11 January 2008

Putting our trust in chariots

Found an old sermon I hadn't posted here yet. The men who are the focus and the stories about them may no longer be relevant, but the lessons we can glean from them certainly are.
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Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 20:7

Consider Ted Haggard—a man of great prominence among Christians, the pastor of a 3000 member church, and the leader of a national Christian organization (The National Association of Evangelicals.) People thought he had it all together. Some may have thought he was perfect, would never do anything wrong. Many of these people were surprised to find out that—guess what!!—a Christian can still sin! We found out that he wasn’t perfect; he may not have had it all together. But rather than kick him while he’s down or to say that any of us is any better than him, let’s just look at what happened.

It’s quite simple actually.

He was tempted and he sinned.

In 1st Thessalonians 3:4-5, we find that because it is so easy for new Christians to be led astray, we need to pray for these saints that they not be overcome by the tempter—For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

And the possibility of falling into sin is not limited to new Christians! If you read and study the Bible enough, you come to the realization that even some of the greatest men of GOD had their faults. On more than one occasion, Abraham lied. Jacob was a con man. 11 of his sons sold their brother into slavery. Noah got drunk. Moses lost his temper.

Among the kings of Israel, David was an adulterer and murderer. Solomon had 300 wives and 700 mistresses—most pagan. Hezekiah was proud of his possessions. Josiah died because he couldn’t mind his own business.

Even the prophets and apostles weren’t immune. Elijah worried too much. Hosea married a prostitute. The Apostle Peter rebuked Jesus, cut off a guy’s ear, and denied he knew the Lord.

And we’re surprised to hear a pastor messed up?

There were two passages that came to mind when I heard about Ted Haggard. The first was Luke 22:31-34.

31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Ahh, good old Simon Peter. He wasn’t going to fail! He would be right there, by Jesus' side, come high water or a Roman legion, by golly! But Jesus tells him, "No, Simon, Satan wants you, my friend!"

That name “Simon” means “One who wavers.” Did you ever wonder what the other 11 were thinking? Even Judas? “Peter? Deny he knows the Lord?? Ain't no way in the world!!” If anybody thinks they can't be tempted to sin, think again. Satan specifically asked for Peter. I can almost imagine what the dialog might have been between Satan and Jesus. Go ahead, Satan, have at him for a little while. But he’ll come back. Remember Job?”

“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” Notice that—He prays that Peter’s FAITH would not fail. He didn’t say Peter’s FLESH wouldn’t fail. Aren’t you glad that we have a great High Priest who took our sins with Him to the altar of the cross? Who sits at the right hand of the Father? Who is always interceding for us, going to the Father on our behalf? Because even when our flesh fails, He is able to keep us through our faith.

Notice what Jesus says next. “When you have returned, strengthen the brethren.” Notice what He doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, Ah forget it Peter. You’re just gonna go betray Me. I’m gonna go find someone else, someone who’s more perfect than you. I've got an image, you know.”

He certainly doesn’t tell Peter, After you betray Me, can you just kinda keep your distance for a while? I’m gonna have to do some damage control here. Stay out of the church for a while, don’t tell anybody about what happened. Just keep to yourself. M’k?”

He says, WHEN you have returned, strengthen the brethren.” Not "IF" In other words, Satan has asked for you. You will betray me. But you will return to Me. And when you do, use your experience to help those who are weak in their faith.” If anybody ever tries to tell you that GOD doesn’t use broken vessels, tell them to go walk on the lake.
Romans 15:1If our faith is strong, we should be patient with the Lord's followers whose faith is weak.
Galatians 6:1-3Brethren, if anybody be detected in any misconduct, you who are spiritual--that is, we who are led by the Holy Spirit—should restore such a one in a spirit of meekness. And let each of you keep watch over himself, lest he also fall into temptation. Always carry one another's burdens, and so obey the whole Law of Christ. Listen to this last part. For if there is anyone who thinks himself to be somebody when he is nobody, he is deluding himself. I think this is what Paul is saying—in a not-so-subtle way—is, "If you think you are perfect—you’re crazy. If you think Christians are perfect—you’re crazy. We're human, we're fallen, we're gonna goof and make a mess of things sometimes. But that is when the rest of the brethren need to come along and restore this person to their former state as quickly as possible, and receive them again as a brother."
1st John 1:8If we say, we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
So if we say that we’ve never sinned, then we have lied, which is a sin!

Back to Peter. After Jesus says, “When you have returned, strengthen the brethren,” what do you think is going through Peter’s head? “Ummm, everybody’s watching. My friends, my brother, my Lord. I've gotta say something. I can't let them think I’d, uhh, that I’d, uhh…” So what does he say? Basically calls Jesus a liar. “NO WAY!! I’d go to jail with you; I’d even die with you!!!!”
Proverbs 16:18Pride goeth before destruction and a high mind before a fall.
1st Corinthians 10:12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
We think we’ve got it together. Many people though Ted Haggard had it all together. They put their trust in a man. Now what do they call him? Liar, hypocrite. We don’t know the full extent of what happened or how long this was going on. But we do know this: it could happen to any one of us. The second verse that came to mind when this story broke was in 1st Corinthians. I mentioned last time that Paul says a lot in a few words. He does here.

You’ve heard people say “The devil made me do it!” The devil can't make you do anything!! He can't tempt you to the point that you cannot resist. “My one weakness is chocolate. It’s so tempting. I just CAN'T resist!!” 1st Corinthians 10:13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. I want to look at that word “overtaken”. I was looking at all the times this word is used in the NT. Always refers to actively taking or receiving. Temptation will enter into us. But it is up to us whether we take hold of it or not. Temptation doesn’t take hold of us. We take hold of temptation. And whatever temptation that may be isn't any worse than anybody else…Except for one man.

We’ve never had the opportunity to rule over all the kingdoms of this earth if we just bow down to someone. We’ve never been face-to-face with a legion of Roman soldiers, knowing that we could call our Father and He could send 72,000 angels to get us out of there. We’ve never been tempted to curse a man who was holding a railroad spike against our hand, ready to drive it through. If anyone thinks he’s been tempted more than anyone else, let them look at our Savior.
…but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. Doesn’t say “willing.” It doesn’t give us the option of saying, “Gee, I really don't feel like giving that up right now.” Doesn’t say “ready.” Satan doesn’t sit there and say “Well, I'll wait until he prays, and gets some strength from God before I try to tempt him.” We need to always be ready. What does Peter warn us about in 1st Peter 5:8? Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Peter knew this because he saw firsthand what Satan can do. And the pastor of a 3000 member church, leader of one of the largest Christian organizations in the country, has seen it too.

…but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. There’s always a way out. It’s just a matter of if we want to take it or not. One of the most misunderstood passages is Matthew 5:29-30—“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” I don’t think I have to tell you what He’s not saying. What He is saying is this: "If there is something in your life that is leading you into sin, get rid of it." It may be the internet, it may be cable TV. If you go a certain way every day and it takes you past bars or liquor stores. We use the phrase “Who put a gun to your head and made you do it?” Do you know that even that is not an excuse to sin? That it is better to be killed than to sin? 1st Peter 3:14But if you also suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not fear…nor be troubled… And do not be discouraged when good men fail. They’re human, they're gonna do that.

The other event I want to touch on was the trial of Saddam Hussein. He was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to hang. He was caught, tried, sentenced, and executed. But there will still be terrorists. Ephesians 6:12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. We could catch Osama Bin Laden, and there would still be terrorists. Many people don’t understand that. Our fight is not against the terrorists—it is against the one that is giving them there marching orders. Just because we get rid of a person the fight is not over.

Ever notice how in the movies, at the end, they always kill the bad guy? So why do we have sequels? While we live on this earth, and while we follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we will always have a fight on our hands. Look around—jails are full, prisons overcrowded—not getting better. Of course it’s never the fault of the one who gets arrested. Think about the case of Cynthia McKinney. She was racing to get into an office building, an officer stopped her so he could see her ID—as well he should, he didn't know who she was. But, instead of explaining herself, she just politely and courteously…slapped officer. But, you know, it wasn’t her fault—she was wronged, she was discriminated against, she was the victim of…something.

Men strap explosives, kill women and children—liberals in the American media call them “freedom fighters” and consider the victims of these attacks to be the real “oppressors.” Many in this country go along with that thinking. As long as we live in this fallen world, there will be all kinds of tribulations. Hitler is dead—but there are still Nazis. Nathan Bedford Forrest is dead—but the KKK is still alive. Margaret Sanger is dead—yet more and more children are being murdered in this country every day. Saddam Hussein will die one day—and we will still have wars and terrorists. Remember Ephesians 6:12. It may seem like we’ve lost. But if we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have already overcome!
1st Corinthians 15:57—…thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:37—…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
1st John 4:4—…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
1st John 5:4-5—…everything that has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
John 16:33— Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

What’s in it for those who overcome? Only this: They who overcome
  • They will eat of the hidden manna
  • They will eat of the tree of life
  • They will be clothed in white robes
  • They will have a new name written on a white stone
  • They will be pillars in the temple of GOD
  • They will inherit all things
  • They will not die the 2nd death
  • They will not have their names blotted out of the book of life
  • They will have power over the nations
  • They will have the morning star
  • They will have GOD as their GOD
  • They will have the name of GOD written upon them by Christ Himself
  • They will sit with Christ on His throne
  • They will be sons of GOD
  • AND THEY WILL BE CONFESSED BY CHRIST BEFORE GOD THE FATHER
Because we give Him a few years on this miserable planet, He will give us an eternity in His glorious Kingdom. And as the words of the great old hymn “Doxology” which means “Song of GOD’s glory”—

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

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