What do you do with life’s burdens? The bible prescribes three things for us to do with them. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak we learn about burdens we must bear and burdens we can share.
Here’s the audio only if you’d prefer.
What do you do with life’s burdens? The bible prescribes three things for us to do with them. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak we learn about burdens we must bear and burdens we can share.
Here’s the audio only if you’d prefer.
After Jesus died on the cross, God made a new covenant with His people. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when that new covenant was made, the old covenant that God at one time had with the children of Abraham vanished away (Hebrews 8:13). That old covenant is revealed in the history of, and the law given to the Jews, as recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament records the history of God’s relationship to man before the cross, and the New Testament reveals the wonderful age of salvation through faith in Jesus, which fulfilled and led to the ending of that Old Testament Law. Now, there are many who believe and falsely teach that the Christian is still subject to the Old Testament law, but that’s simply not true, because Paul plainly taught in several passages that that law was fulfilled and done away with in Christ’s death upon the cross. For example, Colossians 2:14 states:
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
So, why then is the Old Testament even in our Bibles? Why should we read it and try to understand it? Does it serve any purpose for the Christian? Absolutely! In fact, you will never really understand the New Testament until you understand the Old Testament. One of the greatest stories of all time is that of Israel under the leadership of Moses leaving the bondage of Egypt and inheriting the land that God had promised them. But that triumph did not come without trial and tragedy. In fact, the ones who crossed the Red Sea before Pharoah’s army were not the same ones who conquered the land of Canaan forty years later. Only two people of the multiplied thousands who left Egypt actually entered into Canaan. The rest died in the wilderness during the forty years that they wandered there. They murmured, they complained, they practiced idolatry and did about everything they could do to disobey and anger the Lord. The Bible reminds us about that sinful generation in Psalm 106:13-14 where it says:
“They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.”
Finally, you see, God’s patience ran out. God pronounced this judgment on them in Numbers 14:29-30:
“Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me. Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.”
That’s exactly what happened. Joshua and Caleb were the only two who realized the promise that they left Israel to obtain. Paul reminds us of those events in I Corinthians 10:5-11, and this passage will be the premise for our study:
“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Paul says that the Old Testament was recorded and preserved even for us who are not subject to its ceremonial law, because of some fundamental lessons that it teaches us.
Several years ago, I baptized an older gentleman. Before the baptism, I asked him to confess his faith in Christ, like the Ethiopian eunuch did in Acts 8:37. He did so, then he looked out at the congregation and very proudly said, “And I just want everybody here to know that I believe it all—from Exodus to Revelation!” Well, I think that maybe he was a little confused about the canonical order of the books of the Bible. Either that, or I’m not sure why he was so skeptical of Genesis. Nevertheless, there are many people who will say, “I believe all of the Bible.” Or, “Where I go to church, we preach all of the Bible—not just the New Testament.” Well, I believe all of the Bible as well–from Genesis to Revelation. I believe what Paul wrote in I Timothy 3:16:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
I believe that all scripture is not only from God, but that it was given for a purpose. None of the Holy Scripture is untrue. None of it is irrelevant to our knowledge of Jesus Christ. The entire book is about Him. But the scriptures do teach that we don’t live under the law of Moses as the Jews did. We are free from that law. It was fulfilled in Christ and taken away at the cross. But it is still germane and relevant to our faith in Jesus, and our understanding of salvation.
In Galatians 3, when Paul taught the gentile Christians that they were not to live under that law, he then rhetorically asked in verse 19, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” In other words, if the law was removed, why was it given in the first place? What does it have to do with us? Paul answered his own question in at least two other places.
Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
I Corinthians 10:11 “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
So, one of the reasons that even we who are Gentiles and not a party to the Old Covenant, have been given the Old Testament record, is because of the fundamental lessons that we learn from it. We’re going to look at four of those fundamental lessons in this study.
I. GOD IS HOLY.
God is holy, therefore He abhors sin. Look back at verse 5 of our text:
I Corinthians 10:5 “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”
Why was He displeased? Because they had disobeyed Him. They had sinned against Him. They broke His law. And those people learned, in a very real and personal way, that God hates and will punish sin. Now, there’s a lot of punishment and violence in the Old Testament, admittedly. It is a bloody book. That is very true. But have you ever stopped to think that there is a lot of grace in the Old Testament too. I mean, the very fact that anybody lived to have their story told, and the very fact that we now today live and exist on this planet to read the Old Testament in and of itself is a testament to God’s mercy. Now, what do I mean by that? People often try to discredit the Bible by saying that a loving God would never do the things that we read about in the Old Testament. All of the bloodshed, the people who died at the hand of God’s vengeance, the suffering that even His own people were put through…But friend, it’s not amazing that God would punish sin if you understand the holiness and the righteousness of God. What’s amazing is that anybody lived through the Old Testament! I’m at a much greater loss to explain how a holy God could save a sinful man, than I am to explain how a loving God could punish wickedness. That is the question: How can a just and holy God save any of us? We don’t deserve His salvation! We don’t deserve to live! We sinned against Him!
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
I John 3:4 “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We only live because of the mercy and the patience of God! So, yes, the Old Testament may be full of wrath, but it’s just as full of mercy. God had every right and reason to wipe the earth clean of sinful man from nearly the beginning. But he suffered long, in order that, in the fullness of time, Jesus might come to redeem us from our fallen state, restore us to God in righteousness and make us holy through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. God was and is bound by His own holiness to punish sin. As He was weaving a picture on the loom of time beginning in Genesis 2 and all the way to the cross, He was painting the picture that He hates sin. He cannot countenance sin. And He is bound by His very own nature—not just His choice, but His nature—to punish sin. What did God tell Adam when He told him not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2?
Genesis 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Interestingly, when Satan approached Eve with the forbidden fruit, what did he tell her? He said that eating of it would not cause her to die. In other words, Satan was challenging the holiness and the truthfulness of God even then! He was telling her that she could sin against God and not be punished. That God really didn’t mean what you think He said. You know, if God had overlooked Adam and Eve’s sin, He would’ve defied His own nature and corrupted and made a mockery of His own law. So, He cursed them and He drove them out of His garden of righteousness and divine fellowship, placing at the entrance of that garden cherubim or angels with flaming swords that guarded His own perfection and holiness from the taint of man’s sin.
Fast-forward to the days of Noah in Genesis 6. Man there had become so sinful and disobedient that Genesis 6:6 says:
“And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
God wiped the earth clean of its wickedness by means of the great flood. The fire that fell from Heaven and consumed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 speaks eloquently of God’s hatred for sin—not for the sinner, but for sin. And every drop of blood that was shed in the Old Testament is a token of God’s detestation of sin. The prophets later wrote of this:
Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Psalm 119:128 “…and I hate every false way.”
Psalm 45:7 “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness…”
The problem is this: the religious community in America in the 21st century has largely forgotten about the holiness of God. But that message is thundered from the pages of the Old Testament, and it is one of the fundamental lessons that the Old Testament teaches us today.
II. GOD DESIRES OBEDIENCE.
God is not only holy, but He desires, yes, even demands our obedience. After enumerating the sins of the Israelites in the wilderness in our text passage I Corinthians 10, Paul says in verse 11:
“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
What is an admonition? It’s a rebuke or warning. Paul is warning us about the consequences of disobedience. You see, the Lord teaches us, by means of the law, that we are subject to Him and our place is to submit to God and obey Him. I mean, we hardly get out of the Garden of Eden and once again, man shows his propensity to sin. You recall how Cain and Abel prepared sacrifices to offer to God, but Cain didn’t seek God after the due order. Abel did, but Cain did not. Cain offered his own kind of sacrifice instead of the bloody kind that God required, and despite the value of his vegetable offering, despite the motive out of which he offered it, despite the beauty of it, despite the sacrifice of his time, effort and toil that it took him to provide it, the fact is that God rejected it because if wasn’t what God had commanded. There is a vital lesson in that for you and me today, when it comes to our seeking salvation and when it comes to offering worship to God. That lesson is this: God doesn’t desire our brilliant schemes and our well-meaning substitutions and our efforts of self-merit. He doesn’t look for our exciting and cutting-edge innovations! He rejects all of that! He desires simple, humble and reverent obedience.
There is an outstanding example in the Old Testament in the life of Saul, the first king of Israel. God gave a very simple and straightforward order to Saul. He wanted Saul to settle an old score and destroy the Amalekite people. Now this wasn’t arbitrary violence on the part of God: these were wicked people who had done great harm in the past to His people. So, God told Saul to go and destroy them—not just hurt them—destroy them.
2 Samuel 15:3 “…and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…”
That means that he was to kill every single one of them. He was to even kill their livestock. They were to be wiped off of the face of the earth. Well, I suppose that all sounded fine to Saul and he went off to fulfill God’s command. But when he got there, he came up with a different idea. Now, he killed the Amalekites. That is to say, he went in and did exactly what God sent him there to do, up to a point. But it gets to the king, and Saul was arrogant and presumptuous and he thinks, “You know, why shouldn’t I bring King Agag back alive? I mean, that’s a trophy to bring back a king bound and captive! And come to think of it, there are some mighty fine sheep and oxen here that would make wonderful sacrifices to offer to the Lord!” You see, he wasn’t trying to deceptively or underhandedly do something immoral or overtly evil. He just thought that he could do something for God. The problem is that these sacrifices that he was so determined to offer to God were not what God wanted. God didn’t ask for the king to be brought back alive. God had told him to kill every last one of them. God didn’t want an Amalekite person OR animal left alive.
Well, Saul comes home and the prophet Samuel comes one morning to inquire about the success of Saul’s mission. About the time that Saul is telling Samuel how he went and did what God said to do and about the great battle that had been waged, Samuel hears “the bleating of the sheep” and “the lowing of the oxen” (1 Samuel 15:14). Here is the conversation between Saul and Samuel the ensues in I Samuel 15:14-15:
“And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Well, that was it for Saul. God stripped him of his kingly robe and thus began the demise of his administration. God rejected him as king.
I Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Now, why did the Spirit of God preserve that story for us? Well, for one reason, even today under different law and different dispensation of time, God wants our obedience. Not our own inventions of worship and service; He wants simple, humble obedience. You can never do anything greater to please and glorify the Lord than to simply and humbly take God’s Word for what it says in faith and obey Him.
III. GOD REWARDS OBEDIENCE.
It wasn’t all bloodshed, vengeance and punishment in the Old Testament. There were people whom God greatly blessed and highly favored, whom He exalted and enriched. I think about Noah. The Bible says that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) in a time when God was ready to destroy mankind. God made a provision. Well, what does the Bible tell us that Noah did?
Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…”
Noah set out to do exactly what God told him to do in the exactly the way that God told him to do it., so he built an ark.
What about Abraham? Abraham followed God, going in search of the country that God called him to, and his faith even led him to the crest of that mountain where he nearly sacrificed his own son to God, because that’s what God said to do, in order to test his faith. Well, Abraham was rewarded for all of that. He is the greatest example of faith and the reward that follows obedient faith that can be found in all of God’s Word.
So, the rewards and blessings of the people of faith are another important lesson for us from the Old Testament. God not only detests and punishes sin, but that He loves the faithful and He rewards obedience. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as ‘The Roll Call of the Faithful’ or ‘Faith’s Hall of Fame’ and it chronicles the lives of great people who not only believed God, but obeyed Him. And, as Paul said in our text, these things were written for our learning (I Corinthians 10:11).
IV. GOD’S PATIENCE IS LIMITED.
As I said, the very fact that humankind survived to even have and read the Old Testament is in itself a testimony to God’s enduring patience, His grace and His mercy. Though God had to punish sin, in the very same event He also promised mercy, and He finally and ultimately mingled those two opposing things together with the blood of Calvary.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”
Romans 5:8-9 “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
2 Peter 3:9 “…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
The truth from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is that God wants all men to be saved. That’s God’s great desire. Sometimes we think, how can the world continue on? We see it in the newspaper, we hear it on the evening news, the moral and spiritual mess and the state of decay that this world is in spiritually. How that men have just by and large rejected God and His Son. How can it go on? How much longer? Why does God allow time to continue? Well, I know one reason: because He desires for men to be saved. His mercy endures a long time.
2 Peter 3:8-10 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;”
How long has God’s mercy and patience undeservedly lasted?! Yet, the Old Testament has a stark lesson for us, that God’s patience does have a limit.
He will not always allow wickedness to continue. There comes a day when He will finally destroy those who are determined to continue in sin. The Israelites wandered through the wilderness in unbelief, rebellious and complaining, but God graciously still kept them, providing for them, not giving up on the promise that He made. He still held out the promise of the land of Canaan, until one day, they finally went too far. Then the sentence came. He said it like this in Numbers 14:27-29:
“How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me…Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness…”
That’s a lesson to us. An example that God’s eternal principles are still at work today. He is still longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. My friend, He is still waiting for you to obey the gospel, to be baptized, to bring your life to Him in humble faith and repentance. But for some reason, you keep putting it off. You keep delaying. You keep remaining in your sin. One day, the last grain of sand is going to pass through God’s hourglass and that’s going to be it. Israel wasn’t warned, “All right, now. Three more sins and you’ll be punished.” God was patient, and He was patient, and He was patient, and He was still patient…until one day, He had had enough. The Old Testament teaches us that God’s patience has a limit.
Living on this side of the cross does not make the Old Testament irrelevant and unimportant to the Christian! The Apostle Paul tells us there are some critical lessons for us from these 39 books. We look at four of them in this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak.
Here’s the audio only if you’d prefer.
In Malachi 3, the Bible says these priests of old had some harsh complaints against God. They believed the wicked were prospering while they were suffering. And if that be the case, what good was it to serve the Lord? Well, you know, that’s a question that I suppose a lot of people ask today. Why should I spend my time living for the Lord when I could spend my life enjoying the world and the pleasures of sin? Well, I believe that is a foolish way of looking at things because there’s not a greater life that can be lived than the life of a Christian. Now, it’s easy for me to say that…but what makes it true? What are the dividends earned from a life invested in Christianity? I want to talk to you about these ‘Dividends of Discipleship”.
Many times when a person refuses to obey the gospel he or she will raise the objection that living the Christian life is too difficult. They don’t believe they can hold out and be faithful and so why even try? Well, there are some things to take into account before a person commits himself to the Lord. Jesus portrayed the Christian life as being difficult enough that a person is foolish if he fails to stop and consider what it will cost him before he begins trying to live it, according to Luke 14:28-32.
An unfinished project is really more of a nuisance than anything. Sometimes, you’ll see a crew begin construction on a new building but something happens in the process and the work gets put on hold, sometimes indefinitely. Perhaps the economy goes south, as we’ve seen lately. Maybe lenders stop lending or investors get cold feet and back out. Sometimes businesses promise big things but they are poorly managed and bite off more than they can chew and they end up going under. Well, that describes many a Christian life. That is, many people embark on the Christian life with great gusto but they never really stopped to consider just how much it would require of them and when the reality of Christianity set in, they abandoned it.
A worthwhile religion doesn’t come cheap. It requires a great deal to live a genuine life of service to God. It requires discipline; it requires sacrifice; it requires fortitude and many other qualities that a lot of well-meaning folks lack in their lives. Sometimes Christianity severs near and precious relationships with friends and loved ones. Sometimes it requires that I choose a career that doesn’t offer as much money. Sometimes it means that I will have to forego some things I might like to do in order to put the Lord and His kingdom first in my life. I do know that Jesus said in Matthew 7:14 that “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it.” I also know that Paul promised “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12 and Jesus also said that if I won’t deny myself and take up my cross and follow Him, I can’t be His disciple. I would be deceiving you if I told you that living the Christian life was easy and free of trouble or hassle. It is a difficult proposition that, quite frankly, many people aren’t willing to accept. They turn away from Christianity because of the challenge it presents. But that can’t be all there is to the Christian life. In fact, I know that it’s not! There’s something magnetic about the gospel and the call to be a Christian or it wouldn’t have attracted so many people down through the ages and retained so many in a full and joyful life of service to God. There’s something about a godly life that makes it a life worthwhile.
The Bible tells us that Moses made a great choice in his life. Now if you remember the story of Moses birth and what happened in the days following, you know that by God’s providence Moses was given an easy and prospered life. Pharaoh had decreed that every baby boy born to the Hebrews was to be killed. However the mother of the baby Moses couldn’t bring herself to do such a terrible thing. Moses was a beautiful little child and that only made it harder for Jochebed to even contemplate doing what Pharaoh had ordered. So, the Bible tells us she hid him for three months. Finally, she couldn’t hide him any longer and so she made a little boat or a little floating cradle you might say out of the bulrushes and she went down to the river bank. She bundled up her precious little baby and kissed him goodbye and laid him there at the water’s edge amidst some reeds and with an aching heart she looked one last time and turned away. It wasn’t long though, until Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river to take a bath and as she parted the reeds and started to wade off into the river, she saw the little ark floating there. She opened it up and saw that beautiful little baby laying there. And the Bible so tenderly says “and the baby wept.” That cry melted her heart and she took Moses up in her arms and said this is one the Hebrews’ children.
As providence would have it, Moses’ sister Miriam was standing off in shadows watching all of this and she asked Pharaoh’s daughter if she would like her to find a Hebrew woman to come and nurse the baby. And so, she went and got Moses’ mother. It may have been a difficult circumstance, but it was a happy reunion that day when Jochebed was called there to the river bank to once again swaddle her little infant boy and the Bible tells us that Pharaoh’s daughter hired Jochebed to be Moses’ nursemaid. Well, time rolled on and the Bible says Moses grew. You can be assured that as she held Moses close to her breast, she whispered into his ear, you’re not an Egyptian. You’re a Hebrew. You’re one of God’s people. He became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Jochebed finally had to give him up but that truth stayed with Moses thru the years of his childhood. He grew into a man but he never forgot where he came from. He was raised as the son of Egyptian royalty but he knew he wasn’t the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; he was a Hebrew. And the scripture tells us that after he grew, one day he began to take notice of how his people were being treated. He came up on an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, “one of his brethren”, the Bible says. And so, Moses rose up in righteous indignation and he killed that Egyptian right there on the spot. He buried His body in the sand and thought no one would know. But the next day he saw two Hebrews fighting and he broke up their fight and one of them said “are you gonna kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday? Well, Moses knew his secret was out. Everyone would know that he was a Hebrew and Moses was faced with a great choice that day. He either had to stand with or against the people of God. His real moment of truth had come. In that wonderful chapter we sometimes call “faith’s hall of fame”, Hebrews chapter 11, the Bible says in verse 24 “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
Moses had a bright and promising future ahead of him in the courts of Pharaoh had he been content to live as an Egyptian but He chose to suffer affliction, the Bible says! Why? Because he determined the greater reward was not one that money could buy or that fame, power or prestige could offer…but the one that was unseen and eternal. The scripture says “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” In other words, he weighed this thing out and he could see that the riches that came from serving the Lord far outweighed anything Pharaoh could give him. Well, I believe that’s still true today. Paul said in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” In other words, there are riches that are found only in Christ. Paul once called them “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Well what are they? What makes the Christian life a life worth giving up the pleasures of the world for? I want to briefly mention five of them.
1) SERVING GOD AVOIDS THE HARD LIFE OF THE TRANSGRESSOR
Now, notice the Bible says that Moses chose the Lord’s people over the pleasures of sin that last only for a season. Nothing truer could be said about sin. Sin is deceptive and one of the ways it deceives us is by telling us that sin’s pleasures will last as long as we want them to. Sin promises big things but it delivers the opposite. Now, I would be lying if I were to suggest that sin isn’t fun. After all, what would be the appeal if it didn’t offer some sort of pleasure or some kind of reward? The problem is, the party doesn’t last very long. Some people live hard lives simply because they wasted their youth in sin. Now, it seemed fun back there when they were running with their college buddies. Drinking, drug use, fornication and promiscuity were just a part of running with the crowd; a part of growing up; nothing more than sowing a few wild oats. The problem ended up being what those wild oats ultimately produced. Paul said in Galatians 6:7-8 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Now, here’s an immutable law of nature that we harvest according to what we plant. Well, there are some other natural laws attached to that one. One is that we not only will reap what we sowed but we will typically reap a lot more than what we sowed. One seed can produce a lot more than one piece of fruit. Secondly, sowing and reaping can be deceiving because sometimes it takes a long time for some seeds to germinate and yield fruit. Some plants spring up over night while others take months or years to mature and bear fruit. Well, sin is that exact same way!
People think they’re getting away with sin because it hasn’t caught up to them yet. They’re still enjoying the “pleasures of sin”. But friend you need to know that there’s a payday coming! Solomon said in Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favor but the way of transgressors is hard.” Sin ultimately produces a hard life. It will finally tell in your health, your own conscience, your relationships. It WILL catch up with you! Sin uses people and it makes a fool out of the person who flirts with it. The devil and the world don’t care what happens to you! They just use you up and throw you by the wayside. That’s the tragic story of many a life wasted on youthful and foolish sins. Listen to me friend. When preachers and parents and loved ones tell you that you shouldn’t drink and carouse or do drugs or live an immoral life they’re not trying to keep you from having a good time, they’re trying to point you to the best life you can possibly have. I want you to listen to this; if a person never takes a drink of alcohol, he’ll never become an alcoholic. If a person never smokes a joint or snorts a line of cocaine, he’ll never end up in rehab, fired from his job, divorced, in jail because of drugs and their evil effects. If a person remains abstinate until he or she enters into a monogamous marriage, they’ll never have an illegitimate child or come down with some terrible sexually transmitted disease. A godly life will spare you the heartache and destruction that sin brings into so many lives and homes today. The prodigal son of Luke 15 learned that lesson the hard way. He had to go try it for himself and the Bible teaches that he went off to that far country of sin and blew his father’s inheritance on a wanton and reckless lifestyle. But sin used him. His friends left him behind and he came home ashamed and disgraced and ruined by sinful living. Sin will do the same thing to you! Why not choose while you’re young to have high morals and live a happy and wholesome life. It’s one of the joys and rewards of living for the Lord.
2) SERVING THE LORD BRINGS GENUINE JOY.
People’s idea of happiness today is strange to me. The world says to be happy you have to be free to do whatever you want to do. You have to be married at least three times, go out drinking on Friday night, live a life of debauchery and immorality and if a person confines himself to the morals and principles of the Bible, well, that person has missed the boat and is throwing their life away. Some people propose that happiness comes from money and material success. Now, be honest! Haven’t you ever thought to yourself, if I just had a million dollars I could be happy? I could pay off all of my bills, live in a nice house, travel wherever I want to go and I would have it made! Did you know the most successful people in life are some of the most miserable? Look at the way Michael Jackson’s life recently ended. Look at the long list of celebrities who’ve committed suicide or who have died in the depth of depression. That’s the story the devil and the media somehow just glosses over. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:13-14; “I gave my heart to seek out and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven…I have seen all of the works done under the sun…” Now, here, Solomon is simply saying he had tried everything that could possibly be tried in his quest for fulfillment and happiness. And he had! Think about the life Solomon lived. He was the wisest man who ever lived; he was the richest man in history; he was the ruler of the most powerful and prosperous nation on the earth, he was married and brother was he married! He had 700 wives and 300 concubines! 1,000 women! But yet he concluded, “and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” In other words, if you’re looking for happiness in all of those kinds of things, you’re chasing the wind.
Now, let me tell you what real joy is all about and why it’s only found in the Christian life. Jesus Christ gives hope that outlasts and outshines anything the world can give. A child of God has the hope of not only present help from heaven, but ultimately, that of eternal life in heaven and nothing, I repeat, nothing can take that away! The joy of the world fades. It’s based on circumstances. The joy of living for Jesus abides in the heart and doesn’t leave. That’s why a Christian can face tragedy and trial with joy. He can say goodbye to a saved loved one because he believes he’ll see them again. That’s how the Christian can face his own mortality without fear or regret because he believes there’s something on the other side that’s better than this. Friends, the world can’t give you anything like that. When hope runs out, it’s gone and there’s nothing left. But the child of God has a song in the night and it’s one of the great rewards of living for Jesus.
3) SERVING THE LORD GIVES PURPOSE.
How many people are living out their lives one day at a time and when it’s all said and done it really didn’t mean much? Sometimes an irresponsible teenager or college student will drop out of school or refuse to get a job and they’ll say “I need to find myself.” Well, I suppose we all go through some phase in our lives when we “find ourselves” so to speak. We try to unravel the mystery of life and plot our course in life. That’s OK but the sad thing is some people spend their entire lives trying to “find themselves”.
It is a pitiful scene conveyed to us in Mark 6:34 when Jesus fed the hungry multitude. At least it was pitiful looking through the eyes of Jesus. He could see into those people’s souls and he saw something missing. Their life didn’t have much meaning. The scripture tells us there that “Jesus, when he came out, saw much people and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as a sheep not having a shepherd.” That’s really a disturbing image. In fact, I heard a preacher say one time that if we really knew how helpless and virtually stupid a sheep is, we would be offended that the Lord called us sheep. But He used that tender figure to point out what our lives amount to without Him! People go through life and live for money. They live for a big house. They live in hopes of getting a big name for themselves. Maybe they just exist from day to day and when they die no one notices and they just fade away. That’s what a life lived for the world will give you. Christianity provides a purpose that transcends all time. I heard of two young men who graduated from high school and were walking down the street together. One asked the other, “What are you going to do with your life?” The other said, “Well I’m going to college.” His friend asked “what then?” He said, “Well I want to get a good job and eventually start my own business.” He said “and what then?” The friend said, “Well I want to get married and have kids”. “Yes, and what then?” “Well, I want to make a lot of money while I’m young and maybe retire early and travel the world” “OK”, he asked, “what then?” He finally blurted out “Well, I guess I’ll finally get around to dying!!!” His friend then asked “and what then?” And friend, whatever road you’re on, that’s the question I ask you today; what then? You need to really stop and think about what life’s all about. What do you have that makes your life meaningful and worthwhile? Is it something shallow and temporary or is it something eternal?
4) SERVING THE LORD BRINGS THE JOY OF SERVING OTHERS.
I really can’t think of a greater purpose in this earthly life than the cause of being a blessing to others. And did you know that that’s what true and genuine Christianity is all about? It’s about the denial of self and a life devoted to God above and our neighbors around us. That’s what Jesus told the young scribe who asked him what the greatest commandment was. Someone says, “What’s the attraction to a life that ignores self and gives to someone else?” Well, that kind of thing is called altruism and did you know that psychologists have long proven that people who live benevolent and altruistic lives are by far, happier, more fulfilled people. I believe that’s one reason Christian people tend to be happier folks. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” And in Proverbs 14:21 the wise man said, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”
5) SERVING THE LORD LEADS TO HOPE DESPITE DEATH.
The Christian can truly sing the Shepherd’s Psalm “Yea though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they do comfort me.” You know, it has been my experience to be with several people as they lay within hours or minutes of death. I’ve counseled a lot of people who knew they were about to die. I’ve had some very concerned about their souls because they hadn’t prepared. But I’ve never had one single person tell me they regretted being a Christian; that they regretted all of those Sundays wasted in church or all of those hours of reading the bible or that they begrudged all of those things they had to give up to be a Christian. No! Because when you get to that point, life comes into focus and we see what really matters. And the one thing that matters in that hour is what’s next and am I ready to meet it? Are you, my friend? Are you living for Jesus? Have you obeyed the gospel? It’s the greatest life you could possibly live.
Does it pay to serve the Lord? The priests of Malachi’s day asked this question. Since following Jesus comes at great cost, it is logical to ask “is it worthwhile to live a Christian life?” In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak we look at part 2 of the great dividends of discipleship.