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C. S. Lewis, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
THE HEART IN SCRIPTURE
Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as "the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity," "the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will," and "the center of a person. The place to which God turns."
(Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 13 — 10,000 Sermon Illustrations)
Sermon Central Staff
WHO SAVED ME?
During a terrible storm at sea that threatened every moment to carry the ship to the bottom, one of the ship’s crew was doing something on the deck when a great sea struck the ship and went fairly over the deck, striking this man with great force, disabling him and carrying him into the mad waters.
Although he was a good swimmer, he was so disabled that he could only keep above water. They saw him lifting up his imploring hands through the white foam, signifying his desire for help. But the Captain said, "Don’t lower a boat, for no small boat can live in this sea, in this terrific storm. We cannot save the man. The most we can do is to save the ship."
The vessel was bearing farther and farther from the helpless man. Once more they saw his imploring hands come up among the white caps further off, which moved all hearts that witnessed it. Still the Captain said a small boat must not be lowered, as it could not live a moment among these wild billows.
But one man who was an expert swimmer, was so moved by the imploring signals of the drowning man, that he threw off his loose garments, saying: "I will save that man, or die with him."
So plunging into the surging deep, he struggled so bravely with the mad waters, that he reached the poor man just as his strength had gone; he had given up and was filling with water, and sinking down unconscious. He grasped him, and strange to tell, he brought him so near the ship that a small boat was lowered, and both men were taken up and laid down upon the deck. The one that had been swept overboard, entirely unconscious and his deliverer nearly so. Appliances were used and both were brought to consciousness.
As soon as the rescued man opened his eyes and found he was not in the ocean, his first words were: "Who saved me?"
He was pointed to his deliverer still lying on the deck in his wet clothes. He crept to his deliverer, and putting his arms around his feet, and in the most tender and heart moving tone of voice cried out: "I’m your servant, I’m your servant." He felt that he could never do enough for him.
Let me ask all who read this incident, would you not put your arms about the bleeding feet of your great Deliverer and say from a full heart: "Jesus, I’m your servant, I’m your servant. Ask anything of me, Jesus, and I will do it the best I can."
(From a sermon by Jimmy Haile, My Father’s Business, 9/29/2011)
THE MOST IMPORTANT FREEDOM
Patrick Henry was a famous statesman and orator of colonial Virginia. In 1764 he was elected to the House of Burgesses where he became a champion of the frontier people, supporting their rights against the arrogant exercise of power by the aristocracy.
In 1774 he was a delegate to the First Continental Congress. In 1775, before the Virginia Provincial Convention, which was deeply divided between those who supported England and those who desired freedom, he uttered his most famous words, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
During the Revolutionary War he became commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces, a member of the Second Continental Congress, helped draw up the first constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and was largely responsible for drawing up the ammendments to our Constitution known as the Bill of Rights.
He became Virginia’s first governor, and was re-elected four times. Then he retired from public life, but despite his strong objections the people went ahead and re-elected him Governor for the 5th time. But he meant what he said, so he refused to take the office.
He was offered a seat in the U.S. Senate, and posts as ambassador to Spain and to France. President George Washington asked him to join his cabinet and become Secretary of State, and later wanted to appoint him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But he refused all such honors and recognitions.
Listen to these words from him: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians - not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Chris...
1 Thessalonians 4:13-4:18
TONY EVANS ON GETTING UN-STUCK
Tony Evans, a popular black preacher from down in Texas, spoke of being on an elevator in a high-rise building. He said he’d never been particularly comfortable on such elevators. There was something about riding up and down in a little box several hundred feet off the ground that has never sat well with him. He worried that something would go wrong.
One day it did. The car he was riding in got stuck in between floors way up in the higher floors. He noted that some of the people in the car became frantic. They began to beat on the door hoping to get someone’s attention. Others began to yell in the hopes that their voices would get someone on the surrounding floors to come to the aid. But nobody heard their noise or their cries.
Then Evans quietly made his way to the front of the car, opened a little door in the wall and pulled out a telephone. Immediately he was connected with someone on the outside. He didn’t need to beat on the wall to get their attention. He didn’t need to speak loudly in the phone to receive their help. He could have whispered and they would have heard him.
Evans said that - in this world, we’re going to get "stuck" in places we aren’t comfortable with. Some people begin to beat against the walls, others cry out in dismay. But the person who trusts in the power of confident prayer knows there’s someone on the other end who hears their call and comes to their aid.
Hebrews 10:19ff tells us that we now can have "boldness" (KJV) to enter into very presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. We can think this way only because Jesus has opened the way for us to approach God’s throne and earnestly ask whatever we desire according to His Will.
SUSAN BOYLE: BEAUTY ON THE INSIDE
When Susan Boyle stepped out on the stage of "Britain’s Got Talent," people laughed at her...like the scoffers in this Psalm. They made fun of her because her outward appearance wasn’t the glitz and glamour they’d come to expect. Members of the audience could be seen rolling their eyes.
But when she began to sing, her voice was like that of the angels. People’s initial attitudes about her were changed. She had an amazing voice that was perfection to their ears. The rolling eyes changed to looks of shock at the incredible talent this woman had to offer.
The resounding applause proved she had what it took to be a star.
But her talent was on the inside.
God looks at what we’re all about; by what’s on the inside.
God doesn’t care if we have lustrous hair that shines or dingy grey, or no hair at all. God loves us just the way we are.
God doesn’t care if our eye lashes are long and full of volume.
God loves us just the way we are.
God doesn’t care if we own a limousine and driver to go with it or if we walk to church or take the bus.
God loves us just the way we are with the resources we have on the inside. And our biggest resource is our heart. It’s a heart that has a right relationship with God. It’s a heart that desires to live by God’s standards, not human beings. That is where true happiness is found.
It’s no secret formula that comes in a bottle or that you have to purchase in an exclusive limited time TV offer. No! The price has already been paid for you to be in a right relationship with God. Jesus Christ paid the price...with His life...for you! Amen!
TO WHOEVER FINDS THIS...I LOVE YOU
Several years ago there was a girl in an orphanage. She was unattractive and had mannerisms that were not very attractive either, and so she was disliked and shunned by the other children and was not liked by her teachers. The head of the institution looked for a reason to send her off to some other place.
One afternoon the opportunity came. She was suspected of writing unapproved, illicit notes to someone outside the institution. One of the little girls had just reported, "I saw her write a note and hide it on a tree near the stone wall."
The superintendent hurried to the tree and found the note. He then passed it silently to his assistant. The note read, "To whoever finds this, I love you."
In essence, someone else also wrote a note and put it on a tree outside a city wall at another place a long time ago. Of him, too, it was written "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men" Isaiah 53:2, 3, NIV.
They sought to get rid of Jesus. They took him out to Calvary’s hill where they crucified him. They nailed him to a tree. But when men get there, they find a note on that tree that reads, "To whoever finds this, I love you."
Bill Hybels tells about an interesting experience after a baptism service in their church. He writes: “I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful. I asked her if she was all right. She said, ‘No, I’m struggling.’ She said, ‘My mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason I’m crying is because I came this close to giving up on her. At the 5-year mark I said, “Who needs this? God isn’t listening.” At the 10-year mark I said, “Why am I wasting my breath?” At the 15-year mark I said, “This is absurd.” At the 19-year mark I said, “I’m just a fool.” But I just kept trying, kept praying. Even with weak faith I kept praying. Then she gave here life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again.”
Sometimes when we pray and pray we feel like we are experiencing the law of diminished returns — so we stop praying. We correspon...
THE HUMMINGBIRD AND THE VULTURE
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over the desert. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colourful blossoms of desert plants.
The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. And they fill themselves with freshness and life.
Point is - Each bird finds what it is looking for. And so do we all!
Heaven, an Inheritance
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.
In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."
The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.
Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."
When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)
Will you receive Christ today?