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Apostasy, Faith & Discipleship

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APOSTASY, FAITH, & DISCIPLESHIP

MARSH SWAMP ORIGINAL FREE WILL BAPTIST CHURCH

JANUARY 26, 2003

EPIPHANY 3

JEREMIAH 3:21-4:2; PSALM 130; MARK 1:14-20

WELCOME

THANKS

LET US PRAY:

COME HOLY SPIRIT, FILL THE HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL AND KINDLE IN US THE FIRE OF YOUR LOVE.  SEND FORTH YOUR SPIRIT AND WE SHALL BE CREATED.  O GOD WHO BY THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DID INSTRUCT THE HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL, GRANT THAT BY THAT SAME HOLY SPIRIT WE MAY BE TRULY WISE AND EVER ENJOY YOUR CONSOLATIONS, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.  AMEN

WHAT DOES GOD WANT FROM US?

WHAT DO WE WANT FROM GOD?

TELL STORY OF MARSHALL ASKING, “WHO WILL PICK ME UP?”

NONE OF US WANT TO BE ABANDONED.

NEITHER DOES GOD.

APOSTASY IS JUST THAT, ABANDONING GOD.

ONCE WE ABANDON GOD, WE TURN TO OTHER gods.

THAT’S CALLED IDOLATRY.

ONCE WE HAVE ABANDONED GOD AND CHOSEN OTHER gods,

WE THEN ABANDON GOD’S PEOPLE AND PRACTICE INJUSTICE.

SIN ALWAYS IS A DOWNWARD SPIRAL.

·        ABANDON GOD.

·        CHOOSE OTHER gods.

·        ABANDON GOD’S PEOPLE.

·        PRACTICE INJUSTICE.

THAT IS SIN.

THAT IS A DOWNWARD SPIRAL.

LISTEN TO JEREMIAH:

            THE PEOPLE ARE WEEPING AND PLEADING FOR MERCY.

            THEY HAVE IGNORED/ABANDONED GOD.

            THEY HAVE ABANDONED THEIR FAITH RELATIONSHIP.

            BUT GOD IS PLEADING WITH THEM TO COME BACK.

            “COME BACK TO ME,” SAYS GOD.

            “IF YOU COME BACK,

              IF YOU ABANDON YOUR IDOLS,

              IF YOU LIVE IN TRUTH AND JUSTICE,

              THEN ALL NATIONS WILL WANT TO HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE,

              A FAITH RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TRUE GOD,

              THEN ALL NATIONS WILL BE SAVED”

GOD SAYS THIS MANY TIMES IN SCRIPTURE AND IN MANY WAYS.

IT’S AS IF GOD THOUGHT,

“MAYBE IF I SAY IT AGAIN AND SAY IT A DIFFERENT WAY,

  MAYBE, JUST MAYBE THEY’LL GET IT.”

“I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave–labor. *   7 ‘ “You will have no gods other than me. 8 ‘ “You must not make yourselves any image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; 9 you must not bow down to these gods or serve them.”

Ex 20:1–17

 

34 “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35 It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.”

John 13:34-35

 

THERE ARE MANY MORE EXAMPLES.

LOOK IN ANY BOOK OF THE BIBLE.

SCRIPTURE ITSELF CONVICTS US.

WHAT IS FAITH?

THINK OF FAITH AS RELATIONSHIP – NOT BELIEF.

EXAMPLE:

I CAN BELIEVE IN GOD ALL I WANT,

BUT IF I HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD,

THEN I HAVE NO FAITH.

GOD, BY THE WAY, NEVER ABANDONS THE RELATIONSHIP.

GOD NEVER LOSES FAITH IN US.

MY FRIEND AND MENTOR, BOB PIERCE, USE TO SAY

THAT THE SCARY THING HE DISCOVERED,

AFTER 25 YEARS IN THE MINISTRY,

WAS THAT GOD IS STUCK WITH US.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, MARTIN BELL,

SAYS IT ANOTHER WAY,

“GOD WILL NOT LET US GO TO HELL IN PEACE!”

LISTEN AGAIN TO VS 22 FROM THE JEREMIAH LESSON

THAT WE HEARD EARLIER,

  “COME BACK TO ME, WAYWARD SONS;

    I WILL HEAL YOUR APOSTASY.”

GOD PLEADS WITH US TO COME BACK

TO THE FAITH RELATIONSHIP THAT GOD NEVER LEFT.

GOD SAYS THAT THEN WE WILL BE HEALED

AND THE RELATIONSHIP WILL BE HEALED,

NOT BY ANYTHING WE DO BUT BY GOD’S OWN ACTION.

 

GOD WILL HEAL OUR APOSTASY.

GOD WILL HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.

GOD WILL HEAL OUR SICKNESS AND OUR SIN.

AND THIS HEALING WILL BE MULTIPLIED A MILLION FOLD,

“…THEN SHALL THE NATIONS PRAY TO BE BLESSED LIKE YOU…”

 

IS GOD, THROUGH JEREMIAH, SPEAKING TO ISRAEL AND JUDAH?

YES!

AND I BELIEVE GOD, THROUGH JEREMIAH, IS SPEAKING TO US TOO,

TO OUR APOSTASY, TO OUR IDOLATRY, TO OUR INJUSTICE.

 

ARE WE AS GUILTY OF APOSTASY, IDOLATRY, AND INJUSTICE

AS OUR SPIRITUAL ANCESTORS IN ISRAEL AND JUDAH?

YES!

LOOK AROUND. 

LOOK AT OUR CHECK BOOKS;

SEE WHAT FALSE GODS WE WORSHIP.

LOOK AT OUR PRISONS, AT OUR ABUSED CHILDREN,

AT OUR MENTAL HOSPITALS, AT OUR BROKEN HOMES,

AT OUR DRUNKENNESS AND ADDITION,

AT OUR TV AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT THAT WE TRULY WORSHIP,

AT THE EGO TRIPS WE TAKE,

AND AT THE POWER WE USE OVER THE POWERLESS.

 

YES, WE HAVE ABANDONED OUR FAITH RELATIONSHIP

AS SURELY AS THE ANCIENT ISRAELITES

AND THE PEOPLE OF JUDEA.

YET, GOD STILL LOVES US AND BEGS US TO RETURN

AND PROMISES US THAT,

IF WE RETURN, SALVATION IS POSSIBLE;

AND THAT SALVATION IS POSSIBLE NOT ONLY FOR US

AND OUR RELATIONSHIP

BUT FOR THE NATIONS.

“…EVEN THE NATIONS WILL PRAY TO BE SO BLESSED.”

 

BELOVED,

GOD WANTS US BACK.

GOD WANTS US TO RETURN.

GOD WANTS US,

NO MATTER WHAT WE’VE DONE,

NO MATTER WHERE WE’VE BEEN.

GOD IS AT THIS VERY MOMENT PLEADING WITH US TO RETURN,

TO COME BACK,

TO REENTER A FAITH RELATIONSHIP

WITH THE CREATOR AND RULER OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE.

GLORY! ALLELUIA!           (DESMOND TUTU)

SO, WE WANT SOME GOOD NEWS? 

WELL, THAT’S IT; GOD LOVES US, FULL STOP!

NOW WHAT?

I’VE DECIDED TO RETURN TO GOD,

I’VE DECIDED TO GIVE UP THE IDOLS IN MY LIFE,

I’VE DECIDED TO STOP WORSHIPPING FALSE gods.

AND I’VE DECIDED TO STOP PRACTICING INJUSTICE IN MY LIFE.

NOW WHAT?

 14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the gospel from God saying, 15 ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.’

NOW WHAT?

THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION IS TO REPENT,

THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION IS TO BELIEVE.

JESUS SAYS TO US, “REPENT!”

METANOIA – TURN AROUND

STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD.

TURN AROUND, REPENT,

COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE ALMIGHTY.

WHEN WE DO AS JESUS TELLS US TO DO,

WHEN WE STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD,

WHEN WE ARE FINALLY FACE TO FACE WITH THE ALMIGHTY,

WE CAN BEGIN ANEW,

WE CAN START OVER,

WE CAN BE BORN AGAIN,

AND WE DISCOVER THAT GOD STILL LOVES US.

WE DISCOVER THAT GOD NEVER STOPPED LOVING US, PRAISE GOD.

JESUS, NEXT, TELLS US TO, “BELIEVE THE GOSPEL!”

HE TELLS US ‘NOW THAT YOU ARE TURNED AROUND,

NOW THAT YOU ARE FACE TO FACE WITH GOD,

BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS,

BELIEVE THAT GOD LOVES YOU,

AND START LIVING LIKE YOU BELIEVE IT.’

FRANCIS OF ASSISI SAID IT THIS WAY,

“PREACH THE GOSPEL AT ALL TIMES,

IF NECESSARY USE WORDS.”

 

16 As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew casting a net in the lake—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.’ 18 And at once they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending the nets. 20 At once he called them and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

WE’VE TURNED AROUND,

WE’VE GIVEN UP OUR FALSE GODS,

GOD HAS HEALED OUR APOSTASY,

AND WE BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS.

NOW WHAT?

“COME, FOLLOW ME”, SAYS JESUS.

BELOVED, THAT WILL BE THE MOST DIFFICULT PART.

FOLLOWING JESUS WILL BE DIFFICULT AND INTENSE.

JESUS WILL GO PLACES THAT WE DON’T WANT TO GO.

JESUS WILL EAT AND LIVE AMONG ALL SORTS OF SINNERS,

INCLUDING PROSTITUTES, THIEVES AND TAX COLLECTORS.  

JESUS WILL TOUCH AND HEAL THE SICK, THE LEPERS,

AND THE DEMON POSSESSED.

JESUS WILL CONFRONT THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES

AND THEY WILL ARREST HIM,

AND BEAT HIM,

AND MOCK HIM,

AND KILL HIM.

“COME, FOLLOW ME,” SAYS JESUS.

JESUS IS ASKING US TO BE WILLING TO GO WITH HIM TO THE CROSS.

AND WHERE’S THE GOOD NEWS IN THIS, WE ASK?

THE REAL GOOD NEWS, THE REAL MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL IS

THAT GOD HAS RAISED HIM UP.

AND JESUS HAS PROMISED US THAT GOD WILL RAISE US UP, TOO.

“IT’S TIME”, JESUS SAYS.

“THE KINGDOM IS HERE AND NOW.”

“REPENT”

“BELIEVE”

“COME, FOLLOW ME”

 

 

 

 

16 As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew casting a net in the lake—for they were fishermen.

 

FOR THEY WERE FISHERMEN.

OH, REALLY!

WELL, THEY NEVER CAUGHT A FISH UNLESS JESUS WAS PRESENT.

AND THEY WILL NEVER HAVE A CONVERT UNLESS HE’S PRESENT.

AND NEITHER WILL ANY OF US.

UNLESS WE FOLLOW JESUS,

UNLESS WE BELIEVE THAT GOD HAS RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD,

UNLESS WE AGREE THAT JESUS IS PRESENT WITH US,

IN ALL THAT WE DO,

THEN ALL OF THIS IS IN VAIN AND THERE WILL BE NO FISH CAUGHT

OR CONVERTS TO THE FAITH.

“COME”, SAYS JESUS. “I WILL GIVE YOU A NEW JOB.”

“COME, I WILL GIVE YOU A NEW FAMILY.”

AND THEY GO,

THEY LEAVE THEIR NETS AND THEIR OLD LIFE.

THEY LEAVE THEIR FAMILIES

AND BECOME FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.           (VERNA DOZIER)

 

I UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS NOT PART OF YOUR TRADITION

TO BAPTIZE BABIES OR VERY YOUNG CHILDREN. 

 

I UNDERSTAND THAT EVEN MENTIONING SUCH A THING

PUTS ME ON DANGEROUS GROUND,

ESPECIALLY FROM THIS PULPIT.

I KNOW FULL WELL

THAT IT IS YOUR TRADITION TO DEDICATE BABIES

AND VERY YOUNG CHILDREN RATHER THAN BAPTIZE THEM.

I KNOW THAT YOU BELIEVE AND PRACTICE BELIEVERS BAPTISM.

MY SON MARSHALL

WAS DEDICATED TO GOD AT A WORSHIP SERVICE

IN A FREE WILL BAPTIST CHURCH. 

I KNOW VERY WELL THE STORY OF FATHER GEORGE BLAUROCK, CONRAD GREBEL, FELIX MANZ, AND THE OTHER ANABAPTISTS

WHO REJECTED INFANT BAPTISM,

ACCEPTED BELIEVERS BAPTISM,

AND BECAME THE FIRST REAL BAPTISTS.  

 

KNOWING ALL THAT,

I’M GOING TO TELL YOU THIS STORY ANYWAY.

I’LL ASK FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS AND RAY’S FORGIVENESS LATER.

 

ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS AGO, ON CHRISTMAS EVE,

I BAPTIZED A ONE WEEK OLD BABY BOY,

EZEKIEL ISHMAEL.

THE BAPTISM TOOK PLACE AT A DRUG TREATMENT FACILITY.  

HIS MOTHER WAS A PATIENT THERE. 

SHE ASKED ME TO BAPTIZE THIS NEW BORN CHILD

AT THE CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE AND I AGREED.

AT THE END OF THE SERVICE WE FILLED A BOWL WITH WATER AND GATHERED AROUND A SMALL TABLE WITH A BIBLE,

I BEGAN BY ASKING THE MOTHER  OF THIS ONE WEEK OLD BABY BOY,

IF SHE WERE WILLING TO GIVE HER SON BACK TO GOD.

I ASKED HER IF SHE WOULD COMMIT HERSELF

TO THIS NEW FAMILY

WHERE GOD WAS IN CHARGE.

I ASKED HER IF SHE WOULD REJECT SATAN

AND ALL THE SPIRITUAL FORCES

WHICH CORRUPT AND DESTROY THE CREATURES OF GOD.

I ASKED IF SHE WOULD ACCEPT JESUS AS HER LORD AND SAVIOR

I ASKED HER IF SHE WOULD BECOME GOD’S SERVANT

AND A WITNESS FOR GOD’S LOVE

AS SHE MOTHERED AND RAISED THIS CHILD.

SHE ANSWERED YES TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS.

 

I BELIEVE THE MOTHER OF THIS INFANT CHOSE TO REPENT.

I BELIEVE SHE DECIDED TO TURN AROUND.

I BELIEVE SHE WAS WILLING TO COME FACE TO FACE WITH GOD.

I BELIEVE SHE WANTS TO BE BORN AGAIN

AND BEGIN A NEW FAITH RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

I BELIEVE SHE WANTS TO FOLLOW JESUS

AND BE PART OF A NEW FAMILY.

I BELIEVE SHE WANTS TO BE A DISCIPLE OF JESUS

I BELIEVE SHE DECIDED THAT NIGHT

TO BE A WITNESS TO GOD’S LOVE FOR HER SON.

 

MY HOPE AND PRAYER IS THAT SOMEDAY

EZEKIEL ISHMAEL,

AS HE GROWS TO ADULTHOOD,

WILL HAVE THE COURAGE

AND THE DISCERNMENT TO ACCEPT BELIEVERS BAPTISM.

 YES, I HOPE EZEKIEL ISHMAEL WILL SOMEDAY DO

JUST WHAT YOUR SPIRITUAL FOREFATHERS DID.

 

AND WHAT DID THEY DO?

FATHER GEORGE BLAUROCK, CONRAD GREBEL, & FELIX MANZ,

ON A FREEZING COLD WINTER NIGHT IN JANUARY 1525,

GATHERED AT THE HOME OF FELIX MANZ.

FATHER BLAUROCK, A ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST,

KNELT DOWN IN FRONT OF CONRAD GREBEL, A LAYMAN,

AND ASKED TO RECEIVE BELIEVERS BAPTISM.

CONRAD GREBEL THEN POURED FREEZING COLD WATER

OVER THE PRIEST.

FATHER BLAUROCK THEN GOT UP

AND BAPTIZED THE OTHERS PRESENT THAT NIGHT,

ABOUT 12 MEN,

ALL OF WHOM HAD BEEN BAPTIZED AS INFANTS.

 

 I HOPE AND PRAY THAT THE BABY WE BAPTIZED ON CHRISTMAS EVE WILL SOMEDAY COME TO SEE GOD’S LOVE

AND THE SALVATION OF JESUS CHRIST

IN HIS MOTHER’S LIFE AND WITNESS

AND THAT HE WILL COME TO ACCEPT FOR HIMSELF

A LIFE OF DISCIPLESHIP AND OF FOLLOWING JESUS.

 

THE LESSONS WE HAVE HEARD READ FROM SCRIPTURE

THIS MORNING

I BELIEVE ARE CLEAR.

JEREMIAH IS TELLING US THAT GOD WANTS US BACK

JEREMIAH IS TELLING US TO GIVE UP

OUR IDOLS AND FALSE GODS.

JEREMIAH IS TELLING US THAT GOD WILL HEAL US.

JEREMIAH IS TELLING US THAT IF WE RETURN TO GOD

MANY OTHERS WILL BE WANT TO BE BLESSED AS WE ARE BLESSED.

JESUS IS TELLING US

THROUGH MARK’S GOSPEL

TO REPENT AND TURN AROUND.

JESUS IS TELLING US TO BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS.

JESUS IS CALLING US TO FOLLOW HIM,

TO FOLLOW HIM TO THE HARD AND DIFFICULT PLACES,

EVEN TO THE CROSS.

 

BELOVED, IF THERE ARE ANY HERE

WHO HAVE NOT ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST

AS PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR,

I OFFER YOU AN INVITATION

TO REPENT AND BELIEVE,

TO COME FORWARD

DURING THE SINGING OF THE COMMITMENT HYMN

TO BEGIN A NEW LIFE,

WITH A NEW FAITH FAMILY,

TO LEARN FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE

AND TO LEARN ABOUT GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

THROUGH THE WITNESS OF THIS FAITH COMMUNITY.

 

 

 

IF YOU COME FORWARD,

A DEACON FROM THIS CONGREGATION

WILL MEET YOU AT THE ALTER

TO PRAY WITH YOU

AND HELP YOU LEARN MORE

ABOUT HOW THIS CONGREGATION

HAS CHOSEN TO FOLLOW JESUS.

 

AND NOW UNTO GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, BE ASCRIBED ALL MIGHT, MAJESTY, POWER, DOMINION, AND GLORY THIS DAY AND FOREVERMORE.  AMEN.

 

PLEASE STAND AND SING HYMN # _____________.

 

 

 


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