Surprised By Joy At Sound Doctrine Church
** sound doctrine church no longer exists **
This sermon is for very few people. It’s for those people who might be considering and teetering on the edge of thinking about attending Sound Doctrine or possibly even joining. Where they have a great deal of fear before them and a lot of questions and concerns, but somehow in the middle of all that they may be hearing God calling them to be a part of this fellowship or to even come and test things out. I know the viewpoint that most people have when they look on from the outside. Probably what we hear the most in relationship to Sound Doctrine when they look at the website or listen to sermons is that we’re legalistic or words like, “You’re strict.” They envision this place I am sure as a place where there is absolutely no joy, where there’s very little laughter, certainly an absence of complete love. How could that possibly exist with all the harshness and all the rudeness and all the rules and regulations?
Luke 7:11-12 – Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her…
They’re not thinking of anything miraculous. The last thing on their mind is that somehow God is going to be able to bring a miracle into their life or some type of comfort or joy. She’s a widow, she’s all alone, she’s probably resolved that that’s the way it is going to be. She is probably thinking to herself, “This is my lot in life, first my husband dies and now my only son is dead and so being alone is probably what God has determined for me.” She probably wonders why. Having a lot of questions.
Luke 7:12-13 – …And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
We would think this would be the talk of an insane man, a hard and cold man, if we were carrying our only son out, if we were all alone and a man walked up to us and in our weeping and our mourning and came to us and said, “Don’t cry.” We’d look at him and think he’s a harsh, unloving man who cares nothing about the suffering that I’m going through. We would not receive this as a thing of faith. We would not envision that there could be life in this or that there would be joy connected with these words. If I were to walk into a funeral situation where somebody had just died and I said, “Everybody in here stop crying, it’s wrong to be crying, it’s inappropriate to be crying, it’s not God’s will for you to be crying,” I would be seen as a very harsh and unloving man.
Luke 7:14 – Then he went up and touched the coffin…
Jesus Christ comes to us at the worst moment in our lives when we’re carrying out dead things, our lives are usually dead, people around us are dead, the crowds can’t help us, we’ve tried one church after another church, we’ve gone to one prayer meeting after another prayer meeting and we still have to carry out a dead body. We still have the coffin. And Jesus comes and He touches that coffin and says,
Luke 7:14-15 – …and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk…
They’re being surprised by joy. The last thing that they expected is now entering their life. The thing that they would not have hoped for or dared dream of, God comes in the midst of all of that, touches their coffin and the dead body and joy springs to life.
Luke 7:15 – …Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Now verse 16 says,
Luke 7:16 – They were all filled with awe and praised God.
The conclusion of course, is one of immaturity. They said:
Luke 7:16 – A great prophet has appeared among us,
They don’t yet see Him as the Son of God, they see Him maybe as a part of God, or from God, but they don’t see Him as the Son of God, they don’t understand fully who He is yet.
And there are situations where Jesus is coming to touch people’s lives and they don’t fully understand what Sound Doctrine is about or what the message of the cross is about. Certainly with all the rumors and all the things that go on and all the attacks of the evil one, it’s hard to understand exactly who this Jesus is and what He’s about and what the message of the cross means or a narrow road or a narrow gate. Yet He still comes to touch our lives with joy. He still comes to touch the coffin, to cause things that are dead to come back to life.
Luke 7:16 – They said, “God has come to help his people.”
There are people right now whose faith is dead. They’ve tried one church after another church. They’ve gone from one help group to another help group and they probably consider their faith to be dormant and dead, lying in a coffin somewhere, yet they’re willing to let Jesus draw close. If they’re willing to let Jesus come and touch the coffin, they’ll hear Jesus say, “Get up and be alive again.”
There are a lot of people who God wants to work within them a joy that they don’t think is possible anymore. They’re all worn out, they’re completely dead in this life in terms of the relationship with God and those are the people that God will seek to come and touch. If they’re willing to get past the offense of the cross. If they’re willing to get past their fears. If they’re willing to have a little bit of faith and a little bit of trust, they’ll be surprised at how much joy and life really is here in this church.
This is not a sermon to make light of the offense of the cross. That will not be taken away. And there may be a lot of things that are difficult for the flesh of an individual to take, but they have to move past those things and not accept them as fact or as a conclusion. Had the crowd stopped Jesus from moving forward to touch the coffin, then they never would have seen the resurrection, they never would have had that joy.
John 1:43-45 – The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote…”
“We found a man that is biblical; we found a man that is holy. We find that scripture is written all over this man’s life and who He is.” Philip says:
John 1:45 – …Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
He lays out the fact, he lays it out clear and in such a fashion that Nathanael has to make a decision. And in verse 46, look at what he latches on to. See how Nathanael responds. He finds the thing that is offensive and says:
John 1:46 – Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?
“So can there be anything good that comes from Sound Doctrine?” some people will say. Is there anything good that can come from a message of the cross that looks legalistic, that looks hard, that looks offensive? Can there be anything good that comes from a message that says that you have to hate your own life or hate your wife and your mother and your children, your brothers and sisters. You have to pick up a cross, you have to deny yourself and walk a narrow road. When they look at the call of Jesus, if they’ll admit that at least that’s what He’s calling, they can’t envision a life of joy or any type of happiness or anything like that or any blessings from God.
So he says,
John 1:46 – “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
Nathanael had to go and look and he had to examine. We had somebody come into the store the other day. He said, “I’ve heard all kinds of rumors that you’re a cult and I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” He’s checking out, he’s examining, he’s looking, he’s tasting, he’s not afraid to see what is true, whether it is of the Lord or whether it is of Satan.
In Isaiah 53:2 it says this about Jesus and this thing will be true about us as a church. That is, if we follow the Holy Spirit. Talking of Jesus, it says,
Isaiah 53:2 – He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
When somebody looks at Sound Doctrine, they don’t see any pomp. They don’t see a lot of fun. We don’t come to people and say, “Come to our church because we have a lot of church picnics and ice cream socials, and plays and we have all kinds of things that will entertain you and make you happy. Indeed you want to present it to people, something out of ground, something that doesn’t look attractive, something that would not have drawn men in terms of their flesh, but God literally has to be doing the drawing. When it comes to the issues of compromising the flesh, we don’t offer that to people, so they’re not attracted to what’s going on here.
Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows…
People cannot envision how you can participate and fellowship with a Jesus that is full of sorrows and yet find joy in that sorrow.
Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men…
You go and ask the pastors in this community we were rejected by them one after another, we were rejected by many people, so it is with those in Jesus Christ. If you begin to examine and test and ask around you will find this to be true. We visited with some people over in England not too long ago and when she was considering coming to the church, when she was feeling that call to fellowship, she had a lot of fears and a lot of questions, so she naturally began to research and ask around. She didn’t find a lot of people saying, “This is really true, this is really good.” Yet, something still continued to draw her.
Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
We’re not going to have a church that is esteemed and held up by men, that attracts people because of fun and frivolity and all kinds of things that is done to entertain man. Instead we hold up the offense of the cross. We hold up the chance for righteousness and holiness in our relationship with God.
Let’s go back to John 1:47.
John 1:47-49 – When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Amazing faith that is in this man’s heart, that he can hear Jesus say these things and he acknowledges that He’s the son of God. You remember what they told Him when they first advised Him, we found Him who what—they all talk about Him, Moses talks about Him, and it took one conversation, it took one instant because what—he came and he checked and he saw.
John 1:50 – Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”
What this sermon is about is looking past the offense of the cross. We’re encouraging people to look past the offensive words or the harsh words or whatever they consider to be offensive in nature. When we were visiting over in England this time around, somebody went back to their old Bible College and they were going around it and kind of, you know, trying to say “Hello” to all their friends and everything and the friends are running off pretty fast because they know, he’s associated with this church. But one of the things they went up to him and said was, “You know you don’t have those wrinkles on your forehead, you seem to be a lot more at peace.” Yet I turned to this brother and I said, “So do you have more or less things going in your life that would cause you stress”? Of course he has far more. But they could see the peace, they could see the joy that they had, they were surprised by joy even though they wouldn’t acknowledge that it came from God.
John 1:51 – He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Right now people cannot envision when they look at joining Sound Doctrine, that there is joy behind or beyond the gate. All they can see is the offense of the cross and all they can see is the suffering issue and all they can see is the hating issue and all they can see is the need to carry their cross. In fact, people will often say, how often do you have to talk about this hating issue or denying self? Is there any joy? Does he ever talk about the mercies? Does he ever talk about kindness? No matter how much we seem to tell people that if you’ll pick up your cross, if you’ll hate your own life, there is joy on the other side, people don’t want to believe it because they don’t want to give up their life.
Again, this sermon is for those of good heart because you’re going to hear a lot of people say, “Well, who else lives this and who else preaches this?” They’ll accuse and say all kinds of things, like leadership is trying to brainwash you or to take advantage of you.
Psalms 79:12 – Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the reproach they have hurled at you, O Lord.
When people see the message of the cross and when they hear it, they hurl insults. They attribute all kind of false and empty motives, they say that it’s evil and wicked. I don’t know how many times it’s been said that I come from the evil one; that I belong to Satan.
Psalms 79:13 – Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
People cannot envision that there really is a joyful pasture to walk in the middle of all of this. That as we walk the narrow road, that as we pass through a narrow gate, there is a joy, there is an excitement, there is life if they’ll look past the offense of the cross.
Go again to John 10:7 where Jesus promises we’ll find that pasture. You know, it seems the more joy that God seems to work in this body, the louder Satan seems to shout that it’s all wicked, that it’s all vile and bad. I need to encourage people that are considering and looking and thinking that there might be some truth here or there might just be the presence of the Lord, that there might be something to this message of the cross, that if they will get past that, they will discover, if they give up themselves, that there really is life.
John 10:7 – Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.”
You have to pass through this gate, you have to pass through the message of the cross.
John 10:8 – All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
Again in verse 9, Jesus says, “I am the gate…” and this is what they forget. They want the pasture land. Most churches want the pasture land. They want the green grass, they want the flowing rivers, they want to look at the beautiful mountains, they want all of that, without passing through the gate where you have to leave everything behind.
John 10:9 – I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
What they cannot envision is that even though we pass through a gate that is very, very narrow, in fact, you have to leave everything outside that gate, you have to leave your money and your time and your life, your clothing, everything that you have, all that you own, everything that you consider precious, has to be left outside this gate. Indeed, self will not even pass through this gate. It all has to be surrendered to the Lord. But when a man passes through that gate, when he decides he’ll walk that narrow road, it will eventually end in finding pasture where you can roam all kinds of directions.
John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
People do not envision that we can have life to the full. Now it’s true that we’re partaking and barely tasting of that, but it is so good that it continues to refresh us and to urge us on to continue to walk the narrow road. Again verse 9,
John 10:9 – I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
There will come a point in time where there will be a whole pasture to walk in. Think of the Garden of Eden. When God made the Garden, it says that He planted all kinds of trees and all kinds of fruit and they were pleasing to the eye and they were good for food. Everywhere that Adam and Eve would have turned to walk would have been God’s will, no matter what direction they went, except for one tree. Right now in this world because of our sin, the narrow road is what we have to walk, but there’ll come a time when it won’t come down to such narrowly defined things of doing God’s will. It’ll come down to a point where you’ll pass through the gate, you’ll walk through the narrow road and it’ll end in a place where there’s a whole pasture called God’s will. And any direction you turn, anywhere you roam and anywhere you want to graze, no matter where you want to drink or fellowship or wherever you go, will be in the center of God’s will. We tend to think so much of God’s will in terms of rules and regulations and things that are very narrow and hard and focused. It’s because we don’t understand that we’re walking the narrow road right now. We desire to enter in and find the pasture where we can roam everywhere in heaven and fellowship and always be in the middle of God’s will no matter where we go.
So where’s the joy? The joy is set before us, that even though God gives us a joy now. We’re partaking and tasting that life right now in this body, but there is a joy that’s set before us that urges us on where we want it more and more because we know that we’re not complete, we haven’t passed through everything. We haven’t finished the walk.
In John 10 Jesus is talking about the gate and He says:
John 10:1 – I tell you the truth…
You know how sad it is that Jesus always has to go around saying, “I tell you the truth.” We were sitting at the dinner table the other day and we were reading a scripture and I can’t remember which one came up, but it started off with Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth.” So Carla read the scripture and I said, “You know, what’s the saddest part of that whole sentence?” Everybody’s trying to guess—they think it’s a trick question. “The saddest thing is that Jesus always has to run around saying, ‘I tell you the truth.’ Always defending Himself, always having to say, ‘This really is true, guys.’”
John 10:1 – I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
Now a lot of people are trying to get in another way besides the gate. They want to climb in over the walls. They want to run ahead and come in some other way. They don’t want to pass through Jesus Christ. So, I’m not taking away from the narrow gate; I’m not taking away from the narrow road that all men have to walk. What I’m trying to point people to is to lay aside the fears that you hear and the roaring of Satan over here and the fact that your flesh doesn’t want to give up certain things to go through the gate and pass through the gate and begin to walk on that narrow road and you will find a place where you can go out and you can walk in the pasture of the Lord.
Because what everybody needs to look for when they’re trying to decide where to go for a church, is to find a church that will offer and present to them a narrow gate. Not a narrow gate full of rules and regulations. I know a lot of churches like that. But I’m talking about something much worse than rules and regulations. You know if I laid out a whole set of rules and regulations—”Can’t do this, can’t do that, can’t do this, can’t do that.” I mean if we had three hundred of those rules and regulations, we’d be five times as big as we are right now because people like rules and regulations. It makes them feel self-righteous; it makes them feel puffed up. They can look at the rules and regulations and say, “Okay, if I do these things then I’ll be accepted and I’ll know exactly what to do, I don’t have to reason anything out.”
But when we talk about a narrow gate and a narrow road, we’re talking about one that is designed specifically for you. That when somebody comes up to Jesus Christ, Jesus says, “Okay, I have this gate that is tailor-made just for you.” And in order for you to pass through this gate, this is what has to go in your life. This is what you have to give up. This is what has to be surrendered. So when somebody looks for a church, they need to find a church, they need to find leadership, they need to find people in that church that can come to them and say, “You know, I feel in the Holy Spirit, this is the gate for your life and it will be everything that you object to and everything that you don’t want and everything you do not want to give up and the thing that you fear the most.
Matthew 7:13 – Enter through the narrow gate…
How sad it is that most people look for a church where they can feel comfortable, that is the calling card. You’d think that was in scripture. You would think Jesus Christ walked in this church and said, “If you guys go and look for a church, find one where you can feel comfortable at.” Understand, Jesus says,
Matthew 7:13 – Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
Think of the absolute terms Jesus is using here. It’s saying, “Many find that road to destruction.” Most people go that route and any way we slice and dice this thing, it’s only going to be a few people who find this. And yet many times people will turn to me and ask, “How many other people believe this and how many other people live this?” No matter how many people I would present to them, it would always be few because Jesus said, “Few would find this.”
Matthew 7:14 – But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
This gate requires that a man give up absolutely everything. It is designed and laid out specifically for you and it will take everything that you are. All of your pride, all of your money, all of your time, your life, your energy, your comfort, your excuses, your doctrine, everything that you have will have to be laid aside if you want to go on to the pasture, if you want to go on to where there’s joy.
The reason this body has a measure of joy is because we’ve each sought to pass through that gate. We’re trying to walk a narrow road. We’ve laid aside our doctrines and our opinions, our pride, and our arrogance and we don’t want to pick them back up again as we walk that road. We see other things that we desire to throw off. That’s why God is able to work a measure of joy and a measure of love. And if we ever lose that gate, then we’ll lose the joy that God has worked. But if we find this joy to be good, we’ve tasted it and there’s a measure that we enjoy, so let’s continue to throw off things that hinder us.
That gate is the cross; the crucified life. When people say that they get a bad feeling about this message, that’s exactly the feeling they are supposed to have. I can tell you right now if somebody entered their living room with some nails and a hammer and said, “We’re going to put you up on a cross,” would they get a bad feeling about the experience they’re ready to participate in? We’ve all had that bad feeling when the Holy Spirit comes to us, when Jesus Christ comes to us and He says, “Here, I’ve got some nails and a hammer for you, I’m about ready to bless you.” You bet you’re going to become nervous, you’re going to become anxious. You’re going to have a lot of questions. I know what I would begin to do. I would begin to ask a lot of questions to avoid being crucified, “Say, what do those nails look like? Where do they come from? Do you have a warranty? Have they been sanitized? Is this going to cause me much pain? Do I get to take this with me?” And you’re going to try and dialog all you can to keep the nails from going into the hands and feet. You do not want that hammer raised above your head to come crashing down to cause pain and suffering in your life. It’s no wonder that people get a bad feeling or they become afraid.
A man came in and talked to another person saying, “I heard you guys were a cult.” She alleviated all of his fears and he accepted what she had to say and he said, “I didn’t think you were a cult, I didn’t see anything bad in here.” She said, “There are a lot of people that’d love to fellowship with you.” And he said, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
He didn’t run for it. He may be here next time, but it would be the Holy Spirit drawing him because no man says, “Okay, I’ll take the nails.” If he does, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s in for a rude awakening. Hebrews 11:37, would be the kind of church that we’re basically offering.
Hebrews 11:37 – They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—
Not a very comfortable church. Not a very safe and secure environment. So how many people would join a church like that. If we put that out on our church sign, if we had a church sign that said, “Hey, they were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—want to join us this Sunday? You want to sign here on the dotted line and be a member?” Not very many people would join.
Hebrews 11:38 – …the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
How many of you want to belong to a church like that? I daresay the church in America today cannot even comprehend that that’s what Jesus Christ is saying that His church is about or that members of His church participate in these things, it is so foreign to how we think anymore.
Hebrews 11:39 – These were all commended for their faith…
Those who lived in holes in the ground were commended, saying, “You have a lot of faith in Jesus Christ.” Because they could see that there was pasture land beyond this narrow gate. Those that wandered in mountains and those that were in goat-skins and those that were destitute could see beyond being destitute.
And the reason why there’s a measure of joy here is because we’ve come out of ourselves just a little bit and we can see past the suffering and the difficulties and all the pains that God puts us through. We can see beyond the discipline that He puts us through. We can see a little bit past all the opposition that we get and we know that there’s pasture land beyond all of this. We know there’s a joy beyond there and so we have a measure of joy that God fills our hearts and says, “Keep moving on, keep moving forward,” because we want fellowship with Him.
Hebrews 11:39 – These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
You know, that whole concept is just totally foreign to the church in America. To envision a God that comes to you and says, “Okay, here are all the promises I’m going to give you for your life and I’m not going to give you a single one of them.” The church can’t even fathom that concept anymore.
These people wandered in all of these things. They had promises that God had given them but they did not receive any of those promises. You think of Abraham, the father of faith, he was promised nations. He died with a congregation of around four or five.
Hebrews 11:40 – God had planned something better…
This is where a lot of people get hung up on the message of the cross.
Hebrews 11:40 – God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
What they stumble at is the point of fellowship. I know a lot of people who agree to the message of the cross; who agree that we need to deny ourselves; that we need to enter through a narrow gate and walk a narrow road. They’ll read the books, listen to the sermon tapes, they’ll say that they are great. But what they will not do is fellowship with those who are walking that road. They will not come into fellowship with those people. But where is the promise made real? Where does the joy come together? Let’s read it again, verse 40.
Hebrews 11:40 – God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
God draws together those of us in the body who are willing to pass through that gate and only as we come into fellowship with one another will we be made perfect in Jesus Christ.
Many want the message of the cross, but they don’t want to fellowship with us. So the joy of the message of the cross will always be missing for them. I want to repeat that again. There are a lot of people that will accept the message of the cross. There are a lot of people that receive sermon tapes on a weekly basis or whenever they’re sent out and they will write back and say they’re very inspiring or they’re biblical or whatever compliment they want to put out, but they refuse to fellowship. We hurt, not because they won’t join Sound Doctrine, that’s the last thing on our minds. But because they’re missing where the source of where joy comes from. They’re off over here all by themselves taking all the burdens of the message of the cross, listening to all the things that a sermon might say and the sermons can be weighty. They can be offensive. My tone is usually not correct. It sounds more like I’m whining and trying to get people to do all kinds of things or I’m angry or I’m upset. So that’s all they’re hearing over here all the time. Usually they are surprised when they meet me in person about how kind I am or how gentle I am or how merciful I am.
I’m not going to explain why that is true today. The point we’re trying to look at is that they’re missing all the joy because they refuse to join in; they refuse to fellowship; they refuse to really call us brother and sister, so they miss the joy.
John tells us how and where we’re made perfect:
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…
Again you remember Hebrews 11:40, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” You cannot take the message of the cross and embrace it and be all excited about it and be out there pretty much by yourself. It’ll never happen. Besides, there are very few people who embrace this message anyway. So, if you discover anyone that’s really living this message or anyone that honestly, in sincerity, is really grabbing hold of it, you had better fellowship with them and then you better get a hold of other people that are fellowshipping with them. We might get up to 100 people.
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
And look at where the blood of Jesus Christ is alive:
1 John 1:7 – …and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
It is in the context of walking in the light in terms of fellowship, that the blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all the sins that we have in our life. A man can embrace the message of the cross, he can write about the message of the cross, he can be off all by himself, but he’ll never know the joy, he’ll never get a glimpse of the pasture land.
If somebody only listened to the tapes, if somebody only listened or read the books that have been written, if that’s all they saw, they’ll never know or understand about the joy involved. Because it’s only together as we fellowship that the joy is made real. That’s where the blood of Jesus Christ comes alive. A man can study the nature of blood and what it is, all the cells that are there, its function and its work, but if the blood is faulty, if it’s diseased, he’ll die. He has to participate. He has to be somewhere where it’s healthy. Just examining and studying all day long will not give you the joy that is hidden in Jesus Christ. Now most people are afraid of the light, or they listen to other people slander with all kinds of rumors and fears and Satan whispering in their ears, so they never come and fellowship with one another.
Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…
Again, God is pointing us back to fellowship. We not only fellowship with one another, but we see the saints of old. You can see that cloud of witnesses up there saying, keep pressing forward. There’s fellowship with God ahead. Keep walking that narrow road.
Hebrews 12:1 – …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
As I said earlier, this is a narrow gate designed specifically for you and there’s also a course, a narrow road, designed specifically for you. I couldn’t come up with enough rules and regulations to fit everybody’s life here, but I can send you to the Holy Spirit and I can send you to the word of God and I can send you to the living God that will say, “Here’s the race that is marked out for you, you have to run this race.” It doesn’t matter what Tim does or what Joshua does or what anybody else does. This is the race, this is the battle, this is what you have to do, this is where you have to carry your cross.
Hebrews 12:2 – Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…
We need to do the same thing that He did when it comes to the offensive message of the cross that people listen to. When your flesh wells up and people begin to say, “I just don’t like the tone or the manner in which he speaks,” remember;
Hebrews 12:2 – …who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
Jesus Christ literally comes to each one of us and He says, “Here are the nails for your life and here’s the cross for your life, are you willing to endure this pain? Are you willing to go through this for the joy that I’ll give you on the other side?” Most men, the vast majority, say they are not willing to endure the shame and the humiliation the cross brings and the weakness that it produces in a man’s life. They want everything now. They want to bypass the gate. They want to go to the pasture land, totally avoiding the narrow road. They do not want to allow Jesus Christ to crucify them, and so they naturally listen to other men who tell them, “Oh this is wrong and this is false and you shouldn’t go there.”
It says, “…who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” When Jesus Christ is hanging on the cross, what is He thinking about? He’s thinking about the resurrected life. He’s thinking about fellowship with the living God, He’s thinking about the things that He will win over. He’s thinking about the men that He will be able to fellowship with, He’s thinking of the glories of heaven as He endures the pain and so when God comes to you to crucify the pride in your life, what you should be thinking is not bemoaning all the pride that He’s showing in your life and how miserable you are and how bad things are and how bad this message is, but for the joy set before you, saying to yourself literally, that when He is through with this work, when He is through crucifying me, I will have humility and with humility comes peace and comes joy, for the joy set before me, I will endure the pain of this cross.
Hebrews 12:2 – …who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
If we want to go out to pasture land, if we want to sit down with Jesus Christ, if we want to sit down with the living God, then we have to see the joy that is set before us. We have to look past all the judgment, we have to look past all the harsh sermon messages or the way people come to other people in the body. We have to get beyond the little bit of tone that I preach with or talk to somebody with. We have to scorn the shame that the cross brings and all the rumors that are out there about this being a cult or brain-washing going on, or whatever it is that they want to sling in order to cause fear in your life, you have to get beyond the shame, the humiliation of the cross that says, “That’s weak and that’s miserable and that’ll never work and God doesn’t seem to be in that and that’s a harsh way to live and nobody can live like that.” You have to see the joy set before you, you have to see the resurrected life in order to endure that cross.
Any man who hangs on that cross who simply says to himself, “Well, I know it’s the truth,” will get down. Any man who says, “I will lay hold of this message because it’s written in the Bible and I know it to be true,” and it makes them feel spiritual and intellectual will eventually get down off that cross and I know a whole host of people have done that. They knew this was true. They could have preached and taught about it. But they didn’t endure by looking at the joy set before them, they didn’t long for their pride to be crucified or the things of the world to be taken from them. They didn’t long for their flesh to be put to death and so they refused to endure. They have to get past the preaching of the John the Baptists who turn to people and say, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee the coming wrath?” They had to find a church that will offend. They have to find a pastor that will offend their flesh. Not in terms of true meanness, but in terms of righteousness that speaks directly to the sinful heart of man.
You know, the truth is that if we preach a lot of rules here and regulations, people would listen or they would just pass us off as nothing. Thinking of the churches that you know that are truly mean and unloving, what do most people do? Ignore them and go on their way. They don’t fight against them, they don’t persecute them, they don’t pursue them, because they’re of no account. You look at them with contempt, you look at them with scorn, you look down upon them and say, “They don’t know anything about the love of God, I’m just going to pass on.”
Our God inspires hope and where He inspires love and truth, and strikes at the heart of self, men will react and they will persecute and they will pursue.
Hebrews 12:3 – Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men…
Again I’m talking to somebody that might be considering visiting or testing or maybe even joining. You’re going to have to consider Jesus Christ who endured opposition from sinful men. Every single step that Jesus Christ took was opposed by man. They did not give Him a moment’s rest. Every accusation was there. Every lie was there; whisperings and murmurings about Him; attributing His works to Satan, Beelzebub. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men…” You will get it from every single direction. You will even get it from yourself. Because you have a sinful nature that lives within you that does not want to die and it’s going to talk to you loud and hard.
Hebrews 12:3 – Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
You know, Satan’s tactic in this is very simple. Somebody’s thinking about coming, so out of the woodwork comes all kinds of people concerned about their salvation and their relationship with God and they hammer on them and hammer at them and wear them down and they never come and never check. They just keep listening to what these people say. Eventually they grow weary and tired and they go right back to where they were and they miss that moment when God was calling them. Somebody that’s thinking about coming here, moving here, joining, testing things out, asking questions, will have to push aside the opposition. They’re going to have to ignore it. They’ll have to see that there’s a joy beyond this message. They’re going to have to read the books and listen to the tapes and see what is hidden within each one of those things. There’s a joy beyond this, there’s something here. There’s life beyond this, but few find out.
Hebrews 12:4 – In your struggle against sin…
A lot of people are looking for churches to feel comfortable but not to struggle against sin. A lot of people come visiting through these doors. They don’t come through these doors saying, “I’m here to struggle against sin in my life.” They come here and say teach me. They come here to show us all kinds of things. They come here to share their blessings and revelations of Jesus Christ. But they don’t come through those doors saying, “I am here to struggle against sin in my life and I want to fellowship with other people that are struggling against sin in their life. When’s the last time somebody walked through that door and you asked them, “Well, why are you looking for a church?” “Oh I want to struggle against sin and I’m looking for other people that are doing the same thing, will you help me against my sin and here’s the list I’m wrestling with today.”
Hebrews 12:4 – In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
In other words, stop your whining. So everybody’s coming out of the woodwork saying, “Oh, it’s a cult, or it’s brainwashing, or this or that, or you’ll wind up doing this over here or we checked this out over here or this is bad over here, look nobody’s beat you up yet, telling you that you can’t come. And when they come in and they beat you up and you’ve resisted them to the point you shedding blood, then maybe you have something to talk about. But the truth is if you stand firm against them and they come in and they beat you up and you’re bleeding on the floor, you guess what will come out of your lips? Praising God that you discovered the truth if you can resist to that point.
Hebrews 12:5 – And you have forgotten that word of encouragement…
We could use that at this point. Sheepskins, goatskins, destitute, caves in the ground, resisting people, how about a word of encouragement? Well, let’s move in to this word of encouragement. Let’s find out how God’s going to refresh us and encourage us.
Hebrews 12:5 – And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.
This is the encouragement:
Hebrews 12:5 – My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline…
Oh in spite of all these other things about what it means to become a Christian and all these things that I have to endure, my encouragement is that God is now going to discipline me on top of all of these things.
Those who love and long for righteousness, those who can see the pasture land, those who can see the joy set before them, will not make light of the Lord’s discipline, because they know there’s life on the other side.
Hebrews 12:5 – My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you…
When He comes to you and He says, “You’re vile, you’re impure, you’re corrupt, this needs to change, you need to grow up, stop your whining, wipe your nose and move on,” we’re not to resent it. We’re not to pout, we’re not to run and hide. We’re to be a little more mature than that.
Hebrews 12:6 – …because the Lord disciplines those he loves…
You asked for the love of God to be in your life.
Hebrews 12:6 – …and he punishes…
Get that? We’re past the cutesy kind of discipline—discipline has a purpose behind it. Discipline involves God saying, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do. You need to change this. You need to get a better quiet time. This needs to change in your life. You need to get up early, and since you’re not able to do it, I’m going to give you indigestion so you can get up at 4:30 and get a quiet time.” You say, “Thank You Lord for that discipline.”
Punishment involves this. You’re laying in bed and God says, “You’re not getting out of bed like you need to.” Bang, out and you’ll feel some pain just for doing something wrong. When God comes to punish us it says, “You’re going to pay a price on this. You wouldn’t learn from My discipline. You were slow to understand, so now you’re going to stand in the corner.” A much different degree, so don’t make light of it. This is your word of encouragement that ought to refresh you. Praise God He’s going to punish me when I need it.
Hebrews 12:6 – …because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
So when somebody comes to join this church, we say, “Are you willing to be punished? Do you want God to really love you? Then He’s going to discipline you.”
Hebrews 12:7-9 – Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
And so what is the encouragement there. What is the pasture there? It is; if we will submit to the discipline, if we will submit to the punishment, if we will learn from it, then we will live. We will have a joy. All of us who are in the body have a joy in Jesus Christ. The reason that we’re able to tolerate one another and fellowship with one another is because we endured the discipline, we went through the punishment and we’re able to come out of our little selfish selves and actually love one another. There’s a brother in this body that told me early on when he first joined this body, “I just don’t like you.” And he told me that two or three times, but eventually he died enough to self I think, that he at least likes me at this point.
Hebrews 12:10 – Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
For the joy set before us. For walking in His holiness, for being in that pasture land, for being able to go to heaven and pick any course and run into the glory of God no matter what direction you go. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t know which direction to turn. I’d be running that direction and get sidetracked over this direction. I’d be a lot more nervous up there and always trying to figure out which direction to go. It’s hard to envision that much peace when you have all that holiness around you.
Hebrews 12:11 – No discipline seems pleasant at the time…
Again we could put a sign out on the church that says, “Come to a church that’s not pleasant to sit down at.” “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful…” You’re going to feel the effects of this, so naturally when someone is looking to join, you’re telling them they’re going to join a church where they will be disciplined. But later on it says, you see the pasture land, you see what’s before you.
Hebrews 12:11 – Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.
That if they will endure, if they will get past the offense of the cross, if they will get past every complaint and every whining that goes on and learn from it, if they will be trained by it as verse 11 says, then they will reap a harvest of peace and righteousness. We reap a lot more than we were sowed with, do you know that?
Usually we want to get up and get a good quiet time, that’s all we’re concerned with. We want to take care of that one thing. But when God takes care of that one thing, you have a whole field, something you can go harvest from and you gain far more than one little incident. He is so big in terms of being able to work righteousness. Because obviously once you can get that self-discipline down, once the Holy Spirit has done that, you can move in any other direction with a lot of other things.
Hebrews 12:12 – Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
He doesn’t give them an excuse, he doesn’t say, “I know, it’s hard and I know it’s difficult.” He doesn’t say, “I know this is a hard teaching and this is hard for people to accept, so just get past it. He doesn’t beg and He doesn’t plead.” He says, look, “Strengthen your feeble arms and your weak knees, pick up your suitcases, move here. Do whatever God’s calling you to do. Join, bring your Bibles, stop your whining, come visit, take notes, just do what you need to do.” Strengthen your weak knees and your feeble arms and you will find the joy if you’re willing to be trained, if you’re willing to submit, if you’re willing to honestly give up everything for God and just ignore all the rest of that stuff around you.
Let’s go to John 16:20 because it’s ever this way with the message of the cross. Jesus is talking to the disciples and He’s getting ready to go and be crucified. He is the gate. They’re realizing what they’re going to have to walk through.
John 16:20 – I tell you the truth…
You’re beginning to feel sorry for Jesus at this point, aren’t you?
John 16:20 – I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices…
They can’t envision that there’s any joy here, they’re weeping and wailing. Don’t go there and don’t move there. There are people who’ve been told, “Go to any other church, just don’t go there.
John 16:20 – You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
When you begin to move toward the message of the cross or God is moving toward you, everybody is going to weep and wail and mourn. There’s going to be people concerned for you that were never concerned ever before.
John 16:21 – A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
Jesus is trying to say, “Just look at natural things in the world.” Do you have to go through some suffering to get to the joy? I hate to even reduce it down to this level, but I’ll go ahead and do it for the sake of some people. If somebody wants to be on a football team and play in the Super Bowl, they must go through the training in order to participate to try and get the glory to play in the Super Bowl. Now that I’ve reduced the gospel down to its lowest possible level, removing the offense of the cross, I think they’ll get the point.
John 16:22 – So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
Three and a half years of being broken by Jesus, they’re now going to watch Him die on the cross, they’re going to pass through that gate. When they are all done passing through that gate, they will receive a joy that no man will ever be able to take away, no matter what those men bring against them.
Now the same thing is true with us. When a man passes through that gate, when he’s willing to go through this kind of discipline, he will receive a joy that no one will take away. No man will rob you of your peace when you become assured of the message of the cross, when enough flesh has died within you that’s alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, no man will be able to come and take it from you. When you pass beyond logic, reasoning, beyond doctrine, when your fellowship has grown solid and strong, no man will rob you of joy when you see the resurrected Jesus.
John 16:23-24 – In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
You will be in fellowship with the living God, but you have to pass through the gate and you have to walk along the narrow road. But your joy will be complete if you see beyond the pasture land of the Lord.
John 16:25 – Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.
Finally we get to a place where Jesus will talk clearly to us. Look at some people that you know in Jesus Christ who have known the message of the cross for some time and God speaks to them plainly, He speaks to them clearly. He doesn’t speak to them in riddles and questions or all kinds of things that frustrate a man. The reason is they have passed through that gate, they have walked the narrow road. Self was put to death. He doesn’t have to come to them to frustrate them. He can say, “This is what I need you to do and this is where I need you to go and this is what you need to speak.” And they will be obedient in that and they will be speaking whatever God has them to speak or going wherever He calls them to go. He doesn’t have to speak in riddles in order to break the self that lives within them.
John 16:26-27 – In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
Why does God love us? Because we’ve looked into Jesus Christ as being crucified, whom the world rejects, who was willing to hang on a cross and we’re saying, “I love Him. I reject all the admiration of the world. I give up. I accept every single word Jesus has to say, not just the word in the gospel that I like, but everything.” So it says God loves us because we love Him.
John 16:28-30 – “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
You know, it’s almost like they’re saying; “Now You’re speaking plainly, now we can believe.” They’re missing subtly the whole point here. They’ve grown and matured, they’ve persevered, they’ve identified with Jesus Christ. They never rejected anything that Jesus has to say. Oh they’ve struggled, they’ve wrestled, they’ve wondered what He’s talking about. They’ve been rebuked. All of those things have gone on. All the emotions that we go through, but they have never denied the truth, they’ve never said, “That’s not what He’s saying.” They’ve simply said, “I’m not in a place where I’ve got it.”
John 16:31 – “You believe at last!” Jesus answered.
The disciples weren’t fully believers. What a thing to ponder. Are you a disciple who doesn’t fully believe yet?
John 16:32-33 – But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
The world will rejoice while they grieve and they can’t envision, in their wildest dreams, a group of men, a group of disciples, so filled with peace and joy that no man can take it from them. People will look at you as you go through discipline as they see what God is doing in your life and the pressure He puts on you and how He seeks to crucify you and they’ll look at you and they’ll go, “You’re wasting your life, you’ll never get to a place of joy.” And they’ll have a peace and they’ll have a joy that is easy and quick, they’ll bypass the gate and they’ll get in the pasture some other way. And they’ll say, “We’re over here grazing, we’re over here eating to our heart’s content. Why are you standing in line over there to go through that gate?” And they’ll mock and they’ll ridicule. But if you will persevere, if you’ll see that there’s a joy that goes beyond the gate and beyond the narrow road, then you will have a peace and joy that no man will ever take from you or can take from you.
Acts 13:49 proves this to be true.
Acts 13:49 – The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.
And of course as could be expected any time the word is being spread forth.
Acts 13:50 – But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city…
Now I want you to look to the subtlety at the opposition of this message. Who did they incite? The pagan women of the community or the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. No matter how Godly some people think they are or how spiritual they think they might have become, women of high standing who think they’ve achieved a relationship with God, if they don’t have a full understanding of the message of the cross, they will be easily incited by other people who oppose the message of the cross. Sometimes even more so because the message of the cross come to crucify our self-righteousness, our knowledge and our understanding of scripture and how we put it all together. It says,
Acts 13:50 – They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
God-fearing women may escort you out of town because the message of the cross strikes at a man and it takes every ounce of pride that is in him. It takes all of our self-effort. It leaves nothing untouched. No matter how spiritual we think we are or how many answered prayers we think we have, the cross will always crucify that confidence. Be careful when you think you’re standing firm because you might be run out of your town from God-fearing men who preach the message of the cross.
Acts 13:51 – So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.
Kind of judgmental, these guys.
Acts 13:52 – And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
You will receive a joy that no man can take from you. You will shake dust off your feet and the joy and the peace and the grace of God will come, once you go through that narrow gate. You must get past the offense of the cross. Once you have a little bit of perseverance all the joy, peace and grace will come to you.
I want to tie a couple of things together here as we finish up. Because it all goes back and connects with who you fellowship with. That’s why this sermon is really pointing to people that might be thinking about fellowshipping with Sound Doctrine. You know they don’t have to join Sound Doctrine. I’m just talking about fellowshipping.
1 Peter 1:8 – Though you have not seen him, you love him…
We love Him who is crucified, whom the world rejects, we’re not embarrassed by His words. If He says hate, He means hate. If He says narrow road, He means narrow road and narrow gate. We’re not ashamed of who He is. We love Him. We love those words, we savor them. They’re our favorites.
John 12:25, is a good one. A man has to hate his own life.
1 Peter 1:8 – Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled…
When a man finally accepts everything that Jesus Christ has to say, He will be filled with joy. Who are the most uptight people that you know in Jesus Christ? Those people that cannot accept what the word of God has to say. They are always on the defensive, they are always running for some other scripture. The one thing that is missing from their life is peace. I think especially of the doctrine of once saved always saved. They are so busy defending that doctrine and running for cover with that doctrine, that they never find a place of rest in the salvation of God. Because they always have to convince themselves of something that is not in scripture over and over again because you’ve got these other scriptures over here telling you that it’s not true and it’s a wrong foundation.
Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled. You’ve passed beyond the offense. You love Him for who He is and all of His offenses. How He judges and how He comes. Look what it says,
1 Peter 1:8 – …with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
It’s not a joy like the world has where I walk around with a smile on my face. It’s inexpressible, words cannot express it. I may be weeping and I may be mourning. I may be hurting over the sin in my life and over the flesh that is there but deep down inside I have an inexpressible joy and I know that God is working good. That He’s revealing the sin to me, that there is hope in this, that He’s disciplining me, that He loves me. If He stands me in the corner, if He backs away, if He won’t fellowship with me, if He won’t talk with me, He’s working some good there and I have a joy in the middle of all that, but I don’t necessarily have feelings of joy.
I am filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. It’s beyond what the world can bring. Verse 9 tells me why I have this and why all men should have it.
1 Peter 1:9 – …for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I’m still receiving my salvation. Other people already got theirs on December 10, 1952. But I’m still receiving mine, still participating in it and so I’m still being filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. Again it all comes back to fellowshipping with those in the light. That’s why God so desperately seeks to draw those who can see the message of the cross as being true. God tries to pull them into fellowship and the evil one desperately seeks to stop that from happening. Look at 1 Peter 1:21.
1 Peter 1:21 – Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
What’s the result of that? Verse 22.
1 Peter 1:22 – Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
People cannot envision that we have love here. That’s the last thing they really think happens here. They really honestly believe that I like to have and be on a power trip, inventing rules—that’s what I would spend my time doing, dictating how things should be done, feeding some sinister motive. On our last trip to England, somebody came over and accused me of brainwashing. Now I don’t mean they came in calmly accusing me of brainwashing, you understand. They were shaking, and almost crying, saying, “You know, you brainwash people.” And “You do all of these things.” I said, “Well, how do I do that?” Eventually I just kept saying, “Tell me how I do that. What would I change that would be different? If I’m brainwashing people, show me how I brainwash people and how I should change that so that I don’t brainwash people.” Finally, in exasperation when she couldn’t think of anything, she said, “I don’t know how you do it, you’re just very good at it and I have to give you credit for that.” But she never could come up with anything. It comes down to fellowship and that’s what Satan will seek to divide above everything else.
In fact, one of the things we rejoice in, that we find to be a deep pleasure in this body, is having all things in common. What do evil men and what does Satan think we mean by that? They think it means that the church owns everything. And you can’t convince them otherwise. In fact, one of the rumors being touted is that the police sought to investigate how people join Sound Doctrine, how that would all materialize. Of course the police didn’t come in and say, “Okay, I’m a policeman, I want to figure this out.” They just called up or wrote a letter saying, “How would I join Sound Doctrine?” And what I mailed them a cassette tape and a legal certificate of affidavit saying that you turn all your property over to the church! Right!
First of all, if I’m a cult leader I’m a very poor one because on first contact you don’t say, “Here’s a legal document, sign over everything you have to me.” It doesn’t work that way. But people will listen to that and think that is true because of Acts 2:44—because we have sincere love for one another.
Acts 2:44 – All the believers were together and had everything in common.
The church doesn’t own everything. I don’t want to own anything that you have. I don’t even own a home. I don’t want to own a home. Scripture says I shouldn’t own a home and I shouldn’t own any property. I don’t hear anybody complaining about that. You know the Old Testament says pastors shouldn’t own land. It says the Lord is their inheritance. They’re not to be attached to this world in any fashion or form. But in this church we have all things together and we have all things in common.
Acts 2:45 – Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
How sinister can that be? Satan jumps up and down and screams and yells and he finds plenty of people to repeat it.
Acts 2:46 – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
You know, I was preparing for this and the word “sincere” just kind of jumped out at me. How people whine and bemoan the church. You can’t meet anybody that’s just sincere in what they’re saying. That is what they say is what they are. You know when somebody says, “Oh this is full of evil motives and leadership is bad.” I mean, the evidence is out there that would be true. It would be hard to believe otherwise. You’re going to have to come and see. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can there really be any place where you’re really living the message, where it can really happen? Where the Holy Spirit is really working purity or really it is safe to feel from the word of God?
Acts 2:46 – They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
How many people don’t know this is true and have never experienced this joy because somebody’s whining or spreading a rumor or they’re listening to their own flesh or they’re unwilling to give up everything they have so that we can have all things in common. Each individual needs to know they need to keep their own things that belong to them. God has given to them as a stewardship for them to prove themselves, for their opportunity to give. Besides that would take all the fun out of it. If it was really true that I gathered up everything that everybody owned, I would take the fun out of it for you to share everything with everybody. I’d get all the fun.
Let’s finish up with Ezekiel 34:12. For the joy set before us, let’s endure the opposition of evil men. Let’s get beyond all the petty concerns and problems we have and let’s lay hold of the life that is life.
Ezekiel 34:12-14 – As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
We have this promise, that if we will endure the cross, we will find pasture land where God will shepherd us and He will lead us everywhere where His glory is and wherever He wills and we can feast on the pasture lands of God.
Ezekiel 34:15 – I myself will tend my sheep…
You will fellowship with the living God.
Ezekiel 34:15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD.
“They will rest in My presence and I will protect them.”
Ezekiel 34:16 – I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
This is who this sermon is devoted to, for the strays that God is searching for, those who are lost and are looking for something. Especially for those that have given up hope of ever finding anything that might be worth attending or going to church for. How many people do I know that we’ve talked to, all of us have and discussed with people that they’re so beaten down and so discouraged, they don’t think there’s anything out there. Completely suspicious. Completely burned out. Used over and over again. Unable to have any hope. You need to pray that God will go up to their coffin and touch it and will speak once again to them and that which they thought was dead will be alive again.
Ezekiel 34:16 – I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…
We need to pray that God will speak to only those whom He is calling and those He searches for. Those that have been injured by the church, those that are wounded and weakened by the church who wouldn’t think there’s even a place where they could go and grow and fellowship, we need to pray that God will keep righteousness and holiness in this body, that there’ll be a place where people can come and pursue righteousness if they choose to do so.
Ezekiel 34:16 – I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
But look at who God will judge:
Ezekiel 34:16- …but the sleek and the strong I will destroy…
If any man seeks to join this church and to pass through those doors and he thinks he’s strong, he’ll be destroyed. If anyone comes through this door and he thinks he’s sleek and that he’s fit in the Lord and that he’s strong and that he’s prepared for the message of the cross, if he comes in here thinking he’s been living the message of the cross for thirty years and he’s got some deep things to share, he will be knocked down, because that’s not the nature of the message of the cross.
Ezekiel 34:16 – But the sleek and the strong I will destroy…
Those who think they have it together.
Ezekiel 34:16 – I will shepherd the flock with justice.
Everyone admits that the church is in a miserable state. Very few people want to do anything about it. Let us pray that God will go and reach out to those that are injured and those that are lost and those that are struggling and get past the fears and the concerns. They can begin to prepare themselves to count the cost, where they’re willing to give up all of self. No one need take lightly the message of the cross while I’m speaking here. Even though I’m talking about the joy and the love and the fellowship that we have here, it’s not to take away from the offense of the cross that will crucify a man. Let no one take that as a fool would. The reason we have a joy here, the reason we have a measure of peace is because each of us have passed through that suffering and will do so again from time to time.
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father we praise You that You have surprised each of us with joy. That when we were first especially being crucified, we could see no light at the end of the tunnel. So many fears and concerns went through our minds. We pray Father, that we’ve permitted You to crucify us enough that we are solid in You, that no man can move us, that even when our flesh cries out to get away from the cross that crucifies us, that we will see the resurrected life before us, that we will endure because we know Father and have faced it and know the fact, that there is a joy on the other side. There is a joy in pasture land where we can go out and we can walk among it and we can graze. We praise You Father for Your mercy and for Your joy that You’ve worked. Continue Father to glorify Your name. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.