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Sermon Central Staff
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
In fact God has created us in such a way so that our very existence hinges upon these two concepts. The Bible bears this out. The heart of God and His Word is centered on relationships and love. The fundamental Law of God is hinged on these two concepts. Jesus expresses this clearly in Matthew 22 as he is questioned by the lawyer asking Him to share what He understood as the greatest commandment. In answering this question Jesus reveals to us that the Divine plan and purpose of God for our lives rests in the fundamental elements of relationships and love. The lawyer asked for the greatest commandment and Jesus gave him the reason for our existence.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you are, but He didn’t stop there. He went on to express that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. While these two statements are profound enough, Jesus, with His next statement revealed the key to our whole existence. Hear what He said, "on these two commandments hang ALL of the Law and the Prophets." The phrase Law and Prophets is a euphemism for the entirety of God’s Word in their time. We understand that to be the Old Testament. In essence Jesus was saying that the very heart of all of God’s teaching rest upon these two commandments.
In order to see the significance of this even more we must think just a moment about the underlying source of these commandments which is the Ten Commandments. In these two statements Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments. When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses we know from His Word that He wrote them on two stone tablets. On one tablet are four laws that deal with out relationship with God. On the other tablet are six laws that deal with our relationship with each other. At the heart of each of these relationships is one key world -- Love. Therefore, the very essence of God’s purpose for our existence is to enter into a personal relationship of true authentic love with Him and to share that Godly love as we develop meaningful relationships with each other. So, my friends what we are discussing today is at the very heart of our reason for existing. Today we are talking about aspect of love in relationships.
The soldier walks 21 steps. On the 21st step he turns and faces the tomb he is guarding. He does this for 21 seconds. The soldier then turns to head back the other direction. He moves his rifle to his outside shoulder away from the tomb. After 21 seconds he walks 21 steps and repeats the process again and again.
Since July 1, 1937 a relatively small number of hand picked soldiers have stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tough duty is not for everyone. Over 80% of the soldiers who tryout for guard duty at the Tomb do not make it. Each soldier must have strong military bearing, discipline, stamina, and present an outstanding soldierly appearance. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honors, and ceremonies. They must retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army, and their unit. They can have no military or civilian convictions for violating the law. They must score a minimum of 250 on the Army Physical Fitness Test. Their height must be within 5’11” – 6’4.” They need a 30-inch waist and be able to present a soldierly appearance in the Army Blue Uniform.
The Tomb Guards make personal sacrifices to have the honor of serving in their special role. They work on a team rotation similar to firemen at a firehouse. Those soldiers who serve well for at least nine months are rewarded with a special badge to wear on their uniforms that acknowledges their service at the Tomb of the Unknowns. If they ever bring shame on the tomb that they guard or otherwise fail in their duty they are stripped of the badge and the honor that goes with it.
From: Michael Otterstatter’s Sermon: Live Your Life Worthy of the LORD!
Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...
I WILL PAY THE FINE
Let's say you where caught speeding down this highway in front of the church. You were doing 100 mph, obviously slightly out of the acceptable speeding window. You go to court and just as the judge is about to throw the book at you, someone steps forward and says, "I will pay the fine. I will take the punishment." And you get off, without paying the fine, without any punishment at all. You have been justified, Made right in the eyes of the law. It doesn't change the fact that you were speeding, but the court sees you as innocent. That is what Christ did for us.
WHY DID JESUS NEED TO BE BAPTIZED?
So why would Jesus need to be baptized by John?
Well... Jesus' baptism by John was the beginning of Jesus' ministry
Mark 1:1 starts out: "The BEGINNING of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" and then Mark starts telling us about Jesus' baptism by John.
In Luke 3:23 we're told of Jesus' baptism by John and then we read: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he BEGAN HIS MINISTRY..."
Obviously, for some reason, Jesus' ministry began with His baptism.
Now, at this point in Jewish history, water baptism served one of 3 purposes.
1st, there was the Baptism Of Repentance.
This was what John the Baptist's was preaching.
But of course Jesus didn't need to repent because He hadn't sinned.
The 2nd kind of baptism was for people who desired to convert to Judaism.
It was a Baptism Of Conversion.
If you were a Gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism, they baptized you in water.
ILLUS: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explained that: "The Jews were accustomed to say of a heathen proselyte, on his public admission into the Jewish faith BY BAPTISM, that he was a new-born child."
So, baptism was used when someone wanted to convert to Judaism. But Jesus had no need to convert to Judaism. He already was one. He'd been born a Jew.
So baptism in those days could be for repentance or conversion... and Jesus did not need to be baptized for those reasons. So, for what OTHER reason would a person be baptized in water back then???
Well, the only other people who experienced baptism - in the Jewish faith in that day were priests. The Law dictated that especially the High Priest was to "washed with water." And the Temple had pools set aside for just that purpose.
In Leviticus 8:6 we're told that - by the instruction of God -- "Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water."
Then, later, during that ceremony Moses "poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him." Leviticus 8:12
This act INITIATED Aaron's ministry as High Priest. When Aaron and his sons were washed with water and anointed with oil, they BEGAN their priesthood and were empowered to make sacrifices and to handle holy things as God's representatives.
At that point (their baptism) God put His mark of approval on the ministry of Aaron and his sons.
The Bible tells us that Jesus' ministry began with His baptism by John.
After His baptism, the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit as it descended on Him in form of a dove. And the Father put His mark of approval on Jesus by loudly declaring:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17
This was the beginning of Jesus' ministry as our High Priest.
Did you realize Jesus was our High Priest?
Indeed He is!
Hebrews 4:14: "...we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."
From the day of His baptism by John at the Jordan until His death on the Cross, Jesus (as our High Priest) prepared the ultimate sacrifice for our sins... His own body.
A SPECIAL OCCASION
If you are waiting for a special house guest or a special occasion to use something you cherish in your house, consider the following following article by Ann Wells that appeared several years ago in the Los Angeles Times:
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie."
He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, guess this is the occasion."
He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician.
His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.
I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event--such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I'm guessing--I'll never know.
It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited, angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with--someday. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write--one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them.
I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that the day is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ...a gift from God.
Life is a precious gift from God, and he wants us to get the most out of it. Jesus came to give us life "to the full and abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, he came so that we would live our lives abundantly-full of purpose, meaning, and joy.
What are you waiting for? If it's a special occasion or a "someday,"--- keep in mind that it may never come.
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...
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)
Don’t divorce your unsaved husband or wife. Why? Paul gives this reason: The believer may have a positive, spiritual influence on their unbelieving mate. The unbeliever may get saved due to the believing spouse’s example and lifestyle. 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” I think this is what Peter had in mind as well when he wrote these instructions in 1 Peter 3: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
I think a perfect illustration of this is in the life of my in-laws—Harold and Dorothy Wills. When they got married, mom was a believer and dad was an unbeliever. And dad was content to stay married to mom so they never even considered divorce. Now, Dorothy was careful not to nag Harold with the gospel. She simply prayed for him, answered his questions about the Lord when he asked, and endeavored to live the Christian life in front of him. Finally, in 1987, after 48 years of marriage, at the age of 75, Harold Wills accepted the Lord as his Savior. And I’m convinced that my father-in-law is in heaven today because of the patient, faithful witness of his wife, Dorothy.
So let me encourage you. If you are married to an unbeliever and he or she is content to remain married to you, then don’t divorce. Share the gospel with your unsaved spouses. But don’t nag them with it. Rather, pray for them. And live an exemplary Christian life in front of them. Who knows? Maybe your example will eventually lead them to Christ.