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02-February

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Suggested Preaching Program for

February

•   Sunday Mornings

Every believer needs genuine worship, and the improvement of worship should be the constant concern of each congregation. The suggested theme for the morning messages is “Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth” with John 4:12 – 24 as the guiding text.

•   Sunday Evenings

Continue the series on the Ten Commandments.

•   Wednesday Evenings

Selected parables of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke serve as vehicles to guide listeners toward making a positive response to God.

Sunday Morning, February 1

Title: The Need for Meaningful Worship

Text: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

Scripture Reading: John 4:20 – 24

Hymns:  “O Worship the King,” Grant

              “All Hail the Power,” Perronet

              “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” Wesley

Offertory Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we worship you in spirit and in truth. We approach you with an offering of love and gratitude. We invoke your blessings on these tithes and offerings to the end that others might enthrone the Christ in their hearts and give you their love and loyalty. Today we thank you for both spiritual and material blessings. Help us to be more worthy of your gracious generosity. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Introduction

Meaningful worship is one of the deepest needs of life. Individually and collectively we need to discover the importance of worship and give it the vital place it deserves.

The weakest point in the life of most of us is our worship. The absence of spiritual power, the lack of inward peace, and the failure to be genuinely Christian can be traced to failure to worship.

During the Second World War, Japan had a special division of pilots who flew suicide missions. They were called kamikaze pilots. The Allied forces considered them to be fanatics, and some even said that they were drugged. Those who are acquainted with Japanese history and customs recognize that these suicide missions were an expression of a combination of the highest patriotism and the deepest religious devotion.

The story behind the kamikaze began in 1281 when a huge armada of Mongolians landed at Hakata Bay determined to seize that portion of the empire of Japan. Before they were able to deploy their full forces ashore, a typhoon descended on the fleet and destroyed it, bringing the invasion to a disastrous conclusion. To the Japanese the typhoon was the kamikaze, or the divine wind, protecting the land of the gods from the invasion of foreigners. So, during World War II, pilots volunteered to become kamikaze — that is, the wind of God — to destroy the enemy and to protect their homeland. Their action illustrates the truth that intense dedication to a god (albeit a false god in their case) results in a special kind of people.

Is our failure to be a distinctive and unique people to be traced to the inadequacy of our worship? Is it possible we have been fooling ourselves into believing we are worshiping when in reality we are not?

I. We must understand the meaning of true worship if we are to become the special people God desires us to be.

      A. In some parts of the world, various forms of idolatrous worship involving body painting, native dances and rituals, and even witch doctors and voodoo are practiced.

      B. From time to time accounts appear in the newspapers reporting that in places even in today’s world people seek to worship by offering human sacrifices.

      C. Some people think that just by going to church they are worshiping. They listen to the pastor preach and hear the choir sing; then they go home thinking that they have worshiped.

      D. We must recognize that true worship is both an attitude and an activity. It is a response of the soul to God’s act of revealing himself. True worship is an experience in which people receive what God has to give and simultaneously give what they are and have to God.

      E. True worship is the adoration and appreciation of God by the grateful worshiper.

      F. True worship is an experience of meditative communion with God in which the soul is in dialogue with the Eternal. Worship is an inner posture of the soul rather than an action or posture of the body.

      G. True worship is the most dynamic and creative experience of which man is capable.

II. We must recognize the value of true worship.

Vital worship relates people to God, who is the source of wisdom and inward power.

      A. True worship brings a consciousness of sin that leads to confession and to the joy of cleansing (Isa. 6:57). To behold the holiness of God is to be deeply convinced of the uncleanness of sin. Confession from the heart brings the forgiveness and cleansing of divine love. This we all need, and this we can have.

      B. Real worship brings a person’s soul into harmony with the will of God. To bring the mind into conformity with the mind and will of God brings an inward peace, because destructive tension and friction have been removed.

      C. True worship gives the worshiper a sense of security. God becomes very real and very near in love, grace, and power. The worship experience makes possible a faith that God will be present triumphantly in whatever the present or the future might bring.

      D. True worship helps the worshiper to rise above the temporal and the transitory. The world is so much with us that we are inclined to view it from the worm’s eye view rather than from the angel’s perspective. As we worship, it becomes possible to set our affections on eternal things instead of being lured by the promises of material things.

      E. Real worship aids in problem solving. As a pastor stood in the vestibule greeting the departing worshipers, a woman said, “Pastor, your sermon cured my headache this morning.” She explained that she had arrived at church suffering the torments of inward turmoil and uncertainty. With a mind and heart searching for fellowship and for certainty, she went into the house of God with a hungry heart and an empty cup. God did not disappoint her. She departed with a testimony similar to that of the psalmist: “My cup runneth over.”

      F. True worship always brings a new sense of responsibility toward God and others. After Isaiah had seen God, confessed his sin, and experienced cleansing, he heard the voice of God calling. He volunteered.

      If you have no sense of personal responsibility for those about you, and if you have not volunteered to help God in his ministry of mercy, then probably it has been a long, long time since you have really worshiped.

III. We must understand the conditions of meaningful worship.

If we are to be a distinctive people of God, called out and separated from the world, then we need to understand the conditions that lead to fruitful worship experiences.

      A. Adequate preparation must be made if worship is to be beneficial. We need to prepare our hearts and minds before arriving at church if we are to experience the greatest possible blessing. One does not automatically enter God’s presence by walking through the door of a church.

      While a warm, friendly spirit is of great value in a church, many people are so concerned about seeing and greeting their friends that they give little thought to the fact that they have come to the house of the Lord to see him and both receive from him and give to him.

      Perhaps the most important part of preparing for public worship is private worship. How often do you pray for the worship Services of your church? When did you last pray for the pastor? For the choir? For specific individuals in the congregation?

      B. Wholesome participation in worship is essential. One can attend a football game and be a fairly inactive spectator. To enjoy the game fully, he must participate by identifying either with individual players or with a team.

      When the Word of God is read, do you let God speak to your heart? When someone leads in prayer, do you also pray? Do you sing with the congregation?

IV. The inspiration of worship must be carried into life.

In Jesus’ temptation experience, the Devil did not say anything to Jesus about Service when he made an appeal for his worship, but in Jesus’ reply, he declared that worship and Service are never to be separated. Service is as inseparable from real worship as a person is from his or her shadow in the brightness of the noonday sun.

      A. Our worship should lead us to Service. To have a life-transforming experience with the Eternal brings such a joy into the hearts of worshipers that they will desire to share this joy with others. To genuinely worship produces a joy within the heart that cannot be concealed. It has to express itself in Service of one sort or another.

      B. Our Service should lead us to worship. Jesus told his disciples, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

      We live in a world of vast spiritual need. Within our individual selves, we are inadequate for the task of ministering. Only as we worship and receive the wisdom, the guidance, and the power of God can we serve in an acceptable and productive way.

Conclusion

Dr. Gaines S. Dobbins has said that “worship is the human soul in search of that which is supremely worthful.” Have you recognized the supreme worth of Jesus Christ to your own heart and life? If you have not, decide to make him the Lord of your life. You would be wise to make him the object of your worship and to follow him and please him in every area of your life. Decide to do so today.

Sunday Evening, February 1

Title: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”

Text: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exod. 20:13).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:21 – 22

Introduction

The sixth commandment is the commandment most easily accepted by people in our society today. We all suppose we understand it and that it is so clear that it requires no explanation or elaboration. Any discussion of it might appear to be a waste of effort and time inasmuch as no one doubts it and everyone accepts it, and no one would uphold wanton and unjustified killing.

In this commandment God seeks to impress upon us the infinite value of human beings. This commandment assumes that people are made in the image of God and that they are special creatures of infinite value in God’s sight. That such is the case is revealed throughout the Bible. The Scriptures reveal that man’s physical body sprang from the dust and that his spirit sprang from God. Thus, in the very beginning, humans were religious beings. The human body is the shrine of God’s Spirit. It is the sanctuary of sanctuaries, in which the divine Spirit is enshrined. Murder is therefore not only a crime against humankind; it is also a crime against God in whose image humans are made.

The Ten Commandments are rules for abundant living. God laid down six that govern our relationships with our fellow humans. The first of these is “Thou shalt not kill.”

I. This commandment applies to ourselves: “Thou shalt not kill ... thyself.”

      A. Let us speak gently, for it is doubtless true that suicide often is a consequence of some form of insanitypermanent or temporary. Nevertheless, let us not be too sentimental here, for what is called “insanity” is often a moral madness rather than a mental disease, for which the sufferer is to blame. Suicide, when committed by a sane person, is murder, a violation of God’s law.

      B. One can commit suicide by violating the laws of health.

      C. One can commit suicide by exposing oneself to needless physical risk.

      D. One can be guilty of suicide by exposing oneself to needless moral or spiritual risk.

      E. Harmful pleasures are a form of suicide.

          1. Smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases that shorten life.

          2. Alcohol shortens life and takes the lives of others.

II. This commandment prohibits murder.

Some people have interpreted this commandment to prohibit the killing of anything in any circumstance, including all animal life. Some have even included vegetable life. Specifically, the commandment prohibits murder. There is a difference between killing and murder. Murder applies to the taking of a human life only and is a deliberate act of the will because of envy, covetousness, malice, or hatred.

      A. Human life is sacred. Life is a precious gift from God and must be treated as such.

      B. Humans belong to their Maker. To murder is to destroy that which belongs to God, and God strictly prohibits such.

      C. We should look upon each person as one for whom Christ died.

      D. This life is the tiny beginning of an endless existence.

III. There are many refined methods of murder.

Some of us are guilty of murder and do not realize it.

      A. A husband can murder his wife by cruelty, selfishness, and unfaithfulness.

      B. A wife can murder her husband by an insatiable greed for things and by a nagging, domineering spirit.

      C. Children can murder their parents by ingratitude, irreverence, irreligion, disobedience, or by a sinful life.

IV. Positively, this commandment means to live and help live.

      A. Do not pass by the wounded brother who is in need (Luke 10:3032).

      B. Look at all people from God’s viewpoint, for people look different when the light of God’s grace shines upon their faces.

      C. Live by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12).

Conclusion

We would not be stretching the meaning of this commandment if we were to interpret it as a prohibition against a person committing spiritual suicide by refusing to respond to God’s grace through faith. It is the will of God that all people have life and have it more abundantly through faith in Jesus Christ. God is a loving Father, and through the gift of his Son Jesus Christ and through the continued efforts of the Holy Spirit, he is seeking to bring eternal life into every heart. God cannot and will not force us to trust him so as to escape spiritual death. When persons refuse to receive Christ, they deprive themselves of the eternal life that Christ is so eager to bestow upon them.

Wednesday Evening, February 4

Title: The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

Scripture Reading: Luke 13:6 – 9

Introduction

The great prophet Isaiah told the people of Israel a parable about a vineyard (Isa. 5:1 – 7). The owner of the vineyard did everything he could to make the vineyard productive. He built a fence around it to protect it from marauding enemies. He removed the stones from the soil so that they could not interfere with the growth of the vines, and he planted only the finest vines. He built a tower in the midst of the vineyard and also constructed a wine press. He had every right to expect an abundance of delicious grapes, but instead the vineyard produced grapes that were bitter and repulsive.

In Isaiah’s parable Israel is the vineyard. Instead of producing a harvest for the glory of God, the people had drifted into spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy. Because of Israel’s refusal to bring forth fruit, God spoke through Isaiah concerning the removal of the hedge that protected them. He announced that he would command the clouds to rain no more upon it (Isa. 5:5). This sentence was pronounced because, instead of justice, the people had produced oppression, and instead of righteousness, they lived crooked, selfish, sinful lives.

In the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus spoke a similar message to the Israel of his day. He spoke of the owner of a vineyard who had for three years sought fruit on a certain fig tree during harvesttime only to find it barren. He decided that the fig tree should be destroyed because it was nonproductive. He asked the man who was in charge of caring for the vineyard a question that has an application for us today. After issuing an order to cut the tree down, he asked, “Why should it use up the soil?” (Luke 13:7 NIV). The vinedresser still had hopes for figs and suggested that it be given one more year of opportunity in which to be productive.

This parable has both a national and a personal application. Through this parable Jesus was saying that the nation of Israel had one more opportunity to bear fruit for the glory of God.

I. This parable speaks of God’s absolute ownership.

      A. Individuals forget that only God is absolute owner. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. He placed humans on the earth to subdue and develop it, but he did not give the earth to them. The world still belongs to God. The psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).

      B. Governments and economic systems forget or ignore that God is owner. In the world of today, two economic systems are contending for supremacy. The capitalistic system emphasizes that the individual has a right to own, utilize, and control property. In the socialistic economic system, individual property rights are denied and ownership is vested in the state. Both of these systems are in error, for neither the individual nor the state has the right of sole ownership: ownership belongs to God.

II. This parable speaks of God’s right to expect fruit.

      A. After the fig tree had been planted a sufficient length of time to bear fruit, the owner came expecting to find fruit in three successive years only to be disappointed repeatedly. Not only was he disappointed, but he decided that the tree had no right to continue to survive if it was going to be nonproductive.

      B. God has a right to expect fruit from his vineyard. He is the vine and his disciples are the branches. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our heavenly Father is glorified as we bring forth much fruit (v. 8). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (v. 16).

III. This parable speaks of the patience of God.

      A. In three different years, he came to the vineyard expecting fruit from the fig tree before deciding to have it cut down.

      B. Because of the intercession of the vinedresser, the owner consented to give the fig tree one more year of opportunity.

      C. Jesus was saying that God is patient both with the nation and with the individual, and that he would give them another chance.

IV. This parable speaks of the firmness of God.

      A. He who bears no fruit is a parasite. God is patient, but there is a limit to that patience. The fig tree was given another chance.

      B. The owner of the vineyard said, “Cut it down.” God’s judgments are rooted in righteousness.

Conclusion

The unsaved about us are a total loss to God. They bear no fruit to his glory. They are in peril of experiencing his judgment. Because the mercy of God is still available to them and because of our concern for them, we should seek to persuade them to respond to the love of God that they might experience the joy of bearing fruit.

Sunday Morning, February 8

Title: The Elements of Worship

Text: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1).

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1 – 8

Hymns:  “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” Neander

              “Take Time to Be Holy,” Longstaff

              “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” Atkins

Offertory Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we are mindful of your bountiful goodness toward us. We thank you for every gift of your mercy. As we bring tithes and offerings of the fruit of our labors, we thank you for the opportunity to work and the power to get wealth. Help us never to forget that you are the giver of every good and perfect gift. Help us to give to you as you have given to us. Amen.

Introduction

Psychologist William James observed that worship is universal and said, “Men worship because they must.” Anthropologists have yet to find a group of people who do not have some form of worship. People seek after the eternal because, as the supreme creation of God, they have planted within them a capacity and hunger for God that cannot be satisfied by anything but God.

Throughout the Bible we find instructions concerning worship. More often we find examples of either true or false worship. The Bible also contains many indictments concerning the use of empty, meaningless rituals that people tried to pass off as worship.

One of the greatest needs of our day is for the people of God to engage in genuine worship. Unchanged lives glaringly illustrate the neglect of true worship, for true worship always produces an inward transformation that leaves a mark on a person’s conduct.

An examination of the motives that lead one to attend public worship can be either embarrassing or encouraging. Do you attend public worship simply because you desire the respect of those in your community? Do you go to please some particular person, be it husband, wife, parent, or child? Do you go because you want to see or be seen by some individual? Are you motivated only by a sense of duty or habit? Are you regular in attendance because of a fear of the consequences if you do not attend?

Perhaps some of you are present today because of a heart hunger for Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior. Could it be that some of you are present because of an intense desire for divine guidance as you face the problems and duties of life? No doubt some of you are here with a desire to impart a blessing to someone else by a lesson, by a song, or by the fellowship that you are able to extend to others.

Could it be that you are here because of a deep inward need for encouragement and the strength that comes only from God? Many are here out of a desire to express love and gratitude to God. Are you present today because of a great dissatisfaction with your life as it has been, combined with a desire for your life to be as God meant for it to be?

Many sincere people do not receive the blessing of God during public worship because they either neglect or fail to worship even though they are present. Genuine worship calls for an active response of participation rather than just a passive attendance at the place of prayer.

Genuine worship is basically an experience with God. It is the response of the human soul to the truth of God as that truth is made known to the individual. One can sing and not worship. One can read the Bible and never hear the voice of God speaking to the heart. One can attend public worship Services and go away unblessed and unchanged.

The experience of Isaiah in the temple provides us with a dramatic demonstration of the elements that constitute a life-changing worship experience.

I. The first element is contemplation.

      A. The scene opens with Isaiah in the temple. It is quite possible that Isaiah was there because of a regular habit of going to the temple for worship. It is most likely that the death of Uzziah was the immediate occasion for his visit to the temple. Uzziah had been a strong and successful ruler, and the nation had enjoyed great prosperity during his reign. As Uzziah achieved great success and as the nation enjoyed great prosperity, he became proud and haughty. Not being content with regal power, he snatched at the power that was reserved for the priests and went into the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice. Because of this act of impiety, he was smitten with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16 – 20). He spent the balance of his life in quarantine.

      Many have supposed that Isaiah, a young nobleman of Jerusalem, had been a hero worshiper during his youth. The object of his adoration was none other than the proud king of Judah. It was with sudden swiftness that the idol of his youth was smitten by God. As Isaiah mulled over the seriousness of Uzziah’s offense, it began to dawn upon him that the king’s easy familiarity with God had been his downfall.

      B. Isaiah entered the temple with a sense of fear and uncertainty concerning the future. While his mind was disturbed and on a search for certainty, he had the strangest experience of his lifetime.

      C. The vision of God. In dramatic language, Isaiah relates how, in this mysterious experience in the temple, his inward eye was opened and he saw God in all of his holiness and majesty. While contemplating the fact that Israel’s king was dead and the throne was empty, he received a revelation of the divine King seated on the throne of the universe.

      Isaiah’s contribution to this experience was an attitude of deep reverence and a mind concentrated on God and on his plans for the future. The earthly temple faded away, and Isaiah was permitted to look into the heavenly throne room. He was made to realize that although the throne room of Judah was vacant, the throne of the universe was still occupied by the sovereign Creator.

      Isaiah did not spend his time in the temple chatting with his neighbor or taking a delightful snooze. With a reverent, meditative spirit, he came seeking God, and he was not disappointed.

II. The second element is confession.

      A. Conviction of sin. While Isaiah looked on entranced, he saw angels hovering about the Lord of the world to do his bidding (Isa. 6:2). He saw the fire of the heavenly altar and heard the seraphim’s song of adoration and praise to God (v. 3). As the sound of the united voices pealed through the expanse, the pillars of the door shook to their foundations and the house was filled with smoke as the reaction of God’s holy nature against sin.

      Isaiah’s response to this august revelation of God was an attitude of holy awe. No doubt he shared the belief of the Hebrews that no one could look upon the face of God and live. Even the seraphim covered their faces before him.

      As Isaiah took in this vision of the holy God, he was made vividly conscious of his own sinfulness and of that of his people. Isaiah suddenly realized that he and the faithless, rebellious people of Israel were like the faithless and rebellious king who had died under the curse of God.

      B. An honest confession. As Isaiah worshiped, he became aware of his unworthiness to stand in God’s presence. He feared the worst as a result of this personal encounter with God. Had Uzziah not died because of his intrusion into the Holy Place? As Isaiah was convicted of his sin, he hastily confessed his spiritual uncleanness: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).

      C. The need for confession. Unresolved guilt can be a most disruptive force in a person’s life. There is no greater need than the need for confession and the forgiveness that follows. Each of us needs to confess our sins before God, for sin can destroy us and harm others. Until we are willing to recognize, confess, and forsake sin, there is not much hope for our spiritual betterment.

III. A third element of worship is cleansing.

      A. God is eager to forgive. Jesus affirmed that “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). God takes no delight in condemning the sins and the moral uncleanness of his people. Nor does he delight in our suffering the agony of a guilty conscience. God wants to forgive and cleanse us.

      B. The agony of uncleanness. Isaiah was in an awful agony as he recognized the depths of his uncleanness. A sense of guilt is always an embarrassing experience. A sense of guilt can be very destructive if one simply condemns himself instead of confessing his sin so as to experience cleansing and the joy of forgiveness.

      God reveals himself to us in his holiness and moral perfection — not to make us miserable, but to reveal to us the awfulness of our sin so that we might abhor it as the destructive thing that it is and forsake it. Those who can tolerate sin in their lives without being disturbed reveal that they have never had a vision of the holiness and purity of God. Peter had an awareness of the holiness of God while on a fishing trip. When he saw the miraculous catch of fish, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

      C. The joy of being clean. Instead of being driven from the presence of God because of his sinfulness, Isaiah found that the vision that had intensified his consciousness of sin was also to assure him of the removal of his sin. He records, “Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (Isa. 6:6 – 7). Following his confession of sin, Isaiah experienced cleansing that was immediate and complete. This cleansing was free, full, and forever.

      When God forgives, God forgets. If God does forgive, then we need to forgive ourselves and face the future with the gratitude of the forgiven and with the joy of the redeemed. Every experience of worship should contain within it the joy of the assurance of sins confessed, forgiven, and forsaken.

IV. A fourth element in worship is consecration.

Following Isaiah’s wonderful experience of cleansing from the defilement of sin, he heard the voice of God. His lips having been cleansed, he was now prepared for personal conversation with God. He heard the question of the Lord, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8). Mingled trembling and elation filled his soul as a response to this invitation came to his lips: “Here am I; send me” (v. 8).

Isaiah made no effort to escape the call. Nor did he make excuses or try to stall. His experience of worship issued in a decision of complete consecration to God’s will.

Conclusion

If we are to worship in spirit and in truth, we must bring our minds and hearts to bear upon the truth of God and upon his will for our lives. As we become aware of our sins and moral uncleanness, we would honestly confess them and pray for the power to forsake every sinful attitude and act. Following confession will come the joy of cleansing and forgiveness. Then and then only will we be equipped to bear a winsome and winning witness to our world.

Sunday Evening, February 8

Title: The Preservation of Purity

Text: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 19:3 – 12

Introduction

The state of matrimony is earth’s most sacred relationship. It is a divine institution and is to take precedence over every other human relationship. It carries us back to the garden of Eden where the Maker of heaven and earth joined together the parents of the human race.

There are at least five principles that characterize the marriage relationship from a biblical standpoint: monogamy, permanency, fidelity, mutuality, and love.

Someone has said that the seventh commandment is “the divine law-giver’s ordinance guarding the chastity of marriage, the sanctity of the home, the blessedness of the household, the preservation of society, and the up-building of mankind.” A theology professor has said, “About 50 percent of all human misery is caused by the violation of this commandment.” This commandment safeguards the highest earthly relationship.

I. What is adultery?

      A. Sex outside of marriage.

      B. Violation of the marriage vows.

      C. Lust in the heart (Matt. 5:2728).

II. Why is adultery wrong?

      A. God says so.

      B. It hurts people.

          1. It degrades man, destroying his self-respect and causing his respect for others to decline.

          2. It destroys pure womanhood by injuring the mind and leaving a scar on the soul.

      C. It destroys marriage.

      D. It deprives children of the peace and the affection to which birth gives them a right.

      E. It is a frustration of God’s purpose and will for man.

      F. It is a crime against God. Adultery defiles what God has created to be holy. It makes sordid what God has made sacred.

      In wrecking one home, the adulterer weakens all homes, for the keystone of society is the home of the good man and the good wife living faithfully together and keeping the vows of love and fidelity they made at the marriage altar.

      Sexual corruption is one of the chief symptoms of a decaying society. The exaggerated emphasis on sex in our land today is a symptom of a rotting and decadent society. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17).

III. Can anything be done about this sin?

      A. The Christian should determine to live a life of perfect purity. To do so a person must avoid circumstances that would encourage immorality and commit oneself to a life of moral purity, sitting in judgment on any evil impulse and dealing drastically with it as Jesus commanded (Matt. 5:29 – 30).

      The Christian needs to strive to make Jesus Christ master of every area of life. Imagination and thoughts must be brought under his loving control.

      B. There is forgiveness for those who repent of adultery. God is able to forgive this sin even as he is able to forgive others. Even though God forgives, he cannot remove the consequences of breaking this commandment.

      C. Jesus dealt with the woman who was accused of adultery in terms of mercy, forgiveness, and instruction for the future. “Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’ ” (John 8:10 – 11 NIV).

Conclusion

God is a God of mercy and grace who is eager to forgive and to cleanse. He deals in mercy with those who come to him in repentance and in confession of breaking the seventh commandment.

If God forgives those who sin against him, we would be wise to forgive those who sin against us. To forgive is often difficult, but not to forgive is much more difficult in the long run. Trust God for grace and guidance if you need help forgiving.

James said, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). While not all of us have sinned alike, all of us are sinners and are in need of God’s forgiveness and cleansing grace. Let us come to Christ continually for purity.

Wednesday Evening, February 11

Title: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25 – 37

Introduction

All of us are guilty of committing many types of sin — sins of omission and sins of commission, sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit, open sins and secret sins, shameful sins and so-called respectable sins. It was a respectable sin that Jesus graphically pointed out in the parable of the good Samaritan so as to bring conviction to the soul of the hard-hearted lawyer.

Christ still speaks through the parable of the good Samaritan to people of the twenty-first century. He indicts us for our indifference toward the ills of a suffering, lost humanity. At the same time, he challenges us to realize life’s greatest joy and to experience life’s highest possibilities.

Let us examine this parable for a message that speaks to our hearts in this present day.

I. The occasion for the parable.

As Jesus approached the climax of his earthly ministry, the scribes and Pharisees developed great hostility toward him. They found his teachings of universal love for all contradictory to their customs and traditions. They resented him because he associated with sinners and because he demonstrated mercy on the Sabbath. They plotted to bring about his downfall by either disgrace or death. One from this group, a lawyer, or scribe, who was an interpreter and teacher of both the law of Moses and the traditions of the rabbis, came to him with a question: “Master what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25).

Jesus answered on a basis with which the lawyer was very familiar. He encouraged the man to carry out to the fullest the implications of the second great commandment. The lawyer, insisting on a rigid observance of both the commandments of Moses and of the traditions of their fathers, then asked a question that indicated a deep desire to place limitations on the social obligations of that second great commandment.

      A. His question indicated a desire to limit the circle of his concern. Are we not all somewhat guilty of the same thing? We limit our concern to our own group, be it family, friends, fellow employees, social group, or church members.

      B. The lawyer’s question indicated a desire to place limits on efforts spent in the Service of others.

II. The parable illustrates the needy world in which we live.

      A. The man wounded by thieves still suffers and is in danger of death.

      B. Many are wounded and dying by the highway of life.

          1. Some have been robbed and almost destroyed by parental failure.

          2. Others have been left half dead as a result of their own folly and choice of evil.

          3. Others have been degraded by their own enslaving habits.

          4. Some have been damaged severely by false teachings concerning God and life.

          5. Some have been wounded by the bad influence of some so-called Christians.

          6. There are great crowds in nearly every community who, far more than is realized, suffer because of prejudice.

          7. Tomorrow will not go by without your meeting someone who is ready to cave in because of the fear of what the future holds.

III. The parable illustrates the indifference of coldheartedness.

      A. The priest passed by on the other side of the road. Perhaps he was on his way to the temple, or perhaps he had been to the temple and was now on his way home. His refusal to provide assistance indicated a coldhearted selfishness.

      B. The Levite came by and looked at the wounded man and passed by on the other side. His inhuman behavior indicated a calculated selfishness. Both the priest and the Levite indicated the lack of reality in their worship by not manifesting love toward the needy.

      C. Are we passing by on the other side without realizing it?

          1. When we neglect to show concern for the unsaved, we are passing by on the other side.

          2. When we live an unworthy life that does not attract others to Christ, we are passing by on the other side.

          3. When we neglect to train for effective Service to God and others, we are passing by on the other side.

          4. When we refuse to support God’s work financially, we are passing by on the other side.

          5. When we refuse to actively serve God, we are passing by on the other side.

IV. The parable illustrates compassion.

      A. The Samaritan had seeing eyes and hearing ears. He heard the suffering man’s cries of distress, and with his eyes he surveyed the victim’s need.

      B. The Samaritan had a compassionate heart that was in command of both his energies and resources.

      C. The Samaritan had willing hands that were at the command of his compassion.

          1. Because of the man’s need, he chose to be inconvenienced that day.

          2. Because of the man’s need, he chose to make an expenditure of his resources.

          3. To meet the man’s needs, he chose the way that was not considered popular by the priest and the Levite.

          4. He chose the way that was to bring joy to his own heart and relief to others.

      Following this story and the lawyer’s admission that the Samaritan alone had demonstrated compassion, Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Conclusion

Are you following the examples of the priest and Levite or the example of the Good Samaritan? It is not always popular or convenient or cheap to follow the example of the Good Samaritan, but his is the right way. His is the way of joy. His is the way to success, both now and forever.

Sunday Morning, February 15

Title: Hindrances to Worship

Text: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Scripture Reading: Psalm 100

Hymns:  “Breathe on Me,” Hatch

              “Nothing Between,” Tindley

              “Yield Not to Temptation,” Palmer

Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, today our hearts thank you for the abundance of your grace toward us. We praise you with our lips and glorify you with our lives. We proclaim your salvation to all peoples throughout the world. As an indication of our desire that others might know of your grace, we bring our tithes and offerings for the advancement of the work of your kingdom. Bless these offerings to that purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Introduction

One could read the Bible and see in it a continuous series of calls to worship. The eternal Father God seeks the worship of our hearts, for in truth he alone is worthy of the undivided worship of the human heart. For people to worship something less than the true and living God is to worship that which will disappoint them and downgrade them from their highest possible destiny.

Many of us recognize that worship is as essential to the spiritual life as bread is to the physical life. We have experienced some of the beneficent results of worship in our own life and have seen the results in the lives of others. While recognizing the invaluable results of worship, many of us would confess that we are sadly deficient in experiencing these results. Perhaps if we will stop and evaluate some of the hindrances to worship, it will help us to participate more meaningfully in worship.

I. There are hindrances to worship within ourselves.

      A. The lack of physical rest. One popular joke concerns the fellow who went to sleep during a worship Service and made some foolish remark when he awoke suddenly without an awareness of his surroundings. The truth is that it is almost impossible to have a creative worship experience when we are totally exhausted in mind and body. When we work hard during the week or deprive ourselves of sleep on Saturday night, we find it easy to snooze a bit when we relax during a worship Service.

      B. The lack of mental preparation. It is foolish to believe that a person can forget God during the week, watch a movie on Saturday night, arise late the next morning, rush to church, and then suddenly have a tremendous experience with God without having prepared his or her mind and heart to do so. Repeatedly Jesus spoke about the necessity of using our eyes to see and our ears to hear. We must do more than bring our bodies to church to worship. We must also bring our minds.

      How much more wonderful it would be if everyone would make a careful inventory of his or her personal and family needs before going to the house of prayer and worship. If with the thoughtfulness of a wife who prepares a grocery list before going to the grocery store each of us would consider our spiritual needs, we would be much more likely to receive the needed blessings that God can so generously give.

      C. An immature, incomplete, or faulty concept of God. The Devil has been misrepresenting God from the very beginning of history (Gen. 3:4 – 5). He is a slanderer and a liar. He has so misrepresented the nature and character of God that some people hate God instead of loving him. They refuse to believe in him when in reality he is worthy of their complete trust. God is no cruel tyrant or brutal bully. We need to quit listening to what the Devil says about God.

      Jesus came to reveal and to demonstrate that God is a God of love and mercy and grace. He spoke of him as the heavenly Father who is more eager to bestow good gifts upon his children than even a loving earthly father is. He would lead us to put our faith in this heavenly Father and challenge us to recognize that divine love is behind every prohibition or commandment of God.

      If we will listen to Jesus instead of to the Devil concerning the nature and purpose of God, we will overcome some of the hindrances within ourselves that prevent us from worshiping in spirit and in truth.

      D. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin. Only fools treat sin lightly. God is against sin because of its evil, destructive nature. He cannot condone or tolerate sin because of his great love for us. With a persistent determination, he purposes to deliver us from that which is going to destroy us if we do not forsake it in our heart.

      For the child of God to knowingly tolerate sin in his life is to break fellowship with God and to create a sense of guilt that will prevent him from coming into the Father’s presence. This may explain why you have not enjoyed the warmth and love of God’s presence for a long time.

      E. A lack of an attitude of expectancy. Jesus promised his disciples, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). With a heart of faith we should expect Jesus Christ to be present in every Service when God’s people come together in his name. Many of us do not receive a blessing during the hour of worship because we did not come expecting to receive one.

II. There are hindrances to worship in those about us.

      A. Those about us often distract us from worship. Have you ever found it difficult to concentrate because someone was whispering? Have you ever become annoyed by the person sipping coffee or a bottled drink in front of you? As a parent have you permitted an uncomfortable child who wiggled a bit to deprive you of an experience with God? If we can be distracted, we will be. We need to recognize these distractions and then determine not to permit them to deprive us of God’s blessings.

      B. Those about us often discourage and disappoint us. Human beings are habitual faultfinders. This can be a deadly pastime when one comes to church. To have the habit of finding fault in others and consequently being disappointed by them can rob us of the blessings that God has for us. Search your own heart and be honest. Is it not true that in the moment you begin to criticize your neighbor, you cease to worship? You cannot be critical of your neighbor and at the same time receive the blessings that God has for you.

      If you are a faultfinder, you can always find something wrong with the minister or with the choir or with the congregation. While you are criticizing your neighbor you are actually focusing the spotlight away from God and on yourself. Instead of being critical of your neighbor, it would be much more profitable for you to let the X-ray of God’s holiness search your own heart and mind for that which is deserving of your critical appraisal.

      Remember the Pharisee who prayed in the temple, complimenting himself and congratulating God on how fortunate he was to have a Pharisee such as himself attending the temple Services on that Sabbath. His prayer was a waste of breath and his attendance nothing but a pious pretense. The publican who was present did not spend his time criticizing his neighbor. He did not even lift his face up toward God, yet he saw God. He also saw himself. His cry for mercy was heard, and he went home with peace in his heart and with new power to face the future.

III. There are hindrances to worship in the world about us.

      A. The claims of false gods clamor for our worship.

          1. Some worship a person other than God. Hundreds of men allow their wives to be the supreme object of their affection. Many wives let their husbands be the lord of their existence. Many parents make slaves out of themselves for their children. Some of us are guilty of giving to another person the supreme love and loyalty of our heart that should be given only to God.

          2. Some worship pleasure. Never has the world offered the promise of more pleasure than it does today. People are strongly pressured to live for that which brings pleasure in the moment rather than recognizing the eternal dimension of life.

          3. Some worship a variety of different pursuits. In an age that emphasizes the need for planning ahead, many are doing so to the extent that they have accepted a goal for life that does not include worshiping the true God. They are unreservedly giving themselves to the pursuit of an educational, economic, or political goal in life.

      B. The current spirit of the world does not encourage true worship.

          1. We live in a scientific age where the scientific method is applied in every area of life. Scientists have discovered the laws of God and his world and have developed these to the extent that many have forgotten the Creator of us all. We have become fascinated with people and their discoveries and inventions and with the potential for future discoveries to the extent that many would consider the church and the Bible as something obsolete that belonged to a bygone age.

          2. The pressure to succeed in the present is so great that many are neglecting to take the long look. Many have forgotten to look inside and also to look up. When people neglect to worship or refuse to worship, life becomes meaningless and empty.

Conclusion

What is the main thing that hinders you from worshiping the true and living God? Pray that God will lead and assist you as you seek to worship in spirit and in truth. Invite the Holy Spirit of God to be your Guide and Teacher and Helper that you might worship God acceptably and that your life might glorify God so that others might see in you the results of a life of worship and Service. Poet Andrew Reed recognized the need for the Holy Spirit’s help in worship and prayed thus:

Holy Ghost, with light divine,

  Shine upon this heart of mine;

Chase the shades of night away;

  Turn my darkness into day.

Holy Ghost, with power divine,

  Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;

Long has sin, without control,

  Held dominion o’er my soul.

Holy Ghost, with joy divine,

  Cheer this saddened heart of mine;

Bid my many woes depart,

  Heal my wounded, bleeding heart.

Holy Spirit, all divine,

  Dwell within this heart of mine;

Cast down every idol throne;

  Reign supreme, and reign alone.

Sunday Evening, February 15

Title: Thieves: Plain and Fancy

Text: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exod. 20:15).

Introduction

The eighth commandment recognizes a person’s right to property. In God’s original commission to humans, they were instructed to have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:26 – 28).

History is the record of humankind’s execution of this original commission. We should recognize property as a divine institution and the right of property as a sacred trust.

Today we will look at a person’s right to possess property, not from the view of the economist or sociologist, but from the teachings of the Bible.

There are four means by which people may come into the possession of property —by inheritance, by toil, by theft, or by gift.

I. Plain thieves.

The eighth commandment forbids a man to be a plain thief. By a plain thief we refer to a blackmailer, a burglar, a forger, a kidnapper, a pickpocket, a robber, a shoplifter, a smuggler, or a swindler.

II. All men are tempted to break the eighth commandment.

The temptation to steal springs from various sources.

      A. The temptation to steal often springs from the sense of necessity.

      B. The temptation to steal springs from laziness.

      C. The temptation to steal springs from fast living.

      D. The temptation to steal springs from the love of display.

      E. The temptation to steal springs from the haste to become rich. How true it is that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The poor may love money just as much as the rich. It is at this point that people most often break the eighth commandment.

      Because this temptation is so universal and powerful, we need to beware of the peril of becoming a fancy thief.

III. The peril of becoming a fancy thief.

Most of us would not dream of stealing the spare tire from our neighbor’s car, yet if we place our conscience squarely under the searchlight of God’s Spirit and the teachings of the Holy Scripture, it is possible that we will find ourselves to be guilty of something just as serious.

Perhaps it would be better to call it “fancy” stealing instead of just plain stealing. One can be guilty of stealing things that are far more valuable than material property. It is possible that our intangible possessions are of greater value than our material property. By one means or another, we salve our consciences and justify our doing what we want to do and getting what we want to get.

      A. People justify a false income tax return by saying, “Nobody tells the truth to Uncle Sam. Why should I?”

      B. False advertising is a form of fancy stealing. The excuse “Business is business—they all do it” is offered.

      C. To turn back the speedometer of your car before selling it is fancy stealing.

      D. The mother who misrepresents the age of her child so as to pay only half fare is doing some fancy stealing.

      E. The refusal to pay an adequate salary for a day’s work is a form of fancy stealing.

      F. To refuse to give a full day’s labor for a day’s wage is a form of fancy stealing.

      G. Wasting other people’s time is a form of fancy stealing.

      H. To degrade one’s reputation by derogatory remarks is a form of stealing. Shakespeare said, “Who steals my purse steals trash, but he who filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him but makes me poor indeed.” A gossiper is indeed a thief. Do you know a choice morsel of gossip about someone? Then swallow it.

      I.  The failure to pay our just debts is a vile form of fancy stealing. Years ago a great spiritual revival swept through a certain city. A skeptical and ungodly merchant said, “There is nothing to this revival.” But soon his old customers came in and began paying their overdue bills; consequently, he changed his mind, went to church, and found Christ as his own personal Savior.

      J. Immorality is a form of fancy thievery. He who would seduce an innocent girl or steal the affections of another man’s wife is a thief of the basest sort.

      K. The refusal to bring tithes to the Lord is a form of fancy stealing (Mal. 3:810).

IV. Irreligion is a violation of the eighth commandment.

      A. All of the earth belongs to God (Ps. 24:1).

      B. All people belong to God.

      C. The ungodly person denies that the earth and its inhabitants are the Lord’s.

      D. The conversion experience is a deep inward personal acknowledgment of God as owner and Lord and of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer.

Conclusion

We are our own worst enemies. We are thieves when it comes to robbing ourselves of the estate that God has provided for us.

Have you robbed yourself of the privilege of sonship to God through refusing or neglecting to receive Jesus Christ into your heart? Have you robbed yourself of the joy of forgiveness by a refusal to repent and to confess your sins to God?

Wednesday Evening, February 18

Title: The Parable of God’s Sorrow

Scripture Reading: Luke 15

Introduction

Some people say that Luke 15 is the best-known chapter in the New Testament. It is called the parable of the prodigal son. I prefer to think of it as the parable of the waiting father who experienced great sorrow because of the attitudes of his sons.

Some see in this chapter one parable, while others see three parables, and still others see four parables. Is it possible that in our concentration on the prodigal son we have missed the point concerning which son was actually lost?

I. God is like a good shepherd seeking a lost sheep (Luke 15:47).

Jesus tells about the good shepherd who had one hundred sheep. As they entered the fold late in the evening, the shepherd counted them to make sure all were present. He was greatly disturbed to find that only ninety-nine of the hundred were present. He felt a sense of loss because one of the sheep was lost. He went into the darkness and dangers of the night determined to find the lost sheep. God is like that today. He is seeking those who have drifted away no matter what the reason might be. God will not be fully happy until all of the sheep are in the fold. He suffers loss as long as you are away in the darkness of unbelief.

II. God is like a woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:810).

Jesus tells the story of a woman whose fortune was concentrated in ten silver coins. One day she became terribly upset when she discovered that one of her coins was missing. With great haste she began diligently seeking throughout all of the house until she had found it. If for some reason you have slipped away, you can be sure that the eternal God, with the concern of the woman who was seeking her lost coin, is seeking you by every means at his command.

III. God is like a father with a son gone astray (Luke 15:1124).

In our concentration upon the son who demanded his inheritance and who departed to seek his fortune in a foreign country, it may be that we have overlooked the agony of the brokenhearted father who remained at home. The father had granted to his son the freedom of choice even if that freedom meant his destruction. The father had bestowed upon this self-centered immature son not only freedom but an abundance of earthly goods. It was a sad day for the father when this son demanded the privilege of leaving home for the far country. The father was lonely and concerned about the welfare of the wayward boy. In agony he yearned for the day when the boy would come to his senses and return.

The parable presents to us a vivid picture of the feeling of loss in the heart of God because of our waywardness and our lack of faith.

If you are dwelling in the far country, which may be only one step away from God, you can be absolutely sure that his heart grieves because of your refusal to come home.

IV. God continues to experience sorrow (Luke 15:2532).

The point of the parable is to illustrate the sorrow that God experiences when people refuse his grace and mercy.

When the younger son returned filled with remorse and repentance, he was welcomed by the father. He was welcomed and restored, and immediately preparations were made for a great feast.

The elder son returned from the fields and was surprised to hear the music and rejoicing. He was resentful when he heard about the return of his wayward brother. He not only rejected his brother but his father as well, for he refused to come in for the feast. His comments revealed that at heart he was a slave instead of a son. He neither admired nor approved of his father’s forgiveness and restoration of his brother.

Conclusion

Jesus spoke this parable to the scribes and Pharisees who refused to understand God’s joy over retrieving lost sinners from their ways. They refused to believe that God is like a good shepherd who feels a great loss when one of the sheep has gone astray. They refused to believe that God is like a woman seeking her lost coin. They refused to believe that God is like the waiting father who wants to prepare a feast for the repentant son.

Let us rejoice in and respond to this God who suffers loss when we go astray.

Sunday Morning, February 22

Title: The Response of the Worshiper

Text: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isa. 6:8).

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1 – 9

Hymns:  “Holy, Holy, Holy,” Heber

              “Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet,” Crosby

              “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” McKinney

Offertory Prayer: Holy and loving Father, we approach your throne of grace with our best. We would not come before you with anything cheap or shoddy. Out of genuine love and gratitude we offer you the fruit of our labors as an expression of the worship of our hearts. Accept these tithes and offerings as we seek to give ourselves completely to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Introduction

Isaiah’s experience in the temple is perhaps the most stimulating illustration of genuine worship to be found in the Bible. King Uzziah had died after a lengthy and successful reign as the king of Israel. The throne of Israel was vacant. With disturbed thoughts concerning the fate of the king and with a fear of the future, Isaiah entered the temple.

Before the eye of Isaiah’s soul, God revealed himself occupying the throne of the universe. Isaiah saw God high and holy, sovereign and supreme. As he heard the seraphim sing of the thrice holy God, he was overwhelmed with an awareness of his moral and spiritual uncleanness and of the sinfulness of his nation. There arose from his heart a sincere confession that was really a plea for cleansing and purification. By the goodness of God he experienced complete forgiveness and immediate cleansing. Then he heard the voice of God.

I. The perplexity of God: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8).

      A. The God of Isaiah continues to be burdened and concerned for our sinful, lost world.

      B. The divine concern for the salvation of man brought Jesus Christ to earth and carried him to Calvary.

      C. The divine call for laborers continues now (Matt. 9:3638).

      D. God would and could do mighty things through us today if we had the faith to hear and the love and concern that would cause us to help him seek the lost.

II. The possibility of a partnership: “Who will go for us?”

      A. The kingdom of God has never had an oversupply of workers. The labor market of God has never been overcrowded. This tragic condition continues to exist to the present.

      B. Our God is seeking you.

          1. God is. He is the Creator and Sustainer of our universe. He loves each of us, and he also loves unbelievers.

          2. God calls. By his Spirit, by the Scriptures, and by the needs of others, God calls each of us to invest our lives in redemptive activities.

          3. God calls you. He calls you where you are. He calls you because of what you are. He calls you because of what you can become and because of what you can do if you will cooperate with him.

      C. God calls us. He calls each one to know Christ, to accept Christ, to love Christ, to obey Christ, and to serve Christ.

III. The plea of a volunteer: “Here am I; send me.”

Isaiah was a volunteer. Although he had an inward constraint to do the will of God, he volunteered. Isaiah was no conscript or draftee who was forced to respond, but when God called, Isaiah immediately said, “Here am I; send me.”

      A. The gratitude of the redeemed required this response. God had revealed the holiness of his nature to Isaiah, and the future prophet had been overwhelmed with his own sinfulness and unworthiness. Following his confession of sin, Isaiah experienced cleansing and knew the joy of forgiveness. Because of his gratitude for being redeemed and of his joy for being forgiven, he volunteered.

      B. Isaiah’s compassion for the people of his nation rose up to make up this response. Compassion for the suffering and for those who have been deceived by sin motivates one to respond to the call to serve. This was the natural and normal response of one whose heart God had made clean.

      C. Wisdom demanded this voluntary response on the part of Isaiah. If we would seriously consider the benefits that come to those who respond to God’s invitation, there would be a line of volunteers waiting before every opportunity for Service in the church. We would see these opportunities and go out into our own personal world in response to the call of God.

      D. Eternity alone will reveal the rewards of this decision. Instead of laboring for the meat that perishes, each of us should respond to God and labor for that which endures unto everlasting life (John 6:27).

Conclusion

Have you seen God? Have you seen your own sinfulness and unworthiness apart from God? Have you experienced the joy of forgiveness after confessing your sins? Have you heard the call of God to serve? Respond to him as a volunteer rather than turning a deaf ear or delaying until you are drafted.

Sunday Evening, February 22

Title: Lying: Direct and Indirect

Text: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exod. 20:16).

Scripture Reading: James 3:1 – 10

Introduction

Someone has said, “Of the Ten Commandments, the one we break the most is the ninth — ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ ”

This commandment is not to be restricted to false testimony given in courts of justice. It prohibits gossip, libel, slander, and misrepresentation at any time under any circumstance. We will miss the moral significance of this commandment if we consider it as a mere prohibition of lying in general.

I. The purpose of this commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

      A. This commandment demands truth in the statements made directly or indirectly, person to person, concerning another person.

      B. The fundamental fabric of our society is based on the truth of testimony that one person bears to another. Such must be the case if righteousness and justice are to be achieved.

          1. To lie brings harm to the person who believes the lie, for it misleads that person.

          2. Lying will eventually bring harm to the liar, for the liar’s untruthfulness will eventually be discovered.

II. The importance of wordsthe privilege and power of speech.

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). Your words reveal what you are on the inside.

      A. Speech can be used to gladden the heart. “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).

      B. Speech can be used to sadden the heart. “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue” (Ps. 120:2).

      C. Children of God should watch their speech. “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).

III. The violation of this commandment.

      A. Direct lying.

          1. False testimony in trials of justice. Perjury has been made a criminal offense because it results in the miscarriage of justice.

          2. The ninth commandment is broken by plain lying — both black and white.

      B. Indirect lying.

          1. By means of a false sympathy.

          2. By means of an insinuating question.

          3. By means of listening. A noise has no effect unless there is an ear to hear it. Just as the law holds the receiver of stolen goods to be as guilty as the thief, this commandment holds the eager receiver of a lie to be as guilty as the one who bears it.

          4. Indirect lying can be done by merely being silent.

          5. Gushing flattery is a form of indirect lying.

          6. This commandment is broken by faultfinding and unjust criticism.

IV. For a Christian to break this commandment is for him or her to be guilty of hypocrisy.

Jesus described the Devil as a liar who does not abide in the truth. He is said to be the source of lies. For the child of God to be guilty of lying is to conduct himself as if he belonged to Satan rather than to God. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV).

V. Dealing with the problem of false witnessing.

James, whose epistle emphasizes and recommends the practice of pure religion, has a word that is most appropriate for us at this point: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). We would be much less likely to break this commandment, which forbids the giving of false testimony, if we would be slower in the matter of throwing our tongue into high gear when we ought to be turning off the motor. There are a number of important questions by which we can test the information that we pass on concerning others.

      A. Do we know for certain that it is true?

      B. Is it kind and helpful?

      C. Is it necessary for me to communicate this information?

      D. Would I be willing to stand and verify that which I speak with my lips?

      E. Would Christ be pleased with my conversation?

Conclusion

James said concerning the tongue, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). He declares that it is impossible for us to domesticate the tongue to the extent that it will become tame and harmless. While we cannot tame it, we can bridle it and control it. The best way to control the tongue is to let the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with love for others. If the heart is filled with genuine love, the tongue will be much less likely to be guilty of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor.

Wednesday Evening, February 25

Title: The Parable of God’s Joy

Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1 – 24

Introduction

Each of Jesus’ parables has all of the marks of a good short story. Jesus was a master artist; he could take a few words and paint a beautiful picture. Most beautiful were his pictures of God. The three parables of Luke 15 set forth that which brings greatest joy to the heart of the heavenly Father.

I. God rejoices like a good shepherd who finds his sheep (Luke 15:47).

In the Middle East shepherds love their sheep and call them by name. They spend long hours under the hot sun together. To a good shepherd the loss of a sheep is more than a financial loss; it is also a personal loss that brings grief and sorrow to the shepherd’s heart. Worry, apprehension, and even fear would fill a shepherd’s heart when he knew that one of his sheep was not in the fold. It was an occasion of great joy to rescue a helpless sheep who had fallen behind the flock, dropped in a hole, or drifted away. He would put the sheep on his shoulder and rejoice in the privilege of carrying him to the safety of the sheepfold.

Jesus concludes from this story that God experiences more joy over the homecoming of one wayward sheep than he does over ninety-nine self-righteous people who feel no need for God’s grace and mercy. God rejoices greatly over just one who comes to him.

II. God rejoices like a diligent woman who finds her lost coin (Luke 15:810).

The woman was so happy that she not only rejoiced in her heart but called in all of her friends and neighbors and shared her joy with them. Jesus said that God is like that. When a sinner decides to forsake the love of sin and returns to God for mercy and forgiveness, he is filled with joy (Luke 15:10).

III. God rejoices like the waiting father who eagerly yearns for the return of a beloved son (Luke 15:2024).

Have you missed the picture of the waiting father who day after day glanced out of the window and down the road looking eagerly for a familiar figure? Have you failed to hear his prayers at night for the welfare and the return of his prodigal son? Have you neglected to see the tears shed because of the absence of one who was so dear?

The day came when the waiting father saw a familiar figure appear in the distance. He lifted his hand to shade his eyes that he might be certain. Yes, it was the son for whom his heart hungered and for whom he had yearned and prayed day by day. Instead of concealing his joy and wiping away the tears, instead of retreating to some back room, he rushed out the door and down the road with terms of endearment and welcome.

The wayward but returning son had repented in his heart and had carefully memorized his expression of confession and his plea for pardon and for restoration, not as a son, but as a hired servant. The loving father cut him off by shouting instructions to the servants to bring forth the best robe and put it on him and to bring a ring and put it on his hand and shoes on his feet. These were symbols of honor, sonship, and happiness.

For months the father had had a calf in a stall being prepared for a feast, a feast that he was planning for the time of the hoped-for return of his son.

Jesus is trying to tell us that there is nothing that brings greater joy to the heart of God than for one to return from the far country.

Conclusion

One step away from God is the far country. Today God will rejoice like the shepherd and the woman and the father in Jesus’ parables if you will return.

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