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THE GRADUAL ROAD TO HELL
In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, we read the story of an older demon counseling a younger demon. At one point in the book, we read these words:
"You will say that these are very small sins, and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the Light.… Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
(From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Perspective: The Destructive Power of Sin, 8/14/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
THE AUTHORITY OF THE BELIEVER
In Santa Cruz there's a strip called Pacific Avenue, and there's a number of bars. And I remember walking down Pacific Avenue, and it was getting a little rowdy. And there was two or three very burly guys in kinda tight T-shirts that looked like they could kill you, and were very tall, very large. And if they weren't on steroids, then they were pumping a lot of iron and doing all kinda other stuff. And they looked like -- boy, I would not mess with these guys. And there was a bouncer there who was trying to get things under control, and they were drunk and they were getting pretty, really out of control, and so they called the police.
And so I just happened to be walking by, and these things were happening, and a police car pulls up, and I'm thinking -- you know, I'm human -- "I'd like to watch this and see what happens, you know?"
So I kinda get over here like this and, you know, see how this is gonna play out. And -- so help me -- door opens and, ladies, I don't mean this is in any, like, sexist way at all. But, you know, this guy's trying to handle these big, burly guys. The door closes and about a 4'11" police officer who's a female steps out. And I'm thinking to myself, "If I was the guy trying to get these big, burly drunk guys under control," I was, like, hoping for, like, a 6'5" weightlifting police officer, not a 4'11" woman.
And so I thought, "I'm gonna kinda watch how this whole thing plays out," and I could've not been more wrong, 'cause, you know, the issue is not your size or your strength. The issue is your authority and your power. Watch this carefully. I watched this happen.
This very confident 4'11" officer walks out. "Gentlemen, do we have a problem here?"
"No, we're good here. Get outta here."
"Excuse me" -- and she had this badge on right here -- "I'm authorized by Santa Cruz County to enforce the law. I'd like both of you to know that -- understand right now -- over against the car. Do you understand?" And they both started to balk a little bit, and she put her hand on her revolver. It was a .45.
And you know what? I've never seen two big, strong drunk guys get sober so fast, and it was like, "I think she might use it, you know." And pretty soon I get this 4'11" little gal and two guys, you know, like this, and she's going boom, boom, boom, boom, "Spread 'em out."
You know why? She has a badge that has a position of authority that says "I have all right and authority vested in me to exercise that. You must do what I say. And if there's any problem with that, I have some power on my leg that can enforce it immediately."
You are a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Your badge is your position in Christ. And you have on your side the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. And demons must believe and obey and respond to the authority of every child of God who takes the Word of God and shoots the bullets of God to the specific issues. And you don't have to be strong or spiritual or go to seminary or know a whole lot. What you have to do is claim who you are and act on what is true, and they must obey.
(From a sermon by Chip Ingram, How to Do Battle With the Enemy and Win, 6/11/2010)
One of my all-time favorite scenes out of Hollywood. (They are few and far between for me...) It’s a scene from one of the Star Trek TV series. Worf, the Klingon, is captured by the evil Dominion. They intend to use him as a practice dummy in hand-to-hand combat for their lethal ground troops, and so they do. They bring out soldier after soldier to take Worf on and they go at it. It’s never very long before the bad guys get tired of getting beat up, and they "tap out" and quit. So, after Worf’s been taking on all comers for most of the day, they finally bring out their biggest and baddest, the one warrior they know will be able to win. They begin to battle, and Worf is just too weak from the day’s struggles. He is little more than a punching bag for the bad guy to work out on. But Worf will not "tap out" like all the other beaten soldiers. He keeps getting up, no matter how many times he is knocked down, no matter how injured he is. He simply will not quit. It is obvious that this valiant warrior has won the respect and admiration of all the Dominion troops, including the one now beating him up. They all begin to beg him to tap out and quit, but he will not. Finally, out of sheer exhasperation, the warrior who is beating him stops and "taps out" himself. When asked by his enraged commander why he has done this, he says, resigned, "I cannot defeat this man. I can only kill him."
Think about that for a moment. I cannot defeat this man. I can only kill him. I don’t know about you, but my goal is to hear the devil himself say those words about me some day. I will not tap out. How about you?
JUST TO BE NOTICED
Every spring, hundreds of Hollywood “stars” gather for the Academy Awards. Very few “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the stands (who, by the way, all had to apply and go through extensive background checks), showing off their clothing (and undoubtedly a bit more), chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.
Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8, He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9, He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1, a demon possessed man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”, to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!”
Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way.
Until today. Until the e...
People had written him off a long time ago. He was just a crazy lunatic that no one wanted anything to do with. They kept their children away, they kept their wives away and they kept themselves away. He lived like a pig, his body odor was almost unbearable and to make matters worse he ran around with no clothes. The people just wanted to be rid of him and longed for the day when he would be gone so he would just be a bad memory. But today, some 2,000 years later we talk about him. We talk about the demon possessed man who met Jesus. We talk about Jesus’ power over the legion of demons that possessed him. We talk of him finding clothing and sitting at the feet of Jesus. We find him wanting to go with Jesus, wanting to be with Jesus wanting to spend time with the One who had set him free. Yet in Luke 8 we find Jesus telling him, “Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee.” Jesus told this brand new believer to go back home and be His ambassador—His minister of reconciliation! The Scripture says that this is what the man did, “…he went his way, and PUBLISHED throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.”
In the book All God’s Chillun, the author tells us that when his little two and one-half year old daughter was chastised for some little wrong, she used to say, It was not I who did that; that was another little girl in me.
Christian author C.S. Lewis said it best in his book Mere Christianity:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
SOURCE: C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56
In my studies this week I came across these words from a book in my office called, The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey.
As my class in Chicago read the Gospels and watched movies about Jesus’ life, we noticed a striking pattern: the more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus.
PEOPLE – like these found Jesus appealing: a Samaritan social outcast, a militant officer of the tyrant Herod, a quisling tax collector, a recent hostess of 7 demons.
In contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly, a rich young ruler walked away shaking his head, and even the open-minded Nicodemus sought a meeting under the cover of darkness.
I remarked to the class how strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian church now attracts respectable types who closely resemble the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus day? Why don’t sinners like being around us?
I recounted a story told to me by a friend who works with the down and outs in Chicago. A prostitute came to him in wretched sraits, homeless, her health failing, unable to buy food for her 2 year old daughter. Her eyes awash with tears, she confessed that she had been renting out her daughter – 2 years old! – to men.. to support her drug habit. My friend could barely bear hearing the sordid details of her story. He sat in silence not knowing what to say.
At last he asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. “I will never forget the look of pure astonishment that crossed her face,” he later told me. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever gatherer? The...
“Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of front-line forces, and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.” (John Piper, “Let the Nations Be Glad”)
Writing in Moody Monthly, Carl Armerding recounted his experience of watching a wildcat in a zoo. "As I stood there," he said, "an attendant entered the cage through a door on the opposite side. He had nothing in his hands but a broom. Carefully closing the door, he proceeded to sweep the floor of the cage." He observed that the worker had no weapon to ward off an attack by the beast. In fact, when he got to the corner of the cage where the wildcat was lying, he poked the animal with the broom. The wildcat hissed at him and then lay down in another corner of the enclosure. Armerding remarked to the attendant, "You certainly are a brave man." "No, I ain’t brave," he replied as he continued to sweep. "Well, then that cat must be tame." "No," came the reply, "he ain’t tame." "If you aren’t brave and the wildcat isn’t tame, then I can’t understand why he doesn’t attack you." Armerding said the man chuckled, then replied with an air of confidence, "Mister, he’s old--and he ain’t got no teeth."
Well the devil has some teeth, he has some power, but only God is all powerful.