Monday, July 21, 2014

False Teachers

On Sunday, July 20, 2014, I preached a message entitled "False Teachers," from 2 Peter 2:1-22 at Riverside Church in North Lauderdale. Peter identifies nine characteristics of false teachers. Here is a portion of what I said in dealing with characteristic number six, false teachers are given to sensuality, "And many will follow their sensuality," verse 2.
"Sensuality" is also translated "licentiousness," or "lasciviousness" or "shameful immorality" NLT.
…Peter paints a very troubling portrait in this regard, adding in verse 10 that false teachers are "those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion" or "those who follow their own twisted sexual desire" NLT.
...Then in verse 14, "They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin."
...Peter continues, still in verse 14, "They entice unsteady souls." Here's the tragedy. Not only does this immoral behavior characterize the false teacher, but it directly impacts the "many" that follow the false teacher. The many follow their sensuality.
...The Apostle Paul warned (2 Timothy 4:3) the young pastor Timothy,
"...people will not endure 'sound' teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves, teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."
False teachers pander to the desires of their audience. You see, a church can grow in numbers because the audience hears what they want to hear,
a message that suits "their own passions," or it can grow because of the transforming power of the Gospel, proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It can grow because its message and methods appeal to the sensual, worldly visceral nature of man, or because the truth and grace of the gospel are taught without compromise in dependence upon the Spirit of God rather than appealing to the passions and self indulgence of the audience. As Michael Green points out, 'purely emotional religion leads, often enough, to immorality…'"
You can listen online or download the message at the Riverside Church link here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Anatomy of Temptation - Understanding and Overcoming Temptation

This message was given on May 25, 2014 at First Baptist Church of Oakland Park  Florida from the text James 1:13-18.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Power to Endure and Mature - Understanding & Responding to Trials" on YouTube

My message, "Power to Endure and Mature - Understanding & Responding to Trials," an exposition of James 1:1-8,12, given at First Baptist Church of Oakland Park Florida on May 18, 2014 on YouTube.

"The Sanctity of the Unborn" on YouTube

My message, "The Sanctity of the Unborn," given at First Baptist Church of Oakland Park Florida on May 18, 2014 on YouTube.

You may view fifty seven PowerPoint slides that accompany this message via Microsoft OneDrive at here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Remember the Triangle

(I had the privilege to officiate the wedding of my son Christopher and his wife Paola on Sunday (May 11) in Winter Haven. Here is the message I brought, followed by a blessing I was asked to give Christopher on behalf of his mother and I. Paola's parent's, Drs. Roberto and Lyvan Cabrera each gave a blessing to Paola later in the ceremony.)

Think of marriage as a triangle. A triangle with two equal sides connected at the top, like an isosceles or equilateral triangle you studied in your sophomore geometry class.

Jesus Christ is at the apex, the top of the triangle, while you, Christopher, the husband and you, Paola, the wife, are in the two corners at the base of the triangle.

Both of you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, pictured by the two sides of the triangle connected at the top. At the same time you live in relationship with each other, pictured by the two corners connected by the base of the triangle.

Let me make three applications from this illustration. First of all, Jesus Christ is the key to fulfillment in your marriage. Therefore, make Christ the head of your marriage. In other words, let Christ be your first love.

For years I have been praying a very specific payer for my children with regard to their future spouse. "Lord may they find their fulfillment first and foremost inYou."

Why haveI been praying that prayer? Because it is from our relationship with Christ that every other need or desire in life will be met. Our love relationship with Christ will ultimately shape every desire, ambition or hope we ever have.

And I believe that one of the reasons we have seen the hand of God bring the two of you together, is because both of you have put your relationship with Christ ahead of your desire for each other.

But today is the beginning of a new life, life in the triangle! And just as in the courting or dating years, there is the temptation to find fulfillment in another person than the Lord, that same temptation can follow you into marriage.

Please don'tmisunderstand me. You should and will find fulfillment in each other. That is built into God's design for marriage.  After all, after creating Adam the Lord said, "It is not good for the man to bealone." In other words, the Lord recognized as far as Adam was concerned someone was missing! The Lord continued, "I will make a helper suitable for him."  (Genesis 2:18) And He created Eve from Adam's rib. And the Genesis account says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh."

That's the beauty of marriage. You become one flesh, sharing an intimacy that is not just physical but emotional, and spiritual - the bonding of two people into one. And of course that will bring fulfillment to your marriage relationship.

Back to the triangle. Notice secondly, as each of you move up the sides of the triangle, growing closer and closer to the Lord, you inevitably will grow closer to each other. The distance between you narrows. As you find fulfillment in the Lord, you will find greater and greater fulfillment in each other.

That being said, even in marriage, there will be the temptation to seek your fulfillmentin Paola or in Christopher rather than Christ. Remember the triangle. Jesus Christ remains at the top of the triangle, seeking to have first place in your lives, yes, even before your spouse.

And here's why that's so important. Inevitably there will be occasions, or even seasons of your life together, where the road gets rough, times when you respond in sin to each other rather than with the gospel.

When your spouse disappoints you, when you feel he or she has failed you, remember life in the triangle. When your fulfillment is in Christ your joy will not depend on your spouse treating you right. Your fulfillment in Christ will allow you to love them and forgive them even in their sinful treatment of you. 

Back to the triangle one last time. Thirdly, the closer you draw to Christ, the more you become like Christ. I'm sure you understand why this can be so valuable in marriage. Just a few weeks ago, Pastor Brian Brookins said, "Eventually you know your spouse in a way you don't want to."

So growing in Christlikeness will bring God's grace into your marriage perhaps when you are most aware of your own sin and selfishness.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, writing to the believers in Galatia, "I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." (Galatians4:19 ESV) or "until Christ is fully developed in you..." (NLT).

What does that look like? I think part of the answer is found in the next chapter, verse twenty-two. As you think ahead to your life as husband and wife, and the challenges that will invariably come your way, listen to what Christ wants to form in you.

"..the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Notice it is the fruit of the Spirit, Spirit with a capital "S." This is what Christ grows in our lives as we yield to His Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is perhaps the greatest gift God can give to a husband and wife.

Remember the triangle. The closer you come to Christ you will find fulfillment in Christ and each other. The closer you come to Christ the closer you come to each other. And the closer you come to Christ the more you become like Christ. May these three truths enrich your marriage. Remember the triangle. 

I have been asked to bring a word of blessing to Christopher from his mother and I.

Christopher, as you join Paola in marriage today, a new home is being formed. And as you take your position as the head of this home, I want to bless you with these words from King Solomon, as recorded in Proverbs 3:1-12.

A numberof years ago I encouraged you to memorize these verses. I know of no other passage in Scripture that covers as many contingencies of life as these verses do. Each instruction is followed by a promise that can be applied to most every challenge you will face in your new life as a husband and head of your home.

Instruction regarding God's Word in your life, "My son, do not forget my teaching, butkeep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.

Instruction regarding your character, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man."

Instruction regarding your relationship to the Lord, "Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."

Instruction regarding your relationship with sin, the flesh and the world, "Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil." Paul told Timothy to flee - run from youthful lust. "This will bring health to your body andnourishment to your bones."

Instruction regarding your material possessions, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing,and your vats will brim over with new wine."

And finally, instruction on how to respond to the Lord's discipline, "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."

We love you son. Lord, fill Christopher with your Holy Spirit. May He walk humbly before You and his wife Paola.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

America's Abortion Crisis & The Gospel of Life

(This was the keynote address I gave at the annual LifeChoice Pregnancy Center Fundraising Banquet held at the historic Ritz Theater in Winter Haven Florida on April 8, 2014. You can view the PowerPoint slides for this message here.)

In his pamphlet, Field Manual for Abortion Ministry, published just weeks ago, Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas posed these two penetrating questions, "What does Christianity look like in a nation that murders its own children? Has the church failed to be prolife or have we failed to be Christian when it comes to rescuing our neighbors scheduled to be dismembered?"

I wrestle with these questions. Do you? Admittedly they are troubling questions. But In light of the purpose for which we are gathered here tonight, may I suggest these are timely questions that we need to wrestle with.

So this evening, with the Lord's help and His Word, I want to begin to answer these questions. America's Abortion Crisis & The Gospel of LIfe.

I believe the battle to end abortion is fought on multiple fronts; efforts in the political and judicial arena, the work of prolife apologists defending life in the  womb, adoption ministries, the ministry of prayer and sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics and of course the thousands of pregnancy resource centers, like LifeChoice here in Winter Haven, strategically located across the nation.

However, foundational to every effort to end abortion we must understand that abortion is first and foremost a spiritual issue, a gospel issue. I do not believe we can address America's abortion crisis while ignoring this premise.

Why is that the case? What is the driving force propelling the worldwide shedding of innocent blood? Who is behind the epidemic of death in our nation and the world?

The Biblical evidence would indicate that abortion is a satanic enterprise. The stage was set thousands of years ago as recorded in Genesis 3:15 (NIV). After Satan deceived Adam and Eve and man was plunged into sin. God said to Satan,     

"...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."  

With that, the epoch struggle between good and evil began. And Satan has been involved in an unrelenting attempt to kill the offspring of Eve ever since. Jesus, Himself, said as much. John chapter 8 records an encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. In that exchange this was Jesus' description of the devil, verse 44  (NIV).

"The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."                                                         
Here Jesus identifies two roles of Satan: a murderer from the beginning and a liar and the father of lies.
How successful has the Devil been in fulfilling this job description? It is estimated that between forty and fifty million pre-born babies are killed by abortion worldwide each year.  That's about one in five pregnancies. (AGI “In Brief,” October 2007)                                                     
One study released late last year, (2013) revealed that there have been 1.72 billion abortions worldwide since 1973.  That is an average of 117,800 per day for 40 years. (Brian Clowes, director of education and research at Human Life International 4-1-13) 

Jesus said, as recorded in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." The devil has been very successful in carrying out his agenda to exterminate human life.

But Satan is also a liar and the father of lies. Deception proliferates in the abortion industry. In fact it would be accurate to say that deception characterizes the abortion industry.  

Listen to these words of an abortion clinic counselor:  "Although the test is positive, you shouldn't consider yourself pregnant," she explained. "It's really just cells dividing at this point. We can take care of the problem quickly and easily, and you'll never have to think about it again.”     

She made four statements. Each statement was a lie. Her words embody the mantra of the abortion industry.

Deception also involves withholding the truth. One study of post-abortive women revealed that, "Even though the majority felt rushed and uncertain, 67% received no counseling;  79% were not told  about alternatives to abortion.” ( VM Rue et. al.,  Medical Science Monitor)  

Do you see the critical role LifeChoice Pregnancy Center plays in your community as it communicates the truth about life in the womb and the danger of abortion to those at risk for abortion. We live in a culture of death in which deception on this subject is rampant.

As Pastor Randy Alcorn has pointed out, “In America it is illegal to harm your pre-born child, but it is perfectly legal to kill him.”

You see, spiritual deception leads to moral schizophrenia which plagues our land today.
The devil is “a murderer,” “a liar and father of lies.” These two attributes expose him as the Architect of Abortion.
Look with me at the ancient origin of child killing. We trace it back to Molech worship. Molech was a god of the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot. Molech was a fertility god whose worship included child sacrifice. This is what God said, about child sacrifice as recorded in  Ezekiel 16:20-21.            
"And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols…You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.”
King Solomon built the first high place for the worship of Molech. Subsequent kings continued the practice including King Ahaz and King Manasseh who  sacrificed their own children as they led their nation in the worship of this pagan god.       

Notice the parallel with abortion. In Molech worship a child was sacrificed to gain Molech's favor. In other words, the parents sacrificed something of value, their child, to gain something at a given point in time they considered to be of greater value seeking Molech’s favor for a good harvest, victory in battle or financial well being.

Similarly in abortion, the mother sacrifices the life of her child for something, which at that time is of more value to her than the life of her child. Her education, avoiding personal shame, financial reasons, lifestyle preferences, personal convenience, her career, birth control, and so forth.

Rusty Lee Thomas, (Field Manual for Abortion Ministry)
"Though thousands of years have passed,...The pagan ritual...persists. These ancient rites continue through clinics established by organizations such as Planned Parenthood in the abortion industry. The setting has indeed changed, but he lying message and brutal practice remains the same. Can you hear its voice today?  'You are too young.' 'You have to think about your schooling and career.' 'You cannot afford a baby.' 'It will leave stretch marks.' ...Moloch and Baal still whisper, 'Give your child to me and all will be well with you.'"                                                                                                
Do you see the deception? The Scriptures identify the demonic nature of this child sacrifice in Psalm 106:37,38.
"They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood."  (Emphasis mine.)
Note three parallels with abortion today. When we abort our children we abort our family, our sons, our daughters, our grandchildren. Time does not allow us to explore the Biblical truth that pre-born children bear the image of God and the biblical case for the personhood of human life in the womb.

Suffice it to say, that according to the Genesis creation account God intentionally created man in His image and likeness, with capacities reflective of God himself. The unborn are recognized by God as distinct and unique persons from the moment of conception. Man is not the result of a cosmic accident nor the product of a random meaningless evolutionary process over billions of years as is widely held today. 

Secondly, notice, (verse 38) abortion sheds innocent blood. Leviticus 17:11 says, "For the life of a creature is in the is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."

This truth is central to the Biblical doctrines of both the incarnation and atonement. Jesus' incarnation was the pre-requisite to His work of atonement. The writer to the Hebrews understood this, writing, (9:22) "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of  sin."

And the Apostle Paul wrote, "In him [Christ} we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..."  (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)

Theologically you cannot separate atonement, our salvation from the sanctity of human life because the life is in the blood. John Ensor writes (Innocent Blood pg.32)                                   

"Is there anything more valuable than human life and the redemption of human life? By virtue of our salvation, Christians have inherited from God a profound commitment to the sanctity of life and a devotion to make Christ known. Both come from holding blood (life) precious."

Thirdly,  (vs. 37) "they demons. Roman Catholic theologian, Rev. Thomas Euteneuer writes,

"The spiritual dimension of [abortion] is its systematizing of ritual blood sacrifice to the god of child murder, Moloch.…this demon appears in many forms and cultures through history (Phoenician, Carthaginian, Canaanite, Celt, Indian, Aztec and others) but is always the same blood thirsty beast that demands the killing of children as his form of worship." He continues, "The modern abortion industry offers ritual blood sacrifice to the ancient abortion demon. It is in every way a demonic religion."

Pre-born children killed by abortion are the casualties of the war between heaven and hell. Pastor Randy Alcorn has written,

"As the devil loved the sacrifice of children in the ancient heathen cultures, so he loves the sacrifice of children in our modern culture. Whether children are sacrificed to a heathen god called Molech or to the god of our own convenience, he does not care." He continues, "…there are demonic forces behind child killing. Abortion is Satan's attempt to kill God in effigy by destroying the little ones created in God's image. We are not dealing here with 'one more social issue,' but a unique and focused evil in which Satan has deep vested interests…"

Eric Holmberg & Jay Rogers, in their work, Massacre of Innocence, summarize, “The spiritual heritage of the Moabites and the Ammonites is passed down to our own day through abortion. Today the church is fighting against those same spiritual forces for the very survival of our nation.”  
Lest you think that abortion and the demonic is just ancient history, let me bring you up to date. Modern feminism, witchcraft and abortion.

In December of 1985, an article, entitled, "Feminist Spiritualism and Abortion" appeared in the feminist, Ms. Magazine, written, and I emphasize, by feminists about themselves.

"The feminist spirituality movement began to emerge in the mid-1970s and has become one of the largest sub-movements within the women in feminist spirituality, witchcraft had even a more fundamental meaning. It is a woman's religion, vilified by patriarchal Christianity, and now, finally, reclaimed.”
Eric Holmberg and Jay Rogers (Massacre of Innocence) comment on this article, "Much space was given to goddess worship or adulation of the various demons associated with child sacrifice (including Isis and Aphrodite).” 

Let me give you just a sampling of the thinking of modern day feminists. 

Patricia Baird-Windle owned three abortion clinics responsible for 65,000 abortions. In an interview after retirement she said, "Abortion is a major blessing and a sacrament in the hands of women..."(The 'Sacrament' of Abortion: An Interview With a Retired Abortionist.")
Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President of the Episcopal Divinity School in New England said the following in a sermon in 2007.

“When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to safe, affordable abortion there is not a tragedy in sight – only blessing.”

Episcopal Priestess, Dr. Carter Hayward, told the National Abortion Federation in 1985, "Abortion would be a sacrament if women were in charge. Abortion should be a sacrament even today."

One of America's educators, Psychologist Dr. Ginnette Paris, in her book The Sacrament of Abortion, wrote,                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                                               "It’s rare for a woman to choose abortion because in some way she dislikes the fetus. She sacrifices it for the sake of something she judges at this moment to be more important, whether it be her existing children…or her own physical, economic, or psychological survival or the fate of the planet."  

Do you remember what I just shared when comparing abortion to child sacrifice? She continues, “When abortion is necessary, not only should there be no shame but there should be a new consensus that to have a child who cannot adequately be cared for is shameful…It is not immoral to choose abortion; it is simply another kind of morality, a pagan one.”

Father Frank Pavone, commenting on her book writes,

"The fact that some defend abortion as a sacred act should alert us he depth of the spiritual warfare that is going on. Abortion has never been merely or even primarily a political issue. It is a false religion."

He writes of a former abortion clinic security guard who "...after being converted, admitted why he was angry at pro-life sidewalk counselors: You were coming to protest in front of our church. That clinic was where we conducted our worship.’”   

The irony, is that many proponents of abortion understand what many in the church have failed to understand - the spiritual nature of abortion.  

There are many ways the church can respond. We must give ourselves to the first work of ministry, prayer and fasting, in our efforts to end abortion.

We must repent of abortion in the Church. God has called us to live in sexual purity. About 80% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. Why repent of abortion in the church? Forty three percent of women having abortions identify themselves as Protestant, twenty seven percent as Roman Catholic. (AGI, “In Brief” July, 2008) Two hundred thousand evangelical women choose abortion each year ( Focus on the Family).

Abortion is a complex issue for many, and demands a practical and compassionate response by the Church. This is another reason why the ministry of LifeChoice Pregnancy Center is so critical.
Over fifty percent of all women who have an abortion feel they have no choice. Here are some of the reasons women have abortions; forced by their mother; father opposed having the child; persuaded by husband or boyfriend; no other option given; loss of family support; would have been kicked out of their home persuaded by the clinic. (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Real Choices)
We must also minister to the post-abortive. Here is a short list of the emotional problems faced by the post-abortive: anxiety/panic, grief/loss, fear of losing your child, guilt, self-hatred, depression, and anger/rage. And among the behaviors are: drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, promiscuity, over-protective parenting, eating disorders and inability to bond with children.

For millions of post-abortive in America, the root cause of these destructive emotional and behavioral problems could be an undisclosed and/or unresolved abortion(s) in their past.

I am told that LifeChoice is already at work making preliminary plans to launch an abortion recovery ministry. Funding is critical to making that a reality.

Several years ago I was on Facebook one Sunday afternoon. A pro-life advocate was having an online discussion about abortion. A woman came into the discussion telling us she had three abortions in her past. Listen to what she went on to post,

“The consequences to women who have had abortions (and men as well) cut deep into the soul…The post-abortive women sitting in church on a Sunday morning need to hear about forgiveness for ALL SIN through Jesus Christ,...abortion is not the unforgivable sin so many think it is...women need to know there is healing and hope in Christ that they may also forgive themselves.”                                    

The host asked her about how she was dealing with the loss of her three children. This was the powerful testimony she shared.  
“…the fact of the matter is that I don’t grieve any more. Christ has delivered me from all of the pain through his healing power! I know that one day I'll stand in  heaven finally meeting my three precious children: David, Rebekah, and Grace gope!...when they've asked the Father why they couldn't be with me on earth or why they never knew me here, He’ll look at them with love and say, “I don't remember.”
Do you see why abortion is a gospel issue? The Gospel has not failed abortion. The church has often failed to apply the gospel to abortion.

Romans 3:23-26 "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

A propitiation is a blood sacrifice that covers sin so that God’s wrath and judgment will be averted! There is only one remedy for the shedding of innocent blood, the innocent blood shed on the cross. Jesus died in our place. He paid the penalty for our sins - your sin and my sin; any and all sin; the sin of abortion; the sin of pushing a girlfriend, wife, daughter or granddaughter into an abortion; the sin of paying for an abortion; the sin of performing an abortion; the sin of doing nothing about abortion.

It matters not what sin it is. We can be forgiven and justified - declared righteous in God's sight, our sin no longer being held against us "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

You are familiar with Paul's words, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”      (Ephesians 6:12)

This is the conclusion I have been sharing with the church. The Body of Christ, the church, is the only organism (institution) spiritually equipped to engage the satanic forces behind abortion. Therefore the church must take the lead in the efforts to end abortion.

Abortion is first and foremost a gospel issue. What America needs to hear is God’s truth about abortion wrapped in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the church sees abortion as a Gospel issue we will win the battle for life! Christ has already won the victory!       

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

Paul goes on to say, verse 15, “...having disarmed the powers and authorities, [God] he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

How do we respond to forty one years of legalized abortion? Unashamedly proclaim the gospel of life; and respond with compassionate and practical help through ministries like LifeChoice Pregnancy Center.

Tonight you can partner with this ministry in rescuing unborn children literally from the death sentence of abortion, and ministering to mothers at risk for abortion.

The writer of Proverbs says, (24:10-12)

"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don't stand back and let them die. Don't try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn't know about it."

I think that's a word for us today! John Ensor wrote, "The commands of Scripture exist that we might be compelled to do what does not come naturally." (Innocent Blood)

In Luke chapter ten Jesus helped a lawyer understand what it meant to love his neighbor. He was evidently hung up on exactly what that looked like. So he asked Jesus, "Who his my neighbor?" So Jesus told the story of a man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem who was robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside the road.

Three different individuals had the opportunity to come to his rescue, in all likelihood to save his life. Two of the three did not respond to the needs of the man bleeding by the side of the road.

The two that did not respond to the man in distress were the church leaders of that day, a priest and a Levite, responsible for the spiritual care of their nation.

And Jesus points out that not only did they fail to respond, they "passed by on the other side." In other words they distanced themselves from the needs of the dying man.

Jesus then pointed out that the one who proved to be the neighbor to the dying man was the one who showed mercy to the badly beaten traveller. He then said, "Go and do likewise." Friends, tonight in a few moments you will have the opportunity to "Go and do likewise."

John Ensor, in his book Innocent Life, defines "Samaritan compassion " this way,

'Doing right in the sight of the Lord means acting to stop the shedding of innocent blood. The only person in Jesus’ parable who is pro-life according to the demands of love is the Samaritan. Only he was willing to make the nearly dead man’s problem his own. Only he was willing to see the victim’s suffering as his own. Only he was willing to act according to what he would cry out for if their positions had been reversed."  

In Polk County, 1,499 unborn children lost their lives to abortion in 2013. They were your neighbors. That's over 124 children every month, or an average of four every day.

Tonight, through your support of LifeChoice Pregnancy Center, you have an opportunity to respond in a very practical and compassionate way to help stop the violent death of unborn children in your community, and to reach out to women and men at risk for abortion. Children will die unless someone intervenes on their behalf!

In other words, you have an opportunity to "go and do likewise!"

According to Jesus' parable, our salvation has a moral imperative built into it with regards to the needs of those around us - our neighbors.

LifeChoice Pregnancy Center is where the truth about abortion and the gospel of Jesus Christ are confronting the lies of hell itself. It is where the Church, the body of Christ is intervening in the lives of men and women often at a critical time in their lives when they need love, compassion and the gospel of life. At a time when, literally, life and death decisions are being made regarding their unborn children.
Again, John Ensor, "Loving my neighbor will occasionally arrest me, and maybe even require me to help prevent someone from being murdered."                                                             
On January 20, 2011, Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America issued the following statement in a press release. 

"...the time is now, for the Church to rise up and not wait for political parties, or the president, or Congress, or the Supreme Court to take care of the issue. It is our responsibility. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. Abortion will come to an end, when the Church of Jesus Christ makes up her mind it will come to an end – not a second sooner. The responsibility for ending abortion in America rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Tonight you can prove him right with your generous support of LifeChoice Pregnancy Center. Remember the two questions Rusty Lee Thomas asked?

"What does Christianity look like in a nation that murders its own children? Has the church failed to be prolife or have we failed to be Christian when it comes to rescuing our neighbors scheduled to be dismembered?"

You can answer that question tonight. Your generous gift and pledge to LifeChoice Pregnancy Center can be your answer to that question.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ - An Exposition of Romans 6:1-14

(I gave this message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines on Sunday February 9, 2014.)

Dr. Maurice Irvin, who was my pastor while I was at student at Nyack College, writes of an attempt he made at baking a pie. He had seen a beautiful picture of a pecan pie in a magazine accompanied by a recipe. So after shopping for the ingredients he attempted to bake the pie. The result of his efforts, however, in his words, was "a parched pastry" black in color "about the thickness of a pancake" and as hard as a rock.

 He writes, "At that point I looked at the picture in the magazine of the beautiful pie I was supposed to be making, then I looked down at the black, shriveled up, rock-hard thing I had produced. I took my pie out into the backyard and buried it." He continues,

"There have been times when I have felt like doing the same thing with my life. I have looked at the pictures in God's Word of what a Christian is supposed to be. Then I have considered what I am. And the contrast embarrasses me. There must be others who at times have been disappointed in themselves. The Bible describes a life of holiness. Ours is marked by impurity. In God's Word the standard is graciousness, but we are marked by unkindness. We see sweetness there but bitterness within; love there, selfishness in us; honesty there, lies from us; hope in Scripture, discouragement in us; loveliness there, lust in our hearts; generosity there, greed here; victory there, failure here. And such shortcomings make us feel like taking our lives out and burying them."

Perhaps you as I have had similar feelings. We are all too conscious of our sin. Perhaps even to the point of discouragement. Paul addresses the dynamics of this struggle in the text before us. What Dr. Irvin describes in all too familiar terms is our need of sanctification. When we are saved that is, at out conversion, we are justified delivered from the penalty of our sin. But the challenge we now face is our sanctification. Living a life of holiness set apart to God. Living in victory over the power of sin in our daily lives.

In the chapters preceding our text the apostle Paul presents God's plan of salvation for sinful man. In chapter three he  emphatically declares that every human being is "under sin," (3:8)  (ESV) declaring that "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (3:10-12)

He continues, (3:23a) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." He then proceeds to declare the only solution to man's guilt before God is justification by faith alone. He makes the case for our justification through the death and resurrection o f Jesus Christ. Chapter four ends with these words, "Jesus our Lord,...was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

He continues in chapter five, (5:8-9) (ESV) "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

So in chapters three through five, Paul tells us how to be saved. Then in chapters six through eight he tells us how we are to live after we have been saved. As W. H. Griffith Thomas has written,

"Union with Christ carries with it not one, but two results. First of all there is the efficacy of the Atonement for our guilty past as we share in the merits of Christ's death."

That's justification. We are declared righteous in God's sight because the penalty of our sin has been paid by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross over 2000 years ago. Our sin was placed on Him. His righteousness is imputed or credited to our account. So Paul could write the Corinthians, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (5:21 ESV)

Dr. Thomas continues, "...secondly, there is the efficacy of the Resurrection for our unholy present as we share the power of Christ's life." This is our sanctification, our "spiritual condition" as we seek to live a holy life. And what Paul goes on to say in chapter six is that our sanctification, living in victory over sin, is also the result of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Neal Anderson writes,

"Sin hasn't died nor is it removed when we receive Christ, but our relationship with sin has ended and its power to dominate is broken through the believer's crucifixion, resurrection and righteousness in Christ."

Romans chapter six outlines for us this wonderful truth. There are three key words that give us the framework to understand and experience this freedom in Christ. First, the word "know" found three times, verses three, six and nine. Second, the word "consider," "count" or "reckon" in verse eleven. And thirdly, the word "present" or "offer" in verses twelve and thirteen. As someone has said "Know who you are. Believe it with all your heart. And yield to God." (J MacArthur)

First of all, Paul begins with what we need to know. Chapter six begins with this question, (ESV) "What shall we say, then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? In other words, having been justified shall we take advantage of God's grace and forgiveness by continuing to sin? Paul says emphatically, "By no means! "No Way!" He then asks another question, verse two, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" It's a rhetorical question, more of a statement than a question. You don't expect an answer from a rhetorical question because the answer is so obvious. And in this case the answer is found in the question he poses. If you have died to sin how can you continue to live in it? You cannot be dead and alive to something at the same time.

Before I continue, let me point out the significance of the word "continue." Paul is not teaching that the one who is justified will never sin again. That's why he chose the word "continue." It means "to stay longer," to "prolong a stay," to "remain on" (Analytical p. 158)

For example, it is used of taking up residence in a house. When you move into the house, you remain there. You decide this is where you will be staying, where you will be living. Paul is saying, the one who has been justified will not live in sin; will not continue in sin. John made the same point, in1 john 1:6, (ESV)

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. Again in 1 John 3:6, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." (ESV)

Neither Paul or John are saying a believer will never sin again. But they are both saying that a believer will not live in habitual sin, the key phrases being, "continue in sin," "walk in darkness," or "keeps on sinning." Here's Paul's point, If you been saved, justified, chapters three through five, you cannot continue to have the same relationship with sin as you had before you were saved.

There is a warning implied here. As Dr. Donald Barnhouse has written, "Holiness starts where justification finishes and if holiness does not start, we have the right to suspect that justification ever started either."

In other words, when a sinner is justified he or she is declared righteous in God's sight. That's a legal transaction. But at the same time there is a transformation that takes place in the life of the one God has justified, making it possible for them to have a whole new relationship with sin. Paul put it this way, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (ESV) That's why, for Paul it would be unthinkable for one who is justified to continue in sin, because of what took place at the moment of conversion. "We died to sin," verse two. A death took place at the moment of our conversion. In other words, you are no longer who you used to be in your relationship to sin. He goes on to explain, as he asks another question in verse three. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" What was the purpose of our death with Christ? Look at verse four.

"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

That is what water baptism symbolizes. Buried with Christ in His death and resurrected with Christ into a new life. He continues, verse five, "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."

Notice the words used by Paul is describing this baptism. Verse three, the believer is "baptized into Christ Jesus" and "baptized into his death," verse 5, "united with him in a death," and "united with him in a resurrection." (Emphasis mine)

The word translated "united" means to be "planted together," "grown together, closely entwined together." (Analytical p. 384)  We are planted together with Christ in His death and His resurrection. John MacArthur,

"We have been immersed into Christ and when He died, we died. When He was buried, as it were, we were buried. And when He rose, we rose and everything is different....everything is different. This is a mystery to be taken by faith by a miracle I can't explain, by a mysterious divine act of God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation, that person is placed into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to die in Him, to be buried in Him and to rise with Him to walk in newness of life. We therefore live our lives according to verse 4, in a newness of life that brings glory to the Father...."He continues,
"Planted in His death, in His burial and blooming in newness of life. Christ's calvary was your calvary and Christ's Easter was your Easter. To be saved is not an addition, it's a transformation. It's not getting something new, it's becoming someone new and it flows from this real union of life with Christ."    
What does that new life look like? Verse six, Paul goes on to say, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (NIV might be rendered powerless) so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
There are the three things we need to know, to stop and remember as we daily confront sin and self and the world. First, "our old self was crucified with him (Christ)," verse six. This phrase describes something that "happened to us." (Stott) We did not crucify the old self it is not something we have done. Rather our old self was crucified with him. The word translated "old self" is literally, the "old man." The term refers to the unregenerate man, who we were in Adam. New English Bible, "man as we once were." Who we were before we were saved. This "old self" was crucified with Christ was put to death on the cross, says Paul. A. B. Simpson has written, (Romans pg. 135)
"When He was offered up on Calvary, it was not only for our sins, but for our sinfulness. In Him we were recognized by God as hanging on that cross with Him and dying when He died, so that His death represents our death, and when we recognize it, appropriate it and identify ourselves with it, it becomes the same as if we had been crucified, and our old life had gone out with His."     

Baptism symbolizes death, buried with Christ and raised from the dead with Christ. Verse five, "united with him in his resurrection." Death, by very definition means the end of life. Death brings the life of something to an end. In this case the "old self," the unregenerate man that you were before your conversion. And just as burial, as someone has said is "the proof of death," (MacArthur) resurrection means the beginning of something new!

Again, Dr. Simpson is helpful here. (138-139)

"It is not said that sin is dead. By no means. Sin is very far from dead. It surrounds us on every side, like the dark and murky atmosphere, like an overflowing flood. But we are dead to sin. What is dead? Is it a part of us? Is it one of our natures that is dead? Is it some principle in us that is dead? Is it the evil in us that is dead? Nay, Ye are dead, the whole of you. The old man, as an individual, the person is as if he were not the same person any more, but had passed out of existence, and another person had been born from above and dropped right out of heaven to earth instead." 

Paul put it this way, Galatians 2:20. (ESV) "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

Friends, this is the very essence of Christianity. We must know this truth if we are to progress in our sanctification.

Notice secondly then, in verse six that, the "body of sin" is rendered powerless. What is the "body of sin"? William Newell writes, (Romans Verse by Verse 92) "The 'body of sin' refers to our bodies as yet unredeemed, and not delivered from sin's rule..."

The term "body of sin" refers to the authority of sin or the rule of sin in our lives. Remember how Paul described the condition of the Ephesians before their conversion to Christ. Their lives were dominated by sin. Sin was their master. He describes their condition before coming to Christ, Ephesians 21-3,

" were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions [lusts] of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [flesh] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (ESV)

Before we are saved the testimony of Scripture is that we live in bondage to sin. Apart from Christ our lives are dominated by sin. In other words, before the new birth, sin is our master. At the end of verse six Paul describes our pre-conversion state as being a "slave to sin." But, says Paul, that all changes when we come to Christ. The "body of sin" is rendered powerless. So J. B Phillips translates it, "let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken."

As John Stott says, "We were thus crucified with Christ,...that our sinful nature might be deprived of its power." Notice Paul does not say that the body of sin is destroyed. Rather it has been rendered inoperative. It has "been deprived of its strength." Sin has not been annihilated, but is "robbed of it's power." It's been "put out of business," as someone has said. So Newell explains further, "...the 'body of sin' is to cease to have any power to bring the believer into bondage to sin..."

Friends, we must know this truth if we are to live a sanctified life. The "old self" is dead and buried with Christ so that we can walk in newness of life, verse seven, and the body of sin has been rendered powerless.

Thirdly then, we are no longer slaves to sin, verses six and seven,

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (rendered powerless NIV) so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been freed from sin." (ESV)

 Paul uses a very powerful metaphor in describing the ultimate outcome of what God has done for us with regard to the Christians' relationship with sin, the metaphor of being set free from slavery. Slavery was prevalent in his day. Every audience Paul spoke to or wrote to was familiar with slavery. Slaves were a part of every day life in the Roman empire. Slavery not only spoke of the loss of individual freedom but of bondage and loss of dignity. The slave lived in subjugation dominated by and controlled by his owner, living as though he had no will of his own. That is the imagery used here of the unbeliever's relationship to sin. The word translated "freed" is the word "justified." Because we have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection, we have been set free from slavery of sin. We are no longer bound by the power of sin in our bodies.

Remember, Paul is speaking of what we should know. Do you understand this truth? Do you understand the power of this truth? Are you living in the power of this truth?

So Paul can repeat in verse fourteen, "...sin shall no longer be your master." And in verse eighteen, "You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness." And Paul goes on to describe the irrevocable nature of this transaction that has taken place. The finality of what was accomplished in the life of the believer through our death and resurrection with Christ in verses eight through ten.

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the  dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God." (ESV)

Let me illustrate it this way. Let's say you came to the United States as a political refugee from a foreign country. You had lived under the repression of a communist state. You suffered economic deprivation. You suffered persecution for what you chose to believe. You were deprived of certain personal freedoms, free speech, the right to dissent and so forth. But once you stepped on American soil and were granted the rights afforded an American citizen you were free from the bondage of an oppressive, tyrannical state. The communist government that oppressed and controlled you no longer has any legal right to limit or interfere with the personal freedoms that you now enjoy under the authority of the United States' Constitution.

Friends, if you are a believer born again by the Spirit of God you have died with Christ and you have been united with Him in his resurrection. The penalty for you sins has been paid. The person you once were, the "old self" has been put to death. Dead and buried! The "body of sin" has been rendered powerless. The power of sin has been broken. You are no longer a slave to sin! Friends, do you know this truth? If you know this truth, are you living in the power of this truth?

This brings us to the second word that I spoke of earlier. It all starts with what we know. But there is another essential step. Secondly, Paul says, verse eleven, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." The older versions use the word "reckon." Some translate it "count." Someone has said,  (J McArthur) consider can "refer to calculating in the mind, or reasoning in the mind, or affirming in the mind that something is affirm it as true."

The idea here is to live in the light of the truth that you have come to know. It is helpful to point out that while the crucifixion Paul has been speaking of happened only once in the past, the reckoning or counting happens over and over again. What we are counting on, the truth we are considering took place once in the past but you will have to go back and count on it over and over again. John Stott,

"Now 'reckoning' is not make believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe something we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died when we know perfectly well that it has not. We are rather to realize that our old self -- that is our former self-- did die, thus paying the penalty of it sins and putting an end to its career. So Paul says 'reckon yourselves' (AV), or better 'consider yourselves' (RSV), or better still 'regard yourselves' (NEB), as being what in fact you are - dead to sin and alive to God.'" He continues, "Once we realize that our old life has ended --the score settled, the debt paid, the law satisfied --we shall want to have - nothing more to do with it."

What happens when we are tempted? When I find myself tempted by those thoughts that I should not think? When what I see with my eyes stimulates desires that I should not entertain? This is when the power of "counting" or "considering it"  comes into play. Again Dr. Simpson,

"When the old self seems to return, refuse to recognize it as yourself, and that attitude will destroy it. When the corpse insists on rising from the grave, and thrusting itself upon you consciousness, let the wand of faith wave over it and bid it back to its grave, and it will return to its place in the cemetery of the soul." 

Friends, this is the theological basis, the theological grounds for Paul's promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13. (ESV) 

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Did you hear what he said? There will never be a temptation that a believer cannot overcome in Christ. Provision has been made in Christ for victory over every temptation we will ever face. That is an astounding statement and promise. The question is, do we believe it? Or perhaps the more honest question, do we want to believe it?

This brings us to the third word. First we know the truth. We know who we are in Christ: our "old self" was crucified with Christ; the "body of sin" is rendered powerless; we are no longer slaves to sin. Second, we are to "consider" this truth, "count" on it. Affirm it as being true.  In other words, believe the truth you have come to know. Take ownership of it. Over and over again, at every point of temptation, in every time of temptation. But thirdly, we must, present or offer our self to God, verses twelve through fourteen. (ESV)

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (so that you obey its evil desires  NIV) Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace."

If step one, what we "know" involves the mind, and step two, "consider" it or affirm it involves the heart, in other words, believe it, step three, "present", "offer" or "yield" involves the will.

In verse 12 there is a "therefore" and a command. The "therefore" connects what he has just been writing about, with what he is about to say. Paul is saying, for this reason "Let not sin...reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its evil desires." Here Paul identifies where the battle will be won or lost. If we let sin rule our lives we will obey its evil desires. So Paul goes on to say what we would expect him to say, verse thirteen, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness." And then a positive command, "present yourselves to God and "your members to God as instruments for righteousness." The word translated "instruments" is the word "weapons."

Here is what Paul is saying: We have the choice of offering the parts of our bodies to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness. We have the choice of offering the members of our bodies: our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our arms and legs, our sexuality, our brains with its thoughts, our hearts with its emotions, to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness.

Paul is reminding us we are in a spiritual battle that we cannot afford to take lightly. It's like saying, okay reader, "the balls in your court." "Don't let sin rule you life!" The process of our sanctification will depend on us making the right choice, not once, but over and over and over again.Thomas Schreiner in the English Standard Version Study Bible summarizes it so well.

"The tension surfaces here between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of his people to obey. They are still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Each day they must give themselves afresh to God."

Similarly, Paul wrote the Philippian church, " out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

God has made provision for victory over sin but we must choose to take advantage of it. I close with this word from John MacArthur,
"The whole thing can be summed up in saying the old self was a slave to sin; the new self is a slave to righteousness,   that's the change. The old self was in perfect agreement with the fallen flesh, the new self is in perfect disagreement with the fallen flesh. No more bondage, no more bondage. Verse 7 sums it up. "For he who has died, is free from sin." When you died in Christ, you're freed from sins tyranny. The controlling dominating sovereignty of sin has been broken. That's [what] Verse 14 says 'Sin shall not be master over you for you're not any longer under the law, you're under grace.' So that justified person is not only declared righteous, but set free from the dominating power of sin. A  sanctified person set free to the dominating power of righteousness."
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