A Faith That Really Works

Scripture: Acts 3:26, Proverbs 5:22, Revelation 21:27
Date: 02/23/2008 
Salvation comes by faith alone, but a true faith results in the fruit of obedience and good works. Daily submission and obedience result from genuine faith. We obey because we are saved, not in order to earn salvation.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. I’m always thankful to see each of you here and as I scan the congregation I see visitors in our midst. Some of you may be from other parts of Sacramento and I want to welcome you whether you’re from another part of the country, another part of the world; welcome to Sacramento Central Church. We’ve been doing a series of meetings here. It’s not a sequential series, but really with an emphasis on reviewing the basics of Christianity. Today is going to be in keeping with that theme and the subject today is dealing with “A Faith That Really Works”. The relationship, understanding the relationship between faith and works; it is so important. If I were to talk to you about, what do you think are some of the pivotal doctrines in Christianity? Or what are some of the doctrines that are being disputed? Well there is a lot of dispute that revolves around the covenants and that often relates to the Sabbath and the covenants, the speaking in tongues, baptism whether it should be by immersion or sprinkling or what name do you baptize in.

The Christian churches are divided over a whole plethora of different doctrines and what are the truths of these different doctrines. Of all the different things that we could talk about the subject today is probably one of the most important that we understand correctly; the relationship between faith and works and how it relates to salvation. If you get this wrong, it’s not like misunderstanding the seven trumpets or the hundred and forty-four thousand. Matter of fact, while I was sitting on the platform here, we’ve had a child dedication it seems like almost every Sabbath this year. Praise the Lord, and Sergio said, “We’re going to get the hundred and forty-four thousand right here in this church.” All the children, it’s wonderful. But there’s a lot of doctrines that there’s some debate over. They’re not as crucial to salvation as understanding my behavior, my choices in relationship to my faith and accepting of Jesus. Understanding the relationship of faith and works. We’re saved by grace, but we’re judged by works. You’d be surprised how much confusion there is on this subject. So we’ve touched on this different times before, but I wanted to dedicate some time very specifically to talking about rightly understanding this relationship from a Bible perspective. That’s what we believe, right? The Bible. I may share some things with you today that will shock you. You may think that it’s even outrageous, but I want to be honest with you. Do you want the word of God? Well, I’m going to share the Bible with you.

Now let me begin by telling you something that is hard for me to say. I was once on welfare. I’m not proud of that. It’s humbling for me to tell you that. It’s been twenty-five, thirty years ago, a difficult time. Son was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, I was laid off, I was in the logging business working on logging trucks (it wasn’t that glorious). Got laid off; it’s a seasonal work. Hadn’t got back into the firewood business, had to apply for unemployment. It was a humiliating process because you have to go through all of this proof that you are trying to find work. Small town, there was a depression in the town. Had no money for hospital bills, had to apply for Medicaid. Son was in the hospital for ten days, had no income. Spent all of the money going back and forth. Making deposits. Had to apply for food stamps. It was mortifying for me. Didn’t belong to a church yet. This was before I was a baptized member so I was too proud to tell the church, too proud to tell my father, and it was humiliating. I realized where that money comes from because when I was working they took certain government expenses out of your paycheck for taxes and for social security, and so I knew that during that time, it was only a matter of months that I was getting food stamps and WIC and Medicaid, that I was really accepting emergency relief from other people who were working that were contributing to my help. That’s how it works, right? And so as soon as I could I got off it. And praise the Lord, I’ve never needed that help again.

God has blessed and we’ve come a long way and I’m very grateful for that. I think God allowed me to go through that so that I could never be proud and snobby and say, “Well, I’ve never been on welfare” because I have. I’ve waiting in the lines and gone through the process and I know what people go through and it’s terrible. But some people, and I had friends that did this, figure out how the system work and they abuse the system. Matter of fact, in 1976 Ronald Reagan gave a speech when he was campaigning and he described somebody who was known as a “welfare queen”. It was sort of a composite of a number of people that, they were generally women, who would claim that they had many more children than they had. In some cases they had none. They had many different names. They would go to these welfare departments sometimes in different cities going under different names, sometimes thirty different addresses claiming eight different husbands that were supposed to be veterans that were all deceased and getting their benefits for multiple children. It became a word that was coined those that were “welfare queens” and to this very day there are people who are guilty of welfare fraud. They just manipulate the system. Now when you hear that I think most of us have a certain amount of indignation because what’s happening is there are people, some of them have made as much as a hundred… let me just make sure I’ve got my figures right. I heard of one case where this one lady was getting a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month! I mean you could show up in your Mercedes to collect your welfare and go through all the paperwork. You could see this is on the Internet.

Different states have their different welfare queens. They’re not all queens but that was the term that was coined. Now the reason I bring that up is because I think to some extent God’s church has become a welfare queen. Let me explain. I’m not talking about appealing to the state for benefits. I’m talking about abusing the mercy and the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice so it’s taken for granted. It ought to be hard for us when we get on our knees, when we confess our sins and apply the blood of Jesus knowing how much it cost, not wanting to abuse that sacrifice and continue saying, “Oh, well, Jesus is freely offering His blood to cover our sins so let’s continue to sin. Let’s not do any work. Let’s not worry about obedience. Let’s just exploit the mercy of God,” and the bride of Christ in many churches has become a welfare queen. Do you see where I’m going with this? The grace of God is not designed for us to abuse it. It’s designed to save us so that we can be sanctified and live different kinds of lives.

Now I’m going to start at the beginning and just establish some facts and then I want to try to lead you logistically through with using your reason how salvation works and the relationship between obedience and faith and works. First of all, the reason Jesus came is not to save us in our sin, but to save us from our sin. Matthew 1:21 this is what the angel said to Mary. “You will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” There’s a difference between being saved from sin and being saved in sin and yet I have met… you can come to Jesus with your sin, but He loves you too much to leave you with your sin. He wants to save you from your sins. Yet more and more I’m hearing pastors and teachers and theologians say basically we are saved in our sin. But that’s not what the Bible says. A few more verses, and I could give you a lot. Acts 3:26 Peter speaking, “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” So when Jesus offers forgiveness, is that where it stops or does He want to turn us away from our iniquities? That’s what repentance is. It’s a turning away from. It’s a different kind of life and yet the idea of so many is that you just stand there at the welfare counter and continually exploit the sacrifice of Jesus with no intention of turning away from sin. God wants to save us from our sins.

More scripture, Titus 2:14, by the way, you know what I’d like to do is, I’ll try and post these notes. I didn’t print them because then we would have had to ask for a bigger offering for all the paper. We’re trying to save the planet, but we could post these at the Internet so maybe, Melissa, if I email you will have some way to put these up at the Sacramento Central website if you want some of these verses. Would you like that? Does that help? How many of you are on the Internet? How many of you are on the Internet right now because you’re not listening to the sermon on your Blackberry? Titus 2:14 “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed” not just the sin. Lawless is the sinful deeds. He saves us from our lawless deeds and purifies “for Himself His own special people, zealous of” enthusiastic about “good works.” Saves us from the bad works and makes us a people zealous of good works. Proverbs 5:22 “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” So Jesus came to save us from our sins. Those who are not saved from their sins are imprisoned or holden by these cables of sin. So if Jesus just says I’m going to give you a declaration of forgiveness, but He doesn’t save us from the practical deeds in our lives that cause all of our problems, is that really complete salvation?

Another simple point. Stay with me. Don’t storm out. Sinners do not go to heaven. You know the Bible says that Satan was cast out for sinning. If he is cast out for sinning, we don’t go in sinning. Listen carefully to these verses. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, these are just a few of many. “Do you not know,” Paul says, “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” Now who is Paul speaking to? The church. Why would Paul even need to say something like this to the church? Because the church had the same problem back then as they have today. Don’t be deceived, he says. “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” They won’t. Now God saves sinners, but He saves us from our sin so when we go into the kingdom of God we’re not sinners anymore, we’re saints. Is that right? More verses. Revelation 21:27, “And there shall in no wise enter into it” speaking of the city of God “anything that defiles.” Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath,” that’s losing your temper, “selfish ambitions,” selfishness, “dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past,” listen, “that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If we are practicing the works of the flesh we cannot go to the kingdom of God. He not only saves us from our record of sin, from the stigma of sin, but He saves us from the works of sin and they are replaced with the works of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit. I’ll give you one more verse. Ephesians 5:5-6, “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words…” They had the same problem back there two thousand years ago. People were talking in the church with empty words promising eternal life to people who continued living lives of sin. He came to save us from our sin. I got my token amen from my wife. I appreciate that. That’s a truth that the church should give a resounding amen to. I don’t know about you, but most of my problems are sin. I want to be saved from that.

I know I’ve used this story before many times. I can’t think of a better one so I’m going to use it again. I picked up a hitchhiker. I like to pick up hitchhikers and witness to them. This fellow happened to be wearing a whole bunch of crosses and I remember actually we stopped and I got him something to eat. We stopped and were eating and he found out I was a Christian. I was looking for a way to witness and he said, “I’m a Christian too. See all my crosses?” He said, “This cross came from this person, this cross came from this person, this cross from this person, so and so prayed over this cross.” I was thinking to myself it’s a lot easier to wear the cross than bear the cross. He said, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m not a practicing Christian.” I said, “What does that mean?” Well, we got back in the car and we started driving and he was telling me about all the problems in his life. Matter of fact, he had just gotten out of jail and he was separated from his wife and he was having drinking problems and all of these things were going on his life that were related to sin in his life, it was very obvious. He said, “I’m a Christian; I’m just not a practicing Christian.” I said, “Is there such a thing?” He said, “Well, I came forward when I was nine years old. I accepted Christ so I’m saved. Once you’re saved, you’re saved.” It doesn’t matter what you do, was his implication. I said, “What exactly is it that’s causing all these problems in your life?” “Well, sin.” I said, “But doesn’t Jesus want to save you from your sin?” He got real quiet and he said, “I guess I’m not a Christian.” There’s no such thing as a non-practicing Christian. A non-practicing Christian is a non-Christian. Isn’t that what that means?

Now before I lose you I want to explain and ratify. We are saved by grace. Salvation is a gift. Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Nobody can get to heaven and boast and say, “I am here because of my good works.” Nobody is saved by their works. I understand that L. L. Bean sent out an email before Christmas and a lot of people were fooled by it. It said, “Double coupon dollars! Our gift to you.” That was the title to the L. L. Bean email and a lot of people fell for the marketing campaign and they opened it up. It said, “Our gift to you: double coupon dollars” and the first thing it says in the heading is “Here’s how you can earn your double coupon dollars.” So evidently they want you to earn the gift. Is it a gift if you’ve got to earn it? So salvation is a free gift for you; it’s free to you, but it’s a very expensive gift. Just because someone gives you a free gift doesn’t mean it was worthless. If someone gives you a free worthless gift it’s not worth much, right? The gift was a very expensive gift. Now let me pause on that point for a moment. If you give a book to somebody and you say, “Yes, we’re part of this project. We’re giving away fifty thousand books. We’ve got fifty thousand of the lined up in these semis and we’d like to give one to you and they cost us eighteen cents apiece to print.” You’d say, “Thank you very much,” but you might use it as a paperweight or you’d start a fire or throw it in the garbage because you just say, mass produced, so many people got this book, not very expensive. But if someone hands a book to you and says, “Look, I’m giving you a collector’s edition. There’s only three others like it in the world. It’s worth ten thousand dollars, and it’s changed the life of everybody that reads it.” It’s the exact same book, but because of your value that you’ve attached to the book, how much more likely are you to read it? How much more likely are you to treat it with some respect because you know the value of it? Because Jesus offers salvation to the whole world, some people think that it’s cheap and worthless. It’s extremely expensive and it’s extremely valuable and it should not be abused. It costs a lot for those who have it. It’s free, but it cost Him something. It’s free to you, but it’s not worthless.

So since we are saved by grace, since we are saved without any works, can we lose our salvation through bad works? What is the role of works? Now I put this question on the screen because I want you to think about it. Since we are not saved by our good works, can we be lost by our bad works? If we are saved by grace, can we be lost through disobedience? That question is a very important question and I think you would be surprised how many pastors, some even in our church I’m sure, would answer that wrong. They’d say, “Since we are saved by grace, and since our works have nothing to do with our being saved, our works have nothing to do with our being lost.” That’s not true.

Now I’m going to give you some Bible stories, I’ve given you some plain scriptures and God teaches theology through the stories in the Bible, to help illustrate this. First of all, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” If someone is genuine or not, the fruits will be evident in their life. What do fruits mean? Their behavior. When we say works, we’re talking about actions, deeds, that’s what we’re talking about. Works is a term for that. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine” your faith so shine “before men that they may see” what? Your faith or your works? I mean that’s what James was talking about. Anybody could say I’ve got faith, but how do you demonstrate faith? By saying “faith, faith, faith” or do you demonstrate faith by a life of action? He said so let your light shine before men “that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” You don’t do it so they glorify you. You don’t do it to be saved. You do it because you are saved to glorify Him. That’s the big difference.

Now before Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with the judgment of God, Sodom and Gomorrah were saved. They were saved by grace. Did you know that? Sodom and Gomorrah were carried away captive because of their sin by the kings of the north. It tells us about Abraham arming his servants and with a confederacy of some of the other nomads they went up to the north. They attached Chedorlaomer and his kings of the north up by Damascus. They rescued Lot and his family and all of the people in Sodom. They didn’t deserve it. They didn’t earn it. Matter of fact, the king of Sodom tried to pay Abraham for his deliverance and Abraham said, “I won’t take anything. It’s a gift.” Now I’m telling you this assuming you know your Bibles a little bit. We don’t have time to read all of the references. Saved by grace, would not accept payment. But they went back to Sodom and they said, “Boy, that was nice being rescued like that. God must really love us.” And so they figured that that was a license to return to their wicked living and instead of repenting like the Ninevites and changing their ways as a nation they went right back in with both hands to their lives of debase sin. After saving them by grace and not allowing them to pay for the salvation, God said, “Look it hasn’t touched their hearts. I now need to visit them in judgment.” You can read about this in Jude 1:7, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” They were saved by grace but then their bad behavior after they were saved brought on judgment. That’s one example, but you don’t look convinced.

King David had a son named Absalom. Absalom murdered his brother Amnon. Now Amnon sort of deserved it because Amnon had abused Absalom’s sister. David hadn’t done anything about it so after Absalom killed Amnon, Absalom left town. For several years he was out of town basically staying with grandma and grandpa in another country. Joab interceded with the king and said, “Show mercy on your son. Forgive Absalom. Bring him back to Jerusalem.” So the king said to Absalom, “All right,” this is 2 Samuel 14:21, “I have granted this thing. Go therefore, bring back the young man Absalom.” And when he had called for Absalom he came to the king and he bowed on his face to the ground before the king and the king kissed Absalom. So here you’ve got a story in the Bible where Absalom had left town, he’d murdered his brother, he had been separated from his father like the sinner is separated. Joab intercedes. David says, “I’ll forgive him. Let him come back.” He humbles himself before his father; his father embraces him. He’s accepted. He’s living back in Jerusalem. So this is sort of a scenario of salvation. He was forgiven. He was brought back. He was given his status again. But you know what he did after he was received back again? He began to think, “You know, I can get away with almost anything. David is so merciful, I bet I could even rebel against him and try and take his throne and he won’t do anything about it.” He began to abuse his father’s patience. He started standing in the gate and saying, “My dad is not a very good king. He’s not a very good judge, but if I was in charge things would be a lot better.” Little by little he stole the hearts of the people. He incited a rebellion. It broke out into an open war. In the result, what happened? Absalom was slain in the war. Joab, who had mercy on him the first time, said no mercy the second time. He died suspended between heaven and earth hanging by his beautiful locks of hair from a tree, (I don’t ever have to worry about that happening to me.) and he was pierced through the heart. The Bible says, “And they took Absalom,” this is 2 Samuel 18:17, “and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him.” Saved by grace, restored to the father, but he did not change his ways, judged, placed in a pit. By the way, that’s a scenario of what’s going to happen to the devil. The devil is like that beautiful prince, and he began to steal the hearts of the other angels, he incited a rebellion, and it says about Satan, “You shall be brought to the pit.” Never shall you be. You’ll be a tear and “never shall thou be anymore.” Similar to what’s going to happen to the lost.

You remember the parable of Jesus? We’re still talking about this principal. I want to restate what I put up on the screen there. If we’re not saved by our good works, can we be lost by our bad works? I’m telling you the answer is yes, it’s a very definite yes. You’re not saved by your works, but you can be lost by bad works because bad works indicate you’ve not been converted. Bad works indicate that your heart has not been renewed, and maybe you aren’t saved. Jesus tells a parable of an unmerciful debtor. This is one of the most clear examples of how the principal works. He says there was this certain man who was brought before a king and he owed ten thousand talents and he could not pay. So the king commanded him to be sold and all that he had that payment might be made. He fell down before the king, this is found in Matthew chapter 18, and he begged for mercy. He said, “Have patience with me and I will pay thee all.” The king had compassion on him, and he forgave him the whole debt. You notice something here? This unmerciful debtor, that’s just a name in the parable that’s used for him, he asked the king for forgiveness. He says, “I’ll pay you back.” The king says, “Look, forget about it. I’m forgiving the whole debt.” And the king forgives him. But in his mind he thought it was a payment program. He said, I’m going to pay it, I’m going to pay it, and he went out not realizing he had been freely and totally forgiven. Because he did not understand that he had been totally forgiven, he went out and thought that he had to get the money to pay back the king. He found a fellow servant that owed him like forty dollars. He takes him by the throat and says, “Pay me what you owe me!”

The fellow servant falls down before him, just like he had done before the king, he said, “Have patience with me and I will pay thee all.” It was a lot more likely that he can pay back that forty-two dollars, but he would not have mercy. He delivered him to the tormentors for forty-two dollars, his fellow servant. He had just been forgiven ten thousand talents which is like fifty-two million dollars depending on whether they’re talents of silver or talents of gold. Well, the servants of the king hear what this man had done who had just been forgiven this phenomenal amount. They bring word back to the king, they say, “You know that accountant that had plundered your account, that had mismanaged and extorted all that money that you forgave? He just went out and he cast one of our fellow servants into prison for forty-two dollars.” The king was incensed. He said, “Bring him here to me.” “Then his master, after he called him” in (I’m in Matthew 18:32) he said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Now I want to dwell on this because this parable really helps sum it up. We’re not done with other examples of the principal.

You know the only comment that Jesus makes on the Lord’s Prayer is the part of the prayer where it says “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and then Jesus says at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” That’s very important. In other words, who does the first forgiving? The servant or the Father? The king, the Father, forgives. He says, “Now that I’ve forgiven you, now that I’ve shown mercy on you, I want you to go and live out that mercy in your life. I’ve freely forgiven you.” Jesus says, “Freely you’ve received, freely give.” He’s not just talking about money. If He gives you that freely, we hope you give it freely too. He’s talking about mercy. “I have freely shown you mercy, be merciful to others.” I mean, God is willing to forgive us ten thousand talents and we’re not willing to forgive each other forty-two dollars. Someone once compared that to the distance between the sun and the earth, ninety-three million miles that God is willing to forgive us and we won’t forgive each other one foot. Don’t miss a very important point. That servant when he came before the king, he said, “Have patience with me and I will pay.” He thought he was earning it. He didn’t understand that it was grace. When we understand that we’re forgiven by grace, that grace does something in our hearts where we then want to be different. We then want to give grace to others. When we understand what our forgiveness cost, what our sins cost, we don’t want to go away from the King’s presence and go right back to squandering His resources.

The thief on the cross, will he be in heaven? Good point. Which thief? I didn’t say which one, did I? There were two of them there, but I’m talking about the one who had that dialog with Jesus where he said, “Lord, remember me.” And Jesus said, “Verily, I say to you today, you will be with Me in paradise.” Will he be in the kingdom? He will. Based on his works or based on faith? Based on faith. Do his works have anything to do with it? Did he have any works? Yeah, there’s one work. There’s one work that everybody needs to be involved in. I heard somebody saying my answer here. Don’t give it away. John 6:28 and 29. The Jews came to Jesus, they said, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” Here’s the one work that everybody needs to do to be saved, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” So there is a work involved in believing. Now we’re going to dwell on this with our next example.

The children of Israel. When the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, did they begin their journey out of Egypt based on faith or works? What was the launching pad for their journey? Was it the law or was it the lamb? How well do you know your Exodus chronology? Before they left Egypt, they’re still in Egypt. What was it that gave them, what did they do before they began their journey? Did they receive the law or did they receive the lamb? First thing they did was they applied the blood of the lamb. Did they need to do something? They needed to sacrifice the lamb. They needed to apply the blood to the door and that lamb began their journey; that lamb provided freedom to them from their prison. They were liberated from their prison. They were saved from their life of bondage because of the blood of the lamb. Are you still with me? Am I right? After they were saved, they then get hungry, God gives them bread. They get thirsty, He gives them water. They get attacked, He gives them victory. He does all this for them before they go to Mount Sinai. Then He brings them to Mt. Sinai and He begins the Ten Commandments. What’s the first commandment? Well, the first commandment, I heard some of you say “Thou shall not have other gods.”

That is part of the first commandment, but the commandment begins with, it says, “God spake all these words saying,” meaning when God wrote with His finger in the stone, this is where the writing begins. “I am the Lord your God that brought you out of the house of bondage,” out of the house of slavery, the land of Egypt. “Thou shall have no other gods before Me.” In other words, He starts the Ten Commandments by saying, “I saved you. Now if you love Me here’s My law.” That’s the implication. He doesn’t give them the law until after He completely saves them out of Egypt. After they are saved, He then says, “Here is My will; obey Me.” Matter of fact, in the Ten Commandments it says in the commandment dealing with idolatry “showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.” You need to love God to keep His commandments, but He saves them first. So do they make it immediately from Egypt to the Promised Land or does He save them from Egypt, He brings them to Mt. Sinai, He says, “Here’s My will; obey Me.” Isn’t that what He said? He said, “This is My covenant I’m making with you.” He gives them the table of stones. Here’s My law. The new covenant is the same law, it’s now written on the heart, same law. And how many of them made it to the Promised Land? Of those above twenty that began the journey, out of a million that were above twenty, two made it. Does that scare you? Do you know why? Because this piece of theology misunderstood is fatal. They said, “Well, after all, the Lord did all those miracles to save us from the land of Egypt. He’s just going to keep putting up with our bad behavior all the way to the Promised Land.” No, He wanted to not only save them from Egypt. He wanted to save them from sin. That’s the whole reason they built the sanctuary so that they would not only be justified, He wanted them to be sanctified, to be different people, to live by faith. Now what does it mean to believe? So many people say, “It doesn’t matter what your works are, it just matters what your belief is. Do you have faith?” And so they built this whole theology that all you have to do is just mental assent. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and they neglect all the evidence in the scripture that says God wants you to e a holy people with a different behavior.

Now I haven’t seen it, but I heard that Al Gore put out a movie on the environment called

“An Inconvenient Truth”, and I’m not weighing in on the movie because I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard about it and I guess it caused a lot of stir, but I like the title “An Inconvenient Truth”. Some truths are inconvenient. You know one of the examples in more modern times that illustrates that people who don’t believe something, who can’t afford to believe something will refuse to believe it no matter what the evidence is. In 1994 a number of tobacco executives stood before… began to stockpile about people who were dying of lung cancer. They sued the tobacco companies. I’ve got a problem with that. It’s sort of like suing McDonalds when you eat too many cheeseburgers, but anyway, they started suing for their medical expenses and everything and the tobacco executives had to get up and they were testifying, “You know, we really are not sure that there are any health problems connected with smoking.” “We’re not sure that you can draw a line between nicotine and cancer.” “We’re not marketing to children.” They just began to blatantly lie and raise their hands and swear that “We didn’t know! Is there something wrong with cigarettes? We had no idea!” Finally most of them have come clean. After all, how can you be an executive in a tobacco company raking in all this money on selling something that’s killing people, making people sick, number one health problem. It contributes to heart disease and cancer and health problems as much as just about anything else next to alcohol, I believe, in North America. Without lying to yourself and saying, “I didn’t know. It’s really?” You know. “It’s not proven yet. We haven’t seen hard evidence.” It was an inconvenient truth and they couldn’t afford to admit it. Well, you know what’s happened? I’ve seen it in the church. This is how it works. Christ wants to save us from sin. We are justified, but then let’s go to the next step.

He wants us to be victorious and live holy lives, but we look around and we say who can dare to claim holiness? Look at all the sin not only in the world, but in the church. Statistically there’s about as much divorce in the church as you see in the world and so we think, well, since there are so few examples of victory we’d better change our theology no matter what the Bible says because it’s an inconvenient truth that God wants us to stop sinning. Did you know that? He wants you to stop sinning. He doesn’t want you to cut down. He doesn’t want you to use the patch and taper off. He wants you to quit. He doesn’t want you to quit when you get used to it or when it’s convenient for you, He wants you to quit now because every time you sin it hurts you. It’s strange that you should have to be apologetic about saying stuff like that in a church. When Jesus talked to Mary Magdalene, she was caught in the very act of adultery, He said go and cut back on your sin. Is that what He said? He said, “Go and sin no more.” Then everybody says well, what did He mean by sin? Is is is? Well, what does it mean? Well, the very fact that He didn’t go into great lengths to define what sin means and that passage means, it means the same thing it means everywhere else. Does that make sense? Sin was why she was about to be stoned and He says, “Don’t do that anymore.” Right? He didn’t say, “Mary, I want you to try and reduce the events, taper off.” Sin was what was killing her. Does God want us to be hearers or doers of the word? Romans 2:13, Paul is speaking here, and people take to the writings of Paul as much as anybody to abuse for this false theology, “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified…” The what of the law? Does He want us to hear it or do it? What did James say? Chapter one, verse twenty-five, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty…” Oh, by the way, if you read this in context he names two of the Ten Commandments before this verse. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed…” Why does God want us to do it? Because we’re blessed when we are. You’re blessed and your children is blessed and your church is blessed.

Another verse, God speaking to the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 5:29, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments…” How many commandments? What percentage would that be? How often? All the time. “Pastor Doug, are you reading this out of context?” No. “But that’s the Old Testament; it doesn’t apply to me.” Have you heard that one? It’s still true today, friends. He wants us to keep all of them all of the time that it might be well with us because think about if that’s not true. What does that mean? What if God should say to you, “Ah, you can fudge a little.” That has two meanings, doesn’t it? You didn’t get that. Some people’s sin is fudge. But they say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter that much. You know, just a little sin.” What if God said, “A little adultery… we’re all human.” If He was to say anything other than perfect holiness He becomes an accomplice. Our God in the New Testament and the Old Testament does not talk that way. Christ is our example. He’s a perfect example. Think about what we’re really saying as a church when nobody ever argues that the devil can tempt us to sin. I don’t hear any preachers ever argue and say, “The devil can’t ever make anyone sin.” Or “the devil can’t tempt anyone to sin.” You never hear a pastor saying that. The devil can’t tempt you to sin. You never hear a pastor saying “there’s no such thing as sin”. Nobody argues with the reality of sin; you know what they argue with? The reality of holiness.

We all believe the devil can tempt us to sin. Why do we have such a hard time believing God can keep us from sin? If we find it easy to believe the devil can make us fall, but we don’t believe that Jesus can make us stand then what we’re really saying is our devil is more powerful than our God. Is that caveman logic? Does it hold up? If we think the devil can tempt us to sin, but we don’t believe the Lord can keep us from sin, then who is stronger in your thinking? That’s why the devil says, “Look, if I’ve got them on this point, grace, salvation, faith and works, so they just take the faith part and they don’t take the holy living part, I’ve got them.” Because the big accusation that Satan makes against God is “You’re unfair! You’re expecting these creatures that You’ve made to do the impossible. They can’t do it. You’re unreasonable for punishing them for sinning because they can’t do anything but sin.” In order for you and I to bring glory to God and to vindicate God from that accusation He wants us to live new lives. You know what bothers the devil more than anything is when somebody who is a drunk, cursing, vile adulterer is converted and they give up their drinking. They don’t drink anymore, they don’t commit adultery, they don’t curse anymore, they don’t steal anymore. He saves them from their sins. That drives the devil mad! He’s already mad, but it makes it worse because their lives are a living testimony that Jesus can save them from their sins. Then I always like to ask the question, if you are struggling with this then what sin is it that He can’t save you from? That’s the one that you won’t confess and repent of, but you can’t name any specific sin that God can’t give you the victory over. He can save you from everything. I believe Jesus can.

Let me read a couple quotes to you. Francis Bacon said, “It’s not what men eat but what they digest that makes them strong. It’s not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich. It’s not what we read but what we remember that makes us learn. It’s not what we preach or pray but what we practice and believe that makes us Christians.” A lot of us are long and big on the preaching part and the profession part, but when it comes to the practice it becomes an inconvenient truth. Spurgeon put it this way, and this is a Baptist, “We must keep our Lord’s command if we would bask in His love. If we live in sin we cannot live in the love of Christ. Without the holiness which pleases God we cannot please Jesus. He who cares nothing for holiness knows nothing of the love of Jesus.” That’s why John said, “If we say we love Him and we live in sin, we’re liars and the truth does not abide in us.”

God is calling us… Boy, it gets real quiet in here when you talk about these things. “Pastor Doug, we didn’t expect to come to church and have you talk about sin.” Sin no more. How many believe when we get to heaven we’ll sin no more? A hundred percent of the hands. No problem, we’ll be in heaven then, have our new bodies then. I won’t ask you to raise your hands for the next one, but I bet in our hearts of hearts that not everybody here believes that we’re supposed to have that experience before Jesus comes. I believe we are. I believe that the Lord is wanting to raise up a unique people in these last days that have been saved from their sins. They are living sanctified lives and what does that mean? Well, I’ll tell you what it means. It means we’ve got the same kind of relationship with the Lord that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had when the king said, “Either you break the law of God or you break my law. You either sin against the government or you sin against God. You lay your life on the line.”

They said, “You know what? We love the Lord with all of our hearts. We would rather die than willingly disobey Him.” That’s the kind of experience we need to have. It’s the same kind of experience Daniel had when he said, “I’d rather go to the lions’ den than dishonor my God by closing my windows and hiding my prayers. I love God that much.” In the last days those who don’t worship the beast and his image, they can’t buy or sell, they’re going to be put on the line. Do we obey the laws of the beast or the law of God? We’re going to need to have a relationship where we have built up our faith by saying, “I’m going to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only even if it means I lose my job, I can’t buy or sell, or I get imprisoned or killed.” You think that experience is going to come to us the day that some crazy law is passed, or do we need to be developing an experience of submission and obedience now? If you’re going to pass the final exam then we need to start learning how to win a few quizzes along the way in daily submission to Christ and obedience. John 5:14 Not only did Jesus say to Mary Magdalene neither do I condemn you. You’re forgiven. Go and sin no more. You notice how it works? Forgiven by grace, but then after we’re forgiven, He says, now live a different kind of life. Jesus healed another man from sickness and after He found him in the temple, this is John 5:14, He said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” Worse than the beginning. Romans 6:1-2, and you can also read in Romans 6:13, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Isn’t that abusing God’s grace? “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” So why do we obey? To be saved or because we’re saved? Why does an avocado tree make avocados? To prove it’s an avocado tree? Or because it is one?

Why does a Christian have good works? In order to earn salvation or because they are saved? So if the works aren’t there, then the salvation isn’t there. The heart is not being surrendered. John Wesley said “Good men avoid sin from love of virtue. Wicked men avoid sin from fear of punishment.” We need to be doing the right thing not to be saved but for the right reason; to bring glory to God because we love Him. Hebrews 10:26, If we continue to sin willfully after we have received a knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sin. Matter of fact, I want you to turn to that. I want to read that whole passage with you. I’m looking at the clock, but I think I have time. Hebrews 10, and I’m going to start with verse 26, “For if we sin willfully…” Now is there a difference between a willful sin, presumptuous sin and accidental sin? Yeah, there is. It’s the intent. Even in our courts you’ve got deliberate first degree murder and then you’ve got manslaughter or someone might die accidently because of your carelessness. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,” also notice that once a person knows, they’re more accountable than before they know. “…there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” That’s talking about if we choose to live a sinful life after we know what God’s will is, what more can He do? All they’ve got then is a “certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Pause right here. Here the writer of Hebrews, New Testament, is making a connection between Moses’ law and Jesus’ law. Some people think, Well, Moses’ law, that was severe; that’s Old Testament. It’s actually more severe in the New Testament to neglect the sacrifice of Jesus and the blood of Jesus than the blood of goats and lambs in the Old Testament. This is what he says. “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse” sorer, more severe, “punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot,” become a welfare queen. “…counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” By taking advantage of, by presuming, by exploiting God’s grace and not being willing to live a new life, that’s very serious. That’s abusing the sacrifice of Christ. We need to repent of our sins and ask God to save us from our sins, friends. Amen?

God wants us to be not just hearers but doers of the word. We need the faith of Jesus. I want to jump ahead and talk about that real quick. We’re saved by grace through faith, right? What kind of faith? Let me read this to you. Revelation 14:12, speaking of those who are saved, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” What kind of faith do the redeemed have? The faith of Jesus. What kind of faith did Jesus have? Did Jesus have this faith where He just exploited the Father’s grace and continued a life of sin, or was Jesus’ faith a faith that resulted in a different kind of life? Did He keep His Father’s commandments? So if we’ve got the faith of Jesus, how do we live? Obedient lives. People say belief and for some reason the word has changed. Fifty years ago you could say, “Oh boy, today I’m just really happy and gay.” We don’t say that anymore. The word has taken on new meaning.

We’re getting ready. Amazing Facts is doing a seminar for kids next fall. We’re really excited about this. It’s going to be a satellite evangelistic series just for kids. I’ve already had, when I was working on the title with our office, I was saying, “What do we call this?” Because I have a dear friend, she’s an older saint. She said, “Doug, don’t call your children kids. They’re not goats.” Kids is kind of slang for children. It’s what the farmers and ranchers used to call their children, but it’s kind of crude. They’re children. I remember her saying that. Of course this is twenty-five years ago she used to tell me that. That word has evolved. Now when you say kids most people don’t think that’s a disrespectful word anymore, do you? It’s just how you refer to your kids. Oops! There I did it again. See? When you say the word believe, you know how most people hear that these days? They don’t hear it the way they heard it in the time of Christ. When Jesus said, “If you believe in Me” what He meant by that word was you believe and you’re going to live what I say. Whoever be-lives in Him. To just say, “I’m with You, Lord. I believe You! Yes, sir! I accept Your sacrifice,” and then you go live like the devil, that’s not belief. That’s not Bible belief, yet the word has come to mean something different. They just think James said the devils also believe and tremble. They’ve got that kind of belief. The real belief is the belief where you are willing to live what He says. That’s the ultimate evidence that you believe in Jesus, that you want to live by His word. Am I right?

You’ve probably heard this story before, but it’s true, of a daredevil who was just one of the trendsetters for an age to come called the Great Blunden. He was from France but he came to America and he was known for feats, he’d walk back and forth between buildings. He died of old age, amazingly. You’d think those guys would have a short lifespan. He was the first one you’ve heard about it, he walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope that was pretty flimsy compared to later examples, and he was also quite a showman. He’d get up there on the post and the crowds were gathered all around, they’d be watching and they even had a bridge at that point that went across so they could watch from the bridge. He’d say, “How many think I could walk across with the wind and the spray with nothing?” And they’d say, “We believe you can! We believe you can!” he’d walk across and he’d walk back and then he asked one time… Matter of fact, this is a picture, oh, this is the wheelbarrow picture. Yeah. Then he would say, “How many believe that I could go across Niagara Falls now without my balance stick pushing the wheelbarrow?” The crowd wanted to see him do it so they said, “We believe you can do it! You can do it! We believe!”

Then he said, “How many are willing to get in the wheelbarrow?” And the account that I read said you could have heard a pin drop. All you heard was the wind and roar from the falls. Total silence. No hands went up. They all said, “We believe you can do it with somebody else, but not with me.” Another story about the Great Blunden was he said, “How many of you believe that I could go across the Falls with a man on my back?” Nobody thought he could do it. Finally his manager said, “I believe it.” He raised his hand, he went out and he and this is an actual photograph of he’s carrying his manager on his back across Niagara Falls. How many would that make you nervous? How much confidence would you have in the Great Blunden to get on his back and go across the falls? He must have had an awful lot of faith that he had good balance. So when Jesus says “Surrender your life to Me, obey Me, trust Me that it will be better, you will thrive. You’ll have abundant life. Through Me you can do all things. Are you willing to believe that we can do this?” Some people say, “Yeah, Jesus, I believe, but I’m not getting in the barrel. I’m not getting on Your back. You want me to really like do what we talk about at church during the week?” Yes, that’s what it means to be a Christian. This is the kind of faith that really works is the kind where you live it in your life. It’s the only kind you’re going to be happy with. It’s the only kind of faith where you’re going to have peace and this is what it means to really believe, to really trust the Lord. You might say, “I don’t know how I’m going to do that.” Well, you can’t do it without Him, but moment by moment you can live a new life through Jesus, through His blood, through His power. Do you believe that, friends? Why don’t you reach for your hymnal? We’re going to sing a familiar song you don’t hear as often these days called “Trust and Obey”. Let’s stand together as we sing verses 1, 3, and 5.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

We’re going to sing verse three in a moment. As we often do here at Central Church, we’re going to give some of you who may feel the Holy Spirit working on your hearts an opportunity to tangibly respond and say, “Lord, I want to come to You or come back to You.” Maybe you’ve never really surrendered and trusted Him that you could live a holy life, yes, you. He can do it for anybody. You’d like to ask for help that you could live that kind of life, a life of not only faith but a life of obedience and surrender. If you have special needs and you’d like to present those to the Lord then come. Come, we’ll pray for you as we sing verse three together.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay; Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, But is blessed if we trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet. Or we’ll walk by His side in the way. What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Dear Father, this morning as we have looked carefully at Your word, we have seen some inconvenient truths. Lord, we’re sinners and it’s so easy for us to go with the flow and say, “Well, after all, everybody is sinning!” And we forget that Jesus died to save us from our sins. We forget how much He paid to liberate us from the bondage of sin. Lord, I pray that regardless of what others may do, that we’ll believe You can save us from our sins. Work in our lives whatever the habits or patterns might be. We know that we’re all weak and frail, but we pray that we can have lives where sin no longer has a dominion over us, where Jesus sits and reigns in the throne of our hearts. I pray, Lord, that we can experience that. We know that if we love You better, we will serve You better, that it all begins with a relationship of love. I pray that You’ll help us to fall in love with You, help us to recognize how much You love us. Bless each person here. Whatever the struggles might be, help them to experience victory, Lord. Pour out Your Spirit on this church and Your people and be with us as we go from this place to live a life where we have the faith not only in Jesus, but the faith of Jesus. And it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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