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Sermon Central Staff
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)
John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave.
A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, "Who were all those men with you there?" Paton knew no men were present--but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.
(Source: Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 18)
Henry Blackaby in "Experiencing God" words it this way:
The crisis of belief
An encounter with God requires faith.
Encounters with God are God-sized.
What you do in response to God's revelation (invitation to the task) reveals what you believe about God.
True faith requires action (page 135).
A Religion Professor named Dr. Christianson taught a required survey of Christianity course at small college. Every freshman was required to take the course regardless of his or her major. Although he tried hard to communicate the gospel, students viewed the class as nothing more than a waste of time.
One particular year Dr. Christianson had a student named Steve. Steve was the Center for the college football team and also a strong Christian who intended on going to Seminary. One day Dr. Christianson had an idea and he asked Steve to stay after class. "How many push ups can you do?" He asked. Steve said, "I do 200 every night." The professor asked Steve if he could do 300. "I have never done 300 before" Steve said, "but I think I can do it." "Good," the professor said, and he proceeded to tell his plan to Steve.
Friday came and Steve got to class early. Dr. Christianson came in with a large box of fluffy, cream filled doughnuts. The class was excited, it was Friday the last class of the day, and they could start their weekend early. Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the row and asked, "Cynthia would you like a donut?" "Yes," she said. Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down out of his desk and counted off ten push ups. Dr. Christianson laid the donut on Cynthia’s desk. Joe was next. He asked Joe the same question and Joe said "yes." Steve did 10 more pushups and the professor laid the doughnut on Joe’s desk. And so it went all the way down the first row and half way down the second until it came to Scott. He was a basketball player and friendly to female companionship. Scott replied to the professor’s question by saying, "I want the doughnut if I can do my own push ups." Dr. Christianson said, "No Steve has to do the pushups." Then Scott said, "Well I don’t want one if I can’t do my own." Dr. Christian turned around and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push ups so Scoot can have a donut he doesn’t want." Scott said, "hey! I said I didn’t want one!" Dr. Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts, Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it." And he put the donut on Scott’s desk.
Steve had begun to slow down a little and sweat had began to form on his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Sternly, Jenny said, "NO!" Then Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve, would you do ten more push ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?" Steve did ten-Jenny got a doughnut.
By now a sense of uneasiness had filled the room. The students were all beginning to say "no." There were uneaten donuts on every desk. Steve was now putting forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each doughnut. A small pool of sweat was on the floor, his face was red, and you could see the sweat soaking through his shirt.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in class, to watch to make sure Steve did the full ten. Dr. Christianson started down the forth row. Students from other classes had came in and were sitting along the side of the room watching on. When the professor saw them he counted and saw that there were now 34 people in the room. He was worried about Steve, "Could he do that many push ups?" Jason, a recent transfer student, didn’t know what was going on and came in to see. The class yelled, "Go away! Don’t come in!" Steve picked up his head and said, "let him come in." Jason was asked and he said "yes." "Steve will you do ten push ups so Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great struggle. Jason, confused, was handed a donut and he sat down. Dr. Christianson then finished the fourth row and began on the visitors. Steves arms were shaking uncontrolably with each push up. By this time sweat was pouring off of his face and arms. The very last two students were cheerleaders. "Linda, do you want a donut?" Linda cried and said, "no thank you." Professor turned to Steve, "Steve would you do ten push ups so Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push ups for Linda. The last girl was Susan. "Susan would you like a donut?" Susan was full of tears and did n...
To “love your neighbor as yourself” is best described in Matthew 7:12 - "Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” In other words to love God supremely and to love other people purely is the Bible in a nutshell. It is the beginning and end of life the way God intended it to be lived.
An example of this kind of love was provided to me this week when I had opportunity to share with someone who spoke of the many times they can give to other people. They said, “When I do that I just feel so wonderful in here” (pointing to his heart). This is a picture of loving your neighbor as yourself – of giving away as much as we would enjoy receiving the gift.
Arthur Pink, a theologian from another generation, talks against those who preach about Jesus as a savior from hell rather than a savior from sin. He explained that there are many who are dangerously deceived by this, because there are many who desire to escape the flames of hell, but have no desire to be delivered from their sins. I believe he is right. So many today think they can love God and still live in their sin. It cannot be done. You have to make a choice. It must be God or your sin. You can’t have both. You can’t love both. You have to die to your sin in order to come alive to God. Jesus stated an important kingdom principle with these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL
John Wesley: "There is no [conflict] at all between the law and the gospel; that there is no need for the law to pass away, in order to the establishing of the gospel. Indeed neither of them supersedes the other, but they agree perfectly well together. Yea, the very same words, considered in different respects, are parts both of the law and of the gospel. If they are considered as commandments, they are parts of the law: if as promises, of the gospel. Thus, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,' when considered as a commandment, is a branch of the law; when regarded as a promise, is an essential part of the gospel; -- the gospel being no other than the commands of the law proposed by way of promises. Accordingly poverty of spirit, purity of heart, and whatever else is enjoined in the holy law of God, are no other, when viewed in a gospel light, than so many great and precious promises. There is, therefore, the closest connection that can be conceived between the law and the gospel. On the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to the gospel; on the other, the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbor, to be meek, humble, or holy. We feel that we are not sufficient for these things; yea, that 'with man this is impossible:' But we see a promise of God, to give us that love, and to make us humble, meek, and holy: We lay hold of this gospel, of these glad tidings; it is done unto us according to our faith; and 'the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,' through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn’t end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright’s prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
John MacArthur states this about our text and the Bible:
"Now let me make it as clear as I can to you. The Old Testament is not a collection of the wisdom of ancient men. The Old Testament is not a collection of the best of religious thinking. The Old Testament is not a collection of the good musings of godly people. The Old Testament is the Word of God. It's not the thinking of any men, good men, godly men or ancient men in and of themselves. It is the word of God. And the writer of Hebrews says God spoke...God spoke. The Old Testament was God speaking to the fathers by means of the prophets. In these last days since the coming of Christ, He has spoken again. And He has spoken in the Son. The gospels record God speaking through His Son--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The book of Acts, God speaking through the extension of the proclamation of the message of His son. The epistles, God speaking through the deep and profound understanding of the meaning of the life and ministry of the Son. And even Revelation, the consummation when the Son comes back in glory, the consummation of God's communication to this world."
Sermon Central Staff
COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE SOVEREIGN WILL OF GOD
I want to tell you a story about my friend, Jim Pence. Jim is an author who has written several books. But his first novel was titled "Blind Sight" and was published by Tyndale a number of years ago. Jim wrote this book, but he really didn't think it was all that of a success. Many writers write their first book and it's a springboard to others. It's a great book, but it wasn't his favorite work.
But for some reason, he wrote this book. Recently Jim emailed this story to me about his book:
"This past spring, two young men broke into Terry C's home before dawn. They shot him and killed his wife, and then went upstairs and murdered the couple's two young sons. They then set fire to the house and left the family for dead. Although he had been shot five times, Terry escaped through the bathroom window and crawled three hundred yards to a neighbor's. To make matters worse his daughter was implicated in the crime. Overnight, Terry lost his entire family.
"A few months later, Terry went back to his property. The remains of the house had been bulldozed and little was left. Torn with grief, and unable to understand why God had taken his family and allowed him to survive, Terry cried out to God, "Why did you take my family? Why didn't you take me, too? I don't understand."
"As he stood there, Terry noticed a scrap of paper stuck to the trunk of a nearby tree. He went over and picked it up. The paper was part of a page from my novel, "Blind Sight." The edges of the page were scorched and it was difficult to read. But the words were like a direct message from God:
"'I couldn't understand why You would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. And I guess I still don't totally understand that part of it. But I do believe that You're sovereign; You're in control...and I know that You've brought Justine and those children into my life. And they need me. Lord, You could have taken my life that day, but You spared it. And You've gone on sparing it. It doesn't matter what happens to me now, but if I can help them, please let me do it.'
"Those paragraphs turned Terry's life around. He found the strength to go on and is now sharing his testimony in churches around the country. When he speaks, he brings the page from my novel, now preserved in a frame, and shows it to the congregation.
"Not only had the house burned, but the site had been bulldozed and the debris hauled off. What little was left had been exposed to the weather for months. And out of a nearly 400 page book, all that remained was a brief passage where a man who had lost his family came to grips with the Sovereignty of God and decided to move forward.
That scrap of paper lay there against a tree trunk as if waiting for Terry C: a man who had lost his family and desperately needed to come to grips with the Sovereign goodness of God.
(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, Joseph, The Unsung Hero of Christmas - Message Two -- 2008, 2/17/2011)