SPIRITUAL GROWTH, AS TAUGHT BY SCRIPTURE AND THE SCIENCE OF BOTANY
By Jim Foley
Text: “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow” Matthew 6:28.
INTRO: In this scripture Jesus gives us an object lesson as to what constitutes spiritual growth, and how it happens. Jesus made the lilies and He made me, and now he describes to me how both biological and spiritual growth takes place. People often create for themselves a great deal of anxiety because they assume there must be some formula they must rigorously conform to in order to make themselves grow spiritually. Spiritual growth is not a secret formula process we must discover for ourselves.
Jesus points to the lilies of the field as an illustration of how natural and spontaneous both natural and spiritual growth is. When Jesus points us to the lilies of the field it is not simply an appeal for us to see and enjoy nature and admire its beauty. Everything in nature, as well as in scripture, is given to teach us a spiritual truth. Natural life and spiritual life are governed, as is everything God has made, by natural law.
Now let’s take a close look at the lilies of the field, and let them teach us about growth, both natural and spiritual. The point we must consider is not just that they are there for us to admire, but rather to consider “how they grow,” as Jesus puts it in our text. Many Christians live with anxiety because they are trying to make themselves grow spiritually. The lilies grow without anxiety. Without taking conscious care or effort the lilies grow naturally into full beauty. There is no conscious toiling to weave the tissues of their leaves. Their complex tissues have spun themselves naturally and automatically.
Jesus follows up by implying that we care-worn and anxious people need not fret about causing ourselves to grow. He implores us to “take no thought” about what we will eat or drink, or how we should be clothed. We mortals create ghosts in our minds and then worry about them. We allow ourselves to be controlled by circumstances rather than allowing God to perfectly order our life.
All men and women who have just a little faith have learned the secret of a composed life in many respects, but when it comes to spiritual growth we do not seem to make the connection. Early on in our Christian lives we settle down at times in calm trust in God, trusting Him to provide the necessities of our bodies. Then by and by we begin to become anxious about spiritual growth, especially when someone tells us we must follow this or that formula if we are to grow spiritually. But how do the lilies grow? They grow by grace, and take no thought, because the growth comes naturally. How does a child of God grow spiritually? He also grows by grace. Yet as we are told by others how to do this, we start fretting about it, and the anxiety comes back. We then have transferred our anxiety from our bodies to our souls. Then our efforts at Christian growth seem only a succession of failures.
Why does this happen? It happens because we forget the lesson of the lilies of the field. Strenuous efforts to grow spiritually are right in earnestness, but are wholly wrong in principle. In both the natural and spiritual realm there is but one principle for growth. That principle is the same for plant and animal, and for body and soul. If we would know that principle, look again and “consider the lilies, how they grow.” There are two characteristics of all growth. They are:
First let us consider the spontaneous nature of spiritual growth. There are three categories by which we may seek for evidence of the spontaneous nature of both bodily and spiritual growth. The first category is Science. We need not be a rocket scientist to understand that the lilies grow of themselves. It is one of the most natural things in the world. They grow automatically and spontaneously, and that without trying, without fretting about it, or without having to think about it.
Take for example a new born baby boy. He begins growing shortly after birth without being aware of it, and is so uncontaminated by the advice of others that it is all automatic. As he grows he eats because he is hungry, and the growth goes on without giving it a thought. He does not fret about the condition of growth, but has a habit of eating and so the result is that growth goes on automatically and naturally. The boy’s parents have no need to tell the boy to grow, for it is a law of nature that he will grow without having to give thought to any process.
Well-meaning people may tell us that the formula for spiritual growth is more prayer, more self-denial, more good works, etc. These are all well and good, but are not the cause of spiritual growth, but the results of it, just as many of our activities in life increase as we grow into a greater and grater capacity for various and greater ventures. The scientific fact is that the soul grows as the lily grows, without trying and fretting and thinking about it.
Another thing that teaches us that growth, both bodily and spiritually, is spontaneous and automatic is experience. Getting back to the example of the boy in the above illustration that grows without taking thought, experience teaches us that he cannot make himself grow no matter how hard he tries. Doesn’t scripture also tell us this fact? No person can add to his stature by taking thought. “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?” Mat 6:27
The Christian’s life unfolds itself like the lily of the field, from a divine germ planted centrally in his nature, and it grows as naturally as a flower from its seed. Though this flower can be imitated, one can always tell the artificial flower from the real one. This is the distinction between the natural growth of the Christian principles in the life of the Christian, and the moral copy of it. The first is natural and the second is mechanical. There are many artificial Christians marching about in society like little tin soldiers, but little tin soldiers only mimic the real thing.
In the natural world in which we live there are crystals that GROW and organisms that GROW, but there is a real and fundamental distinction between them. The distinction is that the crystal is DEAD, while the organism is ALIVE. The crystal increases, but the organism grows. The organism is from within, while the crystal simply adds new particles from the outside. This is the difference between the true Christian and the mere moralist. The moralist’s works are all an external put-on. The moralist’s so-called meritorious works are all external while the true Christian’s meritorious works are from an internal divine growth. It is the distinction between the true Christian and the hypocrite. Now the crystal may be ever so beautiful, but it lacks the vital principle of a living germ of divine life within.
Another fact that we need consider is that salvation in the first instant is never connected directly with morality. This principle is totally foreign to the thinking of the merely religious pretender since he thinks of his put-on show of morality as earning him salvation. It is true that salvation does demand morality, but the problem is that it demands so much morality that the moralist can never reach up to that level. True salvation results in the perfection of the inner man, i.e., a Christ-like mind. Col 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: There must first be a spiritual awakening that can only be accomplished by God, then comes the natural, internal morality. The moralist, with his external morality, may go a long distance towards perfection, at least in the eyes of his neighbors, but he can never reach true moral perfection, and so he is lost, for God demands perfection in the inner man. Only true spiritual life in the inner man can be perfect, and that life in the inner man of all true Christians is "Christ in you, the hope of glory. And that divine life, i.e., “Christ in you,” is the germ that sparks spiritual growth in the inner man that produces true good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. Divine life always produces good works and so spiritual growth results because God has ordained it, and those ordained good works will flow out of, and give true evidence of, that natural automatic and spontaneous spiritual growth. Life develops according to its type and so out of the Christian’s inner man will flow “rivers of living water,” and “springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. It will be the most natural thing in the world.
Growth is synonymous with a living, automatic process. The Christian is a new creature in Christ Jesus, and he adds cubits to his stature just as the old man (flesh) does, naturally. To use another scriptural metaphor he abides in the vine (Jesus), and because he abides in the vine, and not because he is toiling, but rather because he is growing, he brings forth fruit. Fruit is always because of growth and not growth because of the fruit. The fruits of the Christian’s character are not manufactured things, but living things that have grown from the secret germ. In short they are the fruits of the living Spirit.
Now let’s consider the second great characteristic of growth: mysteriousness. The lily Jesus spoke of grew mysteriously. It pushed up its weight of stem and leaf in the teeth of gravity. How the flower does that, we know not, but observation tells us it does. Along the edges of asphalt paving one often sees plants break the pavement to reach up their leafy heads towards heaven. What mysterious force causes that? It is God who causes it to grow. God has put within the lily the nature to grow. Likewise when the soul rises slowly above the world and pushes up its virtues into the very teeth of sin and depravity, and displays the very image of Christ, it is then as natural for the lily to grow mysteriously from the seed to the flower.
New Christians are often misled into believing the secret of spiritual growth is a strong will, a high ideal, a strong resolve to live virtuously, and the influence of Christian fellowship. We allow that the growth of a lily is a miracle, but then assert that a Christian must resort to self-imposed formulas to grow spiritually. We say the lily may grow naturally and spontaneously, but the Christian must fret and toil to grow spiritually.
A man or woman may, by hard work and self-denial attain to a very high character, but this is not spiritual growth. If such efforts at self-improvement cause spiritual growth then spiritual growth is not mysterious. Jesus Himself spoke of the mysteriousness of spiritual birth and growth when He said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8. The fact that it is mysterious implies you cannot account for it on philosophical grounds such as a favorable Christian environment, charitable works, or efforts at self-improvement. The result of such thinking produces only artificial flowers. You can easily discern where that kind of religion comes from and where it goes. A lot of what passes for Christianity is formed by external influences, social opinions, and the voices of the world, which may be observed and explained. But the genuine thing comes only by the unseen power imparted by the mysterious thing we call the new birth.
True Christians stand out from among the crowd, just as a real lily stands out from all the artificial ones, because of that unseen power that produces spiritual life in them, a life totally different from that lifeless counterfeit of the self-made that call themselves Christians.
As long as anyone tries to manufacture his or her own spirituality, they can never be free from the pressure cooker of trying to measure up. They do not understand that the energies that produce spiritual growth, which results in spiritual improvement, are already there. That energy is the energy of the Omnipotent God Who fills their souls. If they are saved, growth moves them upward just as the lily grows upwards naturally by reason of the energy to grow that is inherent in their cells.
When I was born of the Spirit of God I was hungry for the bread from heaven. That is also the natural result of being born again. It was a pleasure to “taste and see that the Lord was good.” I had “tasted the good word of God” and it made me want more. When one is born of the Spirit of God, growth is automatic. One need not even be thinking of that or even be aware of it. The only thing that can prevent growth in a Christian is not feeding on the word of God. But when one is born of the Spirit of God one has a craving for the bread from heaven, and so eating and growing will go on.
When one is born again growing begins and continues. At first he is satisfied with the “sincere milk of the word.” I Peter 2:2. And as he grows spiritually he automatically develops a taste for the strong meat of the word. “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age.” And so his spiritual growth continues until he becomes a mature Christian. The lily of the field grows spontaneously and mysteriously because that is naturally inherent in its nature. I believe the Lord was pointing out to us that those born of the Spirit of God will just as spontaneously and mysteriously do the same.
Are you growing, or still working at it?
When did the church begin?
I think we would all agree that the English word “church” originates from the Greek word, “Ecclesia”. Without going into great detail I believe that we can also agree that this Greek word basically means “assembly.”
Ok, if we agree so far then we can move on to what assembly we are referring to when discussing the word, “Church.” I think it logical to begin with the promise of the church.
We find the promise here: Mat. 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
In this promise Jesus defines what church he is talking about; He said it would be his church and that he would build it. If we take Jesus at his word we can eliminate any other church, or assembly, if you will. We can also affirm that his church did not exist before this because the words “I will build” are in the future tense.
We find the first members of his church mentioned here” 1Cor. 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
We find that he chose these apostles here: Luke 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.
Since the office of apostle is then a “church office,” we can safely say that when he chose the twelve this is the beginning of “his church.” There are many scriptures that show that his church was in existence during his personal ministry on earth. They do not show the time of the actual beginning, but they affirm that it existed at that time. There is no scripture that comes right out and says; “The church began at this time.”
There are many that think that the church began on the day of Pentecost. But a serious study will show that the church existed before Pentecost. I’ll just mention a few here. Jesus is with his disciples here as they partake of The Lord’s Supper: Mat. 26:29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
He sang this hymn with them in the midst of the church: Heb 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance.
Just the fact that they partook of The Lord’s Supper presupposes that there is a church in existence at this time.
The authority of disciples in church capacity was placed in the church during Christ's earthly ministry. Mat 18:15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
They had the church commission to preach the Gospel before Pentecost Mrk. 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Anyway, this part about the church before Pentecost is just a freebee. It doesn’t really speak to the issue of when the church was begun, but rather, when it wasn’t.
WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT:
Righteousness and Justification
Jesus had some very specific things to say about righteousness and justification. His teaching has, for the most part, been perverted and twisted until it means something quite different from what the early church understood it to mean. The nature of this perversion is so degenerate that it has changed the meaning of these words so that they mean exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. The result is that most of the religious world believes a lie and perpetuates this lie simply because it has been repeated as truth for so many years. These same people castigate those who would hold to the purity of God’s word; relegating them to the ranks of some obscure sect or calling them religious fanatics.
We can be thankful that God’s word does not change, the religious world has had to invent new versions of the Bible to prove their blasphemous lies, because the Bible does not support their teaching, in fact, it condemns it.
In order to have a proper study on this subject, it must be determined what the word “righteousness” means with regard to the righteousness that Jesus spoke of for the remission of sin. Three references will serve to define the word: Rom.5:21. Phil.3:9. Tit.3:5.
Jesus pointed to John the Baptist as he that came in the way of righteousness, some accepted that way and others did not, thus representing the two different sides of this argument. Mat.21:28-32.
Now if John came in the way of righteousness, then we must ask, what was John’s message? Mat.3:1-2.
Salvation presupposes the idea that I am unable to help myself, this is called depravity. Jer.17:9. If I think that because my sin is gone, then I am righteous, what about tomorrow? If I sin tomorrow do I lose my righteousness? This is where the idea comes from that you can lose your salvation. Rom.10:3.
Where then does this righteousness come from? Does it come about because of the good things that I do? This is the adult version of--- “If you be a good little boy you will go to heaven.” It is also the mistake of the Pharisees who looked within themselves for their righteousness and despised those who did not act righteous as they did.
Rom.5:21 Puts righteousness in the proper perspective.
Rom.4:21-25. Shows that the righteousness that the Christian has is not his own, it is the righteousness of Christ, and I, by repentance and faith become adopted into the family of God with all of the benefits of being a son.
1Cor.1:30. There will come a day when the Christian will not have sin to deal with, but until that day I have the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is this that makes me acceptable to God the Father, the scripture calls being acceptable, “justification”.
Let’s look at what Jesus said about those who trust in their own righteousness, as compared with those who realize that they have no righteousness. Lk.18:9-14.
Why is it so important to have the proper righteousness and justification? The answer is simplicity itself: If, in the judgment day, I have only the righteousness that I have got by my good deeds it will not be accepted by God! Why? Because I have not accepted the righteousness that he provided, this is the same as saying that Christ’s death is not the only way to get to heaven. I have no need of Christ’s blood, I can do it myself. Gal.2:16.
Heb.10:29. In that day there will come a separation, the angels will sever the just from the wicked and man will have no say in the matter. Mat.13:47-49. This is why it is so important to get it right the first time, now you have a choice, there are no second chances in the grave, and we are not reincarnated until we get it right as some teach. Ecc.9:10
Psa.31:17 Psa.6:5. In short Jesus said that only the just or righteous will enter the kingdom of heaven. See how Jesus puts it in Mat.25:31-34.
Mat.5:6. shows that becoming righteous by the grace of God is no accident. The words, “hungering and thirsting”, as it pertains to righteousness, comes only as one desires it. There must be an active choice on your part, salvation is no accident, and those who receive God’s salvation have made the choice to do so. It is also not just a determination on your part to become religious, the Pharisees were religious and Jesus condemned their religion.
Salvation comes about as you determine that you are a sinner and it is not physically possible for you change this situation. It is seeing the need of having your sin forgiven and blotted out. The scripture says that the wages of sin is death, Jesus came and died to pay the price of my sin, and his blood is the cleansing agent that will make me look as white as snow when I stand before God in the judgment day. In that day I will stand, having his righteousness to wear as a robe, and his justification which makes my sin as if it never was in the eyes of God.
The Light of the World
A. Our text begins at the very beginning of time as mankind knows it. Since God has no beginning and no end, this reference supports the fact that God is from eternity past. Because we are creatures of time, we cannot possibly comprehend the infinite nature of God.
I would like to speak to you today regarding the contrast between a Holy, Just and Righteous God and mankind in his natural state, meaning without God.
There are very few churches today that preach about the total depravity of man. This doctrine is very offensive to most, simply because it teaches that mankind, outside of Christ, does not have any good. He is incapable of generating any righteousness at all.
Isa 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Definition of depravity: A state of corruption due to original sin that infects every part of man’s nature. Depravity makes the natural man unable to know or obey God.
This then is what the bible has to say about the natural man, or those who have not been born again: 1Co 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1. Our scripture speaks of Jesus as the personification of light and life. Thinking in these terms, anything outside of Jesus is then darkness and death.
John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
We have the light of the world in yet another form, a form other than the person of Jesus. The bible we hold in our hands is the written Word of God. The Scripture speaks of His Word as light also. Ps. 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
To the saved His word guides us through this life. It lights our way so that we know good from evil. It convicts us of our sin, but it also points out His will for our life. This light reveals the otherwise unfathomable love that he has for you and me.
B. In the scriptures we see a sharp contrast between God and man. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” By contrast, man is in darkness and this darkness is so black that man does not even know he is in darkness.
Scripture speaks of this condition in: John 1:5 “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Illustration: The man huddled on the cabin floor was slowly freezing to death. It was high in the Rockies in southwestern Alberta, and outside a blizzard raged. John Elliott had logged miles that day through the deep snows of the mountain passes. As he checked for avalanches and as dusk and exhaustion overcame him he had decided to "hole-up." He made it wearily to his cabin, but somewhat dazed with cold and fatigue, he did not light a fire or remove his wet clothing. As the blizzard blasted through the cracks in the old cabin walls, the sleeping forest ranger sank into oblivion, paralyzed by the pleasure of the storm's icy caress. Suddenly, however, his dog sprang into action, and with unrelenting whines, finally managed to rouse his near-comatose friend. The dog was John's constant companion, a St. Bernard, one of a long line of dogs famous for their heroics in times of crisis. "If that dog hadn't been with me, I'd be dead today," John Elliott says. "When you're freezing to death you actually feel warm all over, and don't wake up because it feels too good."
This moving story illustrates the spiritual condition of many people today. They are cold spiritually, and sadly are oblivious of their true condition. Thank God for all the ways in which He arouses such sleepers. He sends His messengers to nudge them awake. Sometimes the methods used to awaken them are drastic, but always for their good. Let’s not imagine that because He shakes us, He therefore hates us. He awakens us from lethargy because He loves us, and wants to save us from an eternal death.
How about you friend, are you asleep today in the icy grip of sin’s darkness? How long has God been trying to wake you? When you come to church do you not feel the gentle nudging of God’s love? We can thank God that He does not leave us in a perpetual condition of darkness. His great love for lost and dying mankind compels Him to try to wake us from our sleep.
John 12:46. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
1. In speaking of this particular darkness and light, we are not referring to something that can be seen with the eye. Instead we point to a very real spiritual darkness and light.
Although the title of this message is “The Light of the World” it is needful to also speak of the darkness that envelopes the people around us. This darkness is spiritual, as we have already pointed out. But what needs to be shown is that this darkness can take many forms, even the form of light…."WHAT? How can this be? It sounds like you’re talking in circles. How can darkness be light, this must be a contradiction." No friends, it is no contradiction for the Bible speaks of this subject in this manner: 2Cor. 11:14 and no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
So then, in speaking of spiritual darkness it is needful that we point out that one of the most important things that keep people in darkness is not only Satan, but also his ministers. For lack of better words we will call them and it, false religion. Today people by the thousands will sit in so called churches and be fed the poison that assures that they will remain in darkness. They can’t see the poison, nor can they taste it. It is very much like the cold that encompassed that ranger, after a sufficient time of exposure to it, it becomes pleasurable, it actually feels good. And so, Satan has his churches and his ministers, but his followers think all is well; after all, they go to church every Sunday. They listen to a sermon, never once thinking that it contains the very poison that will ensure that their minds are blinded to the real light.
The Apostle Paul said this: 2Cor. 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
In this world of political correctness we are told that we should not talk in a negative way about other churches. Paul addressed this in this manner: 2Cor.11:12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
Do we bow to the god of political correctness, or do we call false religion what it is? If your neighbor’s house was on fire with his family inside would you wake him to warn him or would you sit back and watch, safe and secure in your house? Spiritually speaking there are hundreds in your town today whose spiritual house is on fire, unless someone wakes them to warn of imminent danger they will surely die.
Ok this last part was important simply because it shows that spiritual darkness can appear as light in some cases.
But what about other examples of things that can hold people prisoner in the darkness that envelopes this world we live in? Many of these things come in the form of diversions. It doesn’t take much looking to see how the things of this world work against God and against spiritual light breaking through the darkness that seems to hold people in an iron grip. I’ll list just a few for your consideration.
Sex is probably at the top of the list. It sells everything from food to housing. Never in the history of this nation has sex held such a captive audience. Books, TV, movies, computers, store advertising, or any advertising, how we look, how we dress; sex is “in our face” every waking moment. What better tool for Satan to use than one that can become all encompassing, diverting millions from every thought of God and narrowly focusing the mind on a life of fleshly pleasure?
And speaking of pleasure or in some cases fun, we can see without too much effort, a world obsessed with pleasure. There was a time in this country that people worked for a paycheck to be able to feed their family, put a roof over their head, save for a rainy day and generally assure that their family would be taken care of.
When we compare this long gone time to the day we live in we can see something quite different. We have become a nation of pleasure seekers. Sure we work, but there is no work ethic. Today’s worker is only interested in two things; how much can I make and how much time off will I have to play? In and of themselves these two things are not bad, but when these become the whole direction of our work experience they set the scene for “pleasure first” and everything else second. We have a whole generation of people where both husband and wife work, sometimes two jobs, and still they will spend above their means and even indebt themselves for years to come for pleasure and toys.
Even more insidious is that they teach their children the same lifestyle. Look around you; it is hard to find a kid that doesn’t have a cell phone that will do everything for him except tuck him into bed. And think about all the other electronic devises to keep his young mind occupied. I can’t even list them all. Video games, smart phones, tablets and computers take the place of family interaction and family relationships.
This is not meant to be a rant against having possessions; it is meant to simply show that there are things in our world that work toward keeping people in darkness regarding spiritual things and especially the things of God. There are thousands, if not millions today for whom the thought of God or their own spiritual condition never even enters their mind. This is where the work of Satan comes in. He has many tools at his disposal; I have just listed a few. He keeps people in darkness in regard to the things of God. The light of Jesus has gone throughout the world through His Gospel, but for many millions it has no effect; why is this? 2Cor 4:3 but if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Now that we have looked at how darkness and the forces of evil try to block out the light, we need to look at the light itself. For it is only in the light of Jesus Christ that this world has any hope.
John 3:19 “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
This scripture and especially the word “condemnation” speak directly to the subject at hand. It addresses both the fact that God sent Jesus to be the spiritual light that dispels this world’s spiritual darkness and the fact that this world is in darkness due to the depravity of the human race.
This word, “condemnation”, is a judicial word that shows that something has already happened that has resulted in my being condemned. Because Adam was the first man, when he sinned he passed his sinful nature on to all who followed. Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: God must judge sin. As the righteous judge He must pronounce a righteous sentence on those who have sinned. The scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death, and so, all are condemned to death simply because all have sinned.
But thank God, there is a remedy, for God is not willing that any should perish. 2Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Rom 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
If you have not taken advantage of God’s Grace and the free pardon of sin that He has offered you, would you consider accepting the forgiveness He holds out to you this hour? This very day the light of God’s love has shined in the darkness that encompasses your soul.
Knowing all of this, can you go on in the way you have all of your life? Can you continue to ignore the light that has been revealed and continue in the darkness of unrepented of sin? God sent His own Son that you might have the light of life. Listen to that still, small voice inside you; for that voice is the none other than God’s Holy Spirit showing you the truth of His love.
Closed Communion James Foley
I Corinthians 11:17-34: "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."
Historic Baptists, true Baptists, have believed in and still believe in closed communion. Baptists impose upon themselves the same restrictions that they impose on others concerning the Lord’s Supper. Baptists have always insisted that it is the Lord’s Table, not theirs; and He alone has the right to say who shall sit at His table. No amount of so called brotherly love, or ecumenical spirit, should cause us to invite to His table those who have not complied with the requirements laid down plainly in His inspired Word. With respect to Bible doctrines we must always use the scripture as our guide and practice. For Baptists, two of the most important doctrines are Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. These are the only two doctrines we recognize as Church Ordinances. The Bible is very clear in teaching how these doctrines are to be practiced and by whom.
We only have two ordinances that we must never compromise or we risk our very existence, they are Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.
The moment we deviate from the precise method God has prescribed we have started down the slippery slope of error. True Baptists have held fast to the original doctrine of The Lord’s Supper from the time of Christ and the Apostles.
Unfortunately, in this day of what the Bible describes as the age of luke warmness, Baptists are becoming careless in regard to strictly following the pattern laid out for us in Scripture. Many of our Bible colleges are graduating otherwise sincere, Godly and dedicated pastors and teachers who have not been taught the very strict, biblical requirements that surround the Lord’s Supper. Any Bible college that neglects to teach its students the differences surrounding Closed Communion, Close Communion and Open Communion is not simply short changing its students; it is also not equipping their students to carry on sound Bible traditions. The result is men of God and churches that fall into error. And as we will see, this is serious error.
Should we as Baptists ignore the restrictions made by our Lord and Master? NO! When we hold to the restrictions placed upon the Lord’s Supper by our Master, we are defending the "faith which was once delivered to the saints" Jude 3.
The Lord’s Supper is rigidly restricted and I will show this in the following facts:
IT IS RESTRICTED AS TO PLACE
A. I Corinthians 11:18 says, "When ye come together in the church." This does not mean the church building; they had none. In other words, when the church assembles. The supper is to be observed by the church, in church capacity. Again this does not mean the church house. Ekklesia, the Greek word for church, means assembly. "When ye come together in the church," is when the church assembles.
B. When we say church we mean an assembly of properly baptized believers. Acts 2:41-42: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
The church is made up of saved people who are baptized by immersion. In the Bible, belief precedes baptism. That’s the Bible way.
Acts 8:12-13, "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."
When we say properly baptized, we mean immersed. No unbeliever should take the Lord’s supper, and no non-immersed believer should take the supper. Those who are sprinkled are not baptized and cannot receive the supper. The Greek word for baptize is baptizo, and it always means to immerse.
"In every case where communion is referred to, or where it may possibly have been administered, the believers had been baptized Acts 2:42; 8:12; 8:38; 10:47; 6:14-15; 18:8; 20:7. Baptism comes before communion, just as repentance and faith precede baptism".
C. The Lord’s Supper is for baptized believers in church capacity: "When ye come together in the church," again not a building, but the assembly of the properly baptized believers.
D. The fact that the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, to be observed in church capacity, is pointed out by the fact that it is for those who have been immersed and added to the fellowship of the church.
E. The Lord’s Supper is never spoken of in connection with individuals. When it is referred to, it is only referred to in reference to baptized believers in local church capacity I Cor. 11:20-26).
I want to quote Dr. W.W. Hamilton,
"The individual administration of the ordinance has no Bible warrant and is a relic of Romanism. The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, and anything which goes beyond or comes short of this fails for want of scriptural example or command".
“The practice of taking a little communion kit to hospitals, nursing homes, etc. is unscriptural and does not follow the scriptural example.”
IT IS RESTRICTED TO A UNITED CHURCH
A. The Bible in I Cor. 11:18 is very strong in condemning divisions around the Lord’s table. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
There were no less than four divisions in the Corinthian church. I Cor. 1:12: "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ."
Because of these divisions, it was impossible for them to scripturally eat the Lord’s Supper. Division in the local church is reason to hold off observing the Lord’s Supper. But there are also other reasons to forego taking the Lord’s Supper. If there is gross sin in the membership we do not take it. Here is scriptural evidence for this: 1Co 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
B. At this point, I want to ask these questions: Are there not doctrinal divisions among the many denominations? Is it not our doctrinal differences that cause us to be separate religious bodies?
IT IS RESTRICTED BY DOCTRINE
A. Those in the early church at Jerusalem who partook "continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine" Acts 2:42. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
B. Those that do not hold to apostolic truth are not to partake. This means there is to be discipline in the local body. How can you discipline those who do not belong to the local body? You can’t. The clear command of scripture is to withdraw fellowship from those who are not doctrinally sound.
II Thes 3:6: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." Rom. 16:17: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
To commune together means to have the same doctrine. II Thes. 2:15: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." II John 10-11: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
C. Some Baptists in our day have watered down this doctrine by practicing what they call “Close Communion.” By this they mean that they believe that members of another Baptist church may take communion with us because they are of the same beliefs. Once again, this is unscriptural.
The welcome to the Lord's Table should not be extended beyond the discipline of the local church. When we take the Lord’s Supper there is supposed to be no gross sin among us and no divisions among us. We have no idea of the spiritual condition of another church’s members. If there is sin or division in the case of this other church’s members, we have no way of knowing it. We cannot discipline them because they are not members of our church. This is why we practice “Closed” communion, meaning it is restricted solely to our church membership.
So then, in closing I would like to reiterate the three different ideas concerning the Lord’s Supper and who is to take it.
Closed Communion = Only members of a single local church.
Close Communion = Members of like faith and order may partake.
Open Communion = If you claim to be a Christian, or simply attending the service, you may partake.
It is no small thing to attempt to change that which was implemented by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Mt. 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Many of our Baptist churches have a real need to consider the gravity of the act of observing The Lord’s Supper. It is not a light thing that is to be taken casually or without regard to the spiritual condition of ourselves or our church. 1Co. 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
Fear Not - The Stone Removed
By: James Foley
Text: Matthew 28:1-8
I’m going to preach a sermon which was first preached by an angel. And then, it’s been preached by almost every preacher who has ever preached since that time, including the great Charles Spurgeon.
Matthew 28: 2 will be our key verse, let’s read this key verse first. “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.”
Now, let’s go back and read the first eight verses
Let’s read also in I Corinthians 15:19-21 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
That early morning, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went toward the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with sweet smelling scents and oils and ointments, as was customary in that day, there was a big problem they worried about. And that’s the theme of our message — the stone rolled away. They knew there was a big stone in the way. And these two women knew they would be unable to move the stone. And they were worried about it.
In Mark 16:3 it tells us about their worries relative to this problem where they said, “And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” For it was a very great stone. Before they even got there, they were thinking and wondering about the stone. Who would roll it away? And they said among themselves on the way to the tomb, “Who shall roll us away the stone?”
But when you get right down to it, this is the question of all mankind. This very same question that they asked is the great question of all mankind through the ages, “Who shall roll us away the stone?”
In man’s path to eternal life there lies a huge stone. This stone is one which completely blocks the road and there’s no way man himself can remove the stone. But who can remove the barrier? That’s the question. Philosophy tried, and still tries, but has never succeeded in removing the stone from the door.
This stone of doubt, uncertainty and unbelief has stopped all progress for man on the path towards eternal life. The question still remained, “Who could remove the awful stone and bring life and immortality to light?” Philosophy can’t do it. Man can’t do it by any means. And yet, there is a terrible and urgent need for the stone to be removed. Generation after generation, millions were swallowed up by the grave. And yet, who could give any hope beyond the grave? There’s the stone; it’s in the way. Who could give any hope beyond the grave? Resurrection was whispered of, but men could not believe it.
But to these women, there were three difficulties:
(1)The stone was huge. They spoke of this as we saw in Mark 16:3
(2) Another great difficulty was that it was stamped with Caesar’s seal. It could not be moved under penalty of the law.
(3) And it was guarded to prevent it from being moved.
Mankind has always had these same three problems. Three serious difficulties in the way to life and immortality. First, death was a stone not to be moved by man’s power, as we’ve already said. Second, death was a penalty for offenses against God’s law. And third, the red seal of God’s vengeance was upon it. So, we can see that this is an almost exact parallel to the reality at the time of the sealing of the tomb. But still the question remains, “Who could roll the stone away?” And they found the answer! They found the answer when they saw that the tomb was empty. There is another life! Bodies will live again, because Jesus lives!
Isn’t it wonderful to think about it and to know that because He lives, we shall live forever? The believer’s grave is the doorway to immortality. Let’s think of the resurrection of Christ in two main divisions. First, think about it as the stone rolled away preaching to us. And then, in the second instance, let us hear the angel’s message from his pulpit of stone.
Remember, I told you in the beginning that this message was first preached by an angel. But first, let the stone preach to us. Let’s think about it and let the stone speak.
First, the stone was the door of the sepulchre. In other words, the door of death’s house was removed. We will enter death; no doubt about it. All of us, some day, will enter or pass through death.
But though we know death comes, we can rejoice because we shall not be shut in — the door has been removed, the stone rolled away.
Christ was committed to the grave as a hostage. The Scripture says He died for our sins. But, thank God, it also says He rose for our justification. Because of the resurrection, we have absolute proof of His full payment of the sin debt. In the empty tomb, we see sin put away. We see death destroyed. Just as these women came and saw the stone had been removed and the tomb was empty. Death has become the doorway to heaven.
Now, let us continue to let the stone preach to us. Consider the stone as a trophy of Christ’s victory. And this certainly is a fabulous trophy of victory. Evil men thought they had destroyed Jesus. They cackled in glee when He was sealed in the tomb. They thought they had eliminated this troublemaker. But the grave could not hold Him. His heel was bruised by the serpent. But on the resurrection morning, He crushed the old serpent’s head as scripture recorded he would in Gen. 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
First Corinthians 15, beginning with verse 54, says: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Now, as we continue to look at the stone, let’s think of the stone as a foundation laid. This comes after we have thought, as we just did, about the stone as a trophy of Christ’s victory. Let us set this stone up in faith’s eye as a memorial to conquering man’s last enemy, death. That is the trophy Christ won! Remember the stone as a foundation laid. This is the stone on which our faith is built. The key stone of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus, proven by the stone rolled away and the empty tomb. Without it, there would be no Christian faith.
Without the resurrection, our faith is just a false and deceitful thing, like man’s religions all around us. But with the resurrection, ours is the true and living faith. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says this, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” So, without the resurrection, there is no salvation. Our faith is vain. But we know Christ lives, as the angel proclaimed in this message. The resurrection of Christ is better established than perhaps any other fact in history. Some things in history we have been told bear no resemblance to truth. Men often revise “history.” And yet the resurrection of Christ is completely established in history.
His resurrection absolutely proved the sufficiency of His atonement for sin. We can build our lives on the sure foundation of the risen Christ, the living stone. There’s no other foundation that matters. There is no other satisfactory basis for Christians. No foundation will stand the test except that of the living stone.
Death is swallowed up in victory, as we read in I Corinthians 15:54-55. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Now, in Matthew 28: 6 what did the angel say? “He is not here: for he is risen.”
Let the stone preach more. The stone was a boundary. Stones are often used as boundary markers. This stone was a boundary. There it lies with the angel sitting upon it. You say, “How are you getting a boundary out of that?” On one side, we see the guards frightened and like dead men. But on the other side, what do we see? We see trembling women to whom the angel speaks and says, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus.”
The stone became the boundary between the living and the dead, between seekers and haters, between friends and foes of Christ. To His enemies, it became a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. But to God’s people it’s the head stone of the corner. It has become our victory in Christ, and our greatest delight.
We could use this illustration from the Old Testament. Remember the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire between Israel and Egypt? And this pillar dividing between Israel and the pursuing Egyptians, how did it work?
On the side of the Egyptians, it was darkness and a hindrance. But on the side of the Israelites, it was the brightness of God and a light which helped them on their way to the Promised Land. In the same way this stone becomes a boundary.
The resurrection is a doctrine of fear and horror to unbelievers. You say, “Why?” Well, what would they like to believe? The wicked who refuse Christ would prefer to believe this life is all there is. Therefore, the resurrection is a doctrine of terror to them. If they continually reject Christ, they don’t want any resurrection. They’d rather it just be ended when this life ends.
But to those on the right side of the stone, the doctrine of the resurrection is a doctrine of joy and victory. We know that no matter what happens here, we shall achieve final and complete victory in Christ, when we have that perfect body, in that perfect land, on the other side of the stone.
The question is, “Do you trust fully in Christ today?” God’s angel speaks to you, “Fear not ye,” if you fully trust in Christ. But if you believe not, the message is, “Tremble with fear, for the resurrection is true and judgment comes to all men.” Hebrews 9:27 says,“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
We’ve listened to the stone preach. Now let’s hear what the angel has to say, let’s listen to his message.
“Fear not ye.” The heart of the risen Savior’s gospel is in that little short message, isn’t it? “Fear not ye: for he is risen.” You who would be saved, seek Jesus. “Fear not ye.” That’s the message. That’s the spoken message of the angel. Though the earth quake, the earth be burned with fire, as it will be some day, though you see the angel come down, though you go to a tomb, yet, fear not, you cannot die. Believers have eternal life in Christ.
Nothing on Earth, in heaven or in hell can make the one who comes to Jesus in faith, trusting Him, to fear. The angel plainly said, “Fear not ye.” But what was the rest of his message? He said some more, didn’t he? “Fear not ye: for I know.” Our Father knows about our fears! Yes, our Father knows, as did the angel, our fears and problems. And the rest of his message — let’s read all of it together. “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.” That’s the heart of the message of the angel.
The world had crucified Jesus. But the believers were still clinging to Him in loving loyalty! They had come to anoint His body. He is not here, for He is risen. Sinner, right now, today, Jesus is living. Today He’s ready, willing and able to save all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Men need to go and look at the empty tomb through the eyes of faith. It is proof that He is living and can still save today and keep us saved when we receive Him.
THE NEW BIRTH
Text: John 3 :1-21.
The text at hand shows that there is something that is extremely important to every individual that comes into this world. It also shows that there are some that are aware of it but for the most part, mankind is ignorant of its necessity. This subject is so important that it is the reason that the Bible was written, it is also the reason that the Son of God came to this earth, leaving the glory of heaven, to suffer at the hands of men. It is the reason that you are here in this world now, and as such it is the answer to the age-old question; Why am I here? It is also the reason that the existence of people and nations are recorded as they are in both the Old and New Testament. Nations rise and fall and the history of this world is ordered in such a way that the purpose of it all might result in the redemption of each and every lost sinner, even though they do not know that they are lost.
The subject at hand is the new birth. What is it? Jesus said it this way; ye must be born again. It is salvation, redemption. And as such it points to the fact that there is something deathly wrong with man in his natural state. . For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
There are many things in this life that while you may need them, it is not a matter of life or death---THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. We are all given a certain amount of time here on this earth for the express purpose of finding Jesus and appropriating his righteousness to our account, the result of our failure to accomplish this is spiritual death and a separation from God and his heaven forever. Ver.3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Once the time that we have been allotted runs out there is no recourse, death forever locks us into the condition that we were in when he visited---and it is irreversible.
Our text mentions two subjects; Jesus and Nicodemus. He had heard Jesus teach and now, in the darkness of night, he comes to Jesus. He recognized in Jesus something extraordinary, his spiritual eyes had begun to open and he realized that this man was from God. Ver.2. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. The fact that he came at night also shows that he came secretly and alone. This points to a very important aspect of the new birth; it is personal and the sinner must come to Jesus on a one to one basis concerning salvation. Notice again the command in Ver.7. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. It is directed at Nicodemus alone, though the entire world may be in need of this salvation, this is his time, and Jesus speaks to him in a very personal way.
You may have seen people coming foreword and claiming to be saved, but Salvation is not in coming foreword, it is not in talking to the preacher, it is not in joining the church; it is not in repeating a prayer. Salvation is a personal experience with Jesus Christ, it is in trusting him with your eternal destiny, coming to him in simple faith with the assurance that he can and will save your eternal soul.
This lesson then will convey to us the idea that this new birth is a must. The word, “must”, is an imperative, and Jesus meant it to be, for he said, “ye must be born again”. If the new birth is so important why doesn’t everyone know about it? It is simply because they are spiritually dead, . And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; This is why Jesus had to come; this is the only way that man can become aware of his condition. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
Salvation then, becomes mandatory equipment for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, it is not optional as some believe, and it is the only way to get to heaven. Jn.14: 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
This new birth is to be understood as spiritual in nature, Ver.4-5. Show not only the mistake that Nicodemus made, but answer of the Lord showing the spiritual nature of the new birth. Here he speaks of two births, the first is the natural birth, born of water, and any doctor will tell you that when a baby is born it is a water birth. The second birth Jesus terms, “born of the Spirit”, this is the Spirit of God. This is why we call it a spiritual birth, Ver.6. Says, “That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”. Jesus then compares the spiritual birth to the wind, meaning that it is a mystery, we can see the effects of it, but it cannot be seen with the eye.Ver.8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Ver.9. Shows that Nicodemus still did not understand these things. He is still lost. What a paradox; he is standing in the presence of eternal life and yet he does not recognize it. It must be remembered that this man was a master, or teacher in Israel, a spiritual leader, yet he could not comprehend spiritual things. Ver.10.
Ver.13-17. Shows the plan of salvation as well as the purpose and need of a savior.
By speaking to Nicodemus concerning the new birth, he showed him that there was something that he was lacking spiritually, something that he desperately needed. Now he shows him God’s plan to remedy the situation. Notice that God’s remedy is rooted in love, Ver.16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And it is also predicated on the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God as payment for my sin.
Jesus ends his discourse with Nicodemus by showing why the need of the new birth is so great. Ver.18-19. Man thinks that when he dies God weighs the good and bad that he has done, and if the good outweighs the bad, he goes to heaven. But these verses should show the foolishness of this line of reasoning. When these verses speak of the word “condemned”, it is in the sense of the trial already being over, sentence has been passed and now man only waits the carrying out of that sentence. There is only one thing that can change a judicial condemnation and that is a pardon; this is what Jesus offers. By accepting him as your Savior you can change your status from an enemy of God, doomed to an eternity in hell, to a child of the King. The scripture does not record what Nicodemus did with this information in regard to his spiritual welfare, and history has yet to record what you will do with this information. What will you do with Jesus? The answer to this question will determine what he will do with you in regard to your spiritual state.
The Blind Beggar
Here is a man beset by two great evils, blindness and poverty. Being blind is sad enough all on its own. We pity one like this, but to be blind and poor is heart breaking. My application of this scripture is that this man’s condition is but a picture of the natural man’s condition when he is born into this world. We are all born spiritually blind and poor by nature. Rev. 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
In our blindness and pride we think we are able to see. After all, we are intelligent, educated, and able to make our way in this world. But the truth is that our blindness makes us think that our sight is perfect. 2Cor. 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Once we are enlightened (saved) we discover that our previous sight was actually blindness. We were blind to our lost estate, the blackness of sin, the wrath to come, and most important, we were blind to the all encompassing beauty of Jesus Christ.
In our lost condition we, like this blind man, were also poor. I’m not talking about being poor financially, but rather poor spiritually. Adam spent our birthright when he sinned. Paradise, which was our inheritance, was lost in Adam. The result of this is that we, through Adam have become beggars. This is the lot of everyone born into this sinful world until Jesus visits us in love.
1. The origin of his faith.
We see in ver.52 that he had faith, where did he get it? Mark 10:52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
Certainly not from what he saw! He had not been anywhere that Jesus performed his miracles, poor blind people did not travel.
But the scripture speaks to this situation very well: Rom.10:17 “faith cometh by hearing”. Being blind, all he knew was what he could hear.
He had heard of the miracles of Jesus from those who passed by. He had heard that Jesus raised the dead and healed lepers. It would be only reasonable that he would wonder if one who could perform these kinds of miracles might also be able to give sight to the blind. Then in John chapter 9 we read that Jesus restored the sight to one that was born blind.
There are not many diversions given to the blind whose only purpose is to sit begging. But one diversion that a blind beggar would covet is any news that he would hear from those passing by. Undoubtedly this blind man had heard of the healing of the blind as the fame of Jesus spread throughout the land.
It would be natural for him to think along the lines of, “What if this Jesus passed by, or, maybe he will pass by this way, if so I will cry out to him.” The story he had heard would be all encompassing to one who found himself in the same circumstances. Perhaps as he meditated on this information some Old Testament Scripture came to mind: Isa 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
He had almost certainly heard that the coming Messiah would heal the blind. The only conclusion possible was that this was the promised Messiah.
You might think that this is just too much conjecture, but consider Mk. 10:47 where, as Jesus passed by, the blind man called out, “thou Son of David.” This is the designation of Israel’s true Messiah and this fact would not be lost on this blind man. Now, at this point, he has the faith that Jesus spoke of in Ver.52.
2. My application of all of this today is simply to ask, “what of you?”
At this point in life are you still spiritually blind? You may have heard of the deeds of Jesus, how sinners have been pardoned and forgiven. You may have heard the Gospel preached in church but never exercised the faith to be saved by it.
You may have even listened to the testimony of people who have been saved and yet believed not. Have you never thought on Christ or contemplated how the message of salvation might apply to you? You have heard that Jesus saves; this is the message of God to lost men and women. Has the thought ever crossed your mind that he might also save you? Perhaps you have heard the call to salvation but never acted on it in faith.
In our story the blind man had heard, but if the story had stopped at the point that he heard, there would have been no healing. Remember that this story has two main parts, 1. the blind man heard. 2. but then he acted on what he had heard, this is faith. There would have been no healing if this man had stopped short of the faith to be healed. We know this is true because Jesus said to him: “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”
We can conclude then, as the scripture affirms, that there is no salvation without faith in Christ. Heb. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Just knowing he can save and knowing that he can forgive sin is simply head knowledge. To act on this knowledge requires faith. The origin of this blind mans faith came by hearing; your faith can come in the same way, for the scripture says that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". Rom. 10:17.
Once we understand our lost condition and hear that there is a remedy for it, our faith must grasp the first opportunity. In the example of this blind man we can see this very plainly. He did not wait once he heard that Jesus passed by that way. Jesus was leaving Jericho and as the Bible records, he would never return again.
As he was passing he heard the pleading cry of this blind man. Many in the crowd tried to silence him, but he only cried out the louder. Once Jesus heard the awful cry for mercy, ver.49 says that Jesus stood still. This is not without its significance; our cry for mercy will have the full attention of Jesus. He then calls on this blind man.
We can almost read the thoughts of Bartimaeus: “Here he is, but he is passing by, this may be my last and only chance for healing. Unbelief says he passes by, no healing for you, no hope of mercy now. But faith grasps this opportunity.
Jesus of Nazareth passes by today, perhaps he will never pass this way again. Will you let him go without calling his attention to your plight? How many times in the past has he passed by and even knocked on your hearts door and invited you? Bartimaeus responded immediately when Jesus called him and the result was his immediate healing. His cry was from the heart and the resulting prayer was the simplest that could express his need.
Have Mercy on Me!
Your prayer need not be theologically correct. Simply asking Jesus for mercy and exercising the faith to believe that he will save you is sufficient. After all, this is what Jesus came to accomplish. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
If you have never asked Jesus to heal your blind spiritual condition, would you consider doing that today? Jesus passes your way today, will you cry out to him in simple faith?
In our text we find mans dilemma. The reading is lengthy, but necessary to show the severity of mans dilemma. The whole world is in turmoil today. In our text we can see the full scope of this world-wide turmoil. Religious turmoil: turmoil of nations: turmoil of nature: turmoil in personal lives and family relationships. Everywhere we look we see this turmoil and the resulting confusion and moral decay it generates. Peace seems to be an elusive dream, often spoken of, but always just beyond our grasp.
Why is it that, of all the great minds and great nations of this world, there is not one that is able to bring peace? Not one that can turn back the moral decay and right the wrongs of a society seemingly bent on self destruction?
The great minds of our time would shrug their shoulders in response to this question, but there is an answer; there is a remedy to man’s dilemma. But sadly it lies just beyond the grasp of natural man’s ability to comprehend. The short answer to this question is simply that mankind, outside of God, cannot see the root of the prOBlem. We look at people and nations as the source, never once realizing that there is a power behind people and nations and that this power is spiritual, not physical.
This power is evil in its very nature and it has been with us from the beginning. It has a name and his name is The Devil, Satan, The Prince of Darkness, The god of this world. He has instituted a masterpiece of deception that dates back to the Garden of Eden. Actually his masterpiece is twofold. The first is the idea that he does not exist. Consider how he appeared to Eve on that fateful day. The whole world is deceived into thinking that he is a fictional character. You are seen as simple minded and gullible if you believe that there is a real Devil. 2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
The second part of his masterpiece is false religion. He perverted Scripture when he approached Eve. Gen. 3:1. Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? This second part of his masterpiece is almost impossible for people to see unless they know what to look for. He puts this into play when someone, by God’s Holy Spirit, begins to see some little glimmer of truth and light. It is then that he inserts false religion. Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. This part of his masterpiece is very insidious, it can work in two ways. It can work to keep people from the truth when they hear it, but it can also draw people away from the truth once they have heard it. I have seen this principle at work many times. No sooner than someone says yes to God and becomes saved, then there is some false religion that comes knocking at their door. I have seen this in effect in both personal lives as well as churches in a community. 2Co 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
So then, we have established that there is a very real evil, in the form of a spiritual being called Satan. Having done this it becomes paramount that we understand that both our dilemma and its remedy are on a spiritual plane. This simply means that the reason nations and our great thinkers are at a loss to find a remedy is because they are attempting the impossible; that is; they are using the wrong weapons. They use worldly, physical weapons where only spiritual weapons will prevail. James 4:1-7. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot OBtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Evil cannot be fought against with evil. Mankind, outside of Christ is evil. So then, if we are to fight against evil, it must be with good. Herein lies a prOBlem; do we have any good? Rom. 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Mat. 12:26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? Man, in his natural state is subject to the power of Satan, he is the god of this world. They have no weapons! What are the weapons of spiritual warfare? First we note that the source of our weapons and any strength we might have to wield them is God. Eph.6:10 -11 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
In Eph. 6:12 we see the magnitude of our prOBlem. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. This is way beyond our ability to combat in our natural state.
Ok, we have seen the enormity of man’s dilemma, now we will look at the remedy for this dilemma.
Eph. 6:13 begins with the word “wherefore”, or because of what was said in Ver.12 we need the whole armor of God. Why is it that the Christian can withstand all that the world can throw at him? Rom. 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. It is because it is God that holds him up. When we have done all that we can in our own strength and can do no more, still we can stand with God’s help and weather the storm.
Eph. 6:14 And now we get into the actual armor of the Christian. Each piece is indispensable; each has its specific purpose. Here in Ver.14 we have the Christians loins girt about with truth. To have our loins girt about with truth means to put on Christ as a garment, for he is truth. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. This is the only way to God. The breastplate of righteousness is the second piece of armor. It protects our vital parts, such as our heart. It is listed second because without truth, there can be no righteousness. Truth is first and begets righteousness, and this righteousness is not ours, it is the righteousness of Christ.
It is interesting to note the order of these pieces of armor. To reverse this order is to reject all that God is. Paul said this about righteousness: Rom 10:3 for they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Back in Ver.1 he prayed for Israel to be saved, which would bring about true righteousness. Putting righteousness before truth, or salvation only results in man’s righteousness, which is not acceptable to God. His order is reversed. At the moment of the acceptance of truth (Jesus) we are covered by righteousness, His righteousness. Phil. 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Eph. 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Once we know the truth and have righteousness is the only time we can prepare to fight the spiritual battle. Notice I said “prepare”, because being newly saved, or born again, we must have preparation. No soldier goes to war without proper training. This is why we have the Bible, so that we might be able to fight the good fight of faith effectively.
Paul speaks of this in this way: 1Cor. 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may OBtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to OBtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: Paul strove to fight effectively.
Eph. 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Faith is the believer’s most important tool, as well as a vital piece of his armor. It is also the most difficult for him to master. Faith is not an intangible, as the world thinks it is. They speak of blind faith and they envision our faith as being blind simply because they can neither see it or our God, so to them our faith is blind.
In reality our faith is solid and immovable if exercised properly. Heb. 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Here we see two things that the world cannot see and knows nothing of. But we who live by faith can see it and are the recipients of the rewards of living our lives by faith. Two things of note in this verse are that it says that faith is substance and evidence. Let’s read it again.
Hebrews 11 is said to be the faith chapter, and so it is. Please take time to read this at home and you will see why it is called the faith chapter. Faith then is our shield, as this verse points out. Faith is what will pull us through when all else has failed. Once again it is needful to point out that the faith we speak of is not our own: Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
Eph. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: We cannot hope to help ourselves or others, spiritually speaking, or even begin to fight a fight of faith until we have the helmet of salvation. It is impossible to fight God’s enemies when we are on their side, when we are yet enemies ourselves. Col. 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.
And now we come to the only offensive weapon in our list of the armor of God. It is listed here as the sword of the Spirit. As such it is defined in our text as The Word of God. Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Ironically, it is by His word that His enemies become His friends. His word is able to cut through the smoke screen they put up. It is able to see through all the evil thoughts and intents of their heart. All excuses are put aside by it and the reality of their lost condition is brought out into the light of day.
Text: Rom.16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
1Tim.4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
2Tim.1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
2Tim.2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
We claim to be Christians, followers of a specific way and teaching Jn.14: 6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. We claim to be guided by the unerring Word of God, the Bible. Yet it seems we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history and repeatedly disregard the warnings of those in the faith that have gone before us.
We have a parallel in the history of the nation of Israel. We can see this parallel in the remarkable scriptures of Duet.1:2-15. An eleven day trip took them forty years! We can see a direct parallel between Israel’s relationship to God and our relationship to God…. how slowly we cover the ground! What winding and turning! How often we must go back and cover the same ground again and again. We are slow travelers because we are slow learners. We might marvel at their unbelief and slowness to OBey, but we, like them, are kept back by our own unbelief and slowness of heart.
The doctrine that we are to hold and pass on is the Word that we have received: The pure, unadulterated truth of God.
The Galatian Church is a negative case in point. Gal.3:1-4. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not OBey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. Saved by grace, but then allowing themselves to be seduced by a perversion of Scripture.
Deut.1:3. And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them; Here is instruction for all who labor in the Word and doctrine: Moses gave what he received from God, nothing more or less; this is the grand principal of the ministry, to bring people in direct contact with the Living Word of God.
The Apostle Paul makes this argument better than I can. 1Cor.2: 1-5. And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1Cor.15: 1-3. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
The ‘so called’ church has wholly departed from the authority of the Word of God. In these churches, things are taught that have no foundation in the Scripture. They not only tolerate, but sanction and defend that which is in direct opposition to the mind of Christ. He spoke of them in Mat.15:8-9. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
If you ask for the Divine Authority for their institution or practice, you are told that God has left us free to act according to our conscience. It is considered that professing Christians are left free to form churches, choose their own form of government and appoint their own officers. Can this be true? Are we to assume that the church is worse off than Israel in instruction and authority?
We can see in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the marvelous pains God took to instruct His people in even the minutest particulars concerning their worship and private life. Nothing was left to human arrangement. Man’s wisdom, judgment, reason and conscience had no part in it. There was no place for, “I can’t see this, or, I can’t go with that, or, I can’t agree that this is so.” Such language could only be regarded as self-will, for in that day all the instruction came with, “Thus saith the Lord.” They might as well say they could not agree with God. Are we left to think and arrange for ourselves in worship and service to God? I think not! 1Tim.3: 14-15. These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. He then goes on to show how things ought to be done by believers.
Why are there different doctrines among professing churches? We have possession of God’s Word. We also have division, sects, creeds and denominations, Why? Because they refuse to submit their whole moral being to the authority of the Scripture. Free exercise of thought is the boast of Protestant Christianity.
Such thinking will not stand at the Judgment. Mat.7: 21-23. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The duty of the servant is to OBey, not to exercise his will. The confusion between so-called churches is due to an unwillingness to bow to Divine Authority.
Mat.7:28. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
It is impossible for the Holy Scripture to teach opposing doctrines. It cannot possibly teach the doctrines of Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Church of Christ and Baptist….they oppose one another!
Let’s look at a direct command in the name of Jesus for unity. 1Cor. 1:10. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The so-called “church”, has departed from the authority of Christ long ago. They gave themselves over to man’s reasoning, feelings and religious perversion. They did not heed the teaching of Mat 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
It is every Christian’s sacred duty to test every ecclesiastical system by the Word of God. If we have no Divine authority, no perfect standard, how can we be certain that we are on the true path?
All that claim to be His church cannot justify the confusion of doctrines that they hold true. 1Cor.14:33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
If God is not the author of this confusion, then who is? Jas 3:16. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
If we cannot say that “this is the thing that the Lord has commanded”, then we are in error. If a church or religious organization is not in subjection to God as revealed in His Word, what and to whom are they in subjection to? There are only two powers in this world, the power of God and the power of Satan. Satan is the master of deception and mimicry and his masterpiece of all time deception is a false religious system.
Rom.16:17-18. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
What kind of doctrine has God won your heart with? Can you go on to perfection with an opposing doctrine having once known the truth? Rom.6: 17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have OBeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
The religious liberals will say that there is some good in all churches. My answer is that there is good grain in rat poison too, but it only takes a small amount of poison mixed in with the grain to kill the rat. Any Christian that thinks that he can take what good there is and leave the bad, is ignorant of the nature of evil. Make no mistake; that which is contrary to God’s Word is not of God! 1Cor.10:21,