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Monthly Archives: February 2010
Two new sermons on our website – on prayer and fasting:
Sermon on Fasting: THE BENEFITS OF FASTING
Jesus said that if we fast in private that God would reward us openly. In this message Benjamin talks about the many benefits of fasting along with some practical advice on how to fasting – and how not get into imbalance on this subject!
Sermon on Prayer: WHAT PRAYER IS NOT
Prayer is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Christian life because there is so much poor teaching about prayer based on experience and traditions, and not on God’s Word.
This message is the first of a four part series, and in it Benjamin clears away some of the rubble we have that are false ideas about prayer, to get us ready for the next few weeks as we find out what prayer really is.
(For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
This is a verse that without paying careful attention to context and to systematic theology is one that you could easily take to mean the exact opposite of what Paul actually means.
Paul is talking to religious people. He has essentially just told that God has no favourites and that they will be judged by the law. They think because they know the law they will escape condemnation and be welcomed into heaven. There are still people like that in the world today – I go to church, I will therefore go to heaven.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You cannot be justified by hearing the law. You cannot be just (righteous) by hearing the law. It does not matter how many times I stand up in the pulpit and tell people “Do not lie”, that will NEVER make them right with God.
So many preachers seem to have no idea of this Biblical truth: you cannot be made righteous by hearing the law. I could get in the pulpit and go to people “Do not lie”, “Do not commit adultery”, “Do not steal” and it would not make anyone right with God. It might make someone feel guilty or condemned, it might make someone feel out of sorts, depressed and sad, but it will never make someone right with God.
Yet today there are whole sections of the church where if you go to their churches and conferences, you will be a hearer of the law. They will tell you what to do, what the law says, what holiness is all about. I was in discussion with someone about one of these preachers once and they say “I love that preacher, when he preaches it is like a kick in the kidneys”. Who wants a kick in the kidneys? Who goes to church to be told how vile and horrible they are and how much they have broken the law?
Yet some people want to get involved with sermons that tear them to pieces. Some people venerate sermons that are hard-hitting and condemning. One example is a sermon once preached called Sinners in the Hands of Angry God. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God. God’s not an angry God – He is a loving Father. Sending Jesus to redeem us was HIS IDEA! The man who preached that we were sinners in the hands of an angry God depressed people in his church so much people went and killed themselves! When he was told, he said that God made them kill themselves. That’s not Biblical – and no matter how much law you hear, it will never make you right with God.
But religious people think because they have heard the law, they are right with God. Because they went to church heard the sermon and now feel like dirt, they think they are right with God. Everyone else who has not heard the legalistic message of the law is not right with God, and being religious they then judge everyone else. Especially if you know about grace and love and you have some joy and some contentment and some security in your walk with God. They want to drag you down to their level and have you meditate on how evil you are. There is one guy even calls his radio ministry “Wretched” to emphasis that we are wretches. That is true without God’s grace and goodness, but we are never without God’s grace and goodness.
But then Paul says this: you are made righteous by obeying the law. Now, in several places in Romans Paul makes it more than clear that we are not made righteous by obeying the law. But here Paul says: doers of the law will be made righteous (justified).
How can this make sense? It makes sense when you realize the point Paul is trying to make: if you want to use the law to be made righteous, you need to do it. Yes, all of it. Every single bit. Just hearing a message on the law is not enough, you need to put it perfectly into practise. Paul is trying to take the sails out of the wind of the religious people by saying just hearing a condemning message is not enough – you need to put it entirely into practise!
If you cannot obey God perfectly and obey the entire law of Moses perfectly, then you are never going to be made righteous listening to the law. So, go and listen to the gospel instead. The word gospel means good news – find a preacher preaching good news. Find someone preaching life and faith, find someone preaching repentance and the kingdom. Stay clear from people who punch you in the kidneys and find someone who places a hand on your shoulder and tells you: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
How lucky it is for rulers,” Adolf Hitler once said, “that men cannot think.” The horrors that followed in Nazi Germany might have been easier to explain if Hitler had been right. But the problem is not so much that peoplecannot think but that they do not think. Or if they do think, as in the case of the German people, that thinking becomes muddled and easily led.
Hitler’s meteoric rise to power, with the support of the German people, is a case in point. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in full accordance with the country’s legal and constitutional principles. When President Paul von Hindenburg died the following year, Hitler assumed the office of president, as well as that of chancellor, but he preferred to use the title Der Füehrer (the leader) to describe himself. This new move was approved in a general election in which Hitler garnered 88 percent of the votes cast.
It cannot be said that the German people were ignorant of Hitler’s agenda or his Nazi ideology. Nazi literature, including statements of the Nazi plans for the future, had papered the country for a decade before Hitler came to power. In fact, Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, which was his blueprint for totalitarianism, sold more than 200,000 copies between 1925 and 1932.
Clearly, the problem was not that the German people did not think but that their thinking was poisoned by the enveloping climate of ideas that they came to accept as important. At a certain point, the trivial became important, and obedience to the government in pursuit of security over freedom became predominant.
We see this same scenario being played out in America today where analytical thinking has given way to a steady diet of mindless entertainment and endless distractions. Rejecting community in favor of self-gratification and isolation, we have in essence become an atomistic society, a characteristic of an emerging totalitarian society.
Connected to all our technological gadgets, we are increasingly disconnected from each other. Even when physically crowded together at entertainment spectacles such as concerts and sports events, we fail to truly communicate with one another. As author Alex Marshall observed, Americans live “in one of the loneliest societies on the earth.” All the while, with little outcry from the citizenry, the government has erected a surveillance state, slowly transforming itself into a centralized, authoritarian bureaucracy that is gobbling up our civil liberties on a daily basis.
Woefully ignorant of the freedoms given us by our forefathers and their subsequent erosion by our government of wolves, Americans rarely come together to strategize on how to maintain our freedoms. Indeed, most Americans do not even engage in meaningful discourse about pressing issues of national and international significance. And as studies show, Americans know much more about trivia (such as the names of the Simpsons and the Three Stooges) than they do the Bill of Rights. For example, less than one percent of adults can name the five rights found in the First Amendment. And, as one study recently found, only three percent of high school students can pass the U.S. Immigration Services and Citizenship exam. Incredibly, of those from foreign countries aspiring to be American citizens, some 93% who took the same test passed. However, as those who wrote the Constitution warned, a citizenry ignorant of their rights would lose them.
Plain and simple, American educational institutions no longer teach children about their freedoms and how to exercise them. But it gets worse. America currently spends well in excess of $40 billion annually on public education. Yet the numbers are undeniable: in comparing the literacy level of adults in seventeen industrialized countries, America was number ten on the list. And 16- to 25-year-olds underperform their foreign counterparts as well. Moreover, they do so to a greater degree than do Americans over 40. And with the loss of literacy goes a critical ingredient in maintaining freedom–citizens who think analytically.
Thus, ignorant of the very basis of citizenship and overwhelmed by the informational glut of modernity, it is little wonder that many, ostrich-like, are allowing an out-of-control government to move forward unimpeded. Yet while most may feel snug and secure in their technological wombs, they are only temporarily keeping the wolf at bay. Hiding from reality is not the solution. In fact, non-participation by the citizenry only makes matters worse. “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote,” the drama critic George Jean Nathan once remarked. I would add that bad officials will run roughshod over citizens who are clueless.
Thus, for whom does the bell toll? It tolls for us. Everything America was founded upon is in some way being challenged. At stake is the very foundation of the American democratic system. And while it may be easy to fault a particular politician, event or the media– television, in particular–for the state of our nation, the blame, as the renowned CBS newscaster Edward R. Murrow once noted, rests with us. Amid the Red Scare of the 1950s and the Joseph McCarthy era, people were often afraid to speak out against the paranoia being propagated through the media and the government. Fear and paranoia had come to grip much of the American population, and there was a horrible chill in the air. But with great courage, Murrow spoke up. On March 9, 1954, on his CBS television show See It Now, Murrow said the following–a statement very apropos for today:
We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies, and whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create the situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”
12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
Ever been asked what about the lost who never heard the gospel? Ever wondered what will happen to them?
This short verse tells us four wonderful truths about what will happen to them and what God is like:
1. This verse tells us that God is fair. He will never judge someone by something they did not know. If you never knew the law of God, if you have never been told about God’s holiness and justice and standards, you will not be judged by that standard. God is utterly just in the way He deals with people. Do you know that the Bible says that Sodom and Gomorrah on judgement day will be dealt with less harshly than Capernaum (Matt. 11.24) – why? Because when God judges He does not judge by the level of darkness, but by the amount of light rejected. So we know that those who have never heard will not be accountable for what they have never heard.
2. This verse tells us that those who have never heard will still perish. This is a sobering thought. Although they will not be judged as harshly as people who have had revival and had miracles done in their city and rejected the Holy Spirit, they still will be judged. They still will perish. The Greek word here for perish means to be put over into eternal misery in hell.
Matthew Henry in his commentary on Romans says this about Romans 2.12:
As many as have sinned without law shall perish without law; that is, the unbelieving Gentiles, who had no other guide but natural conscience, no other motive but common mercies, and had not the law of Moses nor any supernatural revelation, shall not be reckoned with for the transgression of the law they never had, nor come under the aggravation of the Jews’ sin against and judgment by the written law; but they shall be judged by, as they sin against, the law of nature, not only as it is in their hearts, corrupted, defaced, and imprisoned in unrighteousness, but as in the uncorrupt original the Judge keeps by him.
Those without the law of Moses and without the revelation of who God is still through their conscience and through the evidence of creation know there is a God. Because they rejected that God and worshipped idols they will perish. This should inspire you to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Believe God to send you to the nations to preach the good news. Expect God to enable you to go – or at the very least find someone else who is going and pray for them and give them money and encourage them.
3. This verse tells us that if you sin in the law you will be judged by the law. So many religious people are law-obsessed. They are living by the law. That is a dangerous place to be – because James 2.10 tells us if we break any one law we break it all. The law is a complete whole, not to be divided up. If you try and live by it and fail on one point, you will be judged more harshly than if you did not know about the law. Religious people like to judge others, but Paul here is turning it on them and saying: you will be judged more harshly because you have broken the law and you know the law. You think you are so learned, but the more you learn about God’s law the harsher you will be judged. It doesn’t make sense to a religious person that a nice village like Capernaum where the all lived decent lives and nodded to God will be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah where they were homosexual, were happy to rape virgin girls and were happy to rape angels. But Jesus tells them that if the miracles done in Capernaum were done in Sodom they would have changed. Sodom didn’t have a chance – but Capernaum had chance after chance and rejected them all.
Capernaum represents the religiosu people today. They don’t do anything but judge. You are too happy, you are too sad. You are not holy enough, you are a fanatic. You are too loud, you are too quiet. The presence and power of God is in their midst and they simply ignore it. The greatest preacher who ever lived on planet earth came to their village to hold the greatest miracle crusade of all time and they rejected it because his father had the wrong job. Sodom and Gomorrah represent the world today: a lost, rebellious, harsh, vile, selfish group of people – who IF THEY SEE LOVE AND MIRACLES WILL CHANGE! Jesus didn’t say go into all the church with the gospel, He said go into all the WORLD.
4. This verse tells us that God holds you accountable for what you know – not other people. So many people take the law and use it to judge everyone else in the world. Jesus said that the world will not even be judged by the law, but you will. If you are a religious person, if you don’t know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins you will be judged by the full force of God’s law. Don’t let that happen – believe in the gospel. Realize that Jesus Christ took all your sins on the cross and your way to heaven is by grace alone – not your goodness but God’s. Then when you accept this for yourself, you will not judge and attack other people, you will love them and tell them about the wondrous grace of God that you found has saved you.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Twas blind but now I see
“Who Will Take the Son?’
There was a very wealthy man who, with his young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they travelled the world, adding to their collection. Priceless works adorned the walls of the family estate. But the day came when war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few weeks, his father received a telegram that his beloved son had been killed while carrying a wounded fellow soldier.
On Christmas morning a knock came at the door of the man’s home and as he opened the door he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself by saying, ‘I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in? I have something to show you.’ ‘I’m an artist,’ said the soldier, ‘and I want to give you this.’ As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of his son. Though the art critics would never consider the work a piece of art, the painting did feature the young man’s face in striking detail, and seemed to capture his personality.
The following spring, the man became ill and passed away. According to the will of the man, all of the art works would be auctioned. The day soon arrived, and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the most spectacular paintings. The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. ‘Who will open the bidding with $100?’ he asked. Minutes passed with not a sound from those who came to buy. From the back of the room someone called out, ‘Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the important paintings.’ There were other voices, which echoed in agreement. But the auctioneer replied, ‘No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?’
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. ‘I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it. I will bid the $100.’ ‘I have a bid for $100,’ called the auctioneer. ‘Will anyone go higher?’ After a long silence, the auctioneer said, ‘Going once. Going twice. Gone.’ The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone was heard to say, ‘Now we can get on with it!’ But the auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, ‘What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old man’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars’ worth of art here! We demand that you explain what’s going on!’ The auctioneer replied, ‘It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son… gets it all.’
‘He that has the Son has life.’ How many overlook Jesus as irrelevant to life not realising he is God’s only son, sent as a gift to humanity. Receive him and you get it all. Purpose, love, security, meaning, eternal life. What more do you want?