Sunday, March 29, 2009

The True Character of God

It was another excellent service here at New Life Covenant, especially with the bright sun flooding into the sanctuary. Pastor Brad began by expressing gratitude for being able to be here, followed by comments about what we're about. "We're trying to help people take steps toward God," he said. His theme for today's message took its seed impetus from a Nightline program he watched this past week dealing with the question "Does Satan exist?"

Announcements, which preceded the worship time led by Chuck and Darlene, included the following...
1. There will be a 9:00 a.m. breakfast served at the church Easter morning, followed by a 9:30 Easter egg hunt. Next Saturday morning anyone interested can join us at the church to stuff eggs.
2. Holy Week begins next week as we celebrate Palm Sunday. A Good Friday service will be held in the evening at 7:00 p.m. Last year's Good Friday service was especially meaningful for those who were here.
3. If you did not get your photos taken for the new church directory, please call Norm Livgard to be included in the final photo shoot a week after Easter.

Today's Scripture readings were from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 12:30-33. After the offering and a time of prayer we listened to the sermon.

The True Character of God

Brad began by asking how many people saw the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ. There is a scene in which Jesus, as depicted in the film, crushes the head of a snake with His heel. It is a powerful image, and Brad said it made him want to cheer, not because he hates snakes (which he does) but because of the Biblical symbolism. Mel Gibson had done his homework.

This week on Nightline there was a faceoff regarding the existence of Satan. Pastor Brad asserted unequivocally, "I believe Satan is real and that evil is real."

From the very beginning we see the existence of evil as the enemy of our souls in the form of a serpent appears in the Garden of Eden. The snake is successful in deceiving Adam and Eve, causing evil to enter the world. But right from the start God had a redemption plan, as stated in Genesis 3:15... "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

Those who saw the film might have found one of the images somewhat incongruous or disturbing. There was a person carrying a baby in the crowd watching Jesus at one point, but when the camera went in for the closeup the "baby" looked like an 80-year old man. When Gibson was asked about this image, he said that he wanted to portray evil as something that from a distance appears attractive, but upon closer investigation one sees that something is seriously wrong.

Jesus had a lot to say about the evil one. He called him a liar. He called him the father of all lies, as well as the prince of darkness. Jesus also called him a thief who came to steal our souls and destroy our lives.

And Jesus knew these things first hand. In point of fact, Jesus Himself was tempted by this dark tempter. Though tempted in every way, He did not sin. His character was flawless.

Brad turned to the beginning of our Lord's ministry in which John the Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah, encounters the Christ. John is baptizing at the Jordan when he sees Jesus and declares, "Behold the Lamb of God." Upon baptizing Jesus the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove and a voice from heaven declared, "This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased."

From here Jesus went into the desert to fast for forty days. And guess who came slithering into the wilderness to join Him? Yes, if Satan could succeed in tempting Jesus to sin here, there would be no cross. "I believe Satan didn't want Jesus anywhere near the cross."

There were three primary assaults. The first came in this manner, after the Lord must have been exceedingly hungry. "Just think... you can turn these stones into bread."

Jesus refused. He would not indulge His appetites for Himself because there was something deeper going on.

Brad noted that there is a differentiation between temptation and sin. Temptation is not sin. The sin is in giving in to it.

It says in Luke's account that after Jesus resisted Satan, the enemy left Him for a more opportune time. When do you think this was? Brad said, "I think it was the next day. Day after day we battle temptation. Life is a daily, lifelong journey and a daily struggle. Jesus shared this same daily struggle."

Temptations will not go away till the day we die. They can come when we're on top feeling strong or when it seems we have bottomed out.

Brad noted that the "Battle of the Bottle" has grown during our bad economy. Many of those being laid off or going through hardship due to economic struggles are turning to drugs and alcohol.

Satan's second temptation of Jesus in the wilderness pertained to our human lust for power.

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" ~Luke 4:5-8

In essence, Satan says, "Check out this view from the mountaintop. You can rule the world." There's a catch, of course. "Just bow down and worship me."

The third temptation, Luke 4:9-10. runs this way. "Let me show you how to get a crowd. Let's go to the temple. It's Holy Week, so there's lots of people in town. You do a swan dive from the top. The angels will catch you, so there's nothing to worry about." Satan encourages Jesus to play the crowd, to get His name in lights.

Citing Scripture Jesus replies, "Don't put the Lord your God to the test."

Jesus knew that He was not sent simply to wow the people. Or to be simply a good example or wise teacher. Jesus came for one purpose: to go to the Cross on our behalf. To free us from our sin,the barrier that keeps us from God.

Never forget that Jesus was born to die for our souls. The reality is, Jesus couldn't get your face out of His mind.

From the beginning, God's plan of redemption was dependent on a sinless human person who would die, a spotless lamp. For this reason, Jesus had to remain unblemished in order to accomplish this ultimate aim.

Scripture says that at a certain point Jesus set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem. He would not be detoured. In the end he made His ultimate commitment.

As for the initial discussion, and the questions.. Yes, Satan is real, but I want to talk about Jesus.

Is Satan real?

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