Power Struggle

Power Struggle

Scripture: 3 John 1:1-14, Mark 9:35
Date: 09/26/2009  Lesson: 13
3 John addresses a power struggle in an early Christian church congregation.

God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell

God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell
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Good morning and a very Happy Sabbath to those of you this morning who are joining us from across the country and around the world. We welcome each and every one of you this morning. And we're so glad that you are tuning in for another "central study hour" coming to you from the Sacramento central Seventh-day Adventist Church here in California. We welcome you. And we're going to sing some of your favorite songs this morning.

The first request that has come in is from ellie in australia and bill and lorna-- they're also in australia-- and toncan in fiji. This is their favorite song, "make me a captive, Lord." You will find it on 568 in your hymnals. And we will do all 3 verses, . Were you paying attention to the words of that song? You know, we are sinful human beings. And if it wasn't for Jesus, we would have no hope.

And our hearts are desperately wicked, but we have someone who can change them. Aren't you glad for that this morning? If you have a favorite song that you would like to sing with us on an upcoming Sabbath, most of you know what to do. Go to our website at saccentral.org, and click on the "contact us" link. And send in your favorite request, and we will sing that with you. Our next song is a favorite, "draw me nearer," 306.

This is from ernest in Alabama, leona, birdie and ralph in bahamas, blanchie in California, saw in denmark, sherace in england, kayreen in grenada, kevin and celeste in jamaica, wayne in Minnesota, melissa in New Jersey, joyann in New York, and tanya, monice in Oklahoma, abel in puerto rico, edgar in south africa, donny in tasmania, marva in trinidad and tobago, nigel in Virginia, Christa in Virginia, william in Wisconsin, and yamfwa in zambia. Okay, 306, we will do all three verses for you this morning, 'cause there are only 3-- , "draw me nearer." Father in Heaven, we ask you this morning to draw us nearer and nearer, that we will become like you and that we'll be ready to meet you in the clouds of glory one day very, very soon. We pray that you'll be with us this morning as we study together. And we ask you to send your angels and your Holy Spirit to be with us. Be with our extended Sabbath school family wherever they may be, that they will receive the blessing that you have for us all today.

In Jesus' Name I pray, amen. At this time, our lesson study is going to be brought to us by pastor mike thompson. He is our health and outreach pastor here at central church. Good morning everybody. Happy Sabbath.

It's nice to see you all. You're all looking good. You're all looking blessed. Can you say amen? Beautiful music. That's music in the good Lord's ears.

I'd like to welcome you all and anybody that's watching out there in cyber space or listening on the radio or however. Amazing Facts--sorry "central study hour" gets out there into this world, welcome all of you. Before I continue on, there's a special offer today. It's offer number 723, "Holy Spirit, the need." Call 1-866-788-3966. Or another one, -866-study-more.

Anyway, we soon go through these lesson books it seems. And we're on the last lesson, lesson number 13 of this quarter's theme. And it's called "power struggle." And we'll certainly touch on "power struggle" inasmuch as there is a vast difference between God and satan. There's a vast difference between the children of light and the children of darkness. And we're at one or the other.

There's no kind of middle area where it's not quite dark and not quite light and it's kind of warm. We're one or the other. But our verse this morning from John, just one short chapter like as 2 John. Says, "beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He that does good is of God, he that does evil has not seen God.

" I surely want to see God. Don't you? So I can see him and through his grace reflect the glory of his goodness that I see. Anyway, let's get straight into this. As John opens his epistle, he makes very clear he has a very dear friend, very beloved friend called gaius. And he addresses his letter to him.

In the first verse, he says, "unto the well-beloved gaius--" I think it's said gaius. It flows off the tongue easier. I like to be correct. The Greek says gaius, but I say gaius, okay? Will you let me do that, 'cause it's easier for me? We got there--we got all the scholarship out of the way now so we can just be ordinary people. So we'll call him gaius, "whom I love in the truth.

" And it's very clear that as John paints this picture of his friend gaius, that he's a very, very Godly and a righteous man. And gaius is such because he didn't come along recommending himself, you know, as some people do. He comes with a strong recommendation from the brethren. And John makes reference of this in verse 3, speaking of the report you got about gaius. He says, "for I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

" Now remember John's getting up in years. He's a mellow, sweet grandpa. And he speaks of those who he's brought to the truth as his children. And he could because he's getting up there. And he speaks--he says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.

" And gaius, he looks upon him, does John, as one of his children. And that's kind of nice. But we notice something here about gaius, which is worthy of note. It says that he--it's noticed, he says, "even as thou walkest in the truth." So gaius actually walked in the truth, you know. He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk.

And it's only those who walk the walk are gonna get through the pearly gates, 'cause talk can come very cheap. So we--sure we need to talk the talk, but we surely need to walk the walk. He was the genuine article. He was the real deal. And by God's grace, may we all be truly the genuine article.

And this was demonstrated by just what he was like. He was very kind and very generous man. You know when Jesus comes into your heart, do you stay mean and crabby and sour? If you're like that, then Jesus is not in your heart. Jesus can take the meanest, sourest crab apple of a person and he make him sweet and plump like a beautiful fuji. You like fuji apples? You know, I love it when they're nice and sweet, or a peach, California peaches.

You get those once in a while. You get a whole box, but once in a while you get one that's just, you think this one must have fallen from one of the trees in heaven. Jesus makes us like that when he lives inside. He makes us sweet, so sweet. And this is what he was like.

He would befriend the traveling brethren who are going out there as missionaries in a world that was like ours. It was very dangerous. You could be martyred. There's many martyrs today, you know, many martyrs in the 20th century. I was talking to a gentleman the other day, chaplain chris, I can see him right there.

Good morning, chaplain chris. He was telling me he read recently or heard recently in north korea. They took a group of Christians. And well they hung the children--can you believe it--in front of the parents. And then the parents, they laid them down.

They run over them with a steamroller. But they were singing, you know, I forgot The Song they sang. But this song of praise to God. These things happen in this world. And so gaius, he valued these men.

And as they come through his town on their missionaries endeavors, he took 'em home and he took care of them. And that's how we should be. We should show hospitality to everybody, but especially those with the household of God, because they may be on the road to martyrdom. And if you hear that their lives have been taken for Jesus, it'd be nice to think at least, you know, I'm glad I gave 'em a bed to sleep in. Anyway, that's not our theme this morning.

We must move on. But he commends 'em in verse 5. He says, "beloved, thou dost faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren and to strangers which are born witness of thy charity before the church." So may we be example by gaius--inspired by gaius' example. And by the grace of God may we walk in his footsteps. Can you say amen? Ah, there was somebody else as well in gaius' church who was kind of the same cut of cloth.

His name was demetrius. And it says in verse 12, "demetrius," also speaking of him, "hath a good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true." So here are these two shining lights. But now the sad thing is, friends, in the midst of these two shining lights of this dark and most malignant cloud, by the name of diotrephes, diotrephes. And it says in the lesson, in Tuesday's lesson, that this particular person, it says, "after having appointed to gaius and his ministry, John is now ready to tackle the problem of diotrephes, the leader of the church to which gaius belonged. This man was obviously a source of many problems.

And John is determined to deal with him at the right time. And we assume and we hope that John did take care of things with this man because he was absolutely despicable, toxic, and obnoxious. And such people like that, do you find them in the church? Should they be in the church? You find 'em in every church unfortunately. But you know, we need to do the best we can to still love 'em and try and encourage them to walk the better way. We need to encourage the diotrephes to see Jesus.

And when the diotrephes see Jesus, and if they'll look, they'll be changed, if they'll let him change them. But nonetheless, it doesn't excuse the fact that this man was an obnoxious, obnoxious person, the very opposite in character and personality to gaius and demetrius. So John says in verse 10, he says, "wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church." So if you're in this church that was run by this, or try to be run by this head elder, or the bishop, as he was known, and you tried to show kindness to somebody, he'd come looking for ya. He'd try and get you out of the church. Imagine being in a church-- would you dread going to Sabbath school if diotrephes was at the front here, or you knew he was at the door, just looking like an eagle to see where you are and what you're doing? No church is perfect, but I'll tell you what; our church is not as bad as that, praise God.

So anyway, so here he is, just despotic, dictatorial, very independent spirit as well. I mean we have John out there who's one of the apostles, walked with Jesus and John's getting up there with years. I mean he's literally elderly, apart from being the elder, the apostle John. And he was worthy of respect. Now when John went in any church, he didn't try and Lord it over the flock.

I'm sure if he tried because of the aura that he had and the standing he had, he would have probably got away with it with a lot of people. But he didn't do that because he wasn't like that. When John walked in the church, apostle as he was, he was that sweet piece of fruit, you know, sweet, kind. And Jesus not only makes us sweet and kind, but you know, he makes us humble. We don't go around with this big, shiny thing in our pants that we pull out when we can, and say, "this is our trumpet.

" Da! Da! Da! None of that. The only ones who blow trumpets are the angels to the glory of God. We don't need to blow trumpets about ourselves. But this man obviously did, and John did not. To John would come in a church, he did not Lord it over the flock of God.

He was kind and humble and sweet. And it--but it would have been very appropriate for diotrephes to have shown John respect because he was worthy, but he didn't. Now if you had a leader in your church who was--may not even be as bad as diotrephes-- but he preaches heresy. And he lowers the standards of the church. Is he due your respect? No, he's not.

Now I want to say he's not due, but you don't be abusive like he might be to you. But you don't have to acknowledge that man's authority. Because when somebody behaves like that, any authority they exercise, it's not the authority given of God. It's a self-appointed authority. And we need to be not rude, not obnoxious, but we need to let them know, "brother, I ought to obey God rather than you.

This is the truth in God's Word. And if you don't care to live by it, I certainly do. So this is my standard. It may not be yours, but it's certainly mine. And this is my standard, and if you don't like it, well, that's just too bad.

" We do not have to respect that kind of leadership. And this is what we find in this church here. We don't know the end result of what actually happened. Like to think that finally John was able to speak with diotrephes. And he fell broken at the cross and everything was fine.

We don't know. We'll know one day, but nonetheless, this is how we find this church at present with this particular man. Now in your lesson, the Thursday section, it goes on to deal with church governance. And that's very good. I'm not gonna dwell on that this morning.

I leave you to study that in your own time, 'cause I want to kind of go in a slightly different direction this morning. I want to focus on what John said after he's given this testimony about diotrephes. Verse 11, which is our memory verse. And I want to read it again. It says--well actually I'm doing all the talking.

Here I go again. Do we have our roving microphones? Yes, would somebody like to read John--3 John 1:11, somebody. Okay, vic is right here. Thank you, vic. "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.

He who does good is of God: but he who does evil has not seen God." Thank you very much. So we're looking at two types of individuals here. And I submit to you this morning that this gives us a reflection of what we see in every church. We've got these two types in every church, those who do good, which are of God, and those who do evil which have not seen God. Every church, just like the wheat--and it says, and you find that through each one that the power that they represent works.

And so you find these conflicts begin to take place. This is all part of the Great Controversy. And these two elements existed in the church where gaius and diotrephes were both members. And as I mentioned, we find these two elements in every church. Jesus spoke very clearly of the church as the wheat and the tares.

You know, I knew somebody recently who came to church. They were doing really good for a while. And then they found out that there was some people in the church who were not quite as perfect as they thought everybody should be. And they got disgruntled, and they left. And I tried to tell 'em, you know, "look," I said, "if you read the Bible, Jesus tells you very clearly the church is--there's two types of people here.

We've got wheat and we've got tares. And you need to stay here. You need to stay here. If there's a lot of tares, don't run away. We need the wheat, so you can be an example and an influence.

Nah, they were gone. They were gone. We parted as friends. I says, "keep in touch. But I want to tell you, you're going down the wrong track.

" So we got wheat and tares together. And who's gonna take care of it finally in the end? The angels. Jesus will send the angels to separate them and then wheat for the garnet of God or the tares for burning in the fires of destruction. We just need to be faithful to our post of duty. Let our light shine.

And as we get closer to the end, we're gonna see that the two harvests--and I believe we see it even now as we look around, we see the two harvests rapidly coming now to fruition. You know, there's a time in the early days when the seed is first sown, you can't tell, you know. And this was the purpose of Jesus' parable. Both are coming up and then the laborers say, "Lord, think we got tares here. Let's go pull 'em out.

" Jesus said, "no. No, 'cause you might pull up the wheat as well. We gotta leave it for a while, all to grow and to mature. And we've done quite a bit of maturing. And as God definitely looks into his church, he sees the wheat growing, those ripe, golden heads waving in the breeze of the Holy Spirit.

Like to see a wheat field, you know those beautiful golden heads swaying in the breeze. If you've got those coming to fruition and the other mingled in there, you've got those seedy heads of those obnoxious weeds that Jesus' still trying to save, 'cause probation hasn't closed yet. So pray for it. If you're aware of a weed, pray for that weed. Pray for it.

Do all you can, because Jesus died for the tares as much as the wheat. Probation has not closed yet. We need hearts of compassion. We need a spirit of prayer that will cling to the arm of God and pray for the conversion of souls. That's what we need to do.

But anyway, we see this-- we see this con-- we see this contrast here. And God forbid that any one of us should go down the path that would cause us ultimately to be in the harvest of the tares. Well, you knew the truth all the time. That's the ironic and tragic thing. I want to read from Hebrews 2:1-2, and the first part of verse 3, first part of verse 3, it says, "therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

" See the tares know the truth. Verse 2, "for if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" This truth is there for everybody, even the tares. And there's a lot of tares, they know this. But somehow things go wrong. How, why do these things go wrong? Why are diotrephes go wrong? Now it's a possibility he may have imbibed some of these doctrines of what we call the gnostics, who had some strange ideas about the nature of Jesus and had some strange ideas, kind of came from the Greeks, that the flesh was evil and the Spirit was pure.

And once you died, the Spirit could go free. But while you're down here with this marriage of the flesh and the Spirit, if the flesh wanted to commit evil, well, you know, just go ahead and do it. That's just the way the flesh is. But when you die, your spirit will be free and you can go to paradise. So it was kind of a--it was kind of a useful religion for those people who wanted to live and enjoy the sins of the flesh and expect to enjoy heaven as well.

That's kind of the thing. And diotrephes may have imbibed some of this stuff. We don't know for sure. But anyway, we know the truth, right? Can you say amen? Yes. And therefore it says, "therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

" Now if you have a marginal reading in your Bible for Hebrews 2:1, that term "let it slip," in my marginal reading, it says, "run out as leaking vessels." Run out as leaking vessels. In other words, you may have been baptized a year ago and you may have come out of the baptistery just on fire for Jesus--you're wet but you're a flame with the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. And you're doing great, and you get up one morning, the next morning, the morning after, and you're studying and you're praying and somehow unperceptively you just start to kind of slow down. And things start taking your time and attention. And you have no deliberate intention to walk away from the truth or deny Jesus.

No, you're about tithes and you still remember that. You'll always remember that, but bit by bit you start losing your experience. It starts to leak out of the barrel, just bit by bit by bit. And the barrel starts to slowly, slowly go down. And the gift of salvation starts to slip away.

And you become careless. You stop keeping a strict watch over your soul and your thoughts and your desires. And your eyes start to fall away from Jesus. And you start to lose your outer and your faith and your love and your experience, 'til finally you're just dry. And you're sitting there in church and just an empty barrel.

If somebody beat it would go bong, bong, bong. And very often, when people are empty vessels, they try to make a lot of noise to try and make up for the deficiency in their spiritual experience. This is why a lot of worship today in a lot of churches, there's a lot of hype. There's a lot of music and a lot of hype and a lot of lights, laser lights, all kinds of stuff. Why? Because they're an empty barrel.

There's nothing there, so they got to get something so that empty barrel gets beaten. They think if there's a lot of noise, it's the Spirit. It's not. It's a delusion. It's exactly what it is.

We need to be a people that don't have to make a lot of noise. We can come to church and we can sit quietly, because you know? When you're really eating, and you're really hungry, and you're really enjoying a meal, I don't know about you, but I don't like to talk a lot. The food's good. Why talk when you can eat this food, you know? "Oh these empty barrels, yeah, we beat these barrels, you know, because we gotta make sure we got, people know we have an experience going on here." Eat the food and relish it. You don't have to make a lot of noise.

But nonetheless, it doesn't tell us what kind of a person diotrephes was when he was baptized and he first joined the church. He may have been right from the get-go just a wolf in sheep's clothing, you know? Came in right under the radar, right into the church, out of the baptistery, and there he was. And people thought, "oh, he's such a wonderful man." But after a while, time goes by, the wooly fleece comes off. And out comes this wolf. And sad thing is by then he's in charge.

And once he's in, it's a bit hard to get him out. But maybe John got him out perhaps. We hope he did, or we hope he changed. But you know what I'm talking about. That happens.

That happens. Some people, they get baptized, but they've never died. But you know, maybe diotrephes, maybe when he came into the church, maybe he was truly complete and absolutely born again, true solid conversion experience. But previously prior to his conversion, maybe he was one of those controlling types. Maybe he had some very obnoxious habits and things.

But he was born again and he was free. But maybe perhaps like we can do, maybe his experience just kind of leaked out of the barrel because he wasn't quite getting up in the morning to say his prayers. He said to himself, "I'll skip out reading the Bible this morning. I'll do it tomorrow." You know, these little things, friends, not little things. We need to see 'em as big, red flags just waving, big red flags.

Look I know the red flags in my life. And they pop up pretty often. And I have to be careful. I gotta get my prayers in the morning. And I have to read the Word of God.

And I won't tell you all again about going in the little front bedroom, 'cause I've told you a thousand times. But I was there this morning, 'cause I needed to be. Look out for those flags. And diotrephes may have been a good man but maybe in his case it just leaked out of the barrel 'til finally the Holy Spirit was gone. He was empty and the devil himself came and devil loves to fill vacuums.

The devil loves to fill the vacuum of a Christian heart that was once filled with the Holy Spirit. And he'll fill it more full and more tight than anybody's who's been a worldling. And Jesus told that in a parable, you know, the demon is cast out, but you leave a vacuum there, what happens? He comes back with his friends. And that person's worse-- their end is worse than their beginning. That's why the devil works with us more than he works with worldlings, doesn't try near as much with them.

So you look out for those red flags. Don't allow yourself to lose that experience. Don't let it slip away. And so maybe that had been his problem. And so what happens, these old habits, these old desires, these old passions, they reestablish themselves, you see, 'til it turns out just to be a curse to himself and worse still a curse to everybody else in the church.

One day we'll find out. And I just hope that it's a story with a good ending that John was able to meet with him and work things out. But whatever it is, let us ourselves be very clear that that experience of falling and going back lurks very close to each one of us. And satan is constantly seeking to make that his object and his achievement. "Wherefore we ought to give them more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

" Lest that any of us run the risk of becoming a diotrephes and we let our relationship with Jesus slip away. I want to read you a statement from "Desire of Ages," 324. I don't like to read two big passages in teaching and preaching, 'cause it can be a little dry. But it's still a good passage, so I'm gonna read it. And it's about what we're talking about here, looking out for those red flags so we don't follow and become possibly diotrephes if that was his downfall.

It says here, "it is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the Kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion." Some of you have read this? You've read this, raise your hand? Yeah, some of you have. Some of you haven't. "Don't have to deliberately chose a service of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the Kingdom of light." Just neglect. If we do not cooperate with the heavenly agencies, satan will take possession of the heart and will make it his abiding place.

The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in his righteousness." If this is all you get this morning, that's fine. But please remember this. And if you can remember to write it down, it's in "Desire of Ages," 324. It's this, I'm gonna read this again. You listening? "The only desire against--" sorry "the only defense--" what defense? "The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in his righteousness.

" It's the only defense. It's the only one you need, 'cause it works. "Faith in the righteousness of Jesus," which means that's not just something you believe, you believe in your head, but you bring that into your heart as an experience. That's why in the morning, if you, "I don't feel much like praying." You just listen. You'll hear a fluttering on both sides of your head.

And if you look, you'll find out that that fluttering is the angels with those big red flags. "You go and pray. You go and pray and you go and pray right now. You know you need to do that." Listen to that fluttering, even if you can't see the red flag, listen to the fluttering. You go and pray, because your, "only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in his righteousness and experience in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

" The book, "education," says "through faith in Christ every deficiency of character may be supplied," every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excEllence developed. You can have that free. Jesus bled on the cross so you can have it. Let's get it. Continuing here.

"Unless we come vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin." Now I'm probably the only one here this morning who's full of self-love. I just love myself to death. I just love myself. I do. I love myself.

I see some of you smiling. But you know what I love is not very nice. It's not very nice at all. So why don't I fall in love with something far nicer than myself? Why don't I fall in love with Jesus? "Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love and self-indulgence." Am I the only one that likes to indulge myself? I get strong desires to indulge myself. But does that mean I should do it? No, I shouldn't.

When I'm tempted like that, and I can't say I always get the victory, friends. I'm just being honest. I'm as human as you are. But this I know as a little child. When I call upon Jesus, "Jesus, help me," he's there.

And when you got the victory, you think, "why did i--why did I parlay with this thing for so long? Why didn't I just call upon Jesus? But you know, we're so kind of thick-headed. But God is so patient with us. He wants us to finally learn the lesson and not give into these things so easily. "Self-love, self-indulgence and temptation to sin. We may have--we may break off many bad habits for the time.

" And that's good. "We may part company with satan." And that's always a good thing. "But without a vital connection with God--" without a what? "Vital connection with God." And you don't get a vital connection with God by praying, you know, every so often. You pray every morning. And if you need it, even if you're driving at 12 noon, wherever you are, you can still pray again.

It's alright, it's alright to pray, friends. You can pray in the evening like Daniel. And you will keep a vital connection with God. And you will find that lo and behold, Lord, it really makes a difference. Where have I been all this time? You know God must shake his head so many times, and yet he still loves us.

He is the most amazing being that ever was and ever shall be. So, "we may lead off--leave off many bad habits, may part company with satan, but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to him, moment by moment, we shall be overcome." It's a done deal. "We shall be overcome. Without a personal acquaintance with Christ and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy and shall do his bidding in the end." He's very sure of himself. You know why? Because he's very sure of the way we behave as human beings.

That's why he's very sure. But we become a profound mystery and a profound frustration to him when we call upon Jesus. He doesn't know what to do with that. And he says, "look, they're calling upon Jesus." So the other angels come and says, "well, what's next in your playbook?" "I don't have anything." Just doesn't have a thing. You know his weapons are pretty limited, very, very limited.

And God's got all this power. Oh! So look out for the red flags, because whether diotrephes was already like this when he came in the church, just as a sheep in--a wolf in lamb's clothing, or whether he had an experience, either way he finished up like this. So don't lose yours. Don't let it leak out. And something else I want to mention as well.

When we get on this track, we run the risk of going in lengths in sin--or we can-- that we never thought ourselves capable of doing. And I want us to get this point as well. Because of the fact that sin will do two things: it has a deceptive power over the mind and it has a hardening effect upon the heart. And when we've known the truth, and we fall away from the truth, we can always come back because Jesus is there. Don't get me wrong.

Jesus is there all the time. And I want you to be encouraged by this if there's somebody struggling this morning. But we do need to understand the danger. The more we deliberately and knowingly play around on the devil's enchanted ground, sin will deceive the mind. It will twist the thinking.

And it will put a shell around that heart. And that layer of concrete will get harder and harder. And there'll be--there'll be rods of steel in there until finally the heart is so hard, it's impenetrable. Well, no, I take that back. It's never impenetrable to the Holy Spirit.

But we lose all desire to be reconciled to God. So we can't play around, friends. Don't ignore the red flags. Alright, to the verse--to the point I want to make here. Hebrews 3--now I'm doing all the talking again.

Have we got somebody who can read this morning? Somebody on this side. Hebrews 3:12-13. "Take care, brethren, that there not be any one of you an evil unbelieving heart, that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today; so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Thank you very much. Two things, "none of you will be hardened.

.. By the deceitfulness of sin." That's what we have to look out for. And you can be sure that diotrephes keep coming back to this gentleman here, unless John had a chance to turn him around through the grace of God, this probably the path, would have been the path he finished up on. And remember what I say when you get on that path, it will take you down, because you're deceived, your heart's hard, take you in lengths and the depths of sin and transgression, which today you never probably feel or thought or feel that you're capable of doing that. But you are.

I'll give you two examples this morning from those who did this very thing, got on a downward path, never thought they'd get so far as to do certain things, but they did. One was an angel and one was a disciple of Jesus: lucifer and Judas. But first the angel, lucifer, the covering cherub. We're familiar with Isaiah 14:13-14, he says, "for thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high." Five "i"s there, i-i-i-i and i. As lucifer continued to entertain these sinful desires and exaggerated opinions of himself, he began to believe.

He wanted to be like God, right? And finally he believed that he should be God, because in himself he probably felt he was God. Deception brought him under this terrible, terrible deception, felt he had a right, perfect right. And we don't have time this morning, but if you read "Patriarchs and Prophets" near the beginning, "why was sin permitted?" Beautiful chapter, explains so much. It says there that in a way-- actually I've got it written down, so I'm gonna read it to you. But finally got to a point where it became impossible for him to repent as well.

I want to read this, "Patriarchs and Prophets," page 39. Here's the deceptiveness of sin, how it affects the minds. "He," satan, "did not see whether he was drifting." He didn't see the danger. Now God tried to explain that to him, "you're on a dangerous track." But he didn't see it. First of all, 'cause nobody had sinned before.

Nobody knew the ultimate consequence. But you can be sure as well that any danger he did see as he continued, that was just gone away from him. But it says, "but such efforts as infinite love and mercy only could devise were made to convince him of his error." Okay, so this is dealing with his mind and his ability to comprehend. But it diluted him. But now his heart kicks into play, and this caused him to just behave insane.

Listen to this. "He nearly reached the decision to return," but what forbade him? Some of you have read this? Pride. "Pride forbade him." Now where does pride reside? In the heart, right? So he's diluted in his head and he's proud in his heart. And God opens to him the course that he's traveled and he says, "lucifer, son, if you go down this, you're gonna go to lengths that you will never dream possible." Ready to turn around, but his heart was hardened with pride. And he said, "thanks, but no thanks, 'cause I think I should be God.

" You know the rest of the story. And the bottom line is, he finally went down in the pathway of sin and did things he probably didn't think he was capable of doing. Ultimately, what did he do? He murdered The Son of God. You think he thought that that's where his path would take him when he first started entertaining these thoughts? Absolutely not. When he was up there, but that's where it took him.

And his history is here before our eyes so that we can be aware of that. Because if sin can have such an effect on what was initially an unfallen angel, how much more can sin have its terrible affect on us who are not unfallen angels, but fallen human beings and very susceptible to walk in the path of self-love and pride and a desire to be exalted? Look out for the flags, beloved. And the second example is that of Judas. Lucifer teaches the history of how far an angel can fall when they're deceived and hardened by sin. But the history and the life of Judas teaches a history to us of how far a fallen human being can fall when they become deceived and hardened by sin.

Again, that wonderful book, "Desire of Ages," page 716, a chapter called, "Judas," "the history of Judas presents the sad ending of a life that might have been honored of God. Had Judas died before his last journey to Jerusalem, he would have been regarded as a man worthy of a place among the twelve, and one who would have been greatly missed. The abhorrence which has followed him through the centuries would not have existed but for the attributes revealed at the close of his history. But it was for a purpose that his character was laid open to the world. It was to be a warning to all, who like him, should betray sacred trust.

And he was certainly given the sacred trust or trusts. He was permitted to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was committed with a sacred trust of taking the Gospel of this same Savior into the world, at least initially to his own countrymen. But for the sake of 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave, he sold his own master. And just as lucifer had gone in lengths of sin to murder Jesus, Judas went in his own--in his own sphere in the same length of sin to be accomplice to the murder of the same being, Jesus The Son of God, an angel and a human being, both accomplices in the greatest crime that was ever committed.

Now if you can go with me as it were to up into heaven, and right at that time when God first starts talking to lucifer, before he's fallen, and he says lucifer, "you know, son, you're on a path. You don't realize where this is gonna take you." And suppose God had finally said to him--and maybe he did, I don't know, maybe he did, he said, "you know, lucifer, if you go on this path, you know what you'll finally do?" "Well what will I finally do?" "Jesus over there, you will murder him." "Oh no! Come on, Lord, I wouldn't do a thing like that. You're getting carried away." "You will murder him." "No, I won't. No, no, no, I could never do a thing like that. I could never do a thing like that.

" But he did, you see. He had the capability of doing that. When he walked away from the only one who could save him, and that was God, that's what he did. And when we allow our experience, when we cut loose deliberately, or we allow ourselves to become careless and our experience leaks out as out of a leaking vessel, we still cut ourselves off from the same source of power and grace and strength. And we stay along the same path that can take us down to do the same terrible things.

Now in all we're looking at extreme examples this morning. You know, some people might say, "oh, pastor mike, sometimes you seem to go to extremes." If one person goes to an extreme, that's one person too much. And if what I can say this morning helps that one person, then I'm glad I'm here and I'm glad I'm saying what I'm saying this morning. Because one soul, just one soul is so precious in the eyes of Jesus, he'd have come to this world and given his life just for that one soul. So if this doesn't apply to the rest of you, that's alright.

Just bear with me. I'm speaking to the one that hopefully by the grace of God won't go down that path. So, now you know. Anyway, 30 pieces of silver. And yet, he did that very thing.

I want to read some more here to show how it was a progression. He didn't get there overnight from being the angel that walked away from God and then crucifying Christ. It took a period of time, but finally he got there. , "Desire of Ages," getting back to Judas. 'Cause Judas too, you see, he went the same length.

It says, "Judas had not naturally a strong--" sorry-- "Judas had naturally a strong love for money. But he had not always been corrupt enough to do such a deed as this," had not always been corrupt enough, but he sure finished up corrupt enough to do it. Why? "He had fostered the evil spirit of avarice until it had become the ruling motive of his life. The love of mammon overbalanced his love of Christ. Through becoming the slave of one vice," that's all it takes, just one pat little vice, just that sweet one little sin.

You don't need two, you don't need three, you don't need half at all, all you need is one. "Through becoming the slave of one vice, he gave himself to satan to be driven to any lengths in sin, even to betraying The Son of God and to sell him for the price of a slave." That can happen. We're all capable of doing that. We're all capable of crucifying Jesus and betraying him at the end. You know, we read about this scenario.

And we talk about it in Revelation 13, where the image to the beast is established. That's a union of church and state to enforce religious dogma, to enforce the Mark of the beast which is Sunday-keeping as opposed to the seal of God, which will be represented by those who keep the Sabbath. We're all familiar with this. And for those who refuse to acknowledge the image of the beast and in turn refuse the Mark of the beast, they're gonna be--get in a few little pickles. They're gonna be legislation you cannot buy or sell.

And ultimately there's gonna be a decree passed that if you don't comply, then you'll be put to death. Now when you're faced with that, you're gonna one of two things: you're either gonna stand firm or you're gonna capitulate. And you will stand firm or you will capitulate depending on how full your barrel is. And if your barrel is leaked out because of carelessness, and you haven't been preparing for this time, you who may sit in church this morning, and you see brother so-and-so here and sister so-and-so here. And somebody comes knocking on your door, "ah, we're looking for so-and-so.

They're not complying with the new legislation here in the state of California. We're already under an embargo, you're cannot buy or sell, but a legislation was passed last week, as you know, and now we're here to take them away because by law they can be put to death. We need to know where they are. And somebody tells us that you're one of this group. Is that correct?" "No, no really, no I'm not.

" "Well, where are they?" What are you gonna do? If your barrel is empty, friends, you're gonna squeal. Why? Because you're gonna be a coward. You'll have no courage, because when it comes to this kind of a trial and a difficulty, it's super-human courage that we need. Any heroes you see who come through the scenario of Revelation 13, it's not human courage. They're going to go through the greatest time of trial that ever was.

It's going to be super-natural courage that will be given them by Jesus. It's the same courage that the three Hebrews had, same courage that Daniel had to face going in a den of lions. I couldn't just walk in a den of lions, jump down, "oh, feed me to the lions. Bring it on." I'd be scared to death. I'd say, "Lord, you better fill this barrel with grace and fill it with courage.

" That's why Daniel could go to the lions. And if you don't have that experience with God, you won't have that kind of courage, and you will squeal. You will sell your brothers and your sisters. And you'll watch the authorities come and take 'em away to jail. And some of them will become martyrs.

And you'll be no worse than lucifer, who nailed Jesus to the cross. And you'll be no better off than Judas who sold him for 30 pieces of silver. We are coming to a time where we will be tested just as surely as Judas was. Now time's gone, so I can't say anymore. But if you have this book, read it.

And you have knees, get upon those knees and pray, because God wants to make us like John was, one of The Sons of thunder. I wanted to read this morning from "Acts of the Apostles." There's a chapter in there called, "transformed by grace." And she has a chapter where she contrasts Judas with John and how they both had serious defects, John too. But through the grace of Christ, he didn't finish up a Diotrephes, became a Son of God. And we can be sons or daughters just like him.

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