Gospel

"I Thirst!" - Didn't Make the Final Cut, or “Bonus Sermon Material From Sunday":

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Here was a chunk that got cut from “I Thirst”:

Isaiah 53:7 says that Jesus was led like a lamb to slaughter. This points out something else about Jesus being the “Lamb” that is often overlooked: Lambs aren't herded and prodded like cattle – lambs are led. Willingly following. I read that most people who are being led to be crucified have a major meltdown. The thought of what is coming makes them completely freak out, to the point they need dragged. I totally get that! But Jesus was willing to walk Himself, even carrying His cross part of the way – without resisting. No meltdowns. No freak outs. Willingly being led. Not by the Romans. But by His Father.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Jeff

 

Does Hell Motivate People to Receive Christ?

Driving to Kentucky last week, I saw a sign along the road in the middle of Ohio. It said “Hell is Real”. It got me thinking about how this message on a billboard could motivate people to come to Jesus Christ for salvation. How many people saw this and reevaluated their lives and eternal destiny?

I absolutely believe hell IS real. I believe it is more horrific and more terrible than we can wrap our brains around.

So why isn’t it a motivator to receive Christ?

I mean, obviously on some level, to some people, it is. Otherwise, why would Jesus Himself have warned us of this place so often (e.g., Matthew 10:28), literally more than anyone else in the Bible?

So if it is eternal and horrible, why aren’t people lining up to get saved, every week in every church that proclaims the truth?

As a younger preacher, I thought hell was one of the ultimate motivators. But experience is showing me that it doesn’t motivate like I would expect. In fact, the further I go, the less I see it as a motivator.

But how can this be?

People must either 1) choose not to think about it, 2) think that somehow they can escape it on their own merit when their day of appearing before God is upon them, or 3) dismiss it as a fairy tale – just a scare tactic "religious people" use.

The truth is the Gospel isn’t just about avoiding hell, it’s about being reconciled to the God Who created you and loves you. The God who loves you deeply personally, wants a love relationship with you, and demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for your sins and rise from the grave to give you eternal life.

So we just aren’t going to hear people say, “I don't want to go to hell, guess I'll love Jesus.” Can you enter a love relationship so shallowly motivated? Is that mindset going to have you truly love Jesus Christ?

The Bible tells us that mankind has rejected God, rebelliously chosen to be our own god. We decided that this life on earth is about us – our pleasures, our wants, our preferences – about our prideful sin. While God would be justified to just annihilate the earth and start over, He decided to show us how much He loves us instead and pursue us with His love. He put our sin on Jesus and allowed Him to be beaten, mocked, and brutally executed. Jesus rose from the dead to prove sin, death, and the real enemy have all been totally defeated. Jesus’ work gives us the promise of heaven, a glorious eternal existence where any kind of pain is behind us forever. God gives us the ultimate gift when we turn from our selfish sinfulness and embrace Jesus Christ: the gift of Himself, the Holy Spirit, who guides, comforts, and empowers us by living in our hearts every moment of every day we dwell on the earth. And all this is free. There’s no payment to be made, no hoops to jump through, no “catch” - it’s a totally free gift. It’s undeserved, no matter what you’ve done. It can’t be earned, and it can never be lost.

So if this Gospel, this glorious message and promise, doesn't drive you to love and adore Jesus, even the looming reality of hell won’t make any difference, either.

Hell IS real. But I’m rethinking how much it actually motivates people to turn from their sinful, destructive ways. It’s still God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Pastor Jeff

-”You are loved” is still the message that changes everything. 

An Unshakeable 'Know-So' Faith

A couple weeks ago, I met an 80-year old fellow with a grey shaggy beard who shared a room at the hospital with my father for a couple days.  He was quite an individual with no shortage of colorful vocabulary and interesting stories.  

I walked into his hospital room about ten minutes after he had gotten the worst news of his life.  Nearing the room, I could hear him apologizing profusely to the nurse for having exploded into a fit of rage just moments earlier.   Apparently the staff was gently trying to break the news to this man that he was dying from liver cancer, but they didn't quite know how to make it palatable for him.  The outlook for Skip was very grave, and they were beating around the bush which upset him exceedingly. "All I want is for people to be straight with me!", he exclaimed with passion.  "I just want the truth!"   

You gotta respect a man who just wants the truth, right?  And so, being a 'truth' guy myself, I saw this as a wide open door to ask him some pointed questions about eternity.   He had just gotten some really horrible news and he was all alone.  No family, no friends.  No one to walk with him upon hearing that his life probably was nearing the end.  "Well, I guess this is it", he mumbled in defeat.  "This is how it all ends".   

I asked him if he ever gave thought to what’s next for him when he dies.  “What about the after-life, Skip?  You ever think about that?”.   “Oh, yeah!”, he shot back, sort of excitedly.  

In our discussion, he told me he had been sober for forty years. He didn’t really participate much in his ‘religion’, but tried to live a clean life.  He was very hopeful that since he was a decent guy, maybe God would let him into heaven. 

“Skip, you don’t have to wonder if you are going to heaven.  You can actually know for sure. The Bible gives people assurance of eternal life”.  I walked him through the gospel message, starting with the grim reality that all of us are sinners, separated from God and helpless to do anything about it on our own (Isa. 59:2, Rom. 3:23).  “Because of our sin”, I told him, “we are all condemned to spend an eternal, conscious punishment in a real place called hell.  God is a just and righteous judge, requiring payment for sins.  He wouldn’t be much of a judge if He just winked at sin and let people off the hook, would He?  Consequently, God’s justice demands that our sin be paid for (Rom. 6:23)”.   

“God, in his infinite love and grace however, provided a way of escape, sending Jesus Christ to the cross as the all-sufficient payment for every one of the sins of those who surrender their lives to God’s Son”.   I told him that this is called ‘salvation’, which is really just another term for ‘deliverance’.  I continued: “Skip, deliverance means that you were once in a position of danger, and now you have been moved to a position of safety... you have been saved!  Jesus Christ provides deliverance to those who put their faith, hope and trust in His finished work on the cross.  Skip, you and I both belonged on that cross, but Jesus took our place - he was our substitute.  Christ’s work on the cross is His offer to take ALL your sins upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21).  The free gift of eternal life is there for your taking.  He offers to make you completely clean, just as if you never sinned.  And even so much more than that, He offers to place His righteousness upon you.  Do you know what that means Skip?  That means that you become an adopted and forgiven child of God (Eph. 1:5).  When God looks at you, He sees you as He sees His own Son, completely blameless!  That is amazing!”   

“But Skip, this requires a response on your part.  To receive this amazing gift of forgiveness and eternal life, you must reach out to God in faith and accept the gift of His Son, and renounce all your own efforts and so-called good works (Eph. 2:8-9).  You must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10)”.   

“You see Skip, Christians don’t have a flimsy ‘hope-so’ outlook.  We don’t have a nervous ‘think-so’ attitude.  We don’t have a questionable ‘maybe-so’ thought process.  Because of God’s special promises in His Word, we have an unshakable ‘know-so’ faith.  And that faith can be yours!” 

I followed up with Skip the next day by giving him a gospel tract that reinforced everything I had told him.  We prayed together a couple times, and he thanked me for talking with him, but only the Lord knows where Skip’s heart really is.  Pray for his salvation! 

Blessings to you as you share the hope of the gospel in your area of influence,

Mark