“Increasing our devotion as we remember their last full measure of devotion!”

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May 302021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “Increasing our devotion as we remember their last full measure of devotion!”

     Most historians agree that the 272 word speech given by President Abraham Lincoln, on November 19, 1863, to dedicate the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is one of the greatest speeches of all time. Lincoln said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but they can never forge what they did here.  It is for us to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from  the earth”.  He called the nation never to forget the price that these brave soldiers paid to keep freedom alive.  But that was not the end of the story.  His speech challenged them to increase their devotion to the cause that they gave their last full measure of devotion!  What a worthy challenge.  As we go through the Book of Acts we too will be challenged to never forget the price some early Christians paid to further the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The first martyr was Stephen.  His sacrifice was soon followed by the sacrifice of James, the brother of our Lord.  As the Book of Acts ends we are anticipating the two primary Apostles, Peter and Paul, also “giving their full measure of devotion”.  Both of them do make that sacrifice under the ghastly reign of the maniacal Nero!  Their dedication reminds us of what missionary Jim Elliott said, not long before giving his life in the cause of our dear Lord.  He said, quoting Peter Marshall, “It is not the duration of our life that matters, but the donation!” 

      The giving of the full measure of devotion of Stephen, James, Peter and Paul, encouraged the early Church to follow in their train.  Many were so emboldened that they too would stand for the Lord, come what may, whatever the price, to extend the Gospel of their Blessed Lord.  In the Church of Antioch, where believers where first called Christians, in the year 70 A.D. They had a marvelous pastor by the name of Ignatius,  He was a dynamic, Spirit-filled and godly powerful preacher.  His preaching was turning the entire population of the city to Christ.  So Trajan, the Emperor of Rome, came to visit Antioch to see what was happening there concerning emperor worship-idolatry and heathenism.  He listened to that preacher Ignatius preach.  He saw the throngs turning to the Lord, and forsaking Roman gods and paganism.  He commanded that Ignatius be brought before him.  He sentenced him to be brought to Rome and to be exposed to the wild animals in the Coliseum.  The Coliseum was built about 5 years after the death of the Apostle Paul.  That means it was likely built in 72 A.D. Now the historians tell us that the first Christian to be martyred in the Coliseum was Ignatius, the pastor of the Church of Antioch. In the long journey to Rome he wrote beautiful and inspired letters. They are the treasures of Christendom to this day.  Finally coming to Rome, he was placed , sent out, stood on the sand in the center of that great arena, with tiers with thousands of spectators watching all around.  The cages were opened, and the lions were let loose.  When the leading lion ran omnivorously, carnivorously, viciously, fiercely toward God’s preacher, Ignatius held out his hand, and arm, to the leading lion, and above the crunching sound of bone and tendon, he was heard to declare, “Now I begin to be a Christian!”  That is how we honor those who gave their full measure of devotion.  That is how we increase our devotion.  That is how we honor them, and never forget them!  Willing to join them in bold courage to be faithful unto our Lord at all cost!  Another Christian martyr of the 20th century reminded us that such a commitment is not in vain.  Jim Eliot, who lost his life taking his Lord’s gospel to the Auca Indians of Ecuador, said, “He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, (his life), to gain what he cannot lose, (eternal reward)”.  To honor them we must never forget!  In the words of Rudyard Kipling- ” Lord God of Hosts be with us yet-  Lest we forget, Lest we forget!” (The Recessional).

“FOLLOWING THE LORD IN BAPTISM-KISSING THE SON”

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May 232021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “FOLLOWING THE LORD IN BAPTISM-KISSING THE SON”.

     One of the most controversial rock groups since the 1990’s is the rock group Korn.  The Chicago Tribune described the group as “perverts, psychopaths, and paranoiacs”.  Their heavy metal music and explicit lyrics had earned them quite a reputation-a bad one!  But they made news March 3, 2005 when a close friend gave Korn’s lead guitarist Brian “Head” Welch a Bible.  He was addicted to Xanax, and crystal meth, as well as alcohol.  He was miserable.  After reading portions of the Bible he announced that he had accepted The Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  He told MTV and an audience of 10,000 attendees at Valley Bible Fellowship of Bakersfield, California that this is “not about religion, it is not about this Church, it is not about me.  It is about Jesus Christ and the Book Of Life.  Everyone needs to be taught this.  God went to a rock concert and found a hurting soul on stage.  I am the happiest man in the world”.  Exactly one week later, Welch left skeptics without any doubt, when he and 20 others flew to Israel to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism in the Jordan River.  On March 10, 2005 he and 20 white-robed pilgrims were baptized by the Pastor Ron Vetti, of the Valley Bible Fellowship in the Jordan River, confessing Jesus publically as Savior to the entire world.  Welch said, “I am going home a totally different and new man”.  He followed up his baptism with a new album and a new autobiography both entitled Save Me from Myself.  Welch’s actions raise a lot of questions.  Why go to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan River?  Why be baptized at all?  What does it mean to follow the Lord in baptism?  Most people both in and outside the Church today see baptism as much an enigma as John the Baptist did of Jesus’ baptism over 2,000 years ago.  As we preach this series on “following Jesus” we need to follow him to the Jordan River.  We need to ask and answer why He was baptized by John the Baptist.  What did that act that he initiated His public ministry with mean?  For Him?  For us?  What does it mean for us to “follow the Lord in baptism?”

     According to two N.T. passages Jesus’ baptism was to be an inauguration of the public ministry He was embarking on.  According to Matthew 3:13-17, while John the Baptist was baptizing a steady stream of Jewish converts who were showing repentance and readiness for the coming Messiah, Jesus Himself showed up and requested that John baptize Him.  John kept on refusing to do so, declaring his own unworthiness, and need to be baptized by Jesus the Messiah.  Jesus convinced him to allow it at this time “to fulfill all righteousness”.  John agreed.  As he immersed Jesus in the Jordan River, he heard a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”, and he saw “the Spirit of God descending upon Him in the form of a dove” anointing Him for His mission and ministry as Messiah.  Then as you turn to John 1:31-34 we hear John the Baptist saying, “I knew Him not; but so that He might be made manifest to all Israel I came baptizing with water…and I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, in the form of a dove, and abode on Him.  I knew Him not…but He who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘upon whom you see the Spirit descending and  remaining on Him, is the same that will baptize with the Holy Spirit’.  I saw and bore witness this one is the Son of God”.  Those two narratives describe an event that was a fulfillment of two prophecies about the Messiah.  One is Psalm 2.  In that Psalm we read about the Son of God who will come to rule and judge the rebellious and mutinous nations.  God says, “This is my beloved Son, this day I have begotten thee…and I will give you the nations for your inheritance”. (Psalm 2:1).  But Jesus’ baptism was fully explained in Isaiah 42:1 “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, in whom my soul delighteth, (equivalent in Hebrew to the Greek ‘in whom I am well pleased’.), and will give thee to the covenant people, and for a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to set free prisoners from prison and the darkness of the prison house.”  As Jesus began His ministry He submitted Himself to a ceremony that symbolized and pictured what His mission would be as the Suffering Servant Messiah.  He would not just be the King, Son of the Most High, come to rule the nations.  He would be Suffering Servant come to give His life as predicted of Him in Isaiah 53.  All of that was pictured in His baptism.  The Spirit would come on Him and empower Him to live a righteous life, and sacrifice Himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.   Those who would trust Him to be the one to take away their sins, by His sacrifice, would publically declare it by following His example, and submit to water baptism, as He did.  By that they would foreshadow what His sacrifice would do for them.  His Spirit baptism would put them in union with Him, and His Spirit would enable them to die to sin, self, and the world, and be raised spiritually to walk in newness of life.  His baptism prophesied His mission.  Their baptism prophesied their deliverance from sin.  Psalm 2 ends by giving all the command to “kiss the Son and give evidence to their faith and trust in Him” to be the Savior and King He came to be.  Baptism is the public demonstration where we can “kiss the Son” and declare our faith in Him.  Through our union with Him we have died to sin and self and risen to walk in Him. 

     Having John baptize Him was Jesus’ “Crossing the Rubicon”.  On January 10, 49 B.C. Julius Caesar, with all of his troops, was sitting on the banks of the Rubicon River that separated Italy from Gaul.  For him to cross into Italy with his troops was to break the law of Imperium, which forbid any unauthorized generals and troops from entering the country as a military unit.  To do so was to be penalized by death for the general and the troops.  That night Caesar and his troops slept on the banks of the Rubicon.  The next morning, stating he had been given a word from god, he uttered these words “alea iacta est” -“the die is cast” and he and his troops “crossed the Rubicon“.  That phrase has become an idiom for going to the “point of no return”.  It has come to mean “make a choice and face whatever consequences it brings”-no turning back.  That is what Jesus did in submitting to John’s baptism.  He was committing Himself to all it would be to “fulfill at righteousness” as the Suffering Servant Messiah and as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.  All of that mission and ministry would be pictured in His baptism.  Entering the water, lying down in the water, being buried totally in the water, and rising up out of the water.  There is the vivid panorama of what it would take to “fulfill all righteousness” in obedience to the will of His Father.  He would be empowered by the Spirit to live under the law, to redeem those who had broken the law.  He would, as Hebrews says, “offer Himself as a sacrifice through the power of the Eternal Spirit, to be the perfect one-time sacrifice, to redeem all those who put their trust in Him. (Heb.9:14). 

     Jesus then gave His Church the commission to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He commanded. (Matt. 28:19-20).  That gave all who would hear the good news of the Gospel, illustrated by Jesus Death, Burial, and Resurrection, pictured in His baptism, the opportunity to follow Him in baptism, and thereby trust His redemptive work, which would unite them with Him, in His Death and Resurrection, and Spirit’s filling and anointing, enabling them to die to the old life, and be raised to walk in newness of life.  (See Rom. 6:14).  Our baptism, picturing the baptism of the Spirit, is our “Crossing the Rubicon”.  It is us choosing to “cast the die”.   It is the linking of our faith and trust with His redemptive work, resulting in a transforming salvation.  C.S. Lewis talked about the miracle of this work of Christ in our lives.  He wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder and easier.  Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t so much want your time and so much your money and so much your work: I want you!  I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good.  I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit.  I will give you a new self instead.  In fact, I will give you Myself: My own shall become yours’ “That is what happens when we follow the Lord in baptism, and begin living out the actuality of the Sprit’s baptism.  That is what God wanted when He commanded in Psalm 2-“kiss the Son, lest He be angry with you!”  Paint a picture of Him, by your submission to Him, and display His beauty for all the world to see. 

     Charles Spurgeon tells the story about an artist who was a contemporary with him, though he had never met him.  His name was Gustave Dore.  One day when Gustave Dore was working on a painting of Christ, a lady friend came to visit his studio and began gazing intently at the face, almost completed.  As she was gazing, the artist retired from the picture to a corner of the room, and looked at the face of his friend, as she looked intently on the face on the canvas.  Turning around she asked, “Why do you look at me so anxiously?”  “I wanted to watch your face as you looked at His face-I think you like it”, He insisted.  “Yes, I do”, she told him.  “Do you want to know what I was thinking? -I was thinking that you could never paint the face of Christ like you have unless you loved Him!”  “Do I love Him?’ Dore asked in agitation.  “I trust I do-and that sincerely; but as I love Him more, I shall paint Him better!”  Baptism, and the new life that follows, is the opportunity to show our love for Him by painting His portrait on the canvass of our lives for the world to see how our faith, in His redemptive work, is the only hope we have of fulfilling all righteousness, and restoring the glory God intended for us in the beginning.  “Kiss the Son”

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE

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May 162021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:

     A few years ago, there was a toy manufacturer that was considering making a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that did not fit together, no matter how much you poured over the puzzle, experimented with this combination, or that one, you would NEVER be able to fit all the pieces into the beautiful picture that one usually gets when you expend that much energy assembling the puzzle.  I heard it exists, but I have never seen one, except in “everyday real-world life”. They said they were designing such a puzzle as a learning aid to teach children, and adults alike, that “sometimes the pieces of life do not fit nicely together”.  To be told they always do is misinformation. Someone on Facebook recently wrote about something even more frustrating.  This person said, “I Hate It When Puzzle Pieces Fit Together But the Pictures Don’t Match Up… – probably one of the most frustrating things in the world!”

     When we experience that truth then life does become an experience in “futility”.  In a published Easter message titled-“Never Die Again” Earnest Campbell tells of a grave stone in an old cemetery in Girard, Pennsylvania that has this inscription on it:

          “In memory of Ellen Shannon

            aged 26 years

            who was fatally burned

            March 21, 1870

            by the explosion of a lamp

            filled with R.E.Danforth’s

            non-exploding burning fluid”

     Campbell goes on to say, “I am tired of non-explosive fluids exploding! of fail-proof banks failing! of sure-fire programs that fall flat! of preventatives that don’t prevent! of solutions that don’t solve! of remedies that don’t cure! of panaceas that don’t pan-out!” (The Miracle of Easter, Floyd Thatcher. pg.41. 1980).  I think all of us would admit that trying to figure out these “mysteries” of life “under the sun” can leave us quite exhausted and frustrated!  That is not a modern dilemma.  There was an ancient mystery riddle that spoke to this issue.  It is called the Riddle of the SphinxIt went like this:

          A thing there is whose voice is one,

          Whose feet are two and four and three.

          So mutable a thing is none

          That moves in earth or sky or sea.

          When on most feet this thing doth go

          Its strength is weakest and its pace most slow.

     No one seemed to be able to solve the riddle.  Oedipus, the ancient mythological king of Thebes, achieved his fame by solving the Riddle of the Sphinx.  That answer freed his city from bondage to this powerful goddess from the underworld.  The answer was Man: for man goes on all fours when a baby, on two feet as an adult, on three feet, (with a cane), when old.  (Michael Grant, Myths of the Greeks and Romans p,196). Yes, the life of man from ancient days has remained a riddle.  A dilemma.  A futility.  No one seems to have the answer.  It has caused many to ask who am I?  How did I get here in this condition?  Where am I going?  An Ancient Chinese story relates that this dilemma is worldwide.  Chang Chou wrote:

          “How can I tell you why I am so, or am not so? 

           Once, I Chang Chou, dreamed that I was a butterfly.

           I was happy as a butterfly, I was pleased with myself,

           But I did not know that I was Chou.

           Suddenly I awoke, and there I was, visibly Chou.

           I did not know if I was Chou dreaming I was a butterfly,

           Or a butterfly dreaming it was Chou!”

           (Sourcebook of Chinese Philosophy. Princeton Press. 1963 p.190).

     That is where modern man is today.  We have been there so long we don’t even seem to greatly bothered by it now.  We just go on blindly in futility, accepting this “life of futility as our lot in life”.  G.K. Chesterton defined the problem, when he said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution.  It is that they can’t SEE THE PROBLEM!”  Reality is as Os Guinness says, “There is always more to knowing than human knowing will ever know!” 

(In Two Minds, Os Guinness. 1976 p. 41).  Solomon, God’s real-life Oedipus, sought to solve the riddle of man.  All his investigation led to more questions than answers.  He finally decided that God alone is the keeper of that Key, and He has not given it to anyone!  He was inspired of the Holy Spirit to record his discoveries in the Book of Ecclesiastes.  Many misunderstand the message of Ecclesiastes.  They see his discussion of pessimism, despair, self-destruction, resignation and decide he is writing about the fact that that is how life is lived apart from God.  But that is not the case.  Solomon is writing about his Spirit-inspired reflections on life.  Life is not futile only to those who live “life under the sun” apart from God-it is futile for everyone “under the sun”.  Though frustrated by his inability to understand how all that he encounters in human existence fits together, Qohelet makes a faith response to the inexplicableness of life, “choosing to enjoy life as a good gift from the Creator, and obeying His commandments, in light of the fact that one day we must give a personal accounting to Him“. 

     God had given Solomon opportunity to “bear witness” to Him by giving him greater wisdom that any other human being to date.  His fame was world renown.  He dazzled everyone, including the Queen of Sheba, with his wisdom, (see I Kings 10:1).  God had told Solomon’s father David; the nations will come to you saying “Show me something Good” (Ps. 4:6).  Moses had said God tells you, “Keep my commandments and do them; for that will be your wisdom IN THE EYES OF THE PEOPLE, (Gentile nations).  They will say, ‘what a wise and discerning people is this great nation!  Where is there a nation that has a god so near?   or laws and ordinances so just?’ “ (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).  Solomon in his life had failed to ” seize the opportunity”.  He instead was influenced by their gods, and the evil they embraced.  Ecclesiastes is God giving him a second chance to reach the nations of the world, who are also perplexed with “life under the sun” and “move them on to know and obey” the only True and Living God, who alone can give an “above the sun perspective” to those “living under the sun”. 

     There is a very convicting Inscription on the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.  It reads:

          Thou Shalt not be a Victim.

          Thou Shalt not be a Perpetrator

          Thou Shalt not be a Bystander

     Man is a Victim.  Satan is the Perpetrator.  Jean Paul Satre says, we now live in “a world that has no doors!” i.e., there is no way out of this human dilemma, except in his view, “suicide”.  Today’s world has bought into that lie!  As Solomon played the role of a Bystander for years.  He fell to being a Victim.  He recovered and wrote a Book pointing his world to the “only Answer under the Sun“.  We too can join him, for we have the “Wisdom” of one greater that Solomon, (see Matthew 12:43) who has promised us “life more abundantly if lived under the Son!” (John 10:10).  As a Christian witness, “show them the answer!” If you must-use words! (Francis of Assisi- “Preach the Gospel-if you must use words”).

GENUINE ACCEPTS US-JUST LIKE THAT!

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May 092021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  GENUINE ACCEPTS US-JUST LIKE THAT!

     David Redding, in his little book Jesus Makes Me Laugh, paints a picture of the Faithful Love of God in vivid imagery.  Read the words slowly.  Picture the scene he portrays so vividly.

     “I had a beautiful ram.  The poor man next door had a beautiful dog and a small flock of sheep he wanted to improve with my ram.  He asked me if he could borrow my ram; in return he would let me have the choice of the litter from his prize dog.  That is how I got Teddy, a big, black Scottish shepherd.  Teddy was my dog, and he would do anything for me.  He waited for me to come home from school.  He slept beside me, and when I whistled, he ran to me even if he was eating.  At night no one would get within a half a mile of our house without Teddy’s permission.  During those long summers in the fields, I would only see the family at night, but Teddy was with me all the time.   But there came the time I joined the military and had to go off to war.  I didn’t know how to leave him.  How do you explain to someone who loves you so much that you are leaving him and you won’t be chasing woodchucks with him tomorrow like always?

     So, I left without saying goodbye.  I was gone for an extended time.  Life went on for Teddy-without me!  But coming home from the Navy (after World War II), was something I can scarcely describe.  The last bus stop was fourteen miles from the farm.  I got off there that night about 11:00 P.M. and walked the rest of the way home.  It was two or three in the morning when I was a half of mile from our house.  It was pitch dark, but I knew every step of the way by memory.  Suddenly Teddy heard my approach!  He began his warning barking.  What comes next is most amazing…I whistled…only once!  After all this time…the barking stopped!  There was a yelp of recognition, and I knew that a big black form was hurtling toward me in the darkness.  Almost immediately he was there in my arms. 

     What comes home to me now is the eloquence with which that unforgettable memory speaks to me even today.  It speaks to me of my God.  If my dog, without any explanation, would love me and take me back after all that time, how do you explain that?  Love does that!  God is the perfect model of that kind of love.  The source of it actually.  If you have been away, let him welcome you home-no questions asked.  He does that!”

What a great story.  We need to remind each other that is the nature of our God.  He loves us even when we choose to neglect Him for a while.  But when we are ready to return to Him-His arms are open wide.  That was the truth the Prodigal Son learned the day he came home.  He never expected a celebration in a million years-but that is precisely what he got.  So do we all when the Father welcomes us home.  Shout out that kind of love to a world that is desperate to experience it.  That is the gospel good news!  Amen?  Amen!

“The Road To…Going…Going…Gone!”

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May 022021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE“The Road To…Going…Going…Gone!”

     A wife came home from Church.  The husband, in his easy chair reading the paper, asked what the preacher preached about today.  She begins setting lunch on the table, and replies “Sin”.  The husband inquired further, “what did he say about it?”  His wife replied quite matter-of-factly-“he’s agin’ it!”  Quite a brief answer for such a voluminous subject!  Today it would be a rare discussion of what did the preacher have to say about sin.  The subject rarely receives a mention in a sermon, let alone a full-blown discussion.  Back in the seventies Karl Meninger noticed the disappearance of sin from our society and wrote his famous book-Whatever Became of Sin?  I think that all of us would agree from our own personal experience that sin is alive and well and an ever present reality, both in our world and even, to some degree in our own lives!  Matthew 24:7 warns us that in the last days “iniquity shall abound to overflowing…causing the love of many to grow cold”. Though he died in 2003, the greatest theologian that America has ever produced, Carl F.H. Henry, warned us off this very onslaught, way back in 1988.  He said, “We may now live in the half-generation, before all hell breaks loose, and if its fury is contained, we will be remembered, if we are remembered at all, as though who used our hands and hearts, and minds and bodies to plug the dikes against the impending doom!”  I think that since that time we have witnessed the dikes’ dissolution and the flooding of our world with unbridled sin and lawlessness.  We have grown so accustomed to the change that we can’t even remember when things were distinctly Christian and different!  Though we live in the midst of a world that Isaiah warned would call “evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness, and exchange bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20), we cannot avoid the devastating consequences of sin. 

     William Barclay, in his commentary on Romans, wrote, “Sin begets sin.  The first time we do a wrong thing, we may do it with hesitation, and a tremor and a shudder.  The second time we do it is easier.  If we go on doing it, it becomes effortless; sin loses its terror.  To start on the path of sin is to go one to more and more” (Romans p.92).  John Henry Jowett wrote words many years ago that still sting with relevance today:  “Sin is a blasting presence, and every fine power shrinks and withers in its destructive heat.  Every spiritual delicacy succumbs to its malignant touch…Sin impairs sight, and works toward blindness.  Sin numbs the hearing and tends to make men deaf.  Sin perverts the taste, causing men to confound the sweet with the bitter, and the bitter with the sweet.  Sin hardens the touch, and eventually renders a man past feeling.  All of these are Scriptural analogies, and their common significance appears to be this-sin blocks and chokes the fine senses of the spirit: by sin we are desensitized, rendered imperceptive, and the range of our correspondence is diminished.  Sin creates callosity.  It hoofs the spirit, and so reduces the area of our exposure to its pain” Jay Adams, Christian Counselor, agrees.  In his book Competent to Counsel, he writes: “One lie has to be covered by a dozen more…The downward cycle of sin moves from a problem to a faulty sinful response, thereby causing an additional complicating problem which is met by…additional sinful responses…making sinful habits hard to break, but if not broken, they will bind you in an ever more tightly binding hold.  You will be held by these ropes…in a downward cycle…and at length you will become sin’s slave”.  He sounds a lot like Jesus in John 8, who said, “He who keeps on committing sin will become a slave to sin”.  To illustrate this truth, let me quote a story told by Charles Swindoll, in his book The Finishing Touch“A bazaar was held in a village in northern India.  Everyone brought his wares to sell or trade.  One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail.  He had tied a string around each leg of each bird.  The other end of each string was tied to a large ring which loosely fit over a central stick.  He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle around and around, like mules in a sugarcane mill.  Nobody seemed interested in buying the quail.  A devout Brahma came along.  He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life.  His heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in a monotonous circle, when they were created to fly.  I want to buy them all, he said.  The merchant was elated.  After giving him the money, the Brahma told him-now set them free.  The farmer said-what?  Set them all free at once!  The farmer snipped the strings off the legs of each bird.  The birds still continued to walk in a circle.  Even after they were shooed away, they landed a few feet away and resumed their predictable march!  Free…unfettered…released…they kept going in circles as if they were still tied to each other!”  So are the destructive and paralyzing consequences of sin on every one of us.  That is why the Scripture records over nine Hebrew words for sin in the Old Testament and over 13 Greek words for sin in the New Testament.  God, in his Word, paints an accurate picture of what sin is, and clearly shows us what sin will do if we do not avail ourselves to the one they call the Savior.  He is the only one who can “set us free” from sin.  He is the only true and faithful deliverer.  He is the only true answer to the sin question!  If we fail to trust Him, and the power of His cross, to transform us and set us free indeed the results will be eternally devastating!

     Let me illustrate the reality of this with a true story.  Though this story happened many years ago, it is repeated daily in our modern era as well.  “A man was admitted to the Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  He was a charity case-one among hundreds.  A drunken bum from the Bowery, with his throat slashed.  The Bowery…the last stop before the Morgue.  Synonym of filth, loneliness, cheap booze, drugs, and disease!  The derelict’s name was misspelled on the hospital’s form, but then what good is a name when the guy’s a bum!  The age was also incorrect.  It was listed at 39-thought he looked twice that age.  Someone might have said how sad for someone so young to be in such a condition.  No one did because no one cared!  The details of what happened in the predawn of that chilly winter morning in New York were fuzzy.  The nurses shrugged it off. They had seen thousands like him, and would likely see thousands more.  His health was gone.  He was starving.  He had been found in a heap, bleeding from a deep gash in his throat.  His forehead badly bruised and he was semi-conscious.  A doctor used black sewing thread to suture his wound.  He was taken back outside and dumped near the Bowery again.  There he languished and died.  Nobody really cared.  He was just another bum!  A friend came seeking for him at a later time.  He was directed to the morgue.  There among dozens of other nameless corpses, this man was identified.  They scraped together his belongings.  A ragged dirty coat.  38 cents from his pocket.  A scrap of paper from his other pocket.  All his earthly goods!  Enough money perhaps for one more night in the Bowery, at that time, and a paper with five words-‘Dear friends and gentle hearts’.  Almost like the words to a song, someone may have thought-and they would have been right!  Once upon a time this man, this victim from the Bowery, had written songs that literally made the whole world sing!  Songs like-Camptown Races; Oh Susanna; Beautiful Dreamer; Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair; Old Folks at Home; My Old Kentucky Home; and over two hundred more that have become deeply rooted in our rich American Heritage.  The victim of his own sin was Stephen Collins Foster!  An American Treasure thrown away to sin’s destruction”.  Makes me think of an old poem that preachers have quoted for years: 

     “And many a man with life out of tune,

     And battered and scarred with sin,

     Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,

     Much like the old violin.

     A mess of pottage, a glass of wine;

     A game and he travels on.

     He’s going once, and going twice

    He’s going and he’s almost gone!”

     The sad truth of human experience is that the story is repeated ad infinitum ad naseum.  Only the names and faces have changed.  Tragedies of sin!  That is why they call Jesus Savior.  He alone has the power to rescue and save.  He alone is the Answer to the Sin Question.  Today’s message shows how He is the Answer for anyone who is willing to invite Him in to rescue from sin’s destruction.