1. This week's sermon constitutes Part One of the two-part study which will conclude our summer series. Were I to give these two messages a single name, I might call them "The Demand for Decision." In truth, however, that title should fit any sermon preached from this pulpit. Unless we come to church each week to be entertained, or just to kill a couple of hours, we should count on being confronted by our Lord with a life-changing decision as the Word is presented and received in the power of the Holy Spirit
Hebrews 4:12-13 [ NIV ]
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing is all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
2. It is safe to assume that every one of us gathered here this morning desires to please God. True, we may be most concerned with doing nothing that might make Him really angry with us, but, in general terms, we wish to live lives that honour Him. For this reason we arrange the activities of our lives -- more or less -- in such a way to conform to His commandments. We do honestly try to obey God most of the time, and certainly in the "important" areas -- the really serious things.
a. Of course, it equally safe to assume that, each week, some folks come and sit in these seats while living lives in absolute rebellion against God. I'm not taking about non-believers; such is to be expected from them. I refer instead to confessing Christians who are actively and openly engaged in deliberate sin and who, having quenched the Holy Spirit's convicting power, brazenly invite the terrible judgment of God for their bold effrontery. Now, before you start looking around the room for that person, understand that, on any given Sunday morning, I may be talking about you! (I am most certainly, all too often, taking about me!)
b. Let us just admit, each of us, that we often come before the presence of the holy, sovereign God of the universe with dirty hands, and that each of us needs to be cleansed of our unrighteousness by that same holy, merciful God, who has promised to forgive us purely and completely on the merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. But let us also acknowledge Christ's claim of lordship in our lives, and let us agree that His Word confronts us with our need to change, our calling to be made more and ever more conformed to the "fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ."
3. In acknowledging God's Demand for Decision from us, we must first remember that a genuine, spiritual change in one's life does not begin with religious activity. In last week's study our Lord declared that the acts of almsgiving, prayer and fasting are without value unless exercised from a pure h __ __ __ __. One's a __ __ __ __ __ __ __ determines the sincerity, the effectiveness, and the eternal quality of one's actions.