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The Village of Watkins Glen is widely known as a destination point for visitors to the Finger Lakes region who wish to see our local state park, the beautiful southern point of Senecal Lake, our local shops and of course, catch a NASCAR race. If you happen to be in town visiting, or you live in the area and are looking for a small, Bible-based church, please stop by.

We are located at 213 5th Street, across from Lafayette Park. Our service starts at 9:30 a.m.

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Let Us Never Take God for Granted

Jeff Miller

Let Us Never Take God for Granted

Hebrews 12:28-29

11/17/22

Intro: Good morning. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know that we did. And it’s quite often that we sort of rush the Christmas season a little before Thanksgiving, and it seems that some are in the Christmas mood probably around 6 or 8 o’clock on Thanksgiving night. At least I usually am. 

Last week, I talked about year-round Thanksgiving, and being that this is still Thanksgiving weekend, I sort of want to dovetail off of that with a little more about being thankful, and being thankful about something specific, and how that specific thing should cause us to be in a state of somber worship. So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Hebrews 12, and we’ll look at verses 28 and 29. 

As you’re turning there, I referenced something a few weeks ago when I did the sermon titled, “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down,” and I’d like to read it to you again.

This is taken from The Possibility of Prayer by John Starke:

When the Bible seeks to explain God’s holiness, it says that God is a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)—a dangerous and terrible presence. The presence of not just a fire that warms our hands and charms our campsites, but a consuming fire…. When Isaiah encounters this God, he cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost;” (Isaiah 6:5)…Something is coming apart in Isaiah in the presence of God. Yet, at the same time, Isaiah and the seraphim don’t flee the terrible presence. The danger is real, but obviously so is the splendor. So terrifying and attractive, so immense and wonderful is God. 

So today, we are going to talk about this consuming fire, this wonderful presence of God; and what it means to be thankful to this God who is both terrible and wonderful at the same time, and how we should worship him

Scripture: 

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

And you may have that last few words in quotation marks in your Bible. That’s because this is referencing Deuteronomy 4:24 where Moses says to the Israelites, “23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Central Truth: I will get to that reference of a “consuming fire” a little bit more later on, but what are we to make of our scripture as a whole this week? It means that we shouldn’t take God for granted. We shouldn’t think of God as only a loving father, or a benevolent grandfather. God is more than that. He is holy and He is fearful. That’s not something we often talk about, and those out in the world and in more liberal-leaning churches have forgotten about that. But because of this great, powerful, awesome, consuming fire; his love and his unmerited favor (you put the two together and you call it grace) we are to be heirs of His kingdom that will never be shaken. 

In other words, because of God’s grace, we will live eternally as heirs in a kingdom that will never be disturbed or politically unsettled or in any way economically fragile or suffer hardships like drought or famine or earthquakes or defeat; it won’t be a kingdom that will have  good rulers and then be taken over by tyrants. We are heirs to an eternal, victorious, wonderful, perfect kingdom. And we should never take that for granted.

Point 1:  I think the reason why it’s easy to take that for granted is because we really, truly don’t know what it’s like. We don’t really know what it all means. We’re heirs of an eternal kingdom? It almost sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it? 

Why? Well, here we are, living day to day, getting up in the morning, going to work or going to school––going through the mundaneness of life. We experience our ups and downs, our struggles with health and paying the bills and putting food on the table, and ‘oh, the roof is leaking, the car needs to get fixed,’ and we see the better things that certain people have, and it’s easy to compare ourselves to those people who have those things. And we can’t even imagine the things of Heaven and what we are to receive there.

I’ve told you about the magnificence and the jaw-dropping things we saw out west. I saw a post on Facebook just yesterday where someone I knew posted about the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness in Bloomfield, NM. Say that three times fast. 

I had no idea there even was such a thing, and I wish I had a screen here or something to show you. It’s on Atlas Obscura, if you get a chance to take a look at it. The article calls it, “full of geologic eye candy like otherworldly spires, mushroom-shaped hoodoos (not to be confused with witchcraft or the evil eye), and prehistoric fossils.”

WITH ITS MUTED COLORS AND striking geology, this unusual landscape feels like a martian planet. Pale, mushroom-shaped hoodoos loom above the rocky earth like enormous alien trees. Petrified tree stumps and ancient bones speckle the badlands like prehistoric markers of its long-gone inhabitants.

Located in the arid San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico, the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area is located on 6,563 acres of public Bureau of Land Management land. It’s a hidden wonder of weathered rock formations often referred to as hoodoos, tent rocks, fairy chimneys, earth pyramids, or mushrooms.

I had no idea, but that’s pretty cool, right? The things we’re still learning about have always been there. How about this? Have you seen this? Look this one up––the barreleye fish.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Facebook Page:

Their heads are made up of a transparent shield and fluid that protects the fish’s eyes.

Through the transparent dome, you can see their eyes, brain and nerve endings in their head! 

These mysterious creatures are rarely sighted. In fact, in approximately 5600 dives, researchers with the Monterey Bay Aquarium have only spotted these fish 9 times.

They were first discovered in 1939, and live in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and California. And looking further into it, there are a number of deep sea animals that self illuminate. It’s amazing to see, it’s like God gave them natural, digital fiber optics millennia ago.

These are just a few of the amazing things that have always been here, yet the average person has never heard about them until we come across them on the internet. 

So, we know very little about our own planet, we don’t know anything about the splendor of Heaven. It’s too incomprehensible. And of course, it’s easy to get stuck on what’s right in front of us, our everyday humble lives, and so it’s hard to wrap our minds around what it means for us to be heirs of the kingdom of Heaven.

Point 2: So, we have in our Bibles a reminder that “since we are receiving a kingdom…”

And not just any kingdom, but a kingdom, “that cannot be shaken,”

Let’s not take it for granted.

I like what the Asbury Bible Commentary says. It says, “The entire universe will shudder at the call to judgment on that final day. Only by heeding the voice of him now speaking can we stand the sifting judgment of God that will remove the entire created order (v.27). In its place, we are being given an eternal and therefore unshakable kingdom in which to abide in his presence forever (v.28).”

I want to go back to that word, “unshakable.” You know, an angel named Lucifer took that kingdom for granted and tried to shake that kingdom. Somehow, in the splendor of all of it, he didn’t think it was good enough and apparently didn’t think God was doing a good enough job at being God. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks of a king of Babylon, but most theologians believe this is also talking about Satan:

In it, the prophet says this:

12 

How you have fallen from heaven,

    morning star, son of the dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth,

    you who once laid low the nations!

13 

You said in your heart,

    “I will ascend to the heavens;

I will raise my throne

    above the stars of God;

I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,

    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.[a]

14 

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;

    I will make myself like the Most High.”

But the next several verses talk about the end of this King of Babylon, or Satan. 

Did you know that this world that we live in is the world of Satan? Though God still owns this earth, the non-Christian or non-redeemed aspects of this world’s systems belong to Satan. 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan the “god of this world,” in Ephesians 2:2, Paul calls him the “prince of the power of the air” and Jesus describes him as the “ruler of this world.” And this world will crumble and so will he.

Ezekiel 28 is another passage that talks about Satan wanting to take over the kingdom of Heaven, only it references the King of Tyre, and this is where we get a lot of our understanding about the fall of Satan from Heaven. 

I won’t read it all to you, but the idea is, yes, there was a rebellion in Heaven. Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10:18 that he saw (past tense) Satan fall from Heaven.

Gotquestions.org put it this way: 

In referencing Satan’s fall from heaven, Jesus most likely had in mind Isaiah 14:12, “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” The fall of Satan that Jesus saw happened after Lucifer’s sin, before Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. In his pride, Lucifer had lifted himself up, but God had cast him down out of his original place in heaven (although he retains a limited access to heaven for now, according to Job 1:6). Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 speaks of Jesus’ pre-existence and the Lord’s defeat over the power of Satan in a general sense.

So what am I saying here? What I’m saying is, there already was a rebellion in Heaven, and how did that turn out? In the Book of Revelation, chapter 12, we read that somehow Satan ended up convincing a third of Heaven’s angels to go along with him on this rebellion. But in Revelation chapter 20, we find out Satan’s end. God’s kingdom cannot be shaken. In fact, we’re all kind of surprised, aren’t we, that God was so lenient on Satan and his angels then, but he won’t be when it comes time for his ultimate judgment.

And at that time, when we receive our inheritance, we will know that there cannot be anyone or anything that can or even have the ability to try to shake God’s kingdom. Why? Because it’s already been tried, and those of us who endured this earth will know and want the beauty and splendor of what God has to offer us eternally, and so won’t those angels that stayed with God for this long.

And we ironically have Satan to thank for that because we know what it’s like to live in a world of sin, and a life with a sinful nature. And we know what it’s like to have just a taste of God’s glory. And thanks to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we know what it’s like to be free from sin.

So let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably.

Point 3: What does it mean to worship God acceptably? Let’s go back to that Asbury Bible Commentary.

It states:

To receive it [our inheritance, the Kingdom of God], we dare not disregard Christ. Rather, the proper attitude is gratefulness for the opportunity now given us through our High Priest to worship God acceptably. Nor should this opportunity be taken for granted or exercised half-heartedly, for God is ever the God who shook the mountain in thunder and smoke, lightning and quake. Reverence and awe are due him. In the white-hot purity of his holiness every lesser thing shall be consumed as dross is devoured by fire, whether it be spiritless worship or listless service or staunchless faith.

This leads me back to the idea of God being an all-consuming fire in verse 29. This is in reference to what Moses said to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy. 

He said, 

23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

We kind of scratch our heads at the idea of God being jealous, don’t we? Those who are atheists and critics of religion often point this out. Why? Because we often look at jealousy as a bad thing, or at least sometimes an immature thing. But remember, God is perfect, and his jealousy is perfect, holy and warranted.

Gotquestions.org puts it this way:

In both Deuteronomy passages in which God is called a consuming fire, Moses is speaking first to warn the Israelites against idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:23-25) because God is a “jealous God” and will not share His glory with worthless idols. Idolatry provokes Him to a righteous anger which is justified when His holiness is disrespected. In Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses again refers to God as a consuming (or devouring) fire who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. Here again we see God’s wrath against those who oppose Him depicted as fire that utterly consumes and destroys anything in His path.

Going back to the idea of Satan and his ultimate demise again, Gotquestions goes on to say that,

God’s holiness is the reason for His being a consuming fire, and it burns up anything unholy. The holiness of God is that part of His nature that most separates Him from sinful man. Isaiah writes, the godless tremble before Him: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” Isaiah answers this by saying that only the righteous can withstand the consuming fire of God’s wrath against sin, because sin is an offense to God’s holiness. But Isaiah also assures us that no amount of our own righteousness is sufficient (Isaiah 64:6).

When we worship God, we should be, as we talked about last week, thankful for his love, his grace, his provision, and for answering our prayers––all of these wonderful things––but let’s not forget that God is also all-powerful and frightening. 

The same God that made the bunny rabbit also made the Great White shark, and calls his son The Lamb of God and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

I think we’re all familiar with the verse from Proverbs 1:7 that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I cannot for the life of me understand how the mafia can do what they do. Have they no fear of God? Apparently not. 

A.W. Pink who was a Christian author in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries said, Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty, that has had a vision of God’s awful greatness, His ineffable holiness, His perfect righteousness, His irresistible power, His sovereign grace. Does someone say, “But it is only the unsaved, those outside of Christ, who need to fear God”? Then the sufficient answer is that the saved, those who are in Christ, are admonished to work out their own salvation with “fear and trembling.” [There was a time] when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as a “God-fearing man.”  

He went on to say that Godly fear is:  that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, “To this man will I (the Lord) look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). It was this the apostle had in view when he wrote, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (I Pet: 2:17). And nothing will foster this godly fear like a recognition of the Sovereign Majesty of God.

I don’t know about you, but it’s in times of worship where I sense just a small taste of the sovereign majesty of God. As I worship, I find that his love pours in my spirit, his comfort, his assurance, and sometimes a bit of his majesty.

I’ve come into this church and others and have sensed those things as well. There’s a bit of God’s majesty that is combined with his love and his grace that permeates the atmosphere of his sanctuary and in worship.

Conclusion: One time, I gave a sermon on what it means to worship, and it was kind of similar to last week’s sermon where I talked about worship being more than just praising God in church once a week, but putting God first as a lifestyle––24/7 every day.

In our day to day lives, even living as a Christian, it’s easy to forget that God is a holy, righteous God who has holy, righteous anger and is all-powerful and is worthy of reverent fear. He is worthy of our love and adoration and he is worthy of extreme gratitude that we can never repay.

But he is also worthy of our worship in reverence and awe. Our worship can be, and should be joyful and sung in gladness; we can get up and shout for joy or dance as David did. But there are times when we need to be reminded of God’s power and holiness. We can’t take God for granted. We can’t treat Him as that “benevolent grandfather in the sky” or think of Him as someone who just shirks at the same sins that the rest of society does. That’s a different God. That’s the “god of this world” or perhaps an idol of your own making, which Paul reminds us are demons––so again, the “god of this world.”

We have to worship God in spirit and in truth [that means with both our hearts and our minds]; and in reverence and in awe. We cannot take God––his love, his grace, his unmerited favor, his blessings, his provisions, his sacrifice, his righteousness, his righteous judgments, his righteous decrees, his awesome power––anything about God for granted. That’s why we pause and have communion as often as we do. I don’t know a single church that has communion as often as we do. I used to think it was overkill, but now I understand how necessary it is.

We have to remember even though he is to be feared that his ‘consuming fire’ is also an example of his love. I could go on and on and on about that, but let’s be thankful that we serve a God who is a consuming fire, and that consuming fire is a fire of what one might call a mix of danger and love––kind of like the bunny rabbit and the shark, right? And for which we should worship God soberly. 

Two quick verses from Psalms before we close: 

Psalm 96:4 and 9 says, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;  he is to be feared above all gods…Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.”

Let’s remember to do that as we make thankfulness and worship a lifestyle. Let us also never take God’s incomprehensible love, unmerited favor, sovereignty, incomprehensible power, great righteousness, both his forgiveness and judgment or our citizenship in an unshakable eternal home for granted.

Year-round thanksgiving

Jeff Miller

A Thanksgiving Sermon

Psalm 100

11/20/22

Intro (me/we): Good morning. I’m glad to see that everyone is warm. Thankfully, we didn’t get the wallop that Buffalo did. For the sake of my driving job, I hope this isn’t a foretaste of things yet to come. I’ve been going up to Buffalo quite a bit lately, in fact on Thursday when all this started, I was on my way to Buffalo, and the passenger said she’d feel better if we turned around, and she canceled her appointment, and it made me feel better too. I’ve been telling my passengers that I hope this turns out to be a mild winter like we’ve had the past couple of years. But eventually, a real winter has to show up.

So, we’ll have to wait and see.

It’s appropriate that today, as we have our church’s Thanksgiving meal and look forward to Thanksgiving Day, that we look at one of the passages that deal with thanksgiving–or giving thanks to God.

So please turn with me to Psalm 100.

This is a short and sweet psalm, not like some that have a mix of bitter and sweet. This is an uplifting song of praise. 

According to Enduring Word, 

This Psalm is simply titled, A Psalm of Thanksgiving and it is the only Psalm in the collection to bear this title. It speaks of an invitation to the whole earth to know and to worship God.“It is jubilant with confidence for the whole earth, as it contemplates the glory of that earth, when all its people are submitted to the reign of Jehovah.” (G. Campbell Morgan)

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is all ablaze with grateful adoration.”

Rick Ezell a Baptist pastor in South Carolina said on Lifeway Christian Resources website that:

“This psalm is a literary masterpiece. It has been said that the Bible is shallow enough that the immature can play without drowning, but it is deep enough that the most mature can never touch bottom. Such is Psalm 100. This Psalm does not contain a single concept that is not expressed elsewhere in the Psalms.”

Scripture: 

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2     Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Central Truth: Our way or expression of praising God can change from generation to generation; from one culture to another; from one person to another, from one church to another. We may use different instruments, new songs, old songs, many different styles of music, we may not even have or need music to praise God. We may praise God through our simple words.

There are some churches–and I’ve even participated in this a couple of times, where painters would paint while the worship band was playing or during the entire service as a way of worship.

The point of praise is that it should be a natural expression that comes from our hearts. No matter your age, no matter your wealth, no matter where or when you are placed on earth.

The Lord desires our praise. And he desires that our praise be joyful expressions because God is a joyful God. He wants that experience to be a joyful experience for us. And like any time when we express our love for someone, we are also to receive God’s love in that moment as well.

Point: You’ll notice right off the bat that this psalm calls for all the earth to shout to the Lord. This is an invitation for everyone. When this was written, there was a lot of paganism and false religions. There was no ‘gospel’ yet. There was no evangelism. There were no missionaries. Instead, there was an attitude of “My God is bigger than Your God.” Or “You’re a lousy no good heathen because of your pagan God.”

Israel could rightly claim their God was the One and Only. And we get the idea when Jesus walked the earth that they kind of liked to keep it that way. They separated themselves. There was Jew and there was Gentile. What was a Gentile? Everyone who wasn’t a Jew. Everyone else. 

There was this eliteness to being a Jew, to having the exclusive temple of The One and Only Most High God.

We can kind of be like that now, can’t we? We can look at a church around the corner and think that. Maybe they’re politically different than we are. Maybe they have a different doctrine about something than what we have. Maybe they just practice their Sunday morning church service differently. Usually, they’re perfectly fine, but there’s just this certain something that rubs us the wrong way. We can think about that with a church maybe within our own denomination. It’s part of our nature.

But here, we have a better perspective on how we ought to think. There should be an open invitation for the whole world to worship God. We should have a mindset where we should set those prejudices aside and open up our hearts and invite others to worship God, too. We should invite the whole world to know this God of ours. We should invite the atheist, and even those who are hostile toward religion. We should invite the worst sinners.

I shared a story a couple of weeks ago about a Russian Orthodox Priest who went out into the streets, lifted the hungover, foul-smelling people from the gutter, cradled them in his arms and said to them, “this is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.”

I also referenced a rather obscure song from about 30 years ago that poetically states every type of person you could think of. And the chorus simply says, “breathe deep the breath of God.” We are all invited into God’s presence and to be transformed into someone that houses the fullness of God. 

In another Psalm, Psalm 34, the writer challenges people to ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Wouldn’t you want the whole world to taste and see and experience the Lord’s goodness that they’ve been missing out on? Think about how much joy the world needs right now. Christmas is coming up in a month (already), and it’s the season of joy. Why is it the season of joy? Because of Christ. It’s the season we celebrate the coming of our Lord. And they’re missing out on the real reason for the season. Just taste and see. 

Verse 3 says, “Know that the Lord is good.” 

Worship is an experience. Worship is where we experience the joy of the Lord. And this psalm is an invitation for the whole earth to know God. So our worship is evangelical. Our expression of our love for God is missional. It shows people and demonstrates to them that there is more to Christianity than religion. It’s a relationship. It’s real. We communicate with God, and he communicates with us. It’s like I said, not only where we express our love for God, but also where we receive our love for God, too. It’s where we get to soak in his presence.

The Lord calls ‘all the earth’ to worship Him. And again, this was at a time when Israel was warring against other nations, during the time of the Ark of the Covenant. Yet the call, the desire of God, is that all nations would come to Him. Not just exclusively Israel. Not just exclusively those who are already “insiders”.

The Great Commission, the great mandate of Christ, the last thing he commanded his disciples was what? Go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Jew and Gentile.

Revelation 7:9-10:

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Verse 4 of the psalm says:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

It can be a little hard to picture gates and courts. What is that? Well, it’s the gates and courts of the Jewish Temple at the time. The outer wall of the Temple in Jerusalem had gates and inside those gates was a large courtyard and then there were gates that led to a smaller inner courtyard. It was in the courtyard areas where the worship took place. So the psalmist is saying that we should enter his temple with praise already in our hearts. We should be entering the gates with praise, not entering the gates then praising.

From the moment we step foot on the steps of God’s house–outside, before we even walk through those doors–we should have our hearts ready for worship. We should be glad, ready, willing and able to praise God as we enter into the House of God.

Do you come expecting to meet God? Do you come with great anticipation to engage in worship? Worship is a verb, not a noun. It isn’t the name of a service, it is the act of what we do in the service. We should get out of our cars with expectation and joy and worship already filling our hearts ready to have a worship experience where we meet God with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the name of the holiday which we are celebrating today and this week. And Thanksgiving Day is more than a meal, at least it should be. The original intent for the Pilgrims and the Native Americans was to give thanks to God. And that was the original intent when Thanksgiving Day was instituted as a national holiday–a day–a celebratory day set aside in addition to our regular Sunday morning worship to specifically give thanks to God.

Did you know that the Israelites at this time had their own Thanksgiving ceremony? It was a special kind of sacrifice. Ironically, it was also a meal.

This is what Joy Mosbarger had to say about the Thanksgiving sacrifice in a blog on the Talbot School of Theology website:

“It was not prescribed or required by God. It was offered by the worshiper on those occasions when he was motivated to express thanksgiving to God. The sacrifice was willingly presented to the Lord with a heart of joy and gratitude.  

“In addition, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, again like all peace offerings, was shared among the Lord, the priest, and the worshiper. This contrasted with other types of offerings, which were either entirely consumed (except for the skin) on the altar as an offering to the Lord or partly burned on the altar and partly consumed by the priest. But for a peace offering offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving the protocol was different. After the Lord and the priest received their portions, the worshiper who brought the sacrifice would take the remaining portions of the meat and the bread and prepare a feast in which family and friends who were ritually pure could share. Any of the meat not consumed on the day the sacrifice was offered had to be destroyed by burning.” 

There’s a Rabbi whom David Guzik quotes as saying, “All sacrifices will be abolished; but the sacrifice of thanksgiving will remain.” Think about that. Because of Jesus, our once for all sacrificial lamb, all sacrifices have been abolished. But our sacrifice of praise remains. And it is a voluntary sacrifice. 

David Guzik said, “Under the new covenant, not only are the gates and courts open, but even the way to the Holy of Holies is thrown open.” And that is in a spiritual sense.

The writer of Hebrews said in chapter 10: 

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

This is the kind of relationship we have with God now. Thanks to Christ. This is something that we often take for granted. But we have access to God through the blood of Jesus. And we can draw close to him. But even though the sacrifices are obsolete. We still have a thanksgiving that will continue forever.

The psalmist concludes with the reason why it is so important to come to God with thanksgiving and praise. And it’s simple:

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    his faithfulness continues through all generations.” 

Look at that–all generations. We’ve just talked about the obsolete temple; The obsolete sacrifices; The obsolete veil that separated the Holy of Holies. Even the Ark of the Covenant is obsolete. There’s the big mystery of what happened to it. There’s the myth and legend of it that has been exaggerated thanks to Hollywood. But if you really want to know, if it is ever found, it’s actually obsolete. Thanks to Christ, it has no power because the power was God himself dwelling there. But now, God doesn’t dwell there. Thanks to Christ, he dwells in our hearts. But, his love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.

That’s something to be thankful for. 

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love is the same. His goodness is the same. He will always be on the throne. He will always be all powerful. He will always be God.

Conclusion: As we close, I want us to focus on thanksgiving as a way of life. I’ve talked before about meditating on God and God’s word, of making praise and prayer a lifestyle. Have you thought about thanksgiving as a lifestyle? Have you thought about giving thanks and having a grateful heart as a lifestyle? This is part of the meditation I talked about last week.

We all could use a greater sense of gratefulness. I know I could. I try to remember the simple things–we got our roof fixed a few weeks ago, now we need a whole new furnace. I’ll tell you what, I will never take those simple things for granted ever again. That’s what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about. So won’t you join me in starting a new habit, a new lifestyle of thanksgiving? 

In God We Trust

Jeff Miller

11/13/22

In God We Trust

Isaiah 26:1-4

Intro: Good morning. It’s gotten a little chillier and a little cloudier over the past couple of days, I was hoping this nice, warm weather would stick around a little bit longer. 

Last week, I focused on what was sort of a heavy topic, but a much needed one––focusing our eyes on God and not on what anyone has to say or think regarding who we are or what we believe as Christians. I titled it, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.” I talked about whatever anyone says or thinks does not compare to who we really are as children of God. And I hoped to reestablish our thinking as to who we are in Christ, and to have that boldness and assurance to accept that we are not of this world, that the world is not our home, and our ways are separate and different, so we should not expect that the world will understand us.

A couple of days after that sermon, we had the chance to vote, and while I’m satisfied with some things, I’m not with others. And that’s the way voting is. Sometimes some of your candidates win, and others don’t.

But there are so many people who place their hope and trust in the institutions of government, that they practically make that their idol, or their religion. There are a lot of people who have been disappointed in the results, and I just want to remind you again that, as the psalmist says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” And that’s my message to you this morning.

But that’s not our scripture verse, if you turn with me to Isaiah 26, we’ll read the first four verses and go from there.

As you’re turning there, let me read to you something that Charles Spurgeon once said: There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation––the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands-the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.

Scripture: Isaiah 26:1-4

 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. 2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. 3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Central Truth: If you read The Bible from cover to cover you’ll find that there was a lot of strife among God’s people over thousands of years. Much of it was caused by themselves, or were consequences of their own actions for not obeying God. I remember reading in our Sunday School material recently that we, as individuals, really aren’t that much different from Israel. We turn to God, we stray from God. We turn to God, we stray from God. History repeated itself because human nature hasn’t really changed much over the course of the past 5,000 years.

And like Israel, we have chosen to trust in mankind as our savior. I quoted Larry Norman last week, and here’s another quote, he said, “Our money says ‘In God We Trust’ but it’s against the law to pray in school.”

Why is it that way? Because as much as we want to acknowledge God, we deny the power that saves us. Much of the World looks to its leaders for answers. But who should we look to? Who should we trust? We can use our right to vote as we did last week, but even then can we fully trust our newly-elected leaders in Washington D.C.? Can we fully trust Albany, NY? I mean, let’s think about it, we were very close to having a new governor last week, what does that say about the trust the people have in our leadership? A lot of races last week were really tight. If there was universal trust, I don’t think the races wouldn’t have been so tight. 

I don’t know about you, but no matter who is elected to either the presidency or governorship or senate or congress in any election, I am glad that my faith is in God, not humanity. I’d go crazy if my hope was in flawed, sinful, imperfect human beings. 

To quote our currency again, “In God We Trust.”

So to bounce from last week’s sermon, no matter what happens in our government or our society, the true kingdom to which we belong is not of this earth. And we are carriers and ambassadors of God’s kingdom. And though God’s kingdom is a real place, it is a place that for now, as long as we are on this earth, is in our hearts. 

Point 1: Isaiah talks about this kingdom in our scripture verse. The very first verse says “That Day” which means the day when The Lord returns. The Day when the curse is gone and all is set right. His kingdom will come to earth––The New Jerusalem––will be a kingdom of peace. But God’s kingdom has been and already is a kingdom of peace. Like I said, we don’t have that kingdom on earth yet, except for ourselves representing that kingdom and experiencing that kingdom in our hearts.

Isaiah goes on to say, “We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.” A rampart is a word we don’t really use anymore, but it’s the defensive wall of a castle or a city (back in Isaiah’s time they would have had walled cities), and it would have a broad top with a walkway.

Enduring Word Commentary says, “in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth, there will be cities – but redeemed cities, glorious communities organized under the strength and salvation and righteousness and truth of the LORD.”

When Isaiah said, “God makes salvation its walls and rampart,” that means that his kingdom exists because of God’s salvation. And God’s salvation is strong and secure and nothing can penetrate it. Jesus said of Peter that, “Upon this Rock, I will build my church.” Jesus’ church is His to build. In the same way, God’s city will not be built by the ability of man to achieve holiness on His own or to earn the right to be in this city by good works or obeying the law, but by the strong and powerful grace and salvation of God.

 This is God’s city, His kingdom on earth. And we are part of that kingdom. And by salvation, we are not only ambassadors who carry the kingdom in our hearts, we are heirs––as I mentioned last week––to our Father’s Kingdom when we finally are able to enter that kingdom on That Day. 

Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

And in Acts, Paul said,  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”

God will be the provider of our eternal home, eternal city, eternal dwelling place and our eternal bodies. 

Part 2: Verse 2 says, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.” We often think of a nation as a place on a map with lines drawn on it for its borders. 

But a nation is more than a land with borders. It is a people. Just like The Church is more than a building, it is a people. We are here at the tip of Seneca Lake, named after The Seneca Nation. But where is The Seneca Nation? Its administration is headquartered now in Salamanca. If you go on I-86 and head West toward Olean, you’ll drive through it, with the administrative building on one side of the interstate and a casino on the other.

According to its official website, The Seneca Nation of Indians currently has a total enrolled population of nearly 8,000 citizens. The territories are generally rural, with several residential areas. Many Seneca citizens live off-territory, some are located across the country, as well as in other countries. Off-territory residents comprise nearly 1/2 of the citizenship.

The nation is right within New York State. They dwell right in our own backyard, and we don’t even think about it. Why? Well, because we don’t have borders like they do in Canada with customs and everything. I’ve driven Native Americans to their homes in the reservation, and I’ve driven non-natives who live just outside the reservation, and maybe even in the reservation. It’s hard to tell because you don’t really know where the border is. 

The idea is that a nation is defined by its people, not just physical borders. In The Old Testament, the nation of Israel was considered a people first, and then it took a long time before they finally had a land to call home. God promised them that land and eventually, He gave it to them.

And the dwellers of God’s kingdom are God’s people. We are spread out all over the world in different places at different times, yet we are part of one nation, a holy nation.

Peter said, 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

And we, being citizens of His holy nation, have all the rights and privileges of citizenship. Paul said to the Philippians, …our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” 

So what right do we have as a citizen of Heaven?

Point 3: We have peace with God, and we have the peace of God. 

We don’t have to worry if everything goes awry here on earth. Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world and that He has overcome the world. Thank God we are part of The Kingdom of Heaven. That’s truly something to be thankful about. This Thanksgiving, remember that. We get to experience, through the promises of God, the benefits of The Kingdom of God here on earth. We get to be assured that God is Our Father and Our King. We get to be assured that we have our hope in a perfect, loving father and king. He sees us, he listens to us and he protects us. He knows each one of us by name. 

I can’t help but think of Psalm 91:

I’m tempted to read the whole thing, but for brevity, I won’t. But I’ll read several verses to you. It says:

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (There’s that word again, ‘rampart’)

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (and there’s that word, salvation again)

And that goes well with our scripture verse in Isaiah. The prophet said in verse 3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Do you know anyone on earth who can keep you in perfect peace? Can Washington, D.C. or Albany do that? We have been protected and have had a peaceful nation for the most part. But I attribute that to God, not politicians. I attribute that to our nation having honored God and tried to live Godly, holy lives and keeping our nation a Christian nation throughout the years––as flawed as we have been. A lot of people think that the president of the United States is going to solve all of their problems. That’s why they get so bent out of shape when their candidate doesn’t win. That’s why people feared rioting, that’s why people fall to the ground crying when their candidate doesn’t win. That’s why some people get so angry. 

But whoever is in office can’t solve all of our problems. 

But God can. Only in God can we trust.

Conclusion: Have you ever wondered why we have the motto “In God We Trust” on our currency? This is from treasury.gov

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the all seeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve uIt was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States.

s from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

Now we live in a society where there are people who want to remove In God We Trust from our currency and other Christian mottos that have been part of our nation’s heritage.

This is from Fox News and was also published in The New York Post:

The Supreme Court rejected an atheist case Monday to remove “In God We Trust,” the national motto, from all coins and currency from the Department of Treasury.

Michael Newdow, the same activist attorney who tried to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, lost his case, arguing Congress’ mandate to inscribe “In God We Trust” on currency was a government endorsement of religion and a violation of the First Amendment.

Newdow argued in his petition to the Supreme Court that because his clients are all atheist individuals or atheist groups, the government violated their “sincere religious belief” that there is no God and turned them into “political outsiders” by placing the phrase “In God We Trust” on their money.

The justices rejected his petition without comment.

The phrase was first put on an American coin in 1864, due to “increased religious sentiment.” It was added to both coins and paper bills in 1955.

Newdow also tried to silence prayer and any religious references at the inaugurations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

  If our nation decides to no longer trust in God, but rather trust in mankind, that’s a decision that is not new or surprising to God. If you read about The End Times and what precedes That Day, it’s going to happen. The world will turn its back on God. 

But, as I mentioned last week, I quoted from an old chorus, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.” No matter what, in God I trust. 

As Joshua said: But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

It’s not about what the majority thinks or votes on. If the majority of earth votes for ungodliness, He’s still not going to leave or forsake us, the people of His kingdom. In fact, he might just make himself more known to us, and revive us while the rest of the world decides to ignore God and do things their own way. 

In God We Trust is not just a national motto, but a personal decision we must all individually make. Choose you this day whom you will serve. No matter what, as for me and my house, I will serve the Lord.

Let’s pray.

Don’t let the Turkeys Get You Down (keep on keeping on)

Jeff Miller

11/6/22

Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

Intro: Good morning. Happy November. I hope you have your Christmas shopping done. If you’re anything like me, you’re not even thinking about Christmas yet. 

Last week, in the middle of my sermon, I read a set of verses from the Book of John and I said that maybe someday I’ll do a sermon on that. So today, the Lord led me to do that. So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to two scriptures today. The first is John 8, verses 43-45. And the second is out of 2 Corinthians 3:15-18; 4:15-18.

So John 8 and then 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. 

And as you’re turning there. I mentioned Christmas a few minutes ago. Of course, there’s Thanksgiving first, let’s not forget that. And thinking about Thanksgiving, I found something that I think goes well with our scriptures this morning. It’s about turkeys. But not the kind we have at Thanksgiving. It’s more about the kind that I hope to get rid of this Tuesday at the election polls.

At Ronald Reagan’s eulogy, George H.W. Bush recalled the kindness and warmth and humor of the late president. He said:

On leaving the White House, the very last day, he left in the yard outside the Oval Office door a little sign for the squirrels. He loved to feed those squirrels. And he left this sign that said, “Beware of the dog,” and to no avail, because our dog Millie came in and beat the heck out of the squirrels.

But anyway, he also left me a note, at the top of which said, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.” Well, he certainly never let [them] get him down. And he fought hard for his beliefs. But he led from conviction, but never made an adversary into an enemy. He was never mean-spirited.

Reverend Billy Graham, who I refer to as the nation’s pastor, is now hospitalized and regrets that he can’t be here today. And I asked him for a Bible passage that might be appropriate. And he suggested this from Psalm 37: “The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm. Though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” And then this, too, from [Psalm] 37: “There is a future for the man of peace.”

I think that set of verses from Psalms works well with the other verses I have this morning, as well as that quip about the turkeys. There’s a time to think about and care about the people around us. Afterall, the world is our mission field. But there’s also a time when we have to set aside what others think about us and keep on keeping on. We must understand that not everyone will understand. Understand?

We have to keep going nonetheless. And like Ronald Reagan, we can’t let our adversaries turn into enemies. But even though we have adversaries thinking we’re a bit crazy for holding to our beliefs and way of life, we have to hold our heads up, dust ourselves off and keep on keeping on. We are to love our adversaries deeply, yet not care what those turkeys may think about our lives as Christians. We can’t let the turkeys get us down. 

Let’s take a look at our scripture verses this morning and see how this all goes together.

Scripture: John 8:43-45

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

Now let’s take a look at what Paul has to tell the Corinthian church. He goes on quite lengthily on this subject, so I tried to shorten it as best as I could for you. 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 says this:

15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[or reflect] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

And Paul continues this thought throughout the next chapter, but to keep it simple, I’m just going to read the same set of verses from Chapter 4, so let’s look at verses 15-18 there, and after we do, if you have a bookmark, set it there, because I’m going to come back to it later on, as well as 1 Peter, if you happen to have another bookmark and want to set it there, too. But here’s what Paul says at the end of 2 Corinthians:

15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Central Truth: So what does all this mean? Simply put, like I said, don’t let the turkeys get you down. We live for Christ, in Christ, and our lives are to honor God alone, not mankind. To quote the late, great Larry Norman, we are “only visiting this planet. This world is not my home.”

Point 1: Going back to our first set of verses out of John, Jesus is speaking to those in the religious community, specifically the religious leaders. Ouch!

Asbury Bible Commentary says that: They [the religious leaders] then tried to claim God as their spiritual Father (v.41; cf. Ex 4:22; Jer 31:9), but he rejected their claim (vv.42-47). Children of God would love and listen to Jesus; their demeanor toward him revealed their derivation from the devil.

What does the Bible say about being a child of God? I have a whole sermon on that topic, but if we look to the verses I used for that, out of Romans 8, Paul says, 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep into the theology of that. But the definition of a child of God is not what a lot of people think it is. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” As children of God, we not only get to call God our father, but ‘Abba,’ an affectionate name for father.

And if we are children, then we are heirs, and that means our home is in heaven, not this world. And so worldliness is not our aim, Godliness is our aim––also known as holiness.

What does it mean for us to be holy? The term is usually defined as set apart unto God. 

That means, we are not to be like those who are around us. We’re meant to be different. God calls us to be different. Christianity is to be different from everyone else. We’re meant to stand out––and that may mean even among the religious.

I mentioned last week how, little by little, we’ve gone from the 60s “free love” to some schools teaching rather graphic sex education to primary school children, and even encouraging some young children to change their gender. But what’s worse is that there are religious people, even pastors who encourage these things as well. A few months ago, there were drag queen story times––not only in schools and libraries, but also in churches.

Just because the world is doing it, and just because some churches are doing it, and just because there’s adult peer pressure to do it and conform to this type of thinking, doesn’t mean we should. Why? Because the spirit inside of us doesn’t allow it. The spirit inside of us is holy. It’s the spirit of God. 

John of Kronstadt was the Nineteenth Century Russian Orthodox priest at the time when alcohol abuse was rampant. None of the priests ventured out of their churches to help the people. They waited for people to come to them. John, compelled by love, went out into the streets. People said he would lift the hungover, foul-smelling people from the gutter, cradle them in his arms and say to them, “this is beneath your dignity. You were meant to house the fullness of God.”

And that’s who we are, and that’s not only whe we are meant to be, it’s also what the hungover, foul-smelling people from the gutter, the drag queens and the sex education teachers and the religious leaders who support this kind of thing are meant to be. 

I’m reminded of a rather obscure song from about 30 years ago that poetically states every type of person you could think of. And the chorus simply says, “breathe deep the breath of God.” We are all invited into God’s presence and to be transformed into someone that houses the fullness of God. 

Point 2: 

Going to 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says, “Even to this day when Moses is read, [in other words, we can say, The Bible] a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. ”

Let’s pray for those who perform and encourage those ungodly things. Let’s pray that there would be revival and that the veil would be taken away. Let’s pray for their freedom. Could you imagine what the world would look like if all these people got saved?

Paul goes on from there, in 2 Corinthians 3 to talk about us. He says that we, “who with unveiled faces contemplate [or reflect] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Again, I like the phrase, “house the fullness of God.” Such other ways are beneath us, these lifestyles and overly sexualized society that is being endorsed now might be called liberal, but it’s not liberating anyone. It’s just the opposite. Liberation is a lie. They think they are being set free to be who they were meant to be, but it’s beneath them. It’s not who God intends for them to be. Sin confines and traps and chains people. He has a life that is so much freer. And that’s what this passage talks about. We are being renewed, freed and transformed. Not transformed into the image of our natural-born selves (which the Bible calls sinful), but into the image of Christ. 

Our world is going deeper and deeper into unfettered human nature. Look around. There’s hardly a dozen of us here in church. A lot of churches are seeing steep declines. We may be in the “Great Apostasy” that is foretold in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, I don’t know. But we can see the result of an increase in church decrease. We can see mankind choosing to deepen into its own sinful nature. We’re in a time where evil is called good, and some churches are even doing so.

It seems to me that we’re going right back into ancient paganism.

Today’s permissive lifestyles are not a place for us and we know it. We know it because we are each, individually, houses of the fullness of God. And God’s spirit that is within us is moving us in a different direction. In a world that is increasingly accepting blind wickedness, we must increase in Christ.

It reminds me of the chorus, I have decided and the line that says, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

Do you remember when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and when Peter said yes, Jesus answered “Feed my sheep.” That seemed like an odd thing for Jesus to say, didn’t it? Jesus asked Peter three times, and Peter answered three times. But Jesus was basically saying, “If you love me, then feed my sheep.”

Then Jesus followed that with this: “when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

There’s a cost to following Jesus. There’s a cost to our holiness. There’s a cost to our separation from the world and unto God. 

There are a lot of people who like their own made-up idea of Jesus. But it’s actually an idol of Jesus, it’s not the true Jesus, and I’m not even sure if they even realize that.

For example, in a recent study from Barna’s stateoftheology.com says that 48 percent of evangelicals––that’s those who share our conservative Biblical beliefs––say that God learns and adapts to different circumstances.

That means that people in churches like ours believe that the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe learns with society. In other words, people believe that God is a progressive liberal. Apparently, he changes his mind about holiness?

I saw just this past week a Ticktocker on Youtube who was a clergyman––some guy standing in front of the LGBTQ flag wearing a collar––was trying to make the case for Jesus being queer. Not gay, but queer.

What he was saying was that if Jesus was literally born of a virgin, then he was probably conceived without a Y chromosome, and therefore was probably genetically a female. Jesus also broke traditional norms and loved unconventionally (which is apparently LGBTQ?) and he calls resurrection “fabulously Qweird.”

Bizarre, isn’t it? But that’s the made-up Jesus celebrated in our society.

Gotquestions.org says that, in Luke 14, Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship. At that time, there were great crowds following Him. Everyone loved the miracles, healing, and free food. Jesus was cool, the talk of the town, and the latest fad. But He knew their hearts. He knew they desired the benefits of what He did rather than an understanding of who He was. They loved His gifts, not the life He was calling them to. So He explained what it takes to be one of His followers:

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).

Gotquestions goes on to say: “Counting the cost” means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our own inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world’s way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.

Point 3: And this is where I want to encourage you to not let the turkeys get you down. We’re counting the cost, aren’t we. But it’s worth it, no matter what anyone says or does. Last week I talked about standing our ground. If our feet are firmly planted, and we’re standing, nothing can stop us. Why? Because what we’re living in, what we’re facing, and what we’re encountering is worth it. 

Being small in number is fine. It’s worth it, even if it’s only us.

Going to 2 Corinthians 4, verses 15-18 again says, 

15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This increasing darkness, or as Frank Peretti would say, “This Present Darkness” that surrounds us is only temporary. The light of God that is within us, renewing us will remain forever. And what we experience in our renewing and relationship with God is only a glimpse of who God is. God is much bigger and greater than we can conceive. We cannot conceive God, and we cannot conceive what God has in store for us in an eternal perspective.

I shared this on Facebook the other day:

This helps us understand how great and awesome God is. This is taken from The Possibility of Prayer by John Starke:

When the Bible seeks to explain God’s holiness, it says that God is a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)—a dangerous and terrible presence. The presence of not just a fire that warms our hands and charms our campsites, but a consuming fire. Turn away! And so the angels do. When Isaiah encounters this God, he cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost;” (Isaiah 6:5). Translations differ: “I am lost!” or “I am undone!” or “I am ruined!” Something is coming apart in Isaiah in the presence of God. Yet, at the same time, Isaiah and the seraphim don’t flee the terrible presence. The danger is real, but obviously so is the splendor. So terrifying and attractive, so immense and wonderful is God. So much so, when God is looking for someone to go to his people on his behalf, Isaiah says, “Here I am! Send me”

Our experience with God is great and wonderful and powerful––even more so than the great and powerful Oz. And speaking of the Wizard of Oz––or the Land of Oz, we’ve all seen images of The Grand Canyon or the amazing, colorful geysers at Yellostone National Park. Can you imagine the first explorers who came across these magnificent landscapes and the white-colored formations from the sulfure springs? Can you imagine the first time they saw the Badlands and the rock formations out there? Maybe coming across animals they’ve never seen before? They had to bring Newspaper reporters and artists to write and paint what they saw to confirm to others back East what it was like out West, because no one believed them. It was far greater than what they could explain. No one has seen or imagined such things.

What God has in store for us in an eternal perspective is far greater than what we have ever seen or imagined.

It’s worth it, isn’t it?

And no matter what, the love and grace of God is worth anything and everything the World can throw at us.

His love and presence is more wonderful than anything the world has to offer. Remember, God created everything the world has to offer, and he’s not going to create anything more wonderful than himself.

Paul says that what the world throws at us is only “light and momentary troubles.” I’ve said this before, but Paul’s one who had more than his share of troubles, and if he can call it “light and momentary,” I guess we can too.

Earlier, I mentioned that I was going to go back to 2 Corinthians 4. If you’ve bookmarked it, let’s look at the first six verses. After that, let’s go to 1 Peter 2, verses 9-12, and we’ll close with that.

But first, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

And again, “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” It’s a call to prayer for the lost. It’s a call to Spiritual warfare on behalf of our nation and our world that has gone astray. 

Let’s go to 1 Peter 2:9-12 and we’ll end on that

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Let’s Pray:

Communion:

The Bread: Every month we take a moment to stop and reflect on the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. You know, I often look at the shape the world is in. And we all shake our heads when we see the craziness in our society. There’s the old saying, “But for the grace of God, Go I.” 

Who knows who I, or any of us would be, if not for the grace of God. I might have been one to have fallen for the ways of the world, and the very things I preach against. But for the grace of God, I am not.

Going to gotquestions.org again today, it says, “However it is expressed, “there but for the grace of God go I” is a statement of humility and gratitude that acknowledges one’s own sinful nature and the need for God’s grace. One of the earliest attributions of the saying is to John Bradford, an English Reformer, who supposedly said it as he watched people led to execution for their crimes. In a sense he was saying, “That could have been me but for God’s grace.”

As we take communion, it’s a way in which we say that same thing. I don’t know who I would be, if not for God’s grace displayed on the cross, his body broken for me. 

Let’s take and eat.

The Juice: In my sermon, I wanted to make sure that we remember to pray for those who are lost. Our nation is not at the point of no return. I often say that it is, but what if God isn’t finished with the United States yet? What if there’s another world-wide revival that God has in store?

Think about the testimonies of those whom I mentioned earlier. I once was lost, but now am found. I used to do this, I believed that, but God saved me. 

I’m going to read more from Gotquestions.org regarding the phrase “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

Like Paul, we have no special qualities that make us worthy of salvation. Before God saved us, we were “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). God forgave our sin in Christ and raised us to the newness of life (Romans 6:4). There is nothing in us, about us, or done by us that can earn grace from God. We simply receive it through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9).

When a Christian says, “There but for the grace of God go I,” he or she is expressing thanks for “the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8) and at the same time confessing his or her nature and the bent we all have toward destruction. It is the gracious, preserving power of God that strengthens us in temptation, sustains us through difficulty, and keeps us from utter ruin.

Paul admonished us to maintain a humble spirit: “For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). And he chose daily to live under the grace so freely given: “But by the grace of God I am what I am,” he wrote. And so are we.

Let’s take and drink. 

Resist and Stand

Jeff Miller

Resist & Stand

10/30/22

Intro:  Good morning. It’s the end of October, tomorrow is Halloween, and of course Halloween is the time when all sorts of spooky things are being celebrated and so on. And in church, what is more spooky than Satan or demonic powers? So today, I’m going to talk a little bit about that.

I’m not going to get into whether or not Halloween is good or evil, instead I’m going to talk about “Knowing your enemy.” And I thought for sure at one time I had a sermon on Satan and “Knowing Your Enemy.” And I was going to go back to that and pull a few things from it, but I couldn’t find it. So anyway, maybe I’m dreaming or maybe I really did do a sermon once on that topic.

Today, if you have your Bibles, I’m going to go to 1 Peter, chapter 5, and we’re going to look at a couple of familiar verses, 8 and 9. So as you’re turning there, I just thought that I would point out that this is in the middle of a bigger, fuller thought that Peter is saying to his audience. In fact, this is the end of his letter, and he’s giving a final charge, which is common for a lot of New Testament letters.

First, he gives an appeal to the elders of the church, and then to the youth. He talks about casting our care on God, and then he says this at the end, in verse 12: “​​With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” 

Last week, when I didn’t have my upload, I tried to give you my sermon as best as I could through memory…which wasn’t half bad, considering I hadn’t tried to memorize it. But it was called, “Sit, Walk, Stand.” And I put up the whole sermon on our website if you want to read what it was supposed to have been. But I’m going to touch on the idea of Standing more today.

Scripture: So let’s go up a few more verses, to 8 and 9. By the way, I’m going to be referencing a lot of scripture today, but this is the only scripture I’ll have you turn to. 

Here’s what 1 Peter 5:8-9 say: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, 

because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Like I said, I’m going to go to a few other scriptures this morning. Let me just briefly read you a second set of scriptures from James, which is very similar to this. In fact, I wonder if one sort of borrowed from the other because even the way this leads in is the same. Both Peter and James lead in by talking about being humble, then James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” 

And I talked about double-mindedness not too long ago. That’s something I struggle with. But what do I want to say this week?

Central Truth: This week, I want to say, as we tend to think of scary, demonic sorts of things as Halloween approaches, let’s understand who Satan really is. He isn’t a cartoon who is all red with horns and a tail and a pitchfork. But most importantly, he isn’t something we should be too frightened of. 

But he is our enemy. Often, the Bible calls Satan our enemy, and there are times when I think people who are only a little familiar with The Bible understand the difference between “our enemies” plural, and “the enemy” singular. I’ve seen it in articles in major liberal news magazines where people show their ignorance on that.

Our enemies––plural––are people we don’t get along with, or even those who persecute us. We’re called to love them, even pray for them. The enemy––singular––is The Devil. We are called to resist him. How do we resist him? By standing firm in the faith. And then, he will flee from us. Isn’t that amazing? We think of the devil as something to be afraid of, but how often do we think of the devil as someone who is afraid of us?

Point 1:  I want to go to another passage briefly. This is something Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

This was after the disciples had come to him rejoicing that they had cast out demons. And the point is to rejoice that we have the authority, not because we are mightier, but that we are His. 

We have this authority because we are His. So we rejoice not because we have the power, but because we have our names written in the Book of Life. Because our names are written in the Book of Life, we have authority over Satan. Because we are children of God and have the inheritance of The Kingdom, we therefore also have authority over Satan.

There’s a story in the book of Acts where some who were not actual Christians, but who were apparently scammers––or who wanted this authority or attention or wanted to make money off of this––were trying to cast out demons out in the name of Jesus, but the demons recognized that they didn’t have the authority from Christ to do so. And so the demon-possessed man overtook them. 

I told you last week that because we have two TVs and three of us, I’m kind of relegated to Youtube quite often, and I came across something interesting recently. I don’t remember how it came across, maybe because it’s Halloween time, but I found some videos on the true stories of what inspired some exorcist-type movies––including The Exorcist and a few others. They were based on actual experiences, to a degree. But one of them intrigued me because it didn’t have a happy ending. And priests were involved. Eventually, the demon-possessed girl died. And you have to wonder, how did this happen?

And I’m going to have to come to the conclusion that even though they were priests, they did not have the power and authority of The Holy Spirit to “overcome all the power of the enemy.”

It kind of reminds me of the first episode of The Chosen where Nicodemus was asked to perform an exorcism, but he couldn’t. And he said, “only God himself could do this.”

Just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not mean that they are, and therefore have this authority––even priests.

Now this is a more extreme case, and I’m not expecting us to go about and perform exorcisms, but think about the kind of authority we have in Christ. If we have that kind of authority over demons in other peoples’ lives, think about the authority we have over Satan in our own lives if Christ lives within us.

Going back to the gospel of John again, Jesus said:

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 

 And I could go on a whole other sermon about that, and maybe someday I will, and it goes to explain the ignorance I talked about earlier when I said I’ve read articles in secular magazines that botch their understanding of scripture. Christ’s language isn’t clear to those who don’t know him. The Holy Spirit opens up our ears and understanding.

But notice what else Jesus says, Satan has no truth in him. “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Knowing this is step one in defeating Satan.

How was Jesus able to resist Satan in the wilderness? He knew that Satan is a liar and that there is no truth in him.

I recently posted something on our church’s Facebook page this week, it’s a list of how to be deceived in seven easy steps. Listen and see if this seems like where we are in our culture today:

  • Question what God actually said. In the Garden, the snake asked, “Did God really say that you would die?”
  • Second, twist what God said. “Surely you won’t die.”
  • Paint God like the mean bully in the sky who uses fear tactics to keep you from having any fun. We can think of basically every rebellious thing in our society to put in that blank.
  • Catapult your life into chaos and darkness, which basically means, go ahead and do those rebellious things like the prodigal son did.
  • Convince you that chaos and darkness are actually good things. A lot of the turmoil in our society today has to do with that.
  • Lastly, rinse, cycle, repeat. In other words, just listen to a second lie. How did we get so sexually deviant in our society today? How is it that there are churches that have drag-queen storytime for kids? Well, we listened to the first lie of free love back in the sixties, and here we are 50-some years later.

Point 2: How is it that we have not been deceived? How can we keep from being deceived from here on out? I mean, when you have practically every TV show, news show, magazine article, entertainer, school district and college trying to sway us to their way of thinking, how do we do it? Their arguments sound convincing…to a degree.

Peter says, “Be alert and of sober mind.” I’ve used this in a sermon as well, but let’s dive into it again. How do we keep from being swayed by Satan’s evil schemes? We have to be alert. 

We have to do as Jesus did. Be aware that Satan’s native language is lies. If we look at what the secular world is believing, and notice that it’s contrary to the Word of God, and there’s this certain something in our spirit telling us it’s not right, we have to conclude that it’s The Holy Spirit within us telling us that Satan is up to his old tricks again.

Asbury Bible Commentary says:  “Having recognized the true enemy, they must alertly, steadfastly, and unitedly resist that enemy by their faith.”

We often think about resisting the devil when it comes to temptation, but there’s more to it. There’s more that we have to resist than temptation. The devil prowls around like a lion seeking whom he may devour. He is no respecter of persons. He’ll find any way he can to deceive in any way possible. That may mean tempting you, as he did Jesus, and that may mean leading you astray in the foundation of the Word of God. 

Satan’s tactics are pretty obvious the more alert we become. I’ve seen a meme on Facebook that says, “We live in a world where Satan doesn’t even hide anymore, and yet people still can’t see him.”

We see his deceptiveness, we see how he’s leading so many people astray. But there are those who are so far gone, they can’t even recognize him.

Why is that? Well, because the world is no longer alert. Not only does Satan prowl around as a lion, but when he does show up, he doesn’t show up like an angry lion, he shows up masquerading as an angel of light. 

Speaking of Halloween, Satan is always dressed in disguise. He knows that people will not be thrown off course if he shows himself as he truly is, so he must disguise himself and his temptations as something good. Even the Bible says that sin is fun, but for a season. I can’t tell you how many passengers I take who have fallen for Satan’s lies. Their lives have been messed up by drugs and alcohol thinking it’s the way to go. And even though many have gone through rehab, some are going to methadone clinics, you should hear their conversations. Their lives are still messed up and they don’t even realize it.

I’ve heard one passenger––I’ve mentioned her before, she’s the one that I think will eventually go to church––say that the devil will tell you 100 truths to get you to believe one lie. 

It’s true. He’s crafty, and the Bible tells us that.

Gotquestions.org says: How can we discern which light is of God and which light is of Satan? Our minds and hearts are easily confused by conflicting messages. How can we make sure we are on the right path? Psalm 119 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (verse 105) and “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (verse 130). The words of God have power. Just as God’s voice spoke physical light into existence, it can speak spiritual light into our hearts. Exposure to His voice – in His Word – will help us recognize the difference between the good light of God and that which is counterfeit.

It goes on to say that:

Darkness is a result of attempting to find truth without the Word of God. Sadly, as Isaiah says, when people do not have the “dawn,” they wander in darkness and often become angry at God, refusing to come to Him for help. This is why Satan’s masquerade as an angel of light is so effective. It turns white to black and black to white and gets us believing that God is the liar, that God is the source of darkness. Then, in our distress, we focus our hatred towards the only One who can save us.

Here’s another thing I’ve said recently. Paul warns Timothy that in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. He goes on to say a whole lot more, but he also says that they will have a form of godliness, but deny its power. They will always be learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

You see how this all fits in? God wants us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith,”

Peter is telling Christians to resist the devil, to stand firm in the faith. He’s not saying, “the Devil prowls around for those people over there.” He’s including Christians in this. Like I said, the devil is no respecter of persons. He tempted Jesus, he gave him all he got, and so he’ll tempt us with all he’s got. Another passenger, whose life is still pretty messed up, at least recognizes the devil comes for everyone. And I said yes, sometimes he hits pastors harder because he wants to not only bring us down but discredit us, too.

And I have unfortunately seen that happen on more than one occasion. 

So we must stand firm in the faith and resist the devil. And like James said, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” 

Point 3: So how do we resist the devil? By coming near to God. This is a promise. If we draw near to God, then God will draw near to us. There’s no wonder why we sense the Spirit of God here in this church. We come here to draw near to God. But you don’t have to come to church to draw near to God. Because of the temple veil that was torn in two, we can draw near to God wherever we are.

The writer of Hebrews put it like this: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, [in other words, the veil that was torn in two]  21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [that is, Jesus]  22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the invitation to draw near is all throughout The Book of Hebrews.

Here are a few more scripturs:

  • Hebrews 4:16 – Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
  • Hebrews 7:25 – He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

This is a pretty lengthy quote, but I think it’s worth reading. John Piper, in a Palm Sunday sermon 25 years ago, said:

The great passion of this writer is that we draw near to God. That we come to his throne to find all the help we need. That we come to him confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means here in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant.

So the one command, the one exhortation, that we are given in Hebrews 10:19-22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

Drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going to a church building. Or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.

Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come. To approach him. To draw near to him.

Conclusion: Lastly, this drawing near to God enables us to stand. Last week, I said that it was necessary to stand in the faith. And like last week, we need to think of the full armor of God in order to stand. 

Ephesians 6: 10-13 says:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Everything that we do to resist the devil has to do with getting close to God, putting on our armor, and standing. It’s a battle, and it takes intentionality on our part. It requires us to be sober, to be alert, and to firmly plant our feet in the ground and stand. Whether it’s our own personal temptations that we have to resist; doubt, fear, discouragement, or the “angel of light” lies of the culture that surrounds us. We have to draw close to God when we sense an attack, put on our armor and stand.

I’m going to let you read and study Ephesians 6 to be reminded again of what our weapons of warfare are, and you can go to our website and read through my sermon series on that this week if you’d like. Just because I’ve preached on it a couple of times, doesn’t mean you can’t read it again. I think it’s important that we constantly remind ourselves of those things that are easy to forget. And unfortunately, scripture can be easy to forget. 

Let’s immerse ourselves in God’s word, and in his promises, so that we will constantly know how to stand, because the angel of light who prowls around like a lion is going to  constantly bombard us from every angle with something. 

Let’s pray: