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Showing posts with label Devil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devil. Show all posts

Monday, September 18, 2023

Did Jesus Forbid Lawsuits?

Introduction and Review
Last Sunday, we learned that Jesus didn’t come to do away with the Old Testament Law, but to fulfill it.  He said that unless you follow the Law more perfectly than the Pharisees, you can never enter into the Kingdom of God.  (If you missed that message, it will be helpful for you to go back and read to it - "Why Christians Follow Some Old Testament Laws But not Others")

Jesus said, unless you follow the Law better than the Pharisees, you can never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20).  Now the Pharisees were the holiest people in Jesus’ day.  Everyone looked up to them and respected them.  And Jesus’ followers would have thought it quite impossible to be more righteous than the Pharisees.  And that was the point.  Jesus was saying, “You can’t do it.  The Pharisees can’t earn their way into Heaven and neither can you!”

That’s why Jesus came.  Since we can’t fulfill the requirements of the law, Jesus came to fulfill it for us.  Since the penalty of sin is death (and we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard), Jesus came and paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross for us.  His death atones for our sin and makes us right with God.

But to prove His point that we cannot follow the law perfectly (and so we desperately need Jesus’ help), Jesus give some real life examples to point out some of the ways we fall short.  The first example is about anger ad comes in Matthew 5:21-26. (We'll see some more examples in future blogs.)

Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Jesus shows how incredible demanding is God’s perfect Law.  Of course, we can understand that we should not murder.  But lest we boast that we have never murdered, Jesus points out that the spirit of the Law requires more.  If you are angry at someone, you’ve broken the Law.  If you are driving down Cleveland Hwy and someone cuts in front of you and almost causes a wreck and you say, “You idiot!”, you will face judgment.  And if you curse at someone, you are dangling precariously over the fires of hell and it’s only a matter of time before you fall into it!  The perfect Law of God is that demanding.  And Jesus goes on.

Matthew 5:23-24
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Here, Jesus is showing forgiveness and reconciliation is the most important act for God’s people.  In the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day, sacrifice in the Temple was very important.  People would travel for hundreds of miles (on foot) to visit the Temple to make a religious sacrifice.  It was a high and holy event.  But Jesus says there’s something even more important.  Even though your sacrifice was very expensive and you traveled many miles to offer it as the Temple that is held up as the most important place on earth, forgiveness and reconciliation is more important.  It is so important, in fact, that Jesus left the glory of Heaven to come down to our broken world, and to die on a cross for our sins so we can be reconciled to God and each other.

Matthew 5:25-26
“When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

This last part is often seen as Jesus’ practical advice for people in a lawsuit.  It makes sense.  If someone has a suit against you (and you are in the wrong, or maybe even just partly in the wrong), settle it out of court if you can.  You never know how it’s going to go in court.  Plus, honest people ought to be able to work out a fair agreement among themselves.  (Sadly, that’s not always the case since we are too broken by sin.)

But the Lord revealed something to me as I prepared for this message (and I checked it out and found there is another way of understanding this passage that gets at what Jesus is really saying).  This is more than just practical advice.  Jesus is using a metaphor about eternal judgement.

Matthew 5:25a
“When you are on the way to court with your adversary…”  We are all involved in a divine “lawsuit”.  You see, God’s Law is perfect.  And we have all broken it.  And the Bible often says the Devil is our accuser and adversary.  Satan is the prosecuting attorney who brings the case against sinful people to God.  Our great enemy, the Devil, shows all the evidence of our sinfulness to the Heavenly Court and points His accusing finger at our face, “He is guilty!  She is guilty!  And the penalty is death and eternal damnation!”

And what will you say when you find yourself on the judgment seat in the court of Heaven?  We have no defense.  We are indeed guilty.  As Jesus shows, we are guilty even if we’ve only ever been angry or called someone an idiot.

And so Jesus says, “Don’t wait until the Day of Judgment!  Then it will be too late.  Settle this matter now, while you’re still on the way to that Heavenly Court.  Here’s your chance.”

Here’s your chance, people.  Jesus is here now.  He came to offer grace.  He came to offer reconciliation with God and your fellow man.  It’s more important than worship or sacrifice.  It’s THE most important thing.

Reconcile with God through Jesus
So first off, we need to get our hearts right with God.  That starts when we turn to Jesus and repent of our sin.  We say, “Jesus, I will follow You as the Lord of my life.  I am no longer in charge.  You are.  I will follow You.  Please, forgive me for my sins and save me.”

When we do this, Jesus’ death on the cross washes away all our sin.  When the Devil tries to accuse you before God, there will be nothing left to find you guilty.  Your sins are gone.  You are innocent and holy before God.  But there’s more.

Now, we are called to live like Jesus in this broken world. We are ambassadors of peace and reconciliation. Jesus forgives our trespasses and so we forgive those who have trespassed against us.  And we are healed and there is healing in our world and the Kingdom of Heaven comes on earth.

No.  It is not easy to forgive people who hurt us.  It was not east for Jesus to die on the cross, but He did it.  And Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”  And so just as Jesus forgave us, we must forgive others. 

As we close, I want to first invite you to be reconciled to God.  Turn away from your sin and turn to Jesus.  Believe in Him and trust Him and follow Him as Lord and receive the grace and mercy and forgiveness He freely gives.  He will wash you clean of your sin so you are holy before God.  The Devil will have nothing of which to accuse you.  You will be innocent.

Second, I invite you to do the hard work of forgiving others.  Just as Christ forgave you, freely forgive those who have wronged you.  Do not be angry, for anger leads to wrath.  Instead, leave the judgment to God, for He is the only one qualified to judge.  As for you, be an ambassador of peace and reconciliations as is fitting for those who follow the Lord Jesu Christ.

For a incredible testimony of God's power and forgiveness that transforms lives, watch this video from Samaritans Purse about an orphan from Rwanda who gave his life to Christ and then forgave the people who murdered his family in the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Children of God

In the early 2000, Kelly and I lived in an apartment in Lithia Springs, GA.  One of our neighbors was an man named Nadeem. Nadeem was from Iran and had a very different upbringing than me.  It was interesting to talk to him and learn about his culture.  Nadeem was also a Muslim, which was a very interesting because Nadeem was also an alcoholic.  Now, Muslim's in Iran are fairly stric and drinking alcohol is forbidden, so I don't know how that worked, but Nadeem could often be found sitting on a bench outside our apartment building, which is how I met him.  Nadeem was also married to as Catholic nun.  I know.  That doesn't make any sense either, but that is how Nadeem described her (I'm thinking she must have been a former nun because nuns are celibate and do not marry.)  

I had many good conversations with Nadeem and I always think of him when I cook rice because one time he invited me into his apartment to teach me the "proper" way to cook rice.  He would always add a little olive oil and salt.  Sometimes he would add other things like garbanzo beans.  His rice was always very good.

My conversations with Nadeem would often work around to religion.  I was interested to know more about Islam and he was curious about Christianity.  Of course, I also felt a burden to share about Jesus and how He changed my life.  Nadeem would often say, "You know Chris, Jesus is in the Koran too.  We believe in Jesus."  I would ask Nadeem what he believed about Jesus and he would say the Koran teaches Jesus is a great prophet.  "But do you believe Jesus is the Son of God," I would ask and we would go round and round about this.  Finaly, Nadeem would say, “Chris, Chris, we are all children of God.”

The subtle disagreement we had was over what it means to be a child of God.  The Christian Bible says Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  The Greek word the New Testament uses for “only begotten” is monogenes and means “uniquely born” or “one-of-a-kind birth.” The conception and birth of Jesus was unique—nothing like it had ever happened before and will never happen again in the future. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit and is the only one who has two natures—divine and human; all God and all man.”[i]  Though is some sense all people are children of God, we are not children of God the way Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.

I hope you will follow todays message, because it is very important.  It will takes some twists and turns along the way, but the destination is worth the drive; I hope you will stay with me.  The problem is we are dealing with some half-truths and partial truths of the world and comparing them to the Whole Truth of God.

Many people in our world like to say, “We are all children of God.”  Now, in a sense this is true.  The world (and even the Church) has emphasized this claim over the last century to make some important points to help us deal with the serious problems of racism, war, and division in our world.  The statement is true in the sense that God created us all. 

Furthermore, there is no one race that is superior to any other race.  We are all really one race. To speak of a black race or a white race or an Asian race is really technically wrong. The misguided idea that humanity is divided into different “races” began in the 15th century mostly as a way for Europeans to justify the conquest of other countries inhabited by Africans, Asians, and Native Americans (even the Irish).  Since they believed they were different races of people, the subjugation of different races was acceptable (or even inevitable). "Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races…”[ii] Genetically, we are all one race. When we say the word race, what we really mean is ethnicity, culture, or people groups.  There is no significant genetic difference between the different people groups of the world.  We are all part of one human race.

Furthermore, according to Genesis in the Bible, God created all people through Adam and Eve--the first human beings. So to say, “We are all God’s children” is true in a broad sense.  Christians who believe the Bible's account of creation accept that we all descended from the same ancestral parents. 

Usually when people say “We are all God’s children,” they are calling on everyone everywhere to live together in harmony. It’s a noble call. We certainly do need to set aside petty squabbles and see all human beings as being part of one human family. Let’s treat everyone fairly and be done forever with racism and discrimination. Let us, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so passionately preached, “Judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.”

But in this series, we are comparing what the world says to what Jesus says. What did Jesus say?

John 8:42-44
42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.  

The Devil’s Children
Most people prefer to think of Jesus as a kind man gently holding a baby lamb. Quite often, that’s not the Jesus we see in the Bible. It’s not the Jesus we see in John 8. In John 8, Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees in Jerusalem and He’s telling the cold hard Truth. There are some people in this world who aren’t God’s children; they’re the Devil’s children.  

Now, this message is about to take curve in the road so brace yourself. Hold on.  Scripture teaches all people who have not repented of sin and turned to Jesus are children of the Devil.  According to Jesus own words, those who reject Him are children of the Devil. 

Most people think of a devil child as an especially “bad” kid.  Surely, it's the toddler who sneaks the chocolate syrup out of the fridge and smears it all over the kitchen who qualifies as a devil child.  Or maybe it's the person is is especially evil or does evil things that is a devil child.  

Surely it's not good people who are children of the Devil.  However, we need to asks a pertinent question.  Who among us is really good?  Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” 

Romans 3:10-18 is even harsher.  “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.  Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.  Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.  They rush to commit murder.  Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace They have no fear of God at all.”

Romans 3 might seem harsh, but understand holiness and righteousness are not measured by human standards.  They are measured by God’s perfect standard.  Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard."  When we compare human goodness to God’s perfection, human goodness doesn’t even compare.  Romans 3 describes you (and me).

Isaiah 64:6 puts it this way, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.”  Remember, the Pharisees were the holiest people where Jesus lived.  Everyone looked up to them as righteous dudes.  They memorized the Torah--which is the first five books of the Bible.  They sought to live good, holy lives that avoided all sin.  Furthermore, they refused to associate with anyone considered sinful, unclean, or ungodly.

“But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw [Jesus] eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” (Mark 2:16) 

Back to Our Question
Are we all children of God? The answer, according to Jesus (and Scripture) is a resounding no. Those who reject Jesus (and thus reject God) are children of the Devil. And really, everyone has done this.

There is a little used, but sometimes used, legal processing in American whereby a child can "divorce" there parents.  It is called emancipation and it doesn't happen often.  If it is determined that a parent is not truly advocating for the best interest of their child, a child can be set free from the authority of their parent.  The parent then no longer has any guardianship rights over the child.  Now, in our fallen world where parents don't always do what they should, it may be necessary for a child to "divorce" their parents.

Here’s the thing. God created us and He is a perfect parent that always looks out for our best interest, but we have turned our backs on God because of sin and rejected God as our Father. We walked away. We divorced our Heavenly Father.  We have said, "I don't want to be beholden to You anymore.  I don't accept God's authority over my life.  I am walking away to go live my own life the way I want to live it."  

By our sin, every person who lives has rejected (or divorced) God. We have walked away from the relationship. It’s not just prostitutes and notorious sinners. Even the supposedly good, holy people have turn their backs on God through sin. God is no longer our Father.  Therefore, by default, we become “children of the Devil.”

It is only by the grace of God that we can return to a right relationship with God. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Why would God need to adopt us if we were already His children? Because people are not God's children before He adopts them through Christ.

The whole story of the Good News of God can be summed up in a single parable told by Jesus —the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.  Jesus uses a powerful family story to analogize the relationship between people and God.  The Father in the story represents God. The younger son represents the notorious sinners of the world. The older son represents the “good” people of the world who generally follow the rules, but have defective attitudes and perspectives.  The story goes like this (I will add my comments in italics):

“A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

The younger son wants to divorce his father and go live his life his onw way.  He doesn't want to work on his father's estate anymore.  He doesn't want to be subject to his father's rules and authority.  He can't wait until his father dies and he can get his inheritance and leave.  So he just comes out and basically says, "I can't wait for you to die.  Give me my inheritance now so I can go ahead and leave."

So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. 

This is an amazing story of grace.  The Father loves his son, despite the terrible, hateful way the son left.  Now that the son has come home, the Father adopts His son back into the family.  The gifts of a robe and ring and sandals are symbols that the has not a servant, but a son.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

The older son was angry.  He thinks he is better than his younger brother.  He thinks his Father (who remember is God) owes him a reward for being good.  Do you think God owes you something for being good?  

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”


I want you to notice something important in this story.  Jesus doesn’t tell us whether or not the older son ever went in to join the party.  He did that on purpose.  You know why?  He left us hanging because most of us are the older son.  We the ones standing out in the cold while all the prostitutes, gangsters, and despised sinners of the world are inside partying with Jesus because they already knew they were sinners who needed Jesus to forgive them.  Meanwhile, so many times, we think God owes us something (especially if we are generally good people).  That attitude is a great sin in and of itself.  God doesn’t owe you anything.  However, He still graciously invites you to receive His grace and come in to the feast. You are the one who decides how the story ends.  You can choose to stay outside with your arms folded and pouting lips or you can let go of your pride, recognize your own sin, seek forgiveness just like everyone else, and go in and join the party.  Are you going to come in and join the party?

Jesus left His church with a very special meal to celebrate what He did for us on the cross and to foreshadow the everlasting feast awaiting those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  On the night He was arrested, Jesus sat down to a special meal with His disciples.  At the meal, Jesus broke the bread and gave it to His disciples and said, "This is my body that is given for you. Take and eat."  Likewise, after the meal, he took the cup and raised it to heaven and ask God to bless it and said, "This is my blood of the New Covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Drink it, and as often as you do, do it in remembrance of me."  Ever since that night, this memorial meal has been shared by Christians as a way to remember Christ's death on the cross--a sacrifice that atones for our sins and makes salvation and a right relationship with God possible.

I invite you to come in and enjoy the Father's feast.  Don't stay outside as a child of Satan.  Come Home and be a child of God once more.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris: Can Satan Hear Our Prayers?

Dear Pastor Chris,
            Can Satan hear our prayers?  I ask this because I actually pray silently, in hopes that the Devil can't, or maybe won't, be able to know what I am praying.

Your Inquisitive Friend,
Prayer Warrior

Dear Prayer Warrior,
James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Humble obedience to God should be our main concern.  If we keep our focus on God, Satan has no chance.  It’s only when we take our focus off God and his Kingdom that we are in danger.
            Sometimes it feels like Satan is taunting me as I pray, trying to discourage me, but I just tell him to get lost.  I’ve even told him, “Say what you want, Devil, but you already know you lose in the end.”  I think that really drives Satan nuts and it ends my concerns on the matter.
            For me, I think the Devil’s presence (or perceived presence) during my prayer times has more to do with my own insecurities.  When I dwell on my sin or failures or shortcomings, it opens the door for Satan to come taunt me.  Thankfully, my faith in God’s goodness, forgiveness, and love reminds me to kick the Devil back out the door and to lock it tight.  I know God loves me no matter what, in spite of all my flaws.  I believe with my whole heart—“…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).  So the Enemy’s hateful, hurtful words are just his futile attempt to scare me or depress me or distract me, and I’m just not going to let him.
Can the Devil hear our prayers?  Maybe sometimes, but I think this would be true whether we say them out loud or silently in our heart.  I think Satan is a spiritual being and if and when he overhears our prayers, he can overhear our inner prayers too.  Don’t let that unsettle you though.  Satan has no power over God and he cannot intercept, disrupt, or stop our prayers from reaching God.  I suppose some might be concerned Satan will get a little inside information he could use against us.  I just don’t think God would allow it.  God is too powerful.  Actually, it must be incredibly frustrating to Satan to hear you pray about something, to see beforehand how God is going to answer your prayer, and how God’s answer is going to defeat Satan, and Satan can’t do a thing in the world to stop it.
However, if you still have a concern Satan might be eavesdropping on your prayers, I would just start my prayer by asking God to keep the conversation private.  Pray “Lord, stop up Satan’s ears so he can’t hear what I’m about to tell you.”  Done.  God will answer that prayer and Satan won’t be able to hear a thing you pray—whether you pray in your heart or screaming out loud.  (It’s sort of comical to think about really—everyone within ten blocks being able to hear your prayers because you’re screaming; and Satan is totally oblivious.)

Remember, God love you and so do I!

Pastor Chris

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Green Light

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

James 4:7 – So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

            “It’s the green light.”  He said. 
            “What do you mean?”  I asked my friend, Ken.  Ken Stephens was an experienced Methodist minister who served a church a few miles down the road from mine.  He was patient, faithful, and wise from years of ‘fighting the good fight’ in the Lord’s Kingdom.
            Ken and I and a number of other pastors in Forsyth, Georgia were planning a community-wide mission event.  Unfortunately, we had experienced some minor setbacks in our plans.  It was nothing major, but enough to make some of us less experienced ministers question if we were doing the right thing.  Was God trying to tell us we were off track?  Were we doing the right thing?
            “It’s the green light.”  Ken repeated.  “When Satan sees the Church working together and doing the will of God, Satan feels threatened.  He doesn’t like it.  So, he tries his best to disrupt and discourage God’s people.  But that’s the green light for the Church.  It tells us we are on the right track.  We are making the Devil nervous.  So we’ve got to press on.  The Devil’s telling us to stop, but God’s giving us the green light to go ahead.”
            I never forgot Ken’s advice.  Whenever I know I am doing the right thing, I don’t let Satan discourage me with his minor disruptions.  Now, I just see these as the green light.  They are confirmation that I am on the right track.  If Satan is fighting us, it is only confirmation that we are on the right track.  So I pray for God to chase the Devil away and I ask other prayer warriors to join with me, knowing if we resist the Devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). 
            Satan cannot stand against us.  Through Jesus, we have already won the victory.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

Remember, God loves you and so do I!