Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sermon: The Time is Now (7/11/10)

Here is my sermon from last Sunday.  I am working on some posts about anger.  But it is taking longer to develop than other posts.  I expect I will have some of them out by the weekends.  God bless you all.

Audio: The Time is Now


A recent letter to Reverend Billy Grahm reads

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Does anybody really believe in the devil anymore? You wrote something in your column recently that made me think you did, but I thought that kind of thinking went out with the Middle Ages. — R.C.L.

DEAR R.C.L.: It has been said that one of Satan's most successful strategies is to convince people that he doesn't even exist. Another surely must be to make people believe that he is simply a harmless, comic character (with, for example, a pitchfork and a red suit)...

...Yes, Satan is real, and we see evidence of his evil workings every day. How else can you explain the irrational acts of violence and terrorism that ravage our world? How else can you explain the way we fall for his temptations, although we know they'll only bring us disaster?

Read more:

Evil Exists

We should not be surprised when we hear of evil things and evil people. We are often shocked and terrorized by evil. However evil permeates our very existence. Laws are not made for people who keep the law, but for those that break the law. The reality of evil is so strong that we do not even need to get beyond ourselves to come face to face with the reality of evil.

So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me.
Romans 7:21 (HCSB)

However Paul gives a cure for this:

All those led by God's Spirit are God's sons.
Romans 8:14 (HCSB)

Being led by the Spirit of God is our cure for evil. However, there are many who reject the offer of salvation through Christ that do not have the Spirit of the living God. For them evil is a very present reality that holds the the distinct possibility that their actions will be at least influenced by, and often controlled by evil. Over time we are lulled to sleep by those in power making us unaware of this very present evil that touches us everyday. The evil exists. It exists in many forms! We can not be unaware of this fact.

We also cannot be fearful of this fact. That evil exists there can be no question, but fearing evil can be equally damaging to our calling and mission. If you fear evil you will be sidelined and ineffective for God. God has a plan and purpose for your life. If you fear evil you will never accomplish that purpose in my opinion. Ours is fearless pursuit or at least it should be.

Don't get me wrong there is fear, but not of evil. We ought to fear God. God is awesome in power. He strengthens the feeble. He appoints the rising and falling of nations. His power sustains our very existence. We are held in the palm of His hands. We are here out of the goodness of His grace. The blast of His breath would completely annihilate all of existence. His power, His Majesty, His righteousness, His piercing knowledge is what we ought to fear. These minor evils that so hold our attention are nothing absolutely nothing compared to the awesome power of almighty God.

Jesus said:

Don't fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 (HCSB)

Yes we ought to fear God and not evil.

So how can we deal with evil? First we must realize that there is not only evil, but there are evil men as well. That is not to say all that do evil are hopelessly evil there is time to repent and turn to God. There are a class of men that have given themselves to evil. That is to say they have embraced evil with the full knowledge of evil. They are not deceived as much as they are simply rebellious. These men and women come from all walks of life. Some are poor, some are rich, some are pleasant and nice, some are mean and gruff, some will flatter you with pleasant sayings, some will curse you with vulgar words, Some will look like the very image of perfect love, some will pour out venomous hate. These men and women are destined for destruction. They have an appetite for violence. This violence is not always physical, at times it is emotional, psychological, but it is always spiritual. Spiritual violence is there creed. They twist the goodness of God in order that God would be seen as evil and man as good. At times they are very stealthy and proclaim God, but upon closer examination the God they claim is not really God, but simply and extension of the evil that is in their souls.

Sometimes this special class of evil humans penetrate the very walls of our churches.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (HCSB)

These false prophets and false teachers will lead many astray. It is not those lead astray that bear the greater guilt of evil committed, but those that are especially evil and false that will face greater destruction in God's judgment. It is hard though, because at times the false teachers and false prophets seem like the nicest people in the world. How could they do so much good and yet be false. Their intent is not on leading others to the Lord, but rather on a personal lust for money, power, or praise of men. It looks good on the surface, but in their hearts is a great wickedness. We cannot be for one moment be held in the captivating speeches of these evil men and women. We must be with great clarity of thought, strength of wisdom, recognize the very lies that pour from their mouths. The sewage that is their teachings cannot be tolerated no matter how sweet they make it sound. Sewage is sewage no matter how sweet.

We must at first be willing to break with all that is false in ourselves. But there is a great lie, great deception that seeks to destroy the very core of God's Church, to destroy the foundation of this living body, to soil the wedding garment of the Bride of Christ. My dear friends if you did not know it already we are are war with this evil. Its desire is to destroy us. Evil knows that if good is out of the way then it will reign. The deception is quite simple. It is a dagger pulled from the very scriptures themselves. It his put on by these hateful, deceiving lying murderous evil men and women. Yet is sounds a pure as the whitest of whites. Do you want to know what it is?

God teaches us to not judge others.

If you have sympathy for this statement, then let me tell you as plainly as I can, "Repent or be destroyed by this utterly false belief." If you do not feel a sense of revulsion at the belief that "God teaches us to not judge others" then I say it is time to wake up, open your eyes, and get angry! The devil has had a great sway over the church in this one belief. It has become the center piece of Christianity in the United States. Yet the premise to not judge is completely illogical. I would go so far as to say the only way to not judge is to be dead. Our brains are completely incapable of not judging. You might find a few Buddhists that will claim that they have achieved this state, and yet if you spend any time with them at all you will find they too judge. Judging is a very core of conscious awareness. So why would Jesus make such an outrageous statement to not judge? The plain truth is that he did not. In fact the passage that is most often quoted as the central teaching of "do not judge" is not really about judging, it is about hypocrisy.

This is what the false teacher will say to you:

Do not judge, so that you won't be judged (Matthew 7:1).

Seems pretty straight forward. It is Christ saying plainly to not judge. What the problem is that the verse has been taken out of context. What these false teachers will conveniently leave out is in verse five.

Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Matthew 7:5 (HCSB)

Jesus was not condemning judging. It was hypocrisy that was his focus. Jesus is plainly saying that to judge others you must have first examined your own life and got that right. Once you have examined and removed sin from your own life, then you will be able to help others with sin in their own lives. You see Jesus turns judgement into a loving act in which you take care of your sin in order that you can help others. Strange that we do the exact opposite. In our effort to avoid being judgmental we avoid helping others. You see that is the trick. If you do not judge, you do not see, if you do not see, you cannot help, If you do not help you cannot love. Love is the way. Jesus loves you too much too leave you in sin. We ought to do likewise.

Shocking isn't it. If you are brave enough can you raise your hands if at any point in your life you believed that the Bible taught us to not judge others. I know I have. Yet this is just one teaching among many that these evil false prophets and teachers are pouring out into mainstream Christianity in the United States and around the world.

I want to draw your attention to one more thing before moving on. In this same passage that is often quoted as saying God teaches us to not judge Jesus says:

Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7:6 (HCSB)

Two things:

One, if God teaches us to not judge then how in the world can we determine if someone is a dog or a pig. The teaching contradicts itself and is therefore complete nonsense.

Two, Jesus seems to be saying that our judgment ought to be reserved for those that are like us seeking to get sin out of our lives. Those that are dogs and pigs ought to be avoided all together.

Evil can also manifest itself in government. You see government is the power over people. And evil power hungry people will use government to carry out their evil plans. We need to recognize that it is not the government itself that is evil, but rather becomes evil when disreputable men usurp it's authority. When these men and women hold positions of power we are not to fear. We are called to witness.

You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. But when they hand you over, don't worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
Matthew 10:18-20 (HCSB)

When evil men use government to destroy us their intent is overcome. Why? By bringing us to the public square we have been given a greater audience than if we simply remained quiet in our homes. Government is the servant of God, so when evil men use it to advance their agenda it will always fail. Our job as believers is to stick to the message and not be turned. We do this by trusting in God. I think of the Prophet Daniel at this point. There were evil men that intended to use the government to destroy him by setting him up. How did Daniel respond? He kept on doing what he had always done and trusted God. As a result he was given a platform to speak the words of God that was much wider than he had before these evil hateful murderers started. He even may have had the opportunity to witness to the king in the process.

The wonderful truth in all of this is that the Holy Spirit of God is there with us giving us the words to speak when that time comes. We are simply a vessel that carries God's message to the nations. He never leaves or forsakes us. If they mock us then we will draw the attention of others, if they fine us we will see a flood of financial support, if they take us to court Christ will be our attorney and they will stand condemned. If they imprison us our followers will grow in number. If they murder us our voice will scream from the grave robbing our enemies of sleep and encouraging the faithful to greater works that we could imagine doing on our own.

Do you get it dear friends? There is nothing that evil can do to triumph over us when God is on our side. There is no thing that can silence the Holy Spirit of God from taking the message to the world. We have nothing to fear. However:

If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.
Proverbs 24:10 (HCSB)

Doing nothing is limiting according to God's Word. He has a plan for us we are to:

Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter.
Proverbs 24:11 (HCSB)

We are on a mission to rescue lost, dying, deceived souls. We have a responsibility to love hurting and suffering people. Their very lives depend on our faithfulness to the cause. We have a high responsibility to accomplish the task. Ignorance is no excuse:

If you say, "But we didn't know about this," won't He (God) who weighs hearts consider it? Won't He who protects your life know? Won't He repay a person according to his work?
Proverbs 24:12 (HCSB)

Brother's Sisters it is time to get out of our complacency, our comfort, our easy living. Wake up there is a war going on here and our time to act is now. No excuses.

"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:62 (HCSB)

What is to be our response to evil? Jesus said:

Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16 (HCSB)

The serpent always symbolizes Satan from the beginning of the Bible to the end. It seems a strange thing for Jesus to say that we need to be like Satan in some way. However, if you have any military background at all you will understand that Jesus is saying that we must think like our enemy. It is not a pleasant exercise, but we must begin to think if I was evil, what would be the best way in infiltrate and destroy my life, the life of my family, the life of my church, the power structure of education, government, religion. You many not want to bear the thought, but the fact is that the Satan and the forces of evil in this world are planning your, our destruction. He is actively looking for a way to either destroy you, sideline you, or render your walk with God ineffective. When Jesus says to be as shrewd as serpents" He is plainly telling us to think like the enemy. We need to understand his ways. Why? If we do not then we will be caught unaware in evil's trap.

Yet harmless as doves. The Dove in the New Testament is a very obvious symbol of the Holy Spirit. In our understanding the enemy and nature of evil there is a risk of becoming like them. Our protection is the connection to the Holy Spirit of God. We cannot fall into using evil to overcome evil. That also is a trick of the Devil. If evil can sway you to act evil then it will gladly sacrifice itself for the greater victory of having you destroyed, sidelined, or ineffective. We must allow the love of God to flow through us by His Spirit. Our understanding needs to be as wise as our evil enemy, yet holding on the righteousness of God. Our knowledge of good and evil needs to be an awareness of evil yet unmoved to join it, but rather be in the place of guidance by the goodness of God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. The word harmless in the Greek is a-ke-rai-os. The "a" prefix means "not." The keraios means mingled or filled. So in understanding this statement Jesus appears to be saying to understand evil as Satan understands evil, not mingling or filled with it even as the Holy Spirit understands evil yet is not mingling with or filled with it.

My dear friends. We cannot miss this point. That we are to understand evil yet be separate from it is of highest important. We can lose the battle at two points. If we do not understand evil then we will be ambushed by it. When we understand evil then we can see it coming and plan a Holy Spirit directed counter attack. We can also loose this battle at another point. We cannot We must not we have to determine in our hearts that we will not mingle with or be filled with evil. We need to turn from, remove, kill, destroy the evil that is in our lives.

Are you ready? Are you willing?

If this sermon seems militant to you it is because it is militant. I will not apologize for the forcefulness. If this word is too hard for you then please try to stay out of the way. We have precious little time to be spreading the gospel of God accepts you just the way you are and God teaches us to not judge other. Don't you get it? There is no power in that gospel. Those that preach it do so to there own destruction. The true power of the Gospel is in trusting in Jesus Christ turning from your wickedness and getting active in advancing the kingdom of God. Jesus' loving sacrifice was for you. He died that we might live. We do not fight a battle of flesh and blood, but we do fight a battle that seeks to destroy the spiritual forces of darkness. This sermon is a call to arms to any that would listen to it. Even if no one in this room will stand with me I will stand for the Lord our God. I am tired of seeing the enemy and evil men taking territory in our lives. We have to have the love of God that overcomes the dark evil days that we live in. Will you shine that love before men? Will you stand with me?