Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Encouragement For Those Who Think They Are Too Bad To Be Saved

"…So Great Salvation"
Hebrews 2:3

(Encouragement for those who think they are too sinful to be saved)

  I'm writing to the one who is doubting his salvation. You have great sins in your past. You feel that because of these sins and failures you cannot enter heaven. You believe these sins will prevent you from entering the Kingdom God. You wish you could erase them all. You grieve that you committed such acts of rebellion and treason against the Lord. Because of these sins you have concluded that God would never save someone like you. Therefore you have lost all hope of going to heaven and being with Christ.

But dear friend, did Christ die for only the perfect? Did Christ die only those with little sins or few sins? Did Christ die only for "good" sinners but "bad" sinners He cannot save? If you could erase all of the sins you recall in your past would that make you any more lovable to God? What did the Apostle Paul say? "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8. Jesus died for sinners not for those who were righteous and good. No man is worthy of salvation. Again Paul says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

  My friend, how can you refuse to believe what the Savior has said to us all? "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28. Is this not a gracious invitation for someone precisely like you? You are burdened over your sin. You mourn that you committed those sins. You would die a thousand deaths to rid yourself of these sins if you could. Just as Jesus said, because of these sins in your past, you are laboring under an enormous weight of guilt, conviction, shame and sorrow. You stagger daily at the weight of your spiritual burden. How is it that you cannot see that the Savior's words were intended for someone just like you? “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Why do you refuse to see this?

  Again I ask you, "Did Jesus die only for sinners who weren't too bad? Or did He die for great sinners, for big sinners, for sinners like you who feel there is no hope for them? The blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross, atones for all our sins. Jesus is the sinners hope. Jesus is the sinners refuge. Jesus is the sinner's hiding place. My friend have you forgotten this? 

Is Jesus not big enough, gracious enough, loving enough, kind enough, that He cannot save a sinner like you? Do not lose sight of what a great Savior He is! As the Apostle Paul said, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Hebrews 2:3. Jesus has provided not just any salvation, the apostle tells us it is a great salvation. 

  Jesus is the friend of sinners. Jesus is the only hope for sinners. Jesus is the rest for sinners. Jesus is the peace for sinners. Jesus is the hiding place for sinners. As the Bible says, Jesus is the rock cleft for you! The hymn writer said it so well:

"Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee,
 Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side that flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure."

  My dear friend, you think your sins are too great and that God would never pardon you. You think you cannot be forgiven. But your Savior has provided for you a hiding place in the "clefts of the rock." As it says in the Song of Solomon 2:14. Jesus is that cleft Rock. Jesus is that hiding place. When Satan condemns you, chastens you, rebukes you and accuses you then run to Jesus by faith. Run to Him!  Trust in His blood. Rejoice in His righteousness. And hear Jesus say to your weary heartbroken soul, 

"O My dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." Song of Solomon 2:14

  My friend, your Savior has provided you a hiding place.  A dove is a helpless bird when hunted by the eagle or the hawk. The only hope he dove has is to fly to the rocky cliffs and hide in one of the many crevices or clefts and there find safety from the clutches of the eagle. The sinner is the  dove. The cleft of the rock is Jesus our hiding place. Just as the dove finds shelter from the birds of prey in the clefts of the rock, so too, the sinner finds safety from the judgement in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself is the secret stairway to Heaven. His love for you is so great that He invites you to approach Him. He desires to hear your voice in prayer and worship. He tells you that the very sight of you is precious to His eyes.

The Lord is your hiding place. He is you refuge where you can run and find safety, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, pardon, adoption, fellowship, friendship, sonship, and a host of other blessings too wonderful to fully comprehend. 

So my dear friend, how can you despair and feel as if there is no hope for you? Has He not invited you, a great sinner, to come to Him? And did He not say,  "…and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out?" John 6:37. Why can’t you trust Jesus to do what He says He will do if you come to Him? Come to Him and He will not cast you out.

  Friend, it is Satan who whispers in your ears that Jesus will not forgive you. It is Satan who seeks to rob you of joy, peace, rest and happiness. Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…" Satan is that thief who comes to do these things. But Jesus came, "…that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Remember my dear friend the words of the Apostle Paul, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Ephesians 1:7. Redemption is the act of being purchased out of the slave market of sin. The price of your redemption (purchase) was the precious blood of Christ. Peter tells us, “Knowing the you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:18-19. When you were a slave, trapped in the spiritual world of darkness, dead in trespasses and sins, Jesus came and paid to set you free The purchase price was His life and death. 

When you allow the Devil to fill your heart and mind with doubts you are falling into the same trap God's people fell into during the days of the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonian captives doubted God's love and forgot His kindness and grace. To a despondent people in captivity God commanded them to sing and to worship Him. But they refused because of their lack of faith. God said to them: "Sing O heaven's and be joyful O earth…" "But Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." O, but notice God's response to their despair! God uses the analogy of a nursing mother with a new born infant to make His point that He will never forsake those who trust in Him.”Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Isaiah 49:13-16. It is highly unlikely that a mother would forget or neglect her new born infant that she nurses on her breast. But even if some mother would be so hard and unloving to do that God says He will never forsake His people who have put their trust in Him. The hymn writer put it this way. 

"My name from the Palms of His hands 
Eternity cannot erase,
Impressed on His heart it remains,
With marks of indelible grace."

 My dear weary, depressed, and despondent friend. I beg of you to look to Christ! He is our only hope. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:1.  Do not look to your past. Do not look to your sins. Do not look to your feelings, or your failures. If you look there you will be filled with despair.  Just look to Jesus by faith. Lift up your eyes and look to Him. Jesus is our hiding place. Jesus is our fountain filled with blood. Jesus is our mercy seat.

Jesus is our hiding place:

Hail Sovereign Love
 Jehoiada Brewer

Hail sovereign love that first began,
The scheme to rescue fallen man.
Hail matchless, free, eternal grace,
That gave my soul a hiding place.

Against the God who rules the sky,
I fought with hand uplifted high;
Despised the mention of His grace,
Too proud to seek a hiding place.

Enwrapped in thick Egyptian night,
And fond of darkness more than light;
Madly I ran the sinful race,
Secure without a hiding place.

But thus the eternal counsel ran,
"Almighty love, arrest that man!"
I felt the arrows of disgrace,
And found I had no hiding place.

Indignant Justice stood in view,
To Sinai's fiery mount I flew.
But Justice cried with frowning face,
This mountain is no hiding place.

Ere long an angel's voice I heard,
And Mercy's angel face appeared.
She led me on with placid pace,
To Jesus as my hiding place.

Should storms of sevenfold thunders roll,
And shake the globe from pole to pole.
No flaming bolt shall daunt my face,
For Jesus is my hiding place,

On Him, eternal judgment fell,
That must have sunk a world to Hell,
He bore it for the chosen race,
And thus became their hiding place.

A few more rolling suns at most,
Shall land my soul on Canaan's coast.
Where I shall sing the songs of grace,
And gaze upon my hiding place!

Jesus is our  fountain filled with blood:

There is a Fountain Filled With Blood

There is a fountain filled with blood, 
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood 
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see

 that fountain in his day;

And there have I, though vile as he, 

washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
 shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God 
be saved, to sin no more.

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream 
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
 and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
 I'll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue 
lies silent in the grave.

Jesus is our mercy seat:

Approach My Soul The Mercy Seat

Approach my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea;
With this I venture nigh:
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, Am  I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By wars without, and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.

Be Thou my shield and hiding place,
That sheltered near thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him, Thou hast died.

O, wondrous love! To bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious Name! Amen.

John Newton, 1779

Dear struggling, doubting friend. Let us be clear about sin. All sin is a violation of the holy laws of God. Sin is willful treason and rebellion against the High King of Heaven. Sin is an insult to our Creator. All sin must be confessed and repented of. Why? Because "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23.

So you feel you cannot be forgiven. Did Jesus not come to save sinners? An angel, in a dream, appeared and told Joseph, the husband of Mary "And He (Jesus) shall save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21.  Yes, Jesus will save His people from their sins. If you are broken hearted over your sins. If you have turned from them and have forsaken them why would the Savior not do what He has promised and forgive you? John tells us, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9. Paul told the Philippian Jailor in Acts 16:31, "…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

My dear friend, the very fact that you mourn over your sins and failures, that you confess them and repent of them is an indication that the Lord has worked in your heart. Be encouraged by these signs. If you had no desire to be forgiven or free from the lusts of your flesh you would have reasons to be alarmed at the condition of your soul.

  God Himself has invited sinners like us to come and reason with Him. In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

I invite you to come to Jesus with all your sins, with all your guilt, with all your sorrows and shame. And by one act of faith roll this entire burden upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for sinners and to sinners, He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." John 14:6.

Jesus is the doorway to heaven. Jesus is the path that leads to the Father. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. My dear friend throw yourself by faith into the arms of Jesus. If you perish, perish there. But I remind you that no one who has ever come to Jesus in faith with repentance was turned away.  So lay your sins on Jesus. Confess them and bring them to Him. The hymn writer makes this point crystal clear:

"I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God,
He bears them all and frees us
From the accursed load.

I bring my guilt to Jesus,
To wash my crimson stains,
White in His blood most precious,
Till not a spot remains."

  Jesus died and paid the price for all our sins. Jesus has promised a great salvation. It is great in its design. God designed His salvation to save sinners, even great sinners. It is great in its accomplishment. When Christ said on the cross, “It is finished.” He accomplished your salvation. It is complete. It is finished. It’s done and paid for. The salvation that Jesus provided is great enough and big enough to save every sinner, big or small, from all their sins. Jesus lived the life you could not live and He died the death you should have died. Therefore, my friend, come to Jesus. Come and find that His love and His grace is big enough and great enough for a sinner like you. O the life Christ lived! So pure, so holy, so perfect! And O the death Christ died! Dying for every sin we ever committed. Dying for our every word, thought or deed that violated the law of His Father. Trust that life and that death. It is the finished work of Christ in His living and dying that saves us from all of our sins, even our big sins. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Root Of Holiness 

Text: I Thessalonians 4:7, “For God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness.”

Over the last 36 years, as I pastored Berean Baptist Church in Grand Blanc, Michigan, I emphasized over and over again a number of principles that are characteristics of holiness in the life of the believer. For those who sat under my ministry during these years you will have heard me emphasize these principles many times. I have personally tried to practice these principles in my daily walk as a Christian. In my last message to Berean during the Bible study hour before our morning worship service on September 30th, 2018 I shared these principles for the final time making one last plea that those, who were hearing my message, would commit themselves to being Christ-like Christians who exemplified these principles in their private and public life. Whenever these principles have been missing in the life of the New Testament Church the cause of Christ has suffered immeasurably. An unholy church is a scandal and a disgrace before the watching world. Only eternity will reveal the damage that has been done to the cause of Christ, not by outward enemies who openly hate the gospel, but by those professing believers who, lurking in the church, bring shame and reproach on the gospel by their personal failures and hypocrisies that are evident in their walk and profession of faith.

I want to examine this subject of the Root Of Holiness. I trust that we can discover what holiness really is and also discover the root of holiness and then be exhorted to strive for personal holiness in our daily lives.

What Is Holiness?

The word for holiness in Hebrew, qadhosh, “holy. In Greek it is  hagios, “holy”. The concept of holiness contains a number of things.

      1. Holiness is being set apart from that which is common or mundane.
      2. Holiness is obeying the laws and will of God.
      3. Holiness is being conformed into the image of Christ. Theologian R.C. Sproul made this observation regarding being conformed into the image of Christ:

“To be conformed to Jesus, we must first begin to think as Jesus did. We need the "mind of Christ." We need to value the things He values and despise the things He despises. We need to have the same priorities He has. We need to consider weighty the things He considers weighty.” 

      1. Holiness is being God like in our attitude and actions.

J. C. Ryle said holiness is: “Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.”  

What Is The Root Of Holiness?

Anything that lives in the dirt of the earth that has been planted has roots. Trees, Plants of any kind, The crops that grow in our fields, etc. Roots draw forth from the ground the water, nutrients and minerals that are necessary for the life of any living thing.

Jesus is our root. From our spiritual union and connection to Jesus we draw from Him the spiritual power to live the Christian life. John 15:5, “I am the vine ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me the same bringeth forth much fruit for without Me ye can do nothing.” 

      By our mystical union with Christ we have the secret of our holiness and the secret of our power. Thomas Watson speaking of holiness said: “There is a great deal of difference between a stake in the hedge and a tree in the garden. A stake rots and moulders, but a tree, having life in it, abides and flourishes. When godliness has taken root in the soul, it abides to eternity; ‘His seed remaineth in him’ (I John 3:9). Godliness being engraved in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as with the point of a diamond, can never be erased.
The Godly Man's Picture, pg. 14.

The question we must all ask of ourselves is this, “Do we have a root of holiness in our lives? Do we live what we profess? Do we have any spiritual connection to Jesus that gives us the life giving power of His presence that enables us to produce spiritual fruit in our lives? Do we have an inner longing for holiness and conformity Christ? 

If we have a root of hotness, ie. A connection to the Vine, a mystical union with Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we will produce the fruits of holiness. Here are the fruits of holiness:

John 13:34-35

    • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
    • Love is the distinguishing mark or sign of the true Christian.

Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” 

    • Christians are to forgive others just as God has forgiven them.
    • Refusal to forgive is an indication of an unregenerate heart.

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

    • God’s children are to be mercy showers just as they have received mercy from the Lord.
    • Being merciful is to be like God.
    • No one can claim to be a Christian if mercy is misisng in their life.

Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” 

    • God’s children are peacemakers.
    • Far too. often those in the church want to fight, argue, dispute and stir up trouble. 

Matthew 5:38-42, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 

    • This is the principal of the Extra-Mile.
    • It was not uncommon in biblical times for Roman soldiers to compel citizens to carry a pack or a load for a Roman soldier.
    • Jesus says we are to go the extra mile, or to give the shirt off our back so to speak. The world cannot understand this aspect of Christian character. The Christian life is a life of miracles as we are changed into the image of Jesus.

Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…

    • Enemies are those who usually are non-Christians. They have a tendency to hate Christians and to desire to do them ill.
    • We are told to love our enemies.
    • How much more should we love and be gracious, kind, and patient to those who are in the household of faith? 
    • How terribly contradictory is the life of one who claims to be the reciprient of God's love who himself shows little of that same love to others.

Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” 

John 8:7, “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." 

Romans 14:20, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.” 

James 4:11, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” 

Luke 9:23, “Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” 

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,  longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…”

How easy it is to:

    • Take offense at something / or take up the offense of someone else.
    • Criticize and complain
    • Sow discord
    • Judge others
    • Be unforgiving
    • Be unkind
    • Throw the first stone
    • Demand our rights
    • Justify our ungodly attitudes and actions
    • Lash our in anger
    • Be a trouble maker rather than a peace maker
    • Walk in the flesh
    • Gossip
    • Find joy in hurting others rather than serving others
    • Destroy the work of God over petty and insignificant things
    • Speak evil of another brother or sister
    • To be carnal rather than Christlike
    • To be like ourselves rather than being like Christ
    • To forget we were saved to be holy
    • To love self rather than Christ
    • To refuse to take op our cross
    • To follow the world rather than Christ
    • To disobey rather than to obey
    • Be filled with self pity
    • Be jealous and envious

How Do We Maintain Holiness?

We maintains holiness by abiding in Christ, abiding in the Word of God, being filled with the Spirit, mortifying our flesh, maintaining fellowship with other believers, attending the means of grace, and spending time in prayer. C.H. Spurgeon hits the mark when he explains what makes holiness:

“Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately kind, fixed upright. I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction. Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness, it is no better than the faith of devils, and perhaps it is not even so good as that. A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit.I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to Him. In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful.”

Holiness must be the great longing of our hearts. All true Christians long to be holy. Far too many professing Christians spend too much time judging others without giving proper attention to the holiness in their own lives. A. W. Tozer wisely remarked:

“A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.”

Are you producing the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life? I have given you 13 practical principles of godly living. Do these show up in your life? Puritan minister Thomas Watson described the difference between the godly man and the wicked man. Here are his comments:

 “…the difference between the godly and the wicked. The heart of the godly is a temple; the heart of the wicked is a dunghill, “a cage of unclean birds,” Revelation 18:2. His mind is the devil’s mint; he is continually minting unchaste, impure thoughts; his heart is the anvil where he is daily hammering of sin. He is far from being a temple; he is a Sodom wherein are the heavings and boilings of lust. Proverbs 10:20, “The heart of the wicked is little worth.” A sinner’s heart is a common inn where all who will, may lodge; it is not a temple—but a pest house. He has the plague of the heart. But a godly man’s heart is a sacred temple which God highly values, and which He has promised to dwell in and revive,” Isaiah 57:15. ~ Sermon, The Mystical Temple.