Monday, February 22, 2010

The Christian Life

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 21, 2010

Mark 6:30-32 - “ Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.”

What is your view of the Christian life? How would you characterize the life that is lived, truly and fully lived, for Christ?

You know, it's interesting the differences that catch your attention as you read and study scripture... The book of Mark, especially these first 6 chapters of this gospel, but it's interesting to me to think back about the verses, the people, the evens, the ideas and the truths that have jumped off the page to me over the last few weeks, as I've been examining this book. Rehearse some of them again with me just now, will you? The beginning of the gospel, as it is recorded here, in the Bible, and the continuation of the Gospel as it is fleshed out by us out there in the world. Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is Lord! Remember the 3 foundational confessions of the Christian faith?

No Change, No Jesus. Know Jesus, Know Change! We must be NEW wine-skins before Jesus, the New Wine, will pour His life into us!

That huge character, Satan – the Devil – our Adversary, who is continually busy trying to steal, kill and destroy the good news and those who believe that good news! He is the strong man! He is the strong man, that's the bad news. But, Mark 1 – Mark 2 – Mark 3, 4, 5, 6 all the way to the end, these 16 chapters declare to us the good, good news... Remember? Jesus is stronger! Jesus is stronger! We know what manner of man He is, don't we?

Now, I'd like for us to turn a corner to take yet another look at the inspired and inspiring words contained right here in the Bible, and consider something else God wants us to think about and know about. I'm talking about the Christian life, the life that is lived – truly and fully lived – for Christ. Remember the questions I laid out for you a moment ago? As I have looked this last week at the Scriptures here, and at my own life in light of them, I've discovered three very important universals. Three very important universal qualities of the life that is lived truly and fully for Jesus Christ, that are true and evident across the board. May I share them with you?

I don't know for sure what your view of the Christian life might be, but I am regularly reminded that there are a lot of people – young and old, rich and poor, well-educated and not-so-well-educated – who think that, well, the Christian life is BORING!

You know, “You're a Christian, huh? That means that you don't do this... And you don't do that... And you'd NEVER do the other... So, guess what? You must not do ANYTHING! You must not have ANY fun! You must sit around praying all day, reading your Bible all day, singing hymns all day. A real 'spiritual' couch potato! BO—RING! That's what the life lived for Jesus Christ must be!” Oh, really?! Is that what the Word of God indicates the Christian life is like?

See if any of these descriptions sound BO-RING to you... “Follow me, and I will make you FISHERS of men...” (Mark 1:17) Serving up fish sandwiches for 5,000 hungry men, not counting the women and children (Mark 6:32 ff). And, while we're talking about fish and fishing, what about it? My Bible says that fishing – in other words, a man making a living to provide for his family – that's a part of what God calls the Christian life! (1 Timothy 5:8) The Christian life, how do you characterize it?

The book of Mark – this wonderful good news book about the life of Jesus, and about those of us then and now who are learning to live as He lived. How does this portion of the Word of God portray the Christian life?
It portrays Jesus' life – the disciples' lives – as those so full of people – needy, hurting people – and opportunities to preach, teach, heal and comfort those people, that they didn't even have time to eat! (Mark 6:31)

The Christian life, godly parents, what is it? Deuteronomy 6 – it is the all-day-long responsibility you and I have to teach our children about the Lord, to talk about Him to them, as the Scripture says there, from the time we awaken in the morning, to the time we go to bed at night – and all in between.

Or, look at the Christian life the way Acts 10 describes Christ's life, “[Everywhere He went] He went about doing good...” He went about adorning the gospel! He went about calming storms, hugging children, healing sick bodies, teaching immature disciples, confronting obstinate Pharisees... and ultimately, He made His way to Calvary!

And why did He do all of that? Because He was trying to show us that the Christian life – the life that is truly and fully lived for Him – ISN'T a sit around and twiddle your thumbs kid of life. And it ISN'T a lay back and watch the grass grow kind of life! Rather, Matthew 28:18-20 – It's an “As you go, make disciples' kind of life. In other words, Beloved, here's the key word – the Christian life is not BO-RING, but BU-SY! It's BU-SY! Which means, secondly, that it is also TIRING. Yes, you heard me right. The Christian life is also tiring! You think about it with me, the images the word pictures that are used in the New Testament to describe the life lived truly and fully for Jesus Christ are what? They are rigorous, energetic pictures like... “I have FOUGHT the good FIGHT, I have finished the RACE...” (2 Timothy 4:7) “GROW up in every way into Him who is the Head, Jesus Christ...” (Ephesians 4:15) “Offer your BODIES – your whole selves – as live SACRIFICES... be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” (Romans 12:1-2) “Stand firm against the devil's schemes... RESIST him, and he will flee from you...” (Ephesians 6:10 ff, James 4:7)

These images, these word pictures that portray for us what it means to live the Christian life... Beloved, this is no 'couch potato' situation! No! When I read words that talk about warfare, Olympic marathons, sacrifice and transformation, holding your ground and growing... Immediately I think of EFFORT. I think of EXERTION, of blood, sweat and tears. I immediately think of how tiring it must be to live, really LIVE for Jesus Christ!

Does that surprise you? It shouldn't! Look back with me, if you would, to Mark 4, verses 35-41. Jesus, the One who shows us what it means to live – really live - this life for God that is anything but BO-RING, where is He, at the end of that busy, grueling day? Verse 38 – He is asleep! He is asleep! Yes, living truly and fully for Christ is NOT boring; rather, it's BUSY. So BU-SY, in fact, that you and I – if that has been our pursuit – like Jesus was that night in the boat, we'll be tired! The GOOD kind of tired, as we call it around our house. But, why is all of this true?

The third important thing to remember about the Christian life – the third universal truth about the life that is truly and fully lived for Jesus Christ – is that it is DEMANDING. The life really lived for Christ is demanding.

Think again with me about what we've seen so far – and what we look forward to seeing in this Book – the gospel of Mark: the Christian life is demanding, Mark chapter one – Peter, Andrew, James and John left everything – they left everything, the boats, the nets, the fish – they left everything to follow Jesus. Or, how about John the Baptist. As we read in this 6th chapter, right here... his “He [Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease” mindset ultimately cost him his life! Or, think back with me to Mark chapter 2 and Mark chapter 4. W want Jesus – the new 'wine' – to be poured into us, to fill us. But what does that require of us? It means that we must become new wine-skins! We want to be fruitful for the kingdom of God? We must break-up the fallow pathway soil, we must deepen and enrich the rocky soil, we must purify the weedy soil of our life's garden. Or else, we will NEVER be fruitful for the Kingdom! The Christian life is DEMANDING... it's no Sunday School picnic! Rather, it calls us, through the gospel, Jesus calls us to let go of deeply-held wrong ideas - “I would never eat lunch with someone like that!” “I would never touch someone with that disease.” Jesus did! He ATE with tax collectors and sinners! He came to bring healing to the sick! And, in doing so, Jesus calls us to make the ultimate commitment ourselves: the commitment He made at Calvary... Mark 8:34ff - “If anyone would come after Me, he must DENY himself, take up his cross and follow Me... for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel, the same will save it!”

Yes, beloved, mark it down, the Christian life – the life really lived for Jesus Christ - is not BO-RING, and it is not EAST, and it is definitely not always comfortable or pleasure oriented. But it is BU-SY, it's TIRING and it's DEMANDING! More demanding than anything else on earth. But you know something else? Jesus knows all of that! He knows all of that! And that's what makes the three verse we read at the outset so meaningful!

Look at those verses again with me, will you? Jesus, the One whose life was unbelievably busy – crowds of needy folks gathered around Him all the time, coming and going, seeking His help from dark thirty AM to dark thirty PM and beyond – Jesus, the One who, everywhere He went, He was helping and healing hurting people. Jesus, the One whose words and whose life made the demands of the gospel call what they were! Jesus, the One who even fell asleep one night out on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, because He knows that to live – really live – like Him and for Him means that His apostles will be busy, tired and stretched to the limit. What does He do? Jesus, the very One who restored the sick woman's health. Jesus, the one who gave strength to the paralyzed man's legs. Jesus, the very One who fed the 5,000 with the fish and bread – look what He does for those who were His chosen ones: verses 31 and 32. He takes His tired, weak, hungry, 'stressed out' apostles – His 12 closest men – to a solitary place with Him, to get some rest! In other words, Jesus provides for these who were desirous of being like Him what they NEEDED to continue that pursuit: a place - a quiet, solitary get away location. A Person – Himself. And a purpose - to feed them, strengthen them and restore them that they might be ready for the busy, tiring, demanding days ahead!

Now, let's look at our lives... Do we wear the name 'Christian'? If we do – guess what? We're the 'apostles' – the Jesus Christ commissioned 'sent ones' of this day and time! We're the ones who are supposed to be BU-SY – not BO-RED, but busy – busy about our Master's business. Have we check our calendars lately? Is that what they reflect?

And, we're the ones who are supposed to get tired. We're the ones who ought to fall asleep on the boat TIRED, because we are so busy working for the Lord.

And, yes, we're the ones who, hopefully, more than anyone else, understand the demands of the gospel call on our lives. Demands like – seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15ff). Pursue holiness, for without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14). Hopefully, more than anyone else, we understand the gospel's demands... and, by God's grace, we are seeking to submit to those demands and to meet those requirements.

Brothers and sisters – true confession time – this preacher of yours, sometimes I get so busy, so tired, so stressed out doing the Lord's work – serving Christ and striving to be like Christ, as a husband, father, neighbor, preacher and friend – that like those disciples we read about later in this chapter, straining to row across the lake in the middle of the night, I think “I'm in this thing called the 'Christian life' alone!” And worse yet, I'm backing a 40 mile per hour head wind! Can you relate?

I'm tired and backing that horrible head wind... You're busy, serving Jesus in your sphere of influence, stretched to the limit, because you DO realize and fully grasp the significance of Jesus' call to follow Him to Calvary. We're living – really living for Christ, but somehow, we think Christ has forgotten us... That we might as well give up! And throw in the towel... Beloved, did you know something? That's where the very first readers of this gospel – the Christians at ancient Rome – were, when they opened it to this chapter. And you know something? Are you listening? The words Jesus spoke to those first-century believers at Rome, they are the same words being delivered to you and me: (Mark 6:50) “It is I! Don't be afraid!” and “Come with me – by yourselves – to a quiet place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31).

The Christian life... what is your view of it? How do you characterize the life that is lived – really lived for Jesus Christ?

One of my most favorite verses along those lines is Acts 4:13. It's the verse immediately following that famous verse, where Peter declares that salvation is found in no name under heaven other than the name of Jesus... Acts 4:13 – it describes the vantage point of the unbelieving Jewish council – the Sanhedrin – as the members of that ruling council observed the lives of the Apostles, Peter and John. Take a look at that verse and consider this question: How is the life that lived, really lived for Jesus Christ to be characterized?

Acts 4:13 - “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

“They have been with Jesus.” Now think about it with me, will you? What would prompt the Sanhedrin of that day to say that about Peter and John? Answer: number one – those 2 men were busy about the Lord's work... Number two – And at times they grew tired in doing that work... Number three – And, as their courageous declaration to that council makes clear, they understood the DEMANDS of Jesus' calling on their lives.

But, here's the really important question, that may have been on the Sanhedrin's mind, and that wondering about... “What kept them going? What kept them going, all the way to the point of suffering a martyr's death?”

Answer: number one – Jesus was in the boat with them (Mark 6:51)... and, answer number two – they made regular trips to that quiet, solitary place WITH Jesus to be refreshed and restored. They had been, were and would be WITH Jesus! (Mark 6:31-32) Now, how about our lives? We are the Jesus Christ commissioned SENT ones of today. Busy about His business? Tired? That good kind of tired that comes when we're busy serving the King of kings? Stretched to the limit? To be so, and to continue doing so, we must be with Jesus, and Jesus must be with us! I've got good news for you, beloved... Our Master is ready to climb in the boat with us! Our master has already prepared a quiet place for us.

Yes, in His strength you and I can continue to do the busy, tiring, demanding work He call us to do for Him... through Him.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 14, 2010
Titus 3:3-7: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,
deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our
Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ
our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs
according to the hope of eternal life.”
Today is February the 14th – Valentine's Day – as we call it. And, since the subject of love is on our minds, I couldn't help but think that it would be most appropriate to open up with you and to you that marvelous subject of the love of God. Alongside the holiness of God and the glory and power of God, and the providential plan and purpose of God, perhaps the theme – the central message of this Book is that theme and message of God's love for those whom He has made...

What do you think of – what comes to your mind – when you meditate on the love of God? Poets and songwriters the world over have used some very beautiful and poetic-sounding words to describe the love of God. For example, hymn writer Frederick Lehman described God's love like this:

“The love of God is greater far than tongue of pen can ever tell,
it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell;
the guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His son to win:
His erring child He reconciled and pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
when men, who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call,
God's love so sure shall still endure, all measureless and strong:
redeeming grace to Adam's race- the saints' and angels' song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,
were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade,
to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure- the saints' and angels' song.”
What do you think of when you begin to contemplate that grand theme – the Love of God? Beloved, I don't know where your thoughts lead you, as you consider this subject – but to me, it's interesting, and very helpful to note that the divinely-inspired writers of Scripture. Folks like the author of this passage, the apostle Paul, these Biblical writers often begin what they have to say about God's love, not with the beautiful, but with the ugly. The love of God, oh how we want to hear about it! Oh, how we love to read about it! But, look! Look at the love of God, first - against its backdrop! What is it that makes the love of God so beautiful, so meaningful?

One of the things that makes it so beautiful, so meaningful – so powerful – is to see it against its backdrop. Theological question for you and me to wrestle with for a moment, in light of Paul's words here in Titus 3, verses 3 and 4. When did the love of God our Saviour toward man appear?

Consider what the Holy Spirit is saying to us here through the apostle Paul in verses 3 and 4. He's saying that that focal point of our faith – the precious Cross, the saving sacrificial death of Christ, His love gift to us – right here, in these powerful and profound words of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is saying that the beauty and majesty of God's great love can only be fully and rightly understood against the ugly backdrop of our sin and hostility toward God! “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, HATEFUL, and HATING one another,...”

“Oh, if you only knew...” Have you ever thought those words? Ever said them out loud after someone complimented you or your family? “You're such a nice person – so sweet, so kind, so patient...” “Oh, if you only knew...” Listen, my friends, listen – God knows! There's nothing that you or I can hide from His all-seeing eyes! There's nothing about us that He doesn't know, yes, even better that we know! “If you only knew...” God knows! Yes, He does! But, listen – God knows, and yet, He loves! And, yet He loves! Talking about God's love in that way, brings up something else from this passage that we need to see about God's love – and that is the BECAUSE of God's love. Along the dark backdrop of the ugliness of our sin and the loveliness – the beauty – of God's love, stands another sharp contrast we must surely observe and understand. And that is the contrast underscored by this idea of the BECAUSE of God's love...

You know it, don't you? The word “because” - our English word “because” - implies yet another word. What is that other word? It's the word, “Why?” Why did God choose to love you and me? Lots of people buying lots of candy, and pretty flowers for people they love – why? You know why... because those people – the people who will receive the candy boxes and the bouquets - have loved them. In other words, the candy makers and flower shops are cashing in on this 2-way street thing. This, “I scratch your back, you scratch my back,” kind of thing we call 'love'! But, listen and look at the text – is the love of God toward folks like us, at it's heart and center, a two-way street thing? “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, NOT by works of righteousness which we have done...” Not because WE had first scratched God's back – NO! But because of and in accordance with His mercy He saved us. In Ephesians 2, Paul says it like this, “For it is by grace that you have been saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...” This beautiful theme – this mighty and majestic message – of the love of God, fundamentally at it's foundation, it is NOT a two-way street thing! No! It is all, I mean, ALL one way! It is according to HIS mercy – He withholds from us what we deserve! It is by means of His free grace – He freely and abundantly gives to us what we don't deserve and could never earn!

The love of God. So far we have looked at God's love against it's backdrop – that canvas splashed with the bleakness and blackness of our sin and it's degradation. And, we have considered the REASONS why - “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy...” Now, let's examine it's goal. What is the purpose, the outcome – the goal – of God's great love?

Before we explore this third aspect of God's great love, I want you to notice something with me here in the text. It may seem like a small thing – actually, in terms of words, in terms of letters it IS a small thing. Only two words, only nine letters. But, listen. When it comes to you and me, and everyone else who's ever lived, it is a HUGE thin. What am I talking about? Verse 4 – Look closely at this verse with me, and imagine what it would be like if this verse instead of reading as it does read, instead it read something like this? “But when the kindness and love of God appeared...” What's mission? From the way I just read verse 4, what's missing? Two words, 9 letters – the words toward man. Listen, my loved ones, when you and I set out to study this grandest of grand subjects – The Love of God – let's not overlook or neglect or forget those 2 words. The outcome, the purpose, the goal of God's great love – all of it is aimed and targeted toward you and me! Verse 5, number one – we were perishing. Like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee in that storm tossed boat, we were perishing. But, because of God's great love in Christ He saved us! He rescued us! Hallelujah! Number two – verse 5 also – we were dead! That's right! You heard me right! We were dead in our sins and trespasses! But, because of God's great love what did He do? He made us alive again! He regenerated us through the washing of rebirth (baptism) and He renewed us. Talking about OLD, talking about FEEBLE – there's nothing older and more feeble than a lost sinner! What was God's goal in pouring out His love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit? His goal was to make us new! New lives for old – that's what the outcome was!

Verse 7 – Why did God love us? How did God love us? Take a look at verse 7 and consider the awful fact that before God and apart from His love for you in Christ, you are guilty - you are condemned and sentenced to an eternity of punishment in hell. “Toward man” - only two words, only 9 short letters, the goal of God's great love toward guilty men and women and children like us is what? To justify us! To remove from us the accusation, the verdict, the sentence and the penalty of our sin and to replace all of that with the amazing and overwhelming gift of His righteousness.

The love of God – He gave it, He showed it – to save us when we were perishing, to make us new and alive – when we were dead, to justify us - when we were guilty and condemned, and then number 4 – notice the last half of verse 7 – what is the goal of God's love? Once again it is toward us – for us! I know they are Old Testament examples, but I'd like to point you to them right now. In the Old Testament we are introduced to two women, two Gentile women - who, according to the Sovereign plan of God, are included in the Nation of Israel and are utilized by Him to bring His Son into the world. I'm talking about the Canaanite harlot, Rahab, and the Moabite woman, Ruth. Listen, form an Israelite's perspective, those women were as far as far can be from being a part of God's people. They were – as Paul says in Ephesians chapter two - “Without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) Having no hope, estranged and separated from God in the world – MY name is Rahab, your name is Ruth. Listen, my friends, that bleak spiritual background and outlook is ours, except for one thing! Except for the great, great love of God!

When we were without hope, without God in the world – in His great love in Christ – God chose us, He chose to ADOPT us and include us, so that now - guess what? We are His heirs! We have inherited His greatest love gift of all, the hope of eternal life!

The love of God – I'm not an artist, and certainly not much of a poet – but God is. And on this most important of canvases, He has begun this marvelous masterpiece with the dark backdrop of our lives as He knows them – in all the blackness and ugliness of our sin – and on this canvas, He has highlighted HIS mercy over against OUR works, which ALWAYS fall short. And the fact that we were excluded, guilty, perishing – yes, my friends, the fact that we were dead – but also, the amazing, good news that He has chosen to justify, to regenerate, to adopt, and to save you and me...

Now, my friends, stop and think it through with me – this beautiful painting, this marvelous masterpiece painted so wondrously by God Himself - what's at the center of it? Whose face is in the foreground? In the center of this marvelous masterpiece we call the Love of God is the majestic face of our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Read it again with me, would you please?
Titus 3:3-7: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,
deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our
Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ
our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs
according to the hope of eternal life.”
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared...” When God determined it was times for His love and kindness toward man to be manifested fully and finally what did it look like? The Cross!

“Through Jesus Christ our Savior!”

Monday, February 8, 2010

God's Way is the Best Way

North Clear Creak Falls, San Juan Southern Rocky Mtns. - Copyright Jon Barger - Litho in USA

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday morning, February 7, 2010

Psalm 1:1-6: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his
delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He
shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit
in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall
prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives
away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the
congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but
the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Psalm 18:28-33: “For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my
darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a
wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a
shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD?and who is a
rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way
perfect.He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.
Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-9: “ “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who
have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for
what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let
your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear,
and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you— the
sure mercies of David. Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while
He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our
God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor
are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your
thoughts.” ”
John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through Me.

I’ve got a two question survey I’d like to conduct this morning – and guess what? Your number is the one I’ve dialed and I’ve got you on the line… So, will you participate with me in this?
Question number one is designed for you to show your response to what I ask, by raising your hand. But, question number two – let’s just say that I invite you to take it up with the Lord, just between Him and you – without any visible response on your part at this time…

Here’s the first question: “How many of you believe that God’s way – His plan – is the BEST way to go?” Raise your hand, please, if you agree with that statement.

Okay, now to question number two – and, again – I urge you to take this one up with the Lord, just the two of you. Here’s the question: “If people watching your life were to try to discern whether or not you really believe that God’s way is best, what would they say – what conclusion would they draw, based upon the way you live your life?”

“God’s way is the very best way” – our survey says that an overwhelming majority of this crowd, at least, really believe that to be the case. But, the question – the one that makes us squirm in our seats, the one that pricks our consciences, or maybe even causes our blood pressure to go up – is not: “Is God’s way the BEST way?” But, rather, “Does my life line up with my acknowledgement and confession that God’s way is best?”

How many of you have been to the Post Office recently in order to mail a package? You can raise your hands on that one, if you like?… Several of you have – Now, here’s the question for you to think about: “When you walk up to the Postal Clerk at the desk - your prized package in hand – what do you ask him or her?” Remember, this is an important piece of mail, right? And, likely it about to be sent to a very important person, right? So, what do you ask the P.O. clerk? “Sir, what’s the cheapest way to send this?” or “Ma’am, what’s the quickest way to mail this?” Or, do you and I ask – as we really should ask – “Sir/Ma’am, what’s the BEST way to send this package?” Interesting, isn’t it, how often speed – or even more, our pocket books – override the wisdom there is in asking and abiding by the BEST way for our packages to be delivered.
You know something? I’m afraid that that very same way of thinking is what often guides us in ALL of our lives? You know, the mindset that says, “How can I get this done with the least amount of effort on my part?” Or, the thought process that leads us down a road marked ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’, and off the high road, the straight way marked “trusting in the Lord.” Is God’s way the BEST way?

We agree with that statement, don’t we? We’d answer ‘yes’ to that question, wouldn’t we? But, do our lives prove it? Do they?

Take Psalm one for instance – we read it a moment ago. It’s one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. And it serves along with Psalm two as kind of an introduction and summation of the message of the entire book of Psalms. Psalm 1 is the story of two ways – there’s our key word, my friends – it’s the story of two ways for a man, the account of two men. One I call ‘Blessed Bill’ and the other I call ‘Woeful Will’. Two men who took those two different ways – those two divergent life paths. Look again at what the Bible says through that Psalm about ‘Blessed Bill’. Why is he someone folks like us would call ‘Blessed’? Is it because he SAYS – is it because he intellectually acknowledges - that God’s way is best? Is that the reason he is ‘Blessed Bill’? No! Look closely at what God’s word says here – Blessed Bill is blessed why? Because he ACTS upon his belief, instead of letting ungodly men and women – TV talk show hosts, new age gurus, grocery store scandal sheets – be his guide; instead of reading his horoscope for advice, where does he go to find the way?

“Blessed is the man who does NOT walk in the counsel [the advice, the guidance] of the ungodly!” Or, how about his friendships, his intimate, heart-to-heart connections with other people? What about him? Are Blessed Bill’s heart strings woven together with people who say ‘no’ to our survey question? Has he taken his stand with them? Think about it with me, will you? How many times have good moral been corrupted and contaminated by evil companionships? No! Blessed Bill, he refused to stand in the path that sinners are using and cruising!

Furthermore, like God, Blessed Bill laughs, and then, cries – he weeps – because ungodly counselors and sin-path walkers, if they continue in that direction – what do they become? They soon become mockers, scoffers, arrogant scorners who foolishly claim, “There is no God!”… There is no BEST way other than their own way!

Yes, Blessed Bill is blessed why? Because his belief is consistently translated into ACTION – “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night!”

I don’t know if you have thought about it or not before – but consider it with me now, if you would, please. Your thoughts, my plans, our ways – what makes us think that THEY are the best? That they’re BETTER than what God, our Maker, our Sustainer, the One in Whom we live and move and breathe – what makes us think that our ways are as good as or better than His?
Psalm 18. By the way, these very same words are also found in 2 Samuel 22. Psalm 18 – Did you notice what David the psalmist wrote there? Psalm 18, verses 28 and following: “For You, O Lord, will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness” – my darkness, did you catch that? “The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” And, why is that? Verse 30, because His way – not mine – is perfect! And His word is proven and flawless!…

Beloved, thinking that my way is better…, thinking that your plan is superior… How foolish and puffed up could we be? It makes me think about the jet airplane story I heard some time ago… The recorded message comes over the airplane’s intercom. “This is your pilot speaking; please fasten your seat belts and sit back and relax. You’re in for a smooth, comfortable ride. And, remember, on this airline, nothing can go wrong… go wrong… go wrong… go wrong!” How dare we claim that our way is at least as good as God’s! His way is PERFECT! Who can get any better than that? Who can top that? And, then, look at the second half of that verse – all you scientists out there. It says that “God’s word is proven”. What does that word mean? It means that God’s word has been put to the test, and shown to be reliable! Not like our ‘theories’ – you know, still in the experimental stages! No! God’s way IS best! It is! Remember Jesus’ parable with which He closed out His marvelous sermon on the mount? Matthew 7, verses 21 and following – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father in heaven… And whoever hears these sayings of mine, and DOES them, is like a wise man, who built his house upon a rock…”

God’s word – His way – is best! Why? Because it’s solid, it’s proven, it’s reliable – like a rock! But our ways… what are they? Second part of that parable of Jesus. They are like sand – sinking, shifting sand – and what happens when you build on sand? SPLAT! Down comes the house – down goes your life in a big heap of rubble.

Yes, God’s way is best – because it is perfect, and it is proven. But, think again about Psalm 18:30. What does David the psalmist mean when he informs us that God’s word and way is “flawless”? Here’s what I think this passage is trying to teach us – that God’s way is best, because God’s way, His word is pure! It’s pure! My friends, let’s get a little up close and personal. Is that an adjective we can honestly attach to our lives, to our words and ways? God’s way – His word – is pure, it is! His way and word are free – completely free – of dross, of admixture. But us, oh, how dross-filled we are! How full of impurities are OUR ways!
Isaiah the prophet, speaking in the Lord’s behalf, said it this way – Isaiah 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are NOT your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways,” says the Lord, “for as high as the heavens are above the earth [and believe, that’s high!], so my thoughts.” God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are far, far above our ways!

“God’s way is the best way...” Do you agree with that statement? More significantly, does your life prove it?

God’s word has been pointing us in the direction of something that – up till now – we really haven’t touched on, something that turns this lesson toward the crux of the matter. Are you ready to hear and heed this part of God’s message to us?

God’s way in the best way – let’s come at this one more time, shall we? What’s really at stake when we move that statement from a simple survey question, to a heart-to-heart wrestling match with God?

Go back to Psalm 18 one more time with me, and this time please find verse 31. God’s way is best! What really is the crux of the matter? Simply this – this extremely important question – asked by the words of this psalm: verse 31 “Who is God?”

Standing on Mount Carmel one day, the Lord’s man – Elijah the prophet – asked that very same question of the 400 false prophets of Baal, and the Israelite people. Remember? He said, “Who is God? If Baal is God, then choose him! But, if Jehovah is God, then follow Him! This bold statement really begs this question – this crux of the matter question – who is God? You see, if my mindset is that MY ways are every bit as good as the Lord’s, then who really is god, in my life? If your thoughts are along the lines of, “I’ve got this one all figured out; I don’t need the Bible to guide me..” Ophrah says this… Dr. Phil says that… But don’t bother me with what the Holy Spirit says… Then, really, now – who IS god? You, me, or Him? “As for God, His way is perfect! As for God’s word, His word is proven and flawlessly pure. He is a shield to all who trust in Him!” In whom? “In Him!” For who is God? Baal? You? Me? No! Baal is not God! Nor are you or I! No one is God except the Lord! No one is a rock, except our God! Jesus said it this way, didn’t He? He said, “I am the way, the truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me!”

His way, His new and living way – opened up through the veil that is, His flesh – is better, the BEST! Why? Because of WHO He is! He is God incarnate! His way is best! And, all other ways – where do they lead, where do they end up? At a sign marked with the words: D-E-A-D E-N-D! Dead end! All other ways – as good as they may appear, are dead ends!

So, what difference does it make – why should I align my life with my ‘yes’ answer to our first survey question? Psalm 18:32-33 – God’s way is best, it is perfect, it is proven, it is flawlessly pure. Here’s what difference it makes when you and I live like we believe that! He will make our way perfect [Psalm 18:32], and verse 33, He will make our feet sure and swift – like a deer. He – our God, our Lord whose way is the Best – will set our lives on high places!

Is God’s way the best way? If people watching your life were trying to discern whether or not you really believe that – what conclusion would they draw?

Let me close with this final statement. Joy is NOT found in having our way. Sorry all you Burger King fans. Rather, joy is found in choosing to be satisfied with – in deciding to align our lives - with God’s way!

And, with one final passage of Scripture we will close…

Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-7: “ “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the
waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and
milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not
bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat
what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear,
and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting
covenant with you— the sure mercies of David. Seek the LORD while He may be
found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the
unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy
on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” ”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back to the Basics

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 31, 2010.

Psalm 19:7-11: "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the
testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the
LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the
judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be
desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than
honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and
in keeping them there is great reward.

Getting back to basics - I don’t know if I said it, in so many words, but that theme – Getting Back to Basics – has been our theme for this first month of 2010… Though many in our world – yes, even many in the church – seem to live by the Athenian philosophy (Acts 17), spending much of their time talking about - learning about – the latest, the greatest and the NEW-est. I’m convinced, as I’ve said before, that there are some things, some really important things, that we must NOT trade away for what’s behind door #1, 2 or 3.

And what are those things? You remember… the Sanctity of Human Life, Psalm 139 – “Lord, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Today’s Athenians tell us that the Sanctity of Human Life – valuing what God values from the point of conception all the way to the point of natural death – is old fashioned, too traditional, too narrow minded. So, let’s trade it, let’s trade the Sanctity of Human Life for CHOICE! I say ‘No!’ More importantly, this Book [the Bible] says ‘No!’ Let’s hold onto – let’s get back to the basics of the Sanctity of Human Life.
Secondly, Acts 2:42. Speaking of basics, what does that New Testament text teach us regarding the pattern for our 21st century church? Chase the latest fad? Pursue the new, just because it is new? No! What does the scripture say? It says… “And they continued steadfastly – they earnestly persevered – in the Apostles’ Doctrine, the Fellowship, the Breaking of the Bread, and the prayers. These basis are not negotiable – you know, like a pawn on a chess board, or a token in a TV game show! No! We must not set them aside, or else we’ll change all that God meant the Church to do and be. Back to Basics – it’s a great way to begin the New Year, it’s a great way to live EVERY DAY of the year!

Well, this morning as we leave January – month number one of 2010 behind, let’s wrap up our Back to Basics series with a brief lesson on the B-I-B-L-E. The B-I-B-L-E – I hope that all of you know what that spells! The Bible! B-I-B-L-E - that’s what those 5 letter spell. But, here’s a new one for you, perhaps. B-I-B-L-E what do those 5 letter stand for?

While you are thinking about that, takeout the insert about God’s Word I stuck in your worship bulletin this morning, because we’re going to use it through our lesson today.

B-I-B-L-E – I hope you have your pen handy; write this one down. Those 5 letter stand for these five words:

B-I-B-L-E, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Talk about getting back to the basics, what could be more BASIC – more essential – than this Book, God’s Book, His love letter, His owner’s manual for you an me?

Sometime ago, a Christian song writer wrote these words –

“We’ve got to get back to the Bible,
or we’re liable to be running in the wrong direction.
A dusty Bible on the coffee table,
might as well be a Christian fable.
We’re got to get back to the Bible…”
Well, I agree with the thrust of that song. But, perhaps what I need – maybe what you need – is not so much another prod to pick up the Bible, but some help once I pick up this Book.
Well, my Dear Ones, hopefully this lesson – and this Bible Guide – will supply that needed help as you and I pick up and open up this, the Book of Books, the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E, what is it that you hold in your hands? What do we have here in this Book of Books? Well, I’m not much for statistics, simple for the sake of statistics. Nevertheless, as we being our lesson this morning, take a look at the little box with that title – “Bible Statistics”. Did you know that…
- The Bible has 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament?
- There are 1189 chapters and 31,173 verses in the Bible?
- Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the Bible?
- Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible?
- Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible?
- The shortest verses in the Bible are John 11:35, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Okay, now that you’ve had enough of the numbers, let me ask you a question to test your Bible knowledge. Where in the B-I-B-L-E do I find the 10 commandments? Where do I find the Sermon of the Mount? Where do I find the Parable of the Good Samaritan? The Fruits of the Spirit? Do you need help – like I often do – in finding or remembering where that favorite passage – that important passage – is located? Put a star beside the “Where Do I Find…?” box.
What do we have here in this Book of Books? Do you know? Find the box on your Bible Guide that says, simply, “God’s Word”. Hebrews 4:12-13. Did you know that this Book is the sharpest, most alive double-edge Sword you can find! Did you know that It is inspired of God – literally breathed – and able to make every Christian completely equipped to serve Jesus Christ? 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Or, how about the text we read at the outset? It is this Book, not the latest romance novel, Ladies. Not the latest in the Sports Magazine, Fellows. Not, it is this Book, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. It is this Book that gives joy to the heart? (Psalm 19:8)

Basic Instruction Before, that’s the key word, isn’t it? Basic Instructions BEFORE Leaving Earth. One of these days you and I WILL leave this earth. However, before we do, we need answers to some of life’s most important questions! Do you know what God is like? Oh, I know that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His power. I know that Creation testifies to the existence of a Creator. But, listen. When was the last time a tree made it clear to you that our God is holy? When was the last time that a butterfly told you that our God is a friend of sinners – that He is unchangeable and powerful – and that He will one day be the Judge of all??

Listen, my friends, trees can’t tell you these things. Neither can butterflies. But this Book DOES! Yes, this Book supplies ANSWERS – heaven sent answers – to the questions that really matter! Such as, what is God like? Such as, who is Jesus? Beloved, did you know the Mormons say He is Lucifer’s Brother! Is that what this Book says? The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that He is Michael the arch-angel. Is that what THIS Book says? What is God like? Who is Jesus? What happened on the cross? These eternity-changing questions are answered – NOT in a tract from the Watch Tower… NOT in the Book of Mormon – but HERE, right here, in the Bible, God’s Word!

Basic Instructions – How many of you have trouble keeping Bible people and events and time-frames straight? Does it ever seem like this Book is like a big jig-saw puzzle, and you don’t have the box lid to look at as you put the puzzle together? One of the things I like about this Bible Guide is how simple it is. For example, on the front side it supplies us with a simple time line of Bible people and events. As you study God’s Word, use that time line, and the overview of the Old Testament to kind of ‘get your bearings’ and ‘orient your compass!’ Use it to see how this Book presents history as it ought to be presented – as His-Story! His-Story!

Basic Instructions – Did you ever wish you could sit across the kitchen table from God and ask Him some questions about how to handle money? Now, that’s a big one we all wrestle with, isn’t it? What did we say those 5 letters stand for? Basic – there’s the ‘B’, Instructions – there’s the ‘I’. You want to know what God thinks about money? Don’t go to the Internet, don’t turn on the TV – don’t even hunt down a cope of the Wall Street Journal! No! Look here, in the Word of God! And listen, money is just one of a host of ‘toughies’ we all find challenging to deal with that all are addressed – and, I might add – addressed with infinite wisdom, and infinite care, right here – in THE Book! In God’s Book!

I mentioned a couple of what I call pseudo-Christian cult groups a moment ago, and how we need to know what THIS Book says about Who Jesus is, and what Go is like, so that we won’t be led astray by their false teachings.

We could say the same thing about the occult, and about the so-called New Age movement. These are false faiths, but how will you know that? And how will you know how to handle them when they come at you through TV shows, movies, books, magazines, the Internet, and the like? Take a look at the little box in your Bible Guide entitled “Occultism and the New Age”. There’s a good place to start! Don’t be caught up in their counterfeit miracles, says 2 Thessalonians 2. Don’t go looking for some phony kind of fullness in life that these false faiths promise to give you – they can’t! Fullness of life is found in Jesus Christ – Colossians 2. And, as you confront these false faiths – advertised and espoused by the Ophrah Winfreys of this world, by the Tiger Woods of this word – don’t try to confront them without your armor – Ephesians 6. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes!

The B-I-B-L-E, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E – Bible! I love that children’s song, don’t you? But, listen, a lot of times I need help in knowing how to use this Book of Books. A tool or set of tools that will help me utilize these Basic Instructions in the way in which God intended for me to utilize them.

I know that this message has been a little bit different than the kind of messages you are used to hearing. But listen, what is the goal of preaching and teaching God’s Word? Ecclesiastes 12 tells us that the preacher’s task is to impart knowledge to God’s people – through pondering, searching out and setting in order wise, upright, and acceptable words of truth from This Book. The preacher goads God’s people - ‘His sheep’ – along the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake! Yes, the preacher serves as God’s instrument to admonish His children – and as God’s ‘hammer’ to drive ‘nails’ to which God’s people can fasten their lives! But listen, if in all of my doing of all of that, I don’t help you learn how to open up This Book, and use it YOURSELF, I have failed. So, what am I going to do about it?

Here’s what I’m going to do about it. I’m going to send you home with the B-I-B-L-E, and with this ‘tool’, the Bible Guide, to help you use it! Don’t let this Book be a dust collector on you coffee table – nothing more than a Christian fable! No! Use it! “How?” you ask… Use it to direct your prayer life. (This guide suggests using specific passages as the content of your prayers.) Use it to provide for your spiritual life Monday through Saturday. (I highly recommend the “Daily Quiet Time” suggestions offered in the Bible Guide.)

And, what about memorizing some of these Basic Instructions? Need a list to know where to begin? It’s right here, under the heading, “Great Verses to Memorize”. The B-I-B-L-E, we’ve got to get back to it – why? One more time from Psalm 19, verse 11.

“Moreover, by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.”
The perfect Word of God; the sure testimony of the Lord; the right and pure and clean and enduring and true Book of Books - why did God give it to us? Psalm 19:11 – He gave it to us to warn us. One of these days you will be leaving earth… Are you ready?? Are you prepared?
Then, finally, please note that Psalm 19:11 informs us that God gave us His book – not to college dust – but to call forth obedience and through that obedience to this Book, to open the door for us into a life of great, God-sent rewards!

The B-I-B-L-E – yes, that IS the Book for you and me.

Let’s pray –
“Heavenly Father, in a group - even of this size – it’s possible that someone has been directly or indirectly affected by the hurt and horror of abortion. Unwed mothers, surprised and disappointed parents, teenage fathers, even siblings and friends have been affected and crushed by the pain. You know their pain, just like You know the unborn infant from the moment he or she is conceived. You also offer to them hope, healing and forgiveness – through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Lord, if there be any here today, who need that hope, that healing and that forgiveness, would You call them to Yourself that You might grant these to them abundantly. And, would You give us the grace to minister to them with Your compassion.
In Jesus’ name,