Sermon Manuscript . . .
Embrace the Extremes
Some of the Doctrinal Distinctives of FBC
Jean and I were privileged to float down 187 miles of the Grand Canyon this summer for one week. The Grand Canyon is truly one of the seven natural wonders of the world–so beautiful, dramatic, colorful, stark and an amazing physical proof of the creation account and Genesis flood. The Grand Canyon is also a place of extremes–extreme hot and cold, big and narrow, flat and wild. To survive in the canyon, you must embrace the extremes.
In a similar way, to survive doctrinally today, you must embrace the extremes. Doctrine is freaking people out today, because everyone has a voice today–those unstudied, those wishing to be novel, bloggers who live in their mom’s basement are publishing views. Those who don’t honor the Scripture spout their opinions without any declaration as to where they are coming from. Even non-believers address biblical issues without any commitment to the inspiration of Scripture. Plus, the internet and self-publishing makes all of it available to everyone, making it appear that anyone who takes a position is just like everyone else, making it confusing for any position to be declared as true.
Add to that attack against the truth, because you and I are limited and God is limitless, because God is so vast and we are small, God knows everything and we know little. God is so massive and we are so miniature, there are doctrinal truths that exist which are incomprehensive humanly. The super-smart, intellectual apostle Paul reminds us just how awesomely-large God is, after he explains some of the most difficult theology in the Bible. Paul can’t help Himself but to burst into praise.
The profound doctrine of Romans 9 through 11 drives Paul to respond into praise of the greatness of God. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33 to 36).
Doctrine leads to praise and this morning, I want to remind you of some of the doctrine of FBC, and some of the great tensions that our found in theology, so that you might see God’s greatness and praise Him. Like the Grand Canyon, I want you to embrace the cold and hot, the flat and the wild, the big and the narrow truths about God. Why? To make certain you have a proper view of God and a proper view of our church family.
Is Jesus God or man? Answer–yes. Was the Bible written by God or man? Yes. Did God choose me or did I choose Him? Maybe this will be your last Sunday with us, as you walk out the door saying, “Do they really believe that?” I hope not, but I challenge you to be a Berean–what did they do? Acts 17:11, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Look at the Bible.
FBC is passionately committed to not embrace a theology from an author, a school, a book, or make some sort of random choice from today’s theological smorgasbord. At FBC, we are committed to take our theology from the Bible, and the Bible alone. We desire to embrace a theology which only comes from a correct interpretation of the Scriptures. We are not interested in a choice of theology which manipulates an interpretation of the Scriptures. And friends, when you allow the Scriptures to determine your theology, you will see a God who is much bigger than you can imagine, greater, more awesome and more extreme. This morning, allow me to introduce you to a few of those theological extremes–let’s go on a SCUBA dive into an ocean of theology. Put your tanks on and look at . . .
#1 Your SINFULNESS and God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS
What is your sin like? It is not like painting over a mark on the wall. We have all done it, where a disgusting blemish on a wall is painted over to look like new. That is not your sin. Your sin is the wall is completely damaged and must be replaced. Like water damage warping the wallboard in such a way it cannot be repaired–that is your sin. You are damaged and cannot be repaired by you or anyone.
You and I are totally depraved–that doesn’t mean we growl when we speak and smell like garbage. Total depravity speaks of the inability to choose. The Bible teaches us that fallen, sinful man cannot choose God. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sin.” Dead refers to the stench of a corpse–a person so dead they smell. There’s absolutely no life. If you have ever been to a funeral, you know a corpse has no ability to choose anything. Men apart from God are spiritual zombies–they’re the walking dead, who do not know they are dead. They go through the motions of life, but they do not possess it.
As a result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, all people are spiritually dead, unable to either comprehend or believe spiritual truths. People are blind and deaf to the message of salvation. This is why Jesus says in John 15:16, ” ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you.’ ” Why must God do the choosing? Because we can’t. You say, “What a minute–I chose God!” But let me ask you–was that you, or God who enabled you? Did you choose Him–or were you dead, then God awakened you in such a manner that you could respond by putting your faith in Christ? You know when you’re dead, you can’t choose–you can’t respond.
There are theologians today who think even though you’re dead, you are still “sort of” alive and can respond. They hold the same theological belief as Miracle Max in the movie, The Princess Bride–do you remember his theology? After they bring Wesley’s dead body to Miracle Max, Inigo says, “What can you do for him, he is dead.” And Max mocks Inigo. He says, “It just so happens, your friend here is just mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead, well–with all dead, there’s usually only one thing you can do. What’s that? Go through his clothes and look for loose change!”
Friends, the Bible says apart from Christ, you are ALL dead. This is what sin did to you. This is your sinfulness–all dead. Genesis 3 described our downfall. Adam and Eve chose to sin. And that so affected the entire human race and the entire world, Romans 5:12 says, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” We’re all cursed with original sin. We are not sinners because we sin–we sin because we are sinners (to the core of our being).
Second Chronicles 6:36, (for there is no man who does not sin). Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” Romans 3:10 to 12, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
Men are not mostly dead, they are totally dead, all dead. We are spiritual zombies who don’t know we are actually dead. So what does a dead man need? Life–and true life is only found in Christ, as He says in John 10:10b, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” So does a natural, fallen dead man (a non-Christian) have the ability to come alive and come to Christ? What’s the answer? No! Total depravity tells us, as the result of Adams sin, all mankind is unable to either comprehend or believe spiritual truths. People are blind and deaf to the message of salvation.
This explains why some of your friends, classmates and relatives that you plead with just don’t get the Gospel. The Bible says a fallen, natural dead man can’t come to Christ on his own. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” So can a natural fallen dead man understand spiritual things? No! Is the Gospel a spiritual thing? Yes! Thus, can a natural, fallen dead man understand the Gospel? No! Natural, fallen, zombie, dead men do not have the ability to choose Christ on their own, or turn to Christ for salvation.
Underline two words in John 6:44–Jesus says, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” The Greek word “unless” is a necessary condition–this must happen before something else can happen. “Unless the Father draws” they cannot come to Christ. The Greek word “draw” is very strong–it means compel. Look at how the same word draw is used in James 2:6b, “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?“
The same word “draw” is also used in Acts 16:19, “They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities.” Unless the Father compels me, drags me into life with Him–unless He drags me into salvation, I’m not going to go, respond, or choose. Does natural, fallen man have the ability to come to Christ? No!
Wait–don’t I have a free will? We think free will is the ability to make decisions free of any inclination, disposition or prejudice–totally undistorted. So do I have that kind of free will? No, you don’t–not a completely free will. You and I are not going to make choices without any prior influence. So then, what is influencing the natural man? He is a slave to sin. His nature is corrupted by sin. You and I have a sinful prejudice, inclination and disposition. And what is my bent? Yours? Pride, sin and rebellion–this is what I naturally do. Martin Luther said, “Free will without God’s grace is not free will at all, but (free will)
is the permanent prisoner and bond-slave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good.” (Bondage of the Will)
The point is, my will is in bondage to my nature. You ever seen a big lion at the zoo? I have seen them there and in Africa, live–really big! Lets imagine one being here today. And this lion has not eaten in a week, so we decide to test this lion. I will put a head of lettuce right here and a big steak here. Is the lion going to go for the lettuce or the steak? How do you know that? Maybe that’s a lucky guess, so let’s get another lion and we keep doing this–not one time, but 50 times. And 50 times the lion goes to the steak.
But we’re still not convinced, so we get lions from all over the world and give them the choice of lettuce or steak and let them go. The lion from Russia goes to the steak, from South America goes to steak. The lion from Santa Cruz, CA goes to the lettuce–no, to the steak. We get every lion alive and give it the choice–and every single time it goes for the steak. Get this–they have permission to go to the lettuce, they have free choice, but they didn’t have a free will. They are in bondage to their will. They have permission to go to the lettuce, but they only had the ability to go to the steak.
Natural man has the permission to come to Christ, but only has the ability to sin and reject Christ–that’s total depravity. If you don’t believe in total depravity, you don’t believe what the Bible says about sin and you’ll never see just how sinful you really are–and you’re bad! And there is another aspect of just how sinful you are.
God’s righteousness–His character is righteous and His behavior is always perfect. There is no flaw, no blemish, no error, no crack, no mistake. God is completely perfect and right in all He is and does. Therefore God stands in absolute, essential opposition to sin–and He must judge it. The only escape for you is this. You must be perfect to be saved–totally perfect. You cannot stand in God’s presence–you can’t fellowship with God, you can’t go to Heaven unless you are totally perfect and completely righteous.
The extreme gap between you and God Himself is not a canyon, it’s a universe. There is no way for anyone to bridge that gap except for God Himself–which He did through His Son. And because righteous Christ took the punishment for sin, and if you turn to Him in repentance and depend by faith, He will take your sin and cover you in His righteousness so you can stand now and forever in God’s presence.
Your sin is vile blackness and God hates it and opposes it. God’s righteousness is pure white holiness–embrace the extreme. This extreme gap is what makes salvation so amazing. You were unable to work for it, it was given as a gift. You were drowning in a sea, and God rescued you at great cost. You were rotting away from an incurable disease, but God cured you out of mercy and love for you. The Bible says out of the ocean of humanity headed toward Hell–God by His grace, love and great mercy elects, then chooses some to be saved. He accomplished the salvation of His elect on the cross, then holds them securely until He brings them home to Heaven.
#2 Your embracing God’s TRUTH in the midst of a world of LIES
Black and white, truth and lies, absolutes and error. Christian, you live in a world which is extreme–the truths you follow are on the ultimate opposite side of the sick errors being affirmed and proclaimed today. Embrace the extreme of believing and following the Christ of truth in a world that follows a hateful and evil liar. The Bible is pointed about truth and error.
Jesus is talking to religious leaders–men who are revered by others as spiritual, respected, and trusted. Yet Jesus ays in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The enemy is behind the lies of today and Jesus is clear in the very next verse–He says in John 8:45, “ ‘But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.’ ” Jesus speaks God’s Word and God’s Word is the truth. John 17:17, “ ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.’ ” The liar and his minions have also created both deceptive errant religions outside the Church and he has created deceptive, errant beliefs within the Church. False religions in 1 Corinthians 10:20, “No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.”
And deceptive errant beliefs within the Church in 1 Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” So why did your office companions make fun of your beliefs? Why don’t your friends at school get your faith in Christ? Romans 1:25, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Non-Christians believe the lies, yet Christians believe the truth. First Timothy 3:15, “The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
If you embrace God’s truth in the midst of lies, you will celebrate God’s creation and reject evolution. Evolution is a lie which purports that creation happened by natural causes and not the creative hand of God. There are four reasons to reject evolution. 1) Genesis 1 can only teach a six literal 24-hour-day creation. 2) The Bible as a whole teaches a six literal 24-hour-day creation, as the rest of the Bible quotes Genesis 1 as literal. 3) If you believe evolution, then there must be death before the fall–you have to believe animals died, if you embrace the survival of the fittest. And If you believe death didn’t result from sin in Genesis 3, then you don’t believe the Gospel message as taught in the Bible. 4) What I call, you gotta be kidding! It’s a category for . . . You think a Big Bang just happened and created the universe? That DNA just popped out of a pool of slime by accident? You think we slowly evolved from lower creatures, but there are no transitional fossils? You gotta be kidding! I could go on and on–embrace the extreme! God’s truth does not harmonize with Satan’s lies.
If you follow God’s truth, then you will embrace only two sexes–male and female, no transgender. You’ll embrace marriage designed by God only for a man and a woman–one male and one female, bound together before God, in a permanent union. Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Embrace God’s design for the sexes–it’s not extreme!
If you embrace the truth and reject the lies, you will see homosexuality as a perversion of God’s design for men and women–it is sin. Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” First Corinthians 6:9 to 11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10… will inherit the kingdom of God. 11Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Embrace the extreme of truth in a culture of lies.
Most difficult for believers in our culture is to reject the lie of possessions and embrace the truth of possessing nothing. To reject the lie of things on Earth and embrace the truth of investment in Heaven. Matthew 6:19 to 21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
A few weeks back, I was studying at my desk when the house was rocked by a boom. I said out loud, “What was that?” Down the hill on Clinton Keith, some solar men had punctured a gas line. They called the gas company and when the men arrived, the house exploded and burned to the ground. The neighboring houses were also damaged severely from the explosion. One man died, and in a moment everything was gone–everything. There was nothing left of the house.
You can’t take it with you, friends, but you can send it on ahead. This world is going to end. All of it will burn. Nothing will be left of our clothes, cars, flat screens, computers, books, pictures, phones, jewelry–all of it. Where is your heart at–where are you making your investment? Do you live by truth or have you bought the lie? Another extreme is . . .
#3 Your RESPONSIBILITY for your actions and God’s SOVEREIGNTY over everything
Because God is limitless and we are limited, this is difficult for us to understand. But the Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign–He does as he pleases, only as He pleases and always as He pleases. He is in control of people, circumstances, the devil, demons, the details and difficulties of your life. Yet He holds you and I and everyone accountable–we are responsible.
Philippians 2:12 to 13 displays this clearly–in verse 12 you are responsible, and in verse 13 God is sovereign. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Even in the death of Christ, Peter mentions God’s sovereign predetermined plan and yet also exposes the responsibility of the actions of evil men. Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
All of you here will be judged. God has put the awareness of coming judgment into the very being of every living being. Speaking of the role of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says concerning all men, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The judgment of the non-Christian is condemnation for your rejection of the only hope you have–Jesus Christ. The judgment of the Christian is evaluation for reward–those things done in the Spirit for God’s glory. You are held responsible to turn to Christ, unbeliever. And you are held responsible to live for Christ, believer. Yet God is Sovereign over your salvation and God is Sovereign over your sanctification. Embrace the extremes, my friends. And one final . . .
#4 Your Hope in HEAVEN in the midst of a world headed to HELL
Both Heaven and Hell are mocked, made fun of in the world, where believers are pictured in white robes or diapers, being bored by playing harps while sitting on clouds in the sky. And unbelievers are pictured telling jokes to the devil in Hell. Intrinsically, people know there is life after death–yet unthinkingly, the unsaved will foolishly say they’d rather be in Hell, because that’s where all their friends will be. And believers are not much better off–as a result of a lavishly comfortable culture and because of our lack of study, we don’t really embrace the extremes of the two future locations for every person. Some of us in this room, if we were really honest, are not joyful about leaving Earth for Heaven. In harsh cultures, Christians can’t wait–in ours, not so much.
Friends, the Bible teaches Hell as an eternal reality. Hell is a real place of fiery torment for the unrepentant that lasts forever. Of the twelve references to Hell in the Bible, the vast majority come from Jesus’ own mouth. Matthew 5:22, ” ‘But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.’ “
Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 23:33, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.” The word Hell is Gehenna, used twelve times in the New Testament, meaning of hinnom, gaining its picture from the Hinnom valley on the southeast side of Jerusalem, where babies were sacrificed in fire to the demonic false god Molech, and where later dead bodies of criminals and animals were burned.
It was used by Jesus and New Testament writers to point to the future place of punishment for the wicked. Revelation 14:9 to 11 warns, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
And Jesus adds in Matthew 25:41, “He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” Revelation 20:15, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The fiery torment of hell is unending–a place of ongoing punishment. There will be no fellowship with your friends and no joking with the devil. If your sin is not punished by Christ on the cross, then God’s wrath is poured out over you for your sin for all eternity.
In contrast to Hell is Heaven. Heaven is not for nice people, kind grandparents, men who died in battle, or sacrificial philanthropists. Heaven belongs only to those who have exchanged all that they are for all that Christ is. It’s for those who’ve turned to Christ in repentance and depend on Him by faith. Heaven is only for those who follow Christ. Heaven is used around 600 times in the Bible and is used three ways–atmospheric heaven, planetary heaven and the third Heaven–the dwelling place of God Himself.
Paul has been there–2 Corinthians 12:2 to 4, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” God is there–we pray, “Our father in Heaven.” Jesus is there–the angel told the apostles Christ ascended to Heaven. Your deceased bro and sis are there. Heaven is our future home–the moment you were saved you were made citizens of Heaven.
Yet as glorious as the third Heaven is, it will be redone. Second Peter 3:13, according to His promise, “We are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” And Revelation 21 tells us this new heaven will come down upon a new earth and God will dwell with his people, wipe away every tear, remove all negative remnants of the previously cursed world, and enjoy eternal life with no sickness, no hunger, no trouble, no tragedy in absolute joy and forever blessing. Colossians 3:1, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
TAKE THIS HOME
Embrace the extremes means you’ll be different than this world, and increasingly so. Seeing your sinful nature should cause you to cry out to Christ to save you from your sin, cause you to be born again in order to live for Him and not yourself any longer. Those clothed in God’s righteousness are not only saved, but also should be motivated to repent of their sin.
Believing these truths should fire you up to live for Christ, to invest finances, to serve in ministry and to worship Christ like never before. These truths are meant to drive you out of apathy, to pursue eternal things.
Embracing the extremes should cause you to want to study more what God says about these truths. Hoping in Heaven should cause you to want to tell all your friends and family who are not in Christ, they’re headed to Hell and must turn to Christ alone for salvation. Let’s pray.