heaven?’ what would you say?” No matter how you ask it, ask that question first when you start your witness. It will tell you whether they are saved or lost. Unless they say they are trusting Jesus as their Savior, they are not saved. Ninety-nine percent of the time, an unsaved person will tell you he believes he will get into Heaven because he’s a good person. So, you tell them, “The Bible says all our righteousness is as filthy rags compared to the perfection needed to get into Heaven. Everybody in Heaven is perfect. How do you suppose they get that way? God gives it to them! And, the only way he will give it to them is by loving his Son, Jesus. Jesus died to buy our ticket into Heaven. You have to pray and ask him to forgive you and save you. Have you ever done that? Would you like me to help you do it now?” Then, you lead them in a short prayer saying they are sorry for their sins and they want Jesus to save them.

If you prefer, tell them getting saved is as simple as A, B, C. Admit, Believe, and Confess. Admit you are a sinner and you need a Savior. Believe Jesus is God who came to earth to die for your sins. Confess Jesus as your Lord. Confess means “to say it out loud.” Tell God and tell others that you’re trusting Jesus as your Savior.

You may also witness by giving someone a gospel tract. I have some excellent ones I will show you how to use if you’re interested. You can leave one with your tip in the restaurant, give one to a cashier with your money, or enclose one with your check when you pay a bill. Give one to a friend and ask him to read it and tell you what he thinks about it. Make an appointment to see him tomorrow and talk about it.

One of the most effective witnesses is your own testimony. No one can argue with your story, and when you tell a story they don’t usually interrupt you. A salvation testimony has 3 parts. Tell them how you were before you got saved. You were lost and afraid. Try to identify with your prospect. Then, tell them how you met Jesus. Make it plain and practical. Be sure to say, “I prayed and gave my heart to Jesus.” No one can be saved without talking to God in prayer. Finally, tell them how wonderful life is now with the assurance that you’re at peace with God and you’re going to Heaven when you die. Tell them they can have that assurance if they let you lead them in a prayer right then. Always press for a decision right then when the Spirit is working with them.

Conclusion

Remember, there’s a principle to be practiced: “I must identify with the needs of all people.” There’s a people to be pursued: “I must reach out to touch all people for Jesus.” And, there’s a price to be paid: “I will pay whatever it costs to be a soul-winner.”

 

Easter Sunrise Sermon, Waverly, VA 3/27/2005

The Angel and the Stone

Luke 19:37-40; Matthew 28:1-7

Introduction: You remember the events of Jesus’ triumphant entry on Palm Sunday. In the midst of the crowd’s spontaneous praise, some sour-faced Pharisees didn’t like the praise and worship! So, they complained to Jesus that it was inappropriate. But, Jesus replied that if God’s people didn’t praise him, the rocks would cry out.

Well, a rock did cry out. Matthew 27 tells us how Nick and Joe claimed Jesus’ body and buried him in Joe’s own new tomb. They rolled a great stone in front of the tomb. Then, that stone is mentioned again along with a special angel in Matthew 18:1-7. Listen as I read those verses about the angel and the stone.

Here in the beauty of nature’s early morning, I want us to remember that, on that first Easter Sunday, all Creation was watching the most unique event in human history: the first and only time a man fought death and won by his own power. It was so amazing that the rocks and angels gave testimony to what had happened. Since Jesus had said the rocks would cry out, I want us to look at the message of the rock that sealed Jesus’ tomb. Then, because Hebrews 1:6 says God has decreed that all the angels worship and serve Jesus, I want us to hear again the message of the angel who sat on that stone.

I. THE STONE’S MESSAGE

A. The Stone Cried Out: “Jesus is Dead!”

In the Holy Land, the ground was so hard they couldn’t dig very deep for graves. Most people were buried in community caves in the hillsides. But, a rich man named Joseph had his servants dig a private tomb out of the cliff for himself and prepare a garden memorial around it. He became a believer in Jesus and offered his own tomb to Jesus since it was near the place of crucifixion. After he and Nicodemus washed and wrapped Jesus’ body, they sealed him in that tomb with a large stone closing the entrance.

That stone was a barrier between the living and the dead. Only the dead were ever sealed inside. The stone over Jesus’ tomb cried out that he was dead. He wouldn’t have been placed there by his friends or his enemies if they didn’t believe he was dead.

There were those who felt the stone cried out that Jesus was a fake. He was a deceiver who got the justice he deserved. Others, felt the stone cried out that Jesus was a good man, but a failure. He had helped many people and preached good things, but he wasn’t the Messiah they had hoped for. He was just a man who eventually died like all men. However, to the faithful students of Scripture, that stone cried out that prophecy had been fulfilled. From Genesis 3:15 through Job and the Psalms to the writings of Isaiah, Scripture had predicted the death of Messiah for those able to understand it.

When the stone cried out that Jesus was dead, it was crying that God had truly become Man and identified with every aspect of human existence from natural birth to natural death. The stone also cried out how much God loves us: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

B. The Stone Cried Out: “He is Risen!”

When the women came to the tomb, the stone was moved. The tomb was empty. Then, the stone was crying out a different message. It said, “Jesus has risen as he said.”

If you visit the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem where we believe Jesus was buried, you’ll see that it was a new tomb, unfinished, with only one burial slab in it. They even did a DNA test on the dust in that tomb and found no evidence that a body had ever decayed in that grave! The entrance used to be very small, but centuries ago somebody enlarged it so that many people could go inside; and they carved a cross at the entrance as if to say: “This is it!” You can go inside the tomb, and when you turn around and start to leave, you’ll see a sign on the wall: “He is not here; he has risen as he said!” That’s the message the stone cried out at the open tomb.

Seven year old Bobby whispered to his mother in church that he wanted to become a preacher. His mother asked why. Bobby said, “Well, if I have to come to church every Sunday, anyway; it’s more fun to stand and yell than sit still.” Actually, that’s what each of us ought to be doing. Now, that we have heard the stone cry out, we ought to be yelling everywhere we go that Jesus is alive.

C. The Stone Cried Out: “Come and See!”

The Bible says, before dawn on Easter Sunday, an angel rolled the stone away. Therefore, when the women came that first Easter, the third thing the stone cried out was “Come and see.” It was proof to all the ages that Jesus conquered death for us. Yes, we operate in this age primarily by faith, and our greatest proof will be spiritual proof when we commune with our risen Savior and can say: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!” But, God can give physical proof when he desires. The stone cried out, “Come and see” because God wants us to be convinced and run with joy to share the good news with everyone.

When little Danny got saved, the pastor told him to sit on the front pew. The church clerk came to get his information and sat by Johnny. He was an old man with a grumpy face and a sour look. When he first sat down, Johnny looked at him and said, “Sir, do you need to get saved?” The old man said, “Young man, I’ll have you to know that I have been a deacon in this church for 30 years!” Johnny replied, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done; Jesus can still save you!”

II. THE ANGEL’S MESSAGE

The text I read from Matthew 28 also told about an angel sitting on that stone. Some would say the Bible contradicts itself here. Matthew 28 tells of 1 angel sitting on the stone. Mark 16 says there was 1 angel, but he was inside the tomb. Luke 24 says there were 2 angels inside the tomb, and John 20 says 1 angel was at the head and another at the foot where Jesus had lain. I don’t see this as a contradiction but rather proof that many angels were involved in this unique event. Different people saw different angels because angels were everywhere watching and participating in Jesus’ resurrection.

But, this angel in Matthew 28 fascinates me. Why was he just sitting there on that stone? After thinking about it I came up with 3 reasons why he sat there. He was delivering his testimony about the meaning of Easter.

A. The Angel Sat in Triumph

This angel had just assisted Jesus in conquering the power of death. But, he had also challenged the greatest army in the world and won. The seal of the Roman Empire on that stone dared anyone to open it. This angel may have said, “Watchmen!” He could have broken that seal with his little finger and blown that stone away with the slightest breath. Then, he said, “Boo!” to the Roman guards and they fainted dead away.

Also, what about all the principalities and powers of evil that were trying to keep Jesus in that tomb? He and Jesus had fought them and won! I think he was sitting on that stone for the same reason a victorious soldier puts his foot on the neck of his defeated enemy. He could crush the life out of his foe or let him live, because he was the victor. Yes, this angel sat in triumph delivering the silent message that Jesus was alive. And, come to think of it: he may have sat because he was tired!

B. The Angel Sat in Waiting

He didn’t roll that stone away to let Jesus out. Jesus is God who made the mountain that housed his tomb. He didn’t need an angel to help him get out. The undisturbed grave clothes showed that Jesus just disintegrated out of them and they fell flat. That night, he would walk through a closed door and appear to his disciples in the upper room. He could surely walk out through a stone that he had made.

So, if the angel didn’t open the tomb to let Jesus out, why did he open it? He opened it to show the visitors that the tomb was empty. So, he sat in waiting for those who would come. They needed to look inside to see that Jesus wasn’t there. As Protestants we celebrate an empty cross and an open tomb. They are empty because the sacrifice is finished, and the tomb is open because Jesus conquered death for us.

C. The Angel Sat in Completion

The latter part of verse 7 tells us why the angel was sitting. He had done his job, and he sat in completion. The word “angel” means messenger, and this angel had delivered his message that Jesus was alive and shown the proof. Then, he said, “Now, I have told you!”

I like his perky spirit! He sat in completion because there was no more work he could do. The rest of the work has to be done by us. Those of us who have experienced the living Christ in our hearts must take up the message. Don’t let the rocks have to cry out because you and I won’t run with the message and tell everyone that Jesus is alive. And, since most people can’t visit his Tomb in the Holy Land, you and I will have to furnish the proof that the Risen Savior has changed our lives.

Conclusion: I don’t know about you, but I won’t let the rocks or even the angels out-do me because Jesus didn’t die for rocks or angels. He conquered death for us and arose never to be separated from us again!

 

 

 

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