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ďPassing Through The Shadows!Ē 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 Key verse(s): 26:ďĎFor whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lordís death until he comesí.Ē
ďSmile and the world smiles with you! Cry and you cry alone.Ē Walking through life with a smile on our faces is something to hope for, isnít it? Life it far too short to be all gloom and sadness. Like the old song says, if you smile you draw crowds. When you cry you draw isolation and loneliness.
From an early age on we are taught not be be gloomy. Thereís something about being around a person who is sad that simply repels us. Most of us will resort to nothing less than our best efforts to either avoid the gloom or change it somehow. Recently I returned home from a long day at the office dragging pretty much everything that I had encountered that day behind me. As I slipped in through the garage door into the entry way, so slipped in the meeting that had not gone well, the invoice that turned out to be more than I had planned, and the angry telephone call I had taken. Plop, they landed on the floor right beside my briefcase. Somehow I knew they were still there because even when I tried to refocus my thoughts on home and family, all I could think of was the office. I guess it was pretty evident on my face as I walked into the kitchen, shuffling across the floor in my slippers, mostly looking past my children and wife. They could see it written all over my face. ďHad a bad day, huh?Ē ďYeah, the worst!Ē And I plunged into a lengthy dissertation on the woes of the day; moving back and forth between diatribe and regret. They had had a great day but now, as they listened to my woes, somehow their days had not been as good as they had thought. In fact, it wasnít long before they were able to match woe for woe with the ďking of woesĒ. My sorrow had magically become their sorrow. My sorrow like a drop of black ink in water slowly spread its inky murk throughout their clear and sunny day. ďGloom and doom, meet happy and promising!Ē Like that bothersome gab that grabs your hand and makes it serve as a sort of freeway for their emotions, gloom and doom simply wonít let go until they have poured themselves into you completely.
Carry our sorrow and laying it on others is not a very good idea. Yet, how can one be happy all the time? Isnít there ever a place for sorrow, at least to balance out the brilliance of the light from time to time? In northern Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lies a narrow strip of land where the sun shines every day! Clouds gather so seldom over the valley that one can say, ďIt almost never rains here!Ē Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east. Each noon it shines brightly overhead, and every evening it brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen rising high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks hand their gray curtains far over the sea, Old Sol continues to shed his warming rays upon this ďfavoredĒ and protected strip of territory. One might imagine this area to be an earthly paradise, but is far from that! It is a sterile and desolate wilderness! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.
We often long for total sunshine and continuous joy in life, and we desire to avoid the heartache that bring tears to our eyes. Like that sunny, unfertile part of Chile, however, life without clouds and even an occasional downpour would not be productive or challenging. But though showers do come, they will also end, and the sun will shine again. ďWeeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.Ē (Psalm 30:5). (Our Daily Bread.)
Total sunshine in life? Letís face it. That is never going to happen. In fact, there will always be a proper place for sorrow in life. Iím not talking about the impertinent spreading of your own personal gloom on people. Nobody needs that. No, Iím talking about the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and forgiveness of sins. When Jesus passed the cup to his disciples and broke the bread between his fingers at that last communing supper together, His soul was filled with a kind of sorrow that was truly appropriate and necessary for the moment. His soul was, as Martin Luther put it, ďempty, single, and hungryĒ. His soul was prepared for the task ahead and He was demonstrating to His disciples how that sorrow could and would turn into joy. But first it must pass through the shadows and dwell in the darkness of sin. Here the soul must weep and by that invisible cleansing be able to behold more clearly the land of sweet light and happiness that awaits it if only it can endure the sorrow for but a short time longer. Yes, there is a time for sorrow when we rightly park our joy and walk some distance away from the light toward the shadowland where we find the source of that nagging that is constantly beating upon the doors of our souls. Here we too shall find the emptiness that makes preparation for being filled.
WHAT DOES "ALL" MEAN?
I know people who are carrying around a load of guilt over the past and they're loaded down with this extra weight God doesn't want them to have.
I remember a lady in my church in Wiesbaden I'll call Jill. Jill had rebelled against her parents, had been on drugs, had had three abortions, had cheated on her previous husband resulting in their divorce, and before they had gotten saved had cheated on the husband she was now married to then. She was carrying a lot of guilt, and though she was now saved, she felt she had to atone for her past somehow by works and deeds for God. We all should work for God, but our motive should be to serve Him out of love, not out of guilt.
One day her husband asked me over to talk to her and him because they were having a lot of marital strife. I did and she told me about this awful load of guilt for past sins she was carrying around which had produced a lot of tension in her life that spread to her family.
We looked at scripture after scripture about God's forgiveness of our sins. But she just couldn't seem to feel forgiveness for her abortions. It wasn't until I quoted over and over to her 1 John 1:7, "...and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from ALL sin." I said, "Jill, what does the word 'ALL' mean?" Suddenly the light of God's Word broke through and the tears of joy flowed, and her life was forever transformed. She learned how to serve out of joy and love, not out of guilt and shame.
If you're carrying a load of guilt, claim 1 John 1:9 and ask forgiveness of the Lord and if you've offended any person, go and make it right. Then you can experience the joy of forgiveness and peace and drop your burden! But never take up the burden of yesterday again, for it will just weigh you down from doing your duties today.
SIMPLE CONFESSION, PROFOUND FORGIVENESS
In 1818 one out of six women who had children died of something called "childbirth fever." A doctorís daily routine back then started in the dissecting room, where he performed autopsies, and from there he made his rounds to examine expectant mothers. No one even thought to wash his hands...at least not until a doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis began to practice strict hand washing. He was the very first doctor to associate a lack of hand washing with the huge fatality rate. Dr. Semmelweis only lost one in fifty, yet his colleagues laughed at him. Once he said, "Childbirth fever is caused by decomposed material conveyed to a wound...I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proven all that Iíve said. But while we talk, talk, talk, women are dying.. Iím not asking for anything world shaking, only that you wash your hands." Yet virtually no one believed him.
And Jesus is not asking anything earth shaking from us. John writes, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We only need to confess our sins, to regularly wash our souls before God. Itís essential. The failure to confess our sins will result in spiritual infection that will hinder our ability in the spiritual journey.
SOURCE: Timothy Peck. Citation: I John 1:9. http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/
THE CHANGE YOU OWE TO JESUS
John Wesley was a popular evangelist in early America and often rode from one church to another to preach. On one such journey, stopped by a highwayman who shouted, "Halt, your money or your life."
Wesley got down from his horse, emptied his pockets to reveal only a handful of coins. He even invited the robber to search his saddlebags - which only carried his books. In disgust, the thief was turning away when John Wesley cried "Stop, I have something more to give you."
Puzzled, the robber turned back. Wesley then leaned towards him and said "My friend, you may live to regret this sort of life in which you are engaged. If you ever do, I beseech you to remember this: íThe blood of Jesus Christ, Godís son, cleanses us from all sin.í"
The robber hurried silently away, but Wesley got back on his horse & rode on his way praying in his heart that the word might be fixed in the robberís conscience.
Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service, a stranger stepped forward and earnestly begged to speak with John Wesley. Wesley recognized him as the robbe...
Iím Sarah, Iím sixteen;
Last night I failed.
I prayed for more strength,
So why did I yield?
He said he loved me,
Brought me flowers and all;
Then he took me upstairs
And caused me to fall.
I feel so ashamed,
So dirty inside.
Heís taken my heart;
Now I want to go hide.
I let down my parents,
And they trusted me so.
Can God forgive me?
I need to know.
If I had it to do
All over again,
I think I would run
To a close, loving friend.
The pain hurts so bad;
I want you to know,
So you wonít give in.
Youíll know when to go!
Yes, God can forgive!
It says it right here;
Jesus died for my sins,
So I never need fear.
My past is all cleansed;
Iím whiter than snow.
Yet my sin is still sin;
Consequences donít go.
Today I start over,
My purity new!
Iím Godís little girl,
Straight through and through!
Abstain - yes, I must!
By Godís grace and power,
Iíll stay close to Him,
Hour by hour.
Hiding His Word
Deep in my heart;
When faced with temptation,
Next time Iíll be smart.
I know from now on
Iím determined to wait;
God has a man
Designed as my mate.
When that time comes,
And I know heís the one;
The day Iíll be married -
Now thatíll be fun!
But until then,
To the Lord will I cling;
At just the right time,
My husband, Heíll bring.
Iím trusting Him now
With all of my soul.
The Lord holds my future;
Thatís all I must know!
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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 sisterís head. I didnít 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 couldnít 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 didnít 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 momís actions showed that her concern for my sisterís 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 ďconsider themselves, lest they also be tempted.Ē
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. Youíre 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 Godís abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. Youíve 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. Youíve 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. Youíve washed your feet many times. Youíve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. Youíve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But youíve 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 donít 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 canít do anything to earn His favor, and you canít bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You canít 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.
REGULAR WASHING PAYS OFF The sign at a drive-in carwash said: REGULAR WASHING PAYS OFF. Itís not only a message to auto owners, itís also a reminder of an important spiritual lesson. Just as cars require periodic washings to remove harmful dirt and grime, so Christians need continual cleansing to keep their lives bright and useful.
Steve Bouman tells the story We began to find our power as a congregation in New Jersey as a matter of being a place where you can go when thereís no where else to go. When you invite the poor and the homeless, they do come such as Edgar. He is by anybodyís standards a strange character. He lives alone in the nearby welfare motel better known for drug addicts and prostitutes than for the righteous. For some reason, he adopted our church and there are times when he pushed our understanding of what we mean when we say that all Godís children are welcome. I mean he would sit in front of me in the first pew and if he didnít like what I was saying in the sermon, heíd kind of laugh, "Ho, ho, ho! You donít mean that, do you?" And Iíd have to tell him, "Edgar, chill out!" He was rough around the edges. Some of the social graces had been rubbed raw from years of trying to survive in an inhospitable world. To those who do not know him, he can be kind of scary. On occasion, he got loud and demanding and if the truth be told, my heart sank on Palm Sunday when he was waiting in the sanctuary for me after a full day of sermons, and pastoral duties. I know that when heís waiting for me he wants something--a ride, some of my time--and heíll often complain about this and that. And this is my confession to you. I was the first son in the parable. Okay, Lord, but I didnít want to go. I wanted to go home. But by the grace of God, I became the second son. On the drive to his motel, he talked my ear off and I prayed for patience. Yet something strange and wonderful began to happen as I pulled into the parking lot of the rundown motor inn by the George Washington Bridge. A door opened and an elderly woman emerged. She knocked on another door and another elderly woman emerged. They limped toward our car. Others waiting at the edges of the parking lot followed. They had been waiting for us. I was in someone elseís church now. For the first time I noticed that Edgar Lee Hillís hands grasped a bunch of palm fronds which he had gathered at in our Palm Sunday service that morning.. He had promised them that he would bring them palms from our service, tangible evidence of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Well, mothers and their children, addicts, prostitutes, the mentally ill, those who came to the temple after Jesus cleansed it, gathered around the car. The first lady was by the door. Soon the car was surrounded. I looked at Edgar. Jesus said to them, "Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you for they believed in Him." I looked at Edgar. This man was the only one who has ever passed for a pa...
In my "Readerís Digest - Jesus and His Times" (copy write 1987 - from which much of this information is derived), there is a picture of a "Mikvah" that has been discovered in Masada (the ancient fortress built by Herod which held off the Romans for so long after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). Mikvahís were used to immerse things and people to cleanse them of sinful influence.
The Essenes, for example washed daily in their pools to cleanse themselves from sin. Worshippers immersed themselves for ceremonial cleansing before entering upon the Temple Mount. There were mikvahís for the priests including two reserved for the High Priest.
Private homes had these "mikvahs" as well and they would use them for (among other things) cleansing the dirt from items purchased from Gentiles - items such as dishes and tables (Mark 7:4).
So, when John came baptizing for repentance, people had long since grown used to the idea of baptism being associated with cleansing.
In Eastern lands, people used public baths and got dressed again; as they walked in the dusty streets, their feet became dirty. On arriving home, they did not need another bath; they needed only to wash their feet. When the Jewish priests were ordained, they were washed all over (Ex. 29:4), which pictures our once-for-all cleansing; but God also provided the laver (Ex. 30:17Ė21) for them to use in the daily washing of their hands and feet.
Application: So it is with the believer. When we are saved, we are washed all over. Paul put it this way, ď[God] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our SaviorĒ (Titus 3:5Ė6). At Baptism, we were thoroughly washed and robed in Christís righteousness. When we confess our daily sins to the Lord, we have our feet washed and our ďwalkĒ is cleansed. Christís Spirit washes His church with Baptismal water through the Word (Eph. 5:25Ė26). As we daily read the Word and confess our sins, the Spirit cleanses our souls and guides us. It is this daily cleansing of the Spirit that keeps the believer in communion with Christ.