The Parables of Jesus #12
Life in the Mean Time, an exposition of Matthew 24:41-25:30. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 28, 2015.
“Jesus is coming again.” That is a safe comment among Bible-believing folks. You won’t get an argument there. You may even get a few “Amens”! If you throw in “visibly, physically to this earth” and emphasize the nearness of that return, no doubt many will whole-heartily agree. But if you want a fight – start getting into the details. We live in a time that is fascinated by “end times.” The success of the whole “Left Behind” phenomenon is evidence of that. Believers and nonbelievers alike devour the material. Conferences, books, tapes concerning end times events are always best sellers. Turn on Christian television and you will see program after program chronicling headline after headline as the latest fulfillment of the prophetic word. I believe the fact of the Second Coming is a cardinal doctrine of the church. I do not believe that you can be an orthodox Christian and deny the Second Coming. I also believe that John MacArthur is right when he says, “That many details of biblical prophecy are surrounded with mystery and that it is a serious mistake to speak dogmatically about matters that are no more than sheer conjecture.”
Why? Because Jesus said, “No man knows the day and hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32-33). That seems pretty clear to me. Dr. MacGorman used to tell us in seminary, “If Jesus didn’t know, I’m sure no Baptist preacher knows!” Am I suggesting that it is wrong to study prophecy? No, of course not. Am I suggesting that one should not “discern the times?” Absolutely not. My concern is that many impose modern headlines as an interpretive grid on the Scriptures. I’m suggesting that current events are no guideline for interpreting the Bible. And that such a practice proves disastrous for the individual and for our message.
Prior to WW I prophesy experts suggested that the events leading up to that war could only foreshadow the Apocalypse. Twenty-five years later another generation of experts saw in Hitler the “perfect” fit for the Antichrist. They all had one thing in common…they were wrong! In 1970 Hal Lindsey ushered in a new ear. In The Late Great Planet Earth, Lindsey broadly hinted that he believed Christ would return by 1988. This was based on Israel’s rebirth in 1948. The fig tree had put forth its first leaves and the prophecy clock began running again. He was more direct in his 1980 book, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. He predicted the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation would occur in the 80s. They did not. In 1988 Edgar Whisenant wrote, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. It wasn’t so he revised it for 89! The problem is that such date-setting serves to undermine the credibility of the Gospel in the minds of unbelievers. 30 years ago – prophetic experts were certain the rise of the Soviet Union to superpower status was loaded with biblical importance. When communism fell and the Iron Curtain came down they simply adjusted their theory and found that the fall of communism was clearly foretold in Scripture as well.
Our preparedness for Christ’s return should not be affected one way or the other by world events. Our Lord taught us to live expectantly. He taught us to be faithful regardless of what is happening around us. Regardless of the “signs of the times” we are to live each day as if he was coming today. Because he just might!
What does that kind of a lifestyle involve? How should we live? That is the significance of the parables found in the middle section of the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24-25.
Text: Matthew 24:44-25:30
The disciples have asked an important question in response to Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple. “When will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” While they considered that to be one question, Jesus treated it as two separate issues. The destruction of the temple and the end of the age. In 24:4-28 he talks of birth pains signaling the end (both of the temple and the age). He then spoke of His return and the need to be prepared. Now he takes that further in our text this morning.
This text could easily serve as a series of messages but I want us to note the flow of the passage. I’m convinced these parables were meant to be taken together. They present a balanced picture about life in the mean time. They serve as a lesson in how we are to live as we await the blessed appearing.
Thesis: A proper perspective of Christ’s return demands that we live expectantly, wait patiently and work diligently.
In the parable of the two servants we learn the principle of expectantly watching. (24:45-51)
- The parable of the ten virgins teaches us the principle of patiently waiting. (25:1-13
- The parable of the talents teaches us the principle of diligently working. (25:14-30)
Our Lord is coming.
And a proper perspective of that fact demands that we live expectantly, wait patiently and work diligently.
The Attributes of God #8.
Our Immutable God is an mp3 podcast message by Pastor Rod Harris, delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, June 24, 2015.
The Touch of Grace
The Parables of Jesus #11: an exposition of Luke 7:36-50. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 21, 2015.
It is the mark of a great book or movie. You figure it all out early in the story. You know who did it and you know why they did it. You are putting all the pieces together as the story unfolds. You are feeling smug and confident as the story reaches it’s climax – then it happens. Your suspect dies. It wasn’t him after all. But wait, how can that be? The ending shocks you. You are amazed and yet now it all makes sense. “Of course!” Why couldn’t you see that before? It is the last thing you would have ever suspected and yet it is the only way that makes sense. You were caught completely off guard. The storyteller exploited your bias and made his point.
Luke the physician and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, took events, teachings and encounters from the life and ministry of Jesus and wove them together in a fascinating tale for his friend Theophilus. His purpose in writing was to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the Messiah of the Jews and the Savor of the world. His goal was to bring his friend to faith in Jesus as the Christ. Luke, with the skill of an artist and the depth of a master storyteller, creates a powerful account of the life of Jesus.
In the seventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel we find the account of a dinner party. This was no ordinary dinner party. Especially when you consider it took place in the home of a Pharisee. Here a Pharisee was entertaining a rebel rousing itinerate preacher and in walks the town prostitute! It makes for an interesting evening and more importantly; it reveals a profound truth.
Text: Luke 7:36-50
The story is simple.
In fact its simplicity is the secret to its beauty.
Luke, through an economy of words, tells a powerful story.
Two different people.
Two very different lifestyles.
One extremely religious the other a notorious sinner.
Both were exposed to the teaching ministry of Jesus.
And as you might expect – there were two different responses.
One was gloriously transformed.
The other was hardened in their sin and driven further from salvation.
But which was which? That is the surprising part.
Let’s look at our text.
Their story is central to Luke’s purpose.
For from his account we learn that:
The sovereign touch of grace radically transforms the most ardent sinner.
And we are reminded of its parallel truth:
Apart from the sovereign touch of grace the most righteous person is held captive by his own self-righteousness.
This passage is about the heart of the Gospel – for it is about grace.
God’s unmerited favor. God granting to us what we do not deserve.
In fact it is more than that – it is granting us life and hope and peace when we are deserving of the exact opposite!
And that is precisely what Simon and his fellow religious leaders could not see. They failed to grasp the heart of His message. They couldn’t get past their rules to see His grace. Their problem was they didn’t understand the depth of their own sin – they were unaware of their own depravity. Oh, they knew God was Holy. They knew they were not holy. They understood the need for ritual cleansing and sacrifice – but they were so caught up in the symbolism they failed to understand the substance. Ritual they understood. Rules they obeyed. It is the reality of their predicament they failed to recognize. Keep that in mind as we watch the evening unfold.
Let’s examine first the life of Simon as we discover:
- The heart untouched by grace is filled with arrogance and contempt.
- The heart touched by the grace of God overflows with love and devotion.
This woman, in contrast to Simon, saw only her great need, and therefore was overwhelmed with love for him who could supply her need. And this is in evidence that she knows forgiveness.
Jesus sought to drive the point home to Simon by telling this parable 7:41-43.
Simon patronizingly answered Jesus’ questions – but he failed to understand its message.
The sovereign touch of grace radically transforms the most ardent sinner.
This text serves as a solemn warning and a wonderful promise.
Self-righteousness hardens the heart and drives you away from God’s only provision.
A deep awareness of sin and genuine repentance enables forgiveness and life.
The Folly of Materialism
The Parables of Jesus #10: an exposition of Luke 12:13-21. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 14, 2015.
You do know don’t you, that we are a spoiled bunch? We in America possess most of the world’s wealth. When it comes to per capita income we are by far the “richest nation on earth.” Yet most of us are far from satisfied. We are driven in an endless pursuit of stuff. We have more than we could ever use. Yet we can always justify more. Do you know what one of the fastest growing industries in the United States is? Storage facilities. That’s a facility were you rent space to store the stuff you don’t have room to store at home! When you are looking for a new home – what do you look for? Closet space. Why? You’ve got to have room for your stuff. We’ve got two large walk-in closets, two hall closets and a long closet in the boys’ room. They are stuffed with stuff. We have a garage full; a shed full in the backyard and the attic is more than full. We’ve got boxes in the attic that we’ve not opened since 1980. Now in that time we’ve moved from Tulsa to Shawnee, to Fort Worth, to Pawnee, to Ponca City and back to Tulsa. Each time we moved those boxes – we still haven’t opened them! But we had to take them with us because they have our stuff in them!
Materialism is a problem in the American culture. One financial expert has said that our financial woes are do, in large part, to the fact our neighbors keep buying things we can’t afford! Advertising is big business. One cynic has suggested that, “Advertising is the art of getting people to buy what they don’t need by describing it in ways they know are not true.” We see and advertisement and think, “Oh, I’ve got to have one of those.” It is a universal problem and those of us in the church are certainly not immune.
The sad reality is that multitudes are seeking meaning in fulfillment in the “things” they possess. If they can just get that house – then they’ll be happy. If I had that car. If I just had this much in the bank. They spend their days in the endless pursuit of a dream only to learn it was a nightmare. How many have sacrificed their families, their health, and their souls in the pursuit of things only to learn it was all an illusion? R.G. Lee said in his masterful sermon, Payday Someday, “The Devil always pays with counterfeit bills.”
But being consumed with the material is nothing new. Man has always struggled with a desire to have. It’s as old as life in the Garden. Covetousness and greed have poisoned the souls of men throughout the ages. In fact it was a desire to possess that drove a man to interrupt the Lord Jesus in the midst of a sermon. We read about it in the 12th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.
Text: Luke 12:13-21
The purpose and background of Luke’s Gospel.
The immediate context of 12:13-21
Jesus was teaching about authentic faith.
The need to focus on central issues – transparent honest, reverential fear of God, God’s providential care and the Spirit’s enabling.
Someone in the crowd had an issue they wanted settled. So when there was a pause in the message, he interrupted . . .
I have to say this interruption sounds very familiar. Jesus is discussing core issues. This is the essence of life and this man is interested only in himself. He cannot look beyond his own wants and desires to see what Jesus has to say. His attitude seems to be “that’s all well and good – but I’ve got a real problem here.” He is so consumed with greed he is incapable of hearing what the Lord Jesus has to say. Jesus knew this man’s heart. He saw past his complaint to the driving motive of his heart. Thus Jesus’ answer is rather curt. And He took the opportunity to teach us a valuable lesson about life.
Thesis: The wise man seeks meaning and fulfillment along the God-ordained path.
Somewhere along the way we’ve gotten a little to smart for our own good. We got the idea that we know what’s best for us. We know what will make us happy. It just isn’t so. Our maker knows better than we do. He knows what best fulfills us. He knows what we were created for!
It has been suggested that when you buy a refrigerator – you get a book. The book says, “read this before you use.” The maker, manufacturer wants to make sure you understand how to use their product for maximum benefit and efficiency. You buy a refrigerator, get a book.
You buy a stereo – you get a book.
Buy a washer – get a book.
A car – get a book.
You get life – you get a book!
God reveals Himself in His book. He reveals His person. He reveals His purpose in creating you. He reveals how you can best function. And in the book you can find the way to true, lasting fulfillment and purpose.
There are two things I want us to note in our text this morning.
- The fool expects to find meaning and fulfillment in the accumulation of things. (12:13-20)
- The wise man knows true meaning and fulfillment are not found in things but in a person. (12:21)
How does one become rich toward God?
Two things are essential:
- Desire to serve God first and foremost.
Matthew 6:24 – “You cannot serve both God and money (mammon).
- You must empty yourself of anything that would take the place of God in your life.
Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poverty-stricken of spirit…”
This is the issue: are you in relationship with the God who is through the person of His son the Lord Jesus?
Learning from Judah’s Failures
1 Kings #15: an exposition of 1 Kings 14:21-15:24. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, June 7, 2015.
Paul told the church at Corinth that the Old Testament was written for their benefit. After recounting Israel’s failure in the wilderness he said, “with most of them God was not pleased…these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” The message of Paul then and now is, “Learn from Israel’s mistakes!” Don’t travel down that same path. Part of the beauty of the Scriptures is that they are so honest. The men and women of Scripture are just that – men and women – frail children of dust. Some are virtuous. Others are vile. Most are a mixture of both. We are to learn from saints and sinners alike. Times change. Conditions differ but the underlying human condition does not change. The same issues are in play. It would be foolish to ignore their fate.
David was a man after God’s own heart yet David sinned grievously.
Solomon was graced with great wisdom but he acted the fool.
Rehoboam acted in arrogance and the kingdom was split.
Jeroboam trusted in himself rather than the promise of God and was destroyed.
Learn from them. What were their problem areas? What issues led to their downfall? How can we avoid their fate? When we read Old Testament narratives these are the questions that should inform our reading. These are the things we should ask ourselves. Our text this evening is found in the 14th and 15th chapters of 1 Kings. As we consider three of the kings of Judah I want us to learn some things about faithfulness.
Text: 1 Kings 14:21-15:24
As we work our way through this text I want us to see that…
Thesis: The reign of these three kings of Judah teach us some valuable lessons about faithfulness in faithless times.
The biblical writer has been focusing on the Northern kingdom.
We’ve witnessed the downfall of Jeroboam.
He was told by the prophet – God is going to tear the kingdom from Solomon and you will be given the lion’s share. 10 tribes will come to you only 1 will remain in the South. Now if you walk according the ways of David, if you will be faithful to God and keep His commands He, God, will establish you. He promptly makes a couple of golden calves and places on in Dan the other at Bethel and sets up a rival religious system. Fearing that common worship would lead to a reunification of the people, Jeroboam devised a scheme to solidify his power. This was an act of rebellion against God and thus Jeroboam was punished. As Israel’s first king he ensured the nation’s destruction. The prophecy against Jeroboam and his false religious system hung over the head of Israel for the next 180 years until its destruction.
Now the writer turns our attention back to Rehoboam and the Southern kingdom. 1 Kings 14:21 might as well read, “Meanwhile back at the ranch…”
14:21 – takes us back to Judah and what had been going on there while all of this other had been happening in Israel.
As we get back to Judah we discover things aren’t any better there than they were in Israel!
The focus of the writer on Israel was the king’s false worship.
Guess what we find in Judah?
There are no golden calves but idol worship is commonplace.
As we consider the reign of Rehoboam we learn that…
- A thin veneer of orthodox faith fails to cover a blasphemous heart and proves disastrous. (14:21-31)
- Even in the face of sin and corruption God graciously remains faithful to His promise. (15:1-8)
- It is possible to live righteously and remain faithful even if not perfectly. (15:9-24)
A couple of things quickly:
From this last episode – circumstantial success and covenantal fail can exist side-by-side.
It was good politics but poor obedience.
Just because you succeed does not make it right.
We are not pragmatists.
But most importantly we learn you can be faithful in faithless times.
Purity of worship can be protected and preserved.
Times of hope and reform can appear even with society and culture plummeting to disaster.
We would do well to learn these valuable lessons from Judah’s less than stellar-performing kings.
Lifes Big Question
The Parables of Jesus #09: an exposition of Luke 18:9-14. this message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 7, 2015.
It is a natural response. It is perfectly understandable. It is what anyone would do. You found out that you have greatly offended someone and you immediately begin to think of how you can make it right. Surely there is something you can say or do that will appease them. Some gesture on your part that adequately demonstrates that you are truly sorry and that you’re sincere when you say you will never do it again. We’ve all been there and done that. It makes perfect sense. Now, what if it is really bad? I mean really, really bad. I mean the worst possible kind of bad? What do you do when the one offended is God? How do you make it right with God? That is what our text is about this morning. As we consider life’s big question while we explore Luke 18:9-14.
Text: Luke 18:9-14
Luke the physician and traveling companion of the apostle Paul is writing to his friend Theophilus about the life and ministry of Jesus. Luke wants his friend to have an accurate account of the life of Jesus. His goal is that his friend would come to see Jesus not just as the Jewish Messiah but as the Savior of the world. His purpose is evangelistic. Throughout his gospel Luke has been showing the growing hostility toward Jesus from the religious establishment. That hostility is reaching fever pitch and is about to explode in the cross.
In the preceding passage Jesus drew a sharp contrast between the character of God and that of a corrupt civil official. Demonstrating that our confidence and persistence in prayer is based on the character and strength of God. We are reminded that we are to pray and never give up. Prayer again is involved in the parable that is before us. However, the issue in this parable is the larger question behind the prayers of two very different men.
Thesis: At issue in this parable is life’s most important question – “How is a man justified in the eyes of God?”
How is a man justified?
How is he made right with God?
How does a sinful man stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God?
That is life’s most important question.
That is the question everyone in this room must deal with.
We are all sinful – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all less than what God created us to be. We all fail to live according to God’s commands. We are sinners. What was said of the people in Noah’s day could certainly be said of us today, “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” That’s who we are. That is an accurate accounting of human nature. Now set that along side God’s standard of “Be perfect even as I am perfect.” “Be holy because I am holy.” We don’t measure up. We fall short. How do we remedy that? How do we make that right? That is the focus of Jesus’ parable.
Our first clue as to where this is heading is found in the opening verse. Luke informs us that Jesus told this parable to some folks who where confident in their own righteousness. The words used mean that they were fully persuaded that they were upright and virtuous. These folks saw themselves as faultless and as pure as the driven snow. We have to add to this sense of self-righteousness a hostility toward everyone else. They not only trusted in themselves – they despised everyone else. They viewed the rest of the word with contempt! Jesus is about to upset their apple cart. He does so by telling them a story about two men. Two men who went to the temple to pray. Two men who were very different. One well thought of and admired by all. The other hated and despised by everyone. One went home “justified” the other went away condemned. Who was justified and who was condemned? The answer may surprise you.
Two men – two prayers – a very surprising response.
Two things I want us to glean from this text.
- The example of the Pharisee serves to remind us that God in holiness rejects the pious claims of the self-righteous. (18:9-12)
- The prayer of the tax collector reminds us that God in grace responds to the humble cry of the repentant sinner. (18:13-14)
How is a man made right with God? How do you deal with your sin? It is not a matter of cleaning yourself up. It is not a matter of your performing certain acts. You can’t make it right. You cannot fix this problem. All you can do is throw yourself on the mercy of God. That’s the Gospel. That is why Jesus came.
God in his holiness rejects the pious claims of the self-righteous but in grace He response to the humble cry of the repentant sinner.
The Omniscience of God
An Old Testament Example of a New Testament Truth
1 Kings #14: an exposition of 1 Kings 14:1-20. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, May 31, 2015.
It’s happened only once in my 20 years serving as a police chaplain. I asked the father of a victim if I could pray for him and he said, “No. If you want to pray for my son go ahead but I don’t need nor do I want your prayers.” That’s unusual because normally in a time of crisis people want prayer. Even those who are not formally connected with a church or devoted to faith desire prayer where their world is shaken. Most do want prayer and are grateful to get it. I’m sure many think, “What harm can it do?” Others think maybe this chaplain has some kind of connection and can get something for me. Whatever the reason it seems to be true, “You don’t find atheist in foxholes!” As a chaplain and as a pastor, I want to bring the presence of Christ to people in times of crisis. I want to offer hope and encouragement. But I wonder about the attitude that says, “What harm can it do?” Is it always safe to approach the Almighty at the moment of crisis? I’m not sure it is.
He was king of the nation of Israel.
He was put into that position by God himself.
Due to the sin of Solomon God brought judgment on Israel.
Through the prophet God said He would tear the nation from Solomon’s hand.
Because of God’s covenant with David this would not happen in Solomon’s lifetime.
After his death, early in the reign of Reheboam judgment came.
Jeroboam was made king of the 10 Northern tribes.
Jeroboam was assured that if he followed in the path of David he would be blessed.
His kingdom would be established and his dynasty would endure.
Jeroboam foolishly chose to trust his own ingenuity rather than trust the Word of God.
Jeroboam’s son fell ill. In an effort to secure God’s blessing and the restored health of his son Jeroboam devised an elaborate plan seeking to pull one over on God’s prophet. The results were disastrous and yet informative. Our text this evening is found in 1 Kings the 14.
Text: 1 Kings 14:1-20
What we have in our text is an Old Testament example of a New Testament truth.
As we work our way through the opening section of the 14th chapter we discover that…
Thesis: Whether you are a king or a pauper, devout or indifferent, mark it down God will not be mocked. You will reap what you sow. (Gal 6:7-8)
I want to point out 4 things from our text.
- Our Sovereign God will not be used. (14:1-6)
- Rejection of God’s grace is a very serious matter. (14:7-11)
- The judgment of God is overwhelming. (14:12-18)
In the end all that will matter is what did you do with Christ? (14:19-20)
Let’s make this personal. If we are talking about your obituary does it really matter that you built a successful business from scratch? Does it matter that you retired from your company after 30 years of service, loved baseball golf and spent time with your family if you did not love the Lord your God and trust in His only Son the Lord Jesus?
Learn from an old reprobate king – ultimately all that matters is what did you do with Jesus?