For the blog post today, here is a trial-run video of last Sunday's sermon, recorded on August 4th, 2019.
A certain man went driving in the warm afternoon sun. The top was down on his red convertible as he meandered his way to the outstretched highway. The pleasant wind and open road delighted his senses as the world rushed past his view.
Road signs marked the way like sentinels, speaking of towns and villages that lay before him. Sunglasses firmly fixed upon him, he glanced down at the speedometer and reveled in the velocity.
Then, a blaring noise rushed over the wind, sending a shiver down his spine as he glanced into the rearview mirror. Blue and red lights flashed behind him! He maneuvered over to let the state patrol car pass, only to be surprised that it stayed with him, right on his tail, with lights ablaze and siren howling.
Disturbed by this, he pulled over, knowing that certainly the officer just needed more room to get around him. Nope. He pulled in behind the man and angled his car.
In a moment, the officer stepped out of his patrol car and walked up to the side window of the man’s red convertible. Instinctively he rolled down the window, forgetting he already had the top down.
“What seems to be the problem, officer?” the man asked with obvious annoyance.
The officer shook his head in subtle disbelief. “Let me see your license and registration and your proof of insurance please.”
The man handed over the requested documents, “But what’s the matter, officer?”
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
“Sure,” he replied. “I was doing 85.”
The officer began writing in his book, “Didn’t you see the speed limit sign? The law says 60 miles per hour on this highway.”
“Well,” the man continued, “I didn’t break the law. The minimum limit is 60 and I made sure that I didn’t go below the limit. I kept it well above 60!”
The state patrolman gazed hard upon the man for a moment, “Sir,” he continued, “60 miles per hour is the MAXIMUM limit allowed on this highway.”
“Well,” the man said with a huff, “that’s your interpretation, not mine.”
The above narrative is not a true story, but I trust that it might quickly convey the direction of this article. But, let’s forge ahead anyway.
I won’t deny that some things in the Bible are challenging to grasp, however, there are clear and understandable truths given to us in God’s Word. Despite this, many have skewed the Scriptures with various private interpretations that have no genuine basis for belief. Because many would prefer to live their life according to their own desires, they misinterpret the Scriptures to justify their lives and then claim to be living in accordance with His teaching.
Just like there is an obvious nature to the posted laws on the highway and they are not subject to individual interpretation, so the Bible will not bow down to the various and sundry opinions offered by those who wish to live apart from its rule.
Peter clearly states this.
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. ~ 2 Peter 1:19-20
Just because a person doesn’t like the word of God or agree with the word of God does not mean that they are then given the right to reinterpret the word of God to their own satisfaction. And yet, Paul warns Timothy (and us) about such things:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-4
Even the prophet Isaiah warned about such times when he prophesied in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Today I read an article from a former pastor who has abandoned his faith in Christ because to hold firmly to the word of God does not conform to the current cultural philosophy or a politically correct paradigm. The thing about the word of God is this: it will never change, despite the effort of those who wish to interpret it according to their own desire for personal gratification.
Just like the driver in the story above, where his interpretation of the speed limit didn’t change the truth, so all the effort of a society wishing to live comfortably in their sins and not be condemned in them, will never shift the reality of God’s word.
The choice then is this: we either come to God in total and contrite confession of our sins, seeking His grace and mercy in Christ or we try to manipulate the word of God to rationalize our sinful behavior only to discover that He has not changed one word of it to conform to our interpretation. One choice will bring us into His mercy and grace; the other will keep us condemned in our sins.
Which choice will you make?
One of the challenges we face as Christians in today’s modern culture of tolerance is the continual belief that grace and tolerance are equated.
Where Jesus is the epitome of love and grace, He is also the absolute Judge and condemner of sin and He alone represents perfect justice.
God does not tolerate sin, and the cross is the reality of that truth. He, upon the cross, condemned sin and paid the cost for it all. If you cannot see God’s view of sin in the brutality of the cross, you have missed the real expression of His love for you.
This does not, however, give reason to believe that all our sins are overlooked by God and He now has a view toward us that is rich with tolerance. His view toward us is rich with GRACE. Not a grace that is lacking power and authority, but the grace of the King of kings, the rightful Ruler and Judge, that sees sin in its absolute abhorrence and reaches down to us anyway.
God’s love calls out to us in His grace, not wanting us to remain in our sins but to repent and turn away from sin and toward Jesus. Grace does not call out to us and say, “You’re ok just the way you are.” Grace calls out to us and says, “You’re broken and in desperate need, come to the only One who can pardon your sins and cleanse you from your wicked ways.”
To put it bluntly: grace does not tolerate, grace redeems.
And redemption, not tolerance, is what we need from God. Thus, for all who receive His grace, redemption is abundantly given. Tolerance believes God will allow us to stay in our sins. But in Christ, sin is condemned (Romans 8:3).
This brings us back to the cross—the ultimate statement against sin.
The cross of Christ is both the condemnation of the world as well as the hope of all mankind. God’s wrath and mercy were found there—the punishment for sin and the promise of salvation.
But some will argue their desire for tolerance with such statements as this: “Didn’t Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And, yes, He did. He ate with them, spent time with them, touched their wounds and called them to Himself. For He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). What Jesus never did was leave a sinner in a place where they felt comfortable remaining in their sin.
Consider these texts:
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” ~ John 5:14
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~ John 8:11
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. ~ John 8:34
This does not mean that Jesus rejects sinners—just the opposite! If Jesus rejected sinners then heaven would be vacant. He redeems all sinners who will repent, and delivers them from the wrath of God and the penalty of sin.
So, if you or I are to love someone in Christ, let us do so with the same purpose as Christ: To call sinners to repentance and love those who are in this world with a love that offers grace and not tolerance toward sin.
©2019 Rev. Michael Duncan
They were already defeated!
Hundreds of soldiers lay upon the ground, nothing but dry bones to the passers-by who may have accidentally wandered through the ancient battlefield. The battle had passed, the war was over, and dry bones was all that remained. You think to yourself, "Victorious warriors have marked graves, elaborate tombs and proper burials. You do not find their remains left behind." But these were fallen men, broken and beaten. Not much left to do but shrug your shoulders at the sight, perhaps offer a sigh of regret for their demise, and continue on to other destinations. This was the field of the defeated.
And we walk through society with the same aire of regret and disconnection for the swath of humanity that lay upon the fields of failure, who are scattered like so much debris across the vast plains of the current culture and are deemed defeated. There's nothing to do but offer our feigned sympathies and move along to our other destinations. We have no time for those who are the failures, who are the thrown-away wretches.
But God does have time for them.
God sends His prophet to the very field of bones, the scattered remains of the vanquished who lay sprawled out across the wasteland of the forgotten and sets His purpose to do something.
"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry." ~ Ezekiel 37:1-2
Oh, my friends, you may think that you're defeated, that your life is nothing better than a pile of dried bones that have been left to the ever-encroaching decay of life. You may have been broken by any number of enemies that rampage our culture. Sexual temptations, drug addictions, alcohol, and a myriad of other battalions wage war against your heart and soul. You may have succumbed to their advancements and now lay upon the field of the defeated. I want to tell you - it's not over! God is here and He asks a very important question.
"And he said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' And I answered, 'O Lord GOD, you know.'" ~ Ezekiel 37:3
Come back next week when we discover Victory from the Ashes of Defeat - Part Two.
Happy New Year!
This is a brand new day... a new start, a fresh encounter with a sense of possibilities that fills the heart with hope. I love "New Year's Day" because it brings a refreshing delight to the soul. At least it does for me.
Now there are some who see it as only the transferring of one day to another... yesterday to today. No big deal, no remarkable change, just one more cog in the machine of existence. A simple change of the calendar.
But if you watched the spectacles around the world, there were billions of people rejoicing in thousands of locations across twenty-four time zones, each celebrating the passage of last year to this. Fireworks soared into the heavens, resolutions resounded upon the lips from hearts that long for a greater sense of purpose, a deeper growth of character and a better way of living. Kisses were offered and taken, men upon their knees proposed to their delighted girlfriends as tears of joy welled and cascaded to the ground. Everything was wonderfully new!
But what of you?
Do you sense the newness of this time? Is there a re-lit hope, a spark of delight that will kindle a flame of passion into an fire of determination to step into this year with confident assurance that this will be the year you reach new heights? I hope so! For once you sense that renewal of life, you begin to believe that what lay before you is far greater than merely existing for another 365 days... what waits before you is the call of God.
With a sense of wonder an awe, you start to realize that Ephesians 2:10 is you: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Then, in great anticipation of what God will do through you, it becomes clear that Philippians 3:14 is what it takes: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Finally, you discover that Philippians 4:13 is real: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
Let me ask again - what about you?
How will you step into this New Year? Will you, like so many, enter it with misanthropic melancholy or will you put your feet under you, walk with courage and confidence, knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ has already gone before you to prepare opportunities that wait upon your willingness to try?
Let me encourage you to step into this New Year with steadfast determination to make it the best year ever.
In His Grace,
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The great quest of life is found in the pursuit of truth. Set your course with God's word and discover the greatest adventure imaginable!