Jesus the gift of God’s Love (John 3:1–17; 7:45–52; 19:38–40)

Jesus the gift of God’s Love (John 3:1–17; 7:45–52; 19:38–40)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 2020

I will be talking about John 3. Please turn there. Children are dismissed to junior church.

What would we do without light?

How much does light change things?

Think about times when you have been in the dark and then all of a sudden the lights come back on. Maybe you were living through a power outage. Have you ever driven on dark roads? I drove two hours each way to seminary. I did that two days a week. When I was driving on interstate 75 through Cincinnati things were lit up and it was easy to stay awake. But then when I got south of Cincinnati, into the hills of Kentucky, it got dark really quickly.

Light helps us see, but more than that, light also makes us more comfortable, correct? In 2007, I took my youth ministry on a mission trip in Tampa, Florida. We left Cincinnati around midnight. I took over driving in the mountains of Tennessee around 2:30 in the morning. I could see the road, but I was uncomfortable at places not being able to see the broader area around me. Light makes us more comfortable.

Light can bring joy, can’t it? How do you feel when you see Christmas lights?

Today, we will see Jesus described as the “light” of the world.

This year, we have been talking about Jesus, the indescribable gift.

Two weeks ago, I talked about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Last week, we talked about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Today, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love.

On Christmas Eve we will talk about Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15).

On December 27 we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope.

My theme today:

Jesus tells Nicodemus that He is the gift of God’s love, the Light of the World, Nicodemus becomes a disciple (John 7:50).

Application:

Are you seeking the Light of the world? Are you seeking Jesus?

I am not going to read the whole passage. I will summarize parts and read a few verses here and there. Please turn to John 3.

  1. Jesus teaches that we must be born again (John 3:1-8).
    1. In verse 1 we see there was a man of the Pharisees. That clues us into some things. He is a pharisee, being a religious teacher.
    2. The verse lists him as a ruler of the Jews. He was on the Sanhedrin, which would be like their supreme court.
    3. We only see Nicodemus a couple more times in the Bible: John 7:50; 19:39
    4. He came to Jesus at night which is why some call him “nick at night.”
    5. He calls Jesus Rabbi, which means “teacher.”
    6. He begins acknowledging that Jesus is from God.
    7. He refers to Jesus’ miracles.
    8. No one can do the signs unless God is with Him.
    9. In verse 3, we now see Jesus answers and the conversation begins.
    10. We must be born again. John 3:3: Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
    11. There was something wrong with the first birth.
    12. The first birth was into the fallen world. We need born of the Spirit.
    13. In verse 4 we see that Nicodemus was very confused.
    14. Nicodemus was being very literal. He thought we would have to enter the womb again, picture that as an adult.
    15. So, in verse 5 Jesus clarifies we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. Verse 5 reads: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
    16. This is restating verse 3, but now mentioning what “born again means.”
    17. There are two key Old Testament texts about this.
    18. Isaiah 44:3 uses poetic parallelism to equate water and the spirit. The Old Testament oftentimes talked about the Holy Spirit being poured out like water (Proverbs 1:23; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10).
    19. Ezek 36:25-27 is the other one. In that Passage the Lord is talking about cleansing: There the Lord is affirming the promise of the new covenant to Israel, and He says,
    20. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.[1]
    21. This is regeneration.
    22. We had something wrong with our first birth so Jesus gives us a rebirth. Look at 2 Cor 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    23. Verse 6 continues about birth. Born of the flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit. This means that the flesh represents our sin nature and the Spirit represents our re-birth.
    24. In verses 7-8 Jesus tells him not to be amazed about what He has said. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. We know the wind is there, but we do not know where it has come from or is going, and that is the same with the Holy Spirit. Wind and Spirit translate the same Greek and Hebrew words.
  2. Jesus teaches the dichotomy between our ways and the Spirit’s ways (John 3:9-15).  
    1. Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for not understanding these things. In verse 9 he asks how these things can be and in verse 10 Jesus says that he is the teacher of Israel and yet he does not understand.
    2. Look at verses 11-15: Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
    3. Jesus is speaking of what He knows and has seen. Jesus uses the plural “we” which is mostly referring to the Trinity.
    4. In verse 12 Jesus is saying how can He teach him more when he does not understand things so far.
    5. In verses 13-15 we see that Jesus has ascended into Heaven and descended from Heaven.
    6. Jesus must be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness.
    7. Jesus is alluding to Numbers 21:9 and the bronze serpent that saved the people.
    8. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross to save them and us. This is God’s love.
  3. God’s love sent Jesus, the Light of the world, but some loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:14-21).
    1. Let’s read verses 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    2. I am using the ESV today because it flows better.
    3. You will notice that the ESV does not use the word “begotten” but instead “only.” I prefer “one and only.” A few years ago I did extensive research on that Greek term and shared that with you. There is more about that in the notes which I will not share at this time.
    4. Some think “begotten” is better because it means that Jesus was not born, but that is incorrect. “Begotten” has been controversial in the past going all the way back to the Arian controversy. You can look that up on your own, or talk to me later.
    5. The best translation is “unique” not begotten.
    6. God gave his only “begotten” Son, or His “one and only Son” or His “unique” Son.
    7. I was required to study Greek in seminary but I am not that good with it so I contacted two Greek scholars to look into that specific word. The Jehovah’s Witness like the word “Begotten” best because it literally means that Jesus was born. It literally means, “only born.” Again, that is the Arian controversy.
    8. But Jesus was never born we know that. One Greek scholar, Dr. Long from Asbury Theological Seminary believes “Unique” is the best translation of the adjective. The Greek adjective from which we get “begotten” is monogenḗs and literally means “one and only” or “only born.” This is a case where tracing a words derivation is not helpful because as I stated Jesus was never born. This adjective was also applied to Isaac that Isaac was the only monogenḗs of Abraham. Of course, Isaac was born, and Abraham did have another son. Yet, Isaac was the child of promise.
    9. So, as we consider which term is best to translate the Greek remember that the Greek adjective monogenḗs literally does mean only born.
    10. However, also remember we do not form Theology based on one verse. We form Theology, in this case, Christology, based on the whole Bible. Look at John 1:1-14 and we see that Jesus was not born.
    11. Notice that God loved.
    12. Notice further that God loved to the point where God gave.
    13. One Bible scholar points out: The Greek construction puts some emphasis on the actuality of the gift: it is not ‘God loved enough to give,’ but ‘God loved so that he gave.
    14. The same scholar continues The construction of the Greek sentence stresses the intensity of God’s love. He gave His best, His unique and loved Son. The Jews believed that God loved the children of Israel, but John affirmed that God loved all people regardless of race.[2]
    15. God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son…The rest of the passage picks up the purpose: that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
    16. Salvation is opened to all people but only through Jesus. Look at John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God
    17. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting God the Father.
    18. In verses 19-21 we see that Jesus came into the world as the Light, but people loved darkness rather than the light.
    19. People who are in sin, don’t want the Light to expose their sin. But people who do what is true come to the Light with the purpose that they may clearly see that His works have been carried out in God.
  4. Remember that this is a message first given to Nicodemus.
    1. It seems that Nicodemus became a disciple.
    2. In John 7:45-52 Nicodemus defends Jesus.
    3. In John 19:38-40 Nicodemus is at Jesus’ burial.
    4. Jesus came as God with us to be the gift of God’s love.
    5. This passage is all about Jesus declaring God’s love.
  5. Applications:
    1. Nicodemus was the teacher of Israel (verse 1 and verse 10) and yet he did not understand, we must seek the Lord to truly understand what God is doing.
    2. We must understand that we need to be born again. Our first birth had a sin problem, we need a new heart. We need born again (verses 3-5).
    3. We cannot understand spiritual truths, we cannot seek the Kingdom of God without a re-birth.
    4. We must trust the Lord. The Lord speaks of what He knows (verse 11).
      1. Too often we may doubt not realizing that the Lord knows the whole picture.
        1. We must understand that we really cannot understand.
        1. Oftentimes, we are confounded by spiritual truths so we doubt them and that is not right.
    5. The Holy Spirit has a will, we can see the works of the Holy Spirit, but we will not know where He comes from or is going. God is sovereign.
    6. God loved so He gave. We must sacrifice for those that we love too.
    7. We must always trust in Jesus for eternal life.
    8. Jesus is the only way to Heaven, we must share this Truth.
    9. We must look for every opportunity to share the Gospel.
    10. We must set the example for other believers.
    11. We must seek truth.
    12. We must seek the Light of the world.

Close:

Are any of you giving away Christmas gifts this year?

Make sure you share Jesus with the gifts. Share the true message of Christmas, God’s love.

prayer


[1]https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B181214?utm_source=mailerlite&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=grace_to_you_blog_what_jesus_meant_by_water_and_the_spirit&utm_term=2018-12-14

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 3:16–18.

Jesus, the gift of God’s Truth (John 1:14-18; 8:31-32; 14:1-6)

Jesus, the gift of God’s Truth (John 1:14-18; 8:31-32; 14:1-6)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6

Children are dismissed to junior church

We will be going to John 14 in just a minute.

We know the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” but listen to this one.

’Twas the Night before Jesus Came

’Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house

Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care

In hopes that Jesus would not come in there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,

Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head,

And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap

Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.

With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment that this must be THE DAY!

The light of His face made me cover my head

It was Jesus! Returning just like He had said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,

I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand

Was written the name of every saved man.

He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;

When He said, “It’s not here,” my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love

He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without sound

While all of the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;

I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.

I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight.

Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;

The coming of Jesus is soon drawing near.

There’s only one life and when comes the last call—

We’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

—Anonymous[1]

Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life. Do we believe that? How do we show that with our Christmas traditions?

How important is truth to us?

Mrs. Fisher was recovering from surgery and got a card from her fourth-grade class: “Dear Mrs. Fisher, Your fourth-grade class wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 15–14.”

—Howard G. Hendricks, Say It with Love[2]

Chuck Swindoll writes:

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, he concluded his speech by quoting a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” If I could change a couple of words in that proverb, I would say, “One person of truth impacts the whole world.”[3]

Swindoll writes: In a world of incessant lies, Jesus embodied absolute, unvarnished truth. Jesus as the source of all truth. Jesus never lied or manipulated anyone. He never left a false impression or appeared to be someone He wasn’t. As we believe and follow His teachings, we will know what’s real and valuable in a world of falsehoods and fakes. Jesus—Truth in the flesh—will lead us to truth’s treasures: eternal life and freedom from sin. If you’re searching for truth, be assured that in Jesus your search has ended!”[1]

This year, over the next several weeks I wish to talk about Jesus the indescribable gift.

Last week, I talked about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Today, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Then, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love

On Christmas Eve we will talk about: Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15)

On December 27th, we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope

Let’s turn to John 14:1-6.

My theme is Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

My application: Trust Him.

John 14:1-6: (ESV)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • Jesus comforts the disciples encouraging them to trust Him.
    • John MacArthur shares: This whole chapter centers in the promise that Christ is the One who gives the believer comfort, not only in his future return but also in the present with the ministry of the Holy Spirit (v. 26). The scene continues to be the upper room where the disciples had gathered with Jesus before he was arrested. Judas had been dismissed (13:30) and Jesus had begun his valedictory address to the remaining 11. The world of the disciples was about to be shattered; they would be bewildered, confused, and ridden with anxiety because of the events that would soon transpire. Anticipating their devastation, Jesus spoke to comfort their hearts.[4]
    • This passage is known as the upper room discourse from John chapters 13- 17
    • Jesus has told them that He will die. The disciples must have been discouraged. Jesus had said that He would die in the previous verses.
    • The disciples had traveled with Jesus for some 3 years. Jesus was a close friend and teacher.
    • They shared a special relationship. In fact, students of Rabbis would even call the teacher/Rabbi father. Later on, in John 15:15 Jesus calls them friends.
    • Jesus told His students and friends that soon He would die. Within a day of this He will die.
    • John 13:1-17 included the foot washing.
    • In John 13:18-30 Jesus predicted His betrayal.
    • In John 13:38 Jesus predicted being denied by Peter.
    • Jesus told them all of this difficult news and now we come to John 14.
    • Jesus tries to encourage them.
    • Do not let your heart be troubled. This is a command.
    • Jesus says “Do Not let your heart be troubled,” or “distressed.”
    • NET Bible: The same verb is used to describe Jesus’ own state in John 11:33, 12:27, and 13:21. Jesus is looking ahead to the events of the evening and the next day, his arrest, trials, crucifixion, and death, which will cause his disciples extreme emotional distress.[5]
    • Jesus thinks empathetically of how they may feel.
    • Jesus says “you believe in God, believe also in Me…”
    • Belief means to trust.
    • Jesus is encouraging them to Trust in Him.
      • Do we trust Him?
      • Do we trust Him when we may face a difficult time?
      • Do we trust Him when we have the bad news?
      • Do we trust Him with the cancer diagnosis?
      • Do we trust Him when it seems like the world is crumbling?
      • For them, their discipler and friend said He was going to die, their world was falling apart. Jesus says to trust Him.
    • In verse 2 Jesus has apparently told them before that He is going to prepare a place for them. This could be from John 13:36. He says now, His Father’s house has many rooms. He would NOT have told them that if He did not know.
    • This is a reason to trust Him.
    • In John 14:1 Jesus told them to believe Him, to trust in Him, and now He expands on why they can trust Him.
    • Jesus is going to prepare a place for them.
    • The word often translated as “mansion” just means “dwelling places.” It likely has the idea of a big building with lots of rooms.
    • Jesus is preparing a place for us through His death and resurrection.
    • In verses 2-3 Jesus is going to prepare a place for us and He will come back.
    • John MacArthur and others believe Jesus’ return is the pre-tribulation rapture. He will come back in the rapture to take us to be with Him.
    • In verse 4 Jesus says they know the way. He is the way. They know Jesus so they know the way.
      • This is the same for us. If we know Jesus, we know the way to Heaven.
      • How do we get to Heaven? We must know Jesus. He is the way (verse 6).
      • The way He was going was the cross. The NET Bible note below: Where he was going was back to the Father, and they could not follow him there, but later he would return for them and they could join him then. The way he was going was via the cross. This he had also mentioned previously (e.g., 12:32) although his disciples did not understand at the time (cf. 12:33). As Jesus would explain in v. 6, although for him the way back to the Father was via the cross, for his disciples the “way” to where he was going was Jesus himself.[6]
  • Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Look at verses 5-6.
    • In verse 5 Thomas speaks up.
    • Thomas is bold in asking the question.
    • Thomas was bold, we think of him as “doubting Thomas” but look at John 11:16: So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That was when they were going to go near Jerusalem for Lazarus but people wanted to kill Jesus.
    • Russell Moore writes: This is when, I expect, that murmuring commenced, and one can easily see why. Thomas is wrongly caricatured as “doubting” in our age, but Thomas, it seems to me, displays a need for certainty lacking in, say, Simon Peter, who often believes he can debate or sword fight his way out of difficulty. Thomas probably realized how often this band of disciples misunderstood Jesus’ sayings and parables, not to mention how often they fell asleep while he was praying. Thomas probably wondered if Jesus had given directions for them to meet somewhere on a mountain, to recite a particular incantation, in order to be received into this heavenly reality about which he was talking. If so, no one seemed to know what these directions were.[7]
    • In verse 6 Jesus clarifies.
    • He is the way.
    • He is the truth.
    • He is the life.
    • No one comes to the Father but through Him.
    • He is the only way.
    • This is an exclusive statement.
    • John 10:9: I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.[8]
    • Romans 5:2: Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God[9]
    • Ephesians 2:18: For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
    • Hebrews 10:20: by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…
    • 1 John 5:20: And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
    • See also John 1:14
    • “Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[10]
    • MacArthur shares: This is the sixth “I am” statement of Jesus in John (see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 15:1, 5). In response to Thomas’s query (14:4), Jesus declared that he is the way to God because he is the truth of God (1:14) and the life of God (1:4; 3:15; 11:25). In this verse, the exclusiveness of Jesus as the only approach to the Father is emphatic. Only one way, not many ways, exist to God, i.e., Jesus Christ (10:7–9; cf. Matt. 7:13–14; Luke 13:24; Acts 4:12).[11]
  • Let’s makes some applications:
    • Do we trust Jesus? In verse 1 Jesus says to believe in God, believe also in Me. “Believe” could be translated as “trust.” Do we trust Jesus?
    • Do we trust Jesus with our eternal life?
    • Do we trust Jesus with our life now?
    • What if we get a really bad diagnosis, can we still trust in Jesus?
    • What if we are persecuted for our faith? Can we trust Jesus?
    • Is Jesus enough for us?
    • The disciples were going to lose most everything for Him, Jesus tells them to trust Him.
    • Can we look forward to Heaven?
    • Can we trust Jesus’ words as truth?
    • Can we trust Jesus as the way?
    • Can we trust that Jesus’ death on the cross is the way to Heaven?
    • Can we trust that Jesus give us life?
    • Can we trust that Jesus is the only way to truly get life now (John 10:10)?
    • Are we trusting in Jesus?
    • Or, are we trusting in possessions?
    • What is our worldview about Christmas?
    • Is Christmas about materialism, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about family gatherings, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about gift giving, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about a new age “Christmas spirit” which is nothing about Jesus or is Christmas about Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about Santa Claus or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about Christmas lights and pretty decorations or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • How are we holding to a Christian worldview about Christmas?
    • How are we teaching ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren of the Christian worldview about Christmas?

How important is truth to us?

When truth unmasks wrong, those who are exposed get very nervous, like the two brothers in a story I heard recently.

These brothers were rich. They were also wicked. Both lived a wild, unprofitable existence, using their wealth to cover up the dark side of their lives. On the surface, however, few would have guessed it, for these consummate cover-up artists attended the same church almost every Sunday and contributed large sums to various church-related projects.

Then the church called a new pastor, a young man who preached the truth with zeal and courage. Before long, attendance had grown so much that the church needed a larger worship center. Being a man of keen insight and strong integrity, this young pastor had also seen through the hypocritical lifestyles of the two brothers.

Suddenly one of the brothers died, and the young pastor was asked to preach his funeral. The day before the funeral, the surviving brother pulled the minister aside and handed him an envelope. “There’s a check in here that is large enough to pay the entire amount you need for the new sanctuary,” he whispered. “All I ask is one favor: Tell the people at the funeral that he was a saint.” The minister gave the brother his word; he would do precisely what was asked. That afternoon he deposited the check into the church’s account.

The next day the young pastor stood before the casket at the funeral service and said with firm conviction, “This man was an ungodly sinner, wicked to the core. He was unfaithful to his wife, hot-tempered with his children, ruthless in his business, and a hypocrite at church.… but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”

Leadership magazine, Fall 1995[12]

Pray


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 86–87.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 588.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 589.

[4] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[5] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Jn 14:1.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Jn 14:4.

[7] https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-basis-for-christian-ethics/

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 10:9.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:2.

[10] The Gospel of Belief by a Wheaton College professor quoted by Swindoll on Insight for Living on April 17, 2019

[11] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[12] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 587–588.

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Grace (John 1:1-5)

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Grace (John 1:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29

Immanuel means: “God with us.”

This is the first Sunday of Advent and so we are looking forward to Jesus’ birth. The word “advent” actually means “coming.” The idea is the coming of the Christ child.

With that in mind, I was recently thinking back to my beliefs about Jesus from when I was a child. As a child, what were your beliefs about Jesus? Think way back, way back to some of your earliest comprehensions about Jesus. When I was a very young child, I thought that Jesus was the first man created. I actually thought that Jesus was before Adam and Eve. I didn’t understand or comprehend that Jesus was coming to earth at Christmas time. But later on, I did begin to understand that the idea of Christmas was Jesus’ birth, but then I thought God just decided to have a son. I even thought that maybe someday God would consider having another son. I wonder if you have had any similar views. At some point I realized, or God taught me, that Jesus did not have His beginning when He came to earth.  This is exactly what I want to talk about today.

This year, over the next several weeks, I wish to talk about Jesus, the indescribable gift.

Today, I wish to talk about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Next week we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Then, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love

On Christmas Eve we will talk about: Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15)

On December 27, we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope

As we look at John 1:1-5 we are going to see that Jesus’ beginning was in eternity past, actually Jesus had no beginning at all. But, Jesus did choose to come to earth to become our sacrifice for our sins. God chose to come to be with us. John 1:1-5 also shows that Jesus is fully God, yet separate. Are you confused? That is okay; let’s get into this passage and clear things up.

Let’s read John 1:1-5:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Humpty Dumpty had an unsolvable problem. We have a problem too, but ours has a solution.

Jesus Christ came to our wall,

Jesus Christ died for our fall;

So that regardless of death and in spite of sin,

Through grace, He might put us together again.[1]

  1. Let me give some context to this passage and in so doing allow me to show you how this passage relates to our Advent season.
    • Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective.
      1. More specifically, Matthew’s Gospel begins with the lineage of Jesus beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph.
      1. Then in Matthew chapter 3 he writes about John the Baptizer.
    • Luke’s Gospel begins with John the baptizer preparing the way for Jesus.
    • Later in Luke’s Gospel, Luke gives the lineage of Jesus beginning with Adam (Luke 3:23ff).
    • Mark’s Gospel begins with John the baptizer preparing the way for Jesus.
    • The point is that the other three Gospels focus on John preparing the way for Jesus and the Gospel according to John will do that as well.
    • But two of the other three Gospels focus on Jesus’ physical lineage. They do this for a reason. It was important to establish that Jesus was the rightful King of Israel as He came from the family line of King David. But John’s Gospel is focusing on Jesus’ eternal past. That is what I want to focus on today. In a few weeks we will get to the narrative of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but first let’s look at Jesus’ eternal past. Long before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem He already existed, and He was active in creation. This is important as many false religions and many cults have this false doctrine about Jesus which can be cleared up here in John 1:1-5.
    • Notice that as Jesus took on flesh, He became the light of the world. This was all because of God’s grace.
    • Jesus took on flesh in order to save us from our sins.
    • This is God’s grace.
  2. Beginning: Notice the passage says in verse 1: In the beginning… stop right there.
    • Now, let’s think about that. This is stating that what John is about to write about has to do with the beginning.
    • More specifically this has to do with the very beginning of time as we know it. Think about that for just a minute.
    • What is it like to think about a time before time? It is difficult to even state that isn’t it? How do I write “time before time”? I believe as John is here writing this phrase, he is intentionally echoing Genesis 1:1 and Genesis says, “In the beginning God created…”
    • Since Genesis writes, “In the beginning,” and John writes, “In the beginning,” we can conclude that Jesus is beyond our timeline.
  3. The Word: Now, John continues by stating that in the beginning was the Word.
    • John does not say that The Word was created in the beginning.
    • No, John is saying that the Word was already in existence in the beginning.
    • He just was. In Revelation Jesus says, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). But what does John mean by saying the Word? Basically, he is writing about Jesus. We know this by context, right?
    • I mean as soon as he completes this first section, he will begin writing about John the baptizer (John 1:6-9), then in the very next verse, he uses the male pronoun translated as “he” to refer to “the Word” (John 1:10). He is writing about Jesus.
    • So, we can gather that he is writing about a man. But in the first century, during this time period, the Jews and the Greeks would know that the Word embodies reason which gives order to the universe. The Jewish people may have had a little more of a concept of the Word as God and as the creator.
    • John’s audience would have known that John is writing about God and context will later show that John is writing about Jesus. Later on, in verse 14 John writes that the Word became flesh. So, it is clear that the Word is Jesus’ eternal past.
    • Jesus’ beginning was not being born of Mary; no Jesus was with God from the beginning.
    • Jesus chose to become a man in order to die for us and save us by His grace. Jesus is the Gift of God’s grace.
  4. with God, was God, He was in the beginning with God: Notice this.
    • The Word, Jesus, was with God. Jesus has always existed with God and now the text also says that Jesus was God.
    • Now, this is not simply an eternity past concept. John is writing about this as an eternity past idea, but Jesus is still with God and Jesus still is God. Notice that Jesus was with God and Jesus was God.
    • Jesus is both the same as God and separate from God at the same time. That is what this passage is saying. Jesus was with God and was God.
    • Don’t try to understand this. If I could understand God, He would not be that great. Yet, God still has revealed certain things about Himself to us and so we should educate ourselves as much as we can.  
    • Immanuel means God with us.
    • It is also critical that we understand that this verse is NOT saying that Jesus was a God or the Word was a God. No, Jesus is God and Jesus is with God. We don’t worship three gods.
  5.  All things came into being…
    • Another critical idea that we must focus on is that all of creation came into being by Him. Look at this in verse 3. Everything you see was created by Him.
    • Jesus created everything that we see in the night sky. Jesus created those stars and those planets. It is mind boggling when we think of how amazingly large outer space is, but Jesus created all that is in existence.
    • Jesus created everything we see on this planet. He created the materials that we are made out of. He created the materials that exist all around us. He created everything (see Colossians 1:16-17 and Psalm 8).
    • According to this passage, things are not only created by Jesus, they are also held together by Jesus. Now, think about that for just a moment, what does that mean for who we put our trust in?
    • Shouldn’t we put our trust in Jesus as the One who holds all things together?
    • Shouldn’t we put our trust in Jesus as the One who owns all things?
    • Doesn’t the One who creates have ownership of all that He created?
      • I think about the things that I fear. I fear snakes, most you know this. Oftentimes, I have been running and saw a garter snake on the trail and jumped 10 feet. I hate snakes!
      • My fears have changed the past 9 years or more.
      • I fear danger happening to my children. When Mercedes was a baby a situation happened that really stressed this in my life. We had a baby monitor that would go off if Mercedes or Abigail quit breathing, but this can also go off if one of them would move to the corner of the crib. In 2012, the monitor went off in the night and as I was still half asleep, I walked into her room. But I was about to wake up really quickly. I started feeling around in the crib to move Mercedes, but I didn’t feel her in the crib. Instantaneously, in a split second, I woke up and had the worst thoughts come into my mind. I thought about whether she crawled out of the crib, or whether someone got into our house. Then, I found her in the corner of the crib, the opposite corner that I was looking for her in. But, I had fear.
      • As a father I hear different sounds in the night and have different concerns as I have children to watch out for. I have different fears.
      • Why fear? God is in control. It is okay and good to have a healthy respect for the dangers of certain snakes, and other more serious dangers in life, but we have no ultimate fear. As this passage goes on to say, we have life in Jesus. 
      • Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.
      • Also, this passage is likely stating that things in Heaven and on earth were created by Him. I believe this is stating that the angels and the demons were created by Jesus. If Jesus loves us, which John 3:16 and many other passages says He does, and Jesus created all things, who do we have to fear? We have nothing to fear because Jesus loves us, and Jesus created all things.
  6. In Him Is life: This is more about God’s grace.
    • Now as we look at verse 4, we must grasp the idea that life is in Jesus. In Him was life.  This is a repeated concept in John’s gospel.
    • We have eternal life in Him.
    • We have true life in Him.
    • John uses the word for “life” more than 36 times in his Gospel. In Him was life. We have life in Him.
    • Do you have life in Him?
    • Have you accepted Him as your Savior?
    • Have you believed in Him? If so, then be encouraged. You do have life in Him.
  7. He Is the Light:
    • the final verse of this section says that He is the light.
    • The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.
    • Jesus is like a flashlight shining truth into a world of false realities.
    • It is a false reality that money and materialism lead to happiness.
    • It is a false reality that life is meaningless. No, life has meaning, and we can have a fuller life and eternal life in Jesus.  There are many false realities out there, but Jesus sheds light on these.
    • May that be a challenge to us.
  8. Context again:
    • Now, if we continued reading this passage we would see in verse 14 that John begins to write about Jesus becoming a human being.
    • Eugene Peterson writes that “the Word put on flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood.”
    • As we move towards Christmas and as we look towards Advent we can be encouraged that Jesus is God with Us.
    • Jesus chose, out of His great love for us, to come into our neighborhood. He chose to be born of a virgin.
    • He chose to be reared in poverty and live a fully human life to give us grace.

Praise God that Jesus chose to become one of us. Billy Graham tells a story of walking a beach with his son, trying to save ants, but the ants were scared not knowing they were trying to help them, and his son said, “What if we could become an ant and tell them we want to save them?” That is why Jesus came into our realm of existence. He came to communicate to us and to die for us.

Here are some applications from this message:

Close: applications:

  1. Jesus has always existed this means we can trust Him. If He existed prior to the beginning He must know the future, again, we can trust Him (verse 1).
    • This is especially true corresponding to Gen 1:1 with the idea that Jesus created time.
    • We must trust Jesus. He has the whole world in His hands and past, present and future in His hands.
  2. If all things came into being by Christ we must surrender to Him as the owner of all things (verse 3).
    • Jesus owns our money
      • Jesus owns our house
      • Jesus owns everything we have and treasure.
  3. On the positive side, given that all has come into being by Jesus we can trust Him.
    • He is in control as the Amy Grant song says.
    • We must trust Jesus as He owns everything.
  4. Jesus is the only way to receive and have life, true life and life eternal. We must follow and embrace His life (verse 4).
  5. We must and will comprehend Jesus’ light and allow His light to shine in us and through us (verse 5).

Can you appreciate this cartoon of Dennis the Menace? He rushes into the room, with his mother standing there with her mouth open, and he says, holding a big box in his hand, “We’d better tell Santa Claus to forget about the train set I asked for. I just found one on the top shelf of Dad’s closet.”[2]

Jesus, God’s greatest Christmas present. A present is grace, grace is a gift. Jesus gifts us with His presence.

Do you know Him?

prayer


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 251.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 82.

Rejoice in Your Salvation

Rejoice in Your Salvation (1 Chron 16:23; Psalm 20:5; 2 Cor. 9:15)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22

How do you respond to the devil’s attacks?

Martin Luther said the devil came to him every night “to dispute with him.” Luther said he learned two things would chase the devil away. One was to say, “Satan, I am baptized. I have left your wilderness. You have no more jurisdiction.”

The other way — and I’m not sure how else to say this — was to pass gas. Luther believed that because the devil was proud and hated mockery, passing gas in his face was a way of mocking him and making Satan flee. I kid you not.[1]

Baptism follows salvation and to Martin Luther he was clinging to his salvation when the devil attacked him. Baptism sealed the deal for Luther. Baptism tangibly represents the intangible.

Where would you be without Jesus? What would your life be like without Jesus?

Does your salvation give you hope for eternity?

What do you think about at funerals? Does your salvation give you hope when you think about death?

Does your salvation give you answers?

I have a thank-you card in my hand, do any of you send thank-you cards? Do any of you receive thank-you cards? Do any of you say thank-you?

Now, what are you thankful for? Food, clothing, shelter, children, family, friends, work, retirement, money, our country, etc.

When you thank God, do you thank Him for your salvation?

Theme:

Today we will look at Colossians 1:12-14 and talk about thankfulness for salvation.

Let’s read Col. 1:12-14:

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  1. In Col. 1:12-13 we see God’s great rescue mission.
    • I know verse 12 starts midsentence. Paul is in the middle of one long sentence. Paul was the master of long sentences. This sentence starts in verse 9 and is an extended sentence with 218 words. So, verses 9-20 are one long sentence in the Greek.
    • This is a prayer that Paul is praying.
    • These three verses are about giving thanks to God for our salvation.
    • The 2011 NIV says “Joyful” thanks.
    • God has qualified us, you, to share in the inheritance.
    • Who qualified you? God qualified you. Only Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are saved by grace.
    • We give thanks for gifts and our salvation is a free gift.
    • We don’t have to give thanks for what we earn. We give thanks for gifts.
    • Psalm 51:12 says to restore to me the “joy” of your salvation. Do you ever ask God for that restored joy? I think that joy would cause us to be thankful.
    • We have an inheritance in Christ. We are considered sons and daughters of God. We are family (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:5). We have an inheritance in Heaven.
    • We are part of the Light, as opposed to darkness, which was a common contrast which Paul would use.
    • Our salvation was God’s great rescue mission.
    • Verse 13 says that God rescued us from darkness.
    • Think about a rescue. This makes me think of a good action movie in which a character is going to rescue someone.
    • In “The Patriot” Mel Gibson’s character rescued prisoners by outwitting the British
    • Maybe show clip
    • God outwitted the devil and rescued us.
    • We aren’t simply rescued from darkness and left wondering. No, we are transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus.
    • Verse 14 says that He redeemed us and this means that He bought us, just like you buy a slave.
    • Verse 14 says that we also are forgiven.
    • So, are you thankful for your salvation?
    • John Macarthur shares:
    • First Chronicles 16:23Psalm 96:2 says, “Proclaim the good tidings of His salvation day to day”. Way back in 1 Chronicles, way back in the Psalms, people were proclaiming on a daily basis the good news of the salvation of God. That has always been the greatest preoccupation of the people of God, to praise Him for salvation. Revelation 7, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb,” that’s heaven. All the beings in heaven are praising God and the Lamb for salvation.
    • So we can say it is the theme of the Holy Spirit’s revelation…the theme of the Holy Spirit’s revelation. I will simplify the Bible for you. The main theme in the Bible is salvation, right? That’s the theme of the Bible. It goes from corruption to salvation, from the Fall to eternal glory. The theme of the Bible is salvation and so it is the theme of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Everything that the prophets in the Old Testament knew about salvation was given to them by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was revealing the sufferings of Christ in Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Isaiah 52, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9, Zechariah 12, Zechariah 13. The Holy Spirit was revealing all of this, the sufferings, death, trial, beating, crucifixion and the glories to follow. The Holy Spirit revealed truth about the resurrection, the ascension, the enthronement. The resurrection, obviously, implied everywhere that the Messiah is seen reigning because if He dies, He has to rise to reign. The resurrection in Psalm 16, the resurrection in Psalm 22, the resurrection in Psalm 69, the resurrection, exaltation of Christ, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53, the end of the chapter, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Zechariah 2, Zechariah 14. They were prophesying about His suffering and about His glory because that was the message of the Holy Spirit. Those two things were the theme of Old Testament prophecy.[2]
    •  Are we thankful?

Are we thankful?

Swindoll tells of a story from WW II: the Americans had advanced into the German territory, Germans and Americans are shooting at each other, a German family is hiding in a barn. Then a 3 year old girl breaks free from her parents and runs between the allies and the Germans. All firing stops. Then after she is safe they start firing at each other again. You know that in our salvation we have peace with God?

I encourage you to go home and write a thankful prayer to God. Are you thankful for salvation?

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him (Genesis 1-2).

Our sin separated us from God (Genesis 3).

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4).

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again (Matthew – Luke).

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life (John – Jude).

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever (Revelation 22:5).


[1] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-408/praising-god-for-your-salvation

[2] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-408/praising-god-for-your-salvation

Worldview Wrap-Up: Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God (2 Kings 17:7-18; 1 Thess 5:17-22)

Worldview Wrap-Up: Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God (2 Kings 17:7-18; 1 Thess 5:17-22)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15, 2020

Children are dismissed to junior church.

We are going to be going to 2 Kings 17:7-18 in a minute.

Over the last several weeks we have talked about having a Biblical worldview. The Biblical worldview goes like this: creation-fall-redemption-restoration. Everything was created good, as we see in Genesis chapters 1-2. Creation fell in Genesis 3. All of creation is fallen (Romans 8:22-23). Jesus has redeemed us (John 3:16), but the world is still fallen. Someday God will restore all things (Revelation 21-22).

We have talked at great length about each of these parts of a Biblical worldview. Why is there pain and suffering? This is because we live in a fallen world. Is this how things are meant to be? No, absolutely not. We are redeemed by Jesus, but things are not restored yet. We needed Divine intervention. We need police because we live in a fallen world. There is racism and all kinds of bad stuff because we live in a fallen world. Someday, God will make things right.

What does it look like to lose the Biblical worldview?

What does it look like to forget God?

Today, we will look at 2 Kings 17:7-18 and see an example of that.

My theme is:

Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God

Let’s read 2 Kings 17:7-18:

Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the Lord had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the Lord. 12 They served idols, concerning which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.” 14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them. 16 They forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him. 18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.

  1. Why Israel fell
    • Years ago John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Adlai Stevenson. In it he said, “There is a creeping all-pervading gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop until it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental.”—Billy Graham, World Aflame[1]
    • We see the immorality reach a climax and then consequences here.
    • Israel has neglected the Biblical Worldview.
    • Likewise, America is also leaving the Biblical worldview. We, as Christians, must test everything and hold true to a Biblical Worldview. We must be different.
    • If we read verse 6, 2 Kings 17:6, we read that the King of Assyria captured Samaria. Now, Samaria was the capitol of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
    • What we need to know at this point is that Israel and Judah had been separated. They have had a divided kingdom since around 930 BC and it is now around 722 BC.
    • MacArthur shares: The capture of Samaria marked the end of the northern kingdom. According to Assyrian records, the Assyrians deported 27,290 inhabitants of Israel to distant locations. The relocation of populations was characteristic of Assyrian policy during that era. The Israelites were resettled in the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley and never returned to the Promised Land. “Halah” was a city northeast of Nineveh. The “Habor” River was a northern tributary of the Euphrates. The “cities of the Medes” were northeast of Nineveh. Samaria was resettled with foreigners (v. 24). God did what he said he would do in Deut. 28. The Jews were carried as far east as Susa, where the book of Esther later took place.[2]
    • Israel had lost their Biblical worldview and that is why God rejected them.
    • Starting in verse 7 we see why Israel fell.
    • Verse 7: now, this came about because Israel had sinned against the Lord.
    • The verse continues to share about their history. The Lord brought them up from the land of Egypt. The passage says they feared other gods.  The NET Bible says they worshipped other gods, which is probably more accurate. Judges 6:10 tells them not to fear other gods.
    • Verse 8 continues what is going on.
    • They walked in the customs of the nations. These were the nations that the Lord had driven out before them. But the kings of Israel even introduced these customs.
    • God had told them not to do this. Lev 18:3; Deut 18:9 both talk about not being like the other nations.
    • 2 Kings 16:3 says they even made their sons pass through the fire, which most likely means child sacrifice.
    • Verse 9 shares that they did things secretly which were not right, and these were against the Lord. More likely, this had to do with speaking things against the Lord. They built high places which were places of pagan worship.
    • We must always guard about what we do in secret. They are not in secret to God.
    • MacArthur shares: In direct disobedience to Deut. 12:1–4, the Israelites built new raised altars in the Canaanite pattern after the temple was constructed. These “high places” were in all the habitations of Israel, from small fortified structures to large garrison cities, i.e., from the smallest to largest towns. The altars were on wooded hills with images representing the false gods (2 Kings 17:10; cf. Deut. 16:21–22).[3]
    • Verses 10-11 continue about their pagan worship.
    • They setup sacred pillars and asherim. Asherim would be wooden symbols of a female deity. So, they were worshipping pagan gods and the passage said they did that on every high hill and under every green tree.
    • They did these things which Ex 34:12–14 warns against.
    • Verse 11 says they burned incense, this would be a worship practice but they were doing this to pagan deities. They did this on the high places as the pagans did.
    • They did evil things provoking the Lord to anger.
    • Verse 12 shows that they served idols, even though the Lord said not to do that (see Ex 20:4).
  2. The Lord warned them, but they would not listen (verses 13-17).
    • Verse 13 begins with “yet.” This is a contrast. The Lord warned Israel, and Judah as well.  
    • How did the Lord warn them?
    • The Lord warned them through His prophets and every seer.
    • There is probably a subtle difference between the two. A name sometimes applied to the prophets because of the visions granted to them.[4]
    • The Lord had also warned them by His Word.
    • The prophets and the seers exhorted them to turn back.
    • The Lord exhorted them to turn and also keep His law.
    • Verse 14 shares that they did not listen.
    • They got more stubborn like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord.
    • Verse 15 picks up on this. They rejected the Lord’s statutes and His covenant which He had made with their ancestors. They followed like the other nations, though the Lord had warned them not to do like them.
    • In verse 16 we see that they disobeyed the Lord’s commandment about idols. They made idols: molten images, two calves, an asherah, which was a wooden symbol of a female deity. They worshipped the stars and served baal.
    • The molten images of calves or bulls were typical cult items in Canaan.[5]
    • Worship of the starry hosts refers worship of the celestial gods (sun god, moon god and Venus particularly; in Babylonia, Shamash, Sin and Ishtar respectively), who were primary in most ancient religions. Controlling the calendar and time, seasons and weather, they were viewed as the most powerful of the gods. They provided signs by which omens were read and they looked down on all. [6]
    • In verse 17 we see how bad they got. They made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, which would be child sacrifice. They practiced divination and enchantments, that would not be of God. Then they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord. They provoked God.
    • Forms of witchcraft, fortune-telling, and black magic were forbidden by God ( Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ). They were wrong because they sought power and guidance totally apart from God, his law, and his Word. Isaiah echoed this law and prophesied of the complete destruction these occult practices would bring to those who participated in them ( Isaiah 8:19-22 ).[7]
    • Divination and enchantments were also well-known in Mesopotamia. Divination assumed that there was knowledge to be gained about the activities and motives of the gods through the use of various indicators (such as entrails of sacrificed animals). Thousands of omens and incantations have been uncovered in the past one hundred and fifty years of archaeological research.[8]
    • In verse 18 we see that God gave them up. God had them conquered. Only Judah was left.
    • Likewise, America is also leaving the Biblical worldview. We, as Christians, must test everything and hold true to a Biblical Worldview. We must be different.
  3. Learn from Israel’s mistakes
    • Swindoll shares: First corinthians 5:6 says, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” I remember hearing an interesting story one of my Greek professors told on one of his students. He taught a class at eight o’clock in the morning. Now at that hour, some people just don’t function well, especially in Greek. One student was struggling to translate 1 Corinthians 5:6. He knew how the King James Version read, but knew he could not quote that because the professor would know he was not translating the Greek. So he came out with the familiar “a little dab’ll do you.” That was the best he could do.
    • That’s true! A little dab will affect the whole bunch. You put a little, rotten, insignificant apple in a bucket of good apples, and the good apples will never make that rotten apple good. What will happen? Just the opposite. First, those around that rotten apple will begin to become rotten and decayed. And leave them there long enough and you’ve got a bucket of waste, ruined by that little dab of rottenness.[9]
      • This passage is sad, but it is also a reminder. Israel was taken into exile just like the prophets had warned. Whatever God promises will come to pass. We must trust in the Lord today. When the Lord says there is a punishment for sin, we must believe Him.
      • Verse 7 reminds the reader and us that the Lord had brought them out from Egypt. We just never forget how the Lord provides for us. We must take time to give thanks to the Lord. We must take time to reflect on how the Lord provides.
      • Verse 7 says they feared or worshipped other gods. We must make sure that things and people do not become idols.
        1. Television must not be more important than God.
        1. Books and learning must not be more important than God.
        1. Work must not be more important than God.
        1. Video games must not be more important than God.
        1. Money must not be more important than God.
        1. People, even spouses and children must not be more important than God.
        1. Stuff must not be more important than God.
        1. Allegiance to one’s country must not be more important than God.
      • Verse 8 shares that they became like the other nations. We must not be like the world. Friendship with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). We must not be conformed to the world, but we must be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).
      • Verse 9 shares that they did things secretly which were not right. We must guard against secret sins. We must repent. Numbers 32:23 be sure your sin will find you out.
      • Verse 13 shares that the Lord warned them. The Lord warns us too. We must repent when we hear a warning about sins of omission or commission. Sins of omission are things that we do not do that we should do. Sins of commission are sins that we do that we should not do.
      • Praise God that He gives second chances. God gives opportunities to repent.
      • God wants us to repent and follow Him.
      • Verse 15 shows that they rejected God’s statutes, His rules, and expectations. They followed vanity. We must listen to the Lord and not follow vain, worthless things.
      • We must follow the Lord.
      • We must test everything (1 Thess. 5:21).

Israel was stubborn. They rejected God. They rejected His ways. They rejected the Lord’s authority. They needed discipline to make them repent.

Many years ago, James Dobson told a story about a 10‑year‑old boy named Robert. He was a patient of a California pediatrician. When Robert was scheduled for a visit to the doctor’s office, the news would spread like wildfire. To sum up the story, the boy would not obey and if you tried to get him to obey, he would threaten to take off his clothes. Well, one dentist called his bluff. The dentist said, “fine take off your clothes.” The boy takes off all his clothes! The dentist does the work on his teeth, then the boy wants them back. The dentist says that his mother can pick up his clothes tomorrow. The boy walks out totally naked passed everyone up and goes home. Next day the mom comes and thanks the dentist. The next day the mother came for her son’s clothes and asked to speak to the dentist.

When he came out, she said:

“Doctor, I want to thank you for what you did to Robert yesterday. For as long as I can remember, he has threatened us with just about everything.

“But his favorite [threat] has been that he’ll take off his clothes if he doesn’t get his way. You’re the first person that has ever called his bluff, and he’s already become a different child!”

I know, that same story in today’s world would find the dentist in jail. But that’s the problem. We’re asking kids permission to change their diapers and having to sue to get them to leave their bedrooms.[10]

Listen, we are a society that has lost, rule and authority. We have lost discipline. We have lost right and wrong. We must repent. Seek the Lord. Share the Gospel. Test everything and cling to a Biblical worldview (1 Thess 5:17-22).

Prayer


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 292.

[2] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[3] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[4] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[5] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[6] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[7] Tyndale House Publishers. Life Application Study Bible NLT (Kindle Locations 129105-129106). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[9] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 293.

[10] https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/parents-losing-control.html

Kashmira Gander, “Ask Your Baby’s Permission Before Changing Diaper, Says Sexual Consent Expert,” Newsweek, May 10, 2018, read online.

Michelle Singletary, “Parents Who Went to Court to Evict Their Unemployed 30-Year-Old Son Did the Right Thing,” The Washington Post, May 24, 2018, read online.

Ed Young, From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings.

Restoration

Restoration: God will restore all things in the future, long for that day.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 7, 2020

Over the past 6 weeks we have talked about having a Biblical worldview. This means we must view the world through a Biblical framework.

Chuck Colson shares the following:

The three worldview categories examined in the earlier sections—creation, fall, and redemption—provide a conceptual structure by which we can identify what is wrong with non-Christian ways of thinking and then formulate a Christian perspective on every subject.

The first task, then, is to be discerning, to examine various worldviews by measuring how well they answer the fundamental questions of life: Creation—Where did we come from, and who are we? Fall—What has gone wrong with the world? Redemption—What can we do to fix it? Trace out the way any worldview answers these three questions, and you will be able to see how nonbiblical ideas fail to fit reality. By contrast, the biblical worldview provides answers that are internally consistent and really work.[1]

Following Jesus and sharing the Gospel transforms cultures:

In A.D. 401 a sixteen-year-old British boy named Patricius was seized by a raiding Irish war party, abducted from his Romanized homeland, and sold to a petty Irish chieftain named Miliucc, who sent the boy out to shepherd his flocks. Patricius spent months alone in the hills, hunger gnawing at his innards and the clammy cold biting into his limbs, until finally he sought help from the only source left: He began to pray.

Before this time, Patricius had not really believed in the God his Christian parents had taught him about, and he thought priests were fools. But he found in God a source of strength that helped him endure six long years of bitter isolation and deprivation. “Tending flocks was my daily work, and I would pray constantly during the daylight hours,” he wrote later. “The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more—and faith grew and the Spirit was roused.”[11]

Then one night, Patricius was awakened by a mysterious voice telling him that he was going home. “Look, your ship is ready,” said the voice. Although uncertain of the direction or distance, Patricius set out for the sea. More than two hundred miles later, he found a ship bound for England.

When he reached his homeland, however, Patricius discovered that he no longer fit in with his people. “Hardened physically and psychologically by unsharable experiences, hopelessly behind his peers in education, he cannot settle down,” writes historian Thomas Cahill.[12] Then one night, the former slave boy heard Christ’s voice again, this time telling him to return to Ireland. He entered theological training and eventually returned as Patrick, missionary to the Irish.

This was no romantic return, set to the tune of Irish ballads. When St. Patrick began his mission, he faced pagan Irish priests (druids) who still practiced ritual human sacrifice to their monstrous Celtic gods (often portrayed eating people). The fierce Irish warriors, believing that the human head was the seat of the soul, hung their enemies’ skulls from their belts as trophies.

Into this bloodthirsty culture St. Patrick brought the Christian message of love and forgiveness and established monasteries throughout the land. The monastic movement in Ireland began to revolutionize the world, replacing the old values of a warrior society with the new values of Christianity. Within St. Patrick’s lifetime, warriors cast aside their swords of battle, intertribal warfare decreased markedly, and the slave trade ended. A culture of battle and brute power was transformed by an ethic that sanctified manual labor, poverty, and service. A culture of illiteracy and ignorance became a culture of learning.[2]

Yes, the Gospel transforms cultures; however, that is not the restoration that we long for. Eventually, God will restore all things.

My theme today: God will restore all things in the future, long for that day.

Let’s read from Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV):

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

  1. Let’s talk about restoration
    • We see from the Bible, from the passage I read, that God will restore all things.
    • The Biblical worldview teaches that we are redeemed, but we are still in a fallen world. Therefore, we are waiting on a day when God will restore all things. We need restoration.
    • It seems that there are thoughts that God is restoring creation now through the church and I know that God is transforming society, but we still long for the new creation. I believe the restoration we are awaiting is not going to happen until after the tribulation period and the millennial reign.
    • We see that in the passage I already read.
    • We also see this in Isaiah 65 and a few other places in the Bible.
    • In Isaiah 65 we see the millennial reign as well as the future heaven talked about together. It is as if the prophet Isaiah blurs the two together.  
    • One writes the following: Is the new heaven and earth that John saw the same new heaven and earth that Isaiah predicted (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; cf. Ps. 102:25–26; Isa. 51:6)? We would normally assume that the entities are the same since the terms that describe them are almost identical. However the descriptions of these places vary. Isaiah wrote that people will die in the new earth (Isa. 65:17–20), but John said there will be no more death there (Rev. 21:4). Isaiah predicted that the moon will shine in the new heavens (Isa. 66:22–23), but John implied that there will be no moon there (Rev. 21:23). Apparently Isaiah spoke of both the Millennium and the eternal state generally as new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17–66:24), which is accurate since even in the Millennium the world will experience renovation. John, in the progress of revelation, distinguished these two aspects of the eschaton and applied the name “new heaven and earth” only to the eternal state, which is appropriate since God will eventually destroy the present world and create a new world (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10). Isaiah’s view of the future was more general while John’s was more specific.720[3]
    • It is interesting that Revelation chapters 20-22 are the latter bookend of Genesis 1 and 2. The ESV Study Bible shares the following:
    • The “bookends” concept of biblical theology illustrates that in the third-to-last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 20) God removes his enemies—Satan, death, and evil—that entered the story line in the third chapter of the Bible (Genesis 3), thus completing the story of redemption. The last two chapters (Revelation 21–22) don’t simply restore the first two chapters (Genesis 1–2); they go beyond them to a world that is fully ordered and holy, in which God is fully present with his people, completing the story of creation. (Chapter divisions in the Bible are, of course, human contributions, not divinely inspired.)[4]
    • As we look at the passage from Revelation 21 the Moody Bible Commentary shares: This section provides information not revealed in the other visions of heaven. The eternal state is pictured as a physical place. It includes land, buildings, trees, and water. Believers will interact with one another and engage in meaningful service for God. This corrects some long-held misconceptions. Heaven is not a place of passive rest, or endless, blissful contemplation of God.[5]
    • Let’s talk about these first four verses for a few minutes:
    • John sees that “all things” are to be made new in Rev. 21:5. “All Things New” the destruction of the last enemy, death, and the last judgment will finally lead to the renewal of the entire created order, heaven and earth, to be the perfect home in which the Lamb will live forever with his bride, the people whom he has redeemed out of all the nations through his atoning death.[6] Further: The removal of the first heaven and earth eliminates the fatal infection of evil in the cosmic order and gives way to God’s creation of a new cosmic order where sin and suffering and death are forever banished. The old order was in “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21) and “groaning … in pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22), awaiting the day when “the heavens … will be dissolved” and “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell” will be established to forever replace the old (2 Pet. 3:12–13)[7]
    • John sees a holy city descending from heaven (verse 2).
    • the “holy city” is the new Jerusalem.
    • We will hear more about that in the rest of this chapter.
    • It seems clear that these verses are summarizing what the rest of the next two chapter will talk about.
    • Notice the modifiers: the city is described as “holy” and that means “set apart” or “sanctified.” We will see how it is holy later on.
    • This city is coming from God.
    • It is like it is coming from God’s realm. It is coming out of Heaven.
    • This city is made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
    • Later (in verse 9) we will see that she is called the bride.
    • This seems to mean that the city is all beautiful like we would expect a bride on the wedding day.
    • In Isa 52:1 we see Jerusalem called the “holy” city.
    • One writes: “Revelation as a whole may be characterized as A Tale of Two Cities, with the sub-title, The Harlot and the Bride.”724[8]
    • Now, we read what John hears (verses 3-8)
    • He says God himself will mingle among his people (21:3).
      • He will dwell with them. The greatest blessing of heaven will be unhindered fellowship with God himself. The goal of God’s covenant, “God with us” foreshadowed in the OT tabernacle and temple, will be achieved. his people
      • The people are God’s people and God will be with them.
      • These Old Testament passages also say that they will be His people: Lev 26:11f; Ezek 37:27.
      • He says God himself will minister to his people (21:4).
      • God will reverse the curse that entered the world through human sin.
      • No more death.
      • No more mourning.
      • No more crying.
      • No more pain.
  2. The first order is over:
    • No more cancer,
    • No more Multiple sclerosis,
    • No more Alzheimer’s,
    • No more dementia,
    • No more autism,
      1. Let me add:
      1. If you have a special needs child, they will be perfected in the restoration. You will even be able to communicate with them as normal.
    • No more Down’s syndrome,
    • No more ALS,
    • No more viruses,
    • No more infections,
    • No more COVID-19,
    • No more war,
    • No more violence,
    • No more sudden infant death syndrome,
    • No more miscarriages. If you lost a baby in the womb you will be reunited in heaven and they will be restored.
    • If you lost a child to death you will be reunited in Heaven and they will be restored.
    • No more disability,
    • No more paralysis,
    • No more depression,
    • No more mental illness,
    • No more addiction,
    • No more abortion,
    • No more financial stress,
    • No more grief,
    • No more lies,
    • No more unfaithfulness,
    • No more adultery,
    • No more absent parents,
    • No more divorce,
    • No more anger,
    • No more rape,
    • No more hatred,
    • No more jealousy,
    • No more laziness,
    • No more ____________ you fill in the blank.
    • No more pain,
    • No more suffering.
    • This is the ultimate restoration of all things.
    • The earth will be the way it should be. No more disasters that take life.
    • If you read through chapters 21-22 we see great detail about the new heavens and the new earth. God will restore all things.

God wants all to be saved.

How Far Will God Go?

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

How far will God go to reach those whom he has called? Consider the case of Kumiko, a young Japanese woman. Her husband was transferred to a small Wisconsin town to work in management. Kumiko looked forward to the move to America because she had read once that Christians were not afraid to die. She did not know any Christians but vowed that she would ask why this was so if she ever had the chance. She was terrified of dying and wanted an answer.

Kumiko did not realize how interested God was in answering her question. Shortly after she and her husband settled in, a missionary couple from Japan retired and moved to the same little Wisconsin town. Upon learning that there were six Japanese families living in the area, the missionaries decided to start an outreach ministry at the local church.

On the first Sunday morning of the ministry, the missionary asked the class a question that stunned Kumiko. “Many of us live with fear. Are any of you afraid?” There was a nervous silence. After a moment the missionary turned to Kumiko, unaware of her need. “How about you, Kumiko? What are you afraid of?”

Kumiko gave her life to Jesus two months later. Her husband soon followed. Together they named their new child Grace, after the church where God had gone to such great lengths to answer her questions about fear and death.

How far will God go to accomplish his purpose with you today? He brought a young Japanese wife and a retired missionary more than ten thousand miles so a seeking heart might find him. And he’ll go farther, even to the depths of your discouragement or despair, to find you. He’ll go farther than you can imagine, because he is closer to you than you will ever know.

Taken from More Precious than Silver

By Joni Eareckson Tada

Copyright © 1998

Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Prayer


[1] Colson, Charles. How Now Shall We Live? (pp. 294-295). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Colson, Charles. How Now Shall We Live? (pp. 300-301). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

720 720. Similarly the Old Testament prophets spoke of Messiah’s coming but did not distinguish the first coming from the second coming. Later revelation clarified that there would be two comings. This is in harmony with how God has revealed many things in His Word: first generally, then more specifically (e.g., the biblical covenant promises).

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 21:1.

[4] ESV Study Bible

[5] The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 83407-83409). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] https://www.esv.org/Revelation+21/

[7] ESV Study Bible

724 724. Beasley-Murray, p. 315.

[8] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 21:2.

[9] ESV Study Note:

We are Redeemed (Romans 5:7-8)

We are Redeemed (Romans 5:7-8)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, Nov 1, 2020

Do we realize that we need rescued?

G. K. Chesterton was once asked about what single book he would most like to have if he were stranded on a desert island. With typical wit, he replied, Thomas’ Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.

—Bruce Larson, Setting Men Free[1]

We need redeemed. Over the last few weeks we have been talking about a Biblical worldview.

A biblical worldview teaches that everything was created good. We saw that in Genesis chapters 1-2. But sin entered the world and we still live in a fallen world. For the last two weeks we talked about how everything in the world is fallen. Everything in the world is depraved. This has affected the media, the schools, the government, and each one of us. We all need salvation.

Some wish to live within the sound

Of church or chapel bell;

I want to run a rescue shop

Within a yard of hell.

—Norman Grubb, C. T. Studd: Cricketeer and Pioneer[2]

Today, my theme is:

Humanity is yearning for salvation and it can only be found in Jesus.

Let’s read Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  1. We try redemption through the wrong methods.
    1. We need redemption and I will come back to the verses about that in a bit, first let’s talk about how we are NOT redeemed.
    2. We have tried redemption through the wrong methods. All of humanity has tried redemption through the wrong methods.
    3. Most religions are based on works. Even modern Judaism is based on works. After the Jewish temple was destroyed in AD 70 the Jewish people had to determine how to live as Jewish without a temple. So, one Rabbi led them to works-based righteousness.[3]
    4. The problem with works righteousness is that we can never be good enough. One sin separates us from God. See Romans 3:23; 6:23.
    5. Materialism cannot save.
    6. Chuck Colson writes about this. He writes about all the marketing.
    7. This is no accident. According to sociologist James Twitchell, in his book Ad cult U.S.A., many of America’s early advertisers were Christians, often sons of clergymen. As they developed the art of modern advertising, they simply translated their understanding of spiritual need into the commercial arena. The spiritual sequence of sin-guilt-redemption became the psychological sequence of problem-anxiety-resolution. That’s why the typical television commercial is, in Twitchell’s words, “a morality play for our time.” We see a man or woman in distress. He has a headache; she has a cold. A second figure appears on the screen promising relief, testifying to the power of the product being advertised. The seeker tries the product, and, hallelujah, the problem is solved. Life is blissful. From on high, the disembodied voice of an announcer presses home the advantages of the product.
    8. Material things will not bring salvation.
    9. Humanism cannot save us. Humanism teaches that humanity can make the world a better place because this life is all there is.
    10. But that does not work.
    11. One type of humanism would be Marxism. Marxism teaches that we can develop a utopia through society. In other words, we can achieve salvation through society.
    12. Science is sometimes thought of as salvation. In other words, we will make enough discoveries to bring salvation, or like humanism, make the world a better place.
    13. This is a long excerpt from Chuck Colson’s book, but it is important. This was written in 2000.

In Marxism the universe is a self-originating, self-operating machine, generating its own power and running by its own internal force toward a final goal—the classless, communistic society. Marx’s disciple, Lenin, stated the doctrine in explicitly religious language…

Marxism’s counterpart to the Garden of Eden is the state of primitive communism. And the original sin was the creation of private property and the division of labor, which caused humanity to fall from its early state of innocence into slavery and oppression. From this follow all the subsequent evils of exploitation and class struggle.

In this drama, redemption is wrought by reversing the original sin: destroying the private ownership of the means of production. And the redeemer is the proletariat, who will rise up against the capitalist oppressors… Marx called not for repentance but for revolution. Why? Because, like Rousseau, he regarded humanity as inherently good. He believed that evil and greed arise from the economic structures of society (private property), and therefore they can be eliminated by a social revolution that destroys the old economic system and institutes a new one.

Finally, like all religions, Marxism has an eschatology (a doctrine of the final events of history). In Christianity, the end of time is when the original perfection of God’s creation will be restored, and sin and pain will be no more. In Marxism, the end of history is when the original communism will be restored and class conflict will be no more. Paradise will be ushered in by the efforts of human beings whose consciousness has been raised. Marx looked forward to this inevitable consummation of history as eagerly as any Christian anticipates the Second Coming.[4]

  1. The problem with this ideology is it does not address the sin issue. Humans are fallen. We cannot fix ourselves; we need Divine intervention.
    1. We cannot create a utopia. It is not working, and it has not worked and it still does not deal with life after death.
    2. I am not debating that certain social, government help programs are helpful. I am saying that they do not bring redemption. They do not bring salvation.
    3. From the humanist worldview this is all there is and that is why they focus so much on utopia in this world.
    4. Still, that does not address the sin problem.
    5. We need redeemed.
    6. You may have heard of Larry King who plans to have his body frozen. He said: “I want to be frozen on the hope that they’ll find whatever I died of and bring me back…”[5]
    7. There is no salvation in knowledge. Sometimes we think if we learn enough that will bring us salvation, but it won’t.
    8. There is no salvation in pleasure. Hedonism will not bring salvation.
    9. There is no salvation in nihilism. Nihilism rejects all moral and religious principles and teaches that life is meaningless. In a way, that could be the logical path from naturalism.
    10. We have a sin problem and need Divine intervention.
  2. How are we redeemed?
    • We needed reconciled to God.
    • Simply put to reconcile means to restore friendship or harmony. In Genesis, Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden as friends. But then sin came, and this separated him from God.
    • Have you ever had a time when you have a dispute with someone? We all have. When we are reconciled with God it makes God have peace with us. The dispute is gone. God has a dispute with us. He has a rightful dispute with us. We have offended Him. In a Biblical sense we have offended God’s holy law.
    • Romans 5:6: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.[6]
    • We were ungodly when Jesus died for us. Verse 8 says that we were still sinners when Christ died for us. If you read verse 9 it says because of this, we are enemies of God. Ungodly! Sinners! Enemies!
      1. We need reconciliation.
      2. We need to be reconciled to God.
      3. We had offended Him. We still offend him.
      4. We had and still do cross His perfect law.
      5. Review Romans:
      6. In Romans chapter 1 Paul spent most of the chapter writing about our ungodliness. In verse 18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…
      7. You may say that that is not you. But it is. It is all of us.  
      8. Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
        • We all sin.
        • It is amazing that for most of history people have tried to reconcile themselves to God, or the gods. It’s true. For most of history there have been pagan religions making sacrifices or doing other religious things to try to appease the gods. We can see this in Native American religions. We can see this in Eastern religions. We can see this in Egyptian religions. We can see this in the Middle Eastern religions. You know that there were Israelite kings in the Old Testament that sacrificed their own children to Baal? They did this because they got into the pagan religions of Palestine.
        • It took blood to cover sin.
        • There is a movie “Kicking and Screaming” which is about a children’s soccer team. The team is trying to win and then they realize these Italians are their secret. So, they use them all the time, but they work for their uncle cutting meat and their uncle says, “Meat comes first.” One day they had too much meat to cut so they would miss the game. So, a part of the team all goes to help cut meat. They show up just in time for the game with blood all over their uniforms. The other team forfeits after seeing all the blood.
        • That is what happened in the Old Testament. They would have been covered in blood because of the sacrificial systems.   
        • But really if you read through the Old Testament, they had several animal sacrifices to make in order to attempt to reconcile the relationship with God. But Hebrews says it doesn’t work. It wasn’t enough.
        • Heb 10:11: Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins
        • In Christianity Jesus came to us. We couldn’t do this on our own.
    • We can be redeemed by Jesus and only by Jesus. While we were sinners, Christ died for us.
  3. Remember the order of cosmic history
    1. Creation,
    2. Fall,
    3. Redemption,
    4. restoration.
    5. We are saved, but we are not restored yet. We still live in a fallen world.

A man was driving an old Ford on a lonely road when it chugged to a stop. He was at a loss about what to do since he didn’t know much about cars. But he got out, put the hood up and began to tap here and there, jiggle this wire and that when he heard the roar of a car coming toward him. As it got closer, he saw it was a brand new Lincoln. And the fellow was nice enough to pull over. He stepped out, walked up and said, “What’s the trouble?” “Oh,” he said, “I can’t get this old Ford to go.” “Well,” replied the Good Samaritan, “let me see.” So he began to tinker inside and asked, “Do you have a screwdriver?” He adjusted something, then got inside, started it right up. “Say, thanks a lot! That’s great. Who are you?” Putting his coat back on, the man said, “Well, I’m Henry Ford. I ought to know a little bit about that car we made.”

—Billy Graham, World Aflame[7]

Our creator has saved us! There is salvation only in Jesus.

Salvation is only in Jesus. Trust in Him.

Prayer


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 483.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 483.

[3] Dr. Rydelnic, professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute has shared this on Open Line.

[4] Colson, Charles. How Now Shall We Live? (p. 233-234). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition

[5] https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/larry-kings-corpse-alcor-life-extensions-wont-say-whether-former-cnn-host-has-plans-to-freeze-dead-body-6640217

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 5:6.

[7] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 488.

We Live in a Fallen World, Part 2: the Whole World is Fallen (Romans 1; 8:19-23 and selected Scriptures; Acts 17)

We Live in a Fallen World, Part 2: the Whole World is Fallen (Romans 1; 8:19-23 and selected Scriptures; Acts 17)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 28, 2020

When I was a senior in high school I was talking with a friend of mine about my Christian faith and how important Christianity is to me. Her name was Amanda. I don’t really remember the whole conversation, but I will never forget what she said. You know how you can envision the surroundings of an environment when you think of past memories? That is the case from this conversation. I remember, vividly, it was towards the end of the school year. We both had math class right after lunch. We were walking out of math class as she said, “I make up my own religion!” I don’t think I argued with her, but I still must wonder, “Where do people get these ideas?”

Just over a year before that conversation I had another conversation with a girl named Laura. I was working at Jack’s Aquarium and Pets. At this time, I was working at the Jack’s in Englewood, OH, which is just north of Dayton. Like the conversation with Amanda that was to happen a year later, I can remember what I was doing vividly. It seemed to be a wintry day. Our pet shop had not opened yet. I was cleaning the pet’s cages and giving water and food to them, and I was walking back to the stock room. At this time Laura said, “Everybody’s a Christian Steve.”  

More recently, I heard of some people from a past church I served, who don’t believe in hell and demons. The Scripture talks about them.

How do people get the idea that they can make up their view of God?

How do people get the idea that they can believe whatever they want to believe?

How do people get the idea they can cut from the Bible what they don’t like and paste into the Bible things they wish it would say?

Who do we think we are to do this? Are we equal to God?

The answer is the culture we live in. Our culture is what is called a postmodern culture. But the major answer is that we have a problem. Our problem is that we don’t want to submit to God’s Word and God’s authority.

We are in a sermon series about worldview. Everyone has a worldview. We started with the idea that everything was created by God and created good. Last week we talked about how creation fell. Creation is depraved. Today, we are going to take that a step further. Today, I want to look at a passage in Romans that shows how depraved humanity is.

My theme today is:

Creation is totally depraved, Romans 1:18-32 shows the possible extent of our depravity.

My application:

We need Divine intervention.

First, allow me to welcome you to post-modernity:

I asked how people get the idea that they can create their own authority. That is called post-modernity.

Modernity was all about facts and figures and optimism. Modernity began in the renaissance period and ended some time in the twentieth century, when post-modernity took over. Scholars debate when modernity ended and post-modernity began. This is likely true because it is not like it ended all at once.

Some think the first World War is when modernity ended. Others think 1968. Either way, modernity was all about positive developments. The world was getting better. They called the twentieth century the Christian century. But then as we entered the twentieth century. We saw great destruction. We had the first world war with trench warfare and mustard gas. Then we had the holocaust and then the cold war. So, probably gradually, post-modernity took over. This is a way of thinking as well as art and décor.

Here are some quick characteristics of post modernism:

A distrust of authority, somewhat a rebellion

A distrust of truth. There is no truth. They think up their own truth.

We see this with the COVID-19 crisis. Everyone is an authority.

In general, think about it, we go to the doctor and if we do not like their opinion, we do our own research.

There is no one view of the world but a multitude of worldviews.

A pessimistic view that existence is useless (nihilism).

There is a distrust of knowledge. Modernity was all about knowledge.

We think like a Global village.

Everything is a sound-bite. Books are old fashioned.

These are commonalities. None of these are true of everyone.

  1. Dr. Tennent the President of Asbury Theological Seminary shares about this:

Miroslav Volf is a Croatian theologian who now serves as professor of theology at Yale University and formerly, where I first met him, of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia. Volf’s award-winning book Exclusion and Embrace captures the violence of three cities. (1) Sarajevo in the grip of the Bosnian war and the birth of modern-day ethnic cleaning; (2) the Los Angeles race riots in the wake of the beating of Rodney King; and (3) the rise of modern-day neo-Nazis on the streets of Berlin. Those particular conflicts are not in the headlines today, but you could easily substitute them for the conflicts of our day. He argues that today’s cultural conflicts cannot be understood unless we first understand the impact of post-modernity on modern thought. He points out that post-modernity embraces an autonomous self, which turns away from the values and identities that connect us and, instead, focuses on social arrangements rather than people as social agents. Identity politics becomes a new form of tribalism, spawning endless conflicts and power struggles. Volf argues that we tend to shift moral responsibility away from ourselves as moral agents and, instead, shift blame onto socially constructed and managed agencies that allows us to escape from our own moral responsibilities.[1] 


[1] https://timothytennent.com/2020/09/14/my-2020-opening-convocation-address-part-ii-from-privatized-church-to-public-missional-agent-of-healing/

So, that is the dominant thinking of our world.

Why is it this way?

First of all, post-modernity is not all wrong. There are good things. However, our world is fallen. Sin has permeated us and our culture.

The media is fallen.

The news is fallen.

The leaders are fallen.

Even we, in the church, are fallen, though redeemed.

So, let’s look at a passage that shows our potential fallenness, or depravity.

First, a few thoughts. Realize that Paul is pointing people to Jesus.

Paul, and the other inspired writers of the Bible, were not afraid to offend people, and this is because we must be aware of our sin so that we realize that we need a Savior.

Preach the Gospel

I read somewhere: Nobody in hell says, “I’m glad my feelings were never offended.” Preach the gospel.”

Spurgeon said: “I will not believe that you have tasted of the honey of the gospel if you can eat it all by yourself.”

Romans 1:18-32

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

  1. I recently read someone had said “the difference between God and us is that God never thinks He is us.”
    1. This passage is about pride, pride puts us in the place of God and makes us think we can do whatever we want.
    2. Understand that God has set up a way in which we should live, and we have all broken it. We all have dealt with pride in these ways. But this is no excuse to keep living in them.
    3. This passage is showing our potential in sin.
    4. Once you commit to Christ, live for HIM!
    5. Live for HIM.
    6. This list of sins is not complete.
    7. Additionally, though these lists are pointing us to Jesus this also means that Christ followers must work diligently to let the Holy Spirit reign with us and not live in them.
    8. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20).
    9. This passage is about the holiness of God and the wrath of God on sin. These are things that we do not understand, though we must. We must take these seriously.
    10. It seems as though there are many sins in this list which we have tried to excuse and in so doing we are also excusing our need for a Savior. I will repeat that:
    11. It seems as though there are many sins in this list which we have tried to excuse and in so doing we are also excusing our need for a Savior.
    12. This passage talks about how people shut God out and then God gave them over.
    13. Verse 24 says God gave them over…
    14. Verse 26 says, God gave them over…
    15. Verse 28: Gave gave them over…
    16. Notice in verse 18: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against “all…” God’s wrath is revealed against all sin.
    17. Verses 19-20 are all about general revelation. What is known about God is evident. God made it evident. The passage says that we are without excuse. Isn’t that wonderful! God made Himself known to us! That is powerful.
    18. But then verses 21-23 goes back to how depraved we are: They knew God, but did not honor Him. They did not give thanks. Professing to be wise, they became fools. Wow! This is idolatry at its finest.
    19. That is in our world today. But before we are too critical of the world, that is in us as well. We all have a sin nature and we must lean on Christ.
    20. Verse 23 continues about idolatry.
    21. Verse 24: God gave them over…God gave humanity over to these sins. As we push God out, He eventually says, “Okay, have it your way.”
    22. Look at verse 25: For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    23. God is to be praised, don’t exchange His Truth for the world’s lie.
    24. Verses 26-27: the passage says that God gave them over again. Why do people want to do things with the human body that are not natural or right? People are depraved and God gave them over. God let them go. I would argue that this is even part of God’s judgment.
    25. Women with women, men with men, these things are not natural. This is not the way creation was meant to be. I am also not saying that some do not have misplaced feelings. What I am saying is that feelings are not always right because we are fallen. We are depraved. We need Divine intervention.
    26. Verses 28-32: Wow, God gave them over to a depraved mind.
    27. This is the extent of fallenness. This is the extent of depravity.
  2. Is this passage talking about everyone?
    1. Now, some could look at this and think “this is not me.”
    2. Yes and no. This passage is showing that we all need Christ. We all need Divine intervention.
    3. This passage also shows our potential in sin.
    4. This passage shows that apart from Christ we cannot trust our thinking. Our mind is depraved. Our nature is depraved. We need born again.
    5. However, in Christ, we are born again and our thinking is renewed.
    6. In Christ we have all the potential that Christ offers.
    7. Our world is fallen, we need Divine intervention.
  3. Let’s apply this:
    1. Recognize that all of the world is fallen. All of the world is depraved.
    2. What makes people shoot police officers and then block the ambulance from getting into the hospital? The world is depraved.
    3. What makes people riot taking a city captive for over 100 days? They are fallen and in fallenness they think they have a better idea at a utopian society. In the meantime, in fallenness they want disorder. They are depraved.
    1. Why does the world want to justify and approve sin? They are fallen. They are depraved. Verse 28 says that God gave them over to a depraved mind.
    2. Without Christ every mind is depraved.
    3. What makes me do the sins I have committed? I was fallen, but I serve a risen Savior today.
    4. Trust in Jesus and point others toward Him as well.
    5. Who are you trusting in for Salvation?
    6. Are you recognizing that you need Jesus?
    7. Do you recognize that others need Jesus?
    8. Point others to Jesus?

Close:

There was an episode of the hit show The West Wing in which a lobbyist comes in to see the President and she is against something on Biblical grounds. The President responds using Old Testament Scriptures for example:

Lev 19:19

“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

The problem with this is that then the West Wing is teaching Theology and Bible. But it is not only the West Wing. It is all of the world.

The writers of The West Wing are not Biblicist. They are not Theologians. They apparently don’t understand hermeneutics which is the science of interpretation. In the Old Testament They had civil and ceremonial laws. God was setting up a Jewish Nation state so when something is in the Bible one time in the Old Testament and not repeated it could, just maybe, be something for Israel. The Jewish dietary laws were settled in the New Testament in Acts 15 as was the rite of circumcision.  

These things in the world cause us to question and step away from God’s way, but we must understand where they are coming from. That is the world and the world is the opposite of God’s ways.

God’s ways are right, the world’s ways are not.

Several years ago I was coming outside at night getting ready to leave for work. It was the middle of the night and we were living in the country.  I saw lights in the sky. The lights were slow in coming and that gave me time to think of what the problem could be.

I thought I was going to have a Divine encounter, then a car came up the road. The road had a hill which made the headlights go in the sky.

A few months before that Meagan was on her way home to our house in the country. She saw lights in the sky and got really scared. She called her step dad who told her about a blimp in the area.

We cannot rely on our own wisdom. We must rely on God’s Wisdom and help, which may not help immediately in situations as the ones I just mentioned; however, we can still seek out answers and wisdom and know that God’s Word is ultimate Truth.

God has a standard.

We need Jesus.

Don’t miss that.

Point people to Jesus.

Prayer

The Problem is sin (Genesis 3)

Children are dismissed to Junior Church.

We are going to be reading from Genesis 3 in a minute.

Chuck Colson shares the following:

What does the face of evil look like? A few years ago when I visited a South Carolina women’s prison, I learned that Susan Smith had signed up to hear me speak. Smith is the woman who drowned her two small sons by letting her car slide into a lake with the children still strapped in their car seats. Her reason? She felt that the man she was dating had hinted that the children were obstacles to marrying her.

As I prepared to speak that day, I scanned the audience, wondering what this unnatural mother would look like. I imagined some kind of female Dorian Gray, her face marked by the soul-struggle she had waged with evil. Recalling photos from the newspaper, I searched for her face, but I couldn’t pick her out.

After the meeting, I asked the local Prison Fellowship director whether Smith had even attended.

“Oh, sure,” he replied. “She was in the front row, staring at you the whole time.”

The face of evil is frighteningly ordinary.

In Jonesboro, Arkansas, an eleven- and a thirteen-year-old pull the school fire alarm, assume sniper positions, and then shoot at students and teachers as they file out of the school. They kill four students and one teacher, wounding eleven others.

In Oakland, California, a teenager with a knife chases a woman down the street, while a crowd gathers and chants, “Kill her! Kill her!” like spectators at a sporting event. Someone in the crowd finally trips the frightened woman, giving her assailant a chance to stab her to death.  In Dartmouth, Massachusetts, three boys surround a ninth-grade classmate and stab him to death. Afterward they laugh and trade high fives, like basketball players celebrating after a slam dunk. In New Jersey, Brian Peterson takes his girlfriend, Amy Grossberg, across the state line to a Delaware hotel room, where she gives birth. They kill the newborn and dump him in the trash. Killers with freckled faces. Killers on the playground. Killers who do it for sport.[1]

Chuck Colson is writing about those cases in a section of his book writing about the sin problem. Of course, those are dramatic examples. Do we not see evidence of sin all around us?

What do we think of these cities with riots? What do we think of a police officer who murders someone they are trying to arrest? At the same time, was the victim of the police officer innocent? What is the right response? Do we not need the police?  

Why do we need government? On August 12, 1986 President Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

How much government do we need? What is the primary job of the government? I believe from a Biblical worldview, that means, if we get our worldview, our view of the world, from the Bible, that means the primary job of the government is protecting the people.

We are in a sermon series about having a Biblical worldview. Last week we talked about how God created everything good. Today, and next week, I will talk about how sin has impacted the world creating total depravity, sometimes called fallenness.

  1. I want to submit to you that we need government, police, and the military to keep us safe. We need these groups because of sin.
  2. I also want to submit to you that we cannot fix ourselves. There is no utopian ideal government, or non-profit group that can fix humanity. We need Divine intervention.

People have tried and they continue to think that government, or non-profits, or psychology, or science can fix humanity. They think the problem is the lack of education, or poverty, or men, or something else. But the problem is far deeper. Colson shares:

…the denial of sin and responsibility is couched in therapeutic terms, such as the need to “understand” even the worst crimes as a result of a dysfunctional childhood or other circumstances. Symptoms of family breakdown—such as divorce, adultery, and abortion—are defended as expressions of the individual’s freedom of choice. Social engineering schemes are dressed up as public compassion. But these are all window dressings, for beneath these explanations lies the same false utopian… It is the same worldview that gave rise to modern totalitarianism. As Glenn Tinder writes, “Much of the tragic folly of our times, not only on the part of extremists such as Lenin but also on the part of middle-of-the-road liberals and conservatives, would never have arisen had we not, in our technological and ideological pride, forgotten original sin.”[2]

BLAISE PASCAL shared:

Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine [of original sin], and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves.[3]

 The first and most fundamental element of any worldview is the way it answers the questions of origins—where the universe came from and how human life began. The second element is the way it explains the human dilemma. Why is there war and suffering, disease and death?[4]

Let’s Read Genesis 3:17-24 (This is after Adam and Eve sinned)

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Now let’s read Romans 8:22:

 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 

Today, my theme is:

We live in a fallen world and fallen humans cannot fix the problem.

  1. The world is totally depraved, and we cannot fix ourselves. Look at Genesis 3.
    • In Genesis 3 we see that sin entered the world. Again, in the past this has been called total depravity.
    • In Genesis 3:1-7 Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
    • We often think, why did God place it there to begin with?
    • Realize that God told them they could eat from any other tree in the garden.
    • Also, realize that God wanted to give us free will. Adam and Eve have free will and they exercised that free will.
    • We all see the effects of sin.
    • We see what God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Adam will work by the sweat of his brow.
    • They are cast out of the Garden of Eden.
    • There has been death, and disease, and murder, and theft, and so much more ever since. I believe the world is actually getting worse not bertter.
    • Yet, we are in a world that denies sin and that is a great problem. We are in a world that thinks we can fix the problems on our own.
    • Colson shares:
    • But if the source of disorder and suffering is not sin, then where do these problems come from? Enlightenment thinkers concluded that they must be the product of the environment: of ignorance, poverty, or other undesirable social conditions; and that all it takes to create an ideal society is to create a better environment: improve education, enhance economic conditions, and reengineer social structures. Given the right conditions, human perfectibility has no limits. And so was born the modern utopian impulse.[5]
    • Someone once quipped that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by thirty-five centuries of recorded human history.[6]
    • By contrast, the “enlightened” worldview has proven to be utterly irrational and unlivable. The denial of our sinful nature, and the utopian myth it breeds, leads not to beneficial social experiments but to tyranny.[7]
    • The triumph of the Enlightenment worldview, with its fundamental change in presuppositions about human nature, was in many ways the defining event of the twentieth century, which explains why the history of this era is so tragically written in blood. As William Buckley trenchantly observes: Utopianism “inevitably . . . brings on the death of liberty.”[8]
    • Glenn Tinder writes, if one acknowledges “no great, unconquerable evils in human nature,” then it seems possible to create a heaven right here on earth.[9]
    • So, we as Christians must recognize that the world does not recognize our values. The world does not think the problem is original sin. They may think we sin, but they may not realize that it all goes back to Genesis 3. They think we can fix the problem on our own.
    • REALIZE, I AM NOT SAYING ALL GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS ARE BAD, I AM JUST SAYING THAT WE CANNOT FIX THE PROBLEM ON OUR OWN.
    • These utopian ideas continue.
    • Realize that when we think that humanity can fix the problem, that is humanism. That is thinking we have to make the world a better place for humans and we can do it on our own.
    • This has led to Marxist teaching and socialist teaching. Again, I am not saying these teachings are all wrong. Maybe I believe that, I will keep that opinion to myself. What I am saying is that it does not address the fundamental real problem.
    • Again, Colson shares:
    • The fatal flaw in Marxism’s utopian view of the state is once again the denial of the basic Christian teaching of the Fall. If one is to believe there is such a thing as sin, one must believe there is a God who is the basis of a transcendent and universal standard of goodness. All this Marx denied. For him, religion and morality were nothing but ideologies used to rationalize the economic interests of one class over another. Small wonder that the totalitarian states created by Marxism acknowledged no universal moral principles, no transcendent justice, and no moral limits on their murderous brutality. The party, like the General Will, was always right.[10]
    • So, the problems in humanity all go back to original sin. They all go back to the fall. These sin problems effect all of us. I am going to talk about that more next week. They affect our thinking, which leads to the effect on our media, our government, our schools, our churches, and every other institution or group. Nothing is untouched by sin.
    • Again, Chuck Colson shares:
    • Ideas do not arise from the intellect alone. They reflect our whole personality, our hopes and fears, our longings and regrets. People who follow a particular course of action are inevitably subject to intellectual pressure to find a rationale for it. Theologians call this the “noetic” effect of sin, meaning that sin affects our minds, our thinking processes.[11]
    • The Reformers coined the phrase “total depravity,” meaning that our sinful choices distort all aspects of our being, including our theoretical ideas.[12]
    • As an example of the complete effect of sin on institutions Colson shares:
    • One of the results of this utopian thinking was a shift in education. Classical education had always aimed at the pursuit of truth and the training of moral character. But if human nature was nothing more than a reactive mechanism, then it could be manipulated and shaped by the laws that science discovered. Thus, education became a means of conditioning, with the child being treated as essentially passive rather than as an active moral agent.[13]
    • Again, the problem is original sin and we need Divine intervention, humanity cannot fix the problem.
    • The church is actually unique in a place to fix the problem because Jesus is working in us, so we have the Divine intervention needed. However, things will not be made right until Jesus sets up His reign (Revelation 21-22).
  2. God stepped in to fix us.
    • Utopian ideas won’t fix the problem and we have talked about that.
    • Let’s read Romans 5:12-15:
  3. Romans 5:12-15:
    • Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
    • 15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
    • I am not going to really take apart this passage today. My point is that only Jesus could fix the sin problem and He did.
    • Adam’s sin was passed down through all the generations and now Jesus has reset things, or at least is resetting things. We can be redeemed in Jesus, but the world is not restored yet. We will get to that in a few weeks.
    • So, what is problem? Sin.
    • What is the solution? We need Divine intervention—Jesus.
    • Jesus changes us and then we change society. Without Jesus we have not repaired the heart. We have to be born again (John 3).
    • It is interesting how Christian love confounds the atheist.
    • J.D. Greear: Years ago, I read a book about the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens. During the last years of his life, he toured university campuses, debating a Christian scholar named Larry Taunton, the author of the book. Taunton describes how very few of his intellectual rebuttals made any deep impression on Hitchens. However, during his last months, Hitchens began to question things in his conversations with Taunton, and it was mainly because of Taunton’s decision to adopt his daughter, who is HIV-positive. Taunton said Hitchins kept asking him why he did it and marveled at Taunton’s calmness in the face of death. Taunton doesn’t claim that Hitchens became a believer before he died but that kindness and hope did something in Hitchens’ life that intellectual argument could not.[14]

So, why do we need government?

To review:

  1. I want to submit to you that we need government, police, and the military to keep us safe. We need these groups because of sin.
  2. I also want to submit to you that we cannot fix ourselves. There is no utopian ideal government, or non-profit group that can fix humanity. We need Divine intervention.

We need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. Next week we will continue to talk about how deep the effects of sin are on all of society.

Prayer


[1] Colson, Charles. How Now Shall We Live? (pp. 185-186). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid, 168-169

[3] Ibid, 147

[4] Ibid, 147

[5] Ibid, 148-150

[6] Ibid, 150

[7] Ibid, 150

[8] Ibid, 150

[9] Ibid, 167

[10] Ibid, 172.

[11] Ibid, 174

[12] Ibid, 174

[13] Ibid, 177

[14] https://jdgreear.com/how-to-turn-misery-into-ministry/

Creation: Everything was Created Good, part 2 (Genesis chapters 1-2; Psalm 8; 19)

Creation: Everything was Created Good, part 2 (Genesis chapters 1-2; Psalm 8; 19)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 11, 2020

Please take a moment to recall the story I began last week’s sermon with:

In Chuck Colson’s book, “How Now Shall We Live” he writes about a father going on a trip to Disney World with his daughter. He planned the trip with his daughter because he was having problems with her. They had found marijuana in her purse. Additionally, she was no longer interested in church. Then, as they walked through Disney World they had time to talk. However, first he noticed something on one particular ride. They were on a ride in which Bill Nye, was talking about how everything developed. But he traced everything back to a naturalistic worldview. Nye talked about how everything simply evolved the way it was. The dad then realized the problem. He then realized that ever since kindergarten his daughter’s education had been against a foundational Biblical teaching. He was questioning what happened with her faith, but ever since kindergarten she had been taught at school that we are merely accidents. She had been taught macro-evolution at school. Macro-evolution means large scale evolution. Macro-evolution means that everything has evolved across species.

I am in a sermon series on having a Biblical worldview. The Bible exhorts us to Examine everything carefully (1 Thess. 5:21). Every form of media is giving us a worldview. Every news source, every movie, every video game, every form of literature, every commercial, really everything that we watch, read, or listen to is giving us a worldview. Certainly, some things are fine. Some commercials, or books, or movies, or news sources are not corrupting our worldview. However, we must test them. This is important for us as well as our children. This is important for the church.

Today, my theme is that everything was created good. Today, the focus will be on an overview of God creating in Genesis 1.

My application is: examine everything carefully.

Let’s read Genesis 1:1, 31:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Verse 31:

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

  1. God created, let’s walk through creation.
    1. Recall last week I spent a lot of time focusing on the high importance of seeing God as the creator. If you were not here, I highly encourage you to read that message or listen to it. Now, we will talk more about God as creator and then about the creation process.
    2. God created and this also means that God is separate from His creation. God is not the same as His creation. God is separate from His creation.
    3. God created the earth. Now, the first two verses are an overview of the creation of time, space and matter. Starting in verse 3 God gives order to this matter. God arranges His creation so it is not such a mess.
    4. So, the rest of this chapter deals with the details of the earth and its surroundings. God chose to create everything in 6 days.
      1. On day 1, God creates light, this light may not be the sun. Most have believed the light is light emanating from God.  On day 1, God also created the idea of the day and night.
      2. On Day 2, God creates the atmosphere. Notice the waters are already there.
      3. On day 3, God creates land and vegetation.
      4. On day 4, God creates the moon and the stars.
        1. Notice that the Bible doesn’t use the noun “sun,” or “moon.”
        2. If you study the ancient religions of the Middle East you can see that they worshipped the sun and the moon. So, Moses was careful not to use those terms.  In fact, if you really study this text, you can compare it with the other religions of the Middle East. In comparing you can see that Moses is writing this correcting those religions and showing that there is one God and He is supreme.
      5. On Day 5, God creates the creatures of the sea and the air.
      6. On day 6, God creates the land animals and humans. Humans are the only creation specified. Humans are also created in God’s image.
      7. Notice also that it takes male and female to reflect the image of God.
    5. If we read on to Genesis chapter 2, we see more specific detail about the creation of Adam and Eve.
    6. God created everything, seen and unseen.
      1. Nehemiah 9:6: “You alone are the Lord.
        You have made the heavens,
        The heaven of heavens with all their host,
        The earth and all that is on it,
        The seas and all that is in them.
        You give life to all of them
        And the heavenly host bows down before You
        .
      2. Col. 1:16: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 
    7. Scripture affirms the direct creation of Adam and Eve.
    8. Wayne Grudem writes:
    9. The Direct Creation of Adam and Eve. The Bible also teaches that God created Adam and Eve in a special, personal way. “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). After that, God created Eve from Adam’s body: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:21–22). God apparently let Adam know something of what had happened, for Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen. 2:23)[1]
    10. In Genesis chapter 2 the Bible gives great detail about God creating Adam and Eve.
    11. Now, I know that I am being somewhat simplistic. Today, my goal to teach that God created everything good. That is important to the Biblical worldview. Today, my goal is not to teach on evolution versus creation and the evidence for a young earth creation. I have preached and taught on that before and will again. Today, my focus is that the Bible teaches that God created and He created everything as good.
    12. I don’t think I have to convince you about the importance of creation. I think I have to convince you of the importance to test everything (1 Thess. 5:21). Every form of media is trying to counter the Christian worldview.
  2. Death, pain, and destruction is not how God meant for things to be.
    • If you read through Genesis 1 and 2, we see that God created everything good.
    • There was no death.
    • Listen, we were not created to die. In the Garden of Eden there was the tree of life (Genesis 2:9) and because of the tree of life humans could live forever. Genesis 3:22 shows that the tree of life is what allows us to live forever.
    • Some day God will restore creation and we see in Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, and 19 that the tree of life will be part of the new heaven and the new earth.
  3. Apply
    • God created everything, we must worship Him as the creator.
    • God is the creator, this means that He owns everything.
    • God is the author of life, this means that we must submit to Him as the ruler.
    • God is the author and that means that He has a purpose in creating the world and us.
    • If we have a purpose that means we are designed, and life is NOT meaningless.
    • Being that we are not the author of life we do not have the authority to destroy life.
    • Being that we are created this means that life is sacred.
    • We must not insult God by failure to attribute things to Him.
    • We must trust God; why shouldn’t we, if He is powerful enough to create everything we see, then He is trustworthy.
    • God created. All of creation, seen and unseen comes from God.
    • We must NOT worship creation. Worship God.
    • God created, we must not be afraid, He is the creator and He is in charge.
    • When we see beauty, we must worship God who created it.
    • God created the world good, this means that when we see pain and suffering and bad things this is not as it was meant to be.

1 Thess. 5:21 shares that we are to examine everything carefully.

 J. GRESHAM MACHEN shares:

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here or there, if we permit the whole collective thought of a nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.[2]

Where did history come from? God created everything and everything was created good.

My challenge to you is that you go home and test things. This week tests every form of media: movies, music, news, books, and notice what worldview it is teaching. Make sure that you hold true to the Biblical worldview.

Pray


[1] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 262–314.

[2] Colson, Charles. How Now Shall We Live? (p. 27). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.