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WHEN TO SAVE A DROWNING MAN
Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river.
On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man.
Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.
After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.
Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us when we yield to Him. When you see the struggle that is a sign that you’re sensitive to sin and that is where God can help you.
(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Monster Inside - Saying No To Yourself, 2/1/2011)
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."
It is October 14th, and the sun is reflecting mirages of water on an Air Force base runway in southern Florida. The silence of the scene is interrupted as a long-winged plane touches down on the runway and taxies to the hanger. A thousand planes a day go through this same routine, but this one plane’s payload is different from all the others. Its payload is just a few rolls of film, but the information on that film will shape the events of the world. It will shift the balance of power in the world. The film is transported to a top-secret laboratory and developed. It is sent to the Pentagon and then to the Oval Office in the White House.
The date is 1962, and a young president, John F. Kennedy, just 44 years old, sits at the desk. The decision he makes moves the armies of the most powerful nation in the world. The crisis he faces is one of immense proportions.
The photos taken were from a U2 reconnaissance aircraft. One picture in particular revealed that the Soviets had placed medium-range missile silos in Cuba. These missiles were capable of reaching strategic targets throughout the United States.
The risk of world conflict hadn’t reached this level since WW2, and it involved the two greatest superpowers in the world. The president moved decisively, ordering Premier Khrushchev to halt all further deliveries of weapons and to immediately dismantle the missile sites.
A broadcast to the American people let us know the gravity of the situation. The president said, "This secret, swift, extraordinary buildup of communist weapons is a deliberate and unjustifiable challenge to our national security, and it will not be accepted.
America braced for what was to come. President Kennedy ordered an immediate naval and air blockade of Cuba.
Premier Khrushchev decided he would test this young president’s fabric. He would challenge this nation’s resolve. He would confront the standard of our convictions. The Soviet ships sailed on toward Cuba.
The world held its breath in nervous anticipation as hours crept by and ships grew closer and closer to one another.
As kids we played a little game. We called it ’chicken’. You want to see who is going to flinch when challenged. In national politics, you call it ’brinkmanship.’ Brinkmanship is the willingness to expose oneself to risk, to press the limits of safety for a cause. It is the walking of the tightrope of disaster.
The Soviets were going to press the boundary, walk the line, and see just how much they could get away with.
The Soviet ships were 100 yards away from our American ships. Our Navy was on full battle alert with orders to stop the Russians at all costs.
Some of you recall those moments as people were glued to the radios and TV’s to see who would flinch, who would fire, or what the world would look like in this latest age of nuclear war.
With just feet to spare, at the brink of disaster and destruction, the Soviets turned.
This incident in world history has a living parallel in our daily lives. Many are involved in a dangerous game of spiritual brinkmanship. We walk the very boundary of sin in our lifestyle. Balancing precariously, we move toward the cliff’s edge. Dangling our toes over the abyss, we tempt the fall. We struggle with bad habits that become self-destructive patterns. At the same time, we are saying, "Oh, don’t worry about me’ it’s okay, I’m a Christian."
Garth Wehrfritz- Hanson
The words “It is finished” are also a cry of victory in the sense that Jesus completed, he accomplished what God had sent him in this world to do. In this sense, it is like the athlete who enters a marathon race with the single-minded intention of both reaching the finishing line and coming in first. It is like the student finally reaching the goal after years of study comes graduation and a degree. It is like the author or artist, who after years of research and struggle finally complete their masterpiece, their most significant and enduring work. It is like undergoing major surgery and recuperating completely. For John the words of Jesus, “It is finished,” are the epitome of Christ’s life and m...
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There is an old story about a man in China who was walking on a rain slick road. He lost his footing & fell into a ditch filled with mud. He kept sinking deeper & deeper in the mud. The more he struggled to get out of the ditch, the deeper he sank.
As he was sinking in the mud Buddha came by. Buddha looked at him & said, "My what a predicament you are in. Here is a paper that tells you ten ways to get out of ditches." The man started reading & he tried all ten ways to get out of the ditch, only to discover that the harder he tried the deeper he sank.
Then Confucius came along & looked at him, & said, "You are in a terrible condition, but I have good news for you. If you’ll take 5 steps toward me, I’ll take 5 steps down to meet you, & then together we will walk out of the ditch."
But the man said, "I couldn’t even take the 5 steps. The more I struggled the deeper I sank in the mud."
Then Jesus came by. Jesus looked at him, took off His crown & His royal robes, & got down in the ditch with him & He pushed him until his feet were on solid ground once again.
"From sinking sand He lifted me. With tender hands He lifted me. From shades of night to plains of light. Oh praise His name, He lifted me." That is what love means. It means that Jesus Christ has lifted us out of the muck & the mire of our sin, & He has put our feet on solid ground.
Roger Simms, hitchhiking his way home, would never forget the date—May 7. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sigh to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?” “Sure am,” Roger responded. “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there. My name is Hanover.” After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fiftyish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, “Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger’s astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.” Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. “You knew my husband?” Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me when that was?” “It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day?” Roger hesitated. Should he mention giving his witness? Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge. “Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.” Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “And,” said Roger, “Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?” “He’s dead,” she wept, struggling with words. “He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see—I thought God had not kept His promise.” Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, “I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!”
Why Christians Sin, J. Kirk Johnston, Discovery House, 1992, pp. 39-41
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As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sister’s head. I didn’t realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldn’t see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didn’t stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My mom’s actions showed that her concern for my sister’s health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to “consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.”
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. You’re battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of God’s abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. You’ve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. You’ve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. You’ve washed your feet many times. You’ve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. You’ve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But you’ve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you don’t come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You can’t do anything to earn His favor, and you can’t bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You can’t get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.
Once we were in bondage Satan and sin. But Jesus set us free.
A story told by Paul Lee Tan illustrates the meaning of redemption. He said that when A.J. Gordon was pastor of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, "Son, where did you get those birds?" The boy replied, "I trapped them out in the field." "What are you going to do with them?" "I’m going to play with them, and then I guess 'll just feed them to an old cat we have at home." When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, "Mister, you don't want them, they're just little old wild birds and can't sing very well." Gordon replied, "I'll give you $2 for the cage and the birds." "Okay, it's a deal, but you're making a bad bargain."
The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.
The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ's coming to seek and to save the lost paying for them with His own precious blood. "Th...
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Just how bad is it out there? And what really are we up against? Well, let me share with you some of the information I gleaned from 17 pages of fairly up to date statistics. [SLIDE 4] I learned first of all that sex is the #1 topic searched on the internet. Now I wasn’t really surprised to learn that---but the number of pornographic sites did surprise me. [SLIDE 5] I found that in 1998 there were 14 million pornographic websites. Five years later that number had grown to 260 million. The next year that number jumped from 260 to 372 million. If that rate of growth continues through the end of this year---when 2007 comes to an end there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 million pornographic websites out there. And we’ve got a whole generation coming up---many to be married soon who have been gathering strange, unholy and unhealthy ideas about sex from the net---incredibly sad is that the [SLIDE 6] largest consumers of internet pornography are young people in the 12-17 year age bracket. [SLIDE 7] Folks 2.5 BILLION pornographic emails are sent everyday over the web. And while many people operate under the assumption that porn is a guy problem---the truth is [SLIDE 8] there are growing numbers of both men and women who are becoming addicted to internet porn. I don’t know about you [SLIDE 9] but it makes me wonder ---what’s next?
Besides the internet sexual immorality is being promoted via the adult movie industry. [SLIDE 10] Here in America we’re producing 11,000 new porn films every year and Americans are renting 800 million adult videos & DVDs annually. [SLIDE 11] HALF of all hotel guests watch pornographic movies. [SLIDE 12] And PORN accounts for 70% of the in-room revenue raised by hotels. ARE YOU BEGINNING TO GET THE PICTURE? [SLIDE 13] Cable networks provide pay per view services for those who don’t feel like they have to sneak off to a hotel to watch adult programming. [SLIDE 14] It wasn’t all that long ago that MTV launched a new channel---the LOGO channel which has been designed to appeal to and promote the homosexual lifestyle. [SLIDE 15] And in America the number of couples cohabitating went from about ½ million in 1960 to over 5 million by the year 2000. I’m not sure what that number is today. By the way I’ve got to say this about cohabitating---besides the fact it’s a sin---society has sold us a totally lame idea. Here’s what I’m talking about [SLIDE 16] in our culture people often speak of cohabitating---that is living together before marriage—in terms of a test drive. They say ---well now you wouldn’t go out and buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, would you? So doesn’t it just make sense to have a trial run before you commit to marriage?” [SLIDE 17] Now the idea of taking the relationship for a test run sounds pretty good when you think in terms of being the driver…but that’s where the analogy breaks down. [SLIDE 18] The idea of the test drive doesn’t sound so good when you think of yourself as the car. Get real. Cars don’t have feelings. They don’t have a soul---so if you take them back after a test spin---they feel nothing. But dumping people because you decided to look for a different model—that’s a whole different matter.
And while we’ve talked touched on the topics or internet pornography, the adult movie industry, homosexuality and cohabitation--- there’s so much more going on--- [SLIDE 19] there’s printed porn---STDs/AIDS…900 numbers…adult bookstores, strip joints, night clubs, prostitution and on and on we could go. But let me tell you what really concerns me most in all of this---it’s the indifference of so many Christians---the lack of voices speaking out against this tidal wave of immorality---even worse than the lack of voices are those voices of agreement. Believe it or not---[SLIDE 20] studies show that half of the people in our nation who call themselves Christians don’t see a problem with couples living together. [SLIDE 21] 39% think there’s nothing wrong with sexual fantasizing. [SLIDE 22] Incredibly more than 1/3 of today’s church going women have intentionally visited pornographic websites. [SLIDE 23] And get this ½ of church going men struggle with pornography.
And here in this seventh commandment, [SLIDE 24] the commandment where God says “You shall not commit adultery” is a clear call for God’s people in every generation to maintain sexual purity.
“Comeback Kid!” Romans 4:19-25 Key verse(s) 25:“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
Combacks are the things of movies and dreams! Few things cause more instant satisfaction than a comeback. People who overpower a disability or disease–teams that come from behind and triumph–a boxer down in fourteen rounds that pulls a fifteenth round knockout–the politician behind in the polls who pulls out a victory. All of these scenarios represent comebacks that inspire and give us hope that someday we too might overcome a looming obstacle in our own lives. But above these feats there has always been a type of comeback that has impressed me even more than these–the verbal comeback.
Getting behind in a conversation, buried in someone else’s logic and cool reasoning is a maddening thing. You go into the situation confident and come out battered, embarrassed and bested. Although it is a humbling experience, it is also a maddening one to most of us. We long for just that right word, the perfect thought, to pull into the argument and then, when given the opportunity to insert it, we fail because “we just didn’t think of it at the time.” Emotions high, reason, judgement, and thought are pushed aside for the moment. There simply isn’t room when our emotions boil over. We stutter, back-track, even become belligerent in our hopelessness. Then, when all is finished, our logic foiled and the foe strutting away in victory, we think of what we should have said; the comeback that would have fit so perfectly and won the day. Can there be anything more maddening than this?
I have long admired the man who could stay cool and collected when faced with an argument that hit him squarely in the jaw; the type of man who just wouldn’t blink when the situation called for blinking. I remember hearing the story of a young man who had aspirations of become the ambassador to China under President Woodrow Wilson. He was young for the job and had not served in such a high post before. He wrote letter after letter to Wilson describing his qualifications and promoting his abilities. Finally Wilson enlisted his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, for assistance. He asked Bryan to set up an interview with the young man and put “the situation in order.” Bryan set up the interview at the state department and when the young man arrived, he was ushered to Bryan’s austere yet impressively large office. Not known for his shyness or lack of preparation, Bryan greeted the young man and immediately commenced a one-sided dialogue describing the “utter importance” of the office, interjecting how it was perhaps foolish to take on such a burden without the proper credentials and background. The young man seemed to listen intently to each word Bryan spoke. He took notes throughout and then, when it seemed that the one-sided argument was working, the young man looked Bryan squarely in the eyes and indicated that he had was yet convinced the job was just right for him. Bordering on frustration but still in control, Bryan changed his tactic to a more practical bent. He pushed back his chair, smiled and then leaned forward. “You know young man, in order to receive this appointment and succeed in the position there is one thing that “we” don’t have. “‘We’ don’t speak Chinese, do we?” Unperturbed, the young man smiled and moved his face closer to Bryan and whispered. “I don’t know. Try me. Ask me something in Chinese!”
What a great comeback! Although the young man did not get the job he certainly earned Bryan’s admiration. He went on to serve admirably in the State Department under Bryan. His “comeback” was perfectly conceived and exquisitely timed. But, of all the “Rocky’s” of this life we have known, read about or observed, there is one who excelled far beyond all the rest. That was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sin lay at our doorstep. The situation was dire. Without a savior we would be consumed by it. Then, from out of nowhere a man appears. He pushes himself between the sin and us and faces off with it. It lunges for him and the fight begins. The struggle is terrific. In fact there has never been another like it before or since. In the end, sin has its way and casts him down. He lays wretched and defeated as he sadly lays within the grave. Where is our Savior we cry? How could such a battle be fought and evil triumph over good? But wait, there is movement there. It may be the fifteenth and final round but there is still hope. He arises now stronger than ever and grabs sin by the throat and throttles it all the while delivering the perfect physical and verbal blows to the foe. Jesus Christ, our hero has won the day. It looked bad for the moment but could there ever have been any doubt? His Father had prepared Him for this day and there would be no denying it. Even the terrible burden of a world of sin was no match for the Son of Righteousness, the eternal “comeback” kid. His comeback, our victory!