1. This morning's sermon is something of a patchwork, a quilt that I believe God would have me bring to you to respond to four separate incidents that occurred over the course of the past two weeks. Let me describe them for you.
2. A week and a half ago, when I was asserting that there are only two religions in the world, the religious concoction of the devil and fallen man that's designed to make people feel good by feelings and good works, and the religion given by God that's designed to give God glory by operating on the grace and faith principle, I was asked a question. "Pastor, what is the religion God gave to us called?" My answer was, "the faith."
3. The Sunday before that question was asked me here in Church I was in my office with a young fellow who said he wanted to get saved. When I asked him where Jesus was he said, "He's up in heaven at God's right hand." I said "That's right." I then asked him, "Can He save you from way up there?" After pondering the question for a moment or two the boy said, "No," revealing to me that the Jesus he was considering to be his savior is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible can save people from way up there, and does.
4. The third event, if you will, was an e-mail that was sent to a pastor's list I am on. I did not respond to the e-mail because, considering its author, it would have done no good whatsoever. The e-mail was a story about a little child being prepared for surgery to evaluate a seriously defective heart. When the surgeon told the little boy that he was going to look into his heart the next day the boy said, "When you look you'll find Jesus there." The sad thing is that the pastor who posted the story has no idea that such sentiment is seriously defective doctrine that has devastating consequences in the lives of those who believe it.
5. The final incident was a post sent to me in response to an opinion I had advanced, in which I challenged pastors who think TBN is legitimate Christianity. The pastor suggested that what I had written was like one pastor of a Church in the book of the Revelation, say the Philadelphian Church, saying that the Thyatiran Church was not a part of the Christian community. Folks, if Paul and Jan Crouch and the clowns on channel 40 are representative of born again, blood washed, and Spirit sanctified Christians, then I am a cross-eyed, snaggle toothed, purple haired woman!
6. My goodness, there's a tremendous amount of serious confusion about the Christian faith these days. And though the question asked by one of our Church members, and the difficulty the boy has with the Savior, are great opportunities a preacher looks for to address issues and confront problems, some of these preachers scare me.
7. It seems increasingly lost on people who claim to be Christians, and particularly pastors and preachers, that there is a definite connection between what you believe and the state of your soul. After all, it was early in the 20th century, here in Los Angeles, that a set of commentaries was published that were titled "The Fundamentals." In that set of books were contained position papers on the things most certainly believed by Christians. And if someone who claimed to be a Christian did not adhere to those fundamentals it was thought to be an indication that he wasn't really a Christian.
8. Now, it is not my intention this morning to review the fundamentals of the Christian faith. There simply isn't time to do that. But I would like to accomplish three things for the benefit of you here today who are not converted and who may be confused by all this mess that's called Christianity.
9. First, I want to establish for you the relationship between the Christian congregation and the truth. Turn to First Timothy 3.15: "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."
10. From this single verse we see three things: First, how Timothy was to behave in Church was important, so important that Paul wrote instructions for him to follow. Second, Church was described by Paul as "the house of God" and "the church of the living God." Therefore we Church members, not this building, are "the house of God" and "the Church of the living God." And finally, and this is tremendously important, congre- gations like ours are "the pillar and ground of truth." That is, we are the reinforcers and holders up of
the truth. Tragically, and to their own hurt, the importance of Churches such as ours is lost on most people in these days of the free lance and footloose religion that passes for Christianity.
11. Second, I want to establish for you that the truth which we are to hold up for all to see, which we are to declare to one and all, is the truth which comprises the Christian faith, and that it has in fact been delivered to us. Jude verse 3 exhorts us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
12. The word here rendered "earnestly contend," "epagwnizesyai," alludes to the Grecian games. Not used elsewhere in the New Testament, this refers to contending by arguing, by reasoning, by holding fast the principles of religion, and maintaining them against all opposition.
13. "The faith" refers to that system of religion revealed in the Gospel. It is called "the faith," because faith is the central feature of the system, and because all depends on faith. The rule set forth here requires that we should contend in this manner for all truth. Sadly, this is something many preachers are convinced we should not do, because they think it's unspiritual. But how, I ask, is doing that the Bible says to do unspiritual?
14. "Once delivered unto the saints." The word here translated "once" is "'apax," and may mean either "once for all," or "formerly." So, Jude is either telling us that the Christian faith has been fully delivered to us and never needs to be delivered again, or the Christian faith has already been delivered to us and never needs to be delivered to us again.
15. The delivery of the Christian faith to us has occurred, then. And everything which God has revealed in this body of truth we call "the faith" we are to defend. We are to surrender no part of it whatsoever, because every part of this system of truth is of great value to mankind. By carefully studying the Bible, so that we properly ascertain what this religious system is, we can then, in all places, at all times, and in all circum- stances, no matter the sacrifice, maintain and preserve it.
16. So, we have this Christian faith that Paul and Luke and Jude refer to as "the faith." And it is the singular responsibility of Churches, like ours, to be the pillar and ground of this truth, to back up and display this truth.
17. In just a moment brother Isenberger is coming to lead us in a Gospel hymn. And when we are done with singing and I come to preach this morning's sermon, I want to lay before you a brief description of the Christian faith, touching lightly on five subjects that seem prominent in my thinking.
18. Let us now stand and sing.
1. I want to briefly describe "the faith" that Jackie Glover asked about a week and a half ago. In doing so I will touch on topics that will address the young lad's misconception of the Savior, the preacher's misconception of the Savior, and the other preacher's flawed view that everyone who claims to be is in the household of faith.
2. Five topics that distinguish Biblical Christianity from all other religions, even evangelical Christianity and the brand of so-called Christianity most frequently portrayed on Christian television.
3. Kids? Listen up. This is especially for you.
1A. FIRST, OUR SOVEREIGN
1B. Our sovereign is God, Whose name is Jehovah; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the holy One of Israel. Our God is the Creator of all things, the One Who threw the stars into the night sky and hung our world out in space. He is the secret and hidden God Who cannot be seen. He is the God Whose creation testifies of Him, but Who must reveal Himself to His creatures to be truly known by them. Even then, because of His enormity, His immensity, His infinity, He can never be fully known.
2B. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD," Deuteronomy 6.4. "There is none other God but one," First Corinthians 8.4. "There is one God," First Timothy 2.5. Not counting the innumerable times we are shown and suggested as much, we are explicitly shown in these three separate passages that there is only one true and living God. And beside Him there is none other.
3B. Thus, this One, this God of the Bible, is the only God, the true God, and all other gods are mere creatures of His, at best, or made with men's hands, at worst. Therefore, Shiva is not a god, Allah is not a god, Brahma is not a god, Gaia is not a god, Sofia is not a god. And the god of anyone who is not immutable, invincible, immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, terrible in majesty and worthy of our worship, adoration and praise, inspiring fear in the wise and the knowledgeable and the understanding, as does our God, is not a god at all.
4B. This is why I challenge evangelical Christians. This is why I challenge Charismatic Christians. This is why I challenge TBN Christians, so called. Do they fear their God? They say they worship God, but is the one they worship terrible in majesty? Does the one they worship make men tremble before him? No. Therefore, I do not believe that the god they worship is the God over all Who is sovereign.
2A. NEXT, OUR SCRIPTURES
1B. By Scriptures I mean those 66 books which comprise the Holy Bible, the Word of God, the 37 books comprising the Hebrew Scriptures and the 29 books which comprise the Greek Scriptures. Though this is 66 books, it is still one book, that body of truth which is our rule of faith and practice.
2B. How did we get the Word of God? Revelation is the word we use to describe the process whereby God communicated His truth to men. Second Peter 1.21 describes a portion of this process: "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Inspiration is the word we use to describe the process whereby God's truth was put into writing for us to read and study. Second Timothy 3.16 describes another part of this process: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." Thus, we now have the completed revelation of God's Word.
3B. One is accursed if he tries to add to or take away from God's Word, Revelation 22.18-19. Thus, the Charismatics and Pentecostals and Mormons and other cultists who seek to add revelation with their visions and prophecies and writings are not orthodox Christians. As well, those liberals, such as those in the Jesus Seminar and those who would mistranslate God's Word to make God feminine, who would take a pen knife to God's Word, excising those portions they find unpalatable, are also beyond the boundaries of orthodoxy.
4B. What can be said about the Scriptures? They were authored by God through human instruments. They are without error in the originals. They are part prose and part poem, part prophesy and part history, part law and part grace. Written over the span of 1600 years by more than thirty different human instruments, the Word of God is a unified whole without any conflict or disagreement, showing full well why the description "one Lord, one faith" is so properly applied.
5B. God's Word is "a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path," Psalm 119.105. It is my comfort in affliction and it is settled in heaven. It gives peace to those who love it and it makes the simple wise. It is the sword of the Spirit and is used by God to convert a man's soul.
6B. Let me move on, lest I trample on my remaining three points.
3A. OUR SOVEREIGN, OUR SCRIPTURES, AND NOW OUR SIN
1B. Only the Christian faith deals with the sinfulness of mankind, the wickedness of the individual, the answer to the question of why there is evil in the world and what's to be done about it. To be sure, in the Hebrew Scriptures we have Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, where David acknowledged his sinfulness from the moment of his conception in his mother's womb, as well as Jeremiah's declaration of the wickedness and deceitfulness of the human heart, Jeremiah 17.9. But it's not until the completed revelation of the Greek Scriptures that we are given the full and complete story of our inherited sin nature.
2B. What sharp clarity there is in the New Testament, showing us that we've inherited a sinful nature from our father Adam, showing us that we died when he died, that we sinned when he sinned, that we fell when he fell, that we became God's enemies when he became God's enemy. And the purpose of the Law is so simple as it is explained by Paul. Not to save, for no law has power to save. But to show us our sinfulness and to point frustrated and hopeless sinners to Another.
3B. And what else about sin? God's wrath for sin is clearly shown. A relatively undeveloped doctrine in those portions of God's Word given before Christ, those portions of God's Word given after Christ's earthly ministry show clearly the punishment God has proscribed for sin; Hell, the Great White Throne Judgment, and then the lake of fire, Gehenna, outer darkness, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.
4B. But punishment for more than sin, a nature that is inclined against God. Thus, awaiting punishment is also specific to the particular sins committed by men and boys, by women and girls, since Scripture is clear that God treats all who are reasonable as being responsible.
5B. So, it's sin and sins that outrages the one true and living God, the holy God, the good and gracious God. How great the crimes are against Him. How unreasonable and unrighteous. How deserving of punishment is any offense against Him. How right and proper and just it is for a sinful man or boy, for a sinful woman or girl, to be cast down to suffer torment forever for sinning against God.
6B. How can a man be a Christian who denies the proper punishment for sin? How can a man be in the same camp we are in who denies the horror against God of sin, who treats sin as a light thing not punishable by damnation, and who doesn't at least admit to himself that the greatest affliction is to be preferred to the least sin?
7B. Yet there are those who claim to be Christians who expect to go to heaven while fully involved in the sins they claim they were saved from. They deny that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Hebrews 12.14. Do I preach perfectionism, the belief that it's possible to be without personal sin this side of heaven? Not at all. But I do preach a new creature. I do preach salvation from sins rather than salvation in sins.
4A. WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY FOURTH TOPIC, OUR SAVIOR
1B. It is a great mystery that although there is only one God this same God exists as three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I must confess that although I do believe in the Father, the Son and the blessed Holy Spirit, I do not fully understand how three divine Persons can exist as one God. Yet the Bible teaches this!
2B. It is also a great truth to be accepted by one and all who believe God's Word that there is a mysterious unity that exists between the written Word and the living Word. As the Bible is the written revelation of God to man, so the Lord Jesus Christ, God's eternal Son who became a man by being born into this world of the virgin Mary, is the living revelation of God to man. As John 1.18 declares, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."
3B. No wonder Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," John 14.9. In another place He said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me." And in another place, "I and my father are one." Jesus is God the Son, then, as well as the Son of God. And revisiting what I said about the Scriptures, listen to what Jesus said about the Scriptures, in John 5.39: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." So then, the ultimate subject of the holy Scriptures, the central theme of the Bible, is Jesus Christ.
4B. And what, particularly, should be noted about the Lord Jesus Christ? That He is the Savior. You see, Jesus did not come this world to teach, though He did teach. He did not come to set an example, though He most certainly did set a wonderful example. The reason Jesus Christ came to this wicked and sin-stained world of hopelessly lost people was to save us from our sins, Matthew 1.21. As Jesus said Himself, "The son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
5B. How did He accomplish His saving work? That's our final topic.
5A. OUR SALVATION
1B. Because God is just He demands full payment of the penalty of sinning against His august majesty. Ordinarily, such punishment for the sinner's sins is carried out by an eternity's torment in the lake of fire, a fate which awaits every fallen angel and every sinful man or woman who dies in his sins. Because the crime of sinning against God is a sin of infinite criminality, a sin of infinite wickedness, the punishment must be imprisonment in the lake of fire for an infinite period. Forever and ever.
2B. But the very fact that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost means that something occurred which results in the salvation of some sinners. What happened? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God Who became a man, was crucified and suffered a cruel Roman death, His blood being spilled, and He was entombed. That's what the witnesses who were there actually saw.
3B. What they did not see was what Jesus was accomplishing in a spiritual sense. You see, when Jesus was nailed to the cross the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all, Isaiah 53.6. In Second Corinthians 5.21, Paul declared that God made Jesus sin for us, Jesus Who knew no sin. And what was being done when Jesus was nailed to the cross with our sins? He was taking upon Himself all of the punishment that you and I deserved.
4B. So, He was bruised for our iniquities. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was oppressed and afflicted for you and for me. That's why we sing the song, "Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow." The Lord Jesus Christ was our Substitute, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
5B. After Jesus had paid for our sins and was buried He rose from the dead three days and three nights later. He rose from the dead bodily, not in spirit, and eventually ascended to heaven to sit at His Father's right hand, where He is now seated until He comes to take us away. But it's very important for us to remember that Jesus is seated in heaven right now. Ten passages in the New Testament place Jesus there.
6B. So, it's very important, for a number of different reasons, why children should never be taught that Jesus comes into their hearts in order to save them. Jesus is in heaven right now. And when He saves sinners He saves them from where He is in heaven. He does not come back here to save sinners from their sins. To believe that He comes back here to enter into a child's heart to save him, or anyone else's heart to save them is to completely misread Scripture, is to completely misunderstand the nature of justification, and is to advocate an erroneous Roman Catholic view of salvation called infusion of grace, which doesn't save anyone.
1. There is so much confusion in the world about the Christian faith. And the cause of Christ is not well served by most who call themselves Christians.
2. For that reason I have tried to provide for you a brief description of the Christian faith, to show in part how real Christianity is different from what is pretending to be Christianity these days.
3. I think the faith differs from most so-called Christians with regard to their understanding of our Sovereign, of the Scriptures, of our sin, of our Savior, and of our salvation.
4. So I will close with this: God has shown us in His Word that you have sinned against Him. Because of your sin He is angry with you and will severely punish you if something is not done about it.
5. But Jesus, God's Son, came and died on the cross so that He might offer Himself to you as your Savior. And if you will simply come to Him He will save you from your sins.
6. Now understand that Jesus will not come down from heaven to enter your heart in order to save you. He doesn't do that because He doesn't need to. You see, He can save you even though you are a long way from where He is, for two reasons:
7. First, Jesus in infinitely powerful. He is strong enough to save you from your sins no matter how far away you happen to be. Second, the way Jesus will save you is by washing your sins away with His blood. And since He is in heaven, and His blood is in heaven, and the books in which your sins are written are in heaven, He does everything that needs to be done right there in heaven.
8. The only thing He wants you to do is come to Him by faith. So you see, the Christian faith is really pretty simple. God is holy and you are sinful, and God will punish you unless you come to Jesus. But if you will come to Jesus He will save you from all your sins.
9. My hope and my desire as your pastor is that you will get saved this morning. If you want to talk to me about coming to Jesus just step into the conference room right over here and I'll talk to you about how to get saved.