Does God Exist?

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“Carl Sagan once told a parable of a man who comes to us and claims:  “There is a dragon in my garage.” Fascinating! We reply that we wish to see this dragon—let us set out at once for the garage!

“But wait,” the claimant says to us, “it is an invisible dragon.”

Now as Sagan points out, this doesn’t make the hypothesis unfalsifiable. Perhaps we can go to the garage, and although we see no dragon, we may hear heavy breathing; or perhaps footprints that mysteriously appear on the ground; and instruments show that something in the garage is consuming oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.

But now suppose that we say to the claimant, “Okay, we’ll visit the garage and see if we can hear heavy breathing,” and the claimant quickly says no, it’s an inaudible dragon.”

We propose to measure carbon dioxide in the air, and the claimant says the dragon does not breathe. We propose to toss a bag of flour into the air to see if it outlines an invisible dragon, and the claimant immediately says, “The dragon is permeable to flour.”

To secularists, God is the dragon; invisible, inaudible, and non-existent.   They say that he is un-provable because he does not exist.  Today in our series called, “We Believe” in God, we are going to discuss – What do you say to the person who does not believe in the existence of God?

The book of Romans has some very straight forward things to say to the world of skeptics, agnostics and atheists.  And the point of this passage is to point out the obvious: Yes Virginia, there is a God.  I want to take you through the conversation that Paul had with the imaginary atheist of his day, in a question and answer format.  We will ask and answer 5 questions that Atheists ask.  And by the time we are finished, I hope you’ll be soundly convinced that there is evidence for the existence of God.

  1. Why don’t atheists believe in God?

I did quite a bit of reading this last week, and watched a number of videos from Atheists.  Here is what I found.  There is a wide variety of reasons that skeptics give for disbelief.  They rank God up there with fairy tales and unicorns.  They struggle with the injustice of the universe that God would correct if there was a God.  They complain about the many supposed contradictions in the Bible.

But one thing I heard over and over was that the burden of proof was on the believer, because, they say, there is a complete lack of evidence for the existence of God.  So they say it is up to us to convince them of the evidence.

The Bible gives a completely different reason why people don’t believe in God.  In verse 18 it claims that it is because of the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”  While skeptics may give many reasons for unbelief, the underlying motive is that they want to live how they want to live, and they don’t want some real or imaginary god telling them what to do!  This is a universal problem.  Neither men, women or children want to submit to God.  We are rebels at heart who bristle against anyone who dares to challenge us to tell us what to do.

Romans 1:18 claims that even though they know deep down inside that God exists, they purposefully suppress the truth.  Not only do they not like the truth, they suppress it in order to convince others that religion is nothing more than an imaginary fairy tale.

  1. Where should I look to find the evidence?

Verse 19 says that, “what may be known of God is manifest.”  Manifest is a word which means really “obvious, something clearly seen, easily observed, universally known.”

If you want to know where the evidence for the existence of God is, just look around.  Evidence abounds everywhere you look.  It is in a child’s smile, in a starry sky, in a mountain stream, in your DNA and fingerprints.  It is in the sunshine as well as in a thunder storm.  The existence of God is staring out at us from every atom in the universe.  It has become so ordinary and everyday that for those who fail to look, they cannot see it.

But let’s just say that that your Atheist friend suggests that believing in God is like believing in leprechauns.  Don’t buy it for an instant.  Believing in leprechauns is unjustifiable.  They are based on fabricated tales told to children.  But Believing in God is like believing in atoms.  Why do you believe in protons and neutrons?  Have you ever seen one?  I have not.  But you believe in them?  How did you come to that conclusion?  You followed the evidence of what you can see to believe the existence of something you cannot see.

Here is my proposal to you:  I challenge you to look closely at everything in life, and if you do, you will discover evidence of a loving God who is there.  Ask God, “Please show yourself to me.”

  1. Why doesn’t God just show me he exists?

He has!  Verse 19 concludes, “God has shown it to them!”  Now I told you that evidence for the existence of God is universally available and knowable by anyone who wants to see.  So now I’m going to get specific about where you can find it.

The first place to look is internally.  Eccl 3:11 states that God has put eternity in our hearts.  We cannot escape God, because we have a God consciousness stamped in our hearts.  Augustine said that there is a God shaped vacuum inside every man, and that man is restless until he finds his rest in God.  Man can intellectually argue God away, but he cannot crush the consciousness of God in his own heart.

Marilyn Adamson writes, “I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don’t believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people…to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded.

To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.  I didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known.[i]

author Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.”

C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”[ii]

  • Philosophers agree that a transcendent Law Giver is the only plausible explanation for an objective moral standard. So, ask yourself if you believe in right and wrong and then ask yourself why. Who gave you your conscience? Why does it exist?
  • People of every race, creed, color, and culture, both men and women, young and old, wise and foolish, from the educated to the ignorant, claim to have personally experienced something of the supernatural. So what are we supposed to do with these prodigious accounts of divine healing, answered prayer, and other miraculous phenomena? Ignorance and imagination may have played a part to be sure, but is there something more?[iii]

Man has the uneasy feeling that we are not alone.  Man in the depths of his heart knows there is a God.

  1. Just what is this evidence you speak of?

Verse 20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…”

Very simply, creation points to the creator.  The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset—all of these things point to a Creator God.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth (with all of its evils) and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.

Here are some truths that creation teaches us.

  • Discoveries in astronomy have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe did, in fact, have a beginning at a single moment of creation. The universe burst into being in one moment.  They call it, “the Big Bang.”  We call it Creation.  Because we know that every Big Bang requires a Big Banger!
  • Advances in molecular biology have revealed vast amounts of information encoded in each and every living cell, and molecular biologists have discovered thousands upon thousands of exquisitely designed machines at the molecular level. Information of this complexity requires intelligence and design requires a designer.
  • Biochemists and mathematicians have calculated the odds against life arising from non-life naturally via unintelligent processes. The odds are so astronomical they are impossible. In fact, scientists aren’t even sure if life could have evolved with some intelligent processes guiding them.
  • The universe is ordered by natural laws. Where did these laws come from?[iv]

The human body is an absolute marvel.  Take the eye for instance.  Our eyes are inset, so as to protect them.  The eyelid defends the eye from injury, wipes it, keeping it moisturized and clear, and closes in sleep.  Its vision is sharper than a camera, and has never been replaced by a newer model.  The ear is an acoustic marvel.  We can hear some 15,000 tones.  Not only is the ear for hearing, but it controls equilibrium as well.  Stretched over our body is skin, so tough as to endure a shocking amount of use and punishment, and yet so sensitive as to detect texture and temperature of most anything it contacts.  Then there is the heart.  It has its own nervous system that operates independently so that if all other nerves were severed, the heart would keep beating.  It beats some 20,000 times a day, 40 million beats per year, and over 2 billion times in a lifetime.  Most without maintenance, without rest or repair.  Even man’s best engines cannot match that.  Then there is the mouth, what can we say about that.  Some of us can talk for hours on end without so much as a single breath.  Only God could have created such an intricate and amazing creation.

God’s invisible attributes are clearly detailed in creation.  God’s eternal power and Godhead are clearly understood by what he has made

A revolutionary once boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.”  Said the peasant dryly, “Citizen, pull down the stars then!”

  1. What if Still I don’t believe?

You are in trouble.  Look at the last four words of verse 20, “they are without excuse.”  You are without excuse.  Facts are stubborn things and whatever our wishes may be, they cannot alter the state of facts or history.  You may wish pigs to fly, or monkeys to be men, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

The Bible says that in the long run, we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply get on TV and prove to the whole world that He exists. But even then, many would not believe.  Even if one cam back from the dead, they will not believe.

“Jesus told Thomas, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believe’” (John 20:29).

[i] https://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

[ii] https://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

[iii] http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/does-god-exist-c.htm

[iv] http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/does-god-exist-c.htm

God and the Culture of Disbelief

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The summer of the 2017 fire season will go down as one of the worst in history.  So far over 500,000 acres in Oregon have turned to ash, costing some 240 million dollars this year.[i]  Oregon is burning.  Pray for rain.  Over in Montana, the scorched earth has spread to over 1 million acres.  Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Arizona are battling wildfires as well.  And believe it or not fires have burned over 100,000 acres in Florida earlier this summer, where they now await Hurricane Irma.

These wildfires are a parable for our country.  Our culture has become a tinderbox of disbelief that has exploded into chaos.  The morals, values and beliefs that once held our society together are now in smoldering ruins.  America is burning.

We live in a culture of disbelief.  More and more people refuse to accept that the Bible is true.  The world is quickly becoming skeptical.  Increasingly, faith is written off as the stuff of silly fairy tales.  We Christians who hold to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scriptures are now the object of scorn and ridicule.  And our message, that Jesus death and resurrection is necessary for salvation, has become so offensive that critics are clamoring to silence it.

But ideas have consequences.  And the consequences of disbelief are a loss of hope and a world in chaos.  In this message, we are going to address the serious problem of disbelief and show you the incredible power of faith in Jesus.  This is the first in a series where we will respectfully lay out our creeds and show you that what you believe makes a difference in how you live.  If you want to live well, you must believe well.  If you want hope, peace and joy, you must get a grip on the fundamental truths of the faith.

But first, let us address the culture of disbelief

The Culture of Disbelief

22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

Let’s begin at verse 22.  It details the two major reasons for disbelief.  The world does not believe because of two major obstacles.

#1 Some people demand a sign.

If God exists, why doesn’t he make it a little bit more obvious to the skeptic?  Why not make a big show of himself?  Why not give a sign of incontrovertible proof that he exists?  Have you ever asked yourself the question, what evidence is there that is convincing enough to prove to you that God exists?

One woman tells the story of how she begged God for a sign.  “Around three o’clock in the morning I decided to get out of bed and go sit on the balcony. Our room boasted a spectacular view of the Southern Rocky Mountains, looking out at two huge peaks. When I stepped outside I was stunned to see a storm raging silently between the two mountains. The only sound was the rustling of a mild breeze as the lightning flashed brilliantly to illuminate the great cloud, probably a hundred miles away. It must have been 60,000 feet tall with raging winds, battering the ground below with rain or hail; and yet it seemed like it was framed neatly there between the two mountains just for my amusement. An artist wouldn’t have painted like that, because it would seem too contrived.

“The rest of the sky was completely clear, and packed with stars. Just as I looked up to try to pick out some constellations, a large meteor sparkled across the sky. Then another. I saw probably eight in total that night, many of them large with long, dazzling trails. It was breathtaking.  It was the middle of the night and I was probably the only person watching this display.

“Well,” I smirked to myself, “be careful what you wish for.” I had asked for a sign, and this was about as “sign-ish” as it gets. What more did I want? Yet I wasn’t convinced. Even as my heart raced witnessing the grandeur before me I wrote it off as just a storm and an unexpected meteor shower. I refused to believe that there was anything more to this than a random cloud and some dust entering the earth’s atmosphere.

“I realized then that there was no sign that God could give me.  If this wouldn’t suffice, nothing would. I wasn’t open to it. Had I walked out on the balcony to see “HI JENNIFER, IT’S ME, GOD!” written across the sky I would have been impressed but ultimately written it off as a practical joke. If Jesus himself materialized to shake my hand and greet me I’d write it off as a hallucination. Because, in my mind, there was a natural explanation for everything, so therefore anything supernatural was impossible.”[ii]

Jesus perceptively said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”  John 4:48

But God does send signs.  Mahatma Gandhi once perceptively noted, “Mankind is notoriously too dense to read the signs that God sends”.

In that He was right.  The greatest sign ever given is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And yet the skeptic then and now disbelieves.  God gave the Israelites sign after sign in the wilderness on the way to the holy land, and yet they rebelled and did not believe.  And God let that whole Generation wander in the wilderness for 40 years for their disbelief.

When you say you need a sign, usually it means, no sign will do.  Let me tell you, in my lifetime I have witnessed a multitude of miracles, signs, and answers to prayer that the average skeptic would write off as just a coincidence.  The reason the world is disbelieving, is because they wish to disbelieve.

#1 Some people demand an explanation.

“Greeks seek after wisdom.”

Those seeking after a sign say, “show God to me.”  Those seeking after wisdom say, “explain God to me!”  They demand scientific, documented, indisputable proof.  They are looking for a naturalistic explanation

You can explain how creation can’t happen without a creator.  You can explain that something cannot come from nothing, that life cannot come from non-life, and that complexity cannot come from simplicity.

But they would rather believe that kissing frogs may evolve into princesses… if you give them millions and millions of years; that life will eventually crawl out of toxic primordial slime if there’s a chance in hell… that once upon a time great big bangs created entire universes instead the chaos that explosions create today.

Why do bicycles and Beethoven and root beer not pop into being from nothing? Why is it only universes that can come into being from nothing?  Nothing is the absence of all things: no matter, no energy, no substance, no potential.  For something to come into being, it has to at least have the potential to do so.

Listen, there are rational arguments, explanations and good science behind what we believe.  Can you prove that there is a God using science?  Of course not.  Would you weigh a hen with a tape measure or ruler?  Of course not!  A tape measure is the wrong tool for the job.  Not everything in life has a scientific explanation.  You can’t measure love or even explain it scientifically.  It is the wrong tool for the job.  You can’t measure or explain why we dream.  The same holds true for personality, humor, thought life, and spirituality.  Science is one way to measure the world around us, but it is not the only way we measure the world around us.

So how do we respond to a culture steeped in disbelief?  How should we respond to skepticism?  First of all, we should give solid reasons why we believe.  That is imperative.  But second, we must realize that our Gospel is not naturalistic, it is supernatural!  Faith requires the intervention of God!

The Message of the Gospel

In response to disbelief, we preach Jesus!  Faith in Jesus Christ is one of those factors that science can’t measure, explain or explain away!  Our job is to present the good news of the Gospel so simply, so clearly and so honestly that every person who hears it, understands that he or she must respond to the Spirit of God and believe, or they are eternally lost.  I find two guidelines in these verses for dealing with disbelief.

#1 We preach without sophistry

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

Here is our first guideline: Christ expects us to preach the gospel without using what this verse calls, “the wisdom of words.”  The wisdom of words is a figure of speech which refers to the rationalistic methods and impressive sounding arguments that the Greeks used in their debates to try to convince others of their views.

They loved to wax eloquent and try to explain the world with educated sounding reasoning.  In their world as in ours, the man with the golden tongue and eloquent speech gained the largest following.

#2 We preach with simplicity

23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Our simple message is that God sent His only Son Jesus to the earth in the form of a man.  He lived a sinless life, and was crucified and died in our place for our sins.  On the third day He rose from the dead.  This is the Gospel that leads to eternal life if you believe it.

We are not to dazzle people with our brilliance, nor baffle them with our baloney.  We are to preach a simple message, so simple that even a 5th grader could understand it.

One preacher tells the story of a Seminary course in homiletics (preaching). During that semester, each of the students was required to preach a sermon to the rest of the class. When it was his turn, everything was perfect:  Clear biblical points, great illustrations, fantastic humor.  When he received his evaluation, he was stunned by what his professor said, “You can’t convince people that you are wonderful and that Jesus is wonderful in the same sermon.”[iii]

Little more than a century ago, the British Isles were blessed with one of the best communicators of all the time, the great Charles Spurgeon.  A prominent scientist went to hear him. Following the sermon, his assistant asked him, “Well? What did you think of him?”  Still awed by the message, he answered, “Oh, Spurgeon! I haven’t been thinking about him. I’ve been occupied thinking about Spurgeon’s Jesus!”

Oh, that I could like that, so that when the sermons end, people would say, “I can’t tell you much about the preacher. I was too preoccupied with thinking about Jesus.”  I don’t want you to leave here saying, “What a preacher! What a preacher!” Instead, I’d like you to leave saying, “What a Savior! What a Savior!”

Only when the simple Gospel changes people by the power of God will we ever penetrate a disbelieving world.

[i] http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-how-many-acres-burn-2017-eagle-creek/

[ii] http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2009/08/asking-god-for-sign/

[iii] https://www.redletterchristians.org/what-a-saviour/

The Power of Confession

Why is it so hard to admit it when you are wrong? 

Many of us have a difficult time facing the facts, but according to a new book, it’s not all our fault after all!  Blame it on your brain!  Psychologist Elliot Aronson says our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance – which is the brains attempt at self justification.  We know that it is wrong, and we condemn it in others, but to compensate, so we can live with ourselves, we minimize or dismiss the problem that we have.

For example: You think of yourself as an honest person, but you cheated on your last exam. You can either: #1 Admit that cheating is wrong and that maybe you’re not as honest as you thought, (but that would be harsh). Or, #2 you can apply cognitive dissonance and justify the cheating by saying that a lot of other students were doing it too, so it really just leveled the playing field.

Another example:  You think of yourself as a fairly competent and smart individual, but when your work is reviewed by your colleagues, they point out several errors. (Ouch) You can either:  #1 Acknowledge the mistakes and reevaluate your work. (You could, but that would make you look bad) Or, #2 Apply cognitive dissonance and accuse your colleagues of jealously, of not being on the same academic level as you, or bias.  Mistakes were made (But Not by Me).

To further complicate the issue, your brain is hard wired to reinterpret your memories in order to paint you in the best possible light.  While we all firmly believe our memories are accurate, and that misinterpreting our memories would never happen to us, studies have shown that “memories are distorted in a self-enhancing direction in all sorts of ways.” [i]

People remember voting in elections they didn’t vote in; they remember giving more to charity than they really did; they remember that their children walked and talked at an earlier age than they did.  They also remember catching a bigger fish and shooting a bigger deer than they really did.

If you’ve ever been sure that you remembered an episode of your past correctly only to later find evidence that your version of events couldn’t possibly have been true, you know how disturbing it is when you realize your memory isn’t as reliable as you once thought.

For example, some say, “I’m not really an alcoholic; I rarely drink more than I should.  I don’t have that big a problem with my temper; I’ve got it under control most of the time.  So I cheated once; I don’t make a habit of it.  Ok, so I lied, you can trust me!  I don’t have a problem admitting when I’m wrong; in fact I can’t remember the last time I was wrong!”

When asked, “What is the wrong with the world? G.K. Chesterton perceptively replied, “I am.”

If I choose to minimize, dismiss, or justify my problems, there is no hope that I will ever overcome them.  My ability to grow spiritually is directly proportional to my ability to objectively self evaluate my sins … or should I say, my wiliness to let the Holy Spirit reveal my sins.

And that leads us to today’s topic about the Power of Confession; it is essential to admit it when you are wrong if you are ever to overcome your sins.

Confession Conquers Self Deception

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

Notice that the word “sin” is in the singular.  (If we say we have no sin –  i.e. that we are not sinners). The reason it is in the singular is because it is not talking about our behavior, instead it is talking about our nature or who are we on the inside.

In preparation for this chapter I read numerous articles by psychologists on confession and cognitive dissonance.  Every one of those articles suggested that the reason we don’t like to admit fault is because we like to think we are really good people on the inside and that it goes against our nature to admit that we are anything else but nice, kind, good, innocent people.

This verse calls that “self deception.”  If you think you are a ‘good’ person, you have fooled yourself.  My Bible says that I was born in sin (Psalm 51:5).  That it is my nature to sin (Ephesians 2:3).  That the very best that I can do on my own is stained like a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6).

Why should I believe that I am a sinner by nature?  Because if true, it is arrogant in the extreme to believe that my sinful nature could ever be reformed with a self help book, or rehabilitated in some kind of behavioral unit, or improved if I only try hard enough.  The reality is that all of us are deeply broken and that brokenness first and foremost greatly affects our relationship with God and then bleeds into every area of our life and community.

Instead I must strip away the deception and confess that I am a sinner who is unable to help myself, and that I need a savior to save and transform me.  That is the power of confession.

Confession Results in Forgiveness

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

In this verse the word “sins” is in the plural.  This is talking about the many sins that we commit because we have failed to live up to God’s standards.  These could be sins against our fellow man, or they can be sins only against God.  Any time you discover that you have failed to live up to God’s standards, as plainly stated in God’s Word, you should confess your sins.

Now what does the word “confession” mean.  The word confession in the Greek language is homologeo (ὁμολογέω) – coming from two words homo or homogenous meaning “the same” and logos meaning “the truth.”   It means to say the same thing God says about your sin.  It means to concede to the truth, to agree with the facts, to admit ones guilt, to declare freely, and say the same thing about your sin that God says about it.  It is to take personal responsibility for your own failures.

Here is how you can make a bad confession – some people call it an apology (which simply means that you are defending your actions):

“Look, I’m sorry, OK?”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t realize you were so sensitive.”

“I’m sorry your feelings got hurt.”

If I have offended you, I apologize.”

“I’m sorry, but it really wasn’t all my fault.”

“I apologize, but if so and so hadn’t gotten involved, I would never have done that.”

Regardless of what form self-justification takes, that justification is designed to minimize your responsibility for the mistake or failure.  However pure your intentions, this kind of apology is missing something pretty imperative: An actual apology.

Now let me tell you what a good confession looks like:

SEVEN “A’s” OF A GOOD CONFESSION[ii]

  1. Address all those involved. The scope of confession of fault should specifically reach those you have offended.
  2. Avoid saying “if I have offended you,” “but it’s not all my fault,” or “perhaps I was wrong.” Give an unqualified apology.
  3. Admit specifically what you own up to if you want to be believable.
  4. Acknowledge the hurt you caused. If you aren’t sure how you have hurt someone, you can ask, “have I understood how I hurt you?” or directly, “please tell me how I have hurt you.”
  5. Accept the consequences of your actions. If you broke something, accept responsibility and fix it.  If you have taken something, return it.
  6. Alter your behavior. Explain how you intend to act in the future to avoid this problem.  You may even want to write it down.
  7. Ask for forgiveness, and allow others time to process. Sometimes the people you have hurt are not ready to forgive that very second.

Now we’ve been talking about confessing our faults to one another.  The very act of telling another person of the wrong you have done helps to make you more deeply sorry for having done it.  That’s powerful.  But this verse is really about confessing your faults to God.

You can confess your faults to people all day long and still have them held against you!  If you want divine forgiveness, you need to seek it from God.  That’s when the transformation begins; true confession to High Priest Jesus results in forgiveness, cleansing and a clear conscience.  And that is a powerful step to real transformation.

Confession Makes us Rightly Related to God

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10

While verse 8 warned us about the deception of claiming that we are born a sweet, good, innocent person with at clean slate at the core instead of a sinful nature, verse 10 is warning about the deception of claiming that we have achieved such a level of wonderfulness that we have are living a sinless, perfect life.

The danger here is twofold – #1 we make God out to be a liar – since God calls us sinful – He must be lying, and #2 His Word is not in us – that is talking about minimizing the standards of God’s word to such a degree, that that our misdeeds are not, nor have ever been sin.  It is about bringing God’s holy standards down to a low and finally achievable level.

Don’t waste your time pretending that you are better than you really are.  You know the old saying, “When you pretend you are perfect it only irritates those of us who really are!”  (NOT!)

The most successful people at overcoming their sins are extremely hard on themselves because they realize that God is holy, and that we should be holy as God is holy.

Confession has little to do with the flood of confessional disclosures that characterize our age on tell-all TV talk shows and social networking sites.  There is even an iPhone app for confession!  In this time of Internet connectivity, amid the din of over-sharing, we mistake spasms of self-revelation for honesty. Our inner voice is not so easily found and cannot be parsed into 10-second bursts or 140 character tweets.

Confession demands something for which there is no substitute: that we be honest with ourselves.  Confession strips away the veil that we often cast over our actions.  This kind of confession demands self-reflection and change.

We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. You may be true or false, the choice is yours. You may wear one mask now and now another later, and never, if you hide well enough, appear with your own true face. But you cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if you lie to yourself and to others, then you cannot expect to find truth whenever you incidentally want to know it. If you have chosen the way of prevarication don’t be surprised if truth eludes you when you need it!

When confession becomes a practice, a daily reevaluation of one’s actions — an art — its power grows, instilling a new sense of confidence, a vision of what life truly can be.  Confession is a treasured attitude. It is the cornerstone of the intentional life, not merely a clearing out of the debris that which is bad or wrong in us, but a realignment of what is best for us, an intention to live a better life.[iii]

[i] http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/02/18/owning-up-to-mistakes/

[ii]   Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande – http://storage.cloversites.com/friedensevangelicalchurch/documents/Session%204%20-%20Resolving%20Everyday%20Conflict.pdf

[iii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-wilkes/what-is-confession-and-why-is-it-good-for-you_b_1414795.html

Getting to the Root of My Problems

Slide1           The companion booklet to this message series (available on Amazon) is titled, “Change me.”  I want you to read the sub-title; Notice what it says… “When you really want to change.”  Here’s what is interesting about that sub-title; sometimes we don’t actually WANT to change!

Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to repeat the same mistake a few days later?  Have you ever vowed to stop sinning, only to do it again just hours or even minutes later?  Mark Twain once wrote, “To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.”

“I’m never going to smoke again…” and suddenly you have this indescribable urge to have cigarette, or drink, or gamble, or whatever.  What IS it with us humans? Why do we act so contrary to our own self-interests … and so often?

Our problem isn’t lack of information. Bookstores are stocked with countless books about how to eat less and exercise more; dozens of experts advise us to save and invest our money; wise friends warn us to stay away from troublesome lovers. We have plenty of information on getting rid of clutter, managing time, overcoming addiction, managing our finances, and becoming a better person. But all this information doesn’t appear to really change us. We know what we should do but we still don’t do it.

In fact, all too often we do just the opposite of what we know is good for us! We overeat and under-exercise; we spend every last nickel; we fall in love with and marry the wrong person – again. We buy useless stuff we don’t need nor afford, we procrastinate and fritter away time, neglect our bodies, drink to excess, are overcome with anger, distress, depression and anxiety. If anyone else treated us the way we treat ourselves, we’d be outraged![i]

Paul summarized our problem in Romans 7:15, “The things that I want to do, I fail to do, and instead I do the things that I hate myself for doing.”  (paraphrase).

So why do we do the things we do?  What are the root causes of my sins?  If we don’t address the real reasons behind our sin, we will only treat it superficially, adjusting our behavior, not our hearts. God doesn’t want mere behavioral adjustment; he wants affectionate obedience!  Nor will mere attempts at behavioral change really change our deepest motivations.

Many of our sins can be traced back to a deep erroneous belief or a serious fallaciousSlide2 lie. These false promises of acceptance, approval, satisfaction, worth, beauty, and significance have deceived us. If we are to discover true freedom we need the ability to expose those lies. Cultivate a habit of looking beneath your sin to expose the lie underneath it. Once we understand why we sin, we can replace those false promises and the truth that will set us free.[ii]  The Psalmist put it this way:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

Slide3

You have probably seen this phenomena in the forest somewhere.  A tree falls down flat on the ground.  But instead of dying, it sprouts branches that turn into three or four or five trees.  It doesn’t do any good to cut off those shoots.  If you want to kill the tree, you have to pull it out by the roots!  This morning I want to review four root causes of sin, so that you can begin to remove the root and not the shoot.

Slide4#1.  Bad Company – 1 Cor 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad companions corrupt good morals.”

As a root problem, this one is a little different than the others because this one can also be a symptom of a deeper problem.  The truth here is that you often end up imitating the kind of people that you hang around with.  Or (the deeper problem) you hang around those people because you are like them already.  Friendships are critical to faith.  Be careful who you associate with.

If you want to be a successful Christian, hang around other good Christians.  If you want to stay sober, stay away from drunks.  If you have a problem with gossip, don’t hang around the gossip circle.  If you struggle with depression, keep away from people who drag you down.

But please be wary of the danger of blaming the people around you for the way you behave.  Don’t play the blame game, you know the one where you blame your job, your wife, your dog, your mother-in-law, your neighbor six doors down, the media, the government, the receptionist at your doctor’s office, the culture, God, millennials, your lack of education, your medication, the devil, or the dressmaker who measured you wrong as though somehow everyone else is responsible for the problems that you have.

Slide5

If you are hanging around bad company, it’s your problem.  Walk away.

Slide6#2.  Unbelief or Ignorance – Eph 4:17-19

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles live, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

There are two things that Paul is saying in these verses.  #1 Pagans live their lives based on unbelief, ignorance of God’s Word and blindness to spiritual things.  Because they have never been saved and transformed by Jesus they often see nothing wrong with sin, in fact they celebrate it.  Without God, they think nothing is wrong with getting drunk, getting high, becoming transgender, or indulging in lust… and the list goes on.

But they are paying a terrible price for their ignorance and unbelief.  Is it any surprise that transgenders have a suicide rate of 40 percent or that Homosexuals are 3 times as prone to suicide?[iii][iv]  Does it surprise you that Alcohol abuse is involved in over a quarter of suicides?  You cannot sin and get away with it.  You cannot rationalize or justify your sin and get away with it.

What is the answer to the Pagan problem of overindulgence in sin?  You must be born again!  You must submit your life to Jesus.

The second thing that Paul is saying in these verses is to Christians:  #2 Christians are not to live like pagans.  We are not to live in ignorance or unbelief.  There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant of sin.  The Bible clearly lists numerous hazardous sins that we are told to avoid.  We are not to justify them nor celebrate them.

Slide8

But Christians often live in unbelief?  One of the root causes of sin is unbelief.  James 1:6-7 tells us that if we doubt that God can answer our prayers, we cannot expect to receive deliverance or anything from the Lord.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to take up the shield of faith in order to quench the fiery temptations of the Evil one.  Faith is the opposite of unbelief.  While Pagans live in unbelief, Christians must not follow their example.

Slide9#3  A Pleasure Driven Heart – James 1:13-14

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

Hebrews 11:25 describes our problem as “loving the pleasures of sin for a season.”  James 4:1-4 traces our problem to our selfish desire for pleasure.  We want what we want to spend it on our own pleasures.

Sin would be very easy to avoid if it weren’t so pleasurable. There isn’t a single sin that doesn’t carry a pleasure (whether it is a worthy pleasure or not). If sin didn’t contain this aspect, it would be very easy to avoid it.

Sin and pleasure have a very troubling relationship. When we first are enticed into a sin, it is the potential pleasure that lures us. As we become more impassioned, we often find that the pleasure which we once received is no longer experienced, or if it is still there, it is weakened and often even disappointing.

The fact is that we love our sin and it is destroying us.  It is not so much that our anger is destroying us, it is that we love to be angry!  It is not so much that laziness is destroying us, it is that we love to be lazy!  It is not so much that our anxiety is destroying us, it is that we love to worry!  We love to gossip! We love to lust!

Slide10

1 John 2:15 challenges us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

We need to pray that God would give us a personal revulsion and disgust for the sins that we commit.  And a desire to please Him instead of pleasing ourselves.  That leads us to our final root of our sins.

Slide11#4 Lack of Love for God – Matthew 22:37-40

In Matthew 22, Jesus explained that there is really only one way to overcome our sin and obey the Law.  This was His solution:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Modern psychology suggests all kinds of ways to modify your behavior, but they fail to get at the root of the problem.  The root is this, you love your pleasures too much, and you don’t love Jesus near enough.  To really change your heart, you must pray, and ask God to give you personal revulsion for sin and a deep and emotional love for the Savior.  Only love is enough to change your heart.  Love for God and love for your neighbor.

Galatians 5 expands on this idea.  3 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

This then is the answer to changing the root problems of your life.  You must seek to love Jesus more than you have ever loved Him before.  You must seek to live a life focused on the Holy Spirit.  Your new passion and love must be Jesus.  If you do not remove love of pleasure and replace it with love of Jesus, you will never find the motivation to change.

Slide12

What is your motive for action? What drives you in your life today? if we misunderstand the root of our problem, we will miss TRUE and COMPLETE healing! It’s like trying to treat cancer with a Band-Aid.  Have you failed to love the lord and your neighbor with all your heart?  Have you failed to live in the spirit and think on spiritual things?  I’m here because I believe that a passionate love for Jesus is the force that will change your life.  Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing that will successfully fix the root of the problem in your life.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/why-dont-we-do-the-things_b_409428.html

[ii] https://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/04/know-your-sin/

[iii] http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/07/evidence-the-transgender-suicide-rate-isnt-due-to-discrimination/

[iv] https://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/student-journals/P12_Schaaff.pdf

What’s My Motivation for Change?

Every one of us is a little dysfunctional.  For some of us life sucks.  Many are struggling with deep, dark, demons like depression, anxiety, anger, alcoholism, addiction, gossip, bitterness, lust, or resentment.

We all have some character flaw we inherited from our parents, some bad habit we picked up somewhere in the past, some unhealthy defense mechanism we default to, some faulty belief that is deceiving and degrading us, or some terrible sin we’ve become addicted to which we just can’t shake.

For example, In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.[i]

We are in serious trouble. I feel the turmoil, confusion, and pain of the people I associate with. It touches my heart to see their struggles.  We want to be better.  We want to be free from our sins.  It’s just that we’ve tried and failed so often that we have begun to wonder whether or not there is any hope.  I love this little saying I ran across this week: “You can’t keep dancing with the Devil, and then wonder why you are still in hell!”

Whatever your regret, Christ has the answer.  You’ve tried but you can’t, but with Jesus, you can.  That’s why I’m preaching this series of messages.  That’s why Jesus died!  He came to free you from your sins.  I’m going to take you through a series of steps, which, if you follow them faithfully and sincerely, Jesus will faithfully deliver you.

The very first thing you must do is to do an examination of yourself to determine why you want to change.  At first it may seem like a no brainer.  After all, you’re broken and you want to be fixed.  You are hurt, and you want to be healed.  What more, besides that, do you need to know?

For the answer to that, let’s look at the success rate of New Year’s Resolutions.  Is anyone in here still keeping their new year’s resolution?  It turns out that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.[ii]  According to U.S. News, 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[iii]  That number eventually increases to over a 90% failure rate.  The University of Scranton researchers suggest that only 8% of the people actually achieve their goals.[iv]

Why is that?  It turns out that motivation is critical!  Most people fail because they fail to maintain their motivation for a long period of time.  Your motivation will have an exacting, direct impact on your success.  In your booklet on page 6, there is a list of motivations.  Look it over and check all motivations that apply.

I want to overcome my sin because:

  • I am embarrassed or ashamed of how I act.
  • I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
  • I want to stop hurting myself and / or others.
  • I want to be successful.
  • I want to be a better mother / father / husband / wife etc.
  • I don’t believe Christians should act this way.
  • I want to live a holy and pure life.
  • I want to please / glorify God

While some of these may be good motivations, and while we may be motivated by several of them, the reality is that there is one motivation that outshines them all.  There is one motivation, that without it, you might as well join a self help group or go to a secular psychologist, because without this essential value in place you can’t honestly ever expect to fix yourself.  What is that motivation?  Let’s find out.

Today I am going to lead you through three powerful motivations, and show you how you can put them to work for you in changing your life.  Here is the first one.

The Motivation of Fear

the motivation of fear

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

There is much we could discuss here, but I want to focus on one statement, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”

Fear is a great motivator.  We have a tendency to dismiss fear as a weakness, but it’s not that simple. Fear can be incredibly useful.   Fear can be your friend in just the right doses.  There is healthy fear and there is unhealthy fear. Fear can preserve your life from doing stupid stuff. Fear of breaking the law and fear of angering others can prevent you from making stupid choices.

There is one fear that stands out, among all other fears that we ought to nurture, and that is the fear of the Lord.  Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Here’s why.  God knows what you are thinking, even when no one else does.  God knows what you are doing even when no one else is around.

So it is essential that we gain an attitude of respect toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him.  So how do you gain a healthy fear of God?  #1 Recognize his presence daily and cultivate his presence.  Spend time in prayer with the Almighty.  #2 Meditate on God’s Word and the majestic greatness of God.  Remind yourself he is all powerful.  #3 Act as though God is with you at all times, because He is.  When you fail, admit that you’ve been caught.  When you are wrong, seek his forgiveness.

2 Corinthians 5:10 gives us another way to cultivate the fear of God.  Recognize that God will one day reprimand your wrongdoings and reward your obedience.  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  If you want to get better, cultivate fear.

The Motivation of LoveThe Motivation of Love

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

The Love of Christ compels us.  Fear motivates, but only in proper doses.  Love also motivates.  It is a higher motivation.  In fact, Jesus said that the number one thing you can do is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Virtually nothing motivates a person more than love.  Being deeply loved gives you strength, loving deeply gives you courage.  When I look at the great men and women in literature, art, music, science and achievement, I notice one defining commonality between all of them –they did what they did because they loved it!  They overcame because Love is motivational.

Love is compelling.  Love is a motivation that will produce lasting change in your life.  You do what you love, and you avoid hurting those you do love.  The love of Christ compels us – verse 15 – so that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.  If you fall in love with Jesus, You will soon quit living destructively, and begin living for Him!  That’s what love does!  Love compels us to change.

Above all things, cultivate your love for Jesus.  Remind yourself daily how much you love Jesus and want to serve Him.  Tell Jesus that you’ll serve him and obey him and do anything He says.  Love intensely, and love will change your life.

The Highest MotivationTo Glorify God

1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The highest motivation of all is the Glory of God.  If you are only trying to get better because of you, your motivation will be limited to what you can do.  But if you want Divine transformation, you must have your motivation right!  You must decide to live a pure life because it pleases God.  You must want to overcome sin because it displeases God.  You must decide right now that the purpose of your entire life, and every action of your life is for the highest reason ever: to glorify God!

What does it mean “to glorify God?”  Glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by bowing before him because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped.

Notice the implications of this:  Vs 19 “You are a temple.”  “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.”  In order to do things for God’s glory, in order to experience real life change, you must understand that God made your body as a temple – that means that your body was made for God to inhabit – the Holy Spirit lives in you, and you were made to worship , so you should cultivate worship as part of your daily routine.

The second implication is in verse 19 and 20- “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  In order to truly change, you must recognize who your master and owner is.  Christian, God owns you!  You don’t have rights over your own thoughts, your own time, your own actions; God owns you so that you have a duty to obey him!  So take a moment right now to adjust your motivation so that your only purpose in existence is Jesus.

We want to change, but change is so hard!

Have you ever switched from junk foods to healthful foods and felt sick to your stomach? Or stopped smoking and nearly chewed your fingers off?  Have you cut back on watching television, spending or gambling and noticed how your former compatriots in those activities tried to nudge you back into doing those things?  You need the right kind of motivation to effect real change!

According to the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success.  Dr. Ericsson found that experts in many walks of life, whether sport, music, chess, dance, or business, had put in the most hours at their craft. He coined the phrase, “It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours to become an expert.”  In other words, the most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others.  Finding the motivation to change means maintaining your efforts consistently when it would be easy to give up.[v]

The most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others. Why is the relationship between motivation and success so robust? Because high motivation will ensure you keep going when everyone else quits.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

What’s my motivation for wanting to change?  Fear of failure is a good place to start.  Love for God is life changing.  And giving yourself up t to live for Jesus and the glory of God will take you where you need to go.

Change is HardIn closing let me give you the three Ds of motivation:  The first D stands for direction. Before you can change, you must first consider the direction you should go in your life.  In our case the direction is downward to the knees to please God.  The second D represents decision.  Once you know the direction, you must choose to head in that direction.  Choose this day, whom you will serve!  The third D stands for dedication. Once you’ve made your decision, you must dedicate yourself to it.

  • Yes! I want to live my life for the glory of God!  Dear Jesus, I am all yours!

 

[i] http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-our-society-breeds-anxiety-depression-and-dysfunction

[ii] http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

[iii] http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#c3806bb596b2

[v] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change

Just HOW do you know?

Slide3Have you ever heard God’s voice speaking to you?

The Blaze commissioned a poll to ask about any intriguing interactions people have with a higher power. “At least one in 10 people will say God has spoken to them, if you ask them bluntly.” Additionally, the Pew Foundation found that nearly a quarter of Americans say they have been given a direct revelation from God.[i]

And I often hear Christians toss around phrases like “God told me,” or “The Lord spoke to me,” or “God led me.” And I must admit, there are abundant cases where people claim to have heard God speak to them, some from people who are reputable Christians.

For example, there are the widely reported stories of Muslims who claim to have had visions of Jesus. In these visions Jesus speaks to them. After these visions, these Muslims, even fanatical terrorists, even Iman’s, men women and children have been converting to Christ and dedicating their lives to Jesus despite persecution, discrimination and threats of death.[ii] How can you argue with that?

On the other hand, we find that even in Scripture the occurrence of God audibly speaking to individuals is extremely rare. So what are we to think about the voices in our head? Is it God speaking? Is it the devil? Are they just my own thoughts? Or am I crazy?

If you are talking about divine revelation, let’s just settle the issue right now, there is no more Scripture being written. The age of the Apostles and prophets on which the church was founded is past (Ephesians 2:20). In Paul’s day, the Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 13 that soon “prophecies would end,” and they did. The last words of the book of Revelation warn us not to add to Scriptures.

Let me be clear; nothing that you hear today from any living man or woman is equal to the Divine Revelation of Scripture. No new revelation is being given. No new Scriptures are being written. If you hear of a prophecy, discount it. If you hear of a new word from God, avoid it. If you feel God is speaking to you, check that message against God’s Word. God will not show anything to you that contradicts what the Bible says. Divine Revelation is complete. It is finished.

However, and this is an important however, Christianity is built on the concept that the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. He not only witnesses with our spirit, but he leads us and guides us. At regular intervals, the New Testament tells us that God calls us and that if you hear His voice, you should respond to Him. A person who claims to be a Christian and has not experienced the reality of Jesus dealing with his heart, is a Christian in name only. Our faith is based on the direct interaction of God with the believer.

The difference between divine revelation and the guiding of the Holy Spirit however is significant. None of the guidance that you receive can be called revelation. And every time you think you hear the Spirit speaking, the Bible calls us to test those spirits to see whether or not they are from God. How do you test them? It’s not that difficult, (Isaiah 8:20) “To the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word it is because there is no light in them.”

Our primary topic today is, “how can you have unshakable confidence in God?” The answer is relatively simple: Trust God’s Word. The Objective Basis of our faith is The Word of God. The Bible tells me so. But our secondary topic is, “what about my personal or private revelations?” Our answer to topic #2 is this: see topic #1. If you think you hear his voice it must line up with the Word of God.

An important Reminder 12-15Slide4 - Copy

Be established in the truth

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

After reading this, it sounds like Peter had a drum that he kept on beating. If you were in Peter’s church, you might have heard this question, “What’s Peter preaching on today?” The same thing he preached yesterday! “And what is he going to preach on tomorrow?” The same thing he preached yesterday. He just kept coming back to the same old topic.

In verse 12

He promised to remind us of it always

He noted that we presently were established in it

In verse 13

He promised to remind us of it as long as he lived

Verse 15

Even after he died, he wanted to leave a reminder of it!

new-1So what was this important reminder? It is fairly simple: That they would be established in The Truth! He didn’t want them chasing some new teaching or new revelation or new fangled seminar, the drum Peter beat over and over and over again was this: Be established in the truth. Hold up the truth and the truth will hold you up! God’s Word is Truth! Trust it!

How do you find unshakable, rock solid faith? The Truth? But we might ask Peter, “How to you know that it is the truth? On what do you base it? Peter’s answer: I’ve seen it for myself.

An eyewitness account 16-18Slide6 - Copy

Not a fable or a myth

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

Just HOW can we trust that the Bible is true? How can we trust that what the Gospels said about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are really accurate? There have been many people over the centuries who raised these same questions.

Mark Twain once said, “The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals… and upwards of a thousand lies.”

More recently Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion stated, “much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries”

Peter recognized that attacks would come. So he affirmed in verse 16, “we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Myths are fables or fairy stories dreamed up by people to illustrate life or spiritual ideals. Peter was surrounded by the ancient religions of the Romans, Greeks, Persians and Egyptians who concocted all sorts of myths about the exploits of their gods.

new-2Peter makes it perfectly clear that the records the Apostles kept about Jesus birth, life and death were not myth. How could he make that claim? Because Peter himself, and the other Apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Peter was there when Jesus healed the blind man, walked on water, calmed the sea and raised the dead. And Peter was there when Jesus was transfigured before him, and Peter saw a man who was more than a mere man, He was God in all his glory! And Peter heard the Father’s audible voice from the mountain say, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!”

Peter’s point is this: Moses received the commandments from God the Father, face to face on Mount Sinai. And the Apostles also received divine revelation from God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration! If indeed the New Testament records of Jesus are what they say they are, the inspirited word of God, what does that mean for us?

A Divine confirmation 19-21Slide8

19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

How do you know for sure that you can trust God’s word? We have a powerful, divine, prophetic confirmation of the truth. The word “confirmed” comes from a Greek word root “βάσις basis,” from which we get our word basis, meaning “the underling foundation or support for an idea or truth, the justification or reasoning behind something.”

Just what is the basis of our faith? There are two parts to it. #1 The Old Testament Prophetic Word was recorded. #2 the New Testament fulfillment was observed by eyewitnesses. It is a simple matter to research the many prophecies about Jesus; there are over three hundred of them, each written a thousand years or more in advance. It is also a simple matter to check out the historical documents of the New Testament to see how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.

So powerful is the idea of fulfilled prophecy to the security of our faith that Peter tells us; once you discover the truth, you would do well to heed it. It is like a bright lamp post driven into the shifting sands of the Middle east that is still shining brightly today. One thing about Christianity; we want you to check out the claims of Christ. We want you to see for yourself that they are true!

This is not a private truth

In our day of relativism, where people all over the world are claiming that their truth is a private matter, where they say things like; “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” Listen, truth is not a private matter. If it is true, it is true for all. It is impossible that two opposite ideas could both be true! If there is truth, it is universal.

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. This means that the Word of God can never mean what it has never meant. If you have a private pet interpretation of a passage, and you are the only one to hold it, chances are, you are wrong. The Word of God has an objective, and universal meaning. That is what we should seek.

new-3The rest of this verse tells us that this also means that no prophet has ever shared his own private prophecy. All true prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit. The Prophets were godly men, expressly chosen for a peculiar work, to write the inspirited, inerrant Word of God! That is why we believe that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts, and has complete authority about every subject recorded in it. God’s Word is Truth!

Just how do you know for sure? Simple, the truth of God’s word came from holy men, moved by the Holy Spirit, confirmed by fulfilled prophecy and that is how we know.

Now I want to close this message by warning you about the “jumping Scripture method” of interpretation. Some people read the Bible, waiting for a verse to Jump out at them and give them guidance. Let me give you an example. A married, church attending woman was also dating another man who also attended her church, and she was in a quandary. She was trying to figure out who to go with. So she prayed about it and, like a faithful Christian began to search the Scriptures. But she didn’t go any place as mundane as Exodus 20, which contains the 10 commandments, (Do not commit adultery) no she read somewhere else hoping for a scripture to jump out at her and give her guidance. Then she ran across Ephesians 4:24 which did just that; it reads, “Put on the NEW man!” And she did. Is that what the verse means? No.

Another man was caught in the same quandary. He had to choose between his wife and his lover. He was reading 1 Corinthians 1:3 which read “Grace to you!” Guess what his girlfriends name was? You guessed it.

Remember, a verse can never mean what it has never meant. If you want to know how to avoid the jumping Scripture method, in order to understand the meaning of a verse, never just read a verse; read an entire paragraph, chapter or book. For no Scripture is of any private interpretation. God will never lead you in a way that is contrary to the plain and simple truth revealed in His Word. If He’s speaking to you, His Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.

[i] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/16/has-god-ever-spoken-to-you-directly-theblaze-wants-to-know-about-your-most-intensely-religious-experiences/

[ii] http://www1.cbn.com/onlinediscipleship/visions-of-jesus-stir-muslim-hearts

Be Sure

slide1Do you know for sure if you are “saved?” (A Christian, a believer, a child of God, born again?)

“If you believe that you are saved, How do you know?” On what do you base your faith?

Wouldn’t you definitively like to know?

The answer that I am going to give today is not the answer I usually give. I usually ask people if they believe in Jesus (acts 16:31). Have you trusted Christ as Savior (Ephesians 1:13)? Have you repented (Acts 26:20)? Have you heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit confirming your salvation (Romans 8:16)?

And certainly those are good answers. I can even give you Bible verses backing up each one. But these are, sort of, answers for babies or shall we say, the basics for beginners. After you have been a believer for a little while, every one of you should be familiar with these simple, yet profound ways of gaining assurance. You should know those simple answers. They are what give you confidence.

But there comes a time in your Christian life when we must give you more than just simple answers. Today we are going to go a little deeper, and we are going to help you analyze your relationship with Jesus… and my hope is that you will come to a deeper level of passion, purpose and blessed assurance by the time we are done.

But I must warn you that this message may also be a little unsettling to some of you. Up until now you may have been content to sit in your pew, resting on your Blessed Assurance, but it is possible that I’m going to shake your complacent little world. So hang on to something, the meddling is about to begin.

There are certain steps every Christian must be willing to take to make their election sure. In fact, It is urgent that you take the steps to gain the assurance that you are truly a child of God. If you don’t settle this once and for all, you will always have nagging doubts about your salvation. I am going to give you four tests today which will be extremely revealing, for it will tell you if you truly have new life in Christ.

I want you to remember this one thing throughout our study; Salvation is always by Grace, it is a free gift. …but there are some tests we can perform to see whether or not you have that new life, and that takes a little work and intense self-examination on your part.

When you look at the world around you, how do you know if something is living or non-living? Science has several tests they have developed that give them the answer. #1 Animation – does it move? All living things move in some way. #2 Does it breathe? If it has no reparation it’s not living. #3 Does it grow? All living things grow. #4 Does it reproduce. #5 Does it respond. Is it able to detect what’s going on around it and respond to its environment. #6 does it feed. #7 does it get rid of waste. These are tests of life. They don’t make things living, they just tell us if they are living.

Do you want to know if you are alive in Christ? Take the test. Here are four things that will tell you the answer:

  1. Urgency.slide2

5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith.

Am I diligent and serious about my relationship with Jesus? This has to do with the level of my interest in spiritual things. If you are one of those people who just doesn’t really think that this is a big deal, then, I hate to break it to you, for you, this is a really big deal. If you don’t give much thought to Jesus, or put much effort into spiritual things, it may be because you are spiritually dead. The dead don’t care, the living always care.

In the language of Peter’s day, the Greek word σπουδή spoude means to have a diligence, haste, an earnest care, and carefulness about it. It is about urgency! This concept is repeated and expanded in verse 10

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure”

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Verse five is telling us to press the gas pedal. Verse ten is telling us to floor it! If you’re driving on I-5, you’ll want to give it some gas. But if you are planning to pass a log truck on Hwy 38, you’ll want to floor it. This is the height of urgency. It is absolutely essential that you put the same urgency into your faith that you do into that gas pedal.

This is very interesting that Peter uses the words “call and election.” When I originally asked you if you were saved, we talked about the human side of salvation; You need to trust Jesus, you need to believe, you need to repent, you need faith… But Peter expresses the divine side of salvation; God calls us! God elects us! We need both the human side and the divine side working in concert for Salvation.

But what Peter is saying is this: It’s not enough to say you believe, it’s not enough to tell yourself you have faith, it’s not even enough to claim repentance… the question is this, are you one of the called, are you one of the elect? In an objective sense, has God truly saved you? That’s what we want to know today. It is urgent that you find out. Do you have a sense of urgency and diligence to discover it?

  1. Growthslide4

Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

Here is the second test: Am I growing more Christ like in my character?

All living things grow, or they are not alive. I want you to notice what is conspicuously absent from this list. What Peter does not say is this; add to your faith church attendance, and to your attendance, Sunday School, and to your Sunday School, Growth Groups, and to your Growth Groups, Worship Team, and to the Worship Team, teaching, and to your teaching, visitation. I wish he’d said it! We measure things that way. But remember, my dog can do all those things, and he will still just be a lousy, unspiritual dog!

Of course we want you to do those things, but it is absolutely critical that you develop your character in Christ! Let me put it this way, if you are not growing, you’re dead. Only living things grow! If you are alive in Christ, you will grow! Let’s review these one at a time:

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Faith: This is where the Christian begins, by placing his faith in Jesus for eternal life. But this is never where the Christian ends. If all you want is a fire escape from Hell, you’ve come to the wrong place. Jesus wants to be Lord of your life.

Virtue or Moral excellence; ἀρέτη arête is the desire to live purely. Do you have that desire? Pursue it diligently.

Knowledge; γνῶσις gnosis is speaking of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It is more time and more love for Jesus in prayer and in the Word.

Self control; ἐγκράτεια egkrateia is a word that means saying know to the passions of the flesh. We must never let anything master us but Jesus.

Perseverance; ὑπομονή hupomone is the characteristic of a believer who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to Jesus by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

Brotherly love; philadelphia fil-ad-el-fee’-ah refers to the care we have for our church family. It means we love each other as if we were family.

Love; ἀγάπη agape which is not just love for our brothers, but the highest form of sacrificial love that makes us willing to be devoted to God and one in other unconditionally.

These are the changes we are looking for in your character. Have you seen growth in any of these seven ways? Good! You’re growing! If you find yourself virtually unchanged and stymied in your growth in the last five years, it should make you diligently seek to make your calling and elections sure. There can be no assurance without growth.

  1. Motivationslide6

8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Here is the test. Am I seeing these changes in my life or am I completely lacking in motivation? There is a contrast in these two verses. Verse 8 is the motivated Believer who is neither barren or unfruitful, and Verse 9 is the shortsighted and blind churchgoer who is unmotivated and apathetic. Verse 8 is talking about an abundance, verse 9 is talking about a deficiency.

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A person who is motivated to seek Jesus will neither be barren nor unfruitful. Interestingly the word barren ἀργός argos can also mean lazy, slothful, unwilling to work. The opposite of barren is lively, energetic, growing. The opposite of unfruitful is fruit bearing. You have heard of the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, self control. That’s in Galatians 5. This list of fruit; virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, brotherly kindness and love could be known as the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have faith in Jesus, true faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ will always motivate you to maturity.

  1. Actionslide8

10 …if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here is our final test question; Am I doing these things or am I stumbling. Here is the key; as far as actions go, you can either do things for Jesus, or you can stumble through life. It is difficult to do both at the same time, though I’ve been known to do it a time or two. You are either expressing purity, self control, patience and love or you are stumbling! Do you want to stop stumbling as a way of life? Start living for Jesus as a way of life!

The sobering thought of verse 11 is that every believer gets to walk through the entrance into the everlasting kingdom, but some will have an abundant entrance supplied to them! Some you are happy just to slip through the pearly gates unnoticed; “whew, I made it.” Peter suggests that others will get a fanfare, a ticker tape parade, while the band plays on. And who doesn’t want to hear the words, “well done, you good and faithful servant, enter into the presence of your Lord with joy!”

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If you want to assurance of faith, I suggest that you take action, take this list home and begin to work on the Fruit of faith, one at a time. Be a doer of the Word, not a hearer only. Are you really living? Are you really alive? Are you living the abundant life? Here are four characteristics of a Christian who is really living. 1. He’s serious. There is an urgency to his faith. 2. He’s growing, he is making changes in his character. 3. He’s motivated. He wants to be a fruit bearing Christian. 4. He takes action. He does the things that need to be done to produce the life that he’s always wanted.

Those are four characteristics of a person with eternal life. You want assurance? Believe of course, because the only way a person is saved is through faith, but don’t stop there; prove to yourself and everyone else around you that you truly have new life in Christ. Grace Works, no doubt about it. And that will make you sure of your salvation.

I Promise You

When was the last time someone made a promise to you… and broke it?

slide3“Yes, honey, I’ll take out the trash after dinner.”

“I promise we’ll give you a promotion in six months.”

“I’ll be there. I promise.”

If you are like most people, you make commitments to others all the time. Question is – how often do you keep your promises? When you don’t keep a promise, even a small one, it communicates to that person that you don’t really give a rip about them and that they cannot count on you. A promise is a promise after all.

When someone else breaks a promise to you, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated? You wonder whether you can ever trust that person again. When you break a promise it can damage a relationship or your reputation. Tiny fissures develop in your relationships marked by broken promises.

Scripture is clear on the importance of keeping promises. “If a man . . . takes an oath to bind himself . . . he shall not violate his word” (Numbers 30:2). King Solomon wrote, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).

If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make it. If you can’t deliver on something because of an uncontrollable event, such as an illness or accident, most people will understand. On the other hand, breaking a promise due to laziness, lack of planning or doing so intentionally is different.

So what happens when God makes a promise? This is a no brainer; when God makes a promise, he will always come through. The Bible is full of promises. The word promise appears 111 times in the Bible. One person suggested that there are 3573 promises in the Bible. Another Bible student, a school teacher named Everet Storms, came up with 7487 promises. Bible Scholar, Herbert Lockyer wrote a book called “all the promises of the bible” and listed some 8000 of them.

I don’t know how many promises there really are in the Bible… but you can bet one thing. God always fulfills all his promises. Count on it! Depend on it. Believe it! That is really what Peter is saying in these verses. God has some very precious promises, and one of the most important is that He will carry you though. Listen to just a few of his promises:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said it, and will He not do it? has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Joshua 21:45 Not one of the good promises which the LORD made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

2 Cor 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”

With God’s promises on your side, things are good! Let’s examine one of God’s precious promises deeply so that we come away encouraged. The first thing we should ask is, “to whom were these promises made? Did God promise me?”

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

This is

slide4A Promise to those with like precious faith

Peter wrote this book. He called himself a servant and an apostle. He had the highest rank in the church, and yet, following the example of Jesus, he took the most lowly position. Apostle and servant.

In one of the clearest statements in the New Testament, Peter calls Jesus both “God and Savior.” You might want to underline it. Jesus IS God. As Christians we believe in what is called the Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Three persons; one God.

In verse two, Peter writes a common greeting to believers; Grace and peace be multiplied to you. We have noted before that Grace is the common Greek way of saying “hi” and “bye,” (charis or charin), while Peace is the common Hebrew way of saying “hi” and “bye,” (Shalom.)

But what I really want us to see today are the recipients of this letter. Verse one; “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

How do you obtain this “like precious faith.” The first thing we need to understand is that the like precious faith in this verse is a noun, not a verb. What is the difference, if I have faith in Jesus – that’s a verb. Faith is an action that I take; I believe. However If I say that all of us in this room subscribe to “the faith,” that’s a noun. In this case, faith is the sum and substance of what we believe.

Peter is writing to a group of people who have subscribed to the truth that Jesus is our God and Savior and that his death on the cross made us right with God. Sometimes we urge people to have faith, and forget that faith must be in something! It must have an object. We don’t just have faith in faith! We don’t just have faith in a generic god, or whatever you choose to believe in. If you want the precious promises in this book, you need to have faith in THE faith!

3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

A Promise of Divine Power for life slide6

Like precious Faith in Jesus ignites God’s divine power that will transform your life!

So how powerful is God? Business insider claims that hypernovas are the most powerful thing in the universe. A hypernova occurred in 2008 when a star, 150 times the size of our sun exploded producing the brightest light and most powerful energy release in the universe. In 23 seconds it put out more energy than our Sun will ever produce in its entire lifetime, or about the same amount of energy in 10 trillion trillion billion megaton bombs! If your home planet is in the way, say hello to a complete mass extinction. Scientist worry that events like these could be sterilizing the universe.[i]

That explosion didn’t even make God flinch. It didn’t surprise him, and didn’t affect Him. And as powerful as it was, it isn’t nearly as powerful as the God who created the entire universe.

So read the verse again; God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Just in case you are in depression, God has enough power to conquer it. And if you are struggling, it’s nothing for God to strengthen you. And if you despair of ever being able to live a life of godliness, peace and joy, just remember this, Jesus has enough power to give you the life you have always wanted to live and to give it more abundantly, and that with so much divine power to spare that it is beyond all that you could ask or think! Just so you know.

And how do you get this power? “Through the knowledge of him who called you!” How does knowing him give you that power?

Let’s just say you are writing a book. And you’d like to get the endorsement of Billy Graham. Can you imagine the power you would have to sell books you’d have if Graham endorsed your book? But the problem is, you don’t know Billy Graham. And it is unlikely he’s going to endorse your book. But can you imagine what would happen if you did know him and he knew and loved you? You could sit next to him and say, “Dr. Graham, would you do me a favor? Would you endorse my book!”

That is like the power you have when you know Jesus. “Jesus, would you give me everything that pertains to life and godliness!” Done! The more you know him, the more power you can claim. Faith unites the weak believer to the Mighty Savior! What a precious promise.

4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

A Promise to partake in His Divine Nature slide8

We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises. that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.

I want to show you a couple of parallels in these verses. Here is our first one: Our like Precious Faith, in verse 1 – obtained through Jesus, grants us exceedingly Precious promises in verse 4 given by Jesus. If you have the precious faith, you get the precious promises! Nice? Huh?

Here is our second one. His divine power in verse 2 makes us partakers of his divine nature in verse 5. If you have his divine power, you partake of his divine nature! Incredible!

This is an exceedingly precious promise. Verse five tells us that we were sinners at birth. The corruption that is destroying the earth was destroying us. We were born with a sin nature, and because of that nature, we hated and lusted and bent toward pleasing self (Romans 5:12; 7:14). No matter how hard we may try to do good, our motivations and underlying desires are to please and promote self. That sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God, keeps us in bondage to sin, and leads eventually to spiritual death (Romans 6:16, 23; 7:14; 2 Peter 2:19). We cannot free ourselves from sin because we cannot change our own natures, just as a tiger cannot change its own stripes.

When we come to Christ in faith, accepting His death and resurrection as our substitute, we declare Him to be the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:8–9). At that moment, the Holy Spirit “births” us into the family of God. Our old nature is defeated, and we receive a new, divine nature that desires the things of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ died for us, He became our sin, so that when we come to Him in faith, we gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is a divine exchange: Where once you had nothing but a sin nature, you now have a divine nature! God’s Holy Spirit in you is the way of escape from this planet of corruption!

You can be pure! How? The closer you draw to the Savior, the deeper your relationship with Jesus, the more you know the Father, the further you will escape from all that corrupts you! This is your promise for today, and for life! Claim it! Believe it! Trust in your Savior God and spend serious time every day with Jesus. He will give you life and give it more abundantly!

That’s what Jesus said. “I promise you!” Trust Him.

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[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9

Staying Power to Weather the Storm

slide3What can shake your faith?

During terrible trials of seemingly unanswered prayer and unrelenting pain, many are shaken to the core. It could be the loss of a loved one, a financial disaster, a relationship break-up, or a job loss. This can become so severe that we wonder if we’ve been betrayed by God himself. This may lead to a crisis of faith.

What constitutes a crisis of faith? It is when we come to a pivotal point in our Christian life when events cause us to believe that we are losing faith. It is a time of intense doubt and internal conflict that takes place when you reach a dead end, then think you simply have no faith in your faith.

In preparation for this message I read several difficult first hand stories of folks who’s faith was shaken or shattered. There seemed to be several themes in these stories.

The first is that they felt let down or disillusioned by God. One man asked, “where was God?” God is supposed to love me, and protect me, and keep me from harm.” [i]

A second theme also developed. It had to do with the hypocrisy of the church. One man said, “I started noticing how few places of true honesty and relational vulnerability were available in church. After a significantly painful experience as part of a church staff, what began as a small rumble of doubts and questions intensified and became a huge landslide.”[ii]

A third theme has to do with the truths taught in the Word of God. More and more, people are making comments like this one, “I grew up in a rigid faith system with a long list of doctrinal statements, dos, don’ts, and tenets I needed to believe to belong. Over the years I began to notice a shift in my heart related to church and God. What once seemed certain and clear became fuzzy. I had new reservations about the inerrancy of the scriptures, and began questioning what I had been taught about hell and homosexuality. I began to doubt much of what I had been trained as a Christian to never question.”

Is your faith unshakable? Jesus asked it this way, “Will the Son of man find faith on the earth when he comes?” When the floods break upon your bright shore, where will you find staying power to weather the storm? Is there a way you can prepare for the onslaught? Is there an unshakable faith that will carry you through? The answer? 2 Peter. You need the divine power and precious promises of God’s Word so that you can ride out the tempest.

The book of 2 Peter addresses three big issues that often shake our faith. #1 – What if I stumble? How to live the pure life. (chapter 1) #2 What if I’m confused and don’t know what I believe? How to stay true. (chapter 2) #3 What if I’m a doubter? How to maintain your faith. (chapter 3). Each chapter answers a Question, gives a Warning, and leaves us with a Promise.

slide4What if I Stumble?

Chapter one of second Peter is for everyone who thinks that they just don’t measure up. Some of you are struggling with godliness. You are not doing very good at it. If people know the evil in your heart, they would give you the stare. You know that you are an ineffective Christian and you are unproductive for Jesus. You may fool others, but when you are by yourself, you know the truth.

WARNING: Here is the chapter 1 warning.   It is found in verse 10. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.” In other words, if you find it impossible to live the Christian life, there is always the possibility that you are not a child of God. If this is true, you need a crisis of faith, so that you can fully embrace Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This is a stern warning.

PROMISE: But chapter one also has a powerful promise in verse 3-4

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Let me let you in on a secret; we all struggle; every one of us. Even Peter and Paul had their struggles and failures. It is not about perfection it’s about direction. It isn’t about rules as much as it is about a relationship with Jesus. The very fact that you struggle with your shortcomings is a wonderful indication that the Holy Spirit is dealing with you. And this is the promise he has for you:

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That is an exceedingly precious promise. And it turns out, that if you are struggling, what you really need is to cling to the promises of God. By claiming God’s promises, clinging to His word, and growing in Christ like character, you too can live a pure life.

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Chapter 2 of 2 Peter is for everyone who is confused about what and who to believe. There are so many wonderful teachers on television and radio… and then one day someone tells you that the preacher you admire believes some outrageous, destructive heresy! And it sends you into a tail spin. What if you have been wrong all along about what you believe? How do you know if you are right or not?

WARNING: Here is the chapter 2 warning.   It is found in verses 1-2

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways.”

While chapter one is about being pure, chapter 2 is about being true. Let me tell you the thing that makes being true to God’s Word so difficult; There are so many who stray. Many follow their destructive ways. And there is often a price to pay for being true. So that is what leads up to the promise God has for you if you stay true to His Word:

PROMISE: Verse 9 “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” Just like He delivered Noah and Lot, so He’ll carry you through.

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Chapter 2 of 2 Peter is for everyone who has doubts. And the doubt that we are talking about specifically is about the Lord’s soon return. That doubt is expressed in verse 3: “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

WARNING: 10-11

“the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”

Chapter one is about being PURE. Chapter two is about being TRUE. Chapter three is about being SURE. Do you want to be settled and sure in the faith and belief that Jesus is coming soon? Just watch Israel. They have reestablished the Sanhedrin. They have the temple ready for construction. They have appointed a high priest for the first time in 2000 years. They are once again practicing and learning how to do the Old Testament Sacrifices. They have called on Russia and the US to rebuild the Temple.

IN 2012 Putin visited the Wailing Wall. The Russian leader stood in silence for several minutes, offering up a personal prayer. An Israeli bystander called out in Russian, “Welcome, President Putin.” and explained the importance of the Temple Mount and the Jewish Temple. Putin supposedly responded, “That’s exactly the reason I came here – to pray for the Temple to be built again.”[iii] I don’t know what Putin will do, but I do know about the promises of God.

PROMISE: 13, “Nevertheless, according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Is your faith unshakable? Perhaps you have stumbled into sin and need to make your election sure. Maybe you are confused or deceived and need Jesus to rescue you. Or it could be that you have doubts about Jesus coming and need to claim the promises of God.

Let me tell you WHAT’S TRUE; If Jesus has saved you, he’ll carry you through. Let me tell you WHAT’S FALSE; if what you are listening to doesn’t line up with God’s Word, you need a solid foundation of truth. Let me tell you about THE END; Jesus is coming again soon. Are you ready for Him? If not, you need Staying Power to Weather the Storm. You need Unshakable faith you can rest your life upon!

Everybody experiences stress and anxiety on a daily basis. When stress and feelings of worry or anxiety build up to an impenetrable level in the form of a crisis of faith, you need Jesus more than ever.

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jessie-golem/leaving-the-church_b_4816252.html

[ii] https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2014/10/21/4-reasons-its-okay-to-lose-your-faith/34651

[iii] Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/78372/bin-exclusive-sanhedrin-asks-putin-trump-build-third-temple-jerusalem/#4cpkVIwUWegp5a8V.99

How Hope makes us love one another

Slide18An evangelist once preached a message on holiness.  After hearing it, the pastor said something to him that rattled his cage. “The Lord has dealt with me about preaching more on love than holiness,” The statement didn’t sit well with the evangelist.  He pondered,  “Is love more important than holiness?”

One of the main reasons why the church is in such a mess today is because we have managed to uncouple the love of God from the holiness of God.  Some churches have veered too far toward what they say is holiness, while other churches have veered too far toward what they say is love. If a church has abandoned holiness, it has abandoned love, and if it has abandoned love, it has abandoned holiness.

Modern Western Christians have regrettably managed to convince themselves that God’s love can be celebrated, promoted and extolled, while we can simply ignore or downplay his holiness. But of course this just cannot be done.  There is no such thing as holiness apart from love, and no such thing as love apart from holiness. God’s love is holy love.  God’s holiness is loving holiness.  They cannot be divided.

God is Holy. That means that He has an infinite aversion to sin, and all that is false. He utterly hates rebellion, unbelief, immorality, and all forms of sin. He will and must destroy all forms of iniquity forever. His very nature demands it.

In Isaiah 6:1-8, we see Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple. He sees the Lord “sitting on a throne lofty and exalted” (vs. 1). Seraphim surround Him calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (vs. 3). This triple repetition of a divine attribute is without parallel in the rest of the Bible. Scripture never says that God is “justice, justice, justice” or even “love, love, love,” but it does say that He is “holy, holy, holy.” The Hebrew does not have a grammatical way to express the comparative (holier) or the superlative (holiest). The way it stresses the importance of something is by repetition.

Yet, God is love. He abounds with compassion and mercy for sinners. The nature of God is to be gracious, forgiving, forbearing. As a Father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him, says Psalm 103. He is “slow to anger, and abounding with tender mercies…” According to Exodus 34:4-8.  While the Bible says that God is “holy, holy, holy,” and you can’t get any higher that, it also says, that without His love you are nothing.

God knew all about the holiness / love debate long before it happened.  In fact, in 1 Peter 1, this passage was penned specifically to say that Hope leads to holiness, and holiness leads to love.

Slide3Holiness makes us love one another 22

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

Did you notice that this verse began with purity of soul and ended with a pure heart? You start with purity, you add love in the middle, and you end with purity.  What makes sincere love of the brethren possible?  Let me give you an interesting answer:  a pure heart.  How do you get a pure heart?  By obedience to the truth.

Here is the secret of loving one another:  A Christian doesn’t follow his inner urges, or allow personal feelings or prejudices to get in the way of love… we obey the truth.  This excludes all pride, grudges, and bitterness.  It means getting rid of it, and cleansing those things that get in the way of true love.  That’s why love demands holiness!  You just can’t love well without purity!

This verse is what I’m going to call a “double, double.”  There are two mentions of purity, one at the beginning and one at the end, and there are two mentions of love, both of them sandwiched in the middle; “Sincere love of the brethren,” and “fervent love one for another.”

At firSlide4st glance, you might thing that Peter is just repeating himself.  But upon closer inspection you will notice that the “sincere love of the brethren,” is the Greek word philos, meaning brotherly love.  And the “fervent love one for another,” is agape, a term used of God’s unselfish, unconditional love.

So what’s Peter trying to communicate?  Perhaps it is this:  no matter the kind of love you are talking about, whether it is the comradery of brotherly love, or the compassion for the unlovely of God-like love, all genuine love comes from holiness, and all genuine love comes from God.

Do you want to love well, you need to be holy.  Do you sincerely want sincere love?  Do you fervently desire fervent love?  If you want your love to be genuine and passionate, you must begin with purity.  If you take love to any other place it becomes warped and selfish.

Slide5The Gospel makes us love one another 23-25

23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,  24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

I think you have to ask the question, as I did, why did Peter suddenly turn from purity and love to the new birth?  What is the connection?  “Love purely, having been born again!”

Here is the connection; Selfless love does not come naturally.  Love and romance on the human level are about as dependable as tumbleweeds in the wind, as durable as green grass on a hot summer day, as lasting as a beautiful flower that wilts away.  That’s human love, for you.  Our old nature kicks in with all kinds of excuses:

  • I can’t love someone who acts like that!
  • I don’t have the patience!
  • I’m too busy!  I haven’t got time for this!
  • I tried loving them, but they don’t love me back!

That is where the Gospel comes in.  We can love like God loves, because we have been regenerated.  Regenerated is just a big word meaning “born again!”  We have the capacity to have divine love because God is our father, and we are all brothers and sisters!  We have a new family and a new nature.

This is the gospel that was preached unto you.  We are different.  We’ve been born again.  Our love needs to reflect that reality.  Our love is meant to be as incorruptible as Jesus love and as enduring and eternal as the Word of God itself.  It is supposed to be the forever and ever and happily ever after kind of love.

Slide6Brothers and Sisters!  We need to love one another! 2:1-3

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

So you want to love like God loves?  That is what we are supposed to do.  How about five practical ways to put that into practice, one sure route to sustaining love, and one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover.

Five practical steps to pure live:

  1. Lay aside all malice: This is a malicious spirit.  Stop wishing ill will on others.  Stop trying to hurtSlide7 those who hurt you.  The Greek word “Kakia,” even sounds disgusting.  True love does not seek revenge.
  2. Set aside all deceit:  The Greek word “dolos” means treachery, trickery, lying, being disingenuous and being two faced.  True love does not deceive.
  3. Put aside all hypocrisy:  Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing on the outside, but is another thing deep inside.  You can fool some of the people, but God knows if you are being two faced.  True love must be genuine.
  4. Get rid of all envy:  Envy or jealousy is resentment for what others have and the desire to have what does not belong to you.  Be content and joyful with the gifts and abilities God has given you.  You cannot truly love until you are content.
  5. Stop all evil speaking:  Evil speaking refers to speaking ill of one another, of slander, of rumors and gossip.  You can say that you are a loving person all you want, but true love speaks well of others.

One sure route to sustaining love:

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it.”  If you are going to learn to love others, you have got to learn to love God’s Word first.  If you desire to be a lover, you must desire the simple truths of time spent with the greatest lover of all; the living Word, Jesus.  There is no shortcut nor substitute for daily time spent with the Lord Jesus Christ in His word.  It is the only way you are going to grow in love.

one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover

3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  Here’s what I know; if you are a true believer, you will have a insatiable appetite for the Word, just like a baby has a hunger for mama’s milk.  Once you have truly tasted Jesus, and are a saved individual, you can’t help yourself, you will have a voracious craving for more.  Jesus tastes so good; you can’t take just one bite!

O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in him!