Summary: • Belief is both subjective and objective. It’s subjective when you believe it. It’s objective when someone else doesn’t, and . . .their objective is your silence.

Let’s imagine dialogue between Abraham and God. “Abraham, this is God speaking. I want you to leave everything and go to the land I will show you.” “Where’s that?” “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.” “Try me.” “It’s 1500 miles from here in a place called Canaan.” “Never heard of it.” “I know, and guess what else?” “What?” “I’m going to make you the father of a great nation.” “That’s impossible. I don’t have any children.” “Don’t worry.” “What do you mean, don’t worry?” “Just trust me.” “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You want me to leave everything, travel across the desert to someplace I’ve never heard of, and become the father of a great nation.” “Right.” “Is this some kind of joke?” “No.” “What am I supposed to tell my wife?” “That’s your problem.”

Hebrews 11:8 puts it this way: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (from Sermon Central, thanks to Ray Pritchard)

• Belief is both subjective and objective. It’s subjective when you believe it. It’s objective when someone else doesn’t, and . . .their objective is your silence.

In the ancient world, there were all manner of Greek and Roman gods and philosophies one could believe in, not to mention Celtic, Germanic, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian. Greek Epicureanism, for instance, was a common philosophy that promoted the pursuit of pleasure as the wisest use of a man’s life. Stoicism, on the other hand, promoted abstinence from pleasure. There were many others as well; mystery religions full of secrets; and pagan worship full of some really bizarre idols and imaginings. It was a virtual smorgus board of gods! There were all kinds of things one could believe in . . . just like today.

There’s six points that many polls and surveys have found characteristic of Americans today.

#1: there is a God; but is God “the Creator” or “the created?”

#2: Jesus is God’s Son . . . but then, aren’t we all?

#3: The Holy Spirit is Alive & Well. But then they’ll add, “What is the Spirit, anyway.”

#4: The Bible is the Word of God; we consider it holy; we place our right hand on it make pledges; we even quote from it . . . when convenient; but we argue constantly if it’s trustworthy or just a collection of philosophies.

#5: The church belongs to God; even if we experience it in imperfect ways.

#6… THIS is where people tend to call others all sorts of names if you actually tell them this: …that Salvation is found in Jesus Christ… alone! I’ve even found this to be a sticky point with some faithful church goers. I’ve been called intolerant, close-minded, backwards, old-fashioned, un-enlightened, bigoted, etc!!!! Just imagine the gall! How dare you suggest that there is only ONE way to Heaven. Maybe you’ve experienced it also.

We’re drowning in choices today. All kinds of religions… from Christianity to Islam to Taoism! All kinds of philosophies from Humanism to Scientology. We’re told that it doesn’t matter what you believe. We’re told that, “We’re all on the same journey. We’re just taking different paths, right?”

That’s what our world wants us to believe. But what Peter told that panel of religious leaders in Acts 4:12 has never been more true: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

This great statement comes in the midst of a wonderful story in Acts. Peter and John had been continuing the ministry of Christ . . . teaching the good news and healing the sick. In chapter 3, they came across a man crippled from birth.

Scripture says, “Taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him . . . they recognized him . . . and they were filled with wonder . . . and came running to (Peter and John) in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.”

Peter knew a good opportunity when he saw it, and so he started preaching to the crowd in vs. 12. But all this preaching got them into trouble, and they were thrown into prison. While I’m sure that didn’t make Peter very happy, I’m also sure that it didn’t surprise him a lot.

• Preaching God’s Truth has never been very popular in this world.

When Jesus described his own mission in Luke 19:10, he said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

In case you didn’t know it, this was heretical teaching to the Jewish leaders! Who did Jesus think he was that HE, Jesus, could save anyone? It’s only God who can save! And furthermore, He couldn’t be God’s Messiah! The Messiah was supposed to come and restore Israel’s power and might … not die on a cross! The logic was simple. They were righteous keepers of the Law. The only “saving” they needed was from the Romans, and Jesus didn’t offer that! So how could he be the Messiah? Indeed, what did it mean that Jesus brought “salvation” . . . particularly when no one was asking for it?

What is it “to be saved?”

The famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “While you feel you can save yourselves, you will attempt it; but when you can do no more, then you will fall into the arms of your Savior; and what a blessed fall that will be!”

• Salvation is only found when we reach the end of our rope. So long as we think our good deeds will save us, then we’ve missed the whole meaning of the cross, and we don’t even realize we need saving.

Ardie and I saw a church billboard Friday with a message you’ve probably seen before: “One cross plus three nails equals four-given.” That’s the message of salvation, and there’s no other religion that agrees with it.

“To be saved” is a term that Christians like to use often, maybe without realizing that there might be people who don’t understand what it means. Sometimes we take it for granted that everybody wants “to be saved.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There are many who love this world so much so that they actually don’t want salvation. In fact, they can get terribly offended if you even offer it.

For those who react like that, things are usually going along pretty well. They have good jobs. They’re paying the bills, raising the kids, taking vacations at Pismo Beach, and all the while they never feel a burden to be saved. And then there are some who already feel convicted of their sins, but they’re resisting it and angry that you remind them. After all, what’s there to be saved from? Now, you tell me Satan doesn’t love that!

Our wealth & prosperity and our ethic of self-reliance has blinded us to the fact that we’re lost and in need of a Savior! 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Oh my, how little things have changed.

The truth of the matter is, however, whether they realize it or not, they’re lost! Wasn’t that the message of Romans? We’re all lost, and we can’t save ourselves! Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” But what God offers instead is life, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourselves, “Has Terry gone completely Baptist on us?” The answer is, No, but I am setting the stage for a paradigm shift.

In the past, the Presbyterian Church USA has seen its mission work as principally to be an extension of God’s mercy through the relief of poverty and oppression. And these are truly blessed endeavors, but in our efforts to relieve suffering in this world, we often loose sight of our greatest purpose . . . to relieve people’s suffering in the NEXT world!

In a “Call to Missions” issued by our Evangelist Presbyter, Clark Cowden, he reminded us of this, “Our missional work in the past has predominantly focused on the physical, worldly needs of people. This is an admirable goal, but it was not the prime directive of the Great Commission. A people are not ultimately changed by better jobs, but by a change in their spiritual lives. We must be feeding them with food, both of this world and the eternal life that is their ultimate destination.”

I suspect that more people realize they’re in trouble than they let on. It does seem that everybody agrees something’s not right. They’re just not sure what. Some people call it dysfunction, some bad karma or psychic voids; some attribute their problems to oppression or social ills; some even turn to radical and even violent teachings that paint the world in black and white because it’s easier to understand. I believe that most people intuitively know, however, that something is very wrong with this world, and they also intuitively know that to correct it, one must begin with one’s self. But how?

There’s everything out there in the supermarket of ideas to help remedy most situations. We get sick, and go to the doctor. We’re too fat—go to Weight Watchers. We drink too much – alcoholics anonymous. If we’re affected by depression—there’s counselors and a plethora of magic pills. But the one thing that the world never tells you is,

• Our real problem . . . our real disease is SIN.

SIN is one of those 3-letter words that’s not politically correct to talk about today. The fact is, however, without salvation from sin, all our mission efforts will be for nothing. We’re more at home talking about diseases and mental illness than we are in talking about “the heart of sin.”

There are two types of sin we need to consider:

• One is personal sins. These are the sins that you and I commit ourselves on a sometimes daily basis. The English word “sin” is a translation of the Greek, “hamartia”. It means to “miss the mark”. There’s plenty of times, I admit, that I sure “miss the mark”! I suspect most of us know the experience. It’s these sins for which we need forgiveness.

• But perhaps even more profound is corporate sin. This is the sin that is so much a part of our world that we hardly notice it. It’s this sin that Paul says “entered into the world through the one man” when Adam took that fruit. And by the way, I read that the real problem in Eden wasn’t the “apple in the tree.” The real problem was the “pair on the ground.”

Nevertheless, corporate sin is what clouds our judgment, twists our motives and distorts our relationships. It’s this sin that we cannot escape because it affects us all so profoundly. It’s these sins that we’ve allowed to be considered “normal” even though God says otherwise.

A plague was ravaging a tiny village in the outermost bush of a remote African province. A lone missionary, a doctor who had given his life to fighting this particular disease, had gone in with the only cure available. It was made from plants indigenous to the region and could quite easily be reproduced by the villagers.

When he went in, he found that there wasn’t a single person who was free of the disease. They all had it, and they were dying at an alarming rate. Characteristic of the disease was a rash on the back of the neck. All he had to do was treat the rash and the people could be healed, but he couldn’t get any-body to let him give them the medication. Despite the fact that people were dying, nobody realized they were sick. Since everybody had the same markings on their necks, they just assumed it was normal. Nobody realized it was killing them.

Isn’t that the way it is today? We look around at the world and think, “This is normal. This is just the way it is.” Right? And if you dare to say that what others do is wrong, sinful, and will kill them . . . they yell and scream that you’re just being “judgmental!” Meanwhile, they’re dying before your eyes.

• Do you care enough to stand being called, “Judgmental?”

If you think about how most people react to being called “judgmental”, you’d think it’s a four letter word. Yet, unless we have the courage to call sin for what it really is, then we become “guilty by omission.” As Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “a little yeast will leaven the whole loaf.” By our society’s silence, sin flourishes in this nation. It does the same thing to churches when the members never confront it. A sin ignored will soon become the norm, but woe unto those who call it “sin” for they shall be called, “judgmental”!!!

A little boy just came from church and sat on a bench next to an old man who looked upset. The little boy said to the man, "Sir, do you need to get saved?"

The man looked offended and said abruptly, "Now you listen to me, boy. I was a Deacon in this church for over 20 years and an Elder for these last fifteen years." To which the boy replied, "Sir , it don’t matter what you’ve done. Jesus loves you anyway.”

The mission of our church is to help save lives, but saving a physical life now won’t matter much if we’re not also trying to keep them alive forever. As it is written in Ephesians 2:8, “For it’s by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Please join with me in prayer: Heavenly Father, our need for your salvation is great, indeed, but don’t let us stop with just ourselves. Transform us, we pray, into a living church that brings God’s truth, God’s salvation and life into this dying world. To the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.