Monday, April 30, 2012

Helmet of Salvation

FBCRB 4/29/12

“This Means War, Pt. VI”  Ephesians 6:10-18

A couple of months ago we went through a series of sermons where we talked about the goal of our church.  As if we were all in one boat and using the word of God as one oar and prayer as the other oar, do you remember where we were rowing?  Do you remember the goal?  The goal of our church is to further the Kingdom.  We are not to try to further our church or ourselves but to do whatever it takes to promote the Kingdom of God.  That is the Biblical model of the goal of the church and we continue to strive for that.

If that is our goal, then what do you think is the goal of the enemy?  In our series the last few weeks we have been seeing that our battle to reach that goal is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his demons and all the dark forces of evil.  What do you think their goal is?  Their overall goal is to hinder the Kingdom.  They want to kill it, make it go away, distract it, whatever they can do to hinder the progress and the promotion of the Kingdom of God, and they should.  That’s a good plan for them.

Fortunately for us, we have the playbook of the enemy.  We have a powerful force in the canon of scripture that helps us to understand the schemes of Satan so we know not only what he has done in the past but we see how to expect him to attack in the future and I will say again that I believe that is one of the reasons why our church has been put to the test so often and so hard lately is because Satan has had to up his game and he is ticked off about us focusing on how to defeat him.

There are a lot of classic books on the art of war.  Sun Tzu wrote a book by that very name that is popular with military strategists.  Almost all other big names in military strategy have written books on how they were successful.  Hitler had Mein Kaumpf.   Napolean, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great and Hannibal all had notes or writings explaining the best ways to be victorious over the enemy.  And do you know what they all considered to be one of the most vital parts of military strategy?  In fact, it is part of the strategy used even in the latest wars the United States has fought.  It is the strategy of deception.

Deception.  It is important to have the latest technology and the largest force possible and to be well trained with an excellent chain of command who communicate well but all these being equal, if you can make your enemy think you are going to do one thing and you do another you can be victorious.  If you can deceive them into thinking they don’t have all the equipment they need or that you have more than you have; if you can deceive them into thinking there is no way they can win; if you can deceive them into thinking you are about to give up or that you are going to the left and then you go right; whatever you can do to deceive your enemy will benefit you, especially when you are overpowered.

Now, cue Satan.  That is exactly where he is.  He is vastly overpowered and will resort to doing whatever he can do to deceive us into thinking things that will give him an edge.  He knows that while he is more powerful than we are that we are protected by and provided for by the Almighty God Himself.  He knows he is doomed.  He has heard enough preaching over the years to know how all of this is going to play out for him but he won’t go down without a fight.  He wants very much to do his worst in your life as a Christian.  He can’t stand you and would kill you in a second if God removed His hand of grace from you.  We have several ways to protect ourselves from Satan, though, as we will continue to look at the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Turn there now and read along silently as I read out loud.

We will be focusing on the first part of verse 17 this morning.  We have looked previously at how to put on the belt, the breastplate, the shoes and the shield.  Today we are told to “take” the helmet of salvation and I want us to look at 3 things as we study this passage.  I want to first look at what the helmet of salvation is and then how to put it on and then what it protects us from.

For the typical Roman soldier that Paul was envisioning here, the helmet was made of a leather inner liner with an outer shell made of brass or other metal and for the officers it often had a plume or row of feathers on top for show.  Now, I guess if I was an officer I would have to follow orders and wear a row of feathers on top of my helmet but for me that just seems kind of silly.  I’m too proud to wear something like that on my head.  When I wear a helmet, I want to look tough and manly.  I don’t want silly feathers on my motorcycle helmet, I can assure you.  So, that’s why when I wanted to dress up my helmet I went for the natural look.  What do you think?

Yep, nothing says, “Don’t mess with me” like a real skunk skin.  It actually did save my life one time.  I fell asleep on a long trip and when I woke up in the hospital the front of the helmet was mashed together and there was rocks and gravel all in the front of the pelt.  There are also some scratches on the side.  Good helmet and pretty much one of a kind as far as I know.  And the skunk smell is almost gone so that’s good.

But for us today in our battle against Satan, what does it mean to put on the helmet of salvation.  I think we can get a little better view of what Paul was talking about by reading another of his references to the helmet of salvation in I Thessalonians 5:8 where he says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  You see here he says it is the hope of salvation but he is not talking about hoping that we are saved.  It is what is alluded to in Romans 13:11, when he says, "now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed." It is, says 1 Peter 1:5, "a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Note that this salvation is a hope. Paul says in Romans 8:24-25, "if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see?" In other words, hope looks to something we do not see or have rather than for something we already see and have. This is not the same kind of hope as hoping that it doesn’t rain or hoping something good will come on TV.  This is a confident hope.

So, the salvation of our helmet is something yet future, something as yet not possessed or not fully entered into. It is referring to a salvation that is to be ours when Christ comes again. Hebrews 9:28, "Christ…shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." In short, we can say that the salvation that we hope to receive at Christ’s second coming is, as it is stated in Titus 1:2, "the hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised long ages ago."

So, we have seen what the helmet of salvation is.  We have seen that we will be victorious through Jesus.  We have seen that we have a lot to look forward to.  We have seen that salvation is ours to come.  Now let’s look at how to put it on.  When I put on that skunk helmet I always fasten the chin strap tight so the helmet doesn’t fall off.  You can test it by pulling on it and see that it won’t come loose.  It is the same with the helmet of salvation.  We are told about it in the Bible and you all told me last week that you believe the Bible and it has been tested throughout all of history and has proven itself to be true and faithful.

Now the option is to rely on what you think or feel which may well be corrupted by the great deceiver, Satan.  How many times have you felt something that turned out to be false?  Sometimes you may have a gut feeling that helps you but oftentimes our feelings get us into trouble.  Have the prophesies of your feelings come true since the beginning of time?  The Bible’s prophecies have.  Have your feelings proved themselves reliable in every way every time?  The Bible has.

Satan loves for us to act based on our feelings. We’ve seen that the weapons that he aims at us are intended to attack our minds and our emotions and to try to get us to be discouraged and to doubt. And since our feelings are certainly impacted by the circumstances of life, they change all the time as our circumstances change.

But God’s Word never changes. So if we base our hope on His Word, our hope will be consistent and we won’t be tossed around by our feelings. In fact, one of the reasons God has given us His written Word is so that we can know without a doubt that our salvation is secure.

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  John was writing to followers of Jesus so that they could know without any doubt whatsoever that they have eternal life.

If you’re like me, it might help to have some examples of people who have shown us in the past how to put on the helmet of salvation; how we actually do it and what it looks like.  If we are to take the helmet of salvation as Paul says with the expectant hope of our future salvation, I want to see how to do it.  Those are real pretty words but until we can apply them to our lives in action then that is all they are.

First stop is Psalm 28.  Most of you know that David is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love David because while he was king and a man after God’s own heart, he was also very human and had terrible heartbreaks in his life and we can all learn from his example how to survive difficult times.  He was going through one of those difficult times when he wrote Psalm 28.  Read 1-2 and 7-8.

To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

In these first two verses he calls out to God and says “If you don’t answer and solve this problem, I will die.”  But then in verses 7-8 (before God answers his prayer) he says,

7.The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. 8 The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

David had every reason to be depressed and discouraged.  And he doesn’t try to cover over his hurt with fake smiles and plastic platitudes but at the same time he knows that God and God alone is his salvation.  He doesn’t know when it will come.  He knows it may get darker yet, but ultimately he knows, because he has a relationship with the Lord, that he will be saved and that brings him joy and strength.

I have another example of how to put on the helmet of salvation and I think this one is pretty good as well.  It should be pretty good since it is shown to us by the words and actions of Jesus as recalled in Hebrews 12:2. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

How is that possible?!  How could Jesus, being God but at the same time being all man, endure the outrageous, off the charts physical pain and the emotional distress of taking on all of our sins and endure it with joy?  Because He knew what salvation was like!  He knew what heaven was like.  He knew the rewards and the benefits of being obedient even when your feelings say otherwise.  He could look forward to His own salvation but He also knew that He was our salvation and that through Him we could spend eternity in Heaven.

That should bring joy and praise like it did for David instead of discouragement and doubt that Satan wants to deceive us with and that brings me to my last point.  What the helmet of salvation protects us from is that doubt and discouragement that Satan uses in our lives every day to keep us from having joy and peace; that keeps us from living an abundant life as it says in John 10:10.

The thing that makes doubt and discouragement such powerful weapons for Satan is two-fold:  it keeps us out of the fight, sitting in our foxholes feeling sorry for ourselves instead of waging war but it is also similar to a virus in that whatever attitude we have is contagious.  When we feel down and discouraged because we have taken off the helmet of salvation and have relied on the view we have of our circumstances and how we feel about that then the other people around us tend to be dragged down into that as well.

The good news is that when people see us putting on our helmets and looking past our circumstances and feelings and looking forward to the salvation that is to come then they start buckling up their helmets as well and pretty soon we start to look like an army to be reckoned with.  People in the community will see us and see that we are going through difficult times but we don’t cave in.  We don’t start self-medicating.  We don’t start complaining and worrying.  Who wants to be around that?  There is enough of that in this world.  People don’t want to see it in the church.

Some of you may hear this sermon and think I am preaching a feel-good gospel where if we just believe then everything will be ok in this world.  You would be mistaken.  I wish I could preach something like that but I have to tell you that in all probability, as bad as it is in your life right now, things are probably going to get worse.  I promise you this world is not going to get any better.  As long as we live on this nasty, ugly, self-serving, every man for himself planet then things are going to get worse and worse.  There is not much to look forward to as far as the morality and standards of this world go.

But let me encourage you with one last thought from I Thessalonians 4:13-18:  13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

There is our salvation!  There is our helmet!  Put it on and don’t be deceived!

Monday, April 23, 2012

This Means War V - Eph. 6:10-18

FBC RB 4/22/12

“This Means War V” – Ephesians 6:10-18

I have some questions for you this morning and I would like for you to answer yes or no or amen or I love squids or whatever.

Would you agree that God is all-powerful?



Would you agree that Jesus is alive?

Is He part of the Trinity?

And the Trinity is God, 3 in 1, Father, Spirit, Son?

Would you agree that the Bible is completely true?

It is the Inspired word of God?

Its words are powerful and will not come back void?

If all of that is true, then can you prove it scientifically?  Would it be fair to say, then, that you believe all of these things on faith?  Would it be fair to say then that you believe these things because that is what the Bible teaches and you believe the Bible on faith?

When Roman soldiers were training to go into combat (actually all soldiers do this but our passage refers to Roman soldiers) they would prepare for battle by practicing what might happen if they were attacked.  The leader would line them up and say something like, “If your opponent thrusts his sword at you straight on you should step aside and then counter with your sword.  If he swings his sword over his head at you then bring up your shield to defend yourself.”  And they would practice that in slow motion in a safe place all to prepare themselves for the real thing when the enemy would really be trying to kill them.

That is basically what we have been doing this morning.  We are told in the Bible that Satan is prowling around looking to see who he can kill and so all of you have passed the faith training course.  Now you just have to be ready for when he attacks for real.   Just like the enemy of the Roman soldier would not go in slow motion, announcing what he is about to do and allowing the other to be ready, so, too, does Satan not attack in slow motion announcing his intentions.

He doesn’t come to you and say, “Um excuse me but I just wanted you to believe that God is not all-powerful.”  What he does do, though, is to place doubts in your mind when things happen in your life.

When you get a bad report from your doctor, Satan is right there to make you question God’s love.  When you check your bank account and everything has hit at once, Satan is there to say, “Well, you obviously aren’t going to be tithing this week.”  When your favorite sin comes tempting, Satan will say, “Go ahead.  It’s not that big of a deal and besides, nobody will know.”

 Turn to our passage this morning in Ephesians 6:10-18 and we will talk more about how to be ready when Satan attacks.


We will be concentrating on verse 16 this week.  This is our 5th week to be studying the armor of God and we have seen in previous weeks how we are to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the importance of having our feet shod with peace.  This week we will be looking at the shield of faith.

I’m sure Paul is writing this at least with the memory of being chained to a Roman soldier.  He may even be looking at one as he writes it, we don’t know.  But Paul has had enough face to face time with soldiers to know well what they wore and how they dressed.  In this verse he talks about the shield.  The shield to which he alludes here is not the small dress shield used in parades but the big shield used in real battle.  It was almost as big as a door but had a handle on the inside the soldier could grab easily.

It wasn’t enough for the soldier to have on the body armor of the day.  For intense battles he needed the protection of the shield.  So also should the Christian not only be wearing truth and righteousness with peace but for the intense Satanic battles, we need to hold up the shield of faith.  But what does that mean?  This is not necessarily the saving faith that is often talked about but the Greek word means the faith that is a deeply held belief or conviction.

Hebrews 11:1
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I read the story of the little boy who fell over the side of the cliff and was sitting on a small outcrop of rock.  The firemen came to get him and dropped a rope over the edge and told him to grab the loop and they would pull him up.  He refused until finally his father called down to him and told him he would pull him up by the rope.  The little boy immediately grabbed the rope and was pulled to safety.  The little boy couldn’t see his dad but had faith in him and him alone.

So far, as we have looked at this armor, I have tried to positively motivate us into putting on each piece.  Today I want to look at 3 things that happen if we don’t pick up the shield of faith.  There may be more but for today there are 3 things that suffer from Satan’s flaming arrows that could have been extinguished had we picked up the shield of faith.

The first thing Satan’s arrows attack is your peace and joy.  Next they attack your witness and lastly they attack your relationship.

A few years ago I decided I was going to do a Bible study and figure out the secret to getting and keeping joy and peace.  I dug deep, doing word studies and looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words in a concordance and was surprised by what I found.  I found that peace and joy have nothing to do with circumstances or stuff but are only found through…wait for it…that dreaded “O” word…obedience.

You see it in the Old Testament in the life and writings of David and you see it in the New Testament in the life and writings of Paul as well as others.  Think of Daniel in the lion’s den, Esther before the king, Peter in prison, Jesus Himself as the boat he was in was about to sink.  What do they all have in common?  Peace and joy through obedience.

The next time you see a dog sitting in a front yard with no fence, I want you to think about this.  That is the perfect picture of peace through obedience.  If that dog was to run off he would have to stay in the back fence but because he is obedient to stay in the yard he can go anywhere at any time.  So many think obedience is not getting to do all the fun things we want but with God it is freedom!  It means that God wants what is best and because we are obedient we can have the joy and peace of a dog sitting in the sun even when difficult times come.

And that drives Satan crazy to see you with joy and peace and so he does everything he can to ruin that.  So when difficult times come, Satan draws back his bow and sends the flaming arrow of doubt, fear and worry right into your heart and kills your joy and peace.  And the extra benefit to Satan is that rarely does your joy and peace die without taking out someone else’s.  And Satan giggles his ever-loving head off.

It says right here that our battle is not against flesh and blood but Satan wants you to think it is.  He wants you to worry all night about your kids and grandkids.  He wants you to feel guilty about what you did to that person 20 years ago.  He wants you to doubt that your spouse is faithful. 

Satan may not be able to kill you because God won’t let him but the next best thing to a dead child of God to Satan is a child who is preoccupied and distracted with his own circumstances because that child has no witness and that is the next thing Satan’s arrows attack.  They attack your witness.  So, instead of being obedient and picking up our shield of faith that says, “I don’t know why I am having to go through this.  I don’t deserve it.  I don’t want it and it hurts…BUT…I trust God to protect and provide and to not put on me more than I can handle.  Instead of that we suffer with no peace, joy or witness.

I want you to think now about how Satan’s schemes attack our witness.  Satan would have you to think that because your spouse is not as loving as they used to be that it is ok to have an affair.  He wants you to at least consider the idea that getting drunk every now and then is not any big deal and that God understands that you have had a hard week.  He wants you to think that because everybody else at church is gossiping that it must be ok and besides, who is going to get hurt?

I want you to consider your own little pet sin or sins.  Think for just a second about where you struggle and about what is going to happen when the news gets out that you are a gossip or a liar or a drunk or a pervert or whatever it is that you do.  What is going to happen when word gets out that you do those things?  Nobody will ever know, huh?  Do you realize that is exactly what every single person in the news right now was thinking?  Nobody ever thinks they will get caught. 

“Whew, when my wife finds out I’m cheating she’s gonna be mad.”

“I know I’ll get caught robbing this bank but I hope they put me in a nice cell.”

“When my daddy hears me cussing he’s gonna tan my hide!”

I think about those Secret Service agents who were in Colombia a couple of weeks ago who were busted with prostitutes after a night of partying.  I guarantee you they thought there is no way anybody is ever going to find out.  I’m 2000 miles away from anybody who even cares and so I will do whatever I want.  Can you imagine being that man who comes home and has to face his young daughter who says, “Daddy, I saw you on the news.  What’s a prostitute and why were you with her?”

Now I don’t know the spiritual condition of any of those men but I know that is right where Satan wants us.  No peace, no joy, no witness and no relationship with God.

The Bible teaches us that once you ask Jesus into your heart you are always a child of God.  Jesus says in John 10 that nobody can snatch you out of His hand (and that is another thing Satan wants you to worry about) but we can lose our close relationship with Him and we do when we sin.  Sin brings a barrier between us and God.

You see it in the very first sin when Adam and Eve listened to Satan and ate the fruit.  What happened?  Instead of walking in the cool garden with God, they ran and hid and were ultimately banished from the garden.  I have an idea that as they walked out of the garden that day they could hear the echo of laughter coming from that snake Satan.

You also see it the Bible when King Saul makes bad choices, when the Israelites disobey, when David goes through Bathsheeba-gate or when Peter denies Jesus before He is crucified.  What do they have in common?  No joy, no peace, no witness and no relationship with God.

How about in your own life?  When Satan attacks you and says there is no way God is going to do what He said He is going to do and you believe him and then you do whatever it is that you do, then what happens?  Your prayers bounce off the ceiling, your wisdom heads south, your security is threatened and you wind up tied up in knots in the back yard whining like a puppy.

The good news is that when that happens I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  And our relationship is restored.  Our joy and peace ease back in and our witness…well, sometimes it takes a while for our witness to be restored.  With some people it may never come back.  Just a little added bonus for the evil one; the deceiver, the father of lies.

For me, I don’t want to have to explain myself to y’all.  I don’t want to have to look you in the face and tell you my excuse for not picking up my shield of faith.  I don’t want to hear Satan laughing at me.  I want to hear God laughing with me, saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  I know it was difficult.  I know Satan was sneaky but you did so well!  Come in here to my rest, my peace, my joy, my relationship.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Relationship Advice - Psalm 37:1-7

LBBC 4/15/12

Relationship Advice - Psalm 37:1-7

After 64 years of marriage Bernard and Gertrude had celebrated anniversaries in all kinds of ways.  Today they just stayed at home.  Bernard looked over at his wife who was reading the newspaper and he thought of all the good times they had had.  He leaned forward so she could hear him and said, "Honey, after all these years I have found you tried and true."

She looked up from her paper and said, "Well, I'm tired of you, too!"

So many of you have asked for this from me and so, by popular demand, I am going to give you all some relationship advice.  You know, since I'm so good at it.  So, that's good news.  Actually, the really good news is that this advice does not come from me, it comes from the Bible.  Also, while this advice is very applicable to you and your sweetie, it actually is advice on how to improve your relationship with God.

Many times in the Bible the church is referred to as the bride of Christ and in Isaiah 62:5 it says, "as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you."  We talked this morning about how the peace we have with God affect the other relationships we have.  So too does the other aspects of our relationship with God affect and are applicable to our other important relationships. 

What does your spouse need from you the most?  Is it comfort, security, trust, commitment, something less than the truth when you see them first thing in the morning?  God is not so self-conscious that he needs less than the truth but He still wants you to look at your relationship with Him as...a relationship.

Psalm 37:1-7 is our text for tonight.  Turn there and let's look at 4 ways to make sure we have a right relationship with God.

After reading a passage like that you would have to try pretty hard to be worried about much at all.  It's a beautiful passage that is comforting and yet brings great wisdom.  That David guy is gonna be a good writer some day.  Actually, if we could read it in the original Hebrew we would see that it is a poem where every other line starts with the next letter of the alphabet.  Beautiful.

But, like I said I want us to see 4 ways we can make sure we have a right relationship with God.

The first way David tells us is to trust God (verse 3).  Somebody tell me how you know you can trust your spouse.  Maybe it is the first time you knew you could trust that person.

Now tell me how you know you can trust God.  Give me one example.

Some people don't have any trouble trusting a car mechanic or a fast-food worker but they just can't quite trust God.  I was talking to somebody this week who was having some problems and I told them I have found that it is ok to ask God "Why?" if it is done with the right attitude and followed quickly by, "...but I trust you."  God's ok with that.  He may not answer right away but it's part of the relationship.  It's part of trusting God as David recommends.

The next way to have a right relationship with God is to delight yourself in Him (verse 4).  I love to watch Bro. and Mrs. Davenport together.  When he is around her he just glows, still, after 150 years of being married.  He calls her sweetheart; tells people she is his girlfriend.  He brags on her like they are going steady in high school.  Rarely is he not smiling when he speaks of her.  And do you know what?  He wants what she wants.

If he thinks she wants or needs something, he loads up the walker in the car and goes to get it.  He might forget what he wants from the store but he gets what she wants.  If God was talking to Gabriel and Michael the angels about you, do you think He could say something similar about you?

"That Carol.  She rarely asks me for anything for herself.  She always asks me what I want and when she knows, she does it with a smile.  She is highly esteemed!  Watch me bless her."

Thirdly, we are to be committed (verse 5).  How long would your relationship last without commitment?  I heard the news this past week that Brad and Angelina are finally engaged to be married after 7 years of living together.  Alot of folks are disappointed because they are officailly off the market now.  There's alot of good looks right there.  And that Angelina ain't bad either!

I think they have like 6 adopted kids and that is very noble but what does it teach those kids about commitment when it took them 7 years to decide this?  Just as we hate to see people live together outside of marriage, so does God hate to see us wishy-washy in our relationship with Him.

When church is an option, that's not commitment.

When the tithe check usually gets turned in, that's not commitment.

When you act one way with friends and another at church, that's not commitment.

When you let an opportunity go by to witness, no matter what your excuse is, that's not commitment.

If you wouldn't want your spouse to do it, then God probably feels the same way when you do it.

The last thing we can do to make sure that we have a right relationship with God is probably the hardest.  In verse 7, David tells us to "Be still and wait."

Now David is one to talk about waiting on God, right?  Don't you remember one of my favorite stories in the Bible where David killed Goliath (who was wearing brass greaves on his legs by the way)?  David didn't wait.  He saw the problem and it says that he actually ran toward Goliath.  How do we know when to run toward as he did and when to wait as he said?

I have 2 thought on this.  First, I would say don't do anything until God tells you to do something, as He obviously led David.  But also, when you are in a right relationship with God, you will know what to do and when to do it.  That's part of the relationship.  That's why He says here, "Do not fret" and in Ephesians 6 we are told to stand strong in the Lord with the gospel of peace.

It's ok to be still.  Don't try to show God how well you can solve a problem.  You don't try to impress a girl by showing her how well you can mow the lawn and change the oil and clean the house.  Sit down, be still and have a relationship with God.  He promises blessings when we do.

This Means War IV

FBCRB 4/15/12

“This Means War IV” Ephesians 6:10-18

I’m not having a very good day today. Everybody has bad things happen to them every now and then, right. And sometimes your bad day turns into a bad week or even a bad month. And for some of us, it seems like it is always something. Why is that? Is God displeased with us? Does He hate us and want bad things to happen to us?

I don’t even have to bring up all the things happening in the news. It’s bad enough for some of us here today in our own lives. I look out and see people affected by difficulty all over the room. Job problems, physical problems, money problems, marriage problems (those two words go hand in hand, don’t they?). Problems with the kids, problems with the car, the weather…It’s enough to make you just want to give up sometimes, isn’t it?

Well, it would be if we weren’t being so saturated by the peace of God that passes all understanding. That’s what Philippians 4:7 says; that our hearts and minds are protected by God’s peace through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t say that bad things won’t come our way and I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that being a Christian makes life easy but I will tell you that I don’t understand how people get through this life without the peace that comes from having a relationship with Jesus.

We took a little break from our series on the armor of God for Easter but I want to go back to Ephesians 6:10-18. Verse 15 is where we will focus but to keep everything in context, let’s read the full passage.

Ephesians 6:10-18

You may have heard sermons preached on this beautiful passage before and if so I have to warn you that many times it may be a good and inspiring sermon but interpreted incorrectly. To have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace is not Paul exhorting us to take the gospel out. This is one time where he tells us to put the gospel on and then stand there.

There are many, many other places that tell us as Christians to go out and tell others the good news or the gospel but this is not one of them and it is important to know exactly what Paul was talking about because if we fail to put on one part of the armor, we can be assured that is where Satan will attack us.

On Feb. 28, 1997 2 men robbed the Bank of America in North Hollywood, Ca. They went in carrying several guns each with over 3000 rounds of ammo and wearing full suits of home-made body armor that covered them from their heads down to their knees. They immediately started shooting with armor-piercing ammo that went right through the police cars when they quickly arrived.

When the police shot back the body armor repelled every bullet. It is estimated that the police fired almost 700 rounds at the 2 men but it wasn’t until one of the SWAT team members, who had ducked behind a police car shot under the car hitting one of the men in the shins and feet that finally the man was brought down. They had protection everywhere else and may have gotten away with it but they had left one piece of armor off and it proved to be their downfall.

So, it is just as important or more for us to know what armor is available to us and to make sure that we put it on. Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and stand firm against the schemes of the Devil and to put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness as we have talked about in previous weeks. He then says to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from having the gospel of peace.

Some of your translations probably say to be shod with the readiness. It means to lace up tightly. As I prepared for this sermon I read several commentaries about what this verse means. Almost every commentary would explain that a Roman soldier’s shoes would be made of leather and metal with spikes on the bottom for traction and would include brass greaves that would protect from the knees down to the top of the foot. The commentary would then go on to say that we should shod ourselves with the gospel of peace so we don’t slip.

I would read that and think, “Yea, we should do that. But what does that mean?” I read sermons from other preachers and they would talk long and pretty about fitting ourselves with the gospel of peace but few tried to actually explain it. Some would say that our feet should always be ready to take the gospel to all parts of the world and while that is true and good to say, it is not what this passage is talking about.

As we explore what it actually means to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, I want us to see 3 basic things:

· The Gospel brings vertical peace

· Horizontal peace

· Internal peace

The Greek word translated “readiness” or “preparation”refers to the basis of something or the foundation, the firm footing of something. We are to be strong in the Lord, standing against Satan’s schemes, on the firm footing of knowing the good news that God is in control. Let me ask you some questions as examples.

How many of you have ever had God tell you to do something or not to do something and you wanted to do the right thing but you just couldn’t. How many of you have ever had somebody do something mean or wrong to you and you harbored a grudge against that person for years? How many of you have ever been scared about what was going to happen to you tomorrow or next week?

We have probably all been in all of those situations and the answer to all three is having our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace. You see, if God has told you not to do something and you keep on doing it then you need the gospel that brings vertical peace, up and down, between you and God. Romans 5:10 says that before we were Christians we were actually enemies with God. He loved you and sent Jesus to die for you but until we accept Jesus into our lives to be Lord and Savior, we are His enemies

But the good news is that once we accept Jesus we are considered friends with God. We are joint heirs with Jesus to all good things including a life of purpose and fulfillment and then eternal life with God in Heaven. It also means that we accept God as our spiritual Father who is sovereign, in control of everything and while we should have a fear of Him and His power it should also bring us great peace because we know God has proven Himself faithful over and over again; and not just faithful but very loving, compassionate and generous.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Do you understand that? When God tells us to do something or stop doing something and we refuse it is because somewhere in our minds we are not sure if we can trust Him. We say we believe Him and trust Him but our disobedience is proof otherwise. When difficult times come and we start to worry we take off those brass greaves that protect our shins and Satan hits us with a baseball bat of doubt and down we go. We slip. We fall. We sin.

Put on the good news, the gospel, that God loves you and wants to make you like Him. It won’t always be easy. He never promises to give us everything we want. But He does promise to work for the good of those who love him.

And that brings vertical peace or peace between us and God. Another way it brings peace is horizontally, between us and others.

One of the reasons the Roman army was so successful was because they knew how to march and fight in formation, as a whole. The men in the front had their shields to the front. The men in the back had their shields to their backs. That way the whole platoon was protected from the spears and arrows of the enemy.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” The good news of Christ should affect how we deal with others. When we know that everything that happens has to cross the desk of the Creator, Sustainer, Deliverer and our Friend, then we should be at peace with other people even when they mistreat us.

There is always going to be the potential for friction anytime two people show up at the same spot for anything even if it is the church. Adrian Rogers was a powerful Baptist preacher from a time not long ago. He was in a meeting one time when a young man stood up and said, “There is only one way to see this problem and that is this way…” When he got through explaining his way was the only way, Adrian Rogers said, “It’s a mighty thin pancake that only has one side!”

There is usually at least 2 ways to see a problem and that is going to lead to friction but it doesn’t have to mean that we slip and fall and bring shame to the Kingdom. It is an opportunity for us to show the peace that we have with God to the other person, knowing, again, that God is in control and is going to work to make all of us more like Him and to our good. That ought to bring such peace that when Brother Thundermuffin stands up in a meeting and he is full of hot air and bad attitude and wrong ideas that instead of arguing over our preference, we let him have his way knowing that God is in control. We don’t compromise on truth but when it comes to preferences we show peace and let Brother Thundermuffin go home thinking, “What’s different about that person?”

I'll end this section by simply saying that every time there is disunity in the church, you can trace it back to sin somewhere.  Remember Colossians 3:15.  As members of one body, we are called to peace.  And why wouldn't we have peace with others when we have such peace with God? 

The last way the gospel provides peace is internally.  I have two beautiful passages of scripture to illustrate this.  The first one is Psalm 46:1-3 and 10. 

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Though my body give way and my job fall into the sea.  Though my spouse roars and foams!  Be still and know that I am God.  That means to quit striving.  Quit running around trying to fix everything with your own power.  In fact, isn't that what Paul is telling us to do in our main passage?  Be strong in the Lord, and STAND!  Accept God's peace and stand strong when Satan attacks.

The last passage I want to look at is in Habakkuk 3:17-19. 

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

This last passage, I want you to go home and personalize it.  I want you to go home and substitute what sustains you in the place of what sustained Habakkuk.

Though the credit card gets declined and the bank account falls to zero, though the contract gets cancelled and the grocery store runs out of food.  Though there is no car in the garage and no clothes in the closet, yet will I rejoice in the Lord.  I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Can you say that this morning?  If not then your feet are not fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  And that may be because you don't know God well enough; you aren't close enough to Him.  Or it could mean that you don't know Him at all.

In John 14, we see Jesus comforting His friends who are going through a really rough time.  These words are a comfort to us as Christians today but they are also an invitation to those who have never accepted Him into their lives to be Lord and Savior.

John 14:1  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Most Important Thing - I Cor. 15:1-11

FBCRB 4/8/12

“The Most Important Thing”  I Cor. 15:1-11

Feb. 27, 1991, at the height of Desert Storm, Ruth Dillow received a very sad message from the Pentagon. It stated that her son, Clayton Carpenter, Private 1st Class, had stepped on a mine in Kuwait & was dead.

Ruth Dillow later wrote, "I can’t begin to describe my grief & shock. It was almost more than I could bear. For 3 days I wept. For 3 days I expressed anger & loss. For 3 days people tried to comfort me, to no avail because the loss was too great."

But 3 days after she received that message, the telephone rang. The voice on the other end said, "Mom, it’s me. I’m alive." Ruth Dillow said, "I couldn’t believe it at first. But then I recognized his voice, & he really was alive." The message was all a mistake!

She said, "I laughed, I cried, I felt like turning cartwheels, because my son whom I had thought was dead, was really alive. I’m sure none of you can even begin to understand how I felt."

Perhaps not, but some who walked the pages of the N.T. would have understood how she felt because they experienced the same emotions themselves. One day they watched their best friend & teacher being nailed to a cross. They witnessed His pain as He cried out, "I thirst!" & "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

They listened as finally He bowed His head & said, "It is finished!" & "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." They watched as His body was taken from the cross & buried. All their hopes & dreams were buried with Him.

Friday & all day Saturday they mourned, until finally, on "the first day of the week, early in the morning," the scripture says, some women made their way along the path that led to His tomb, wondering who would roll away the stone for them.

But when they arrived, they found that the stone had already been rolled away. And an angel there told them, "You’re looking in the wrong place. You’re looking for Jesus among the dead. He is not dead. He is alive. He is risen, even as He said!"

"He is risen!" That is what we celebrate this morning. When all the evidence is in we’re convinced that Jesus is alive. He is risen from the dead, & what a difference His resurrection has made!

Now, I have to warn you this morning that we have a situation here.  This is a potentially dangerous passage that we are going to be reading this morning because we are going to be reading about the most important thing in the world.  No kidding.  No president has ever declared a more life-changing message.  No great statesman has ever been quoted saying anything deeper or more profound than what we are about to read and I am here to warn you that it may cause problems. 

This passage has the potential to cause problems to anyone with a weak heart because it very well could excite you.  It could easily cause your heart to race and your palms to sweat.  Also, I have to warn you that I am already excited about it and if you were to accidentally say “Amen” or “Preach that!” or even “thank you, Lord” that I could just go off the deep end and if I go off the deep end then there is the possibility that I could preach 5 minutes over my allotted time.

We sure don’t want that.  We sure don’t want anyone’s life to be changed here this morning or that may put us late for the Easter buffet.  And while I don’t want any eternal decisions to be made today, I have to warn you that I fully expect it to happen today and right here.  How could lives not be changed by reading I Corinthians 15:1-11?  It has been called many times the most important passage in the whole Bible.  That’s pretty big talk, I know, but even Paul himself says that what he is writing is the most important thing.

This morning I would like for you to turn there and read silently as I read out loud the powerful words of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, talking about Jesus and written by the apostle Paul.

I Corinthians 15:1-11

Just this week I have heard of some interesting ways that churches have planned to celebrate Easter.  One church is having Batman and Robin show up in costume.  Another church in this area is going to be in 3-D with 3-D glasses provided.  Another church here in Texas is adding a tattoo parlor to its facilities.  For us, we might have a visit by Nicodemus and Mary Magdelene but I think we should focus on the Good News, the Gospel that Paul is telling the church at Corinth because I am pretty sure that is the most important thing.

It’s the most important thing because everything else in this book and ultimately in our lives as Christians hinges on the Gospel.  We have been looking recently at the passage in Ephesians 6 that says we are in a spiritual battle and we are to put on the armor of God and the very first thing we are to put on is the belt of truth.  Well, this is the very thread that holds that belt together.  If this is not absolute truth then everything unravels and our belt of truth falls and everything else we have been taught falls as well because it rests on the belt of truth.

So, if the most important thing in the world isn’t truth then as Paul also said in verse 19 we are to be pitied more than all men.  I have said many times that everybody wants to know the truth.  Nobody wants to go through life living a lie on purpose.  Nobody wants to waste their life chasing after the wind with nothing to show for it at the end of time.

And since I want to know the truth and I want you to know the truth let’s look at 5 brief pieces of evidence that prove this Gospel, this Good News is, indeed, truth.

The first evidence or testimony that Paul provides is the testimony of the church to which he is writing in Corinth.  In verse 1, Paul addresses them as “brothers” which is to call them fellow-Christians with him.  He says to them that the Gospel he is preaching is the Gospel by which they are known, much like our church is known for holding the Gospel to be truth.  Paul says they have received it from him and now they have taken their stand with it.

The city of Corinth was known even in the pagan world for its moral corruption.  In classical Greek, to behave “like a Corinthian” meant you were involved in sins unlike most others.  Paul warns them against such things in chapter 6 where he talks about the sexually immoral, the homosexuals, idolaters, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers and the like.

But the church was different.  They were now known for taking up and holding on to the truth of the Gospel and, again like our church, they had seen God work and had seen Him prove Himself faithful over and over again.

The next evidence or testimony that Paul provides in verse 3 is the testimony of the scriptures.  The Old Testament clearly predicted Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and Paul says here that what he delivered to them was of first importance, the most important thing and that he didn’t make it up but delivered it to them as he received it.  In the days after Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road he learned a lot quickly including to what those passages were referring in Genesis 22:8, Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Hosea 6:2. 

Over and over again, either directly or indirectly, literally or in figures of speech, the OT foretold of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  Paul even says again in verse 4 that this is the testimony of the scriptures.

After the testimony of the scriptures, we have the testimony of the eyewitnesses.  Verses 5, 6 and 7 tell of the people who actually saw Jesus in bodily form after His resurrection.  It is interesting that the first one listed is Peter.  Why do you think Jesus revealed Himself to Peter first?  Only a few days after Peter denied and abandoned Jesus, Jesus comes back and shows Himself to Peter, not because Peter deserved it but to show God’s grace.

I have an idea that if God could show us one thing about ourselves it would be that we are a people of pride and that if He could show us one thing about Himself it would be that He is a God of grace.

So, of these eyewitnesses, we have the witnesses of quality in the 11 remaining apostles and then we see the witnesses of quantity in verse 6 where it says He was seen by over 500 people.  Paul says that most of those 500 people are still living as of the time he wrote this as if to say, “Go ask ‘em for yourself!”  Paul knew that in those days that with the witness of just 2 people you could be found guilty or innocent of a crime.  We have seen even lately in the news how important the witness of just one or two people can be.

Then in verse 8 Paul breaks out the testimony of a special eyewitness.  It was Jesus who appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road some years later than He appeared to all of the others and so Paul uses his own testimony as a witness for the resurrection.  The definition of an apostle includes one who had seen Jesus with his own eyes and Paul never doubted his apostleship but he also never ceased to be amazed that, of all persons, Christ would have called him to that high office.

Paul knew all of his sins were forgiven and he was not plagued by feelings of guilt over what he had done against God’s people but he couldn’t forget all that which he had been forgiven.  Paul hadn’t forgotten who he had been but he recognized it was God’s grace that made him who he now was and that is what he is saying in verses 9 and 10.

Paul and I both conclude our messages with verse 11 where he calls on the testimony of the common message.  By “common message” I mean the same message that the disciples were saying and the 500 were testifying to and the church; they were all saying the same thing.  Paul says whether it was them (the disciples, 500) or Paul himself, they all preached and taught and testified to the same Good News, the same Gospel.

In fact, the very first time the Gospel was ever preached it was Peter who stood up on the day of Pentecost and told the crowd around him in Acts chapter 2 the Good News.  It says that Peter stood up and with a loud voice declared that it was you evil men who crucified Jesus and He died on the cross but God raised him from the dead on the 3rd day and provided our way into Heaven and into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Peter, who just days before denied and abandoned Jesus, was preaching one of the most powerful and life-changing sermons ever preached, bringing 3000 people into the Kingdom that day.  Peter, like Paul, used the Old Testament as proof of his testimony as well as what he had seen with his own eyes.  Peter, like Paul, told them how Jesus died, was buried and resurrected and that the people should repent and be baptized.  He ended by saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

And so I stand here this morning and like millions of others before me, I tell you to save yourselves from this corrupt generation.  Today is the day of salvation!  We are not given the promise of another breath.  Are you waiting for more proof?  Is it not enough to have the testimony of the church, the scriptures, eyewitnesses and a common message proclaimed by millions of people?

It’s the message of millions of people who have heard the Good News and made the decision to have a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.  And it’s my message to you today.