Posts Tagged ‘salvation changes everything’

1 Samuel 31:1-13
The Death of Saul (Part 3 of 5)

I remember my day of salvation like it was yesterday. I remember living my life before that, knowing of Jesus Christ and calling myself a Christian but not really having a relationship with Him. I was born into a preacher’s family. My dad was a preacher in the United Methodist Church, South Carolina Annual Conference, for 53 years when he retired, just a few years ago. I was raised in the church. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. Often the church or churches that my dad served over the years of my brother and me growing up were our playgrounds. We used to run around the church building playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. Sometimes, since we were big Star Trek fans, the church and it’s, if it had one, educational building or wing would be our USS Enterprise. The pulpit area would be our “bridge” or control room where we would be Spock, Bones, Capt. Kirk, and so on. The rest of the church and educational wings of the buildings would become the rest of the ship. Outside the church would be our alien planets where we would be the landing party or away team. We had quite the imaginations.

Church was sometimes just next door to the parsonage. Church was our life. I guess I became numb to it because it was like the family business. So after leaving home and getting married at 18 and going to college, my faith was just nominal and certainly was not saved. I knew all about Jesus but little about the Bible. I continued to go to church after marriage but the church I went to was my first wife’s family church and it was more of a social club than it was a discipling church. There was no discipleship at all. It was just a small three main families church that got together on Sundays and had potluck dinners at the drop of hat. It was fellowship for sure but challenging anyone to go deeper in their faith, it was not. Between the liberal arts “question everything, including religion” education that I got at Furman University, it rocked my world and my belief systems. My life after that became increasingly secular. Living for the moment. Living for the weekend. Living for myself. It was not until I was in my late 30’s in December 2001 that I came to Christ.

On that night that I came to Christ, there was a play at the church that I attended at that time, Abundant Life Church (a non-denominational church) in the Berea area of Greenville, SC, that was part of the church’s lead-up to Christmas. It was a play about this guy, who happened to be named Mark in the play, who lived a party lifestyle. Even though he had kids, he was all about the party, hanging out with his buddies at the bars, and just living a very self-centered life. He was blaming everybody else for whatever hardship he had in life. He never took responsibility for anything. The irony of the main character in the play being named Mark was that the Holy Spirit made me realize that the play on stage was matching the track of MY life. It was like watching a movie of my life. I was him and he was me. In the play, a little over halfway through it, the main character got into a car accident. During the time that the main character was unconscious, he was able to see the eternity that was awaiting him. Even though he was not a believer, the reality of hell became very real. He got revisit via video the first half of the play to show how arrogant and self-centered and self-seeking that he was. Of course, he tried to argue his way out of hell but there was no disputing the facts and ultimately he falls to his knees and cries out to God to give him another chance. The guy playing the part really sold it. He was literally sobbing like a baby on stage with real tears. He finally just goes out cold again and the lights go dark. Next thing you see when the lights come back up are the EMTs on top of him jolting him back to life. After that experience in hell, the character, Mark, was a changed man. He became a Christ follower from that moment forward and restored his marriage, his relationship with his kids, and just became a true disciple. We see him turn down opportunities to go bar hopping with his old friends, turn down opportunities to be unfaithful and so on. His attitude this time around was not that he HAD to turn down these opportunities, he WANTED to.
For me, that was it. It was my moment to come face to face with who I was and where I was headed. My heart was pounding. I could hear myself breathe. I could hear my heartbeat. I knew this play was FOR me. It was about me. It was the Holy Spirit finally getting through to me about my need for a Savior. I gave my life to the Lord then and there. I was baptized the following summer in 2002.

As all Christ followers know, salvation is just the beginning of the journey. Things did not suddenly get better in my life because of salvation. In those early years after salvation, the circumstances of my life actually got worse in some ways. I would like to say that, even in the troubled times, that I continued an upward trajectory toward spiritual adulthood, but I was a spiritual baby for a long time. There were idols in my life that the Holy Spirit had to get rid of before I could begin maturing. That took a while and was painful at times. I think I really didn’t start growing up in Jesus Christ until 2009 while I was living in California and met Luke and Felisha Brower, my pastor and his wife. They became our close friends and each of them were instrumental in the growth of Elena and me. Even though they were younger than us by an average of 10 years, they grew me with hard confrontations about my faith and cherry picking what I wanted to believe. They led Elena to the cross while we were under their spiritual care. Then the growth that we had at LifeSong when we moved back to South Carolina between late 2010 and early 2018. We became leaders in the local church there. We became ravenous for Christ there. We went deeper and stronger there. Now, we are here in Illinois serving the Lord full-time and waiting to see what the Lord will do with it – with excitement, we can’t wait to see what God is going to do!

What a journey it has been since December 2001 for me. Back then, I would have laughed at you if you had told me that I would end up in Illinois and being a pastor. I would have laughed at you if you had told me that I would have a wife that was all-in for what God was calling us to do. I am amazed at what God has done in my life since salvation. When I look back on that night at that play, it was indeed the biggest decision of my life. It changed everything. Who knows where I would be now if it were not for that night. That night I realized that I needed a Savior not just behavior modification. I needed Jesus to change me from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit, He is still working on it. I am by no means perfect now. Still a bunch of things that God has to do in me and will continue to have to do in me until the day that I am called home to heaven. Before that night in December 2001, I thought I could will myself into being a better person. I thought if I just did more good than bad then I’d be OK. That night changed all that. I needed an intercessor. I needed Jesus.

Being presented with that moment where we have to make a moral choice is what I thought of this morning as I read this passage/chapter, this final chapter of the book of 1 Samuel. That’s what I thought of this morning as we see the end of Saul’s life in 1 Samuel 31. Let’s read about it now:

31 Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons—Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. 3 The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely.

4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”

But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. 6 So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.

7 When the Israelites on the other side of the Jezreel Valley and beyond the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines moved in and occupied their towns.

8 The next day, when the Philistines went out to strip the dead, they found the bodies of Saul and his three sons on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor. Then they proclaimed the good news of Saul’s death in their pagan temple and to the people throughout the land of Philistia. 10 They placed his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of the city of Beth-shan.

11 But when the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their mighty warriors traveled through the night to Beth-shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.

In this passage, we see that Saul hasn’t changed a bit. Saul is being that Saul that he has always been throughout the book of 1 Samuel – always taking matters into his own hands without thinking of God or asking for His guidance. Even with regard to his death, Saul responded the same way he responded to things during his life. Often we think we will change how we act later, always later in life rather than now. None of us knows when our end is going to come. Why do we think we have time to change our ways? We will get our act together and then we will come to Christ … later. Saul did not change even at the end.

Are you the character in the play? Are you living for yourself and for your selfish desires and not caring about how you impact others or about your eternal destiny? Do you think you’ve got time? Do you think that you’ve got time to get right later? Are you of the mind that you have to give up something to become a Christ follower and you are not willing to do that yet? Those were all yes answers for me at one time in my life. Later. Later. Later. The play that night showed me that we are not guaranteed anything in this life. We have no guarantee of later. The time is now. The urgency is now. You need Jesus now. Don’t wait til later! Your eternity is now. Don’t be like me and wait til you are almost 40 years old to come to Jesus. What you are living for now is a hopeless search for something to fill the hole in your soul that only God can fill and the hole was only designed for Him! Don’t waste any more time. The time is now. Eternity is now. Tomorrow may be too late.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 22:1-2
David at the Cave of Adullam

You know, if you follow my blog, I typically open up an examination of each passage we do together with an illustration from my own life, the life of someone I know, something happening in the world right now. That’s my pattern….illustration, scriptural passage, driving the point of the illustration and the passage in my conclusion. That’s just the way I do it typically. Today’s different though. Today’s passage calls for a different approach to what I want to write. There’s a message in that too. This short passage is about breaking with the pattern we have been following…

Today’s passage is just two verses. But in these two verses, we have power packed into two verses. We have a great example of what God does even with the most unexpected. Like He did with this band of rag-tag misfits here with David in the cave. They were nothing individually. They came from all different walks of life. None of them probably knew many of the others in the cave. But they were drawn by the promise that David represented. They were tired of the old ways and wanted something new. They were brought together by hope. They were brought together by the idea that their station in life could be changed forever. David represented those things to them.

Isn’t funny how similar these men being drawn to David is to how Jesus works. He draws together people that otherwise would not have anything to do with each other. In Christ, we cross boundaries with people that we would normally not cross. Jesus brings together the rich and the poor, black and white, hungry and the well-fed, Americans and people from all other nations. We have something in common. Jesus Christ. That’s all these guys in this cave had. They had David in common. That’s all. And here in this cave is the beginning of the greatness of Israel. And in the caves of our lives where we come together with Jesus, greatness begins…

That’s why I stopped with the 2nd verse of Chapter 22 of 1 Samuel as to what I wanted to write about this morning. Just these two verses captivated me when I thought about what these men become under the leadership of David. Their lives were changed forever by coming to this cave and meeting David. That was the idea. How similar this meeting with David changed their lives even though it was in a dark dank cave is to the way we usually come to Jesus…in a dark dank part of our lives where we see that we need something new, where we need new hope, where we need something greater than ourselves, where we need Jesus. Let’s read these two short verses now:

Chapter 22
1 So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. 2 Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men.

In this very short passage (only two verses), we see that those who were discontented, in trouble, or in debt joined David who himself was an outlaw. These people were outcasts and could only improve their lot by helping David become king. David’s control over this rag-tag band of men again shows what a skillful leader David was and what a great motivator he was. It is difficult enough to build an army out of committed soldiers much less a rag-tag group of discontented men as David had at his disposal here. Surprisingly, this group became something special and formed the core of David’s military leadership after he ascended to the throne. Through the leadership of David, these men became a well-oiled military machine. Through his leadership, these men became far beyond what they could have ever been on their own before. Through David’s leadership, these guys forged Israel into a great nation. Sitting here in this cave, a bunch of misfits, they could have never seen that at this time. But they came under the leadership of a man after God’s own heart.

It kind of reminds of the rag-tag bunch of misfits and discontents that were Jesus’ disciples. The only formally educated one among them was Judas (and we know how that turned out). The others were uneducated, non-religious, common men. Most were fishermen by trade, one was a tax collector franchisee and none were religious scholars who worked at the temple or even a local synagogue. They weren’t formally trained in the study of the Old Testament books. They were just a rag-tag bunch of guys that probably in the absence of Jesus would have never associated with some of the others in the group or would have never been introduced at the least. They were looked down upon as preachers of the gospel by the religious elite who had spent their entire lives in service to the temple or a local synagogue. They did not know what to make of these second career guys. But with and through Jesus, they become the most amazing men this world has ever known. In the absence of these men, our faith would probably still be a nice little sect of Judaism that did not reach outside of Palestine. Through their training under Jesus, they changed the world. Through Jesus, these guys did what they could never have dreamed of doing on their own. But they came under the leadership of God’s own Son.

It kind of reminds me of the fact that before I met Jesus Christ myself that I was but filthy rags before Him. Before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I was an outlaw. I was morally bankrupt. I was self-centered. I was looking out only for myself. Before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior, I would have never dreamed or, as we Southerners sometimes say, I would have never “thunk” that one day I would be a minister of the gospel. Sure, I am not the lead pastor or senior pastor but I am a pastor now and that is simply by the grace of God. That I am part of a pastoral team compared to who I used to be is an amazing journey and an amazing testimony to the leadership of Jesus Christ in my life. He has molded me through the Holy Spirit into desiring what He desires. I am not perfect by any means but chasing after Jesus is the passion of my life. I may not say it like lifetime preachers say it. I may not drop bible verses like leaves off a tree in the fall. I may not have specific verses at the ready always to match a situation (I often after a situation say…man, I shoulda quoted that verse right there in that moment…that would have been perfect). I may get extremely nervous speaking and preaching because of lack of practice but, man, do I love my Jesus and what He has done in my life. When people ask me why I “gave up” my lucrative job in the secular world, I say I didn’t give up anything I gained working full-time under the leadership of the greatest leader of all time, Jesus Christ. I didn’t give up anything. I gained. Jesus took me and molded me into a man that loves Him and wants to serve Him to make His kingdom great. Amazing!

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 2:1-24 (Part 3 of 3)

Rahab Protects the Spies

I guess I am getting all 80’s nostalgic this week. This will be the second blog in a row where my opening includes a reference to a hit song from the 1980s. 80s music (which was really from like 1979-1992) was an awesome time for music – music that lives on today, some 20-30 years later. Music lives on when it tells a story that is common to our experience. The music of the 80s did that well. Today, that 80’s song reference is a song by Cyndi Lauper called “Money Changes Everything”. It was a gritty tune with heartfelt emotion from Cyndi. She belted the lyrics out with passion and volume. Always one of my favorite songs from the 80s. The chorus of the song went something like this:

 

Money changes everything

I said money, money changes everything

We think we know what we’re doin’

That don’t mean a thing

It’s all in the past now

Money changes everything

 

Today, I would like to usurp Cyndi’s chorus and change it up a bit for the subject that we will hit on today in this third and final visit to Joshua 2:1-24 before we move on the chapter 3. Here is how I would change the lyrics up:

 

Salvation changes everything

I said salvation, salvation, changes everything

We thought we knew what we were doin’

That don’t mean a thing

It’s all in the past now

Salvation changes everything

 

That is an awesome chorus change don’t you think, because it is so true. Salvation, Salvation changes everything.

 

Do you remember the day of your salvation? Do you remember that feeling that came over you? That moment when everything that seemed so foggy became so abundantly clear. That moment when you realized that you were, indeed, a sinner that was in need saving through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He was no longer a dead radical philosopher that raged against the status quo but rather the Son of the Living God. He was no longer a prophet among prophets. He became God in the flesh to you. He was no longer one of the many ways to get to heaven. He became to you the Only Way. You cried out to God that you believed that Jesus was God visited upon us in the flesh. You cried out that you believed that He came to earth to give evidence to the existence of a mighty God. You cried out that you believed that He came to dwell among us to live the perfect life and to show us how to live according to God’s plan for our lives. You cried out that you believed that because He was God in the flesh that His death on the cross was not just the death of a political revolutionary but rather the permanent conclusion of the Old Testament sacrificial system in that He was the perfect, sinless sacrifice for the atonement of all sins, past, present and future. And because He is God in the flesh, He did actually arise from the grave so as to give us hope and victory over sin and death. All you have to do is say that you believe that with all your heart and you will be saved. That is the essence of salvation. Salvation is that you believe that there is a mighty God who sent His Son to die on a cross for your sins aplenty so that you can be made right through faith and grace with that mighty God.

 

Salvation is a miracle, plain and simple. We rail against God most of us for most of our lives. We dispute His existence. We downplay who Jesus is. We make out that the Bible is just literature and outdated literature at that. We make fun of all the Old Testament stuff and dismiss it without seeking the deeper meaning behind all the “weird stuff”. We throw away the Old Testament. We focus on just the love of Jesus as the benefactor/prophet that had some great things to say but that’s as far as we let it go. We make our own gods. We discount anything in the Bible that is in opposition to the way we want to live our lives. We discount the fact that Jesus said He is the only way to heaven, because that just can’t be. We make Jesus/Mohammed/Shiva/Buddha/Confucius all one guy. We make them the appearances of an all accepting God – if we believe in a Higher Power to begin with. We make the Bible out of date and antiquated when it is different from our sexual desires. We want to have sex with as many women as possible outside of marriage because sex is recreational to us and we want men/men and women/women relationships to be OK so we just rip those pages out of the Bible that don’t apply to our new way of thinking.

 

But on that day of salvation, it is the culmination of the power of the Holy Spirit working on a hard heart. Like our pastor of discipleship was saying the other day about his recent conversations with new attendees at our church (He asks each one why did you choose LifeSong and why did you come back again?). The common answer is that they don’t really know why. They just felt drawn to the church. It is that drawing of people closer to God and that leads to that sudden realization on the day of salvation that changes everything that came to mind this morning:

 

2 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

 

2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

 

4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

 

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

 

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

 

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

 

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

 

17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

 

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

 

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

 

22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

 

In this passage, one of the things that strikes you is that Rahab recognized something that many Israelites did not – the God of heaven is the one true and only God. He is no ordinary run of the mill god. He is all powerful. The people of Jericho were afraid because they had heard the news of God’s extraordinary power in delivering the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and in defeating the armies across the Jordan River. Today, we can worship the same powerful, miracle-working God. He is powerful enough to save us from certain death as he did with Rahab.

 

Rahab had been hearing the stories of the exploits of this Israelite God. He was drawing her unto himself. He was pricking her soul. God knows when there is an opening in our darkened souls. He knows when we are ready to begin considering Him instead of rebelliously rejecting Him. She may have been wondering whether there was more to life than the life she had come to know – prostitution. In the ancient Middle East, a woman without a husband (either through his death or just not marrying) would have to rely on family members for support and shelter. If she had no family it often led to a destitute life and sometimes led these husband-less women to resort to prostitution. We don’t know much about her backstory if anything at all. But we do know that she was prostitute. We do know that she was aware of the presence of the living God, most likely because she was dissatisfied with the world of Jericho and the lot in life that it had given her. Jericho was an opulent town and had its own army. That’s rich! It was well fortified and the fortifications allowed the city to flourish. Here, Rahab is a prostitute. Watching opulent families walk by and having knowledge of the hypocrisy of the husbands that were her customers. She had to be fed up with her life as it was. That opening is where the Holy Spirit began intruiging her about the Israelites and their God. God then directed the spies to her house because God was already working on her. The spies were the confirmation that she needed.

 

if Rahab’s honesty didn’t win the spies’ trust, surely her next words did: “For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”. You heard the woman: “God is God!” A genuine profession of faith, just as the apostle Paul described centuries later: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”. Right then and there that night with the spies, Rahab accepted Christ as her Savior (since Jesus has eternally existed in the trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, then any who professed faith in God prior to Jesus’ dwelling on earth were professing faith in Jesus). Rahad had that moment of full clarity that we all have at the moment of salvation. Everything makes sense. Everything made sense to Rahab even though it meant leaving the life that she used to know behind. Her life would never be the same after this moment of salvation.

 

After this moment of salvation, she followed the order to leave a crimson rope on her window to her house so that she would be spared and anyone who was in her house. After the wall came tumbling down, Jericho was sacked and destroyed by the Israelites – save for Rahab and family. Her faith saved her. Her salvation led her to do what was against the grain of the rest of the Jerichoans. Her life as she knew it before her moment of salvation was over. She had a new family now, the people of God. One house remained standing. “Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her” (). Because of her faith, God saved Rahab in every sense of the word. The Israelites welcomed her into their camp, where a man named Salmon chose her for his bride. Rahab gave birth to a son, Boaz, who married a woman named Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David. And you know where that lineage leads – straight to Jesus Christ.

 

Transformed by God from harlot to heroine, Rahab is an inspiration for every one of us. You, too, can leave your past behind and walk forward in glorious grace, proclaiming to all who will listen, “God is God!” For Rahab, that moment of salvation changes everything. Old life left behind. New life ahead. A new life that will be used by the mighty God that we believe in to accomplish his redemptive plan. Step forward from your past into the newness of salvation and the life that comes after. Indeed, for Rahab, for you, and for me:

 

Salvation changes everything

I said salvation, salvation, changes everything

We thought we knew what we were doin’

That don’t mean a thing

It’s all in the past now

Salvation changes everything!

 

 

Amen and Amen.