DEVOTED TO PRAYER

By


Shelby G. Floyd

 

Good Morning. It is great for all of us to come out this morning and sing those wonderful hymns and praise to Almighty God. And we are thankful for the great prayer that Jeff led. Likewise, Terry always does a good job reading the Scriptures.

Sarah and I and Damon and Susan took a quick trip to Nashville, Tennessee for a memorial service for our nephew and came back last night. So we had a quick trip and we realized that a lot of people are on spring break because we could see about every other car had something on top of the roof. They were all headed to Florida and many were coming back. This is the time of the year when people take spring breaks. We are going to get back to normal soon.

Today I am speaking on the subject, Devoted to Prayer. It is a “first day of the week” subject that I planned to present to you. Now, the world looks up on the weekend as including Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the reason is because a large number of people enjoy sports, camping, pleasure trips and things like that and they include Sunday to be involved in those things. Christian people enjoy those activities also, but we do not allow those things to keep us from observing the Lord’s day and coming together to worship and to study and to pray on the Lord’s Day—the first day of the week.

THE EARLY CHURCH BEGAN ON “THE DAY OF PENTECOST”—SUNDAY

There are over 30 references to prayer in the book of Acts. Our text today that I am using right now is an example of one of those Scriptures. Acts 2 and verse 42 is set in the context of the beginning of the church. When did the church begin? It began on the first day of the week. It is called the day of Pentecost and Pentecost always occurred 50 days after the Passover. You would count seven weeks and then on the 50th day—that was the day of Pentecost. It was always on Sunday, the first day of the week. God started the creation of the universe on first day of the week according to Genesis the first chapter and he finished it in a week. So in this setting, we have the beginning of the church.

On the first day of the week Peter received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as the other 11 apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 3000 people cried out after they were convicted of putting to death God’s only begotten Son and asked, “what shall we do?” The simple answer was “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Very simple. So we have the nucleolus of the church on the day of Pentecost–the first day of the week.

Immediately, we have the early church involved in the work and worship ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is briefly described in Acts 2:42. This verse brings us to this lesson of “Devoted to Prayer! “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.” All of the newer translations say “they devoted” themselves to the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Did you know the early Christians were called “devotees,” and we all are devoted to the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers? That is a good name to be called by, and we ought to be devoted to all of those things and other things that are found in God’s word.

Concerning prayer someone has said, “Prayer only makes sense when you have quit trying to do the work of ministry alone. I have learned that as things go smoothly, I pray less. As our goal shrinks, I pray less. As things become more manageable, I pray less. But as we reach out, stretch ourselves, and tackle God-sized dreams, I pray more.”

Now if we want to pray more here at Heartland and I think we do. Then we have got to enlarge our vision and make our dreams larger. Our dreams of spiritual and numerical growth as a church requires prayer. The early church was a praying church and because they were devoted to prayer, they were a powerful and growing church. We want to be a powerful and growing church and so we will have to rely upon prayer a lot more than we do now.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED “IN ONE ACCORD”

Now we need to go back to the first chapter of Acts to pick up another thought on prayer. After his resurrection Jesus spent forty days talking to the apostles about things that pertain to the kingdom of God and he said go into the city of Jerusalem and tarry there until you receive power from on high (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:1-8). They need the power. So you go to Jerusalem and you tarry there until you receive power from on high. Now how long had Jesus been talking with them? The Bible says 40 days after his resurrection. That leaves 10 days until the day of Pentecost. So they went back to Jerusalem to wait for this promise of the power, which was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was never promised to anybody but the apostles! Therefore they are waiting there in Jerusalem and they have some matters to take care of before they receive that power.

So the early church learned quickly that if anything is going to happen, they must stick together and pray together and when the 120 disciples came together and the record says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14 NKJV). This is the last mention in the scriptures of the mother of Jesus. John is taking care of her as Jesus asked him to do. The NIV says “they joined together in prayer and supplication.” That is what we have been doing this morning. We joined together in prayer. They were sticking together. They were praying together. We can learn from this example that if our work in the kingdom of God is going to be successful, we must stick together and all pray together and be on the same page. That is what they were doing.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED BEFORE MAKING DECISIONS

Now let us advance to the next point that we want to make, and that is the early church prayed a lot before they made decisions. We get in trouble sometimes personally because we make decisions without doing any praying and asking God for his guidance. The early church did not make that mistake. They prayed before making decisions as a church. So the disciples are gathered together there in Jerusalem. They are waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit—for the power from on high. And they have a problem! They must replace one of the apostles who fell away by transgression. That apostle was Judas. The Bible says he fell because of transgression. He broke the will of God. Their choice came down to two good men—Justus and Matthias or Joseph and Matthias. They were both good men. A lot of times when there are positions in the church to fill such as elders, deacons, preachers and bible class teachers, there are many good choices. These disciples are not going to make the choice on their own. They are going to ask God to guide them and help them in the decision.

So who did they choose? Who would you have chosen? How should we go about making decisions like that? Let us look at Acts one. You can open your Bibles and follow along with Acts 1: 24 through 26:

And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Then they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias and he was added to the 11 apostles. Now they are back to the original number of 12 apostles. I do not know how they went about that, but however it was carried out, they relied upon how it turned out to be the will of God. From the context of this statement we make some observations concerning the prayers of the church.

1. I think we can safely say that our prayers and our decisions should be Bible based—based upon the word of God. And when they got ready to choose this apostle, Peter spoke. He was always the spokesman, he was outspoken, quick on the trigger, and impulsive. Peter said it is written in the book of Psalms. Before they cast lots, they went to the Bible so their decision will be based on the word of God. Peter said it is written in the book of Psalms and then he quoted Psalms 69:25 and also Psalms 109:8, and he speaks here in the Greek language, so we have an inspired translation from the Hebrew in Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 into the Greek language of the New Testament. So before we make our decisions, we should say it is written, if we possibly can. The Bible had already pointed out that the place of Judas would become vacant and that somebody else would take his leadership role. The decision is going to be based upon Psalms 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Let us follow their example in making our decisions affecting the work of the church.

2. We need to examine all of the alternative options.

In Acts 1:21 through 23, Peter says,

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

So there are further qualifications to replace this apostle. It must be somebody that actually was a witness of the resurrection of Christ. There cannot be any apostles today. Nobody today was a witness to the resurrection of Christ. Then they proposed two men, Joseph, and Matthias. Both of these men had been with the group of disciples from the time that Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17) until his resurrection.

3. Number three. We need to pray for wisdom and guidance before we make those decisions.

And that is what the Bible says in Acts 1:24 through 26:

And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

God is a heart knower! We think we know a lot about people, but we cannot read people’s hearts. We only read the outward man, but we cannot really know the inward man like God. He knows our hearts. When they asked God to show them which of these two, He had chosen, it will be better if we can make choices that God has already made. That is the ideal. James an inspired writer agrees,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8 NKJV).

That is our formula for making decisions. A lot of prayer and a lot of reliance upon God’s word—God’s eternal will.

THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED UNTIL THINGS HAPPENED!

Now the next thing we want to talk to you about is the early church prayed till things start happening. In our day and time we pray and things just keep going along like they do every day. There does not seem to be any upheaval or any kind of problem. There is no opposition, and we even thank God that we are free to worship and assemble because the government cannot take that away from us. They did not have that kind of protection in the beginning of the church. The early church prayed until things start happening. They were actually threatened. From 3000 new converts the church is growing and expanding every day. More and more people are being baptized every day even after being threatened. The Bible says the disciples prayed for boldness to speak God’s word. They were severely threatened and commanded not to speak about Jesus Christ.

So they prayed for boldness and they were severely threatened and commanded not to speak about Jesus Christ by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They huddled together and had a little meeting in which they said we must stop this movement. They are filling Jerusalem with this doctrine. The priesthood especially was troubled and this what they said,

But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:17-18 NKJV).

What were they to do when the authorities came along and said, “You can preach, but you are not to mentioning the name of Jesus Christ!” Would they just meekly abandon the great commission of taking the gospel into the whole world? This pandemic has caused a lot of people to realize the power of the government to shut down many institutions. There have been many contradictory statements made about this problem. This gives us a little insight as to what could happen if we lose our freedom of worship and freedom of speech.

Therefore how are the 12 apostles going to handle this threat? They stated emphatically that they were going to speak the things that they had seen and heard: “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20).

I do not think they had to have a meeting to find out what Peter meant. What would the church do if they put Peter and John in prison? On this occasion the whole church had a prayer meeting. I think it would be good if we had more prayer meetings. The whole church would be more effective in carrying out God’s work if we prayed more. The Jerusalem had a prayer meeting and offered up this prayer:

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24-30).

No wonder David is called the messianic prophet because he and Isaiah are quoted more in the New Testament than any other Old Testament writers! Here again the church is relying upon the word of God, and not just the apostles. The church is quoting the words of the prophet David their father spiritual father and that is from the second Psalm. Here are some of the most beautiful words in all the Bible. “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed one.” They mention that Herod, Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel plotted and conspired against Jesus. They were all conspiring to put a stop to the growth of this new movement called the kingdom of God.

Now I want you to notice the five specific parts of their prayer.

1. First, it is always good to praise God’s name in any situation. So they addressed their prayer to the Lord. “Lord” is translated from the Greek word “despot” in verse twenty-four. Despot means that Jesus Christ is the absolute ruler!

2. Next, they quote the beautiful words of David in Psalms 2. They were fulfilling the scripture.

3. Third, they state that the problem is they were being opposed because they belonged to Jesus Christ and they made a request in his prayer.

4. They did not ask for protection, but they asked for courage and boldness to speak God’s word.

5. And what was God’s response? He shook the building.

IV. GOD SHOOK THE MEMBERS TO BOLDLY SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD!

And that brings us to our final exhortation. and that is they prayed for boldness and God not only shook the building, but he shook the congregation until they became bold in body and spirit. The Bible says when they had prayed, God physically shook the building they were in, but he also shook the people in the building. He shook up their minds and their spirits to go out and boldly speak the word of God:

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

That is what we want to happen to all of us—to be bold in our proclamation of God’s word. We do not need to hide in a corner and we do not need to be ashamed. We need to be bold and courageous. The Bible teaches us that we should pray without ceasing. “Pray with ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17). Jesus Christ emphasized in the story that he told about the Judge and the widow, to never give up in our prayer life. The widow had a grievance and she went to the judge and he paid no attention to her. He put her off but she did not give up. She kept pestering that judge every day until finally he said, “If I don’t take care of this widow, she is going wear me out!”. So finally, he took care of her problem. This story then illustrates if you do not get the answer to your prayer right away, never give up.

Now, what can we draw from our lesson today? 1. Let us pray together as a congregation. 2. Every time we come together in unity, let us ask God to help us make our decisions as a church. 3. Let us persist in our prayer until God shakes us up to go and carry out our duty of spreading the gospel message.

Now I hope all of you are praying for somebody to become a Christian. We all know someone who has not confessed Jesus Christ and been baptized for the forgiveness of sin. Pray for those who have strayed away from the church. We need to pray for them also before it is too late! Come to the Lord as together we stand and sing.*

Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon March 28, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

A Life With No Regrets

By

Shelby G. Floyd

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All of God’s people should live our life in such a way, that when we come to the end, we can look back without regret. This means that we must be dedicated to the Lord, study his word and rely upon divine wisdom to make the right choices. Life goes by fast and how many times do we hear someone say, “If I had my life to live over again I would have done such and such.”

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.” “It might have been.” Religiously this represents those who have neglected the great salvation offered by Christ.

In the letter to the Hebrews the people are warned not to neglect what is spiritually important:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him (Hebrews 2:1-3 NKJV).

If we will heed what is said and not neglect our duty, then we can look back without regret and not think about what “might have been.”

No doubt Esau was filled with remorse and regret after he realized he had sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau was a profane person and was filled with regret: “For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place for repentance, though he carefully sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). No doubt he looked back and wondered again and again, “what might have been.”

Everyone of us has a sphere of influence for Christ and the church. We have opportunities to do good for those out of Christ and especially for those who are in the household of God (Galatians 6:10). Let each of us zealously work to bring our friends and acquaintances into Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).

Copyright © 2020 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd

Heartland Church of Christ

1693 West Main Street

Greenwood, Indiana 46142





LIFTED UP

By

Shelby G. Floyd

Good morning. We have a very good audience today. It is so good that more and more people are coming out for worship where we all can be together. I am glad to be able to speak to you today on the subject “Lifted Up.”

When Jesus came into this world the Jewish people were looking for a conquering hero who would restore the greatness of Israel and rule over the whole world. But it was not long until they realized that this was not going to happen, because as Jesus continued his ministry, they realized that he was going to die. In fact, he spoke to them several times and told him that he was going to be put to death and they could not believe it. They did not have any idea how the Messiah could be put to death. But Jesus told them over and over again, I am going to be put to death, but I will rise again and I will see you. And so, after he was put to death, they realized that the kingdom was not going to be a physical material kingdom. It would be a spiritual kingdom not of this world, it would be in this world, but it would not be of this world.

And so, the cross became the very center of the gospel message and I believe we need to exalt and mention and preach on the cross a lot more than we do. I do know that the apostle Paul exalted the cross of Jesus Christ. Everywhere that he went on his evangelistic journeys the cross was the center of his message. And in Galatians 6 and verse 14 he said,

“But God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”

The great apostle Paul looked upon himself as being crucified with Christ and to be raised with Christ, and he exalted the cross of Christ. He also said in Galatians 2, verse 20:

“I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

THREE TIMES JESUS PROPHECIED HE WOULD BE LIFTED UP ON THE CROSS

And those statements from the apostle Paul, are the very essence of what we need to be crying out ourselves! We were crucified with Christ, we live with Christ, and he is our Lord. Three times Jesus predicted that he would be lifted up. In the Old Testament book of Numbers chapter 21, God’s people had come out of Egypt, out of bondage and slavery. Now they were marching toward the promised land. And God gave them victory after victory. They had just won a great victory and then they marched on toward the promised land, but they did not have any water, and they did not have any food. So, they started murmuring and carping and criticizing the Lord and God did not like it at all.

Jesus Compared Moses Lifting Up the Serpent to Jesus Lifted Upon the Cross
The Lord brought serpents or snakes that bit them and they were dying and they cried out to the Lord! Oh Lord, save us. They did not repent of their attitude and rebellion. God told Moses to create a brazen serpent and you raise it up on a pole and then every person who has been bitten by a serpent or a snake when they look upon it, they will live and be okay. That is the cure. Now they had to look upon it, man had to do something, but what they did was not the creative power that would restore their health and overcome snakebites. It was God’s power, but Moses was his instrument in executing that power.

When we come to the third chapter of John, we have a man named Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night. He said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher from God. No man can do the things that you are doing, except God be with him. And Jesus said to him that unless a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God and so Nicodemus was told he had to be born again of a spiritual birth so he can enter a spiritual kingdom. Later in the conversation Jesus said,

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18 NKJV).

There is the golden text of the Bible, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Now there is a phrase that I want to emphasize in that reading” As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so “the Son of Man…” Often we don’t realize that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but he was also “the Son of Man.” He had a human nature just like we do. He could be hungry and thirsty. He could feel pain and so they thought the Son of God could not be destroyed. But Jesus was not only God’s Son but he was also the Son of Man! Therefore, in Luke chapter 3, we can trace his genealogy back on his mother’s side all away to Adam! And in Matthew chapter 1 we can trace it back through his father’s side, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Therefore, Jesus was the Son of Man, in his fleshly nature, but he was also the Son of God in his eternal nature (cf. Romans 1:3-4). He therefore could do all kinds of miracles because he was the Son of God, but he also could be put to death and lifted up on a pole just like Moses lifted up the serpent, because he was the Son of Man! Therefore, let me emphasize that Jesus was the Son of Man. He was one of us. He joined the human family and lived and taught and worked and died.

Jesus Prophesied That When He Was Lifted Up, They Would Know That He Was Who He Claimed to Be
Now there is a second prediction that Jesus made that is rather brief. In John eight verse 28 Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, when you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing of myself, but as my Father taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). He is the Son of Man, and he says, “when I am lifted up, then you will know that I do nothing myself but only what my father teaches me and exhorts me to do.”

Jesus Prophesied That When He Was Lifted Up, He Would Draw All People unto Himself
Next, we have the third prediction and the long context where Jesus again predicts that he is going to be lifted up, and he would also draw all people unto himself! Where is the power of the gospel? It is in the cross. It in the power of the cross that people are moved in their emotions, will, heart, and minds. Jesus said,

“Now is the judgment of this world and the ruler of this world will be cast out, and I if I am lifted up, will draw all peoples to myself. This, he said, signifying what death he would die. The people answered him, we have heard that the Christ lives forever and how can you say the Son of Man must be lifted up, who is the Son of Man” (John 12: 32-34).

Again, we have at the end of that verse “the Son of Man” mentioned. Who is the Son of Man? They had heard that the Christ lives forever and so they were having problems in her mind, not understanding how the Son of Man could be lifted up, put to death and then the Christ could live forever!

THE CHRIST WAS LIFTED UP IN THREE WAYS

Jesus Was Lifted Upon A Cross
That brings us to the fact that Christ was lifted up three ways. We have three passages that describe Christ would be lifted up three ways. First, Christ was lifted up on the cross. You cannot help but be moved when you go to the close of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and all of them describe how Jesus was defrauded of his justice. They lied and they trumped up charges against him, and finally because they did not have the power to put him to death, they used the Romans who did have the power of life and death. They had to maneuver, they had to work where they could get the Roman governor to allow Jesus to be put to death.

In Mark the 15th chapter, the Bible says,

“Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last” (Mark 15:33-37 NKJV).

And by the way, here we have an inspired translation, so you have no worry about anything as to whether it’s true or not, which is translated, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” That shows us that Jesus had a human nature. He had a heavenly Father and he is innocent. He never committed any sin. He is innocent yet they raise him up on that cross and nailed those spikes through his tendons and through his feet, and he is bleeding and he is dying. He actually cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” and some of them said “Let him alone, He is calling for Elijah, let us see if Elijah will come and save him.” And then the Bible says in verse 37, “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.” My wife told me that she was with her dad when he died and she said he cried out with a really loud voice, and I remember telling her, that is the way that Jesus died. And right here is the confirmation that Jesus was lifted up on that cross just like he predicted when he said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, the Son of Man must be lifted up,” so we have the fulfillment of Jesus own prediction.

Jesus Was Lifted Up from The Grave
Next, we give our attention to the fact that Jesus was lifted up from the grave. Now as I drive around by the graveyards and see all those gravestones and I know they have been in there for a long time, and not any have risen from a single grave, and they will not come up until the last day until Jesus cries out and the dead will be raised incorruptible!

In Mark 16:1-6 the Bible says,

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb for us?” And looking up, they *noticed that the stone had been rolled away; for it was extremely large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. But he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; see, here is the place where they laid Him” (NASB).

Notice how accurate the Bible is: they saw a man with a long white robe sitting on the right side not the left side, but the right side. The Bible is so specific when it wants to be specific that you realize that God had to be the author and the one who inspired his people to record this event. But he said to them, do not be alarmed. This is the person that was clothed in the long white robe—he is speaking to these women and tells them to not be alarmed. You see, Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here—see the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you into Galilee, and there you will see him as he said to you.

Jesus Was Lifted Up into Heaven
We have seen that Jesus was lifted up on the cross, Jesus was lifted up from the grave and now he is going to be lifted up into heaven. The Bible closes out the brief book of Mark in these words,

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:15-20 NASB).

Recently in my daily Bible reading I came across this passage and it fits right in with this message today. King David (and Jesus was the Son of David according to the flesh), prophesied in Psalm 24 Jesus ascending into heaven and entering in before the eternal throne:

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah
(Psalms 24:7-10 NKJV).

Therefore, when our Lord ascended into heaven He was welcomed by His Father and thousands of angels into everlasting Glory! Jesus went into heaven and was seated on the right hand of God.

THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS

Now what is the message of the cross for us today. The message of the cross that Paul presented to the church at Corinth was direct and specific. Paul proclaimed to the church at Corinth, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV). Did Paul preach on anything else? Yes, but the cross was the very center and core of his message. He determined not to preach anything among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. So that is the core of the gospel message.

The message of the cross is looked upon by the world today as barbaric foolishness and instead of the power of God, it is looked upon as a curse because in the Old Testament there is a passage that says, “Cursed is everyone hanging on a tree!” And Jesus took the curse, he was hanged on the tree and Paul says for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. We look at the world today and they do not care about Christ’s death, and the resurrection.

Therefore, Paul says,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise, where is the scribe? Where is that disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:18-20 NKJV)?

At that time, the Grecians had their great philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, but they were unable to raise people up by their bootstraps (philosophy). And they were very wise, but there was no power to change people’s lives. The cross can change people’s lives. Even though the world looks up on it as foolish and as a barbaric curse that is outmoded in our day and time, but to those who are called, Christ crucified on the cross is both the power and the wisdom of God.

In that day, the Jewish people as a whole rejected the cross and the Gentile people partially received and believed in the cross. Why? The Jews required a sign in order to believe. And the Greeks sought after wisdom, so both the Jew and the Greek stumbled because one wanted something to be really wise and the gospel to them did not seem to be wise and the Jews were constantly wanting a sign—a miracle to prove what they would believe. But what did Paul preach? He preached “Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks. Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (cf.1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

But today those of us who are Christians who believe in the cross, we have the power and the wisdom of God. Because we believe in Christ, and we believe Christ was crucified, it is the power and the wisdom of God and then we should glory in the cross of Christ. That is what Paul said in Galatians 6:14,

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (NKJV).

My friends, the cross of Calvary is our boast and glory. Let us never be ashamed of the cross. We have been crucified with Christ and we have been crucified to the world.

WHAT IS THE DRAWING POWER OF THE CROSS?

Now what is the drawing power of the cross and note the passage that we studied in John 12:32-34. We found out that Jesus will draw all men. Actually, all people, “I will draw all people unto myself.” Well, what is the motive, what is the power that Jesus has in the cross to draw all people? One is the goodness of God. The innocence of Christ. You know, our God is a forgiving God. I cannot get over the way in the history of the Jewish nation how they were constantly rebelling, disobeying God, and going after the false gods of the nations around them, worshiping idols and God would become angry with them and even punish them, but he could not stand to go very long without forgiving them and trying to bring them back. That is the kind of God we serve. If you mess up, he is not going to mark you off his list forever. There is always hope, he is always ready and willing and reaching out to forgive us and to bring us back into the fold. And so,

The Goodness of God and the Innocence of Christ Draws Us to Christ!
The apostle Peter later in his life before he was put to death said,

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

“Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose [c]stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:21-24 NKJV)?

By the way Peter uses the word tree there instead of the word cross. What is it that draws people to Christ? It is futile to wrap our life completely up in this world because our history here is so brief. Life only makes sense when we live for that which is eternal.

The Power of Sacrifice Draws us to Christ
The golden text in the Bible is good. Children learn and quote this verse from the time that they go to Sunday school:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

The Power of Love Draws us to Christ
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

EXAMPLES OF THOSE WHO WERE DRAWN TO CHRIST

Pentecost Sunday
Jesus said I will draw all men—all people to myself. When we come to the book of Acts, chapter two, we have the birthday of the kingdom of God—the birthday of the church. 3000 people cried out and asked, “men and brethren, what shall we do?” Why did they ask that question? Peter had just convicted the audience of being guilty of crucifying Jesus and he proved to them that they had done a terrible thing. Peter gave a brief answer,

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:28-39 NKJV). And in the last verse the Bible declares, “the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved” (Acts 2:47). 3000 sinners were saved and became members of the church. They were the initial nucleus of the church.

The Ethiopian Treasurer
As we start going through the book of Acts, we have an Ethiopian that had come to Jerusalem to worship, he was returning home sitting in his chariot. He was the treasurer are of Queen Candace of Ethiopia and he was reading Isaiah the 53rd chapter. A preacher happened to come along in the providence of God, he heard the man reading Isaiah 53 and he asked him if he understood what he was reading. Just because I do not understand something, does not mean nobody understands it! I learned early in life that when you run across a problem in the Bible and you do not understand it and several people do not know the answer, does not mean nobody knows answer. There are smart people in the world and if we examine and seek the truth, eventually we will find out the truth. And so, he asked him do you understand what you are reading? And he answered, how can I except some man should guide me? And they came to a certain water and again he asked if anything was hindering him from being baptized. He made the good confession that Jesus is the Christ and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch and he baptized him and when he came up out of the water the Spirit caught away Philip and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. I challenge you to find anybody in the New Testament that ever rejoiced until after they were baptized.

Cornelius a Roman Soldier
In the 10th chapter of Acts, we have Cornelius a Roman soldier who is a centurion—he is a over 100 soldiers. He is quite powerful. He has servers that wait on him and he is a godly Gentile Roman soldier. In fact, he was so good that the Jews said he is really a good man for he helped us build a synagogue. That is the kind of man he was. He was reaching out to the Jewish people and he had a vision and, in that vision, he saw a man coming to him and preaching the word of God. Immediately after that vision he sent two of his servants and a soldier down to where Peter was to invite him to come and speak to him.

Peter had a vision at noon while the women were preparing dinner, and the vision told him some men were coming to meet him and that he should welcome them. It was about noon and he is up on the roof. They had flat roofs back then. While he is praying there is somebody knocking on the gate. He gets up and goes down and they are inquiring about Simon Peter. I am Simon Peter, and why have you come here and they relate to him what Cornelius had experienced back at Caesarea. Peter invited them in and that was something that Jews did not do. They would not invite Gentiles into their house. They stayed overnight. The next day they started back toward Caesarea and Peter did not want to get in trouble with his fellow Jews, so he took six of his Jewish brethren with him. They would be his witnesses as to what happened.

When they arrived, they were all waiting for him? Cornelius had called his family and close friends into his home for Bible study and preaching. When Peter walked in he asked why have you called for me, why have you invited me here? Cornelius rehearsed to him what had happened and how God had told him to send for Peter and he would tell him words whereby he and his household would be saved. Peter begins his sermon by pointing out that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that fear God and works righteousness is accepted.

And as he continues to preach about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, suddenly Peter’s sermon is interrupted. I have had my sermon interrupted before and it really throws you off, his speech was interrupted because the Holy Spirit in a baptismal measure came down on the household of Cornelius. When it was over, Peter continued his sermon right where he left off. The last thing that he had said was forgiveness based on faith. Now to those people who believe you are saved by faith only; we are going to leave you right where Peter’s sermon was interrupted! But Peter did not stop there. After the interruption was over, Peter said “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we” (Acts 10:47-48)? Peter brought water into the message again and Cornelius’s believing family were baptized. There is water in the scheme of redemption.

Lydia, the Business Woman
I relate to you another conversion of Lydia in Acts 16. Lydia went out by the riverside in Philippi to have a prayer meeting. Paul would go out there and study the scriptures with these women, and finally Lydia and her household were baptized. They were the charter members of the Philippian church. And while Paul and Silas were in Philippi, they stirred up a hornet’s nest. Some citizens were making a living from making little idols to worship. They had a fit because if you believe in God and Jesus, you are not going to buy thee little idols and put them around in your house everywhere. They were losing their business! They were ready to stone Paul and Silas. They had them arrested and put in the Philippian jail. The Bible says they beat them and fastened their feet in the stocks and they were put in the inner prison!

The Jailor of Philippi
But God does not fail his people and his preachers at midnight. There was a great earthquake, and the jailer, realizing as a Roman jailer he was responsible for the prisoner drew his sword and was about to take his own life. And Paul cried out, do yourself no harm for we all here, we are not trying to escape. The jailer sprang in trembling and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.” (Acts 16:30-31). Then they spoke the word of the Lord to them so they would know what to believe (Acts 16:32). And obviously they spoke to the jailor about baptism because, the scripture says “he (the jailor) took them (Paul and Silas) the same hour of the night and washed their stripes; and was baptized, and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:33 KJV).

You my friends have been given some specific examples of how in the New Testament times people were drawn to Jesus. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” My friends let the Lord Jesus draw you to him. Respond today before it is everlastingly too late!

*Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved



Heartland Church of Christ

Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon March 7, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.

BAPTIZED AGAIN

By

Shelby G. Floyd




While Paul was beginning his third evangelist tour, Apollos came to Ephesus. The Bible tells us several things about his character and abilities as a preacher of the word. (1) He was a learned man; (2) He had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures; (3) He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; (4) He spoke with great fervor; and (5) He taught about Jesus accurately. These things were all positive and good. However, there was one negative—he knew only the baptism of John. This means that he baptized people into John’s baptism:

“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-26).

Paul left Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus when he re­turned to Antioch in Syria, thus ending his second tour. Unlike some, Aquila and Priscilla did not publicly correct him and humiliate him. They took him aside and “taught him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he found twelve men who were disciples. They had not received the Holy Spirit be­cause they had been baptized into John’s baptism. After the great commission was given, John’s baptism was no longer valid. Therefore, Paul “baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).

People need to be re-baptized if any of the following are not true: (1) who should be baptized? A penitent believer, not an infant or small child; (2) what is the action of baptism? It is an immersion, not sprinkling or pouring some water on someone; (3) what is the purpose of baptism? It is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38); Baptism is not because one is saved and them wants to be baptized. Baptism is in order to be saved (1 Peter 3:21). If any or all of these are not true in your life, you need to be re-baptized. *

*Copyright © 2020 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved



Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

MARRIAGE IS HONORABLE NO. 3



By

Shelby G. Floyd

This article will look at the husband wife relationship. The Bible teaches that man is the head of the woman (1 Corinthians 11:3). Now I know today that we say that man is the head of the woman, but that the woman is the neck that turns the head. Now, there is also the modern women’s liberation movement; and there is the movement in various states of our nation to come up with equal rights amendments. But after all is said and done, the Bible still teaches that man is to be the head of the woman (Ephesians 5:22-24). This does not mean that man should disregard the woman’s views, but it does mean that God has ordained that man should rule in the household. And when that is disregarded, or disobeyed, then God’s laws are disobeyed.

No one can disobey God’s law in any realm without suffering the consequences. Today, the homes are being broken up simply because God’s laws concerning the home are being disregarded, rejected, and disobeyed. Adam said,

This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:23.)

You know, woman owes her origin to the man, because the first woman was taken out of the man. However, man has not too much room to glory, because after God created the first man, every man that was brought into this world thereafter had to come through the agency of the woman: “For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (1 Cor. 11:12.)

Woman was instrumental in the fall of man. Eve, by her sin and disobedience, brought shame and disgrace upon the family of man; but also, through woman, salvation was brought into this world, because it was by woman that the Christ child came into our world and lived and died for us. So, woman has redeemed herself, to some extent, by being the agency for bringing Christ, the Savior, into the world (1 Tim. 2:14-15).

Notice, Adam said, “She shall be called woman,” and so the very word woman honors the man, because you cannot say woman without saying man. That is the true design of marriage. The woman is to honor and complement her husband, and when she does that, she honors and glorifies God. *

*Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved



Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

MARRIAGE IS HONORABLE NO. 2

By

Shelby G. Floyd

After the Lord God had united Adam and Eve in marriage and planted then in the Garden of Eden, he made a statement about the nature of man and woman and marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

I know this is a generic statement concerning marriage because Adam did not have a father and a mother to leave. Adam did not ever have a father and mother. God was his father. So, this is a general statement that was drawn from the institution of marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2: 24).

We notice here that marriage is for the mature. Often, young men and young ladies get married too young. They are not ready to leave their fathers and mothers. If you want to marry, you had better be ready to leave your father and your mother, and you had better be ready to assume your responsibilities. When you get ready to marry, you can’t let mom and dad support your home. Marriage is for those who are mature enough to leave mom and dad.

In the second place, marriage is for those who will cleave to their wife. A leaving and a cleaving must take place in marriage. The word cleave, means to glue or bond. The reason marriages today are not surviving is because the husbands and the wives are not adhering to each other. They are not cleaving to each other until death separates them. Then scripture says, “They shall be one flesh.” I do believe Moses meant that in marriage they are one flesh by their cohabitation, and by the fact that they both produce an offspring. But, marriage is more than that my friends.

The words one flesh here means that in marriage there must be an affinity of spirit. If the marriage is to continue and survive, there must be a conjoining of spirits in love and affection, and not just some kind of animal attraction. Those marriages that survive 50 or 60 years, or more, do so because there has been an affinity of spirits between the husband and wife. They have grown into almost one personality, because they have a kindred spirit in serving God and in serving their homes.

We ought to try to make our homes like God intended for them to be from the beginning.

Shelby G. Floyd

Heartland Church of Christ

1693 West Main Street

Greenwood, Indiana 46142

 

MARRIAGE IS HONORABLE NO. 1

By

Shelby G. Floyd

The subject of marriage shows up near the conclusion of the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:4). It appears in one verse preceded by several matters the author wants to get over to his readers.

Those other matters besides marriage are:
1. Let your brotherly love continue to be a part of your life (Hebrews 13:1).

2. Be hospitable especially to strangers, for some have entertained angels (messengers) unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

3. Remember those who are being persecuted and are imprisoned, because it could happen to you, since you are still in the body of flesh (Hebrews 13:3).

It is at this point that we have the statement on marriage. This subject needs much teaching today in view of the breakup of the family and the failure to honor the God-given design of marriage. Therefore, the author says,

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers” (Hebrews 13:4 NASB).

Marriage is held to be honorable by all who believe that God ordained marriage in the beginning. “The water is always purest at the source of the stream!”

God created Adam, the first man. The Hebrew word Adam means man! Adam was made aware that in all of God’s creation before him, there were male and female animals, insects, and plants etc., (See Genesis 2:19-20). But Adam was also aware that he was alone. There was not any companion comparable to him. He was by himself!

It is at this point that God the Creator said to Adam and all who would read the Genesis account: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).

Therefore, from the beginning of the creation it has been good for man and woman to marry, raise children and to love the extended family and the God who created the family.

And it seems that the marriage of man and woman mirrors the God family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: “And God (Elohim-plural sgf) said, Let us (plural sgf) make man in our (plural sgf) image, after our (plural sgf) likeness: and let them (plural) have dominion over….” (Genesis 1:26).

Take note that the word God is plural as well as the pronouns “us” and “our.” So, Adam was not destined to live by himself while all created beings were created male and female. And “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27 KJV).

Therefore, God finished his work of creation in six days, including man and woman. And he concluded that all of creation, including man and woman, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
—To be continued, SGF

* Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

A LOVE MINISTRY

By

Shelby G. Floyd

Good morning church. And we welcome all of you who have joined us for worship online. Today I am speaking on a love story and according to the Bible reading, in Genesis 29:20 at least twice it is said that Jacob loved Rachel. We would expect the Bible to have a love story because it deals with human beings and we know that love is a big part of our life. A marriage built on love will last a lifetime. A marriage without love will falter and fail.

THE HOME LIFE OF JACOB, ESAU, ISAAC, AND REBEKAH
Let us take a look at some of the qualities of Jacob’s love ministry to Rachel. I like the word ministry. I had a member of the church who told me that he did not like the word ministry. But that word is found quite a few times in the Bible and it means to serve. So, if somebody says I do not like that word ministry it means that they do not like to serve! Jacob ministered or served in order to gain Rachel as his wife. I begin this morning by saying that the home life of Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Rebekah were not perfect. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect children. We are all flawed. We try to be the best parents we can be and we try to be the best children we can be, but children are not perfect. We fall short and we have to expect that and we have to deal with that. Now when it comes to grandparents and great-grandparents that is different! They are perfect!

But we notice in the life of Isaac and Rebecca that they were not perfect parents. Esau their first born was not a perfect young man. He sold his birthright for pot of soup and we look at other things about the family. We also find out that his mother and father were really grieved when he went and married Canaanite women because they were ungodly women. Rebekah said she brings me much grief. Young people, if you marry the wrong person you are probably going to bring grief to your parents. Rebekah wanted to make sure that Isaac did not marry a Canaanite wife. And we also remember that Jacob lied to his father and passed himself off as Esau and received his father’s blessing instead of Esau. Therefore, you can see that the family started off pretty bad. Isaac called Jacob after this and he charged him not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. They had enough of Esau and his Canaanite wife so he said you better not go out and do the same thing. Do not take a Canaanite woman for your wife.

Then he said what I want you to do Jacob is to go to PadanAram and later it is said he went toward Haran. Today that would be up in what we call southeastern Turkey. Jacob, I want you to go to Haran and find a wife among your mother’s family. Her brother Laban lives near Haran. I want you take that journey and find your wife there instead of these Canaanite women around here. Isaac then prayed to God that he would give Jacob the blessing of Abraham, and he sent him on his way. Jacob headed toward Haran to find a wife.

He stopped and spent the night at Bethel. He slept with a rock for a pillow. I guess we could call that the hard rock motel. He dreamed of a ladder that was from the earth all the way up into heaven, and the angels of God were going up and down that ladder and God spoke to him and God promised that he would give him the blessing of Abraham:

“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:13-14),

I read that several years ago and I kept it on my mind about that ladder and then I was reading the Gospel according to John, and in the very last verse of the first chapter, Jesus is the ladder upon which the angels were ascending and descending:

And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51 NKJV).

After the dream Jacob awoke there at Bethel and the word Bethel means House of God. And Jacob made a vow and if you ever make a vow to God, be sure that you keep your word when you make a promise to God. God is not happy when we make promises and we do not keep them! Jacob made a vow that if God would be with him and take care of him, that he would give 1/10 of all that he received. You know we have to learn to give of our material assets just like we have to learn to do other things. And I think that if we learn to give at least a 10th of our income to the Lord we will find out that we will be blessed and we will never have to worry about anything when we do the best we can because God will take care of us. I believe that with all my heart and I have seen it in my own life. So, Jacob set the example here and said, God you be with me, bring me on my journey, let me fulfill my mission and I will give you a 10th of all that I possess.

JACOB’S MINISTRY OF LOVE FOR RACHEL
So that brings us to Jacob’s Ministry of Love for Rachel. Then Jacob went on toward Haran. As he approached the city, he noticed there was a field and there was a well in the field. I remember working on the farm at 46 Street and Millersville Road where I worked as a teenager. There was a well with one of those old-fashioned pumps and it was a wonderful blessing when you were hot and you could pump a dipper of fresh water! Jacob saw a big stone rolled against the mouth of the well and three flocks of sheep. He went over and talked to the shepherds. He said do you know a man by the name of Laban and is he well? They said we know him and he is well and by the way, there comes Rachel his daughter with some sheep. God is working in bringing Jacob the blessing of Abraham and Rachel just shows up right there at that well. Jacob goes over there and you know men like to show off. He goes and rolls that big stone away and waters the sheep for Rachel. He gave her a break and then the Bible says that he kissed her. So here we have an example of kissing and it was not even his first date. He kissed her as soon as he saw her. We like a fellow like that. He knows who he wants and he goes after her and kissed her. Then Jacob spent about a month with Laban and rehearsed all the news of the two families. They were related. Laban was his uncle, his mother’s brother. I am sure they had a lot of news to catch up on and so he spent a month there.

Then the Bible tells us why Jacob labored seven years for Rachel:

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance (Genesis 19:15-17 NKJV).

Jacob loved Rachel because she was very beautiful. Several years ago, at worship one Wednesday night, some teenage girls brought some of their friends to church and we had several little boys sitting close by. I became amused because those little boys could not look forward. They were constantly turning around and looking at those girls because they were pretty. So, I put that in my mind, that even from the time we are young we recognize the difference between pretty and not quite so pretty. They were fascinated with those teenage girls because they were pretty. But as the song goes, everything is beautiful in its own way. There is somebody for everybody even though there is a difference between beauty and not quite so beautiful. And the Bible says that Leah’s eyes were weak but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Therefore, even the Bible admits there is a difference in the way that people look. But there are people that are beautiful outwardly and very ugly on the inside. And so, the idea is if you are looking for a wife you want one that is beautiful like Rachel outwardly but also beautiful inwardly, with a beautiful spirit.

But anyway, Jacob loved Rachel and the Bible says that he served seven years to get Rachel but they seemed like only a few days because of his love that he had for her (Genesis 29:20). Therefore, Jacob served seven years for Rachel and so after the seven years were up, he said to Laban, we have a deal. I have served my seven years and now I want my wife. Back then the women wore head coverings like we see in some of those countries today. And about all you can see are their eyes and so Laban sends supposedly Rachel in to be his wife. But guess what? The next morning, he wakes up and it is not Rachel, it is Leah and so he went to Laban. What is this? I worked seven years for Rachel and when I woke up this morning it was Leah. Well, Laban always had a good answer. He said that up here in our country it is not customary to give the younger daughter until you give the older daughter away. And so you go ahead and finish your week with the Leah and I will give you Rachel. Therefore, after seven years he got Leah and Rachel. He got a double bargain. Laban was a schemer and deceiver.

I remember when I was in the second grade at the Bluff Avenue Elementary school and it was Valentines week. There was the prettiest little girl that I had my eyes on and we had a big bag of those Valentines cards and we would fill those out and give them to the girls. After recess when I got back there was a card with a note on my desk from this little girl. She told me how much she liked me. My heart started to pitter patter and I could not wait to answer that note and put it over on her desk. This went back and forth for three or four times and then finally I figured it out. She was not writing those notes, but some of those boys behind me. I learned a good lesson that things do not always turn out as they appear. And I learned that it is good to have a healthy skepticism until you have the full proof. But then as a young adult I met this girl here from Gallatin, Tennessee. We dated for three years, got married and celebrated 60 years of marriage this past December.

And Jacob was happy to get both of those girls, because he got Rachel the one, he wanted. He worked seven more years for Rachel and that makes 14 years altogether, and I think before he left there with all the goods that God gave him, he spent about 20 some years altogether. He was not lazy, he worked hard and God blessed him not only with a beautiful wife and we might say two wonderful wives because Leah and her handmaiden and Rachel and her handmaiden gave him 12 boys and one girl. These 12 sons became known as the children of Israel. God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. The Jewish people seem to know how to get sons.

BENEFITS OF THE MINISTRY OF LOVE
“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20).

Jacob served seven years to get Rachel but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. That is a wonderful statement that we need to memorize and know of the many benefits that true love brings into our lives.

Love Shortens the Time
Jacobs experience says that love shortens the time, for he served seven years but it seemed like just like a few days because of love. He loved Rachel so much that it seemed only a short time. Seven long years was not short, but it seemed short because he had so much love for Rachel.

Abraham dwelt in tents for 100 years in the land of Palestine and the Bible says he did that because he looked for a city that God was going to create and he was looking for a better heavenly country that God had prepared for him and all his children, an eternal city and not a temporal homeland. Abraham served God 175 years and he did not get one foot of land in Canaan.

The journey from Egypt to the promised land was a long journey that took 40 years. It could have been a short journey, but because of sin, it ended up being 40 years and Joshua was with Moses for 40 years. But I am sure it did not seem like 40 years because Joshua was looking for a land that flowed with milk and honey. He loved God so much and he loved the promise that God made about the promised land. Love will definitely shorten the time.

Love Makes the Load Light
When you are serving because you love somebody, love makes the load light. Why is it that people will not leave the bedside of a mother or father, a companion or somebody that is critically ill? You know you are going to become tired and weary while caring for those with terminal illnesses. But why do people not give up and continue to serve? It is because we love those people and abiding love makes the load light.

Some of us have preached for 60 years and we have covered a lot of ground. I look back and ask, how did I carry that responsibility for so long? It is because I love what I am doing. I love God and I love the church and I love you people. If we love God and one another, then the time will be short and the load will not be so heavy. When we love God and one another it applies to marriage and family, but also to the church as a family.

Love Paves the Road We Travel
When we serve God and one another with love, then love paves the road we travel. The road we travel as all of you know is not paved with roses, nor with concrete. As an example, Paul went on his first evangelistic journey and it took about three years. Paul was stoned, yet the stones were not so hard to Paul because he loved God. Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail, they had been beaten with many stripes and their hands and their feet were fastened in the stocks, but they loved God and at midnight they started singing psalms and hymns and they prayed to God. Paul was on a ship to Rome with a lot of other passengers and a hurricane blew up and they thought they were all going to perish. They started throwing things off of the ship to lighten the ship and finally they had a ship wreck at Malta. You know, Paul said, be of good cheer for I believe in God and not a single passenger lost their life. They landed on that island and they were treated well by the native people and they even started a fire for the people to warm up that were on that ship. Even death to Paul was an entrance to a better world. James says, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations” (James 1:2).

Love Helps to Bear the Burdens
Love helps to bear the burdens and we all have some burdens we must bear! John said, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (John 19:17). Jesus had to bear his own cross. Why? He carried his own cross because he loved us so much. And he loved us so much that He was crucified and shed his precious blood. Jesus did not have to bear the cross. He could have called for 12 legions of angels, but he did not do that. He bore the cross for each one of us. And the Bible says that we are to bear our own cross. And we know that the way of the cross leads home.

LET US ALL MAKE THE LOVE MINISTRY GROW
Because we love the Lord let all of us make the love ministry grow in our family relationships and our love ministry here at Heartland Church of Christ. We love one another according to the qualities mentioned in that beautiful song of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

All family counselors and marriage counselors will agree that the things that I am presenting will work to make your love ministry grow in your marriage, family, and the church.

Communication
The first is communication. If married couples have problems and they stop talking to each other, then they have a big problem that must be solved. And good communication also applies in the church. Paul encourages good communication to the church at Ephesus:

“but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).

Paul, how do we make the love ministry grow in the church—we speak the truth in love. You can speak the truth, but if you do not speak in love it will not work. And the same thing is true with husband and wife. It is a skill that a lot of people are lacking. In any loving relationship when we talk to one another we must realize that we are all flawed. We all make mistakes because we are weak sinners. And good listeners are as hard-to-find as good speakers. When other people sense that you are not listening any longer, they will stop communicating. A loving relationship will be enhanced when each party makes suggestions to one another how they can deal with the situation.

Affection
We all can make the love ministry grow when we show affection to one another. Paul taught the Romans to show affection to one another: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). In the church we should be affectionate to one another and I think we do a good job here at Heartland. If you grew up in a family where your parents did not show you much affection to each other and to you, it will be very uncomfortable for you to show affection. But you can overcome that difficulty. Most marriage counselor will say a wife and husband should hug each other four times a day. And hugging can lift depression. It can breathe life into tired body. It can make you feel younger and vibrant. And in both the Old and New Testament God’s people are often said to embrace each other. We do a pretty good job here but were not recommending that until the Covid plague is over! But church worship is probably one of the safest places we can be present.

Forgiveness
Another way that we can make the love ministry grow in our family and in the church is by forgiveness. To the church at Ephesus Paul wrote,

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

God forgave us through the sacrifice of Christ and we must learn to forgive one another because we all fall short. We all have flaws. We all make mistakes, we all commit sin and we have to make allowance for that and learn to forgive one another and not just hold it in until it explodes.

Honesty
We have to learn to be honest with ourselves and others. Solomon in a very brief proverb graphically described how good it is to be honest:

Like a kiss on the lips is the one who gives an honest answer (Proverbs 24:26 NET).

One of the members in this congregation that I have observed always gives an honest answer and it seems to work very well with her relationships. We can all learn to be more honest in our relationships with one another. All of these principles will work to make our love ministry grow spiritually.

And now I remind all of us of God’s love ministry. God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-9). Jesus was asked one time what the greatest commandment is:

“Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:29-31 NASB).
And Jesus said in John 14:15-16, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

And before Jesus left earth, he charged his disciples to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16 NASB).

Jesus would not ask us to do something that he would not do himself. Jesus did not need to be baptized because he had no sins to be forgiven. Jesus came to John the Baptist and John was figuratively the Elijah who was to come into the world. John said why are you coming to me. I need to be baptized of you:

But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *allowed Him. After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:15-17 NASB).

God proclaimed Jesus to be his beloved Son after he was baptized, and God will also claim you as His child after you are baptized for (“in order to” SGF) the forgiveness of your sin.

If you are not a Christian today would be a wonderful time to come forward and confess the sweetest name that ever fell for mortal tongue and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sin. *

* Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved. I am indebted to G. K. Wallace, one of my teachers at Freed-Hardeman for some of these thoughts.

Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon February 14, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.

Shelby G. Floyd

BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS

By

Shelby G. Floyd

Good morning church. I started reading my Bible like I did last year.  I got all the way through the Bible and the New Testament.  So, I started to read the Bible again the first of the year, and of course when you go on vacation that is interrupted.  Therefore, when I got back, I continued to read the Bible and when you do that, to a preacher it suggests sermon topics that you want to present to the people. I had not gone very far until I realized I wanted to preach on “Covetousness Is Idolatry.” I got to looking through my outlines and had trouble finding it and there was a good reason. I preached this sermon 25 years ago, on July 21, 1996. 

COVETOUSNESS DEFINED

Today I shall preach that same sermon topic—Covetousness Is Idolatry.  What is the meaning of this big word—covetousness?  One dictionary says it is to desire that which is another’s.  It can also mean to wish for excessively and to crave something you are seeking.  McClintoch and Strong says it is a strong, sometimes irresistible desire of possessing or of increasing one’s possessions.  Ralph Heyman says it is “the tyranny of things.” And the Bible also defines covetousness. The Bible is the best commentary and the best book to define words on the face of the earth. The apostle Paul describes covetousness to the church at Colossae when he said, “Covetousness which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). 

Now I did not open my Bible and start reading very far until I realized that covetousness started right in the very beginning. Almighty God created Adam out of the dust of the earth, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul. And then he opened his side and did surgery and he made a woman. And they were married—man and woman, and he placed them in a beautiful garden—the Paradise of God.  And they were given instructions.  You may eat of all the fruit of all the trees in this garden except one. The one in the middle of the garden you shall not eat of it.  They also had the Tree of Life that perpetuated their physical life.  But you know Eve desired and coveted that fruit on that one tree. There are three reasons she wanted that fruit!  She thought it would make her wise, like God.  She wanted to be like God. She coveted the fruit because she thought that it would be good for food.  We like to try different foods today.  That is one of the beautiful things about today—we have food that we can buy in restaurants from all over the world and a lot of us have learned to enjoy things other than what are parents and grandparents enjoyed.  They enjoyed beans and cornbread.  But she reached out and partook of that fruit because she wanted to be wise.  And sin entered the world, and death by sin, and so death (physical) passed upon all men because of one man’s sin (Romans 5:12).  Therefore, I had not gone very far until I realized covetousness started in the very beginning and it is still with us today. 

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT

Now Almighty God allowed his people to go down to Egypt into slavery. The children of Israel were in slavery for something like 400 years and God sent a man by the name of Moses down there to extricate them out of the land and he was a great servant of God. The name Moses stands as one of the outstanding leaders of the children of Israel. Moses led them out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and down to Mount Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25). He led them down there to Mount Sinai and they received the Law–the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. We shall all read these ten commandments and so we will put them up on the screen. 

I am going to ask Mitch to stand and lead all of us as we read aloud the Ten Commandments. Thank you, congregation, for reading those 10 Commandments aloud. Now what you read is a boiled down version of the 10 Commandments. When we go to Exodus 20:1-17 we find that those 10 Commandments are somewhat expanded. But I don’t want to talk about all of those 10 Commandments this morning.  I just want to study with you about the 10th commandment.  And here is the expanded version of the tenth commandment:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17 NKJV).

You can see that covetousness covers a large area of things and this is a subject that is especially difficult for us to deal with in America because we love and want so many things.  We have our telephones, our I Pads, our computers and we have stuff coming in from online shopping almost every day.  These packages land on the front door and first thing you know we have a lot of stuff.

In 2019, after living in our house for 40 years, Sarah and I decided it is time for us to downsize. And you know that men have a lot of tools.  Men like to have tools because we like to fix things, or we think we do.  And sometimes when we start to fix something, we end up calling the professionals who can fix it. But anyway, it’s hard to give up your tools, but I gave up my tools and I haven’t missed them a bit.  Now the only thing I need to do is carry out a garbage sack about once a day and put it in a dumpster. As we get older, we find out a lot of these things that we love actually keeps us from being happy because they consume too much of our time and energy. 

While we were in Florida, we watched a program called minimalism and it was about these two young boys.  They grew up real poor, but they got a good college education and they got good jobs in the tech industry and they were making all kinds of money and they were driving the fastest cars and they had everything that money could buy. But finally, they said, we are not happy and so they got rid of a lot of stuff and they said we’re a lot happier now that we don’t have all those things that we were dealing with. And it is called minimalism.  We probably all need to practice a little minimalism today, because we do not want our life to be wrapped up in things. So, what they were really saying is keep what you really need but not all the things you necessarily want, because our wants and our needs are not the same.

The apostle Paul summed up the Ten Commandments of the Law in Romans 13:9 when he said,

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, the emphasis is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We are going to be doing more things to help people than we are to covet more and more things. Paul was one of the strictest Jews that ever lived.  He was so devoted that he went to many cities and arrested Christians and brought them back and put them in prison.  And sometimes when they were beaten, he held the clothes of them that beat those Christians, of whom Stephen was one of them, and it bothered Paul the rest of his life that he stood there and watched Stephen being pounded to death with rocks! (Acts 7:51-60). He thought he was living the perfect Jewish life, but then he realized that he had coveted and he said, “I died,”

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Romans 7:7-9 NKJV).

Paul would not have known sin had the Law not said, “Thou shall not covet.” The law of Moses made sin stand out that he had violated the law. Paul died when he thought he was living a perfect life.  He remembered the law said, thou shall not covet.  And Paul, like all of us had coveted.  And he died. 

ISRAEL MARCHES TO THE PROMISED LAND

Then I continued to read a bit farther in my Bible and the next episode is what suggested the theme of covetousness I speak on today.

After Moses received the law at Mount Sinai, the children of Israel marched toward the promised land.  It took a long time to get up there.  Moses sent 12 spies to scout out the land, but only two of them came back with a good report. Therefore, the negative people discouraged the children of Israel.  They could have gone into the land of promise a lot earlier, but they listened to negativity.  I do not know what it is but people love negative things more than they do positive things. Joshua and Caleb were the positive ones! And Joshua promised Caleb that when they did get into the promised land, he was going to give him and his family that very land that they had spied out.  And when they finally got there, they conquered the land. Caleb now was 85 years old.  He said, “I am still just as strong as I was the day, we scouted out that land.” Since I am 83, that encouraged me—Lord, I want to be strong when I get to be 85.  If you let me live to be 85, I plan on being just as strong as I possibly can be. Therefore, Caleb got that track of land that he said was a good land. The other spies did not make it to the Promised Land because they said there were giants in the land.  They had a grasshopper complex.  We can have a grasshopper complex or we can have the spirit of a mighty soldier of Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, Moses led them up there to the threshold of the promised land.  And God said to Moses, I am going to take you up on Mount Pisgah and I will let you look at the land, but you will not be able to go in there and so he turned the leadership over to Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:1, 5-8).  Joshua and the army of Israel crossed the Jordan River and went into the promised land.  They had a mighty army and the army had a job to do.  The first job was to take Jericho. It was a big city and it had walls all around, and so God through Joshua gave them a war plan.  The plan is I want the Army and the seven priests with their trumpets to walk in front of the Army and I want you to go around that wall seven times. On the seventh day go around seven times and the priests are to blast out on those trumpets as loud as they can and I want all of you in the Army to shout and when you do, the walls will fall and you can take the city.

ACHAN WAS COVETOUS

And that happened.  Archaeologists have gone there and examined the site. It looks like the ruins happened according to the Bible description. We do not need to fear the archaeologists.  Every time they search and dig, they verify the Bible. Israel had a victorious outcome of that battle, but there was a problem afterward. Before they went into battle, God said to Joshua and the army of Israel that Jericho was under the ban, you cannot take anything out of that city for your own, it is all to go into the Treasury of the Lord (Joshua 6:18-19). When we read the history of warfare, the victorious soldiers took the spoils or plunder. I just got through reading a great book about Hannibal who marched his army up from North Africa into Spain and brought his army and elephants across the Alps down into Italy. But back then, the way the Army was paid is when you had a victory you go in there and keep all the plunder of gold, silver, and whatever was valuable. But God said Jericho was under the ban. You cannot plunder the riches of that city.  All the gold and silver, bronze, everything is to be devoted to the treasury of the Lord. And they were happy and rejoicing because they had won a great battle! Joshua and the army looked ahead and said we will take the next city of Ai.  It was not too far away from Jericho, so they sent some scouts up there to Ai and they came back with their report. They said it is just a little city.  Those people are not very strong.  Do not send the whole army. Just send about 300 soldiers up there and we will be able to take it easily. Joshua listened to the report and he sent up a small army and when they approached the city, the soldiers came out of AI and chased the army of Israel and defeated them.

Joshua was really upset and fell on his face and prayed to the Lord, why have you brought us out of Egypt, and brought us to this land and then allowed our enemies to defeat us.  He said all these other cities will hear about this and Lord your great name will be destroyed and Israel will be destroyed.  Joshua got down on his face on the earth.  You know it is good to be humble and get down on our face in prayer. But at other times God says, stand up and be a man. And this occasion is one of them. God said, Joshua what are you doing down there on your face on the ground? Stand up and act like a man and take care of this matter, and the Lord told him what the problem was.  The problem was there was sin in the camp. I remember Mitch telling the story about them playing ball and they were losing bad. He said they had a little conference and somebody said, “I think there is sin in the camp!” God said, “Joshua there is sin in the camp.”  And that is the reason they lost the battle. God revealed to Joshua that somebody had taken the forbidden stuff and he told him to do an examination, you call the different tribes and right on down to the family and the person. Finally, they brought this young man named Achan out.  I will read to you what Joshua said to Achan:

Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it” (Joshua 6:19-21 NKJV).

Would it not be good if we could get people to start making some confessions when they fall away from the church and are not faithful any longer? Achan confessed specifically what he had done. They did not covet the same things back then, like we do today.  They did not have cars and houses and electronics and all the toys that we have, but they had things that they wanted just like we do, like beautiful clothes. There is no telling what this Babylonian garment would cost—probably thousands of dollars. He also took a wedge of gold.  Gold has always been valuable.  It still is today! It is about $1900 an ounce today.

Joshua said, why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day, so all Israel stoned him with stones and they burned him with fire.

After this they raised a great heap of stones and named it the Valley of Achor. Therefore, the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day. The word Achor means “trouble.” Sometimes we will say, “there comes trouble!” We do it in a joking way, but that is what it meant. Achan, you caused Israel trouble, you caused yourself trouble and you involved your family in trouble!  The people back then were advised to stay away from people like Achan. If you cannot change them, do not encourage them.

And reading in the New Testament, the apostle Paul encouraged Christian people to stay away from and not keep company with some people.  Her is what he said,

“Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:10-11 NKJV).

We simply are not to encourage our fellow Christians to continue in what they are doing that is wrong.

THE COVETOUSNESS OF THE RICH FARMER

Now we need to come closer to our day and time and so we go to the New Testament. Jesus was the greatest preacher and teacher that ever lived.  I know that I am motivated to preach sermons on topics that Jesus talked about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  He was a great preacher and we can imitate him in so many ways. A good example is his conversation with a man who was in a controversy over an inheritance in Luke the 12th chapter. The Bible says Jesus was in this area and then one from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,” trying to get the Lord involved in a family squabble. Have you ever witnessed this going on sometime?  Sometimes a family will be divided and brothers and sisters will not even talk to each other. But let mom or dad die and they come out of the woodwork, because there is an inheritance that they want to get their hands on.  They covet that and sometimes it becomes a big brawl and it is ugly and nobody likes to hear about it, talk about it or even observe that it is going on. So, if anybody ever tries to get you involved in a family squabble over an inheritance, the best advice is stay away.  Do not get involved! Therefore, Jesus said, “Man, who made Me a Judge or an arbitrator over you?” And then he spoke one of the most important statements in the Bible:

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15 NKJV).

Take heed and beware of covetousness because your life does not consist in the abundance of the things you possess that we think will make us happier.  The more that we can get our hands on; the more money we can put in the bank, the more toys we can have, the more things we can buy! And let me say that there is not enough time in the day or night for us to enjoy all the things we have right now and you know that is true.  So usually, we put those things aside and really enjoy the things that we do have the time to enjoy. Jesus emphatically said your life does not consist in the abundance of the things you possess.  He says we need to stay away from coveting all these things. It is all right to desire the things that you need but not necessarily all the things that you want!

Then Jesus told a parable of the rich farmer. The word parable means to lay two things down side by side and then draw a lesson from the material to the spiritual. Jesus said the ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  Every time I think of that verse, it reminds me of driving down State Road 135 to Trafalgar in the summertime.  Those farms are so beautiful.  The corn is 10 to 12 feet high and it is just as thick as it can be, and everything is beautiful.  The farmers have their big silos out there and their big barns and they are counting on the Lord to give them rain and sunshine. In the fall about second week in October, you can drive down to Trafalgar and the fields are bare.  They have harvested all the grain and put it in the barn or the silos. So, it was with this a rich farmer and the Bible says his farm yielded plentifully. 

Then he said to himself, “What shall I do, since I have no more room to store my crops.  This is what I will do, I will pull down my barns and I will build bigger barns and then I will say to my soul. Soul, you have much laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But do you know what God said?  God said, “Fool, this night, your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be, which you have provided?” Fool! This night your soul will be required because we do not know when the death Angel is going to come in and remove us from this life on earth. We want to live long if we can serve the Lord! We want to love our family and our friends, and to reach out and take the gospel to all the world. Those are the things that we really need to be desiring to be able to fulfill, and not just to get all things we possibly can. 

GREED IS EVIL

Now let us make the application and wrap up this lesson.  Why is covetousness, or greed so evil?  Well, it is evil because it is based upon a false assumption and that assumption is that our happiness is dependent on our material values and the things we possess.

In the second place, covetousness is evil because it allows the material world to dominate the spiritual world.  The Bible, worship, Bible study, and evangelism gets pushed aside because we covet more and more of this world’s goods. And hear what Jesus said about that:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mathew 6:24 NKJV).

You cannot serve God and money. It is just as simple as that. Covetousness is evil because it places our trust in things that are temporal rather than in God who is eternal. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus had something to say about putting our trust in material things: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

It is terrible what is going on in America today. Embezzlers are stealing other people’s identity, compromising their credit cards and Social Security identity. This is what convinces us of what Jesus said about greed. Do not get so wrapped up in all that stuff because it could be stolen from you and you could lose it all. I have heard of people that got a telephone call claiming to be the Social Security office. If they ask for your identity you have a problem. Do not be naïve.  You do not need to answer.

Covetousness is evil because it leads to every other sin in the catalog of human debauchery. In Mark 7:20-23 Jesus said that what comes out of a man is that which defiles a man. The critics of Jesus were concerned about Jesus and his disciples breaking a tradition by not washing their hands. Today it is probably a good thing to wash our hands because of the Pandemic! But Jesus countered that it is what comes out of a man that defiles a man. He then explained:

“What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).

Therefore, we need to be looking at the inside of us rather the outside.

Now how do we overcome covetousness? That is really our goal and living in a country like America where we are so blessed it is very difficult.  We can get wrapped up in material things so easily. Perhaps, the best way is to just go back and read the sermon on the Mount repeatedly and listen to the advice that Jesus gave the people who were standing around listening to him.  He said in Matthew 6:24 and 26 “that no man can serve two masters.  You either hate the one and love the other or you will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”  He illustrates by referring us to the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  We have a couple of birdfeeders in the back of our patio and Sarah reminds me to keep it filled with seed.

PUT GOD FIRST IN YOUR LIFE

We can overcome greed by putting the kingdom of God first in our life. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own thing, sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:33-34).  So, do not worry.  Trust God to take care of you.  I remember when I was studying to be a preacher. I drove 130 miles from Henderson, Tennessee up to almost Nashville. I received $25 or $30 a week. I remember one time on Saturday we did not even have milk for the baby. For some reason I went to the post office and was pleasantly surprised that a good sister from Indianapolis had sent fifty dollars. That made me a believer and convinced me that you do not need to worry for God will take care of you. 

Above all we need to become a Christian. Paul the Persecutor met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. He was approached by the Lord Jesus Christ and he asked him what he should do? God has done his part by sending Jesus to die for our sins and shed his precious blood. God has done the big part, but he is not going to do it all. The sinner has his part to do. Paul was fasting and praying, but the sinner’s prayer will not save or else Saul of Tarsus would have been saved. God sent a preacher to him by the name of Ananias, who said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’” (Acts 22:16).  Come my friend and make the good confession and be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sin (Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:3-6). Respond now while we stand and sing.*

*A sermon delivered by Shelby G. Floyd January 24, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142

Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

I PRESS ON

By

Shelby G. Floyd

Good morning. We need to follow Jesus everyday according to the words of that song! Welcome to 2021. We’ve all survived 2020 during the year of Covid 19! In times past we have been told to stay away from negative people, but last year we were told to stay away from positive people. It seems like the whole world is turned upside down—the old people are slipping out of the house and going out and their kids are yelling to stay indoors. But we have all survived.

Our lesson today is “I Press On!” I press on is the statement from the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12 through 16. Clay Brown, you did a good job reading that text. And I hope all of you will open up your Bibles and look at the text, because that’s where we’re going to drive the stake down today and talk about that statement from Paul to the church at Philippi. And if you think about it he had some really bad things to happen to him in Philippi. You remember it started out in a good way when he went out by the riverside and some women were having a prayer meeting. This gave Paul an opportunity for him to preach the word of God to them and then they were baptized into Christ. So they continued having prayer meeting every time they could get together.

In the meantime there were some people that served idols and Paul had preached that there is just one God, and so their idol selling business was falling apart. They stirred up the people and had the magistrates to beat them and put them in jail and the jailer put them in the inner part of the prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Now many years later after Paul baptized the jailer who became a Christian, along with Lydia, Paul is writing back to that church and he says, “I press on!”

Now I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions, because when you do, you end up breaking them anyway. But here’s one that we can all make and if we do make this resolution, it’ll take care of any others that we could possibly make. And that resolution is “I Press On.” And it’s in the first person singular, so it can apply to all of us. We can all say in 2021, I Press On and not get tied up in negativity! Paul was a positive person, so he says I press on.

When we go back to biblical times there were a lot of idols of all kinds. When Paul visited in Athens, Greece, there were so many gods that they were afraid they had left one out and so when Paul walked around through the city he found an idol with the inscription “To The Unknown God,” and he used that phrase as his proof text and preached a great sermon on the God that they did not know—the God that created heaven and earth.

The Romans also had their pagan gods and the pagan god Janus was pictured as a two-faced god—one face look back at the old year and the new face looked forward to the New Year! So Janus was a god that looked both back and forward, and that’s where we got our name for January. All of us here at Heartland are looking forward to 2021 and we’re not looking back to March, April, and May when the coronavirus started. We’re looking forward to January and the New Year. Continue reading “I PRESS ON”