Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

A Blessed Man Doesn’t Walk

In Devotional on November 20, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I do not know of anyone who does not want to have a blessed life, do you? And Christians know better than anyone what a blessed life entails. When you know that your life is held tightly in the hand of our Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus (John 10:27), that is blessing enough! But there is more — so much more!

King David, the author of this Psalm, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy
3:16) begins these incredible collection of Psalms by talking about the ‘blessed man.’ Then, as a father talks to his son, David talks to his children saying, “Before I tell you what a blessed man is, let me inform you as to what he is not.” And he then proceeds in a progression that often snares those who are off the path God has for them.

First, a man outside of the blessed life starts walking and may find himself in ‘the counsel of the wicked.’ Soon, he is intrigued by their company and finds himself standing ‘in the way of sinners.’ After a while, he gets so very comfortable in their presence, that he pulls up a seat among the ‘scoffers’ who scoff all things good, all things godly, all things holy. And if we are not careful and living a life of perseverance under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we may find ourselves getting rather comfortable in the ways of this world and not being holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16-17).

(c) 2007, Matthew Perry.

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[FROM THE ARCHIVE, 2006] Overcoming My Addiction

In Devotional on November 8, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I wrote this blog entry on March 29, 2006 after God convicted me and my body warned me regarding a particular addiction I have and many pastors have as well. While I have not progressed as well as I would like, reading this 2 1/2 years later helps me to see that work still needs to be done. I’d appreciate your prayers in the matter.

—-

I praise God that He gives us the strength to overcome addictions — and he has put me on a path to overcome mine, but I have a long, long way to go. It is really an addiction that began in college and continued on through seminary — right into married life where it all came to bloom. All night study sessions getting ready for the test the next morning. Being locked up in the library. Then getting married and leading an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Then on top of all that, I have been in the ministry going on 15 years, which allows for an increasingly sedentary lifestyle — on top of that, I’m am in Baptist ministry, which seems to feed my particular addiction more and more because it is just part of our culture.

My particular addiction that God is helping me to overcome is that of food.

A little history. I graduated from high school weighing a whopping 135 pounds soaking wet. In high school, I actually dropped down to 117 (which was about 25 pounds below what I should have been) because my trust was in my girlfriend at the time rather than in Christ. She didn’t want to eat lunch, so I didn’t eat lunch. Very unhealthy from every angle. But by the time I graduated in 1989, I was 135 and stayed that weight pretty much all through college when I graduated in 1994.

During college, I was a music major at Palm Beach Atlantic College. Aside from the jokes that music majors really didn’t do much, nothing could have been further from the truth. One study noted that the three hardest fields of study in academia are law, medicine, and music. I didn’t go into music because of any of that — God called me into the ministry and at that time it was music ministry.

At that time, everything seemed to affect me negatively — though it wasn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. But in order to get through, I had to practice on my piano 1.5 to 2 hours per day, plus be involved in a number of extra classes that were required but where we obtained no credit. Plus, I had a couple of extra jobs just to get by. I was busy, busy, busy with bad sleeping habits and addicted at that point to caffeine and pizzas whose establishments delivered into the wee hours of the morning. I stayed skinny, but the pattern was set.

By the time I graduated seminary the first time and got married, I was a meatier 175. But when I graduated, I was engaged to my now wife Cindy. I had a steady job, no more ridiculous class schedules, no more late nights to study for music history and hymnology tests. No more working two jobs, plus doing my church work. I was settled with the woman God gave to me. And I was peaceful, relaxed …

… and expanding.

Bad habits would develop. Have a hard day at work? Go eat. Need to celebrate? Let’s go eat. Having a fellowship at church? GOTTA EAT! It’s almost as if gluttony is the unspoken, pardonable sin amongst us Baptists. It’s our culture. But in reality, food can be the worst addiction of all. It’s not illegal or necessarily immoral, but it numbs the pain and the hurt and any issue that can go on the in heart.

At the beginning of the year, I found myself between 40 and 50 pounds overweight (206). For those with large or even medium frames, 206 is really not bad. But the point is, I have a small frame and was 40-50 pounds overweight. And it really began to affect me. How?

(1) Walking up stairs. Walking upstairs from my office to the sanctuary is not a long walk, but I found myself winded slightly. I began to have to time and space out when I would go upstairs. If I walked upstairs and immediately had to talk to someone or preach, I would have to work and labor to catch my breath. As a pastor and preacher, that is not acceptable.

(2) Airplanes. A deacon friend and I flew to New Orleans to scope out some upcoming missions opportunities in that region. We flew a Comair flight to New Orleans. You know how you have to put your carry-on bag either in the seat underneath you or in the overhead compartment? I put mine in the seat underneath me. When we were in the air and I had to bend over to get it, I almost choked because my gut had become so big that it pushed into my diaphragm. (If you find yourself laughing at this, that’s your right. But it is a struggle and it causes more pain than just physical.)

(3) The jokes. One friend of mine who lives in another part of the state began joking to me, “You’re beginning to look like a Baptist preacher.” Others come up and pat me on the belly and make comments. And do you know what they would always do afterwards?

Laugh.

And it may have been funny. And for many, it certainly may not have been intended maliciously. But I now know that most folks who struggle in this area look in the mirror and begin to acquire a sort of self-loathing. And they acquire another trait which is far more harmful …

(4) I began to feel enslaved and doomed to this. Yes, I as a minister of Gospel who preaches about how we can be free from self and free in Christ, would find myself telling my wife, “You know, I really don’t think I can lose weight.” No matter what I tried, I kept gaining. And gaining.
But my wife began a program called Lose It For Life by Steven Arterburn. It’s been really good. It’s not like a lot of diet fads. Basically, it’s lots and lots and lots of water. Exercise (and they give you good tips on how to do this in the midst of a busy day), cut down on snacks, and no eating snacks after 8:00.

As of March 29, 2006, I am now 191 — I have lost 15 pounds by the grace and glory of God. My goal is 165-168. You may say, “Matt, you have 25 pounds to go!” YES! I do. But knowing that God has set me and is setting me free from my addiction to food and soft drinks now only gives me hope that I can be healthier, it’s also a time of worship that God can truly set one free from anything that enslaves.

God must be our all-in-all, but for too many of us, food is. We must preach against this as we do other sins. Stephen Arterburn noted that pastors preach against every other sin — all the while carrying 200 pounds extra weight in the pulpit. We must lay this down as well. I love food — but I love my God more and He must be my ‘comfort food’ as the Bread of Life. I will pray that you all indeed feast on Him and Him alone.

Baggage Handlers and Warriors Share In The Spoils: How Every Christian Has Value in the Kingdom

In Devotional on November 6, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Our Sunday School classes here at church are going through 1 & 2 Samuel this quarter.  We have had such a blessing getting to know God through this portion of Scripture.

One of the great challenges of pastoral ministry is convincing some Christians of their value and purpose in the Kingdom of God. They look at their weaknesses and magnify them rather than as a result they minimize God’s working in their hearts. They neglect to believe that God has gifted them, even in light of Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).

In our staff meeting last week, I shared with our staff 1 Samuel 30:16-25:

And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. [17] And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. [18] David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. [19] Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. [20] David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”

[21] Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. [22] Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” [23] But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. [24] Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” [25] And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.

Some of the warriors had the strength to pursue the Amalekites after they had captured David’s wives and taken the spoil. Yet, some did not have the strength, so they stayed behind and watched the baggage. Both had a part to play, so both could share in the spoils.

Each of us who are engaged in the Christian battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil (1 John 2:15-17) have varying amounts of strength. But everyone, whether they can go or they can stay, regardless of age or gifting, is able to share in the spoils of God’s Kingdom in Christ.

A New Testament passage which parallels this understanding in Matthew 20:1-16. The master of a house had a vineyard and was in need of workers. He hired some at the beginning of the day, promising a denarius. He hired others at the third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour, then the eleventh hour. At the twelfth hour, when he began paying them for their work, he paid the laborer who only worked an hour a denarius. Those who had worked all day thought they would get 12 times that amount since they worked 12 times as long — but the master gave them what they agreed upon — a denarius as well. Look at the rationale of the master:

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? [14] Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. [15] Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ [16] So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The perspective is what matters. Do we look at what we feel we should receive, or do we admire the generosity of the master? By God’s grace, we have Christ, regardless of whether He chose to have us work in His vineyard for decades, or just a few months — He is generous and gracious in that regardless of the time, all Christians will have every bit of the Son and His Spirit that we need.

What Does Salt and Light Mean?

In Church Life, Culture, Devotional, Politics, Sermons on May 4, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Many of us here have been in church for all our lives, and with that we have our own expressions. This should not surprise us. Every field has their own terminology and if you desire to work in that particular field, you need to learn what it’s all about! For instance, if you are working on computers and say, “I’m going to boot up my computer and download Windows on my PC, then use Mozilla Firefox for my web browser so I can surf the ‘Net,” you may understand everything I just said — or you may think I’m speaking in tongues.

Christians have their own terms as well. One phrase we tend to use often is the phrase “salt and light.” All of us fall into three categories:

• We may understand perfectly.
• We may be fairly new to Christianity and have no clue as to what this means.
• Or, we could be ones who use the term frequently and may even find some inspiration in it, but not have a good grip on it.

All of us need to see two things. First, what does ‘salt and light’ mean? Secondly, what does it mean to be ‘salt and light?’ The answer to this question will not simply satisfy a theological question, but will give all Christians the reason why God put us here.

1. What does ‘salt and light’ mean?

Salt. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” What does this mean? Salt in our culture has various uses. Many have salt on the kitchen table which is used to season food. Having this in mind, some say that God has placed Christians here to season the earth with the salt of Christianity. This is partly true!

The Roman Empire was overturned not by warfare but by ordinary Christians living Kingdom lives in the midst of tyranny and opposition. They saw the reality of Matthew 5:10-12 which says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When the Roman citizens saw the peace and joy that Christians possessed even in stiff opposition and persecution, this made an impression.

Even now Christians make a difference. Think of all art over the last 500 years devoted to Christ. Think of all the music given over to the glory of God. Our educational system was founded largely by Christians to help children read the Scriptures. Harvard and Yale were founded as colleges for pastors. Our hospitals have named like St. Joseph’s, Good Samaritan, Jewish and others because God placed a compassion in Christians to treat and help those made in his image.

In Jesus’ time, salt was not just used for seasoning but as a preservative to cure the meats and also brings out the flavor. With no refrigeration system, the only way to keep the meats from spoiling would be to cure the meat, wrap it tightly, and bury it in the ground. The meat would stay put — that is, unless some dirt came in and mixed with the salt. If this happens, the meat spoils and the salt loses its preserving nature.

Sodium is an extremely active element found naturally only in combined form; it always links itself to another element. Chlorine, on the other hand, is the poisonous gas that gives bleach its offensive odor. When sodium and chlorine are combined, the result is sodium chloride–common table salt–the substance we use to preserve meat and bring out its flavor. Love and truth can be like sodium and chlorine. Love without truth is flighty, sometimes blind, willing to combine with various doctrines. On the other hand, truth by itself can be offensive, sometimes even poisonous. Spoken without love, it can turn people away from the gospel. When truth and love are combined in an individual or a church, however, then we have what Jesus called “the salt of the earth,” and we’re able to preserve and bring out the beauty of our faith.

Salt works inwardly which means that when salt works, it’s where no one sees it. But the effects of it are on the outside. With the salt, the preserving nature works inwardly so that

Light. In Matthew 5:14-15, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Here, the skeptic may say, “Wait a minute. In John 8:12 (this skeptic knows his Bible) says that Jesus is the light of the world.” Correct. John 8:12 says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” Is Jesus or are we the light of the world?

We are the light of the world because we are the body of Christ in the world. He lives in us and shines through us as we live out the Kingdom He’s transferred to us. And light has a distinct function: to uncover the darkness and put on display all that’s around us.

Yet Jesus says that people don’t light this lamp in order to hide it. Yet not everyone who has light shines it. Why? Two reasons come to mind: some hid their light because of an enemy approaching. Some snuffed out their light when they were sleeping.

But Christ called us to be his light in his world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Christians are to rise high above the fray of the world so all the world can see the light of Jesus. This verse may be difficult for us to grasp since we are so surrounded by light. But in the 1st century as well as in most of the world today, no light can be found for hundreds of miles. So when the lights of the big city shine in dark rural areas afar, those areas can see that light clearly.

By Jesus saying that we are the light of the world, and connecting this with the fact that Jesus is the light of the world, we shine and shine brightly. But we must be discerning enough not to allow the enemy to douse the light. This is not easy, for Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He makes himself and his way look quite good, but that’s because without Christ we are remarkably like him: Satan wanted to be like God, and so do we. We want to rule our lives with impunity.

We also must make sure that we do not put out that light by falling asleep. Ephes. 5:15 says that we should, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” We need to be alert, be focused, be discipled — we need to look to Christ and follow his will and way.

Happy Are The Merciful, for Mercy Awaits

In Church Life, Devotional, Sermons on April 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm

(This is a portion of a sermon preached on Sunday, April 27, 2008. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click here. For other audio sermons, click here.)

Every once in a while I hear something that helps me so much in understanding my Christian walk, it gives me one of those “Ah-ha!” moments. I was listening to a sermon by Tim Keller out of New York. One day, his wife insightfully told him how the Christian life for so many was like putting quarters in a Coke machine. The object is to put the quarters in, then out comes the beverage. But on occasion, you put the quarters in and they don’t drop. So what do you do? You shake it and bump it until you hear the quarters drop.

For all too many Christians, the quarters have been deposited in our minds. We know the facts of the Gospel in how God made us, how we have sinned, and how we need to be saved by Christ through his death and resurrection. Many of us have made that decision. The problem though is that those quarters haven’t dropped and we’re waiting in that frustrating in-between stage where we know salvation in Christ, but we just fail to live it out in Christ.

Last week, I preached on the first four beatitudes. Those are the quarters in the machine. These last four Beatitudes are what should come out when the quarters drop. Being a Kingdom child is not just about Kingdom thinking, but Kingdom living. And the only way this can happen is not just from living out Kingdom principles, but when the King of Kings lives in us — Jesus Christ. My prayer this morning is that the Spirit will shake us until the quarters drop.

1. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).

Mercy. One of the words that we find used in a number of different places, but do we really understand what this word means? We tend to use the word ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ in much the same way. Think of it this way: grace is receiving something you do not deserve, and mercy is not receiving something you do deserve. D.A. Carson says that, “Grace answers to the undeserving; mercy answers to the miserable.”

So, when we read this passage of Scripture, we tend to take it like this, “If we are merciful, we shall receive mercy.” If you do this, then this will come back to you. This sounds right on the surface. But how does one become merciful? In reality, one who is merciful is one who has received mercy himself — he is one who understands his need for mercy and have received it abundantly. He understands, going back to the first beatitude, that he is in poverty in spirit due to his sin. As a result, he prays like David did, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-3).

I came across this recently, “It is sometimes said that an alcoholic who won’t admit he’s an alcoholic hates all other alcoholics.” Here’s a question for you: are you more offended at someone else’s sin moreso than your own? How can you tell? Well, have you shown mercy because you realize that great mercy God showed you? Do you find yourself feeling unworthy of it? Do you find yourself even resenting God’s mercy?

Consider Jonah. Jonah was a Bible-believing prophet commissioned by God. Yet God sends Jonah to a place and a people that to whom he feels far superior. He believes in the Bible, yet displays no compassion, no love, no mercy toward them. Why? Some would say, “Well, he’s prejudice.” That’s true, but why? “Well, he’s a sinner, like all of us.” That’s true, but where’s the rub for him? The problem was that he believed in something greater than the Gospel, something other than God to sustain him. And if you are having trouble being merciful to others, have you truly received and understood the mercy of God?

Fundamental to the Gospel of Salvation

In Devotional on February 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Fundamental to the gospel of salvation is the truth that the saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God the Father.  No formulation of the gospel is biblical which removes the initiative from God and attributes it either to us or even to Christ.  It is certain that we did not take the initiative, for we were sinful, guilty and condemned, helpless and hopeless.  Nor was the initiative taken by Jesus Christ in the sense that he did something which the Father was reluctant or unwilling to do.  To be sure, Christ came voluntarily and gave himself freely.  Yet he did it in submissive response to the Father’s initiative.  ‘Here I am … I have come to do your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).  So the first move was GOd the Father’s, and our justification is freely by his grace, his absolutely free and utterly undeserved favour.  Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

— John Stott, Romans, p. 112

The Most Dangerous Possession There Is

In Devotional on February 9, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Let us beware of an unsanctified knowledge of Christianity. It is a dangerous possession, but a fearfully common one in these latter days. We may know the Bible intellectually, and have no doubt about the truth of its contents. We may have our memories well stored with
its leading texts, and be able to talk glibly about its leading doctrines.  And all this time the Bible may have no influence over our hearts, and wills, and consciences. We may, in reality, be nothing better than the devils.

Let it never content us to know religion with our heads only. We may go on all our lives saying, “I know that, and I know that,” and sink at last into hell, with the words upon our lips. Let us see that our knowledge bears fruit in our lives. Does our knowledge of sin make us hate it? Does our knowledge of Christ make us trust and love Him? Does our knowledge of God’s will make us strive to do it? Does our knowledge of the fruits of the Spirit make us labor to show them in our daily behavior?
Knowledge of this kind is really profitable. Any other religious knowledge will only add to our condemnation at the last day (J.C. Ryle, Luke.)

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Why Bad People Know Little of Their Badness

In Devotional on January 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after give minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it; and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York: MacMillan, 1952, pp. 124-125).

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What Is Your Heart Condition?

In Devotional, Sermons on December 10, 2007 at 1:30 pm

human_heart_graphic_03.jpg
Mark 4:1-20
Preached October 3, 2004
I love the Word of God! When I say “the Word of God,” I mean by that the Holy Scriptures. Some denominations such as Roman Catholicism say that the Word of God is the Scriptures plus their Sacred Traditions that they have acquired over the centuries since the time of the apostles. Those traditions, they say, have been just as revealed by the Spirit and are just as binding as Scripture. I do not believe it because Jesus gave the Apostles that special authority as eyewitnesses of His ministry to write down and preach His Word.

Some believe that they receive a ‘word from God’ through their own experiences, even if those experiences contradict what God has revealed in the Bible. If your notions that you believe are from God contradict what He has said in His Word, then those notions are not from God — for God is not one to contradict Himself.

So I just want to be clear by what I mean by the Word of God. And I will never forget the time I was very convicted by its power. During one of our Wednesday services in a church where I used to serve, I remember being asked to do the regular Scripture reading during one of the services. As I stood behind that pulpit to read, I was so overcome with the sense that I was reading the very words of God — the very Word that God inspired. That conviction has never left me. And God used that to grant me a love for the work and power of His Word.

This morning we will be looking at what as been called both the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Soils. Both apply. This parable deals with three angles: the seed (the Word of God), the sower (the one who spreads the word of God), and the soils (the ones who receive God’s Word).

God’s Word is powerful and can overcome any type of soil to where seed can grow. But what we are seeing here is snapshots of four different types of soils which represent four different types of spiritual heart conditions. As we look, I pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to move and work and to ask yourself this one question: what is my spiritual heart condition?

Do you have a stony heart?

Jesus taught the crowd about the condition of the four soils in which the seed fell. He said, “And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured it” (Mark 4:4). This is pictured as a path that was hardened by travel — hardened like the pavement on a sidewalk or the road on the Interstate.

Jesus went on to explain it to His disciples in Mark 4:15: “And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”

The comings and goings of life have so calloused them that the seed of God’s Word does not penetrate. R. Kent Hughes puts it this way: “Life for them may be no more than the sports page and a beer, or a movie magazine and an hour at the beauty shop. There may be no gross sin, but there is no interest in God whatsoever” (105).

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.

As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and drove the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost me a lot of money. Why did you do it?”

The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister. . . . please, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I threw the brick because no one else would stop” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out his handkerchief and wiped at the fresh scrapes and cuts.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable but the driver never repaired the dented side door. He kept the dent to remind him of this message: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention. God whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. Listen to the whisper. . . or wait for the brick.

Others get hardened by their own ideas and philosophies and their own experiences of how things began, how things are, and how things will and should be. Some read the Scriptures, but then they look around them to ‘real life’ and say, “Well, my senses and experiences seems to speak something different than what the Word says. I can’t believe it — I’ll believe what I see!” The evolutionist who says, “I cannot believe in God — where else can I go but to evolution?” The media representative who hears our message about the one way of Jesus and calls us a bunch of right wing fundamentalist fanatics. The academic professor who calls Christians a bunch of superstitious idiots who believe what unsophisticated men centuries ago believe and that we have advanced beyond the Bible to things more learned.
What needs to happen is that hardened ground needs to be broken up. Hosea 10:12 says:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

And God may send adversity to do so. I remember watching the World Series in 1989 between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Joe Morgan was doing an interview, then everything started shaking and the television feed went out. When the feed returned, they showed how bridges were collapsing, fires broke out, and even the roads were splintered and cut into pieces.

Sometimes God will send an earthquake of adversity that will shake up that stony ground of your heart. Just like that pavement that no one thought would be broken up, so God may use those circumstances to break up your heart so the word of God may be planted there.

Do you have a shallow heart (v. 16-17)?

Jesus tells the people that “Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away” (Mark 4:5-6). Jesus explains this to His disciples in verses 16-17:

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while. Then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

In most of Palestine, a very thin layer of soil covers limestone. As a result, not much vegetation can grow — and the land there stays quite barren. Often that is how many of our hearts are. We have a thin layer of soil for the seed of the Word to be planted, but just underneath that soil is hardness — it’s not a soil that runs deep. So the word cannot take hold in our hearts because it is not deep enough for the roots to dig in and give the plant strength!

But when the scorching heat of adversity comes, our supposed faith withers away. And adversity has claimed many a so-called Christian. A daughter complained to her father about how hard things were for her. “As soon as I solve one problem,” she said, “another one comes up. I’m tired of struggling.”

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After a while, he went over and turned off the burners. He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl.

He poured the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor.

She asked, “Father, what are you trying to tell me?” He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity–boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg was fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. By being in the boiling water, they changed the water. He asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?”
Well, for some young supposed Christians, when adversity knocks on the door of their heart, they wither away and abandon whatever ‘faith’ they had. You see, adversity has a way of showing us where we truly are in Christ. If we are only willing to follow Christ when things are going smoothly, then we forget that our Adversary — Satan Himself — will throw those fiery darts at us and we will flame out. But if we are willing to follow Christ in spite of the adversity we will face, that is the type of faith Christ calls for. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You may be that way and know others as well who struggle with this. Your Christian life begins with a flourish. You received the Good News immediately and with great gladness and joy. You may have even started sharing your faith and winning people to the Lord. You may even give an exciting, compelling testimony. But when persecution and tribulations hit because of the Gospel you crumble, wither, and fall away.

And when I say, “Fall away,” I am not referring to a loss of salvation. When we look with our own senses, it sure seems as if this person lost it. They seemed to be doing so well and being a witness for Jesus Christ. To us, it seems that they are legitimate citizens of heaven. But that’s when our experiences and our senses and feelings let us down in a grand way. We must go by the objective standard and authority of what God has spoken to us through His Word. And we must examine ourselves to see what the condition of our hearts are.

Do you have a separated heart?

Jesus gets to the third soil. This seed, He said, “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. He explained that the thorns are “the cares of this world, the desire for riches and the desire for other things” which choked up the Word that grew, making it fruitless.

Literally the ‘distractions of this age.’ It means that you are so absorbed and consumed by the issues of this age that you have no time nor desire to consider eternal matters of the gospel. And it is clear from this upcoming generation that the ‘distractions of this age’ often affect how they operate in real life.

In the Western Recorder this past week, you may have read about a poll that was taken among teenagers saying that 63% of all teenagers were willing to “bend the rules” in order to get ahead in their careers. It seems as if these Christian teenagers had a faith that stayed to themselves, but when it came to living they took on the attributes and ways of everyone around them, even though they were contrary to what God would have them do.

While many do not seem to take issue with this, this puts how many Christians operate on display. They compartmentalize their lives by saying there is a sacred, Christian part of their lives, then there’s the secular, day-to-day, ‘real’ life that we have to deal with.
He also speaks of the deceitfulness of riches. We mentioned in August from 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

You may have known people who see their neighbors get a new and faster computer, so they have to get one even faster; or get a new car because their co-worker got one. Keeping up with the Jones’ is what it’s called. We see it in sports all the time on draft day. The third person drafted get a certain amount of money in his contract, so the one who was drafted second needed to get more money and incentives than #3. That’s why so many hold out because they want what they feel is coming to them.

A ‘spilling over’ heart

Jesus tells them in Mark 4:8 that some seeds fell into “Good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.” The explanation? Look at verse 20:

But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Here is the result of the heart with good soil. You hear the word, you accept the word, and that word bears fruit. When you hear the Word and accept it, then you will obey it. This reminds us of what Jesus told us last week about His true family. “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).

Paul in his letter to the Colossian church starts by saying:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:3-6).

If your heart is prepared and ready for the Word to be planted, the seeds will grow into abundant fruit that will amaze you. You will not believe how God will use you when your heart has submitted to His Word and will.

Conclusion

Jesus said in verse 9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” It can be translated even more emphatically. “If you have ears, listen!” Listen to what? His Word! Listen to what this parable means! Listen and see what condition your heart is in.
See, heart disease is the no. 1 killer in America. But that’s a physical heart disease. Many of you in this place have a spiritual heart disease and the only cure is by the Great Physician coming in. And He won’t heal your old heart. No, this Physician knows how to give heart transplants. He will create in you a clean heart.

Do you have ears to hear? Then won’t you come and let him break up that hardened grown, that stony ground, that shallow ground, that thorny ground that is your heart so that he may give you a heart that will receive the goodness and power of His Word so that you may bear fruit for Him?
________________________________________
Copyright © 2004 by Treasuring the Word Publications. All rights reserved. You have permission to reproduce up 1000 copies of this sermon. All we ask is that you give proper attribution to the author and the ministries he represents:
Rev. Matthew Perry, Pastor
Boone’s Creek Baptist Church
185 N. Cleveland Rd.
Lexington, KY 40509
http://www.boonescreekchurch.com
matt @ matt-perry.com . (859) 263-5466
________________________________________
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Nine Ways the Gospel Takes Over

In Devotional on December 5, 2007 at 6:02 pm

In a study of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 tonight, this is the outline I will share with them tonight.  I would like to share that with you as well.

 

When The Gospel Takes Over
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-24)

When the average Christian asks, “What is God’s will for my life?” they begin with thinking on a large scale (foreign missions, the ministry, going to seminary, etc.).  Yet we must be faithful in little before God will entrust us with much.

 The question is:  when the Gospel takes over in a Christian life, what does it look like?

1. Respect the leadership of your church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a).

  • As long as they are faithful to the Word and faithful in the world, respect and pray for your spiritual leaders in the church.

2. Be at rest among yourselves and your fellow believers. (1 Thessalonians 5:13b).

  • Peace leaves the church when selfishness takes over (James 4:13).

3. Reprove those who need motivating (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

  • “Stand-by” Christianity must not exist amongst our people.  Each member of the body of Christ must be active, not idle, and be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).

4. Repay no one evil for evil (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

  • As we minister, we do so seeking to honor Christ.  Some may reject our ministry attempts, but as servants of Christ we exalt him regardless of the response of others.

5. Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

  • Our joy in Jesus must be one of the defining characteristics of our Christian life.

6. Make your requests known to God continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

  • The people of God must be a people of prayer. Our lives must be a continual prayer to God — the communion must never stop!

7. Be ruled by the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

  • To ‘quench’ means to douse or extinguish. We must be so governed by the Spirit that our sin must never quench the Spirit’s work (Ephesians 5:15-21).

8. Regard the Word of God above all (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).

  • The Word of God is our filter. Some come along to “tickle itching ears,” sounding so good and so spiritual. The Word of God is our standard for truth — test everything!!

9. Remove yourself from every form of evil (5:22).

  • Avoid a “Showcase Showdown” lifestyle: Instead of going up to the line of evil and getting as close as we can without going over, stay as far away from that line as possible.

 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, ESV)
   

 (c) 2007.

   

 

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