Good God, Bad World

Good God, Bad World

Date: 11/05/2017 
If God is love, if God is all-powerful, if God is good then why is there so much suffering?
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Tonight's presentation is one that - it's really new - I am condensing two very important subjects that deal with good God/bad world. People often ask a question and they say that, 'if God is love, if God is all-powerful, if God is good then why is there so much suffering?' 'Why would God make a devil?' You know, I think it's interesting, the context of today's program that, even as we speak, some of you have already seen the news and know that there has been, today - this is Sunday, as of this recording - a tragic shooting. Some said it may be the largest church-related shooting in American history. A little town in Texas - I actually used to go to a little baptist church in a little town in Texas, and I just know the people there are going to be absolutely devastated because everybody knows or is related to everybody - and it's just so senseless - in a church, you know? God is good, and you tell people God is love, and then what do atheists and agnostics say at a time like this? 'If God is so good then why does he allow stuff like this to happen? Well, we're going to do our best to address some of these big questions tonight from the Word of God. And I do believe God is good.

Amen. And I do believe that God is love and, hopefully, you'll understand the reasons why some of these things happen. Well, you know, in our presentation, people want to know why - why are there so many problems in the world. If God is good, if God is loving - and you can go to the Scriptures and you read in the beginning, in Genesis, when God made everything, it says that God saw - God saw that everything that he made was, indeed, very good. You read through the various days of creation and God says, 'it was good.

It was good. It was very good.' So what is God's will for us? He wants it to be good. He wants us to be happy. Don't you want your children to be happy? Amen. Matter of fact, some of you probably spoil them because you so much want to please them and make them happy.

But God said that their happiness would be conditional on trusting him and not eating one tree that was forbidden - one tree where an enemy was apt to meet and tempt them. And you know the story, the Bible says that eve, then, went to that tree. It says, 'the woman saw' - you notice we started out, it says 'God saw' - and then it says here, 'the woman saw that the tree was good for food and it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, and so she took the fruit and she ate.' And then she, of course, gave to her husband and he ate. And, as a result of that disobedience, Romans chapter 6 tells us, 'whoever you obey, that's whose servants you are.' God initially gave the dominion of this world to adam and eve, and when they chose to listen to the word of the devil, when God said, 'don't believe what -' the devil said, 'don't believe what God said, listen to what I say' - instead of the Word of God, they surrendered - they relinquished their dominion to the devil. Even Jesus calls the devil 'the prince of this world'.

And so, then, all kinds of problems came into the world at that point. You can read, here, now, it tells us in Genesis chapter 6, "then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth," God saw everything was good, the woman saw the fruit, disobeyed, God saw that everything was wicked. The earth was filled with violence - there were all kinds of problems. And, from that point to this point, there's been a great controversy going on in the world. That's really the theme tonight.

We're talking about the essence of what this Great Controversy is. Several years ago, amazing facts did a dvd called cosmic conflict. Have any of you ever seen that? Oh yeah. It just, basically, is something that any Christian should understand, but a lot of Christians don't understand. You ask a Christian, 'if God's good, why is there so much suffering? They don't understand the story of the devil.

Some Christians even think God made a devil - and that's got serious theological problems connected with it. And so, once they understand that truth, everything comes together. How do you love a God that would deliberately make a devil that would torment us? How can you see him as a just God? So this is a very important subject. You know, a few years ago, I was at a national religious broadcaster's meeting in - I think it was in nashville, tennessee - we had a booth - Amazing Facts - we'd meet with other Christian broadcasters and, by our booth, came three priests and five nuns, and they were speaking to each other in french and I was wondering what they were saying because, you know, I'm pretty well known as a protestant preacher. We're talking a little bit about the reformation during this series and there's actually even a catholic-lay website that talks about my sermons, so I had no idea what they were saying and, finally, one of them came over to us and spoke in english and said, 'you know, we're from a parish' - I think they said chicago - and they said, 'we want to tell you we really enjoy your cosmic conflict dvd.

' They said, 'it explains so beautifully why there is evil in the world and how people can love God.' I said, 'really?' I said, 'let me give you another one.' And so I said, 'can I get a picture with you?' So I took this picture with the monsignor and they said, 'oh yeah, we love this dvd!' Because once people understand why there is sin in the world and how a loving God could still be a loving God and not destroy the devil, it all begins to come together. So, with that in mind, we're going to go to our presentation. Start with question #1: who tempted eve, through the serpent, and where did he come from? Now it says in the Bible that the serpent spoke. But do you think serpents normally speak? No. Well, a donkey spoke to balaam but donkeys don't normally speak either, do they? And you can read in the Bible, in Revelation chapter 12, verse 9, "so the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the devil and satan," - so who - who was this serpent? It was really the devil using a serpent, poor thing, as a medium.

And, ever since that day, to this day, the serpent has sort of become a type or a symbol of the devil. And they're, sort of, cold-blooded animals, aren't they? When you think about it. Serpent will, you know, sometimes devour their own young and they don't really, like, nurse them or take care of them as some other creatures do. And then where did he come from? You can read in Isaiah 14, verse , "how thou art fallen from heaven oh," - what's it? - "Lucifer, son of the morning." The devil came from heaven? You usually don't think about the devil and heaven in the same context. You think about the devil down yonder somewhere.

In a later presentation this week, we're going to talk about, you know, where is the devil and where he's not, so you'll want to keep coming for that. There was a dispute in heaven, you might say. Did God make a defective angel when he created lucifer? No. No. Isn't God perfect? Is God all-knowing? So, if God was at all involved with any creature, you would think, 'well, then, he must have made lucifer.

' And some argue that. He did make lucifer, but lucifer wasn't satan. Satan means 'adversary' - he became the devil. When God originally made him, the Bible says that he was a beautiful angel and he was perfect. Ezekiel 28:15, "thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created until iniquity was found in thee.

" He started out perfect - and you can read on: "for you said in your heart" - why was he cast out? - "I will be like the most high." He wanted God's position. Now, if you think about it - I know it's hard to comprehend how the creature could say, 'I want to be God,' but he was the highest of God's created beings. The only one higher would be God the divine - The Father, son, and spirit. And he thought, 'well, there's not very much that separates me, a creature, from God the eternal. He could make me like him.

How come I don't have the power?' When he saw the other beings worshiping God and he thought, 'I should get a promotion. I mean, this is a dead-end job. I'm never going to get promoted beyond being the top angel.' And, you know, if I could explain to you what the excuse was for his attitude, then it really wouldn't be sin, but there was no excuse. God made him with a free will and he began to have proud, jealous thoughts, and he wanted God's position. It tells us more about it in Ezekiel 28:17, "thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness:" - he was the most beautiful of the angels and he would get the adoration of the other angels and he saw himself and he began to be just very full of himself and - now beauty is a good thing, but it can be a curse.

If you become preoccupied with being blessed with attractive appearance it can be your downfall. You've read the story, in the Bible, about absalom, that beautiful prince, who he also wanted the King's position and he rebelled against his father. I heard a pastor say, one time, 'there's four kinds of people: you've got people who are called beautiful-beautiful, you've got beautiful-ugly, you've got ugly beautiful, you've got ugly-ugly. Beautiful-beautiful are people who are beautiful on the outside, but they're also beautiful on the inside. Then you've got the people who are beautiful-ugly - they're people who may be [beautiful] on the outside but they're [ugly] on the inside and then you've got people ugly-beautiful - I'm getting mixed up, but you know what I mean (laughter) and, of course, the worst of all is ugly-ugly - nobody needs that.

You know, the Bible says that a beautiful woman without discretion is like a jewel of gold in a pig's nose. (Laughter) so it's not just beauty for women, it would also mean handsome or strong for men. But when you become preoccupied with your appearance and wanting the adoration and worship of others, it's self-destructive. Worship should be going away from you, but something happened where lucifer turned the compass needle around where he wanted to be the center of everything. It says, 'your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.

' And so he began to sow discord in heaven. It talks about that in Proverbs 6:19. One of the things that God hates is a false witness who speaks lies and one who sows discord among the brethren. Lucifer began to go out among the other unfallen angels and say, 'you know, God's restricted our freedom. We're just his servants all the time.

How come we can't grow and sort of be Gods of our own worlds?' And 'how come we can't be worshiped?' And he had every clever argument you could think of to help sow discord and distrust and dissatisfaction - and he was very effective. Jesus said in the last days his deceptions would be so acute that, if it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived. He persuaded one-third of these very bright unfallen angels to believe him, until it turned into an open rebellion in heaven. And you can read about this - the Bible tells us that, finally, this is what happened - it says there was a war in heaven - you don't usually think of war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought and they fought with the dragon and his angels.

That's, by the way, Revelation 12:17. And, I don't know what kind of weapons they used in this war, but he was eventually evicted from heaven. Now satan, really - lucifer, really turned into satan and we call him - sa - we call him the devil and what happens to the word 'devil' if you take 'd' off? You get evil. Now, if you were to close your eyes and picture the devil - I'm not wanting this to be a regular exercise, but in your mental picture, what do you see? People often think of the devil - what color are his leotards? Red. And he's, like, got goat feet and he's got bat wings and he's got a tail.

What's on the end of his tail? A point. What's he carrying in his hand? Pitchfork - how many prongs? Three - they got that from neptune, you know, by the way - from mythology. It's not in the Bible anywhere, what's he use that for, to help barbecue sinners? (Laughter) does he bale hay - what does the devil need a pitchfork for? And - does he have a goatee? You know, I used to have a goatee. People said, 'Pastor Doug, you look kind of evil.' (Laughter) 'you look a little like the devil.' I - well, how do you know he has a goatee? Where's it say that in the Bible? It's just all the pictures that we have - they said, 'you look like a sinister minister. (Laughter) I shaved off my beard.

And you've got the horns and you've got the bat wings and - you know, the Bible talks about when the devil came to tempt Jesus, do you think he suddenly, you know, Jesus, in the wilderness, he's fasted forty days and forty nights and all of a sudden this creature plops down next to him - he's got this waving, pointing tail and his pitchfork and he says, 'hey, I've got a proposition.' Would you listen to anybody who looked like that? No. He comes like an angel of light, it says in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, 'do not marvel, satan himself can be transformed into an angel of light.' And will he reproduce an illusion in the last days to confuse people about Christ? He's going to impersonate Jesus. So, what powerful beings work under the devil's commands? You can read in Revelation 12, verse 4, when he was - this war finally erupted it says his tail drew a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And these stars, you read in Revelation, are actually the angels that followed him - one-third of the angels. I'm glad God has two-thirds for every third the devil has, amen.

Amen. And it says he was cast out into the earth and his angels were cast out with him. Now, you might be thinking - when the devil started to rebel, why didn't God just snuff him out? Couldn't he have done that? Can you imagine that? All the angels are gathered together and satan's there and he's saying, 'you know, we can't trust God.' 'God is not really fair.' And all of a sudden lightning comes down and burns him up and there was a just a smoldering spot where lucifer used to be and the other angels are going to go, 'you better not say anything about God, we better just do what God said because otherwise look what's going to happen.' They would continue to obey and serve God, but would it be, now, out of love or what? Do you want your children to obey you - those of you that have them - because you're going to strike them if they don't? Or do you want them to obey you because they love you and they trust you? God doesn't want to use fear and force. You might be thinking, 'well, but couldn't the Lord have programmed him differently? Does God know all things?' Amen. Did God know what lucifer was going to do? And yet he still made him.

Let me illustrate something: now, why does God make his creatures? God loves - he is love - he wants to give love. Why do you have children? Retirement, right? (Laughter) so you can put them through medical school and they can take care of you. Let me see if this works, I've never done it quite this way before. Okay, I don't know, I like to be liked. If you say you don't really care what people think, you're probably not telling the truth.

I want love, don't you want love? I mean God made us to want love - so I figured out a way to get love, here. Good evening, doug. Good evening, smart phone. How are you doing this evening? I'm doing very well, how are you? I'm doing fine. My battery's a little low, but I'll get charged later.

You know me. Doug, I want to tell you something. Yes, smart phone. I love you, doug. It's just so hard to express how much I appreciate you.

You're so wonderful, smart, and handsome, and strong - well, I just love you, doug, I deeply love you. I really, really love you. I love you. I love you. I feel so much better.

I love you. I love you. You're really loved. (Laughter) I could Market this and make a lot of money - a new app. (Laughter) it's got an app - people would buy that, wouldn't they? And then what I'd do is I'd take my phone and I'd do selfies.

You want to do a selfie? No, I just want myself. (Laughter) I'll just get a selfie over here - get you in it. (Laughter) - alright. So, do I really feel loved because my phone says - it's got my pictures on it and because it says it loves me, so I just feel so much better now. I don't need you to love me, I've got my phone to love me.

Why doesn't that work? I programmed it. It doesn't love me. It's just a robot that says 'I love you'. Do you know, they're talking, now, about artificial intelligence and creating robots that will be so close to human that they can actually love. I don't think so.

Because they can't give it a free will. God made lucifer with a free will. He took a risk because real love cannot be forced. Is that right? There's another word for forced love - it's called rape. You want it to be freely given.

How many of you, when you decided to have children, got a written guarantee that they would always obey and never give you a hard time? (Laughter) you took a risk. Were you aware that they might not love you back, or they might be selfish, or some might be good and some might rebel? Even adam and eve had some very different children, because they're free. And, God, in order to really be loved by his creatures, he gives them real freedom. He wants us to trust him. He'll give you evidence.

He'll show you what he's like, but you need to choose to respond. Lucifer chose to love himself first and it broke out into rebellion and he brought that rebellion to our planet and this whole Great Controversy, now, is between two completely opposite motives - it's the devil's love for power and Christ's power of love. The devil is all about self, but God is love. They're polar opposites - and there's only two masters. We've got to decide which one we choose.

I thought I'd drop in a little amazing fact here about black holes. It kind of fascinates me that they say a black hole would take an object in space ten times as dense as our sun, compress it into only 60 miles and the magnetic pull of that object would be so powerful that even light could not escape and light travels 186,000 miles a second. It would suck light in - and they don't know what happens to something that will get pulled into a black hole because there's no way to experiment with that - and I don't think I want to - but the devil is a black hole in that he just takes. Everything is about himself - everything he does is wiifm. You ever hear of wiifm before? It stands for 'what's in it for me?' A lot of people are always asking - they make all their decisions through the day based on wiifm - what's in it for me? How will this affect me? Well, Jesus did everything based on love.

What methods does satan use in his work? Well, there's several things you can look at here, first of all he's called a deceiver. You read in Revelation chapter 12, verse , it says he deceives the whole world. He uses deception. He pretends to be one thing - he comingles truth - a lot of truth - with a little bit of error. Furthermore, you can read in - this is - these are subcategories a, b, c - it says that he was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of satan.

He's a tempter. He does everything he can to entice people to disobey God. And, you know, the devil will tempt you to do something and then he'll turn you in. I've had a few friends that did that. I was at school and they said, 'I dare you to do this.

' I'd do it and then they'd go tell the teacher. (Laughter) and the devil will do that. Furthermore, he has power to work miracles. It says they are the Spirits of devils working miracles. Some of you know the story where Moses went before the pharaoh and he threw down his serpent - what did the pharaoh's magicians do? They threw down serpents they threw down serpents - their rods - Moses threw down his rod - it became a serpent - sorry - and they threw down their rods - they became serpents.

Were they able to counterfeit or imitate some of these miracles? You can also read, it tells us in Revelation 13, this beast power is going to be able to, at least, create the illusion of bringing fire down from heaven. The book of job - the devil brought fire down. And so, he's a powerful being. Remember he was just under God in power. You need to know something about your enemy if you're going to effectively fight him.

Furthermore, he's an accuser. You read there in Revelation :10, he's called 'the accuser of the brethren'. You can read in Zechariah chapter 3, where the devil stood there to accuse the high priest. And you see in the book of job, he stands before the Lord and he says, 'oh, the only reason job serves you is because you protect and bless him.' And he's always accusing the obedient. Don't you and I want to give the devil something to worry about in the way we live? You know, the devil doesn't know who most of us are.

The devil works through - he's not like God - he's not all-knowing. The devil works through his minions - his fallen angels. They're sometimes called demons and evil spirits and goblins and ghosts, and there's probably all kinds of different terms, but there are spiritual wars. You read in Ephesians chapter 6, we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. But the Bible tells us that the apostle, Paul was so close to God and so effective in his ministry, the devil knew who he was.

The devil said to some young exorcists, he said, 'we know Jesus and we know Paul, but we don't even know who you are.' Don't you want to live a life so the devil knows who you are? Amen. You're not sure how to answer that, are you? Because you're thinking, 'I don't want any special attention from the devil. I already feel like he knows too much about me.' He's also a murderer and he's a liar. He's The Father of a lie. He's all about deception.

You can see where he inspired cain to murder his brother. When is the devil the most dangerous? It's when he assumes the garments of light. And we just quoted this to you a moment ago, 2 Corinthians 11, verses 14 and 15, "and no marvel, for satan himself can be transformed into an angel of light, so don't be amazed when his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness." What did Jesus say about his second coming? When he gave the signs, the first thing he said, 'beware of false prophets - there'll be many false prophets, false Christs, and there'll be some who come - they look like they're sheep, but they're ravening wolves, really.' And so, the devil, he gets in the religion business, amen? And he deceives a lot of people, so we need to know what the Bible really says about the truth in this Great Controversy or we're at risk of being deceived. Alright, we've spent enough time talking about the problem, now we're going to talk about the answer. There's an enemy out there.

Peter says, 'be sober, be vigilant, your enemy, the devil - your adversary - goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour.' And we need to be praying always that we can escape the temptations that come. Jesus said, 'watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.' So we know what our tools are - I told you the other day, when Jesus was tempted, how did he respond? 'It is written. It is written. It is written.' It's through walking with God, through prayer, through the power of the word - that's how we defeat the enemy. Hebrews 2, verse 14, it tells us "inasmuch, then, as he - as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he, Jesus, himself likewise shared in the same that, through death, he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

" So, you see, there's a battle between Christ and the devil that is raging through the Bible. It's happening right here in silver spring, it's happening around the world. I just know that there's spiritual wars that take place - the devil does everything he can to prevent people from hearing the word. I'm so thankful for you who came out on a Saturday night in the rain to hear the Word of God. Bless your heart.

I hope you come back tomorrow night too. I came all the way from California (laughter) so I hope you can come back. I met people that came from new jersey, last night, from houston and all kinds of places - Canada, wow, you must have missed a turn, bless your heart. (Laughter) thank you. It tells us that the purpose of the gospel - you read in acts 26 - this is a wonderful verse - it says, 'to open their eyes in order to turn them from darkness to light - from the power of satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins' - that's good news, friends - 'and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

' The devil tempts us to sin. In our lives we have guilt and we have shame and we've got a record and we're heading for death, but Christ came to turn us from darkness to light - from the power of the devil to God, that we might be sanctified through faith in him and live. Now that's good news, amen? Amen. And, you know, if more Christians would go around believing the good news, and if we'd notify our faces about the good news, we'd be bringing a lot more people. So why was it necessary for Jesus to die? Well, first of all, because we've all sinned.

You read that there in Romans chapter 3:23 - and we also talked already about what the penalty for sin is: the wages for sin are as serious as it gets - the penalty is death. There's no escaping it. Somebody is going to die for your sins. Either you will accept Christ as your substitute and allow him to transform you and give you a new heart, or you will die for your sins. And we're not talking about the first death - Christians don't really die, they go to sleep.

We're talking about the second death, from which there is no resurrection. So, what's the solution? Christ died for our sins. He wants to rescue us from that terrible fate, because he desperately loves us and he wants us to be in the Kingdom. the Lord loves you more than you love anybody. There's nothing that can separate you from the love of God.

You can't even comprehend the love of God. Think the most powerful example of love you've ever seen, it's stronger than that. In the Bible, God fights to describe it. He says, 'can a woman forget her nursing child?' He says, 'I'll not forget you, I've graven you on the palms of my hands.' He said 'they might forget, but I'll not forget you.' I read something from maritime british history, there was a - a ship went down and they were trying to figure out how to divide an estate. This family had drowned when the ship went down.

They needed to decide who died first, the mother or the baby, and everybody that was on the board, the committee making this decision said, 'we're quite certain the mother held the baby up until she drowned and the baby outlived the mother.' And so you think of the strongest love you know of - God loves you more. Amen. And the devil - think about the love of God, the devil - is that bent on destroying you. But why would people say, 'I'm going to listen to the devil instead of God'? There are people who consciously say, 'you know, I don't really want to live for God.' But, you know, to make that decision you're really saying, 'I want to live for the devil.' There's a story - one of my favorite stories in the Bible - you find it in Mark chapter 5 and two other gospels too - Luke and Matthew - it's the story of the demoniac and, in that story, it tells about a man - what's left of a man - who had given himself over to temptation to the point where he got so good at saying 'yes' to the devil, he could not say 'no'. And, finally, when we find him, he's living naked in a cemetery surrounded by pigs, cutting himself with stones, dragging around chains that he's broken, filled with a legion of demons, he's dirty, he's antisocial, he's crying always out in the mountains - this is what the Bible says - full of rage, and when the disciples find him, they run for the boat.

Jesus doesn't run. And the demoniac comes running up to Christ and he opens his mouth. Whatever was left of that man inside came to Jesus for help, because he knew - the demons were talking in his head - he knew it was Jesus and he came just like he was - poor, wretched, naked, wounded, helpless. He couldn't even talk, the devils talked, but he came. And here on that beach by the sea of Galilee, you see two choices: you've got exhibit a of what the devil wants to do with man - he wants to destroy us - he wants to erase the image of God - and then you have exhibit a of God in a man - his name is Jesus.

There are only two masters in this world. Every day we're making a decision which master we're going to follow. It's either we surrender to Christ or you're, by default, going to remain a slave to the devil. And, if you think, 'well, I'm too sophisticated for that,' you're making your decision. It may seem very simple to you, but that's how simple it is.

It's either Christ or the enemy. John 3:8, "he who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.' Whatever you're doing kind of shows who you belong to. Now, he's not saying that if you're a Christian and you fall, that means you're of the devil, because the word here is really talking about living a life of sin - if you are giving over to a life of sin, you belong to the devil. Even Christians may stumble and fall, amen? That's why the Bible says, 'if any man sins, we have an advocate with The Father.' And the Scriptures say, you know, we often offend and sin in many things. We need to pray for one another, that we might be healed of our sins.

And then, in Hebrews 9:22, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. The Bible says the life is in the blood. And when Christ died and he gave his blood, basically, he gave a blood transfusion to the human race. Amen. You know, I understand that during the ebola crisis that was there in sierra leone, there was a doctor, his name was william pooley and he was exposed to the ebola and he contracted it and nearly died.

They flew him back to england - he recovered - and then, before he went back to sierra leone, there was another doctor, in America, that had ebola and they said, 'because you have been exposed and you recovered, your blood has the antibodies to provide a serum that may save others.' So he flew - they even gave him an emergency passport that he flew as quickly as he could to America to donate his blood to save the others. Jesus is the only one who has lived in this world without sin. Amen. He's the only one whose blood can save us. Amen.

I always thought it was interesting, the first miracle of Jesus, he's at a wedding and he turns water into wine. And then at the last supper he says, as he gives them the grape juice, he says, 'take, drink, this is my blood.' And then the last thing that happens before Jesus dies on the cross, they give him sour wine. Jesus, at the wedding, made the best new wine. He gives us his and then man, the last thing - they give him sour wine. It's like he makes a trade.

He takes our sins and he gives us his life. Amen. This is the gospel, friends. Jesus took what we deserve and he offers what he deserves. He takes our weakness and he gives us his strength.

He takes our sin and he gives us his purity. He makes a complete exchange with us - and you see on the cross, he's taking what we deserve because he loves you. Now, how sad that he would do all that and you not accept it. And then there's people who think, 'well, you know, but I'm having such a hard time, I don't know if I'm going to make it.' If you were Jesus, would you go through all that to save somebody that couldn't be saved? Of course you can be saved. God wouldn't go through all that.

Would you pay that much for something you couldn't buy? No, he did it because it is possible for you to be saved - if you believe. Amen. This was the whole message of the reformation. You've got to believe. A father brought his dying son to Jesus - he was demon-possessed - he said, 'lord, if you can do anything, help us.

The devil throws him in the fire and the devil throws him in the water.' The devil doesn't care what extreme you go to - one'll burn you, one'll drown you - he says, 'if you can do anything' and Jesus said, 'if you believe.' And that father, in desperation, he said, 'lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.' Some of us just have to come to that point and pray that prayer and say, 'lord, I have some belief, help my unbelief.' Can you pray that prayer? Amen. And you might say, 'I want to follow the Lord but I'm not completely willing.' Well, then, tell him and say, 'lord, I want to be more willing.' And you may not even want to pray that prayer - say, 'lord, I want to be willing to be made willing to be willing.' But you can start somewhere - everybody can start somewhere, right? I had to do that up in the mountains, I said, 'lord,' - I'm praying and saying, 'lord, I don't have much faith and I know my faith is weak. I've never believed this, but if you're there, help my unbelief.' And he did. You come just like you are.

That demoniac came to Jesus just like he was and Jesus cleansed him from the devils, he clothed him, and then he commissioned him - he gave him a work to do and God - he did it for me, he'll do it for everybody who comes to him. Amen. 1 Peter 3:18, "for Christ has also once suffered for sins the just [him] for us [the unjust]." Why did God make such a fantastic sacrifice for us? It says, because - you know that verse, John 3:16, "for God" - say it with me - "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life." Who is a whosoever? I'm a whosoever. Are you a whosoever? Amen. If whosoever believes in him - you may not perish but have everlasting life.

That's such a wonderful verse - that was one of luther's favorite verses. It just, sort of, summarizes - God so loved. You know, that word 'so' means a lot more and, as a pastor, I've done more than my share of funerals. And I've had to do several funerals where children died. Sometimes little babies, sudden infant death syndrome, teenagers - teenage suicides, and you have - after the service you stand at the head of the coffin and the parents go by and you see the grief in the parents' faces as they heave and sob and they're all twisted up with grief - and we lost a son.

And, you know, that verse never meant so much to me as it did after you lose a child. And then it says, 'God so loved the world' - I had to ask myself, did I love my son more than God loved his son? God loves more, and still he gave. What does that say about how much he must love you? And, when someone loves you that much, will you tell them, 'no, I don't want to be with you through eternity - I don't want to be in a world that is good, good, very good'? What kind of insanity would that be? It is insanity. If a person says - you know, before Moses died, his last sermon he said, 'here o Israel, I set before you this day two choices, on one hand you've got life and good and blessing, on the other hand you've got death and evil and cursing. Choose life.

' Now, wouldn't that be what you'd call a no-brainer? No, thanks Moses, I'd rather have the death, evil, and cursing.' But he actually had to ask them because you know what most of the world is choosing? The death, evil, and cursing and God is offering us life, good, and blessing. Amen. That's really - those are the two choices in the Great Controversy - two masters - two destinies. God's voted for you, the devil has voted against you, and you get the tie-breaking vote - that's what it amounts to. I hate to use the political scenario, but you understand that.

So, how do I - what do I do to benefit from Jesus' sacrificial death? Well, acts 16:31, it's pretty simple, he said, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," - that doesn't just mean believe he exists - James tell us the devils believe and tremble - that's not going to save them. It's talking about a belief that means 'be-live in him'. If you say, 'lord, I believe you' and you don't follow him, you don't really believe him. He's saying, 'believe me enough to do what I say and follow me. Trust me and you shall be saved.

' And then he goes on and says, in John 3:14 and 15 - before you read John 3:16, here's what it says: "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life." People often wondered, 'why would Jesus be compared with a serpent?' It's not really saying that. If you know the story, it tells us that the children of Israel, going through the wilderness, they began to grumble about the bread from heaven. They said, 'manna, manna, manna - we've got manna cereal and manna sandwiches and manna meatloaf and we're just tired of manna all day long every day - manna. A little quail and then manna, manna' - and when they complained about the bread of God, all of a sudden a plague of serpents broke out. What was it that kills a serpent? The bread of life - the Word of God.

When you don't appreciate the bread, the serpent comes in. And these were fiery serpents that had deadly venomous bites and the people were finding snakes in their tents and snakes were in their clothes and in their boots and everywhere - they didn't have boots back then - in their sandals - and there were just snakes everywhere and they went up to Moses and God said to Moses, 'make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. Lift it up. And whoever looks will be healed of the venom.' If they look, they'll live. Jesus uses that scenario, he says, 'if The Son of man is lifted up.

' Now, I understand this because I lived in the mountains in a desert, in a cave - I saw rattlesnakes all the time. I had a snake stick and if I saw - I didn't bother them on the trail, I just avoided them, but if I saw one around the cave, I killed it. But you don't whack a snake with a stick or hit it with a rock and then go reach out and pick it up, because they're kind of tenacious and you think they're dead - they're laying there and their jaws look like it's all broken - and you go to pick him up, they spin around - they'll bite you. So shepherds know, they had a lot of snakes - they would have a staff - you got a dead snake, you'd pick it up with your staff and you'd carry it off. And so, it was not an uncommon thing for the shepherds to see somebody carrying a snake on the end of a pole.

And what it meant was a dead snake going off for a funeral, because you bury them, because even the head of the snake can hurt you if you step on it even after they're dead. Jesus neutralized the venom of the serpent on the cross. When we look, in faith, at Jesus dying for our sins, the power of love, through the gospel, recreates us - and it may not happen all at once, but something changes and all of a sudden the things you once loved you hate and the things you once hated you love and - that's called conversion. That's called reformation. That's called revival - and you begin to live a new life.

This is what the gospel does. John 1:12, it says, "to many of them as received him, to them he gives power to become The Sons of God." If you make up your mind to follow Jesus, is he going to empower you to follow him? Amen. And whose power is greater, the power of Jesus or the power of the devil? When you're tempted, if you pray, God'll send every angel in heaven to your side before he abandons you to the enemy. We just forget to ask. Amen.

If you ask, you'll receive. Amen. How, then, am I cleansed and then forgiven? You read in acts chapter 3:19, Peter says, "repent therefore and be converted that your sins might be blotted out." This is very important. I also want to read 1 John 1:9, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from" - how much? All. "All unrighteousness.

" And if you're cleansed from all unrighteousness, that means that when God looks at you, he sees a child that is bound for heaven. You end up with the righteousness of Christ himself. That's good news, friends. But what do you do? Two things I just said, that we kind of look like we skimmed over. We repent and we confess.

Now here's two things I just don't hear Christians say very much about these days. Repentance means a sorrow for sin and a willingness to turn from it. Amen. It means that there's - you're grieved in your heart. You know, a lot of people say, 'well, you know, we all sin.

Look at David, he sinned with bathsheba and he murdered uriah and, you know, we all sin' and they look at David's sin but they don't look at David's repentance. David spent - they want to sin like David but they don't want to repent like David. David spent seven days on his face weeping and praying and repenting. God told him he was forgiven, but there was a sorrow. And when you see Jesus hanging on the cross, that ought to stir your heart and realize he's on your cross because he loves you.

Amen. And when you turn back to sin and you say, 'this hurts him' - the Bible talks about crucifying The Son of God afresh - if you could really picture that, would you do it? I mean, do we want to hurt the ones we love? And so, there's a sorrow for sin. You know, it's broken clouds that give us rain and it's broken grain that gives us bread and it's - it's mary breaking her alabaster vial and pouring forth the ointment and we must come to the place where we're broken and emptied. A lot of Christians don't hear a lot about repentance. You know, the first words Jesus spoke when he started preaching? "Repent" - first word.

You know what John the baptist said first? "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." When they said to Peter and the apostles on the day of pentecost, 'men and brethren, what shall we do?' What was the first thing he said? 'Repent.' That means realize you're a sinner. And I believe that you can come to God in a moment. I think you can make a decision - make a brief prayer and that could be a turning point. But, if you're really going to be filled with the Spirit and have the fullness of an experience of conversion, take some time with God. Let me see if I could - I know I'm going to run out of time, but this is an important point.

The degree of your offense determines the degree of the apology. If, after the program, and I'm shaking your hand and I don't pay attention and I step on your toe, I will say, 'excuse me.' And you'll probably say, 'no problem.' Unless you had, like, a corn on your foot and you go, 'ow!' And I say, 'oh, I'm very, very sorry.' But if I'm rushing out the door and I'm not paying attention and I knock you down and I send you sprawling and your things in your purse scatter on the ground and I hear bones break as you go down, and I look over my shoulder and I say, 'excuse me,' and I keep going, would that be appropriate? The degree of the offense determines the depth of the apology. So what have your sins done to Jesus? Is it really enough to just say, 'sorry, lord.' Or should we pray and confess? Be serious with God - empty yourself. Martin luther said 'God creates from nothing so, until I become nothing, he can make nothing of me.' We need to humble ourselves and he will lift you up. He doesn't want you to grovel, but we need to repent.

Peter went out and wept bitterly and he came from that experience of repentance and preaching with power the good news. But I think people need to understand - confess your sins. How many remember all their sins? Nobody. How can you confess them all? Well, God wants you to start with the categories - use the Ten Commandments as a template. Have you lied? I'm not asking you to tell me, now, I'm just giving you an idea.

(Laughter) you don't need to raise your hands during this, this is not like that. Impure thoughts? You know, adultery is not just the action, it can be the attitude. Murder can be an attitude. Some people have homicide in their heart, right? So there's a spiritual dimension of the law. Make a list and say, 'lord, I've been a liar.

' Gossip - you can all write that down, huh? Using God's name in vain - that doesn't just mean just cursing, it means saying you're a Christian and not living like one - you're taking his name in vain. Get by yourself, get a piece of paper - do it on your ipad - just make sure you delete it when you're done. (Laughter) and make a list and say, 'lord, I'm a sinner.' And you might not remember everything - say, 'lord, search me and try me and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.' Get serious. You want a revival? Get serious about really repenting of your sins. Confess your sins to God.

And if you've sinned against each other. You say, 'lord, I'm sorry I took my neighbor's chainsaw and I've had it three years. I'm sorry.' And the Lord says, 'you're forgiven, but you have to take it back now.' You know, there's some reformation involved in it. You can't just say, 'well, I just thought you'd just, like, forgive me and let me keep the chainsaw.' No, you - if you're really repenting, you're going to take it back, amen? Amen. Get serious with God.

Humble yourself. He'll fill - empty yourself - he'll fill you with his spirit. He'll know you really want him then. What is this wonderful conversion experience called? You must be - what is it? Born again. You become like a little baby.

Do babies worry about growing? No. How does a baby grow? It receives the food. It gets occasional cleansing. It gets some comfort and breathes. We know what happens when a baby stops breathing - now we've got baby breathing monitors because people are afraid the baby will stop breathing.

You will not grow unless you do these Christian things. You need to eat. You need the bread of life. It may start with the milk of the word of you're a baby. Eventually you'll want to grow where you can get meat, amen.

You want to breathe - that's prayer. You need exercise. You may need an occasional cleansing in that living water, amen? But, if you do these things you will grow. Amen. And you'll see that you become more and more like Jesus.

It's called the new birth - old things are passed away; all things are made new. And when you do this and when you pray that prayer, who, then enters the heart of every born-again Christian? The Bible says, in John 14:17, "even the Spirit of truth...you know him for he dwells with you and he will be in you." Amen. How many of you would like to have that experience of being filled with the Spirit of God? And to have that new birth? To have that revival? Jesus said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.;' How can that be possible? Because God the Spirit will come into your life and wherever you go, you'll not be alone. He'll walk with you and he'll talk with you and he wants you to walk with him. This is what it means to be a Christian to have God - think about how awesome that is to have God with you all the time as your friend - to abide with you.

You know, we're getting too close to the end of the world, friends all you've got to do is look at the headlines, amen? The world is filled with violence. You know, I heard that, during the shooting in las vegas, there were several stories where people were shot - they didn't know where the bullets were coming from - and a stranger saw someone injured and they threw themselves on top of a total stranger to protect them from further bullets. Jesus has done that. The devil wants to destroy you, but he's laid his life down as an obstacle to your destruction, but you need to ask him. Can you trust a God like that, you who are watching? Would you like to pray and ask him now? Father, this is just a preliminary prayer, but we want to spend time with you, surrender our lives to you, ask you to fill our hearts with your spirit.

Bless these people, bless your church with revival, we ask in Jesus' Name, amen.

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