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A number of years ago, Dr. Waltke, a seminary professor, & three pastors, one of which was Charles Swindol toured the mother church of the First Church of Christ Scientist in downtown Boston. The four were unknown to the elderly lady who was going to give them a tour. They didn’t tell her who they were, at least not at first. She showed them several interesting things on the main floor. When they got to the pipe organ she began to talk about their doctrine & especially their belief about no judgment in the life beyond. Dr. Waltke waited for just the right moment & then very casually asked: "But, Ma’am, doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, ’It is appointed unto man once to die & after that, the judgment?" The scholar could have quoted Hebrews 9:27 in the Greek, but he was so gracious & tactful. Swindol confessed he was thinking, "Go for it Bruce. Now we’ve got her where we want her!" Without a pause, the lady simply ask, "Would you like to see the second floor?" Dr. Waltke said, "We surely would, thank you." She smiled, somewhat relieved, & started to lead the men up a flight of stairs. Swindol recalled he couldn’t believe it. He was thinking, "No, don’t let her get away. Make her answer your question!" He pulled on the scholar’s arm & said in a low voice, "Hey, why didn’t you nail the lady? Why didn’t you press the point & not let her get away until she answered?" Swindol said he replied, "But, Chuck, that wouldn’t have been fair. That wouldn’t have been very loving, either- now would it?" Swindol said, "Wham, the quiet rebuke left me reeling. I shall never forget that moment. And to complete the story, you’ll be interested to know that in less than 20 minutes he was sitting with the woman alone, gently speaking to her about the Lord Jesus Christ. She sat in rapt attention. He, the gracious servant, had won a hearing by being kind.
PUTTING THE DOG IN DOGMA
The pit bull, as you may know, is bred to be a fighter. But what you may not know is what they were originally bred to fight with. The pit bull is a actually a mutt that made good -- having terrier and mastiff breeds in its line. From the mastiff side of the tree, they are descended from bulldogs, which in pre-industrial England were farm dogs. You know what they were used for? To protect the farmer from the bull when he was trying feed, castrate or breed him. If the bull turned to gore the farmer the bull dog would subdue the bull "by biting the bull on the nose and holding on until the bull submitted. Because of the nature of their job, bulldogs were bred to have powerful, muscular bodies, and the resolve to hold onto a violently-struggling bull, even when injured."
That's the sort of picture that Paul is drawing for Timothy here with words like "keep," "guard," and "entrust." Timothy, grab hold of this Gospel, this doctrine, this dogma and do not let go no matter how violently life shakes. Latch on to it as if your life and the life of those you shepherd depend on it; like a bulldog protecting the farmer from the bull. Put the dog in dogma, Timothy.
Sermon Central Staff
ATHANASIUS CONTENDS FOR THE DEITY OF CHRIST
If Jesus is something less than God, he has no right and no power to forgive our sins. If Jesus can’t forgive our sins, we have no hope.
Yes, the doctrine of the deity of Christ is worth contending for. And there is nobody God used more to contend for this biblical truth than Athanasius.
Athanasius was born in the year 298AD in Egypt. In his early twenties he was a deacon in the church in Alexandria (North Africa). During that time, the doctrine of the deity of Christ came under attack by a highly influential pastor named Arius. Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, that he had a beginning, and there was a time when Jesus was not. Therefore, according to Arius, Jesus is the son of God, but not God the son. His heresy was later known as the Arian heresy (named after Arius). It sparked a flame throughout the empire, that would dominate the church for 60 years. It was a 20 year old young man by the name of Athanasius, 40 years younger than Arius, that God would use to contend for the doctrine of the deity of Christ (good word to 20 year olds here today, you don’t need to wait to have a huge impact in the kingdom. God can use you now).
Athanasius would endure decades of persecution, banished from the church, sent into exile five times, framed for murder, threatened with death, slandered by emperors and bishops, all for standing firm to the doctrine of the deity of Christ. In the end he prevailed, truth was preserved, and the church has stood on his shoulders ever since.
(From a sermon by Mark Connelly, The Deity of Christ, 8/24/2011)
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
Augustine, while puzzling over the doctrine of the Trinity, was walking along the beach one day when he observed a young boy with a bucket, running back and forth to pour water into a little hole. Augustine asked, "What are you doing?" The boy replied, "I’m trying to put the ocean into this hole." The Augustine realized that he had been trying to put an infinite God into his finite mind.
Michael Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, 1993, p. 389.
*Bob Russell shared that several months before they moved into their new church building in 1998, their ministry staff met at the new site for a special staff meeting. Most of the building still wasn’t carpeted, and some of the rooms still had no drywall. They handed out hard hats, magic markers, and a few Bibles. They instructed the staff members to go to the classrooms and offices in the building where they would be working and write Scripture verses on the concrete floors. Bob told them, “Someday soon the Scriptures will be covered with carpet. But I hope you will always remember what you have written today. And what we do today will be a visible reminder that we are always to stand on God’s Word.”
*He said the staff really got into it. Some of them used cans of spray paint they had brought so the words would show up better. It bothered him a little because some of them acted as if they had experience at doing that. He said those in the children’s ministry wrote things like, “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In the education wing, the adult education ministers wrote things like, “Study to show yourself approved unto God,” and “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
*In the music practice rooms, the music ministers wrote, “Sing and make music unto the Lord,” and “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” In the offices of the preaching team, they wrote passages like, “Preach the Word in season and out of season,” and “Watch your life and doctrine closely…if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
*He said the Scriptures on the floor idea caught on, and soon hundreds of church members followed suit. In a matter of weeks, there were Scriptures all over the concrete floors – down hallways, on stairways, on the steps leading up to the pulpit. He saw moms and dads bring their children to the building just to write their favorite Scriptures on the concrete floors. They actually considered asking people to stop because they started writing in places they hadn’t planned to cover with carpet! But they decided it wasn’t a good idea to make people quit writing Scriptures.
*He told of one of the small groups that had volunteered to help clean the building one afternoon. As they were preparing to leave, Marty Rice, prayer leader of the group, said, “Why don’t we write down a Scripture reference in one of the rooms before we leave?” So they found a small room that didn’t have any Scriptures yet. Rick Nally, one of the group members, said, “How about the passage where Jesus said, ‘Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you’?” Marty asked what the reference was. “I think it’s Matthew 18:28,” Rick said. Marty stooped and wrote, “Matthew 18:28” and the group’s name on the floor in permanent marker. Later that evening at a restaurant, Rick brought in his Bible from the car to double-check the reference. He said, “Oh no. It’s Matthew 18:20, not 18:28.” Someone asked the obvious question: “What’s verse 28 say?” Rick read, “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.”
*Russell said, “I suppose if you are ever in our building and, while standing in certain classroom, suddenly have the urge to choke someone, you’ll know why!”
*But aside from that the building became a dramatic reminder to all of them that the church has been called to stand upon the Word of God.
There is a doctrine that is becoming popular that teaches that a Christian can reach a point in their lives where sin no longer has an effect on them. They cease to sin. Of course this totally goes against the Word of God. Hopefully, as we grow and mature as Christians sin has less of a hold on us, and we better able to resist temptation. But as long as we are in the flesh in this world of sin, we will wrestle with sinful desires and sin.
SING TO THE CHILDREN
A tradition that Evelyn Knowles has chosen for posterity is to sing to her babies. The very first time she held each of her newborn grandchildren cheek to cheek and heart to heart, they heard their grandmother softly sing-- Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Why? Because she wanted to be certain that they would never remember a time when they hadn't known Jesus.
Growing up in church, Evelyn learned all the songs in the book. In her family of 10, singing church songs was second nature. Sitting on the front porch, riding in the car, or doing dishes "assembly line" style, would more often than not find them bursting into song. Hymns meant little more than an excuse to sing as a child, but how they instructed in adulthood.
Soon Ok Lee grew up in North Korea and devoted herself to its communist party, only to be “rewarded” with 6 years of brutal, inhumane prison life. When she was released and escaped to South Korea, she was aided by a kind, Christian gentleman. She heard him sing songs that were somehow familiar to her, and was puzzled that she knew these songs well enough to sing along. One of those songs was “Amazing Grace.” These hymns were certainly not sung in godless North Korea!
Ah, but a faint and long forgotten memory was triggered—a memory of her own mother singing these very songs when she was a tiny child. So tiny, in fact, that she hadn’t realized they were hymns. But gospel seed had been planted in her wee heart—her mother’s secret way of teaching little Soon Ok Lee of God’s love. Secret, because under their North Korean government, children were taken away from parents who taught them the Bi...
In a sermon several weeks ago I referred to a man I couldn’t reach. John was ex-Navy, a heavy drinker and a violent man. He was very personable when you first met him; when he drank enough beer the demons took over. I must confess that, until I met John I always thought people were born with a good nature, and, if they wound-up on the wrong side of things, had just somehow made a wrong turn. John taught me better.
John had married Rosemary only a few months before I met him; it was his fourth time at the marriage license bureau – her second. A few weeks after Rosemary joined our church, John came down the aisle also. We baptized him and it seemed they would escape the divorce statistic hanging over multiple marriages. Rosemary thought she could get John to quit drinking; she was wrong. It seems I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t reach John.
The crisis came less than a month after John’s baptism. The honeymoon had ended and John began drinking again. One night, late, Rosemary showed up at the parsonage door. She was bruised and scared. Elizabeth and I took her in, and I went to see John the next day. When I drove up to their front yard I was greeted by a strange sight. John had stuck empty beer cans on the end of every branch of the small orange tree in front of their trailer. The sign at the bottom of the tree read: This is for you, preacher man.
John was very drunk but still somewhat coherent…and very loud. He greeted me at the front door and invited me in. I only asked, John, how can I help? John talked angrily for the next twenty minutes. Finally, he looked at me with a hatred that wasn’t his own and said, I’m going to make a minister out of you.
Later that day Rosemary asked if we would accompany her to the trailer to get her clothes. We drove up and I went in first. He was calm and seemed reasonably sobered. He agreed to let Rosemary come in and get her belongings. When she came in he immediately began to threaten her. At one point he went to get his pistol. I urged Rosemary to forget her clothes and leave; it was a bad idea to come back. She was determined to get her clothing. When she went to the closet, John re-entered the room waving a pistol – a very BIG pistol! (I must say it looked a lot bigger from the wrong end of the barrel). After several tense moments John allowed us to return to the car where Elizabeth was waiting.
Several months later we got a letter from Rosemary thanking us for our help, and saying that she had settled in another state. Not long after that we heard about John – on the evening news. He had threatened people outside a K-Mart store with his pistol, and when the police showed up he committed suicide. A painfully tortured mind and life came to a wasted end.
Was John saved? I don’t know; I am not equipped to judge that. He made a profession of faith and was baptized, but his behavior never changed. That leads me to an opinion he never really believed – never really trusted Christ. It is only an opinion – God knows the real truth. Beyond opinion, however, it is true beyond any doubt that saved people have a Savior; John’s savior, what he really seemed to trust-in was Budweiser.
Now the point of John’s story, a painful reminder of my own failure, is that we cannot save ourselves – and, without Jesus, I’m just the same as John. Many people would say that the only difference is that alcohol made John do the things he did; John’s problem was alcohol, not sin. The alcohol only loosened-up John’s inhibitions to do those things which were already on the inside. The reality is we all have those things on the inside; the doctrine of total depravity teaches us that! Every human being on the face of this planet who has ever lived was/is capable of doing whatever horrific deed you can dream up. This is why we need a Savior.
FALSE TEACHING: SINLESSNESS
The Apostle John wrote:
"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
Now I want to digress for a moment and address a false teaching that has arisen out of this issue. Some have taken passages like this, which say we don't have to sin, and have come up with the false doctrine known as "perfectionism".
"Perfectionism" is the false teaching that says Christians can reach a point of ultimate and unchanging sinlessness. From that point on in their lives they NEVER sin.
I know of at least one denomination that has made this a central teaching of their churches. And I know of at least 3 or 4 of our brotherhood's preachers who've taught this.
It ain't true.
It never was true.
It's built on a false understanding of Scripture.
It's a very appealing doctrine, but it can't stand up to real life application.
ILLUS: One of my preacher friends who taught this false doctrine invited me out to eat with him years ago. Now, I was there to eat. He was there to talk doctrine. But I knew I was in for a long theological debate when he asked me "Jeff do you believe that you can ever be sinless?"
Of course I knew what he was asking. And I knew WHY he was asking it. He wanted to enlist me in his cause.
I just wanted to eat.
I didn't want to get into an argument at the dinner table.
So I cut to the chase.
"Well Fred (his name wasn't Fred by the way) have you reached that point of sinlessness in your life?"
He thought about that for a moment and then quietly said "No, I haven't reached that point in my life."
"Well, Fred, do you know anyone else who's reached that point of sinlessness in THEIR lives?"
Again he gave it some thought and finally said "No" he didn't know of anyone who was sinless either.
"Well, I tell you what Fred, when you find someone who's reached that point in their lives, you come talk to me again about this and we'll discuss it."
That ended the discussion... and allowed me to finish my meal.
My friend was being honest with me.
A pure life where a person NEVER sins is a pipe dream.
No one manages it, and those who do drive themselves to distraction because they can't attain it.
But now, if we can't attain total sinlessness, if we can't reach a point in our lives when we never sin again... what did John mean by saying:
"I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
Well, John meant that our aim in life should be to avoid sinning.
ILLUS: I have often had conversations with people who want to be baptized into Christ, but they're afraid that after becoming Christians, they'll mess up and sin again and it will all be for naught. This is a real stumbling block for many people.
Years ago, I came up with a way of helping people to understand what Christianity is all about. I say, "here's the deal. The more you walk with Jesus, the less you're going to sin."
And I ask them if they've ever skated? (yes, they'll say)
Did they ever "fall down"? (yeah a lot)
If they skated again today, would the fall down as much as they did to begin with? (no)
Then I talk about professional ice skaters.
Do they ever fall down?
Well, yeah, but a whole lot less than you or I would if we tried those stunts.
Why don't they fall down as much as we do?
Because they've spent more time on their skates than we have.
In fact, they've spent so much time on their skates that's it's almost like walking for them. But they still fall down -- once in a while.
John tells us he wrote his letter so we wouldn't sin.
The more we walk with Jesus in His light the less we're going to fall into dark behaviors.
But if we do sin... we have an advocate with the Father -- Jesus
You see, all this starts when we become Christians.
Paul writes in Romans 6:
"...don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- BECAUSE ANYONE WHO HAS DIED HAS BEEN FREED FROM SIN. Romans 6:3-7