Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Faith Killers - sermon notes

I want to talk to you about some faith-killers, things that you wrongly believe and hold to that will crush your faith, damage your witness, and make your walk with Christ more like being dragged to heaven by your feet while He bounces your head off both curbs of the street.

Many fundamentalists come to the Bible assuming it is only about God’s kingdom, a description of how it is to be run, when it is, after all, mostly the revelation of His ministry of reconciling man to Himself. There are a lot of things missing about God’s kingdom and about heaven that we are tempted to fill in with our own fantasies. We then read back our own country and culture’s history into the Bible to make it a justification and a glorification of who we are and where we come from, allowing us to despair and condemn if things aren’t going as we think they should. But if you read it as God’s revelation of His ministry of reconciling man to Himself it all becomes very clear.

Then, some fundamentalists will read the Bible as they would their car manual and take it so ultra-literally they miss the point as well. Still others will apply the standards and conditions set for the physical Hebrews to the spiritual life of Christians thus creating an impossible situation to live, as the Jews couldn’t do it, by forcing Christians to live under the Law given to Moses as the civil and religious commandments for Israel when Paul clearly says that that Law does not justify Christians as only faith in Christ does. In all of these things and others too numerous to mention when reality goes up against their imagination which they have put in place of what the Bible actually says some will mistake the error in their thinking for an error in the Bible and begin to doubt. There is no substitution for reading and knowing your Bible, not from the perspective of a celebrity teacher or guru but from a simple reading, cross-referencing, and prayer as the Holy Spirit guides your thoughts and minds in God’s word, then, hearing doctrinally accurate and correct preaching. Faith will then increase, not decrease, and doubts will come but they will be dealt with also.

 First we need to define what faith is, Biblically. Words connected by and are typically synonyms. So, let’s look at the following and you tell yourself what faith entails.

Romans 4:11  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

2Corinthians 4:13  We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Galatians 2:16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:22  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him…31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Faith and belief are so closely linked in the Scriptures that for all practical purposes they can be considered one and the same. However, faith is not just intellectual assent to something and believing is not just with the mind. When you believe you listen and obey.

2Kings 17:14  Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

We often hold the 1800s as a time when Christians were right and Christianity was on the right track. Yet, they held, in many cases, as today, to a works religion. Listen to how some workers who were challenging a selfish and mean-spirited employer in the early 1800’s described themselves and their families in England. “…Providence which had placed them here as probationers for another and a better world.”

 (1. J.L. & Barbara Hammond, The Skilled Labourer: 1760-1832 (London: Longman’s, Green & Co., 1927).

We are not on probation. We are either saved by our trusting in Christ’s righteousness to get to heaven or we are not saved and bound for an eternity of agony, first in Hell, then in the Lake of Fire.  This brings us to the first faith-killer; downgrading sin. What are you going to do about sin? Here are the lyrics to a song by a rock and roll star who acknowledged this problem before he died, Warren Zevon.

It's none of my business
But if I may
Remind you of the time
When you did something you knew was wrong
It wasn't called a crime
And I'm not saying that you should give
A sucker an even break
I'm talking about the time
That you were cruel for cruelty's sake
I'm talking about the time
That you were cruel for cruelty's sake

How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for the sin?
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for the sin?

Maybe you went and stuck your key
In somebody else's door
Maybe you went and helped yourself
To something that wasn't yours
Maybe you simply criticized
Someone you hardly knew
You ruined part of their life for them
Part of your own life, too

How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for the sin?
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for
How you gonna pay for it then?
If and when you feel an ill wind
Don't be too surprised
Remember when you should have
Picked on somebody your own size

How am I gonna pay for
How am I gonna pay for
How am I gonna pay for the sin? 

There are Independent Baptists today who are KJV-only who preach and teach that there is no need for repentance from sin, either in turning your mind from it or rejecting it or even acknowledging anything other than that you do it, in the context of salvation. I watched a YouTube video where they were practicing “soul-winning” and after the subject repeated the A-B-C prayer the church guy said, “Okay, now whether you ever come to church or not or whether you go out and murder someone I’ll see you in heaven.” The subject simply admitted he had sinned in the past. Period. This is a dangerous heresy and a damnable delusion. Let me explain.

Yes, it is true that Bible verses directly related to salvation for eternity might not mention sin or repentance from it.

Acts 16:31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Romans 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

And I know John the Baptist was preaching national repentance to the Jews as was Peter in Acts 2:38 which is not the connection between baptism and salvation that was applied to the church that consisted of both Jew and Gentile. Baptism does not save you but it was referred to by Peter as a type of your salvation as was Noah’s passage through the Flood. But, the Holy Spirit was brilliant beyond measure when it worked through the early church to bring us the Bible we have today. It spread truth out throughout the Scripture so that even in times of great persecution and the destruction of Scriptures it was still there. We must not look to one or two verses to decide a doctrine but use all or as many verses on the subject as we can, understanding the context in which they should be applied, to form a doctrine. So it is with sin and salvation.

Consider these verses;

Romans 5:8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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

So, if sin before we are saved and after we are saved is not an issue then what do you think about these verses, if we are just to admit we sin like we admit we chew gum and move on? And why did Christ trouble Himself to die on the Cross?

1Corinthians 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

In the so-called Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the spiritual counterpart to the very earthy Sermon on the Plain in Luke, Jesus made a very important point in saying that it was more important that you reconcile to a brother who had something against you first than to offer something to God. In Matthew 5 He made a spiritual application for mourning as in regard to contextually mourning for sin’s very existence and hungering for God’s righteousness.

I realize preachers have taken this too far. The most stunning example is Charles G. Finney’s insistence that if you weren’t trying to make up for all of your past sins to the people you had wronged then you probably aren’t saved, which is foolish. But modern preachers not preaching against sin is just as foolish, if not moreso.

You cannot simply dismiss sin and your sin nature as a bad rash and forget it. We need to deal with our sin, or, more importantly to have Christ deal with it.

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

Have you mourned for your sin? Do you weep even now over what you feel so helpless to overcome? Haven’t some of you ruined your families? Haven’t some of you wasted your youth on alcohol and promiscuous sex, looking for love and acceptance, a replacement for your father or mother, pursued money and found bankruptcy, messed up your kids? Do you feel nothing? Has someone gotten you to believe that everything is just peachy? David was forgiven but he suffered terribly for his sin, in his family. Don’t you mourn?

As a young woman or a young man you defied your parents and what you knew to be right. You passed this burden of sin onto an innocent child or you maybe destroyed someone’s fragile self-esteem with your callous indifference. Okay, you’re forgiven. But, aren’t you ashamed?

And also, the word repent doesn’t just carry with it an intellectual assent to something like just changing your mind. It is a turning from your sin.

Exodus 32:12  Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

Jeremiah 4:28  For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.

Jeremiah 18:8  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

Jeremiah 26:3  If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

Ezekiel 14:6  Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Ezekiel 18:30  Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

Jonah 3:9  Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

So, what happens? The person desiring salvation comes forward and is told they must A-B-C. Admit you are a sinner, Believe in Christ, and Confess your profession of faith. Bingo! You are saved for eternity and have eternal life. You probably won’t even get to that point unless you acknowledge the wickedness, the loathsomeness, and the vileness of your sin. A person most likely won’t get to that point unless they want to turn away from sin. Being sick of sin’s ravages on your life doesn’t guarantee you are sorry for your sin. It just means you are sorry you got caught, that your plans didn’t go well. Being sick of the reputation you have among family, friends, and society for being a sinner doesn’t mean you understand that you have sinned against a Holy Creator who has blessed you so abundantly in spite of your pride and your selfishness toward Him.

Even if they are saved the person who kneels in the front of the church with a shallow understanding of, yes, I am sick of my sin and I’ll turn it over to Christ is still not prepared to deal with the attack they are about to experience from their flesh, the world, and Satan himself. They will go on being sick of the effects of sin but being drawn further into it because they have not committed to repent and turn from it. They have not rejected sin. You have to repent of your sins or you will not come to Christ. You might come to an altar but that isn’t the same thing.

One of Satan’s great ploys in the last 200 years is to downgrade sin so that the thin faith of a newly saved person is crushed when faced with a sin nature they have not repudiated, rejected, or acknowledged that they hate. Not changing your attitude about your sin, not hating it, and not acknowledging it, and not turning from it will crush your shallow faith as it has done to many before you in times of trial. You’ll justify what you do and you’ll say that you are glad there is grace. So what. You’ll just be overwhelmed and worthless. You might come to church, robotically read your Bible and pray, and even get involved in church activities. But, you will be miserable and your faith will be weak.

Non-Christians mock “Christian guilt” but Christians don’t have much guilt these days. Repent and believe Christ will change you through His word, the Bible. Turn and trust that Christ will cleanse you of all unrighteousness.

If you have trouble understanding what I am saying consider this. Your sin put Christ on that Cross. He paid the price for your sin. He rose from the dead for your justification before God. Don’t say sin doesn’t matter. It matters to God.

Deal with your sin daily or you will face a crisis in your faith. If you are considering becoming a Christian then understand that if you don’t regard your sin as something disgusting why do you need a savior?  If you’re ‘not so bad’ then what are you doing here?  And even every Christian has to understand that his or her pride and self-justification is just as foul to God as the lowest pedophile’s or murderer’s behavior.

There are probably people in here right now who think they are so good and so right on with God that they are setting themselves up for a terrible time in their faith ahead, if it hasn’t already come. Having trouble with your family, children disappointing you? Have you dealt with YOUR sin? Trouble in your marriage, at work, or with your church family? What about your sin?

Another faith killer is politicizing your faith. I have to break the bad news to you. God probably doesn’t like the Democratic party because they don’t much like Him but God is not a card-carrying Republican wearing a three piece suit on His way to an NRA meeting. Your politics aren’t necessarily Godly, aren’t necessarily pleasing to God. You’ve made God a reflection of your own fears, paranoia, bigotry, and hang-ups. Now, you may be happy with that, smug and self-satisfied, pleased with yourself. But, you’re reflecting God to your children and grandchildren and your statement that you are going to hold up in your house and fight the damn gubmint when they come to take your guns is not building the faith of your children and grandchildren in God. On the contrary, it is not only probably a stench in God’s nostrils but young people aren’t stupid and they will flee from your paranoid and ungodly delusions as soon as they have the power to do so. I can only hope they don’t flee from God not being able to separate your clownish behavior from His glory.

Keep your politics out of the Bible. Yes, fight abortion. Yes, protest against strip clubs in your neighborhood. Yes, demand a border wall, a stronger military, and a more fair tax code but these things are not about salvation or eternity with Christ. They are not about God’s power to deliver us from sin and Satan’s wiles. They are how we and our political leaders manage our lives and there is a right and wrong based on Biblical principles that doesn’t involve us saying the reason that liquor store should not be open is because if you go there you’re going straight to Hell like a bullet. We have enough liquor stores. Strip joints don’t belong in family neighborhoods. You can’t afford open borders and a welfare state. In this world a great country is either the bug or the windshield and the power of their military sets them up for one or the other. And a tax code that doesn’t incentivize hard-work, savings, and self-discipline is a recipe for disaster. But, let’s not insist at the top of our lungs that if someone disagrees with us they are not only a Godless reprobate but the Antichrist’s advance man.

We want a good president but we’re not electing a pastor as you have one. We are not electing a messiah as we have one of those, too. The Bible is our final authority in all matters of faith, practice, and doctrine but the Constitution of this country was modeled after Enlightenment writers like Montesquieu and Locke and the best way, Madison believed, that we would be free to worship as we chose, as God mandated, was if the government was not controlled by a religious denomination and had nothing to say about our duty to our Creator. Madison didn’t even like the idea of paid chaplains in the military because he knew that eventually the government would tell them what they could and could not pray, and this has happened.

There is a place for patriotism but it is not as replacement for the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is place for civic duty but it is not a replacement for devotion to God’s Book. There is a place for demanding justice but you can’t impose the Law given to Moses as the civic and religious law for the Hebrews on all Americans. Don’t think God’s on America’s side just because we’re so special. Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, admitted that God wasn’t on either side in the Civil War and had His own agenda. The boxer, Joe Louis, silenced a Madison Square Garden crowd when he let them in on a secret about World War Two. Joe didn’t say we’re going to win this because we have God on our side. He said, “We’re going to win this because we’re on God’s side.” It isn’t God Bless America. Its America, Bless God!

Be careful about mixing your patriotic yearnings, your political beliefs, and your vision of your country with God’s plan for our lives, God’s mission for our church, and God’s desire for the lost. We’re losing generations in the church because we have not kept the main thing as the main thing. There may be a time to wrap yourself in the flag and point at the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware. But, just be careful about taking the time in the pulpit to do that instead of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Young people aren’t stupid. They are inexperienced. They are na├»ve. But, most of them know someone with more liberal leanings than you would allow who professes to love Christ. And most of them know someone who is a solid right-wing Christian who is so filled with hate and fear that he or she is scary.

Politicizing your faith, not knowing what lines not to cross, is a great faith-killer.

The last faith-killer I want to talk about is not knowing, not making sure you know who the God of the Bible is. That great Calvinist writer, Arthur Pink, said that the God of the 20th century was a milquetoast, that is a weak, God who can’t save anyone or keep them saved. 20th century Christianity has turned the entire thing around made faith about their faith rather than God. In fact, they have more faith in their faith than they do in God talking about the power of prayer rather than the power of the one prayed to. Let’s throw a fast ball waist-high over the plate. You can’t not hit this out of the park. There is nothing that can happen to you or anyone you know that God didn’t either directly cause to happen or permit to happen and that includes bad stuff. We’re talking about bad stuff that hurts you and not only that but you may never know why in this life. From this perspective, from Solomon’s perspective in Ecclesiastes, there is no reason. Stuff happens. From Job’s perspective, bad things happen to good people who didn’t do anything to deserve them and God isn’t explaining Himself to you as to why. You just have to trust Him. God even tells Job in the fashion of His confrontation with Job that not only does God cause rain, lightning, and gives us understanding that beasts don’t have but that;

Job 38:38  When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?

God does everything, makes everything in what we know of as reality to happen or permits it to happen. There is no war between God and Satan. Satan can do nothing without God’s permission and God uses Satan. Just compare 1Chronicles 21:1 and context with 2Samuel 24:1 and context. You can’t tell the difference in an event if it was caused by God directly or if God unleashed Satan on you. You’re just called to resist Satan in James 4:7 and beware of his methods, using the shield of faith to quench his fiery darts.

I know, I know, you want to believe that He would never hurt us, but He doesn’t say that. He says He will never leave us or forsake us. But even Job admitted;

Job 2:10  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

            God never told Job that the reason he suffered was because of God’s point to Satan and because of the permission He had given Satan. Never explained Himself. It was Job’s duty to trust God, that God has it under control and God condemned Job’s friends for misrepresenting Him, saying they knew things they did not.

            Now, I understand when a child dies or there is horrible accident your humanity is looking for reasons. You want to say that God will make something good come out of this or you try to come up with a good reason. You’ll look at this verse;

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Or this one;

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

                But, in the first verse the Holy Spirit, through the wisdom given to Paul, is talking about the end result of our faith being conformed to the image of Christ, not about how your broken leg is a blessing and in the second one He is pleading with Israel to return to Him.

            Face it, you don’t know why some bad things happen. God allowed it to happen and we must trust Him. That is the essence of faith. Recognize His sovereignty, know that every event from the smallest function of the cell to a star bursting into a nova in the furthest reaches of space is an act of either His direct or His permissive will, and quit pretending that you know what you don’t know as you try to comfort yourself or someone else.

            Telling new Christians or children that you know God will make something good come out of their child dying, their parent or spouse dying, their terminal cancer, or their horrible disfigurement in an accident is utterly cruel and doesn’t address their pain and grief in a compassionate way, at all. Face it, you have no idea why God let it happen, any more than Job did. Being a know-it-all self-righteous presumer on God isn’t your duty. This is your duty;

Romans 12:15  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Remember the statement of a young man threatened with death.

Daniel 3:17  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

You don’t know why God allows or does things He does unless the reason is spelled out for you in the Bible or you see a direct link by way of action and event like a person who smokes for 40 years gets cancer. Well, that’s pretty obvious. But, why did God let my child die should not elicit from you the statement, “maybe it was to save them from some worse fate later in life.” Come on! Have you ever lost a child? Even a grown one? Is that what you wanted to hear, or needed to hear?

2Corinthians 1:3 ¶  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
Are you ready for this?

Philippians 3:8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

             9 ¶  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11  If by any means I might attain unto (understand; see Psalm 139:6 & Proverbs 1:5) the resurrection of the dead.

            You people who have been Christians for a long time saying things like not only, “when I shake someone’s hand I can tell whether or not they are born again,” or, “so-and-so got cancer because they refused God’s call to the ministry,” or, “God will work something good out of your baby’s death, I just know He will, just wait and see,” as you scurry away from them at the funeral home or a church meeting, should remember this;

Job 42:7 ¶  And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.

So, quit misrepresenting God and doing the work of Satan. Let the grieving party be taught by the Holy Spirit and come to conclusions He gives them. Comfort them. Draw them to God’s comfort and to His healing, not to your spiritual self-glorification and pretended knowledge of the secret things of God. Don’t be the cause of someone saying, “I never did see the good they said would come out of this. It’s been 30 years and the pain is still there. I’m still waiting for God to do something with it. Maybe there is no God after all.”

There is a book entitled The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. In it, there is a tragedy and there are people looking for a divine reason why this tragedy that affected a few strangers happened. What united the victims that made God bring them together to die? No reason was found. That was supposed to question the existence of God. As Wilder implied, to him there was no meaning in life apart from a person’s own will. This is the result of not believing or even knowing what God said about such things in His Bible. It is the result of man and woman, even Christian man and woman, making it up as they go along basing their view of life on humanistic presumption and not on God’s words.

These three things are terrible faith-killers; downplaying sin, politicizing your faith, and misrepresenting God are three things that have driven many children away from you, the church, and even God. They have smashed the faith of new Christians. Keep them in mind. Be careful. Know God’s words in His Book and don’t make it up as you go along. 

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