16 November 2014

A FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES




Heb 4:14-26

We have all used the expression, "Been there, done that!" When we say, "Been there, done that," we can usually relate to what a person is going through! I came across an example of this though my studying this week. A story about a boy who had lost an arm in a terrible accident. The story says “He had become bitter and depressed. “He withdrew into a shell and refused to see the people who came to try to cheer him up.  But he experienced an abrupt change of heart when he was visited by another Christian who suffered from a similar handicap [this reminded me of my buddy Darrell].  The sight of that one-armed man coming into his room gave the youngster new hope. He felt he had found someone who could really identify with him and his feelings. His outlook immediately improved." It was if that one armed man was saying to that boy, "Been there, done that!" Another story I came across was about a man named Booth Tucker, who was conducting evangelistic meetings in the great Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago. “One night, after he had preached on the sympathy of Jesus, a man came forward and asked Mr. Tucker how he could talk about a loving, understanding, sympathetic God. 'If your wife had just died, like mine had,' the man said, 'and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying.' "A few days later Mr. Tucker's wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Citadel for the funeral. After the service the grieving preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those who were attending. “The other day when  I was here, he said, a man told me that, if my wife had just died and my children were crying for their mother, I would not able to say that Christ was understanding and sympathetic, or that He was sufficient for every need. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, it is crushed, but it has a song, and Christ put it there. I want to tell that man that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” What’s amazing about this story is that the man was there, and he came and knelt beside the casket while Booth Tucker introduced him to Jesus Christ. Booth Tucker could say to that distraught husband, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" 

In the course of a life time you will face many problems, many hurts, many difficulties and many temptations. There are even going to be times when someone can relate to you and say, "Been there, done that!" Other times you will feel that nobody is relating to what you are facing and you feel all alone. I have a reminder for you this morning we have a friend in high places we can seek when we feel all alone. There is a person who always understands your problem, always feels your problem, can always relate, and can always say, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" He may have not faced the exact trial but he faced trials so similar that he can always relate. The person's name is The Lord Jesus Christ! Turn with me to Hebrew’s chapter 4 this morning as we look at this friend we have in high places. A friend we can turn to when we are faced with approaching storms of life. He is no ordinary friend! He is King Jesus and He is always there no matter what happens in our lives. WHY?

OUR FRIEND IS SEATED IN HEAVEN

See, this is no ordinary friend, according to the writer of Hebrews he is a “High Priest”. What I find interesting is that the author of Hebrews contrasts Jesus with the ministry of the Levitical High Priest in this portion of scripture. A priest according to Old Testament writings once a year passed from the sight of the people into the Holy of Holies bearing the blood of atonement? Once a year the High Priest representing all the people entered the Holy of Holies. Where he would sprinkle blood with his finger on the mercy seat to symbolically atone for the sins of the people. But even before this could be done, he would have to offer a sacrifice for his own sin. Then he would be able to enter, but would only stay long enough to sprinkle the atoning blood. Historically it is said “bells were sewn to the hem of his robe so people outside could hear him moving and thus know that God had not struck him dead.” And the Hebrew writer wants us to know who are High Priest  is as we face our next trial, temptation or decision in life. A High Priest who made it possible for us to approach God on our own though the Holy of Holies! How has Jesus made this possible? “who has passed through the Heavens” See the priest entrance into the Holy Holies was though portals or sections of the Tabernacle. The first portal was he bore the blood through the door into the “outer court”. The second portal he entered a door into the Holy Place. The third portal he entered through the veil of the Holy of Holies. Understand! The priest had to do this year after year

IN CONTRAST:

Jesus our great High Priest, after once only sacrifice for sin on the cross passed “though the heavens” First Jesus went through the first heaven “the atmosphere”. Second Jesus went through the second heaven “outer space”. Third Jesus went through in the third heaven “the most HOLY of places…the presence of God”. A place where He is seated, something that no priest had ever done. Why? The spotless, sinless, perfect Lamb of God once and for all appeased the Father’s wrath though His offering for sin…….Himself “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb 7:26-27. This is our friend in High Places, so hold fast to your confession in Him, because God holds you in His sovereign arms.

OUR FRIEND FEELS YOUR PAIN

The bible says our High Priest our friend “sympathize with our weaknesses” Sympathize means “to share the experience of another”..…which gives the expression ”been there, done that”
Jesus the most sensitive man who ever lived and walked this earth feels for you and me. That’s a comforting truth as we face today and the next, isn’t it? No one truly understands like Jesus, when it comes to your pain, failures and sin. Isn’t that true in your life? I know it is for me! The God of the universe came in likeness of man to demonstrate His love for fallen sinners like us. And to top it off he shares in our weaknesses and faced the same trials you possibly face today. He experienced every kind of temptation you could invent or come up with. As the bible says “He was in all points tempted as we are”. Every kind of unpleasant, every kind of circumstance you face or about to face, he has also faced them. Jesus not only had all the feelings of:
  • Love
  • Concern
  • Disappointment
  • Grief
  • And Frustration that we have

Jesus knows the limitations to our human capability and we need to understand He faced each of these temptations to the maximum! John MacArthur said “there is a degree of temptation that we may never experience simply because, no matter what our spirituality, we will succumb before we reach it. But Jesus Christ had no such limitations. Since he was sinless He took the full extent of all Satan could throw at Him. He had no shock system or weakness limit, to turn off temptation at a certain point. Since he never succumbed, He experienced every temptation to the maximum. And he experienced it as a man, as a human being. In every way he was tempted as we are, and more.” Remember what Paul wrote? “No 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.” 1 Cor 10:13. We will never be able fathom the depth of the temptation Jesus endured. Yet He withstood the depth, as well as the force, of these temptations…..He overcame them as the sinless One. This gives me great comfort! To know that whatever I face in this life he has faced it before me and has faced it head on to its full maximum capability. What I find also confronting about this is that earlier the Hebrew writer pens these words about our friend in high places. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Heb 2:18
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your wife
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your husband
  • When you’re all alone, mouse in hand on the internet ready to search the web.
  • When you feel like gossiping about someone else.
  • When you feel like giving up your purity to find love.
  • When you feel like abusing a loved one physically or with words.
  • When you feel unloved and want things to come to an end.
  • When you feel nobody cares and God isn’t real.

Jesus knows the depths of your pains because he has also endured to their fullest before you. Do you want sympathy from this friend? If your answer is YES, Do not go anywhere elseIf your answer is NO, then keep listening.


OUR FRIEND HAS OPENED THE DOOR

Our friend has open help line 24 hours, 365 days a year. This High Priest who has fulfilled the requirement for sin once and for all, and has made His presence available to all who are call upon the name of the Lord. This is amazing! Something only a High Priest could do once a year with a rope around his waist and bells attached to robe. Jesus has made the Holy of Holies available “the veil was torn” to all His sanctified children at any time! No matter where you are. And the Hebrew writer says “come boldly to throne of grace”. Boldly or confidence means “to be free and open speech of citizens with one another.” What does that look like? We are to come to God without hesitation or tentativeness! Why? He has completed everything that is required to be in God’s presence. He has removed the requirement to enter His throne of grace. The place from which grace flows for saved sinners like you and me. And here is the promise! When we hold to our confession and have a boldness or confidence….we receive “mercy” for past failures and “grace” to meet our present and future needs. So we can say with Jesus’ brother James “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." James 4:6. The One who understands us perfectly will also provide for us perfectly and accordingly to His will. God’s throne of judgement is turned into a throne of grace for those who trust in Him! Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by the common people. Historically it says “some would not even allow their highest ranking officials to come before them without permission.”. But because of the finished work in Christ! We can approach the throne no matter how sinful and undeserving we are. We may approach God’s throne at any time for forgiveness, restoration, help and time of need. You and I, having this confidence that we will be received with mercy and grace! How can anyone reject or ignore such a friend? Jesus, not permits us to come before His throne for help, but pleads with us to come in confidence. Many of us sometimes feel……

“God doesn't want to hear about my problems”
“Who am I that he would even care”
“I don’t feel worthy enough to come to Him”
“I’m too ashamed of what I done”

Exactly, this is the reason he went to the cross for me and you! And he has not left us alone to fight this fight. He is calling us to approach Him because he is filled with grace and mercy and he wants to lavish this upon you. Please, don’t miss or take this truth lightly! His death gives you an open door into His presence not for a moment for as long as you need. “Trials reveal our weakness. Weakness reveals our need. Need moves us to pray. And prayer opens the door to God’s endless supply. ”Paul Washer
  • Are you a born-again Christian? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you hurt? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you have troubles? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE
  • Do you need strength? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you tempted to sin? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you worried? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Have you failed God? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!

Andrew Bonar was ministering in a service at Northfield, Massachusetts. D.L. Moody, who was in charge said impulsively, "Dr. Bonar, these people would like to know how you live this victorious life about which you have been preaching. Tell us your experience…." With some hesitation Bonar quietly replied, "I do not like to speak about myself; but for 50 years I have had access to the Throne of Grace." So do we…….a friend in High Places.

04 November 2014

BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY



Luke 15:11-32

I want us to look at one of the greatest acts of grace that anyone could show someone. I also want us to look at a story that has spoken to my heart on many occasions as a reminder of God’s love for me. It’s a story that displays the mercy of God when we make mistakes. It’s a story of the natural state of man…lost and without Christ. It’s a story that represents all that God is and the complete dependence we have to be accepted into His family. It’s a story about each and every one of here this morning, those who are saved and those who are still wandering the streets trying to fulfill self. Ask yourself this question! Why does the world get so fascinated by the idea of wanting to live in the big city. Take for example Toronto! With all its shopping, restaurants and everything a person needs just outside their door almost fascinates and draws people to herself. The city is so convenient and makes things easier to get when everything is so close and accessible. But! The city also has something else that is too convenient and accessible. The city is filled and riddled with………
  • Drunkenness
  • Fashion and covetousness
  • Lewdness
  • Power struggles
  • Deception
  • Pornography
  • Drugs
  • Prostitution
  • Disease
  • High Crime rates
  • Homeless
  • To many choices
  • And dreamers with high hopes and big plans that will never come to fruition.

THE OLD TESTAMENT SPOKE OF THESE KIND OF CITIES……….In Jeremiah 51:7 we read “Babylon was a golden cup ( outwardly beautiful but inwardly the cup is full of poison) in the LORD's hand that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; Therefore the nations are deranged (the nations are mad or foolish).” Blinded by their own ignorance and motivations of a ME CENTERED LIFE. PAUL SPOKE ABOUT THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE! In Rom 3:10-18 we read “As it is written: "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB; WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY HAVE PRACTICED DECEIT"; "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS."  "THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD; DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR WAYS; AND THE WAY OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." The city is an easy place for people to find out how low they can really become....because it’s easy to get lost in the city under the bright lights and big building! Jesus spoke a parable about a young man....a father and older brother....it’s a story that speaks volumes to my heart because I can relate to the young person in this story. I grew up in a small town, with very little to do!! I used to think about going into the city and doing what I wanted to do and not have to worry about anyone! THIS IS A STORY DIVIDES ITSELF INTO 3 PARTS

1ST PART............A story about a young man who lived for self, who wanted what was coming to him, who was very impatient and not content with his present situation.

A story about a man who said in his heart “I must have it now”. Does this sound a bit like you and me sometimes? I know it does me sometimes.

2ND PART.............A story about a father who loved his son dearly and had a heart of forgiveness and a joy that only can come from God.


3RD PART..............A story about an older son who did everything to gain favour with the father and had no true relationship with him or anyone else for that matters.This is a story about God’s mercy and grace to any lost sinner. This is a story about you! It’s a story about me! It’s a story about the true Gospel that saves to the uttermost!

1ST PART...............THE YOUNG MAN (V11-V16)

We see three things this young man does that each and every one of has done at some point in time in life or at least wanted to! A life of living for self! Getting what is mine....Whether it’s freedom from living under your parent’s roof or a life that is waiting for retirement! Buying into the American dream of being independent and free to do whatever you want. I want what’s coming to me!! Blatant (open) sin without any regards for anyone else. HE WAS ONLY THINKING OF HIMSELF........Look at (v12) “give what is mine” Basically he was saying “I want what you were going to give to me when for when you die” But he isn't dead yet! “So I wish you were dead” HE IS ONLY THINKING OF HOW HE IS GOING TO SATISFIES HIS CRAVINGS AND PASSIONS...........Look at (v13) “prodigal living” Jesus called his life...... “the prodigal living” The Greek word for “prodigal” means dissolute, it conveys the idea of an utterly immoral lifestyle. HE PRODIGAL LIVING ENDS WITH HUNGER AND DISAPPOINTMENT......... Look at (v14) “there arose a severe (powerful, mighty) famine” The people listening would have understood what it meant to go through a severe time of no food! God allowed many famines to come upon the land. For example 2 Kings 6:25-29 where the women made a pack, or a promise to cook their babies for food. They actually ate one the babies......... until the mother of the other child wasn’t hungry anymore............and she refused to give up her child (2 Kings 6:29) A severe famine makes people do some strange and unusual things! You become desperate and utterly helpless…because you have nothing or anything to live for. William Manchester writes about the famine that hit Europe in the Medieval Era “The years of hunger were terrible. The peasants might be forced to sell all they owned....In the hardest times they devoured bark, roots, grass, and even white clay. Cannibalism was not unknown. Strangers and travelers were waylaid and killed to be eaten, and there tales of gallows being torn down...as many twenty bodies would hang from a single scafford.....by men frantic to eat warm flesh raw.” In the mid-nineteenth century Ireland.......a million people more than 10 percent of Ireland’s population at the time died of starvation over a three year period.....this was called the “Potato Famine” More recently in the Ukraine in 1930s, when multiple millions died of hunger.....that famine believed to have been deliberately caused by Stalin as an act of genocide. This young man was hungry and helpless because he spent it all on pleasures

“Thinking that the high life was the good life”

But he finally realized that was a lie from the pits of Hell. And sadly this is the same lie the world is trying you to entice you and your family with each and every day. Look at (v16) “my father’s help live better than me” He goes on to say “I’m hungry and empty but my father’s servants are doing better than me” Slavery is much better than this according to the son who has hit rock bottom. This is how I felt about my life when I was in my 20’s! Lost and going all direction which in reality only leads me around in circles! This is what a person without Christ looks like........lost and utterly helpless......broken and penniless (not physically, but spiritually) REMEMBER WHAT JESUS SAID in Matt 9:12-13 “When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." This was a person who was broken.......he thought he could find love or fulfillment by finding it from something else....like so many people today! Pleasure consumed......Look at (v14) “he spent in all” He was hungry! He had no food...........no money.............. Or a job! This is what it took! For this young man to see that he was utter broken......sick......poor.........Look at (v17-v19) This is what happens to a sinner who needs a Saviour.....a Physician in 2 Peter 3:9 we read “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

2ND PART...........................THE FATHER (V20-V24)

We see a loving father “full of compassion”.........Look at (v20) We see a loving father who doesn’t wait, but he runs to rescue as if you were a person was drowning in the water.....he comes with urgency and joy! He couldn’t contain his affection towards his lost son. This is a wonderful picture of our God who loves lost sinners! Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.” God is a just God......a God who loves.....delights in mercy! That’s the Gospel. AS PAUL WROTE! In Rom 5:8-11 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” That’s the Gospel and His great salvation plan for sinners! The Gospel reconciles us back to that relationship mankind once had back in the garden. When the Lord our God walked with Adam in the coolness of the day......Look at Jesus says in (v22-v24) Robe......reserved for only a special occasion. Specially reserved for a master’s child..........(today’s terms the equivalent of a tuxedo).....this is like the robe of righteousness that we get through Jesus Christ.......salvation is a special occasion to any believer! Ring.......a signet ring that had the families crest or seal, so when the ring was pressed into melted wax on a formal document.......a symbol of authority and honor........seal of approval. Sandals........these were not usually worn by slaves. Only the masters and their children wore footwear......and therefore signified his full restoration to sonship. The Forgiveness of sins! Fattened calf.......reserved for only special occasions.....a feast for a great celebration. Salvation is a wonderful celebration for the sinner and the Heaven’s.....Look at (v10.....v24) That’s salvation....that’s the Gospel! What’s even more amazing is, the prodigal son did nothing to earn or work for those items...they were freely given by the father who loves lost sinners.......you and me! Remeber what Paul said in Eph 2:8-10 “It’s by grace you are saved....not of works...that any man should boast” But it’s interesting to see how Jesus finishes off his story...he finishes by talking about the older brother! Equally as lost as the younger son, but doesn’t realize it!  We are going to see something that would make His listeners disgusted or uneasy (in this case the Scribes and Pharisee’s) ...............going back to (v2) and (v14 of chapter 16). Sadly this isn’t new teachings of Jesus.........this goes back the Sermon on the Mount and many other occasions, when he spoke to the multitudes. EVEN THE PROPHETS OF OLD AND THE APOSTLES WARNED US AGAINST THESE TYPES OF PEOPLE!
  • The False worshippers
  • The Ravenous wolves
  • The Empty confessions
  • The Empty tombs
  • The Deceiving hearts
  • The Religious
3RD PART........................................THE OLDER SON (V25-V32)

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE SEE ABOUT THIS OLDER BROTHER?
  • Self centeredness
  • Bitterness and resentment.........
  • Self righteousness........
  • Hatred towards another person
  • Pride and arrogance
  • Slanderous
  • The closet sinner...outwardly good inwardly rotten to the core (the Pharisee’s)
Let me ask you something! Why didn’t the father rush to tell his older son that his brother has come home? Answer: He has no real relationship with the father otherwise he wouldn’t have asked the servant the question in (v26). The same thing the Pharisee’s had with the true Living God of the Bible.....no true genuine relationship as Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets of old did. The father knew he had no real relationship with his older son...he knew his secret heart, otherwise the older son would has stood up and said something to the younger brother for being so disrespectful to their father, when he asked for his inheritance. As the oldest...the first born! Should have....No! Instead he did what any self righteous person does! .......Woe always me. The older son was angry (v28-v29).........I’ve been serving.....slaving for you for so many years” It’s interesting to see the father didn’t scold him for his behaviour but pleads with him in (v28). The older brother is so disgusted he doesn’t even acknowledge his little brother as a brother! (v30) “.........this son of yours...” He also says to the father how can we rejoice when he as used inheritance for “prostitutes and wicked living” look at (v30). BUT I LOVE HOW THE FATHER RESPONDS TO HIS WICKED AND SLANDEROUS SPEEECH! Don’t worry you to will get what’s yours in this meaning his inheritance. Which in reality the older son would get more! He is the oldest...and his birth right entitles him to 2 thirds over his younger brother who would have been given 1 third.....Deut 21:17  “But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”
BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS.....it’s what the father said after this! Look at (v32) this verse literally means “it was necessary to celebrate” WHY? He was dead and now is alive......he was blind.....but now he see’s. 

THAT’S THE GOSPEL THAT SAVES TO THE UTTERMOST! That’s the God I serve the One who ran to my rescue and saved me from myself! I thought the world was what I wanted!!.....but in reality it only left me empty and lost like both of the brother’s in this parable.....William MacDonald said “the world cries out for all that we have and we are....our time, our evenings, our weekends, the time that we should be giving to the Lord.” The Bible says “were your heart is.....there your heart will be also.” One loving and forgiving father who desires that nobody perishes. Two lost sons...but only one is found! Which one are you of the sons are you this morning? Because as Jesus said “there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance”