You Be the Judge

This is an exposition of Matthew 7:1-5, and was delivered by Pastor Rod Harris at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, September 28, 2014.

Intro:
Can you believe the number of those courtroom programs that are on TV?  It all started with the People’s Court.  Do you remember judge Whopner?  Later he had a courtroom program on Animal Planet!  Then there was Judge Joe Brown, Judge Miles Lane and of course Judge Judy.  We even have an entire cable network – Court TV.  CNN, Fox News, all the networks and their cable affiliates have “legal correspondents” who bring you to latest on high profile court cases.  Turn on any news program on any given night and you will find any number of people sitting in judgment of others.  And it’s no wonder that there is so much of it on TV – they are giving us what we want.  Sitting in judgment of others is one of our favorite pastimes!

None of us like it when others sit in judgment of us and yet that does not seem to detour us from sitting in judgment of others.  Is it always wrong to sit in judgment?  Is there ever a time in which it is appropriate for me to make judgment on another?  If so when and where?  Folks are quick to cry, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” as if to suggest that it is never appropriate to make any judgment of anyone under any circumstance.  But is that what the Scripture teaches?  If you will pardon the pun – you be the judge as we consider the teaching of our Lord in the opening verses of Matthew chapter 7.

Text: Matthew 7:1-5

Context of the SOM
Genuine righteousness 5:20,48
Our Lord has dealt with our dealing with things 6:19-34
Now our dealings with others

The passage before us is one of the most recognized and probably one of the most misinterpreted passages in all the Gospels.  I have heard this quoted on numerous occasions and almost always out of context and in clear opposition to the teaching of the Lord Jesus.  Look carefully at this passage.  Note its context and let it speak for itself!  I’m convinced that an honest straight forward interpretation of this text informs us that:

Thesis: Our Lord commands His followers to exercise judicial discernment.

Far from telling us we are never to judge – this passage instructs us in how we are to judge.  This is not a prohibition against passage judgment but rather making sure that our judgment is godly.  Making sure than we exercise godly discernment and that our conclusions are reached in a godly manner.

There are three principles of godly judgment I want us to note in our text.

  1. Godly judgment understands the difference between faultfinding and discernment.  (7:1-2)
  2. Godly judgment avoids the subtle trap of hypocrisy.  (7:3-4)
  3. Godly judgment deals first with one’s own sin and then seeks to serve others in humility and grace.  (7:5)

Conclusion:
There is a time and place to use godly judgment.  We are to exercise judicial discernment.  But in a way that understands the difference between faultfinding and discernment.  In a way that avoids the trap of hypocrisy.  In a way that deals with our own sin before presuming to deal with the sins of others.

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The Terror of Apostasy

Hebrews #24: an exposition of Hebrews 10:26-31. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, September 28, 2014.

Intro:
You don’t hear it much anymore.  It makes few top ten lists.  I’m not all that crazy about it myself – preaching on the judgment of God.  The truth of God’s wrath is heard from few pulpits today.  Where are the “warning sermons” of years past?  No, you won’t hear much about God’s judgment on sin or too many messages geared toward warning the backslidden.  The church is supposed to encourage.  The church is supposed to love and support people.  People should feel better about themselves and their lives when they leave church.  You can’t grow a crowd with judgment!  The world is frightening enough we don’t need to come to church and be scared.  A few years ago it was reported that a majority of seminary students, according to surveys, believed it was poor taste to tell someone that they would go to hell.  We don’t like that thought so we are just not going to talk about it.  Now, I hope you don’t like the thought of people going to hell – if you do like that, you’ve got a problem; but truth is not determined by popularity.  Truth is not decided by a majority vote.  Like it or not; uncomfortable about it or not we, the church, have been called to declare the whole counsel of God.  We’ve been called to declare the Gospel.  The Gospel is the “good news” that God has provided salvation in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, the good news only makes sense in light of the bad news.  Unless you understand the danger you are in; unless you appreciate the fact you are dead in trespass and sin, the object of God’s wrath, the good news doesn’t sound all that good.  Love, in a time of danger is expressed as a stern warning.  Acceptance and encouragement in a time of danger is treachery.  This sets the context of Hebrews 10:26-31.

Text: Hebrews 10:26-31

Times were hard.
They had been stretch to the breaking point.
Some of their dearest friends had abandon the faith.
They were wondering if they should do the same.

What do you say to people in that condition?  Certainly you need to encourage them.  You need to point out reasons to believe.  You need to remind them of the truth of the Gospel and the glory of Christ.  You must point them to the faithfulness of God and His great promises.  Through it all you must tell them the truth.  Truth demands that you tell them everything.  That includes warning them of the disastrous consequences of unbelief.  Our text is a difficult passage.  Difficult not because it is hard to figure out what the writer is trying to say but hard because it is a hard truth.  It is especially hard in our day when truth is relative.  When there are no absolutes and you are free to make it up as you go along.  In our pragmatic world truth is what works for you.  Here the biblical writer says there is one truth and you reject that truth to your own peril.

Having called the struggling church to persevere by drawing near to God, clinging tenaciously to their blessed hope and stirring one another up to love and good works the writer now warns them of what happens if they walk away from the faith.

As we work through this passage we discover that…

Thesis: Faithful Gospel preaching warns of the devastating consequences of apostasy.

I want to share with you three (3) demands of Gospel preaching from this text.

  1. Love demands that we warn of the dangers of apostasy.  (10:26-27)
  2. Honesty demands that we speak frankly about the true nature of apostasy.  (10:28-29)
  3. Compassion demands that we tearfully warn of the certainty and the terror of the coming judgment.  (10:30-31)Conclusion:
    This is definitely not a “feel good” message.  It is not the kind of thing we want to hear but it is the kind of thing we need to hear.  Be warned to reject the Gospel is to reject your only hope.  To walk away from Christ seals your fate.  All that remains for you is the fearful expectation of judgment.
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Don’t Worry

This is an exposition of Matthew 6:25-34. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, September 21, 2014.

Intro:
Are you a worrier?  Are you one of those who can’t sleep at night because you know something awful is going to happen?  Then when nothing awful happens, you worry about what could have happened if you hadn’t been worried about it?  I know folks who get worried when they are not worried because it is just not like them not to worry!  Worry has long been recognized as a major health threat in this country.  As early as 1961 Time magazine published a cover story dealing with anxiety in American culture.  The name of the article was Guilt and Anxiety.  The article stated that a breakdown of faith in God in the 19th century and in reason during the 20th century coupled with the accelerated pace and high tension of modern living have produced intense anxiety in millions of Americans.

I read several years ago that, according to the American Medical Association, every other hospital bed was occupied by a mental patient.  Keep that in mind the next time you are trying to get to sleep in a hospital!  By mental patient they meant someone whose condition was due to mental or emotional stress. We know that stress is a leading cause of stomach disorders, headaches, heart problems and a host of other medical conditions.  Worry has become an epidemic.  And it is no wonder.  Every time you pick up a newspaper or turn on the television set – you find more reason to be worried.  If it is not the threat of terrorism, it’s the economy, if it’s not the economy  – it’s ebola or some form of cancer.  You don’t know what to eat because the data keeps contradicting itself.  Violent crime is up; burglary is up, school shootings.  You can’t go out in the sun but then you stay inside with indoor pollutants and mold – what do you do?  You worry!

Your going to live longer but social security isn’t going to be there for you.  New medicines are going to enable you to live a longer, healthier life but you want have any money left after you buy the medicine to enjoy yourself.  Now that brings us to depression – which of course causes us to be pessimistic about the world around us – which increases our anxiety!

Someone has said that anxiety is “fear in search of a cause.”  I think that is a pretty good description.  The question is, “what is the solution?”  What’s the answer?  The answer of the day seems to be sedatives and psychiatry.  Is that the best we can offer?  I think not.  For help in winning over worry let’s turn to the words of the Lord Jesus found in Matthew chapter 6.

Text: Matthew 6:25-34

We are dealing with the Sermon on the Mount.
The Christian Manifesto.
“This is life in my kingdom.”
“This is what I demand of you.”
Christ, our lawgiver, is establishing our code for living.
Key = Matthew 5:20,48
Character is essential for life in His kingdom.
Genuine righteousness produces genuine acts of righteousness.
The immediate context of our passage = how we are to relate to material possessions.

Now comes this word about dealing with/responding to worry.

Worry is going to come – that’s part of life in a fallen world.
But how am I to respond to it?
What is to be my reaction?

This is profound, get paper and pen ready.
This is our Lord’s response to worry, this is how you can defeat worry in your life.
Ready?

Don’t do it!

Just say “no” to worry.
Stop worrying!

Our Lord tells us in this text there are some things you are never to worry about.
The issue here is “worry” or “anxiety” the KJV “take no thought” is unfortunate.
It implies that it is wrong to work and plan for the future.
That is certainly not the case for in other passage we are told to be diligent and prudent.
The issues is worrying or fretting about the future.

Some things you do not need to worry about – your life, the basic necessities, and the future.

This is an extraordinary passage.

These are the very things we worry most about – Jesus said – “Don’t ever worry about them.”  How?  Why?

Thesis: Whole-hearted trust in the sufficiency of God enables the believer to conquer worry.

Paul told the Romans that those who are in Christ are “more than conquerors.”
Does that include worry?
You must see this passage in light of the one immediately above it.
In the context of treasure in heaven verses treasure on earth.
In light of our serving our one true master, who is responsible for the care of his servants.

Note from our text 3 characteristics of worry-free believers.

  1. Worry-free believers rest in God’s gracious provision of their every need.  (6:25-26, 27-32)
  2. The worry-free believer refuses to waste time and energy in useless pursuits.  (6:27)
  3. Worry-free believers spend their lives in pursuit of eternal goals.  (6:33-34)

Conclusion:
Worry is inevitable.
It is the result of the fall – but you can over come it.

You over come it by whole-heartedly trusting in the sufficiency of God.
You must rest in the assurance of his provision of your every need.
You must refuse to waste time and energy in worthless pursuits.
And you must give yourself to the pursuit of eternal goals.

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The Demands of Perseverance

Hebrews #23: an exposition of Hebrews 10:19-25. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, September 21, 2014.

Intro:
It is a cardinal doctrine for us.  It is central to our understanding of salvation.  We Baptist are known for our doctrine of eternal security or as it is popularly known, “Once saved, always saved.”  That once you come to saving faith you are forever saved.  You cannot lose your salvation.  It cannot be taken from you.  You are in Christ, Christ is in God the Father and no one can take you out of the Father’s hand – including you!  Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  In John 10 he said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who had given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  That is secure.  Yet we all know people who were once committed to the church, seemed to have genuine faith, who have left the faith.  These folks seem to have no interest in the things of God.  Some have gone so far as to denounce the faith.  How is that possible?  On the one hand our doctrine, our theology says that once God begins a work in us He completes it.  Having redeemed us and justified us, His spirit is placed within us and begins a sanctification process that will carry us to glory – yet some seem to fall out along the way.

This is not an easy question.  I will admit my struggle to understand.  However I do know that I must not allow my experience or my perceptions interpret the Word of God.  The Word of God must always interpret my experience.  I begin with the understand that the Word of God is true and from there make sense of my experience.  I also must allow the whole counsel of God inform my understanding.  Scripture admonishes us to test the fruit of a person’s life in discerning their convictions.  Scripture also warns against placing new believers in leadership roles.  There is much to be said for the test of time.  The apostle John when speaking of some who had abandoned the faith says in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” I am thoroughly convinced that the grace that saves us is the grace that keeps us.  Our salvation is of grace from beginning to end.  That does not mean it is easy.  That does not mean that there are no difficult days.  It does not mean there will not be times of backsliding and failing.  It does mean that ultimately we make it home to glory by God’s grace!

They were discouraged and struggling to believe.  Rejected by family and targeted by the government it was all they could do to just hang on.  The biblical writer pleads with them to continue in belief.  He speaks of the glory of Christ as God’s ultimate revelation of himself.  He is the effulgence, the shining forth of God’s glory.  The exact imprint of his divine nature.  He is our glorious, eternal high priest – seated at the right hand of God pleading our cause night and day without end.  Having laid the doctrinal foundation the writer now turns to application.  Our text this morning is found in Hebrews chapter 10 beginning with verse 19.

Text: Hebrews 10:19-25

I’m convinced this text helps us understand perseverance.
How do we stay faithful?
What can we do to ensure we continue in belief?

As we work our way through these few verses we discover that…

Thesis: Perseverance demands focus, determination and community.

I want to point to three demands of perseverance from this text.

  1. Perseverance demands a single-hearted devotion.  (10:22)
  2. Perseverance demands that we cling tenaciously to our blessed hope.  (10:23)
  3. Perseverance demands that we commit passionately to our life together.  (10:24-25)
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Our Glorious Salvation

Hebrews #22: an exposition of Hebrews 10:1-18. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, September 14, 2014.

Intro:
It wasn’t that long ago belonging to the church was a great benefit.  Being a churchman gave you standing in the community.  It was good business to be a member of the “right” church.  Publicly professing your faith commended your character.  The church was respected.  Faith in Christ was an honorable thing.  Church schedules were given priority even in the community.  No ball games on church nights.  School functions respected church activities.  Prayer at ball games was expected.  Church doctrine was respected.  Not so much anymore.  Oh we know not everyone believed.  Not everyone was committed to the truth and authority of Scripture but biblical faith was treated with respect.  What happens when that is no longer the case?  What happens when the church no longer holds that honored position?  More than that what happens when the church and its doctrine are called into question?  When its cherished truths are considered foolish or even dangerous?  We are beginning to see.  Church attendance has rapidly declined.  Church closings are increasing.  Look in our own community.  Three churches have closed their doors others are fighting for their existence.  Along with falling numbers comes a loss of political and social clout.  Society’s moral compass has been calibrated to a new standard.  So that what once was considered evil is now declared good and what was good is now evil.  The result is a “falling away.”  Many are walking away from the faith of their youth.

Now, let’s look at this another way.  Yes, numbers don’t lie.  The church is not what it was.  However a closer look reveals the percentage of people who are deeply committed to the church.  Those who are convinced of the truth and authority of Scripture and are passionately committed to the church have not changed!  What has been lost are what we would consider “nominal” believers.  Believers in name but not in conviction.  Okay, but as the church declines and culture shifts, what happens when it is not just that the church has lost respect but the church is persecuted?  What happens when the church is considered the enemy?  Well, if God is there.  If the Bible is true…my question to you would be, “Where can you go?”  Do you remember when the crowds walked away from the Lord Jesus?  Jesus looked at his disciples and asked, “Will you go away as well?”  Peter said, “Where would we go?  You alone have the words of life” (John 6:68).  Salvation is found in Christ and in Christ alone!  That was the message to the Hebrew believers as they considered abandoning the faith and it is the message to us.  Our text this morning is found in Hebrews chapter 10.

Text: Hebrews 10:1-18

There world was crashing down around them.
Rejected by their families and targeted by the government – they struggled to believe.
Their was costly – 10:32-34.

The writer says to these frightened believers, “Hold on.  Christ is better than the best Rome or Judaism have to offer.”  He sets for the Lord Jesus as superior to angels, to Abraham, to the high priest and the whole sacrificial system.  As God’s final word he is unsurpassed in revealing God and in guaranteeing our acceptance before a holy God.

In this text the writer leaves no doubt…

Thesis: The sacrifice of Christ alone enables cleansing and forgiveness.

This is our greatest need.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and the wages of our sin is death.  Separation from God now and forever.  Left to ourselves, to our own devices, we are without hope.  But, the Gospel is that God has not left it to us.  He has redeemed us.  He has saved us.  There are three things about this salvation I want to point out from this text.

  1. The biblical writer makes clear the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Old Covenant. (10:1-4)
  2. The biblical writer declares the power of Christ to save. (10:5-10)
  3. The biblical writer glories in what Christ has accomplished for us. (10:11-18)

Conclusion:
Christ died and rose again to make you and me perfect, forgiving us completely and renewing our hearts.  Heaven has been laid at our sinful feet.  There is no greater folly than to turn away from such a glorious salvation.

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The Blood of Jesus

Hebrews #21: an exposition of Hebrews 9:15-28. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, September 7, 2014.

Intro:
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless?
Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Some are horrified by these images.  Some say Christianity is a “slaughterhouse” religion.  All this talk of blood and sacrifice.  That’s just so primitive, so ancient!  We are too sophisticated for such nonsense.  Thus some are determined to “protect” God’s image by declaring such notions as the rantings of wild-eyed fundamentalists.  They prefer a religion that is less nauseating and more in tune with the finer things of life.  God’s role is to lovingly serve humanity.  They want no part of a God who is full of wrath and demands an accounting for sin.  But the fact is, our faith is a bloody faith.  The Old Testament system rests on a sea of blood.  The New Testament is clear, Christ came to die.  His death was no tragic consequence of mistaken identity or runaway religious fervor, it was the eternal plan and purpose of God.  The shedding of His blood, His dying is our only hope.  Our text this morning is found in the 9th chapter of Hebrews.

Text: Hebrews 9:15-28

In our text Christ is identified as mediator and testator.

Mediator = one who mediates between two parties.
He is the bridge that brings together God in His holiness and man in his sin.
One of the glorious things about his mediation is that it is both proactive and retroactive.
Proactive in that he paid for our sins.
Retroactive – (9:15) He paid for Israel’s sins!  It reaches all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Testator = one who makes out a will.
Now a will is no good unless someone dies!

You could be listed in a will to inherit $100,000,000, your own Island and a glorious mansion but until the person who has so named you dies – you got nothing!

The writer of Hebrews informs us that Christ died putting the will into effect yet he lives enabling Him to mediate the covenant.  He is both the testator and the mediator.  The same word is used throughout.  In verse 15 it is used in a religious sense thus “covenant.”  In verses 16-17 in a legal sense thus “will.”

The biblical writer has been talking about Christ as our great high priest.  In the first half of chapter 9 we discovered the glory of the New Covenant is found in the substance of Christ’s death and what that death actually accomplished.  This morning’s text follows that same theme.  As we work our way through the text we are reminded that…

Thesis: Our blessed hope, as the people of God, is that the blood of Jesus Christ atones for our sin.

There are two (2) things I want to point out in relation to this text.

  1. The necessity of blood is clearly revealed by the Old Testament system.  (9:18-22)
    The Law was initiated with blood
    The tabernacle was initiated with blood
    This underscoring two important truths:

    1. The seriousness of sin
    2. The cost of forgiveness
  2. The efficacy of blood is gloriously demonstrated by what Christ has done.  (9:23-28)

Just what has the death of Christ accomplished?
The short answer is found in verse 26:
…But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

This is made possible because of…

A better sacrifice – 9:23
A better representative – 9:24
A greater power – 9:25-28
And gives us…A greater hope – 9:28b

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The Glory of the New Covenant

Hebrews #20: an exposition of Hebrews 9:1-15. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 31, 2014.

Intro:
We love spectacle.  We want to be thrilled.  We desire to “feel” something.  It’s not enough to know the truth or to be assured of reality, we need some sensation to confirm our conviction.  “God was really present, I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”  “It must be true something just came over me and I can’t explain it.”  Add to that our love of ceremony and the fact we want to “do” something to gain the favor of God it’s understandable why it can be difficult to simply believe.  Can saving faith be as simple as acknowledging I’m a sinner and then trust in what Christ has done on the cross?  Understand that I am helpless and throw myself on the mercy of God in Christ?  No ceremony?  No ritual?  No service to perform to prove I mean it?  How can that be?  It sounds too simple.  It sounds too simple because you’ve not yet come to understand just how desperate you really are.

You’ve not yet come to understand that our problem is that we are radically sinful.  Sinful to the core, the radius of our being.  Everything about us is marred or tainted by sin.  Our mind, our will, our emotions, everything.  Thus anything we do is touched by sin.  We cannot save ourselves.  Salvation is wholly the work of God.  We are saved by the mercy and grace of God.  We are dead in trespass and sins.  Dead people don’t do anything for themselves!  Dead people are wholly dependent upon others.  We are saved because of what Christ has done.  His perfect life lived in full obedience to the Father.  His death on the cross as our substitute.  He is our propitiation.  We’ve been reconciled to God by His blood.  Our part?  To trust in Christ and Him alone.  When the winds of doubt begin to blow – look to Christ.  When feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness begin to swirl about you – look to Christ.  When fears threaten to overwhelm – look to Christ.  Your security, your certainty of salvation is not dependent upon your ability to believe but the power of Christ to save.  Our text this morning is found in the 9th chapter of Hebrews.

Text: Hebrews 9:1-15

They were struggling to believe.
Life had become increasingly difficult.
Hardship and sufferings abound.
Their minds said, “Just give up.  Walk away.  It’s just not worth it.”
The biblical writer responds, “It is the only thing worthy of your trust.”
“If you walk away – there is nothing that can save you.”

He has been pointing to Christ as our Great High Priest.  He is better than the angels, He is greater than Abraham, He is God’s ultimate revelation.  He is better than anything Judaism or Rome has to offer.  The old order, the Old Covenant is inadequate.  It is weak and worthless.  We have a New Covenant based upon superior promises.  The New does what the Old could never do.  In our text this morning the comparison between the Old and New continues.

This text makes it clear that…

Thesis: The glory of the New Covenant rests securely in the substance of Christ’s death and what His death actually accomplished.

Remember we have been told that all those things connected to the Old Covenant (the sacrifices, the rituals, the ceremonies) were copies or shadows of heavenly realities (8:5).  That our hope and confidence rests in the fact that Christ entered the “true tent” not set up by man – He entered heaven itself, the presence of God, and offered not the blood of bulls and goats but himself for our sin.  Then the writer gave an extensive quote from Jeremiah 31 about the glory of the New Covenant.  That’s where our text picks up.  I want to point out two things.

  1.  The Old Covenant, though awe-inspiring and a grand spectacle, proves to be wholly inadequate in meeting our greatest need.  (9:1-10)
  2. The New Covenant, though horrifying in appearance and uninspiring on the surface, gloriously fulfills our greatest need.  (9:11-14)

Conclusion:
How do you have your sins forgiven and experience the cleansing of your conscience and enter into the joy of the New Covenant?  You look to Jesus and you say along with Horatius Bonar,

I lay my sins on Jesus
The spotless lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us
From the accursed load:
I bring my guilt to Jesus.
To wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious,
Till not a stain remains!

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A Pattern for Heaven-touched Prayer

This is an exposition of Matthew 6:9-13, delivered by Pastor Rod Harris at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 24, 2014.

Intro:

It is a given.  If you want to learn to do something – find someone who is “good” at what you want to do and watch them!  Follow them around and absorb everything you can.  Ask questions.  Discuss concerns.  Learn why they do it the way they do it.  Ask them how they came to do it that way.  Early in my ministry I had men like Paul Cooke and others who allowed me to tag along and pester them.  In my first pastorate I was a frequent visitor to the First Baptist Church of Pawnee.  Dr. Tom Owens talked me through my first funeral, my first wedding, my first baptism and numerous “crisis” moments.  I sought out the input of men I respected – something I continue to do.  That’s how I know that the followers of Jesus locked in on his voice when he said, “This is how you should pray…”

Often he left them and went aside, alone to pray.  He sometimes spent all night in prayer.  And when he prayed it was far different from anything they had ever heard.  Not that the words were all that different.  Not that the form itself was strange or innovative.  It was an intangible thing.  They couldn’t put their finger on it – they didn’t know how to evaluate it – it was just different.  Higher.  Grander.  Loftier.  More powerful.  They just knew that when he prayed Heaven took note of it.  So when he talked about prayer – they listened.  Our text this evening is found in Matthew 6:9-13.

Text: Matthew 6:9-13

Prayer is beyond question the highest activity of the human soul.  Man is at his greatest and highest when he is on his knees before his God.  In prayer we come face to face with the living God.  We enter into the throne room of the universe and stand before the awesome, majestic God, Lord of heaven and earth.  We all acknowledge that prayer is a lifeline.  We acknowledge that our souls are fed, strengthened and encourage when we spend time before the Father.  We just as quickly acknowledge that we have much to learn regarding the discipline of prayer.  We all must acknowledge that we spend far to little time in prayer.  When we come to Christ and seek to be instructed in prayer it is not just a matter of a “formula” or even “words to repeat” – it is about understanding what prayer is.  It is about understanding the nature of prayer, itself.  It is about grasping what matters in our praying.

Our text is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”
But he never “prayed” it!
The Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17.
There he prayed to the Father on behalf of his children.
In fact, I find it ironic that this prayer is so often used in worship services and other context for folks to pray.  As if the repetition of this prayer builds spiritual character and godliness.  Look at the context!!

Matthew 6:7
Our Lord was speaking against the “meaningless” repetition of certain prayers.

The key to understanding this passage is at the beginning of verse 9.
“This, then is how you should pray…”
How not what.

This is a model prayer.
A model is a pattern or an example.
When you pray it is to be along these lines.
These are the kinds of things your praying should be concerned with.

From this model we discover that:

Thesis: Heaven touching prayer follows a divinely established pattern.

There are two things I want us to note about Heaven touching prayer.

  1. Heaven touching prayer is concerned first and foremost with the glory and honor of God.  (6:9-10)
  2. Heaven touching prayer is concerned about the needs of God’s people.  (6:11-13)

Conclusion:

Would you like to touch heaven with your prayers?  You had best follow the divinely established pattern that is concerned first and foremost with the glory and honor of God but second rests in the assurance that the Father cares about the needs of his children.

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Looking to Christ: the Key to Perseverance

Hebrews #19: an exposition of Hebrews 8:1-13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 24, 2014.

Intro:
Do you ever get discouraged?  Do you sometimes find it hard to believe?  Ever have those times when so many things go wrong that you wonder if maybe, just maybe, it isn’t true?  God isn’t really there.  Or at least He’s not that interested or concerned about your struggle?  Never?  Do you lie about other things too?  Living for Christ in this sin-laden world is a struggle.  Ordering your life according to the Word of God is not easy – especially when it seems you’re the only one doing it!  Living out the truth of our faith is difficult because it holds us to a higher standard.  It makes demands that are difficult to fulfill.  Love your enemies?  Pray for those who persecute you?  Turn the other cheek?  Deny yourself?  In a world that is clamoring for personal rights and personal choice and freedom we are told, “Count others as more important than yourself.”  So what do you do when the world around you is perfectly happy with the idea of your dying?  How do you continue on in the faith when the culture is bent on stamping out your faith?  How do you remain faithful when your faith is labeled “dangerous,” “subversive,” or “criminal?”  This is nothing new for the people of God.  It began early in the life of the church and continues to this day.

A small group of Hebrew believers were struggling to hang on to their faith.  Abandoned by their families and declared enemies of the state they faltered.  The biblical writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to encourage them.  To give them reasons to believe.  Reasons to remain faithful.  Consistently he called on them to look to Christ.  He pled with them to fix their eyes on the Lord Jesus.  Consider what He had done.  What He had accomplished.  What He continued to do on their behalf.  His first century advice is just as valid today.  Our text this morning is found in the 8th chapter of Hebrews.

Text: Hebrews 8:1-13

When you falter – how do you go on?
When tempted to away from the faith – how do you continue on?
When discouragement becomes your constant companion – what enables you to believe?

Hebrews chapter 8 beginning with verse 1…

Thesis: When overwhelmed by life’s heartache and struggles; when you are tempted to walk away from your faith; look to Christ and find reason to continue on in the faith.

As we look to Christ in our text I want to point out 3 important realities.

  1. Look to Christ and consider the glory of His finished work. (8:1-2)
  2. Look to Christ and be amazed by what He has done. (8:2-7)
  3. Look to Christ and rest in the wonder of what His work has accomplished. (8:8-13)

Conclusion:

When overwhelmed by life’s heartache and struggles; when you are tempted to walk away from your faith; look to Christ and find reason to continue on in the faith.

See Him seated at God’s right hand praying for you.  Understand that He bore your sin in His own body and has transferred His righteousness to your account.  He has become your God and you are His child.  You have been forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness and have been assured His continued mercy and grace.

Is your marriage in trouble?  Look to Christ.
Do you have a wayward child?  Look to Christ.
Are you burdened about your finances?  Look to Christ.
Worried about your future?  Look to Christ.

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Our Confident Hope

Hebrews #18: an exposition of Hebrews 7:20-28. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 17, 2014.

Intro:
Depression made the news this past week with the tragic death of Robin Williams.  Reminding us again that there is a great difference between being successful and being happy.  It also served to remind us of just how vulnerable we are.  It is said a person could live up to 3 weeks without food and a week without water but I’m wondering if you can survive a day without “hope.”  When hope is gone people “give up.”  Hopelessness kills the spirit.  This is what concerns me most about our present condition.  Even as people of God without hope we quit striving.  We stop believing.  We think defeat is inevitable.  When you think you are alone in your striving for holiness you think, “What’s the use?”  When you sense you are the only one concerned about the things of God you think, “Why bother?”  The tide has turned.  Our faith, once dominant in our culture, is waning.  We are losing ground.  At times it seems we are living in another place.  This is not the world I grew up in.  These are not the attitudes we once held.  We look at certain indicators and we think, “We’ve lost the fight.  It’s time to retreat, huddle with our remaining few and await the inevitable.”  But that is not the Christian response.  The Christian response is, “Our God is sovereign.  He is still on His throne and the world is ‘on schedule’.”

The writer of Hebrews is writing to a struggling church in Rome.  The blush of new-found faith has faded.  Times have gotten difficult.  They have experienced the rejection of their families.  The government has come against them in a wave of persecution.  For many, it seemed the battle had been lost.  They cut their loss and returned to their former faith.  Others continued to believe but their faith was wavering.  The writer seeks to strengthen their faith and urge them to continue in belief.  Consistently he points them to Christ.  Christ is better than the best that Judaism or Rome has to offer.  He is God’s final and ultimate word.  He is the the shining forth of God’s glory, the exact imprint of His nature.  In chapters 5-10 he points to Christ as our great high priest.  Our text this morning is found in Hebrews 7 beginning with verse 20.

Text: Hebrews 7:20-28

At the end of chapter 4 he introduced the notion of Christ as our high priest.
In chapter 5 he tied our Lord’s priesthood to Melchizedek (Genesis 14; Psalm 110:4).
In chapter 7 he began laying out our Lord’s qualifications as a superior high priest.
That continues with our text this morning.

Let’s back up and begin our reading at verse 17…

From this text we are reminded that…

Thesis: Our hope and confidence rests securely in the Lord Jesus, our superior Great High Priest.

The author continues to point to Jesus.  And he will continue to do so until he says in Hebrews 12:2, “…looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

  • How do we continue on in the face of great adversity?
  • How do we continue to believe against all odds?
  • We fix our eyes on Jesus our trailblazer.
  • He is our hope, our confidence.

There are three things I want to call to your attention out of our text.

  1.  Our confidence is born of the sovereign promise of our God.  (7:20-22)
  2.  Our hope is secured by the glorious work of Christ.  (7:23-25)
  3. Our assurance is bolstered by our Savior’s unblemished character.  (7:26-28)
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