Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Suffering Yet Victorious Savior

Our Suffering Yet Victorious Savior
by Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
First Baptist Church of Oak Creek Wisconsin                      
Text: Isaiah 53:5-11
Today we remember the most important event in Christianity, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the day Christ arose victorious from the dead. When Christ revealed himself to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos He said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18. Hallelujah, we have a Savior who is ALIVE! We have a Savior who making intercession for us today before God (Romans 8:34)! Hallelujah! However, I remind you that before our Lord’s Victorious Resurrection, there was an enormous amount of suffering that he went thru. In this message, we are going to consider the sacred symbols associated with our Savior’s suffering and then look at the symbol of His Victory. Again, I remind you that all Christ’s suffering was for us! Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

·        The Scourge

“But he was wounded for our transgressions… and with his stripes we are healed.”

Scourging was a common and brutal form of corporal punishment that involved tying the victim to a post or bench and whipping him severely. The number of blows was fixed as we read in Deuteronomy 25:2-3 – “And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.” Later, by Rabbinical instruction that was reduced to thirty-nine. Paul says that five time he had received 39 stripes from the Jews (2 Corinthians 11:24). The person being scourged was to receive thirteen stokes on the chest and twenty-six on the back. It was not uncommon for victim died from a scourging. Perhaps you are wondering, why Paul didn’t die. He was whipped five times. The answer is revealed in a study of the Greek words used. The Greek language indicates that there were three levels of whipping. Scourging was the worst. Then there was flogging and finally chastisement. Different whips were used in administering the beatings. The flagrum or scourge used on Christ likely had lead balls and pieces of bone affixed to it, because we know His flesh was mutilated by the beating. Isaiah 50:6 prophetically foretold, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Why was Jesus Christ bruised and beaten? The Apostle Peter tells us, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." 1 Peter 2:24-25. Christ had no sins of His own (1 Peter 2:22). He was paying for our sins. The scourge is a symbol of the awfulness of our sin and the terrible price Christ personally paid for our sins (Isaiah 52:14).  

·        The Crown of Thorns

“And when they had platted [to twine or braid] a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.” Matthew 27:29-30 

The Crown of Thorns is a symbol of Christ suffering public humiliation and public rejection. The Lord of Glory was despised and rejected of men! Why did he allow it when he could have stopped it! Christ could have called 81,912 angels (Matthew 26:53) and they would have instantly been at His side to stop this! The answer is found in 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” Christ suffered for you and for me!

·        Cruel Nails & The Cross

“For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” Psalms 22:16. “He that is hanged is accursed of God.” Deuteronomy 21:23

The Jews detested the death of the cross. Roman citizens were exempt from this heinous form of death. This form of death was reserved for the most serious crimes such as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, piracy, assassination, sedition, etc. The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, especially in hot climates. Severe local inflammation, coupled with bleeding from the jagged wounds produced traumatic fever, which was aggravated the exposure to the heat of the sun, the strained of the body, and insufferable thirst. The swelling around the rough nails and the torn lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony.

The arteries of the head and stomach were supercharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. Tetanus often appeared and the rigors of the attending convulsions would tear at the wounds and add to the burden of pain, till at last the bodily forces were exhausted and the victim sank into unconsciousness and death. The sufferings were so frightful that “even among the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited.”

But why did Christ endure all of this? There are two passages, one in Galatians and one in Colossians that answer this question –

Galatians 3:13   “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 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;”

My friend, these are the sacred symbols of our suffering Savior –

The Scourge; The Crown of Thorns; The Cruel Nails; & The Cross

He suffered all these for you! W. G. Ovens wrote –

Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the Cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me!

There is yet one more important symbol that we must look at. It is the symbol of victory!

·        The Empty Tomb

“…Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,” Luke 24:5-6

The literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity! The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that He was the Son of God and that God accepted His sacrifice as payment for the sins of mankind. (See - Romans 1:4 says that Christ was “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” 1 John 2:2 says, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”)

The New Testament church was born out of Peter preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Act 2. Peter preaches it again in Acts 4, then again in Acts 10. Stephen preaches the resurrection in Acts 7. Philip preaches it in Acts 8. In Acts 9, 13, and on through 28, Paul preaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Why is the resurrection so important? It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are born-again. The same divine power that physically raised Christ from the dead is the power that brings the spiritually dead sinner to spiritual life. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Paul put it this way: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 4:25-5:2.  But, there’s more. Believers will be physically raised from the dead to immortality just as Christ was (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The unsaved will be raised as well, but to eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire (Acts 24:15). The resurrection you will have part in depends on what you have done with Christ. Is Christ your Savior? If not, I urge you to receive Him today!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Remember The Titanic?

Ó 1976 & 2008 by David L. Brown
·         THE TRAGEDY

April 15, 1912 was a tragic day in maritime history. April 15, 2008 marks the 96th anniversary of this century’s most catastrophic shipping calamity. At 2:40 a.m. the “unsinkable” luxurious White Star Liner, Titanic, pride of the British merchant fleet, plunged to its watery grave becoming a humungous coffin for 1,517 perplexed people.


Too many have an errant, even flippant view of God. One crewmember brazenly stated,  Not even God could sink this ship!” It was commonly stated that the ship was “unsinkable.” This was the selling point of all the promoters. After all, it was the world’s largest vessel in 1912: 882 ½ feet long, weighing 46,328 tons, with a double bottom of 5 to 6 feet thick to insure added safety.
Thirty-two-year veteran E.J. Smith, the Titanic captain, stated, “I cannot imagine any condition that would cause the ship to founder. I cannot imagine any disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”

People would have harangued anyone as a lunatic who would have said the Titanic would sink on her maiden voyage. It was a known “fact” that the only way possible she would sink would be if both keel plates on her double bottom hull were torn at least half her length.  The odds of that happening were too high to figure! Especially considering there were 30 watertight compartments designed to prevent that from ever happening. Adding to the air of security, or might I say false security, was the presumptuous talk that the 46,328 ton Titanic traveling at 18 knots could slice through anything without sinking.

·         THE PEOPLE

The Titanic has received worldwide publicity, with the owners, designers, builders, captain, crew and news media proclaiming it as the safest, most luxurious attraction ever. They made it seem as if it were the Eighth Wonder of the World and a first class booking cost like it also.  The best accommodations were reserved for $4,350, while the less expensive first-class rooms were a mere $2,300. That was a BIG PRICE back then.

For that money, you might guess the class of people that were attracted to an expensive “unsinkable” ship offering the plushest transatlantic accommodations in the world.  The tall, 48-year-old John Jacob Astor IV was probably the most renowned. If not, he was at least the riches, worth some $150 million. His wealth included companies still known today:  Western Union, The Equitable Life Assurance Company, and Mercantile Trust Company. At 48 he took Madeline, his bride of 19, and reserved the best of accommodations on the Titanic as the final leg of a trip from Egypt. He never stepped foot on dry land again after boarding at Southhampton, England although his wife escaped the watery grave and later gave birth to his son, John Jacob Astor V.

Benjamin Guggenheim, age 47, was worth $95 million.  Jay Bruce Ismay of International Mercantile Marine Company and White Star Line chairman was on board with his wife and children. He was worth about $40 million and he wanted everyone to know it. His wife was a “display piece” for his wealth.  It is said that one string of her pearls was worth $250,000.

Among the noted Americans on the Titanic was Major Archibald Butt. He had been military aide to the 25th president, Theodore Roosevelt and at the time was returning to Washington from a visit to Italy and specially visiting the Vatican on behalf of President Taft. Butt was serving President Taft as military aide also.

There was Isidor Straus, an elderly Bavarian Jew who made his fortune in commerce and banking. He was also a partner with R. H. Macy in New York City’s famous store by the latter name. He was returning from the Rivera. It is said he was worth $50,000,000.

Great men of industry, commerce and finance, as well as a sprinkling of aristocrats of Europe, held prime places on the Titanic. Leading theatrical and motion picture figures, a renowned American publisher, a British journalist, a famous metallurgical engineer, a fashion designer and dozens of other celebrities were aboard. Such great wealth and fashion; the women outstandingly arrayed in the finest Parisian gowns, shimmering with enough jewels to sink a lifeboat. The rich and famous, as well as hundreds of average people like Lawrence Beesley, a London schoolmaster going to visit his brother in America, did not have the slightest inkling of the tragic disaster they would encounter at 41° 46′ N. and 50° 14′W.


Amid the swimming pool, Turkish baths, library and reading room, gymnasium, miniature golf course, child’s playroom, tennis courts, restaurants, ballrooms, tailor shops, dress shops and palm-lined courts, people had no time to be interrupted from their amusement. Wallace Hartley and his eight-man orchestra often captivated the attention of the passengers with light waltzes and American Rag Time. An electric camel, horse, 16 pianos and a “hospital equipped with an operating room” testified to the extravagant heights White Star Lines had gone to quench the thirst for pleasure and amusement of the rich. She even published her own magazine enroute – “The Atlantic Daily Bulletin”.

The alarming truth is that a fire was burning in number 6 coal bunker when they left Southhampton. In fact there was a near disaster when the Titanic pulled away from port because it displaced such an immense volume of water in such a restricted area that it caused a powerful suction, which combined with an offshore breeze dragged the ship the New York from her berth, snapped her mooring lines and a collision between the two was missed by just a matter of inches! Adding further to the danger, it was discovered after the Titanic was under way that there were no binoculars in the crow’s nest with which to watch and spot danger more easily.

There was a fourth problem. The accounts that I have found set the number of people, in total, from 2,222 to 2,340. There were 20 lifeboats with a capacity of 58 each. That meant there was room for 1,160 if each boat were filled to capacity.

The fifth problem was bad seamanship. Despite all urgent warnings of ice by radio and signal lamp, the Titanic, in hopes of an early arrival in New York harbor, sailed at near top speed of 22 ½ knots, into slushy iceberg infested waters.

On that cloudless, breezeless night of April 14, 1912 with only the stars for light, the Titanic rammed a huge iceberg, which ripped a 300-foot gash into the one side of the “unsinkable” ship. Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon, in her stately room, was awaken by the jolt and was quoted to have said, “It seemed as though somebody had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship”. Many were so busy the jar went unnoticed.

By 12:10 a.m., April 15, Thomas Andrews, the Chief designer of the Titanic had informed Captain Smith the ship had incurred some serious damage, but there was no need to alarm the people. The crew was notified and ordered to uncover the lifeboats and distribute life vests. Many refused to put on the vests, saying they didn’t want to ruffle their gowns with those dirty vests! John Jacob Astor was asked where his life vest was and he replied, “I didn’t think I needed it”!

At 12.45 a.m. Captain Smith ordered an S.O.S. flair fired but no assistance would come after many firings. The call was given – “To The Life Boats…women and children first” but people had been brainwashed by the pompous publicity – “Unsinkable”, and the cries for the most part were not taken seriously. The truth is that many lifeboats pulled away with only a dozen or so people in them while the capacity was 58. One story has it that people were chipping off hunks of icebergs and having snowball fights on deck.

At 1:30 a.m. a series of explosions turned the dream cruise into a nightmare. People were shocked into the reality of impending disaster. The stampede was on. A few men were said to have disguised themselves as women in an effort to get in the lifeboats.
There were men on the Titanic that day that could have bought it, but in those last moments they did not have enough money to buy a seat in the lifeboat.

Some say 705 lived to tell of the terrible tragedy. The British Government said 1,490 people perished. The British Board of Trade said 1,503 and the U.S. Senate Investigating Committee said 1,517. That figure is probably the most accurate.

Eyewitnesses say that the partings were horrible…children snatched from parents and thrown into lifeboats. Women torn from their husbands by ship stewards and placed screaming into the boats.

One eyewitness said a man was holding his 12-year-old son. Many came and begged him to let the boy loose and put him into the boat. The man tried to push his son away several times but the little boy would not release his grip from his dad.

At 2:40 a.m., April 15, 1912, as the band played the Episcopal Hymn, Autumn: “All against my soul combined, Hold me up in mighty waters, keep my eyes on things above, Righteousness, divine atonement, peace, and everlasting love”, as the Titanic slipped beneath the icy waters, 1,600 miles from New York City, off the Banks of Newfoundland. It came to rest in 16,500 feet of water.

Those drifting in lifeboats heard the calls of those left struggling in the sea. The Third Officer, Herbert Jolin Pitman testified at the Senatorial inquest, after burying his head in his hands and sobbing – “Sir, you asked about the screams…it was just one long, continuous moan!” some lifeboat groups rowed frantically in an effort to get away from the terrible sound. Some tried singing, some plugged their ears, some just rowed.

The “Unsinkable” ship sunk on her maiden voyage, becoming a gigantic gloomy sepulcher for 1,517 people.


1. “Not even God can sink this ship” was a seaman’s rash remark. Men throughout the ages have endeavored to demonstrate their independence from God and even think themselves equal with God Almighty. The sailor’s remark was a flippant one, probably made in jest. Many today feel they are “above” relying on the Lord. The Bible reminds us, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19) I do not believe God sank the Titanic, but I believe He allowed it to happen. We are also reminded, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8) Despite the claims of the designers, builders, owners, captain, crew and news media, that the Titanic was unsinkable, in essence claiming, “Lord, we will care for ourselves, we do not need Your protection or help, we are the masters of our own destiny and captains of our fate”, the ship sank. After all these years the incident is a lamentable and catastrophic reminder to the world that we still need God.

2. There is more to life than luxury. The Titanic had the grandest accommodations. There were none better in the world…tennis courts, bars, ballrooms, dining rooms, gambling dens, an elevator and plush cabin accommodations. Those securely resting in the comfort and luxury of the palatial surroundings found too late that the builders had furnished much for self-gratification and enjoyment in life, but little for saving it. There were 20 lifeboats with a capacity of 58 each on the Titanic. There were no crew members assigned to man the lifeboats in an emergency. The lifeboats contained no provisions, no fresh water, and some had no plugs in the water drains. The Bible says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) The age in which we live offers many luxuries to strive for and enjoy. Most get an education, get a job, get married, buy a home, have a family and continue to work, striving to acquire enough earthly things and to be set by the time they retire. Then they die. If there has been no “seeking God” their situation is hopeless for all of eternity. They cannot take a single cent to the grave with them. Are you prepared for eternity?

3. The worthlessness of money in the light of eternity. There were men aboard the Titanic who could have bought her. But in those last sinking moments their entire fortunes were not enough to by a seat in a lifeboat. Remember the words of Mark in his gospel – “For, what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul:” (Mark 8:36-37)
Friend, if you are without Christ as your personal Saviour, it is like being on the Titanic with no room in the lifeboat. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Have you ever called on Christ Jesus and asked Him to forgive your sin and come into your life as Saviour? Would you like to? Why not pray this simple prayer of acceptance? “Lord…I know that I am a sinner, and that I deserve to go to Hell, but I now believe that Christ died for me, and now by faith receive Him as my personal Saviour and Lord.”

4. The Alternative

If you were to die tonight without Christ, what would be your fate? Remember Third Office Pitman’s testimony relating to the sounds as the Titanic slipped to its watery grave – “Sir, it was just one long, continuous moan!” Hell will be like that… “There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42) Do not sink in your sin…Repent of your sin and reach out to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I Do Not Celebrate Lent

There are certain special events that are clearly seen in the Bible. Here are several examples. Palm Sunday is a remembrance of the day when Jesus Christ entered into Jerusalem and the crowds cheered Him as their King. John 12:13 “Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

We also remember the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We read in John 19:30 “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” We know that Jesus was three days and three nights in the grave. He prophesied this in Matthew 12:40 “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Paul attests the fact that this is exactly what happened (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We will remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ this Friday.

Then there is the Resurrection. Resurrection Sunday is next week! To be sure we will be focusing on the glorious event. My heart is warmed by the words of the angel recorded in Mark 16:6 “And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.”

However there are other non-biblical events that we do NOT celebrate, that have their origin in paganism but have been transported into Christianity. What I am referring to is what is called LENT. When I was a child, I went to a church that celebrated Lent. I never really understood why we celebrated it when I was younger. When I started going to the Baptist church they did NOT celebrate the Lenten Season. I want to explain why.

·        The Modern Definition of Lent

Lent is the 40-day period (Sundays excluded) prior to Easter, which the Catholic and most Protestant church observes as a penitential season. It begins on Ash Wednesday (which can occur any time between February 4 and March 11, depending upon the date of Easter), and it concludes with the Passiontide, the two-week period during which the church's liturgy follows Christ’s activity closely through the final stages of his life on earth. These two weeks are called Passion Week and Holy Week.” The Roman Catholic Church says it was established to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan.

However, you can search the Scriptures diligently, from Old Testament to New, and you will find no mention of Jews or Christians observing an annual period of 40 days of fasting and abstinence preceding the festival of the Passover or Resurrection Sunday. Yet today much of the Christian world observes a 40 day period called Lent, which precedes the festival of Easter Sunday.

Some have falsely claimed that the celebration of Lent goes back to the time of the Apostles. Believe it or not, Lent was never observed by Christ or His Apostles.

·        The Pagan Origin of Lent

But, where did the Catholic Church get Lent? The word actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning “spring,” which in turn was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lenctentid (pronounced LENG-ten-teed), which means the time of lengthening and flowering. The entire spring season was called Lenctentid.

The ancient Anglo-Saxons (and other pagans) celebrated the return of spring with rioteous fertility festivals commemorating their goddess of fertility and of springtime, Eastre. In fact, the word Easter is derived from the Scandinavian Ostara and the Teutonic Ostern or Eastre, both pagan goddesses of fertility. The complete month of April was called Eostur-monath with the entire month was dedicated to Eostre.

The pagan religion taught that Eostre was one responsible for changing a bird into a rabbit, this then is how the rabbit became an Easter symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility of springtime. It should be noted that the rabbit's capacity of abundant production of young is especially great at this time of year.

I should also tell you that most ancient races, including the Anglo-Saxons, included spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth life, using the Egg was a symbol of fertility, life and re-birth. This is old Latin proverb catches this idea -- Omne vivum ex ovo. This means “all life comes from an egg”.

Where did the Anglo-Saxons get Lent. We have go back to the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. “The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz.” (The Two Babylons).

But why did the church at Rome institute such a pagan holiday? “To pacify the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands” (The Two Babylons).

Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century A.D. contrasting the primitive New Testament Church with the Roman Church of his day, “that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.”

Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other form of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state. In A.D. 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.

Originally, people did not observe Lent for more than a week. Some kept it for one or two days. Others kept it for 40 consecutive hours, falsely believing that only 40 hours had elapsed between Christ’s death and resurrection. Eventually, it became a 40-day period of fasting or abstaining from certain foods. “The emphasis was not so much on the fasting as on the spiritual renewal that the preparation for Easter demanded. It was simply a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily one in which the faithful fasted every day. However, as time went on, more and more emphasis was laid upon fasting…During the early centuries (from the fifth century on especially) the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, toward evening was allowed: flesh meat and fish, and in most places even eggs and dairy products, were absolutely forbidden. Meat was not even allowed on Sundays” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

From the ninth century onward, Lent’s strict rules were relaxed. Greater emphasis was given to performing “penitential works” than to fasting and abstinence. According to the apostolic constitution Poenitemini of Pope Paul IV (Feb. 17, 1966), “abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of the year that do not fall on holy days of obligation, and fasting as well as abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Today, Lent is used for “fasting from sin and from vice…forsaking sin and sinful ways.” It is a season “for penance, which means sorrow for sin and contrition to God.” However, before giving up personal sins and vices during Lent, the pagans held a wild, “anything goes” celebration to make sure that they got in their share of debaucheries and perversities. All Catholic and some Protestant countries traditionally call the day before Ash Wednesday "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras today. Some call it Carnival and Shrove Tuesday.

·        The Biblical Problems With Lent

ü Lent Has Its Roots In Paganism
You cannot Christianize Pagan observances. This principle is set out in Deuteronomy   7:1-5  

Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

ü Lent Is A Man Made Celebration
Colossians 2:20-23 “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”

ü The Bible Does Not Instruct Penance
Penance is an act of self-mortification or devotion performed voluntarily to show sorrow for a sin or other wrongdoing. It includes contrition, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment, and absolution.

ü The Bible Does Call For Repentance and Confession To The Lord
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

ü We Are To Daily Live In A Christ Honoring Way
Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Our focus should not be on human tradition, fabrication or speculation, but on the reality of things recorded in the Bible – Palm Sunday and Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His death on the Cross for our sins and His victorious resurrection. Thank you Lord Jesus for what YOU have done for us!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Power of The Tongue - The Power To Direct

Be Disciplined In Your Speech
Part #2 – The Tongue’s Power To Direct
by Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
First Baptist Church of Oak Creek Wisconsin
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The focus of James 3:1-12 is -- Be Disciplined In Your Speech

·        The Outline of Our Study On The Tongue

As we dig into chapter 3 we see that the intention of James is to STRESS the importance of controlling our tongues and being disciplined in our speech. He does this by giving us 6 Pictures of the Tongue which are divided into 3 Different Classifications that reveal the three powers of the tongue. The tongue has 1) The Power To Direct, 2) The Power To Destroy & 3 ) The Power To Delight.   The message today deals with…

ü The Power to Direct vs. 3-4

James 3:3-4 “Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

The tongue may be small but it is very powerful and influential. The uncontrolled tongue is “set on fire of Hell.” (James 3:6). Proverbs 18:21a says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue….” Job 19:2 says, “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?”

In James 3:3-4 he points out that the tongue has the power to direct and illustrates that by using the horses bridle and the ships rudder. When I say the tongue has the power to direct, I mean that the tongue has the power to affect others lives. The tongue can sway men to violence, or it can move them to the noblest actions. It can instruct the ignorant, encourage the dejected, comfort the sorrowing, and soothe the dying. Or, it can crush the human spirit, destroy reputations, spread distrust and hate, and bring nations to the brink of war.
 During World War II there were posters that read LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS! But loose lips can offend others and even wreck others lives. That is why it is so important to control your tongue!

James begins by using the illustration specifically the bit of a horses bridle. It is a relatively small piece of hardware. A typical bit may not weigh more than one pound. Yet, from that small bit, a horseman can control and turn around the one-thousand pound body of the horse. The bit is small but powerful in its effect. If a horse is to be useful, then it must be under control.

One old preacher said this – “The bridle bits are not impressive in size, but they can hold a high-spirited horse in check and keep him from running away. If you are old enough, you may have recollections of the horse-and-buggy days. I can recall seeing a horse run away, turn over a buggy, and bring death and destruction to a family. In the same way, the tongue can run away.”

If a Christian is to be useful to God, he will need to keep his tongue under control. Matthew Henry says - “The more quick and lively the tongue is, the more should we thus take care to govern it. Otherwise, as an unruly and ungovernable horse runs away with his rider, or throws him, so an unruly tongue will serve those in like manner who have no command over it.”

I appreciate what Robert Barnes wrote - “A man always has complete government over himself if he has the entire control of his tongue. It is that by which he gives expression to his thoughts and passions; and if that is kept under proper restraint, all the rest of his members are as easily controlled as the horse is by having the control of the bit.”

David noted in Psalms 39:1 “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” In other words, David said that because he wanted to give the right kind of testimony, he would put a bridle on his mouth. My friend, there are a lot of Christians today who ought to have a bridle put in their mouths. The tongue that is bridled is used of God and accomplished His purposes. The one that is not makes a mess of things.

The next illustration of control that James uses is the helm of a ship. James 3:4 says, Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

  The word helm is a translation of the Greek word πηδάλιον – pedalion (pay-dal'-ee-on) which literally means the blade of an oar. That is how first century ships were steered. This same word is translated “rudder” in Acts 27:40 “And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.”

The rudder, though it is small, must fight the winds and currents that would drive the ship off its course. The human tongue also must overcome contrary forces. We have an old nature that wants to control us and make us sin. There are circumstances around us that would make us say things we ought not to say. Sin on the inside and pressures on the outside are seeking to get control of the tongue.

Our tongue can really get us into trouble—there is no question about that. Someone has put it in words like this:
A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may hate instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
—Author unknown

Both the bit and the rudder must be under the control of a strong hand. The expert horseman keeps the mighty power of his horse under control, and the experienced pilot courageously steers the ship through the storm. When Jesus Christ controls the tongue, then we need not fear saying the wrong things — or even saying the right things in a wrong way! “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” warned Solomon (Proverbs 18:21). No wonder David prayed, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing” (Psalm 141:3-4). David knew that the heart is the key to right speech. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). When Jesus Christ is the Lord of the heart, then He is Lord of the lips too.

Never underestimate the guidance you give by the words you speak or do not speak. Jesus spoke to a woman at a well, and her life and the lives of her neighbors experienced a miraculous change (John 4:1-54). Peter preached at Pentecost and 3,000 souls came to salvation through faith in Christ (Act 2:1-47).

On April 21, 1855, Edward Kimball went into a Boston shoe store and led young Dwight L. Moody to Christ. The result: one of history’s greatest evangelists. Thousands came to know Christ as their Savior. The tongue has the power to direct others to the right choices.

It would do us all good to read Book of Proverbs frequently, and to note especially the many references to speech. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 12:22). “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Yes, the tongue is like a bit and a rudder: it has the power to direct. It is of the utmost importance that our tongues direct people in the right way!